Mike Bloomberg's presidential campaign plans to unleash its cash-flush media operation against Bernie Sanders in the wake of the Vermont senator's resounding victory in the Nevada caucuses.
Senior aides to Bloomberg's campaign have been discussing how they are going to use some of their resources against Sanders, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter who declined to be named because these decisions were made in private. Already, the campaign has spent over $500 million on media ad buys, according to Advertising Analytics.
The campaign plans a multipronged attack, including the publication of opposition research on Sanders, these people said. It will also push out digital attack ads focused on Sanders' record. On Monday, the Bloomberg campaign attempted to paint Sanders as a past ally of the National Rifle Association, a gun advocacy group that Bloomberg has fought for over a decade.
The attacks on Sanders, who has accused Bloomberg of trying to buy the Democratic nomination, will also attempt to highlight negative aspects of his record on race relations both as a congressman and senator, the sources said. This comes after Sanders, now seen as the Democratic front-runner, has taken aim at Bloomberg for his support of a policing policy known as stop-and-frisk that often targeted black and Latino people.
People within the Bloomberg campaign are also discussing whether to have surrogates and supporters write op-eds and show up on TV to speak out against Sanders, these people added.
Bloomberg's campaign is sounding the alarm on Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, ahead of Super Tuesday, March 3, when 14 states hold their primaries. Sanders has pulled ahead in state and national polls, while Bloomberg's momentum has stalled somewhat following a poorly reviewed performance in the debate last week.
Bloomberg has yet to take part in a primary and has invested most of his campaign's efforts into capturing delegate rich Super Tuesday states, including the biggest prizes, Texas and California. The campaign has previously acknowledged that Sanders is the biggest threat to capturing the Democratic nomination.
Bloomberg has an estimated net worth of just over $60 billion, giving his self-funded campaign voluminous resources to target President Donald Trump and Sanders. It spent over $220 million in January alone, Federal Election Commission records say.
Some of Bloomberg's attacks have already been initiated by the campaign and it gives hints at what he will likely focus on when he debates Sanders and other rivals in South Carolina on Tuesday.
Bloomberg's team on Monday released a digital spot attacking Sanders' track record on gun safety laws. Many more ads targeting the Vermont lawmaker are expected in the weeks to come. Bloomberg's tech company, Hawkfish, has been responsible for crafting the campaigns digital ads.
A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson did not return a request for comment.
Dan Kanninen, one of Bloomberg's advisors, told reporters on Monday that the campaign does plan to start focusing its messaging on Sanders' track record when it comes to gun safety. Bloomberg and Sanders have said they will support whoever the Democratic nominee is.
"[President] Trump himself and now the Russians are indicating that Senator Sanders is the candidate they want to run against," Kanninen said. Sanders has said that U.S. intelligence officials briefed him on Russia looking to assist his campaign in becoming the Democratic nominee for president.
In a press release highlighting Bloomberg's new digital ad, the campaign said it is launching a California bus tour while separately deploying national surrogates to highlight the differences between Bloomberg and Sanders when it comes to guns.
The battle between Sanders and Bloomberg has been heating up in the past few weeks. Sanders and Bloomberg battled on the debate stage last week, where he was attacked for his record as New York mayor and for allegedly making inappropriate comments toward women who worked for his company.
Since then, the two sides have been speaking out against each other through social media and on the campaign trail. Bloomberg's campaign manager Kevin Sheekey, appeared to threaten Sanders with an opposition research blitz before his boss took the stage to face Sanders.
Sanders, in the wake of his success in Nevada, has been taking aim at establishment Democrats. The Bloomberg campaign has pounced on this type of messaging, saying it is alienating a key voting bloc.
"This is a candidate who just declared war on the so-called 'Democratic Establishment.' We are going to need Independents AND Republicans to defeat Trump — attacking your own party is no way to get started," Sheekey said in a statement after Sanders won the Nevada caucus.