What’s the difference between former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.? That’s the question. On it rests all the prospects for the former New York mayor’s bid for the presidency.
This week marked Bloomberg’s debut on the national stage. Up to now, the Bloomberg campaign has been entirely prepackaged — more than $400 million worth of ads, canned statements and stump speeches in which Bloomberg refuses to answer questions.
That ended with a Las Vegas beatdown in Wednesday’s debate. As expected, Bloomberg’s opponents laced into him for his wealth, his stop-and-frisk policies as mayor, his attitude toward women, and lawsuits filed against his company alleging sexual harassment. Less expected was that Bloomberg was utterly — painfully — unprepared for the onslaught. He stuttered, barely defended himself, sat meekly as his rivals excoriated him. The mayor several times boasted that he’s the best guy to take on Donald Trump, even as everything he did suggested the opposite.
Bad as the night was for Mayor Mike, it’s unlikely to prove fatal. His billions will allow him to continue projecting a better image to voters, and there’s another debate next week. It’s not even clear if the predictable attacks against him will resonate.
For every primary voter turned off by claims that Bloomberg is “buying” an election, another might gravitate to a candidate who promises to spend whatever it takes to beat Trump. For every Democrat offended by Bloomberg’s past comments, another may simply like that he has a record — of running a major corporation and a city — in contrast to a gaggle of professional politicians.
Bloomberg’s bigger problem was the rest of the debate: the times he wasn’t under attack. When he was allowed to speak, he sounded like every other Democrat on the stage.