Mike Bloomberg is a good man.
You see it in his philanthropy. You see it in how he’s lived his life.
But politics is politics, and there comes a time when the gloves must come off. That time is fast approaching.
“The Mayor" — I can’t stop calling him that — is clearly shifting into a new mode of campaigning. He’s spent $10 million for a 60-second Super Bowl ad that will target President Donald Trump directly, we’re told. Trump in turn has reserved his own $10 million Super Bowl spot in which he’ll defend his own record, presumably.
But it’s not just Trump who has to worry about Bloomberg pivoting from biographical to attack ads (we call them “comparatives” in the business), it’s former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden’s campaign must be on full-scale alert for the TV and digital barrage that should be coming if Bloomberg is running even a semi-traditional campaign.
It’s not that Bloomberg doesn’t like Biden. Clearly, he respects him. The former New York City mayor chose to sit out the presidential race initially because Biden is in it. Biden didn’t just occupy the moderate lane Bloomberg coveted, he also represented to Bloomberg an acceptable candidate for president, one has to imagine.
But somewhere along the line, the Bloomberg team saw weakness in Biden. Perhaps it was Biden’s inveterate verbal flubs or his relative weakness in fundraising. Maybe it was the small crowds at Biden campaign rallies or the dramatic introduction of Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine as a campaign issue.
Whatever it was, Bloomberg and his team plainly determined that Biden wasn’t going the distance, and so Mayor Mike and his near-inexhaustible resources jumped into the race.
Biden hasn’t been going gently in the night, though. He’s not exactly tearing it up, but with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg drawing votes from one another, Biden continues to hold a plurality in most national polls. Biden also holds a commanding lead in southern states with high African-American populations, according to most polls, after serving the nation’s first black president ably and without ever trying to upstage him.
That leaves Bloomberg in a tricky spot. Does he stay above the fray and direct his fire solely at Trump as he has been doing, or does he go for it by pointing the big cannon at Biden, too, and in doing so risk fatally damaging the one candidate who kept him out the race in the first place?
Anyone who has ever worked in politics will tell you the answer. One doesn’t enter a political race to come in second.
With Bloomberg sitting out the February primaries and caucuses, the March 3 California primary, with its delegate-rich, winner-take-all prize, is a must win for him. That can’t be accomplished without significantly undermining Biden who, at 21 percent, currently holds a 2-point lead in the Golden State over Sanders, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average. Bloomberg has been rising in national polls, but averages just 3.3 percent in California polls right now. He needs to make his move if he’s really in this race.
It’s worth noting, too, that the business-titan-turned-political-figure has made it abundantly clear that Democratic-socialist Sanders and far-left-leaning Warren are anything but his cup of tea.
Bloomberg said an interesting thing last week. He announced that his advertising against President Donald Trump will continue through Election Day, regardless of whether he is the Democratic candidate. Does that mean he’ll leave Biden whole?
Political history suggests otherwise.
But like I said, Mike Bloomberg is a good man, even an exceptional one.
All eyes should be on his coming California TV ads. They’ll tell us — and the Biden campaign — everything we need to know.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.