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After Super Tuesday, What’s Next for Bloomberg and Warren?

Plus, why Biden needs to step up his game.
by Jim Swift
March 4, 2020
After Super Tuesday, What’s Next for Bloomberg and Warren?
Democratic presidential hopefuls Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren speak during a break in the ninth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, Noticias Telemundo and The Nevada Independent at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 19, 2020. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Super Tuesday showed not only the power of earned (free) media, but also the power of having been a known political quantity for decades, and of having previously appeared on winning tickets that tens of millions of people voted for twice. Consider: Joe Biden won Virginia by 30 points, despite spending almost nothing there and never really visiting the commonwealth.

Also helpful is voter panic and the perceived inevitability of a rival. Those factors helped Biden transform the race. Less than a week ago, it appeared very likely that Bernie Sanders would win outright on the first ballot in this summer’s Democratic convention in Milwaukee. As of this morning, a brokered convention looks likely—or potentially even an outright Biden win.

There’s still a lot of time left, but Bernie’s biggest delegate hauls are behind him: There are no more Texases or Californias between now and the convention. Aside from Sanders and Biden, the only remaining candidates who were in the last Democratic debate are Bloomberg and Warren, and they likely won’t be in the race much longer—which leaves us with two important questions:

1.) What will Bloomberg do next?


2.) What’s Warren’s plan? (I’m told she has one for everything!)

Sanders’s campaign has made it clear that he doesn’t want Michael Bloomberg’s billions. That’s his brand, and his right. Besides, Michael Bloomberg couldn’t just write a $2 billion check for another candidate’s campaign anyway. Per campaign finance laws, he can’t even write a check for $6,000. He can, however, create the El Bloombito Super PAC and put his many campaign staffers to work on voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts. He can also help the party and contribute to defeating Donald Trump by dominating the airwaves of any metropolitan statistical area. I’m sure Democratic Senate and House candidates would appreciate this.

If Bloomberg wanted to earn some chits with Biden, he could drop out, create that SuperPAC to help the down-ballot candidates, and also go totally nuclear on Bernie Sanders. He may not want to take that risk, since Sanders could still win the nomination, but it would be a smart bet. Here’s why: Sanders has survived and thrived in this cycle because, as in 2016, his primary opponent(s) have worried about winning his staunchest supporters for the general election. Republicans tried much the same thing with Donald Trump in 2016. It did not work—just ask Ted Cruz.

Stopping Bernie as soon as possible is like cauterizing a wound: It hurts, and is not without risk. If you do it wrong the wound could get infected and you could die. But if you don’t do it, you could bleed out. And that’s what could very well happen if the remaining thirty-plus primary contests become a protracted battle between Sanders and Biden.

Yes, strongly supporting the Democratic party might cost Bloomberg a little more than he’d planned to spend on his own campaign, but it’s probably a better investment strategy than spending half a billion dollars to win outright in American Samoa . . . but nowhere else. I’m not a billionaire, but my undergrad business school degree does inform me that Mayor Pete’s $80 million for 26 delegates is a better ROI than whatever Bloomberg is likely to accomplish. (As of this writing, he has spent $500+ million for 39 delegates.)

Letting Bernie lose honorably won’t convince the die-hards. Many of them already believe everything is rigged against him. Besides, many of the Bernie die-hards are toxic assets. Getting them off the books couldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Warren, meanwhile, is living on borrowed time. Her campaign admitted as much in a memo, saying that a brokered convention is her only remaining path to victory. But that memo was from before Super Tuesday. Victory in a presidential nominating contest requires voters, donors, and staff; you don’t get any of those by losing votes and hoping for a brokered convention

The only question for Warren now is whether she wants to cast her lot with Bernie. If she does, she should drop out immediately and hope he considers her for VP or sends her to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, her creation, which she might actually prefer.

If Warren doesn’t want to back Bernie, she could attempt what every Republican in 2016 (save for John Kasich) thought he could do: draft behind the leaders and hope they implode. She would have to cut her campaign back to the smallest possible size, since her fundraising would likely drop to nearly nothing. As of now, not knowing what Bloomberg and his billions are going to do, this option seems like a stupid gamble.

A third option for Warren: She could betray Bernie and back Biden in the next few days. It is unlikely she’d do this, but she could come up with an SNL-worthy explanation on her calculus. Many of her followers would presumably defect to Sanders rather than follow Warren into the Biden camp. But Bernie is not a perfect replacement good, not even close. In Democratic circles, the Sanders and Warren camps are about as different as Fox News and One America News viewers. Some people watch both, but not many. You don’t build your light-beer Bernie brand on selling out to the establishment and hope to keep it.

If Democrats do win the presidency in 2020, Warren is not a certain cabinet appointment—at least not yet. What’s more, her Senate seat is on the ballot in 2024 and she just lost her home state to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

In the next few days we’ll have a clearer picture of what Bloomberg and Warren will do, and how that might prolong or shorten the race.

Meanwhile, here are a few other observations post-Super Tuesday observations:

  • The Rush Limbaugh / Hugh Hewitt ‘operation mayhem’ ploy didn’t work. Womp womp. Did these guys seriously think that their dyed-in-the-orange, Trump-loving listeners would gleefully cast votes to tip Democratic primaries? They don’t have enough fans who would be willing to undertake a task that involves time and effort—and besides, listening to political porn is largely a passive activity.
  • Disaffected Republicans likely made a difference. We’ll know more in the coming days, since parsing the data takes time, but disaffected #NeverTrump Republican voters, or more squishy Trump 2016 voters who are smart enough to worry that Sanders could somehow win, have far more motivation to vote than your typical ‘longtime listener, first-time caller.’
  • Cancelling GOP primaries was a stupid idea. See above. Nobody really expected Joe Walsh or Bill Weld to come out of nowhere and pose a realistic challenge to Trump. But why cancel your primary elections because the incumbent would get mad if a few percentage points didn’t go his way? Was it worth it? Joe Biden thanks you.
  • Joe Biden needs to stop yelling. Maybe now that he’s reached cruising altitude, Biden can hire somebody who will tell him that his penchant for yelling at voters does not serve him well. Biden is a far more convincing speaker when he is not yelling. I get wanting to pump up voters in real life and those watching on television, but it is really grating. Empathetic Joe Biden is way better than shouty Joe Biden. Stop. Yelling.
  • Joe Biden needs better image people. Visually, Biden’s rallies are garbage. Their staging is garbage. The camera angles for cable are garbage. Buttigieg dropped out and flew on a private jet to Texas to endorse Biden—and it happened in a bar that was lit up like a crime scene? Are you kidding me? It looked hastily assembled and half-assed—because it was.
  • In that same vein . . . Biden desperately needs more careful stage management. Every time he gets confused about who is his wife and who is his sister, he lets the guy who (seriously) thinks his New York-born father was born in Germany paint him as senile and out-of-touch.
  • This isn’t the Straight Talk Express. “No Malarkey” was a great, on-brand slogan, suitable for the primaries. But as the campaign continues, Biden needs more scripting and less ad libbing. The freewheeling candidate who committed the “slight Indian accent” gaffe is a liability on the rope line. The best way to minimize gaffes is to script the hell out of everything. Even if Biden wins and gets Bloomberg’s Billions™ as air support, he shouldn’t underestimate the ability of right-wing media to inflict heavy casualties over even seemingly trivial things.
  • Give Symone Sanders a raise. It’s probably time to for Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to start receiving Secret Service protection, but hot damn, Biden’s aide Symone Sanders might have earned him even more goodwill in Midwestern states if she had clotheslined those anti-dairy protesters. Twitter isn’t representative of the electorate, and neither are far-left California activist protesters who like almond milk.

Jim Swift

Jim Swift is a senior editor at The Bulwark.