Breaking Down Bloomberg

The former NYC mayor has dumped a lot of money into the Democratic primary. But, what are the lessons from that spend?

Dr. G.S. Potter | Contributing Editor

Image result for bloomberg on campaign trail

It’s no secret that Bloomberg is pouring record amounts of money in his campaign to win the Democratic nomination for President.  At last count he has spent nearly 500 million dollars of his own money.  While the narrative surrounding Bloomberg is centered on the ability of a billionaire to buy an election, the real value of Bloomberg’s entrance into the race is a living model of what a data-driven, corporate modeled, and social media savvy campaign would could look like for the Democratic Party.

 

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Bloomberg isn’t just a billionaire. He’s a major player in creating and implementing data driven models of business, media, and financial domination.  Now he’s applying those models to the political arena – without economic limitation.  And in doing so, he’s giving the nation an opportunity to see what it would look like if data (not just money) drove the Democratic party instead of just establishment norms and nods. 

Political pundits and pollsters are missing an opportunity to learn what the Democratic party of the future could look like if it’s properly mobilized if they focus solely on Bloomberg’s money and past political fumbles. 

No matter what your opinion of Bloomberg is as a candidate, his campaign deserves our attention.  Even if his big spend won’t translate into major wins on Super Tuesday, when we will finally see if his investment paid off for his campaign, we should watch carefully for how this approach could help Democrats overall in 2020 with their bids to recapture the presidency, retake the U.S. Senate, maintain their hold on the U.S. House and maybe win some state legislatures with it.

Bloomberg’s campaign isn’t just about money.  It’s about how the money is being translated into a campaign that has been able to completely disrupt the entire Democratic Presidential primary in just a number of weeks. 

Where is the money going?

Local radio and television

By flooding local radio and television markets with campaign ads and funding, Bloomberg is filling in two key gaps left open by Democratic strategists.  First, he is depending on data to assess which constituents to target with what messages in what markets.  His competitors are largely relying on national media messaging strategies and failing to target voters at the local level through the channels where they receive their information and in the languages they need to hear it.  This strategy is arguably one of the reasons that Democrats won the popular vote in 2016, but failed to win the electoral college. Bloomberg’s campaign isn’t making that mistake.

Bloomberg is also counting delegates.  He is targeting different states with different messages as well as applying a nationwide campaign strategy.  And he is filling in the second gap by not only including Black and Brown dominated states, but he is making these states and their Black and Brown voters the foundation of his campaign.

Bloomberg has pumped tens of millions of dollars into local Black and Latino media outlets.  His campaign has reached out in English and Spanish.  And he is speaking to issues that matter to these communities. 

Geography

The traditional Democratic model of political organizing depends heavily on White moderates and White dominated states.  It’s a model that heavily weighs low delegate, low melanin states like Iowa and New Hampshire while practically ignoring delegate heavy and color rich states like California and Pennsylvania. 

Bloomberg has bought ads in 27 states and focused in on 14 as Super Tuesday approaches.  According to a recent report, the top ten states Bloomberg has spent money in are ….

  • California (415 delegates)

  • Texas (228 delegates)

  • Florida (219 delegates)

  • New York (274 delegates)

  • Pennsylvania (186 delegates)

  • Illinois (155 delegates)

  • Ohio (136 delegates)

  • North Carolina (110 delegates)

  • Michigan (125 delegates), and;

  • Minnesota (75 delegates)

Bloomberg’s model not only downplays the importance of states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, but he ignored them completely to place his bets on Black and Brown.

Social Media

The Democratic Party and its candidates have failed entirely to launch successful tech-based messaging and mobilization campaigns in general, let alone strong enough to take on the social media megalith that is Donald Trump.  Bloomberg is blatantly trying to dominate both Democrats and Republicans in social media and online influence. 

On Facebook, no one can even come close to the number of impressions the Bloomberg campaign has raked in since the year began.  When it comes to the number of times that Facebook users viewed a political ad, even Donald Trump comes in a distant second with 12 percent of the total impressions accumulated.  Sanders comes in third with 7 percent.  The remaining Democratic candidates combined total roughly 12 percent.  And Bloomberg ranks first with an overwhelming 69 percent of the impressions gained from political ads on Facebook in the first six weeks of 2020. 

Bloomberg is also dominating YouTube and Google.  According to NBC News

Bloomberg has spent more than $41 million on Google and YouTube ads since he entered the race late in November, the data shows, more than 10 times what Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., his closest rival in spending among the major candidates, bought over the same period.

In one week in January, Bloomberg outspent former vice president Joe Biden nearly60-to-1 on advertisements on Google and YouTube, paying the tech company $6.2 million while Biden spent $109,000 to try to reach many of the same moderate Democratic voters.

Bloomberg has also launched a multi-million dollar campaign to take over Twitter.  The Trump friendly social media platform, though, has launched a counterattack and has suspended accounts associated with the Bloomberg campaign. 

What’s He Talking About?

One of the greatest shortcomings of the Democratic candidates, especially Joe Biden, is their unwillingness to take Trump on directly in a strategically meaningful fashion.  Not only is Bloomberg ignoring the idea that the core of the Democratic party isn’t focused on getting rid of Donald Trump, but it is leaning into the reality that voters want someone that can go toe to toe with the 45th President … and win. 

The Bloomberg campaign has spent the most money on anti-Trump ads. But that doesn’t mean he’s ignoring the issues that matter to the constituencies he’s trying to mobilize. In addition to spending millions on anti-Trump ads alone, Bloomberg has spent tens of millions on ads that focus on health care, gun control, women’s rights, the environment, education, and immigration.  He has also spent money on ads that speak directly to Black and Latino communities, including ads in Spanish. 

Using data-driven models of political mapping, the Bloomberg campaign is able to direct their messages to voters in a more targeted and strategic manner.  California receives a different messaging package than Pennsylvania.  Latino communities receive different messaging packages than Black communities.  But they are all held together by speaking to both those that want to fight Donald Trump and those that are focused on specific agenda items.

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Who is He Going For?

Bloomberg understands that he is in a multi-front competition for the American electorate.  He’s taking on Trump and Sanders head to head, while applying a lighter approach to moderate candidates.  What does he stand to gain?

By taking on Trump directly, Bloomberg can draw in the pool of Democrats that believe that defeating Trump is the most important issue facing the Party in November.  If he continues to do so successfully, he can garner support from the 65 percent of Democratic voters believe that the defeating Trump is the most important issue facing the nation in 2020.

By speaking to Black voters in key states and counties directly, he can garner the support of the moderate Black voting bloc.  He can also take votes away from Joe Biden. In fact, there is evidence to suggest this may already be happening, despite recent controversies hampering his campaign. Here’s the breakdown of Black voters nationally in the Lincoln Park Strategies-WURD National Black Voter poll

Here’s also the average from Morning Consult

Biden’s support from Black voters has plummeted recently from 51 percent to 32 percent, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll.  Sanders’ support from the Black community has remained stable.  It is possible that the work Bloomberg is doing to connect with Black voters is serving to successfully syphon members of this key voting bloc away from Biden’s camp.

By mobilizing Latino voters in Spanish, Bloomberg can also draw in support from the nation’s largest non-White voting bloc while taking away votes from Bernie Sanders.  While Sanders may want to walk the line between Democrats and Socialists, Latino voters in Florida that carry a living memory of Castro, for example, will not so readily accept this stance. Biden has largely ignored the Latino community leaving a gap for more moderate Latino voters. Bloomberg is flooding that gap with messaging and mobilization efforts. Currently, he’s second place among Latino voters …

And finally, Bloomberg is rallying the youth vote through social media campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google. By dominating social media, Bloomberg is able to target Sanders’ notoriously young voting bloc.  His messaging on gun control and the environment has been strong enough to catch their attention.  And if he gains momentum, Bloomberg may be able to steal a significant amount of young voters away from Sanders. So far, according to Morning Consult, has garnered a combined 22 percent of Gen Z and Millennial voters …

On Super Tuesday, Bloomberg might be able to harvest enough delegates in the Democratic primary to secure the Democratic nomination.  Or he might not.  Either way, the models he is using to mobilize voters is worth closer inspection.

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