Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg are perfect foils for each other. One is a rumpled socialist with legions of aggressive grassroots supporters. The other is a billionaire with comically well-compensated aides and consultants, who is effectively attempting to buy support. Both are succeeding in their ‘lanes’ thus far, setting up a possible collision course for the Democratic nomination. If it eventually boils down to a two-man race — and that’s an enormous ‘if’ at this stage — it’ll be ugly. We got a preview of how the gloves could come off over the past 48 hours, in which the Vermont socialist lit into Bloomberg’s history of “racist” policies, and the New York billionaire retaliated with an online ad attacking the online bullying of ‘Bernie Bros:’
The simple truth is that Mayor Bloomberg, with all his money, will not create the kind of excitement and energy we need to defeat Donald Trump. pic.twitter.com/9azeuWjLap
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 16, 2020
A few things stood out to me as I watched these clips. First, it’s rare for Bernie to tee off so explicitly and ruthlessly on a fellow competitor on his side of the aisle. He often de-escalates and pulls punches; not this time. He is licking his chops at the prospect of taking on someone that I’d guess he truly believes personifies the worst about American politics and capitalism. As others have noted, just as Republicans have long dreamed of running against an actual socialist nationwide, Sanders has been waiting his entire career to take on someone like Mike Bloomberg. Second, Bloomberg’s response ad initially struck me as odd. Fixating on the worst excesses of a campaign’s most unpalatable supporters (it’s true that Bernie’s online army is disproportionately vile) felt like something of a strange choice.
Why go out of your way to antagonize voters that you would need to woo into your camp in a general election setting? But the more I thought about it, the more I understood what the Bloomberg campaign is trying to do here. Notice how many of the ad’s examples of social media nastiness are directed at other 2020 Democrats, including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and even Andrew Yang. This is, at least partially, a solidarity-building exercise. Any strong supporter of another campaign has likely experienced ugly harassment from unhinged Bernie Bros, and watching this ad will likely provide catharsis and build sympathy for the entity that ran it. These people may not be for Bloomberg, but they’ll be grateful for the backup. The idea here is to isolate Bernie and his supporters as much as possible, which is what the “unity” reference is about. I also think people are onto something with this theory:
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) February 17, 2020
The Bloomberg/Bernie Bros feud is media catnip: It’s controversial, easy to cover, and many people in the press have themselves been in the rhetorical crosshairs of DSA/’red rose twitter.’ Some very serious opposition research has dropped on Bloomberg in the last few days, as we’ve mentioned in a number of recent posts. If you’re on that campaign, would you rather be talking about sexism, harassment lawsuits, and stop and frisk…or silly VP rumors involving Hillary Clinton, and a food fight with Sanders’ virtual Alt-Left hoards? The plan could be to keep carpet bombing the airwaves and the internet with staggering numbers of ads, while throwing enough chum in the water to crowd out the problematic policy and personal liabilities that are attracting new scrutiny. And the spending truly is staggering:
Bloomberg wants people to talk about high-chatter-low-substance topics that are either Very Online or are which are very much obsessions of the mainstream media, instead of storylines that could be damaging for his campaign. This is quite explicitly the Trump 2016 playbook. https://t.co/s6GEEJd9Bb
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) February 17, 2020
I suppose you'd rather the cable nets feast in Bernie Bro controversies and a Bloomberg-HRC ticket float than talk about the stories that have been written over the past few days, so as pure media chaff it's a legit 1-2 punch.
— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) February 17, 2020
The fact that this sentiment is shared by millions of hardcore leftist voters (content warning) must keep the DNC bosses up at night:
In the 2012 cycle, the campaign of the incumbent president, Barack Obama, spent $483 million on paid media.
In the 2020 cycle, Mike Bloomberg has spent $417 million on ads. So far. And he has yet to compete in a single primary, caucus or debate. pic.twitter.com/pT3aNPvgfa
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) February 17, 2020
I think the message we’re respectfully sending to the DNC is fucking try us with Bloomberg and watch us burn this shit to the ground and look back at the embering ashes of the Democratic Party and smile because what was done was necessary.
— Benjamin Dixon (@BenjaminPDixon) February 16, 2020
Also, with a Nevada (cough) debate looming on Wednesday, will Bloomberg ‘qualify’ under the DNC’s changed rules? (UPDATE: He’s in). When he finally becomes a real candidate, as opposed to a largely virtual one, things could get intense. I’ll leave you with Bloomberg’s cartoonishly condescending and clueless comments about farming, and Bernie’s…er…glowing reviews of the Soviet Union, where he spent his honeymoon:
Bloomberg on why farmers can’t work in information technology
MB: “I can teach anyone how to be a farmer 1 dig a hole 2 put a seed in 3 put dirt on top 4 add water 5 up comes the corn”
— Pete (@NYBackpacker) February 15, 2020
— Reagan Battalion (@ReaganBattalion) February 17, 2020
UPDATE – Two brand new polls, one national and one in a key state, suggest that the Bernie vs. Bloomberg dynamic is real. And Sanders’s ceiling is getting higher:
— Lindy Li (@lindyli) February 15, 2020
NPR/PBS/Marist National Dem Poll
(+/- since December)
Sanders 31% (+9)
Bloomberg 19% (+15)
Biden 15% (-9)
Warren 12% (-5)
Klobuchar 9% (+5)
Buttigieg 8% (-5)
Steyer 2% (+1)https://t.co/O0HiDVR60a
— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) February 18, 2020
NEW- @MonmouthPoll of likely Democratic voters in Virginia:
The Commonwealth of Virginia heads to the polls on March 3- Super Tuesday.
— Gary Grumbach (@GaryGrumbach) February 18, 2020
Author: Guy Benson
Source: Town Hall: It’s On: Bernie vs. Bloomberg Already Getting Personal and Nasty