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Goodbye, Iowa. Hello, Bloomberg

If Democrats are serious about beating Trump, former New York mayor may be their best hope

If Democrats are serious about beating President Donald Trump, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be their best hope, Murphy writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
If Democrats are serious about beating President Donald Trump, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be their best hope, Murphy writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — Iowa Democrats can’t seem to count caucus votes, even though the votes were cast Monday night in public and covered by so many cable news reporters, they could have rolled up their sleeves and tallied the ballots themselves.

Reporters compared Monday night’s debacle to a goat rodeo. I’ve never been to a goat rodeo, but I have been to a sheep rodeo, and I can tell you the sheep were a lot more organized. Those little guys probably could have counted votes too. It’s not really that hard.

Congressional Democrats also apparently can’t count votes either. Or at least they hadn’t counted the votes they needed before pushing Speaker Nancy Pelosi to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

And so the process ends, with Democrats in disarray in the presidential campaign and Trump, the man they’re trying to replace, delivering his State if the Union address sitting atop the highest personal approval poll numbers he’s ever gotten from Gallup. 

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OK, Bloomberg

Enter the biggest winner of this week. Not Trump, who seems incapable of just leaving a good news cycle well enough alone. And not Joe Biden, even though he got to skip giving a pep talk to sad-faced Iowa campaign workers and declare, “On to New Hampshire!” And certainly not Mayor Pete, who may or may not have won the caucuses Monday night, but will never have the chance to come barreling out of the once-important state with a win under his belt and history in the books.

The real winner this week is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been lying in the tall grass of the later states, seeding each with money, TV and staff, waiting for the day Democrats take a look at their options and say, “Is this the best we can do?” That day seems to be coming faster than anyone anticipated.

As the Democratic field has narrowed and Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Biden seem to have emerged as the top contenders, independent voters I’ve spoken with tell me they’re looking for two things — someone to keep the Trump economy going, without the drama we endure on a daily basis. Economy and competence.

“Can you tell me that the stock market won’t fall off a cliff if I vote for you, Bernie?” is a frequent refrain. So is, “Can Mayor Pete run a country? Can any of them?” The Iowa goat show does not inspire confidence.

And in the meantime, quietly yet in plain view, the Bloomberg campaign has been blanketing America with so much cash, you could pull it up over you like a warm blanket. Look no further than Georgia, where Bloomberg plans to open eight field offices in the next month. Why in the world would any campaign spend so much now in a state that isn’t voting until after Super Tuesday? Because he can.

Back to his roots

It’s more than money he’s pulling out in later states. It’s people and endorsements. While the other candidates have spent their focus on peaking in debates and barnstorming Iowa and New Hampshire, Bloomberg has rolled out more than two dozen endorsements from current and former big-city mayors, most in heavily populated, diverse areas.

Places like Augusta, Georgia, and Flint, Michigan, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. When he nabbed the endorsement of the rising-star black mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart said Bloomberg had bagged “the only Benjamin that matters.” 

Bloomberg has done this, not with financial support, but by supporting those mayors — for years — on the issues that Democrats care most about. While national Democrats seemed too timid to enact major changes on gun safety and climate change, Bloomberg invested heavily to promote both. There’s nothing timid about his approach to climate change. There’s nothing timid about his approach to guns.

And by the way, there’s not much that’s timid about his approach to Donald Trump. While other Democrats have struggled to find the right way to fight back, Bloomberg has seemed to delight in it. One recent ad features him responding to Trump’s claim that Bloomberg had hired him to run a golf course. “That’s true,” Bloomberg says. “But he was the only bidder and running a golf course is the only job I would hire him for.” 

If we look to Bloomberg’s 2005 New York mayor’s race, there are lessons to be learned about how a man without a party or much of a personality wins an election. For one thing, he outspent his rival 10-to-1 and outmanned him in every category we have tools to measure.

He’s doing something similar now, with more than $300 million already spent on TV, radio and digital advertising around the country. And he says he’ll have 125 offices around the country with 2,100 staffers by the end of the week.

I heard from one of those Bloomberg staffers recently, who said he thinks of himself as “the COO” of the office where he’s working. Can I tell you how many Democratic campaign staffers in the same position I’ve talked to call themselves the “idea guy?” As in, “The staff executes. I’m the idea guy.”

Here’s an idea, Democrats. Get serious about beating Trump. Bloomberg may not be one of you, but he may be the only person left to save you — if you’re not able to save yourselves.

Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.

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