Politics

How Mike Bloomberg's very expensive presidential run turned into an epic failure

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Key Points
  • Mike Bloomberg, who's worth around $60 billion, failed to make a dent on Super Tuesday, the first time he appeared on any ballot in the Democratic primary.
  • He managed to clinch a victory only in the tiny U.S. territory of American Samoa, receiving at least four delegates, according to an NBC News projection.
  • Following the embarrassing Super Tuesday results, Bloomberg dropped out of the race and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden.
Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg makes a stop at one of his campaign offices in the Little Havana neighborhood on March 3, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty images

He broke the bank, but he couldn't bring home the bacon.

After dumping more than $500 million of his own fortune into the 2020 election, Mike Bloomberg, who's worth around $60 billion, failed to make a dent on Super Tuesday, the first time he appeared on any ballot in the 2020 Democratic primary race.

He managed to clinch a victory only in the tiny U.S. territory of American Samoa, receiving at least four delegates there, according to an NBC News projection.

Following the embarrassing Super Tuesday results, Bloomberg dropped out of the race and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden.

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Bloomberg suspends presidential run, Biden has strong Super Tuesday

"Three months ago, I entered the race for President to defeat Donald Trump. Today, I am leaving the race for the same reason: to defeat Donald Trump — because it is clear to me that staying in would make achieving that goal more difficult," the former New York mayor said in a statement.

"I've always believed that defeating Donald Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it. After yesterday's vote, it is clear that candidate is my friend and a great American, Joe Biden," Bloomberg said.

Democratic strategist Brad Bannon of polling and consulting firm Bannon Communications Research said Biden will certainly benefit from the campaign withdrawal of Bloomberg as well as that of former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

"With Bloomberg, Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar out of the race, it clears the path for Joe Biden to capture all of the moderate conservative votes, as well as all the black votes in the Democratic primary," Bannon said. 

Bloomberg was a late entrant in the race, announcing his campaign in November, which forced him to skip the first four nominating contests and instead appeal to voters in the 14 states and the territory of American Samoa up for grabs in the Super Tuesday primaries.

The billionaire businessman spent liberally in hopes of catching up with front-runners Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who had already had months to build out their campaigns ahead of Bloomberg's entry. Bloomberg put most of his energy into preparing for Super Tuesday, coupling his hefty ad spend with a huge staff, hiring 500 staffers in more than 30 states in January ahead of the nominating contests. 

The efforts seemed to pay off in national polls, where he secured a third-place spot in recent weeks, behind only Biden and Sanders, according to a Real Clear Politics national polling average. He even started gaining traction in states including Florida and Texas, where he led Biden in some polls.

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Mike Bloomberg to suspend presidential campaign, endorses Biden

His big spending strategy, which deployed glossy TV ads around the clock in dozens of states, seemed to be hitting the mark. 

After months of campaigning in swing states such as Florida, Bloomberg managed to make the debate stage in February for the first time after the Democratic National Convention changed its qualification standards.

It was a pivotal moment for him, but he could not capitalize on it.

His performance was disastrous in his first showing. He was unable to respond to attacks by other Democrats on stage. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who criticized him for pumping millions into the campaign and accused him of trying to buy the election, dealt some of the harshest blows. She called Bloomberg a "billionaire who calls women 'fat broads' and 'horse-faced lesbians'" while accusing him of inappropriate behavior toward women employees and of using nondisclosure agreements to prevent them from coming forward publicly. 

At the same time, his campaign was plagued by past remarks he made in public or private that fell out of step with the values he preached on the trail. Several videos surfaced of Bloomberg casting aspersions on black and Latino men, poking fun at a family struck by tragedy and deriding transgender people. His mayoral "stop and frisk" policing policy that targeted people of color received renewed scrutiny.

Bloomberg apologized early in his campaign for leaning too heavily on that policy, which a federal judge ruled was applied in an unconstitutional manner by New York police. But critics used it as a rallying cry after the videos were circulated on Twitter. 

Read more: Bloomberg mocks minorities, transgender people, overdose deaths in resurfaced videos

Perhaps his biggest tormentor was the rival Bloomberg was most eager to defeat: Trump himself.

Trump made a habit of mocking Bloomberg's 2020 bid, dubbing him "Mini Mike," a moniker that he used to taunt the former New York mayor about his height. Bloomberg is about 5 feet 8 inches tall. Trump is 6 feet 3 inches tall. 

"The biggest loser tonight, by far, is Mini Mike Bloomberg," Trump tweeted during the rollout of Super Tuesday results. "His 'political' consultants took him for a ride. $700 million washed down the drain, and he got nothing for it but the nickname Mini Mike, and the complete destruction of his reputation. Way to go Mike!"

Trump tweet

Super Tuesday results were a devastating blow to Bloomberg's campaign, pushing him to withdraw from the race, even after he pledged numerous times to carry on until November

Though results are still coming in, Bloomberg has so far earned just 24 delegates on Super Tuesday, compared with Biden's 460 and Sanders' 401.

Bloomberg will likely miss the delegate threshold by a hair in delegate-rich states California and Texas, according to NBC News projections. California, which has the largest number of delegates at stake with 415, and Texas, which has 228 delegates at stake, provided an opportunity for candidates to win big.

Observers noted that if Bloomberg continued in the race, he would only play the spoiler. 

Biden, who currently leads the delegate count, "would have won even more delegates than he did if Bloomberg hadn't been in the race," Bannon said. 

Bloomberg's Super Tuesday results can only be described as an epic failure in light of the money he invested in ads in those states. 

In those 14 states alone, he spent about $215 million of his own money, 12 times what Sanders spent there and more than 100 times what Biden spent, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Trump continued to delight in Bloomberg's poor performance on Wednesday, slamming the billionaire in multiple tweets following the announcement of his departure.

"Mini Mike Bloomberg will now FIRE Tim O'Brien, and all of the fools and truly dumb people who got him into this MESS," Trump tweeted. "This has been the worst, and most embarrassing, experience of his life ... and now on to Sleepy Joe!"

Trump tweet

Though Bloomberg has dropped his candidacy, he's hardly leaving the race. He is expected to use his financial resources and campaign staff to help Biden win the election against Trump. 

Bannon predicts that a Biden administration might ultimately find a spot for Bloomberg. "Bloomberg would get strong consideration for a high post in the Biden administration, maybe secretary of treasury," Bannon said.