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Mike Bloomberg's $400 million (and counting) bet on the presidency and his plan to target Trump

The former New York Mayor has been the talk of the Democratic campaign this week.

bloomberg-campaigns-in-raleigh Bloomberg on the campaign trail in North Carolina. Source: Mehmet Demirci/PA Images

FORMER NEW YORK Mayor Michael Bloomberg isn’t even running in today’s caucus in Nevada but he’s been the talk of the Democratic race all week.

Why? Because a staggering $400 million advertising blitz around key US states has helped him shoot up the polls and become a major challenger for the presidency.

Bloomberg’s standing in national polls, in which he is now fighting with Joe Biden for second place, got him his first ever debate outing on Wednesday. 

In that debate Bloomberg came under attack from all fronts, facing questions about his past comments on race, gender and his personal wealth.

Elizabeth Warren particularly tore into Bloomberg’s use of non-disclosure agreements with women who’d made allegations while being employed at his company. 

So what exactly is Bloomberg’s strategy?

As one of the world’s richest people, he is betting that this clout and the donations he has made in recent years gives him the edge over this rivals.  

Founder of the media empire that bears his name, Bloomberg generated a net worth estimated at $64 billion after a career on Wall Street. He has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to combat climate change and gun violence and promote immigration reform in recent years. 

Bloomberg has taken an unorthodox approach to the Democratic race by deciding not to contest the first four state primaries and caucuses.

The assumed wisdom behind this strategy is that Democrats won’t have settled on a favourite after the first four races and that Bloomberg can swoop in on Super Tuesday (3 March) when 14 different states will vote. 

In addition, Bloomberg’s hope was that Joe Biden’s campaign would flounder in early states and that he could pick up some of the former Vice President’s support. 

The plan was a risky one, but after the inconclusive result in Iowa and Bernie Sanders’ narrow win in New Hampshire, it has started to look like a shrewd strategy.

Even more so with Biden finishing in fourth and fifth place in the two races. 

Bloomberg is no stranger to making moves that may be perceived as risky to advance his political career. The billionaire was a lifetime Democrat before switching to the Republican Party in 2001 to run as Rudy Giuliani’s replacement as Mayor of New York. 

Bloomberg won the mayoral race that year and then two successful re-elections, the second of which was achieved after he successfully lobbied to change the rules so he could seek a third term. 

bloomberg-welcomes-trump Bloomberg, Trump and Melania Knauss pictured in 2001 when the former first ran for New York Mayor. Source: PA Images

Some of his policies as mayor are now being re-examined in the context of his presidential candidacy.

Among them are the controversial stop and frisk policing policy, which critics said amounted to racial discrimination and which was subsequently declared as unconstitutional.

Further allegations about his past comments about women and female employees have also dogged his campaign

Ad spend

But despite these apparent drawbacks, Bloomberg has managed to claw his way into contention in the race despite only launching his bid less than three months ago

In that time, Bloomberg has already invested more than $400 million into a national advertising campaign and hired more than 2,000 campaign staffers. 

With that money and manpower, Bloomberg has managed to dominate the political TV ad market, but he’s also invested big in online advertising. 

Among the Instagram content creators recruited by Bloomberg are grapejuiceboys, tank.sinatra and fuckjerry each of which has millions of followers.

The latter of the three may be familiar to people as the marketing arm behind the notorious Fyre Festival that never happened. 

PastedImage-31975 Source: Instagram

Last week, the three creators published screen shots of humorous (but fake) private messages with Bloomberg on Instagram — and which they said were sponsored by him.

In one of them, the 78-year-old candidate says his granddaughter showed him the account.

In another, Bloomberg appears to ask the account to post a meme to let everyone know he is “the cool candidate” — along with a picture of him in oversized shorts, a Polo-style shirt and a rust-colored vest.

More controversially, Bloomberg faced criticism on Thursday when he tweeted out a doctored video of the debate the night before in which he falsely made it look like he’d caught out his opponents. 

The video even led to accusations that he was employing Trump-style tactics

If this was the case, there are other indications that Bloomberg may be planning to take on Trump at his own game should he become the Democratic nominee.

The pair are known firstly as New York businessmen and Bloomberg is reportedly seeking to use Trump’s persona against him in a future contest. 

Veteran journalist Katie Couric reported last week that Bloomberg will seek to employ “an expert on narcissism, and combining that person with a comedy writer to get in Donald Trump’s head”. 

Bloomberg’s past dealings with Trump have also been used against him, with Sanders simply tweeting an image of the pair together after Bloomberg had released a statement attacking the Vermont Senator. 

The campaigns of Bloomberg and Sanders then engaged in a war of words during the week about the relative health of the septuagenarians. 

The actual effect of Bloomberg’s involvement in the will likely only be felt when he actually does feature on ballots on Tuesday week.

Following the first two contests Sanders has emerged as the frontrunner, with much of the commentary focused on who will emerge as his main challenger.

Pundits have been speculating that it may come down between a choice between Sanders and the so-called moderates in the race. The challenge for Bloomberg is to establish himself among that cohort and ultimately outspend them if and when he does. 

If that happens, it may well be that his huge bet has paid off.

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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