Opinion - Politics

Op-Ed: Mike Bloomberg is buying the nomination – for Bernie Sanders

Key Points
  • As soon as Mike Bloomberg entered the race, astute political observers began wondering what historic effect his candidacy and unlimited financial resources would have on this election.
  • It now looks like we have an answer.
  • Bloomberg is helping Bernie Sanders win.
Democratic presidential hopefuls Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg (L) and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (R).
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

As soon as Mike Bloomberg entered the race, astute political observers began wondering what historic effect his candidacy and unlimited financial resources would have on this election.

It now looks like we have an answer.

Bloomberg is helping Bernie Sanders win.

This may be unintentional, but Bloomberg has suddenly done three things that no one else has ever been ever to do for Sanders and his presidential aspirations: given him a killer instinct against a primary opponent, proven Sanders has a point about billionaire influence in politics and pushed a key gender-based attack away from his campaign.

First off, Bloomberg has finally shaken Sanders into directly attacking an opponent other than President Trump. Before Bloomberg's entry into the race, Sanders was following a familiar pattern that he started in 2016 when he didn't press Hillary Clinton on her personal email server scandal. He was repeating that tendency by refusing to even mention the corruption accusations against Joe Biden's family. That helped Biden immensely.

But it's clearly a bridge too far for Sanders to lay off the former New York City mayor, his huge campaign spending machine, and his long history of embracing Republican and conservative policies.

Sanders knows that giving a billionaire oligarch like Bloomberg a pass would destroy his own brand as a political warrior against the billionaire class.

As an added bonus, it's pushing him to do the necessary attack messaging against at least one of his primary opponents.

Anyone watching the Democratic Presidential debate in Las Vegas Wednesday night saw Sanders go after Bloomberg in ways he never did against Clinton and Biden, and it doesn't look like it's going to be a one-shot deal.

Then there's Bloomberg himself, who is providing living proof of so many of the things Sanders has been railing about for years. It's one thing for Sanders to warn about billionaires crowding out the competition, getting special treatment, and demanding an outsized level of influence in politics and the economy.

For everyone insisting Sanders is peddling a kooky ideology best left in the 1960s, here's Bloomberg to prove he may be on the mark today.

Millions of Americans clearly took to that message, but it was still something like a "sky is falling" type of warning for many others. Enter Bloomberg, who couldn't be closer to the living embodiment of almost everything Sanders has been warning about all this time. For everyone insisting Sanders is peddling a kooky ideology best left in the 1960s, here's Bloomberg to prove he may be on the mark today.

That's the kind of sudden credibility Sanders couldn't buy. But now Bloomberg has indirectly bought it for Sanders.

Bloomberg's money is also helping Sanders in another way: it's firing up his donors in impressive fashion. Sanders has been posting better and better contribution numbers ever since Bloomberg entered the race.

That trend continued during and after Wednesday night's debate, as the Sanders campaign says it raked in $2.7 million from nearly 150,000 donors.

Again, this seems to be the result of Bloomberg's own spending triggering a sense of urgency for Sanders and his supporters in hopes they can somehow stem the tide of the billions this new opponent can easily spend in the race.

Finally, there's the Bloomberg effect on Sanders' other key rivals, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. Until recently, Biden was the enduring frontrunner in the Democratic primary race. But Bloomberg's advertising blitz pushing his moderate record and his promise to take down Trump in the general election stole Biden's two major selling points in this race. That sped up Biden's long history of fading after the voters get a closer look at him.

In Warren's case, the massive Bloomberg ad campaign and news media's focus on his late entry in the race pushed Warren out of whatever remaining spotlight she enjoyed.

That played a role in this week's claim by Warren and her campaign that she's been subjected to a "media blackout."

Interestingly, Warren pushed back by primarily focusing her attacks on Bloomberg in the Vegas debate and accusing him of a bad history with women's issues.

Her assault on Bloomberg dwarfed the similar attacks former Mayor Pete Buttigieg tried to make against Sanders because of some of the hateful comments Sanders supporters have made online.

That's an important attack Sanders dodged, especially considering the fact that Warren was making news last month by accusing Sanders of saying no woman could win the presidential election. Sanders denied that accusation, and now it looks like he won't have to address it again. Warren has a new target, and her attacks on Bloomberg are a win for Bernie.

Throw Bloomberg's lackluster personal performance in the debate into that mix, and it's hard to see anyone else stealing or matching Bernie's thunder and grassroots support before this nomination contest is over.

It's possible Sanders would have enjoyed a momentary jump in the polls even without the Bloomberg effect on the Democratic race. But these Bloomberg-induced developments seem to have cleared a much easier path for Sanders to win the nomination.

Jake Novak is a political and economic analyst at Jake Novak News and former CNBC TV producer. You can follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.