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Billionaire New Yorker Michael Bloomberg presumably will arrange for his Democratic presidential campaign to be filed this morning in Arkansas.

It would be his next required paperwork in launching his vastly financed nationwide campaign for the nomination that would skip the early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

He apparently intends to offer the Democrats what he thinks they need, and which they indeed need. That's a better center-left alternative to unelectable Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders than the shaky center-left alternative that is Joe Biden.

Bloomberg's maneuver raises an abundance of interesting factors but likely will be reduced to one: Biden's albeit-shaky path to the nomination as the palatable near-centrist rises from a solid foundation of strong black support that historically is vital to a Democratic nominee. Bill Clinton had it to beat Paul Tsongas and Jerry Brown; Al Gore had it to beat Bill Bradley; Barack Obama had it to beat Hillary Clinton, and Hillary had it to beat Sanders.

It's unclear how any amount of money could move black support from Biden to Bloomberg. The most logical scenario has Bloomberg taking white moderate votes from Biden, which would only help Warren and Sanders.

So Bloomberg mainly would take this fine mess of a Democratic presidential primary--with unelectable leftists paired against a teetering center-leftist front-runner--and make it messier. He would weaken that which shouldn't be weakened and strengthen that which shouldn't be strengthened.

That is entirely his right. He has earned his Democratic bona fides with major outlays from his fortune on gun reform. A Bloomberg-underwritten gun-control group was credited with helping Virginia Democrats take back the state legislature last week.

Bloomberg was a solid mayor of New York City on health and education. Stylistically, he is a tight machine compared to Joe's loose cannon.

He might be more electable against Trump than Biden, bringing more swing vote-appealing business gravitas than Joe, and more than Trump. Bloomberg's estimated worth is about 13 times that of Trump.

There are a lot of people--Bloomberg perhaps among them--who would be better general-election alternatives to Trump than the ones the Democrats are likeliest to nominate. The problem is getting through the new Democratic calculus of the semi-socialist left, black votes, white liberals and moderate working people. That calculus is more in the natural wheelhouses of Biden, Warren and Sanders than penetrable by Bloomberg's teeming resources.

Of lesser consequence is Bloomberg's strategic skipping of Iowa and New Hampshire. Pay little attention to the squealing of the Democratic organizations of those little states long permitted to exercise outsized self-importance.

Iowa and New Hampshire are two of the whitest states in the country, and thus wholly non-representative of the nation but more pronouncedly non-representative of the Democratic coalition.

Bill Clinton skipped Iowa, because native-son Tom Harkin was running, and then finished second to regional favorite Paul Tsongas in New Hampshire. But he called himself the "comeback kid" and went on to win big when black people and white working people started voting.

What Iowa does well, by having upstart candidates make themselves known intimately by moving about the state doing retail politics for months, is winnow the pretenders and vet the real things. This time, Iowa Democrats likely will winnow Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris and send forth Warren, Sanders, Biden ... and the single-most impressive thinker in the field, Pete Buttigieg.

Bloomberg is right that he needn't bother with that. He's probably too moderate to do very well in Iowa, and New Hampshire has a predilection for the independence of Sanders, the neighboring Warren and the affable Biden.

Bloomberg's only hope arises when media exposure becomes the main factor, meaning Super Tuesday, March 3, when 14 states including Arkansas, and Democrats abroad, will vote at once.

There are two states participating in Super Tuesday that interest him greatly. One is California, where native-daughter Harris will likely have dropped out and which, by its vastness and powerful media markets, is tailor-made for a Democrat with many more billions than Donald Trump. The other is Texas, the second-largest state to California, and similarly driven by expensive media markets, especially in the short term.

The Super Tuesday states make up about a third of the nation's population. Thus, it is Bloomberg's big play.

Still, nice delegate hauls for Bloomberg in California and Texas would mainly serve to weaken Biden and divide against itself the Warren-Sanders resistance.

That, in turn, would reap mainly the unintended consequence of enhancing the re-election prospects of the preposterous second-place and Russian-endorsed megalomaniac.

And you thought I was going to get through an entire column without using that ever-valid, ever-operative phrase.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 11/12/2019

Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: It just gets messier


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