Politics

Bloomberg's $400 million bet looks increasingly likely to flop as he lags in Super Tuesday states

Key Points
  • Mike Bloomberg's $400 million bet on his 2020 presidential campaign is looking likely to flop.
  • But with just over one week until 14 states cast their ballots on Super Tuesday, Bloomberg's wager appears unlikely to defeat Bernie Sanders, who is leading in state and national polling.
  • Bloomberg has made a slogan out of his reliance on data. The data shows that Bloomberg is on track to win few if any upcoming nominating contests.
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg raises his hand to speak during the ninth Democratic 2020 U.S. Presidential candidates debate at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas Nevada, February 19, 2020.
Mike Blake | Reuters

Mike Bloomberg's $400 million bet on his 2020 presidential campaign – pegged heavily to his performance on Super Tuesday – is looking more and more likely to flop.

The billionaire former mayor of New York has dropped hundreds of millions of dollars to prop up a long-shot presidential bid in a historically crowded field of Democrats.

But with just over one week until 14 states cast their ballots on Super Tuesday, which is March 3, Bloomberg's wager is looking unlikely to present a meaningful challenge to Sen. Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist who's leading in state and national polling.

A blowout victory from Sanders in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, following popular vote victories in the previous two contests, and a poorly received Bloomberg debate performance in Las Vegas last week could ultimately leave the three-term mayor of America's largest city with zero state wins.

Bloomberg, who has accumulated more than $60 billion on the back of his financial services and media empire, has made a slogan out of his reliance on data. The data shows that Bloomberg is on track to win few if any upcoming nominating contests. To be specific:

  • Bloomberg, who skipped the first four states in order to devote resources to the contests that will take place in March, has not won any delegates to date and will not appear on ballots in South Carolina, which votes Saturday.
  • The five largest states to vote on Super Tuesday will be California, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia and Massachusetts. Bloomberg trails Sanders in each state, according to FiveThirtyEight polling averages.
  • The same mostly holds true with the averages compiled by RealClearPolitics, although that website does not have data on Massachusetts and registers Bloomberg and Sanders to be tied in Virginia.
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar leads in her home state of Minnesota, the sixth-largest state to vote on Super Tuesday, which will award 75 delegates, according to both FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics averages.

The only major state that Bloomberg is leading in is Florida, according to the FiveThirtyEight average, after the precipitous decline in state surveys for former Vice President Joe Biden. The RealClearPolitics Florida average, however, continues to register a Biden lead in the state. And FiveThirtyEight's Democratic primary election model, which factors in more data than its polling average, forecasts that Sanders will win the state, which votes March 17.

To be sure, it is possible that Bloomberg is performing well in Super Tuesday states in which he has spent large sums on advertising but which have not been extensively polled, such as Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Bloomberg has made seven trips to those three states since beginning his campaign, a spokesperson said, and opened 12 field offices with 90 paid staffers. 

The campaign did not respond to an inquiry from CNBC asking which other states it believes it can win. 

But even those wins could be for naught. A decisive Sanders showing on Super Tuesday could propel the Vermont senator to an insurmountable lead in delegates, the Democratic primary's counting stick for becoming the party nominee.

The bad math for the Bloomberg campaign marks a reversal in momentum from just a few weeks ago. The campaign appeared to be ascendant in national and state polling until Bloomberg's disastrous performance during the Nevada debate Wednesday.

Bloomberg took incoming fire from his rivals on stage and failed to defuse their attacks. His odds of winning the nomination plummeted almost immediately in online betting markets.

Howard Wolfson, a top Bloomberg advisor who oversaw debate planning, took responsibility afterward for Bloomberg's inadequate preparation.

Bloomberg will have another shot at the Democratic debate stage on Tuesday in South Carolina, and will appear on national television again on Wednesday for a CNN town hall.

As for Bloomberg's spending juggernaut, it has no signs of slowing. The campaign has said it has a staff of more than 2,400 people in 43 states, and federal filings show that it has spent about $409 million.

Bloomberg has said he will spend prodigiously to elect whoever wins the Democratic nomination. In an interview with The New York Times, he did not rule out spending as much as $1 billion on the effort, though he added later that it will "hopefully not" cost quite so much.

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