MANCHESTER, N.H. – The three top finishers in the Democratic primary here Tuesday had every right to give their victory speeches, and they did, but in New York City and across the vast and not-yet-fully-visible national machine that is Mike Bloomberg's well-funded campaign, the mood was one of quiet satisfaction even though their man was not on the ballot.
Bloomberg likes to say, “Trust in God, but everyone else bring data,” the data
he harvested from the New Hampshire primary gave his team confidence that they
are on the path to eventually winning the presidential nomination and, in the
process, using his tens of billions in cash and widely admired organizational
mastery of detail to reinvent U.S. presidential politics.
their thinking is this:
Bernie Sanders, who eked out a narrow win here, is a democratic socialist too
far to the left to defeat Donald J. Trump. That is an arguable theory --
Sanders wins his share of test match-ups with the president -- but it
accurately reflects the party establishment's widespread fear of The Bern.
more moderate alternatives to Sanders who emerged Tuesday -- Pete Buttigieg and
Sen. Amy Klobuchar -- divided their vote in such a way as to leave neither in
control of that centrist “lane.” Both did surprisingly well -- Buttigieg barely
missed pulling off what would have been a huge upset and Klobuchar was closing
impressively at the end. But Team Bloomberg regards both candidates as
pleasant, under-sourced, and underwhelming foes whom they can flatten in three
weeks on Super Tuesday -- thanks to colossal levels of spending and staffing
across the country.
happening is that no one has ever seen a campaign that has anything like Mike’s
resources,” said Greg Fischer, a Bloomberg confidant, mayor of Louisville, and
incoming president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Biden, once (and mistakenly) seen as the obvious and even inevitable
front-runner, finished an embarrassing fifth here, in single digits, and will
try to recover on the strength of African American voters who, at least in a
new Quinnipiac poll, no longer regard him as their favorite candidate for the
making great progress in the black community,” said Fischer. “Joe’s not the
favorite anymore, even assuming that he stays in the race.”
and Klobuchar will have a chance to make their cases in the upcoming Nevada
caucuses and South Carolina primary, with “Mayor Pete” boasting the far deeper
national organization. In both states, those two, along with Sanders, Biden,
and Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- who also underperformed here -- will have their
first chance to show whether they have the ability to excite and attract voters
of color (Hispanics in Nevada; African Americans in South Carolina).
in the Buttigieg camp tell me that, as Biden has faded and Pete has risen, they
have begun getting calls from members of the Congressional Black Caucus, among
other leaders in the black community, eager to know more about him beyond his
sometimes-rocky relationship with the community in South Bend, Ind.
where Buttigieg may have a story to tell, Bloomberg has -- and has had for
years -- grants to make, advice to give, and huge financial support to offer.
has gone straight at his own reputational problems on race, apologizing
repeatedly for his stop-and-frisk policy as New York mayor, attending black
church services, and responding apologetically to a conveniently timed leak of
an audio from 2015 in which he defended the practice of stop-and-frisk in vivid
terms. It surfaced the day before the primary here, and gave him a chance to
deal with it amid the din of other campaign-related news.
got a ton of money to give away and he is going to do it,” said Ohio state Sen.
Nina Turner, a top Sanders adviser and an African American activist.
that money will really count is on Super Tuesday, March 3, when 14 states,
including Texas and California, will select nearly 1,400 delegates. The
compressed early schedule means that it will be hard for those who prosper in
Nevada and South Carolina to gear up financially for the Big Bang.
the only ones who are going to be able to do that,” Fischer said. “We will be
everywhere, and in great strength. There’s never been anything like it."
they don’t like to talk about numbers (even as they consume them), the
Bloomberg campaign is vast and getting more so, with literally thousands of
staff and more than 100 operational officers, with more on the way.
is a lot of interest out there,” said Fischer. “He’s drawing the crowds. It’s
New Hampshire is over, and the next phase of the campaign is about to begin, we
will soon find out how real is “real.”
Fineman is an NBC News analyst, journalism lecturer, author, and was formerly
chief political correspondent for Newsweek and editorial director of HuffPost.