Although it may be too early to declare that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign has crashed into a mountain and burst into flames, pundits from across the political spectrum agreed that Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Nevada was a disaster for the candidate.
If Democrats were counting on this man to save them from four more years of President Trump, they may want to rethink that strategy. Bloomberg was utterly unprepared for the shots which came early and often from his rivals. By the time the debate had ended, it was pretty clear, as Fox News’ Brett Baier so plainly put it, that Bloomberg is “not the guy in the ads.”
A post-debate CNN panel ripped into Bloomberg’s performance as he faced his opponents for the first time. No one had a positive word to say. CNN’s Gloria Borger began by summing up Bloomberg’s evening as “awful.”
Former 2020 candidate Andrew Yang, now a CNN contributor, shared an amusing and very telling anecdote about Bloomberg. He said that, about a year ago, when Bloomberg first considered entering the race, “he actually took trial trips to New Hampshire and Iowa to see if he could relate to the people. And he concluded that it was not his thing.” Yang began laughing and the rest of the panel joined him because the image of billionaire Michael Bloomberg trying to mix it up with ordinary Americans is funny.
“And then, he said, ‘Hey. I’m not running.’ And he’s a very data-driven guy and the data was not very promising at that point. I think, unfortunately, that manifested itself tonight on the debate stage.”
Yang, who only recently withdrew from the race last week, was more charitable to Bloomberg than the others. He emphasized that the former mayor only learned he was eligible to appear in the debate one day ago. This may have been a factor in how ill-prepared Bloomberg appeared, he said. This makes one wonder why Bloomberg pushed so hard to make this debate.
Next, Yang said Bloomberg was told to “keep his cool no matter what,” but that “ended up presenting as being lethargic and uninterested for a major chunk of the debate.” Yang added that he should have had answers at his fingertips for questions he knew he would be asked.
Another important point Yang made is that “The people who work for Michael Bloomberg, work for Michael Bloomberg.” Everyone laughed because the remark was so true. Would anyone actually be bold enough to be honest with Bloomberg? Yang added, “There’s no way anyone on his team would say, ‘Okay Mike, that was terrible. You have to do it again. We’re going to videotape you and show you.’ The people who worked for me knew that they worked for me too, but, like, I was coachable.”
“Michael Bloomberg is not used to being attacked,” noted former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).
Van Jones didn’t even try to sugar-coat it. He told his colleagues:
Listen, this was a disaster for Bloomberg. Bloomberg went in as the Titanic — billion-dollar-machine Titanic. Titanic, meet iceberg Elizabeth Warren. She took him to task in a way that I’ve never seen in a debate. She took it over, she prosecuted him.
In one of her most effective swings at Bloomberg, Warren said, “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”
But the worst part about it is for me a lot of African-Americans are placing great hope in Bloomberg, despite the stop and frisk…you’re seeing people trying to move over there, and he just wasn’t ready. He was tone-deaf on issue after issue, and the reason why — he’s not been in those living rooms, he hasn’t been doing those town halls…
He walked into his dream scenario. Bloomberg had a dream scenario which is that Bernie would be rising, creating the demand for a moderate. And that Biden would be fading, and falling and failing. There would be a need for a hero to walk onto the stage to give people something to believe in.
And his dream scenario turned into a nightmare tonight.
Now, he’s got enough ad cover that it may not even matter because every other ad for the rest of your life is going to be on Bloomberg. But, something about that should be troubling even to people who like Bloomberg. This should have been an opportunity for him to put to bed a whole series of questions that have been troubling people for the past two weeks. His stop and frisk answer was just terrible. He pretended that he somehow didn’t know that African-American men in this town and Latinos were suffering. There were lawsuits. There were protests. He didn’t acknowledge that…These are the kinds of things that somebody who wants to be president of the United States, who wants to be commander-in-chief, you’ve got to be able to handle those things so he can hear you on the other things. He failed tonight. He did.
Jess McIntosh, the former communications director for the Hillary Clinton campaign, said, “If we didn’t know who Mike Bloomberg was, I don’t think any Democrat is looking at that and going, ‘That’s the guy who is gonna save us against Trump this fall.'”
Many Americans “met” Michael Bloomberg for the first time at the debate and he made a terrible first impression. He came across as an arrogant billionaire who was completely out-of-touch with the concerns of everyday Americans. Until last night, Bloomberg hadn’t fully grasped the fact that he can’t pay people to do this for him, no matter how much money he spends. He lacks the ability to connect with voters, which was a problem for Hillary Clinton as well.
This was one debate. And he will have other opportunities to come back from it. However, one can never overestimate the power of first impressions. At a minimum, Bloomberg’s terrible debate performance will stall his momentum.
Worse, his personality is his personality. He lacks charisma. Even if he spends hours prepping for future debates and rallies, he’ll never come close to attaining the ease with which President Trump connects with his supporters.
The President bonds with his supporters on an emotional level, which is something I don’t think Bloomberg is capable of.
Unfortunately for Bloomberg, this is something that money just can’t buy.