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Michael Bloomberg, systematically buying the weak Democratic brand in much the way Donald Trump bought the weak Republican one, holds a slim lead in a new Arkansas poll.

And he is surging nationally in a way that has knocked Joe Biden for an even bigger loop than faltering Joe has knocked for himself.

Bloomberg has become such a serious Democratic presidential candidate--maybe now a co-favorite with Bernie Sanders--that liberal Democrats and Trumpian Republicans are agreed on one thing. It's that it's time to attack him, mainly by resurrecting his woeful remarks in an Aspen speech in 2015.

In those remarks, Bloomberg defended his "stop-and-frisk" program in New York City by saying minority males under 25 do most of the killing, so, sure, he put more cops in minority neighborhoods to throw young black males up against the wall and frisk them.

Republicans have seized on that version of a Biden-ism because they fear Bloomberg as Donald Trump's opponent. But they also see a chance to appeal to black voters and fortify Trump's re-election if they get him as that opponent.

Liberal Democrats have seized on it to try to stymie Bloomberg's surge, which is best represented by new national figures showing Biden's "firewall" among African Americans to have plummeted in a few days from 40 to 27 percent, with Bloomberg picking up most of those pieces.

In Little Rock, Mayor Frank Scott, who is African American, announced on Monday his endorsement of Bloomberg and his appointment to a national Bloomberg study commission.

Black mayors across the region have been endorsing the former New York City mayor. It's part of Bloomberg's attempt to do what he must if he is to prevail on his D-Day, Super Tuesday, March 3, which is erode Biden's African American base.

Arkansas will be a Super Tuesday participant and now we have new polling data in the state. It comes from the reliable Talk Business and Politics-Hendrix College poll, although the survey is new and different this time. It's been conducted entirely by phone texts, which is less expensive, quicker and conceivably vulnerable only in that texting is not quite as demographically universal as the old landlines in the phone-wire days.

The poll, conducted Thursday and Friday, produced a credible-seeming sample of 496 likely Arkansas Democratic voters. Females made up 51.5 percent of respondents and males 48.5. Blacks came in around 18 percent, which perhaps needed to be weighted a tad upward. Seniors over 65 provided a third of the sample, which is not out of line for Arkansas Democratic primary voting patterns.

And this is what the poll found: Bloomberg led at 19.6 percent; Biden was second at 18.4, followed by Bernie Sanders at 16.4, Pete Buttigieg at 15.6, and Elizabeth Warren at 8.0, while Amy Klobuchar's supposed New Hampshire surge seemed off the Arkansas radar, at 4.8 percent.

The fact is that the poll produced a four-way tie, since the margin for error was 4.3 percent. But Bloomberg has gotten to the tentative top without being a candidate elsewhere, based on an orgy of television advertising and two appearances in the state. And his black support in this poll is 16.9 percent, far less than Biden's 40, but good enough for second place.

He seems well-positioned with black voters as Biden declines, unless the stop-and-frisk remarks--for which he has repeatedly, but only recently, apologized--curb his momentum.

He has said that his intentions were good, considering that most murders are in minority neighborhoods, but that he understands now the insensitivity to the black community, which was blatantly race-profiled.

There is a frequent ebb and flow to presidential primaries. Candidates have boomlets, then become targets, then fade.

That process is afoot against Bloomberg. What may save him is spending a half-billion dollars and a prevailing Democratic view that he's the best shot to beat Trump no matter what he said and how he said it in Aspen in 2015.

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

Web only on 02/12/2020

Print Headline: BRUMMETT ONLINE: Defusing Bloomberg boom

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