A fool’s errand? No, not likely. Michael Bloomberg is anything but a fool. A modern-day knight of the woeful countenance seeking the Golden Helmet of Mambrino? Nah, I love the Man of la Mancha as well as the next guy, but Michael Bloomberg is not one to tilt at windmills or pursue impossible dreams. He has his eye on a longshot, but an entirely plausible path to the nomination.
A longshot because it depends on the uncertain, and messy Democratic primary process failing to produce a nominee and plausible because of rule changes the Democrats put in place following the 2016 nominating debacle. Michael Bloomberg may be eyeing the real possibility of a brokered convention, in which none of the so-called front runners turns out to be electable enough to cobble together the nomination during the grueling primary process now underway.
The Rule Change:
The 2016 Democratic convention required an army of “super delegates” (there are 725 of them) to nominate Hillary Clinton. She could not attract enough delegates pledged to her during the primaries to clinch the nomination, so she had to depend on the party’s super delegates who can vote for whomever they (or the party) want. So great was the uproar over the influence of the super delegates that the party changed the rules and eliminated any role for super delegates through the first ballot at the forthcoming Democratic convention. Super delegates are an assortment of establishment insiders who no one elected in a primary, and who are, therefore, free to vote for whomever they choose.
So, is it possible that the Democratic convention in Milwaukee could be deadlocked in the first round of voting? Yes, it is entirely possible. It would require that there is no clear frontrunner (a distinct possibility), an unusually large number of contenders through the early primaries (also a distinct possibility) and a first-ballot convention conundrum caused by the absence of super delegates.
Even though the first primary (Iowa) is still 65 days away, the Democratic field of candidates is historically large, even with eleven candidates having dropped out of the race. The entry of Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, along with Michael Bloomberg, suggests a very fluid race to the nomination, with 18 contenders still slugging away at this late stage.
We do not think Michael Bloomberg is counting on bagging 1885 pledged delegate votes (out of a total of 3769 pledged delegates) needed to clinch the nomination before the Milwaukee convention. It seems quite plausible that, in fact, none of the candidates will have bagged that number of delegates by convention time. So, we definitely could see the first brokered convention in decades.
We can expect an extensive, largely below-the-radar effort to begin wooing the Democratic unpledged super delegates very early in the primary season in anticipation of a second-ballot, brokered convention. These unpledged super delegates will tend to be party veterans—pros, who can be counted on to be far more focused on winning than on swooning over a current headline or spotlight grabber. They are local party leaders, and representatives of organized labor, officeholders and donors, and democratic governors and democratic members of both houses of Congress and distinguished party leaders such as former Presidents, Vice Presidents, congressional leaders, and DNC chairs.
So, in the event the convention turns to the Party’s super delegates because of an inconclusive first ballot, the Party’s pros will be faced with the choice of nominating Bernie Sanders, an old-time socialist with virtually no experience at running anything of any consequence, Elizabeth Warren, a policy wonk who bet big on a losing policy (Medicare for all), Joe Biden, who will have inspired insufficient confidence that he can beat President Trump, small-town Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, and a gaggle of other candidates who couldn’t close the sale with the party’s primary voters.
Now comes former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a self-made billionaire, a highly successful former three-term mayor of one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world, a dedicated and generous philanthropist who has pledged to donate at least half of his wealth to worthy causes and who has already donated nearly two billion dollars to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, to fund low income scholarships, and he was an early voice for climate change and gun control regulations.
To any non-partisan observer, Michael Bloomberg is, to a great extent, everything President Donald Trump is not. He is soft-spoken, and self-effacing, while President Trump is a bellicose braggart. Michael Bloomberg has built businesses by providing real value to other businesses and individuals, without bankrupting any of his own businesses. While his business acumen has made him one of the wealthiest men in the world, few have given as much personal fortune away as has the former Mayor of New York. His brilliance is demonstrated by his achievements although he rarely talks about them. These are the qualities on which many of the super delegates will be focused if the Democratic primaries produce no candidate.
Trump’s childish name-calling is not apt to work against an opponent as accomplished as Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg’s track record, however, during his three terms as Mayor of New York is not without its own blemishes. Not every initiative succeeded, and he had his share of project cost overruns. The city’s Search-and-Frisk policing policy, which disproportionately affected African Americans and Latinos, has been widely criticized, and Bloomberg has publicly apologized and called the policy a mistake.
Could a seventy-seven-year-old, self-made, Jewish billionaire, philanthropist and successful three-term Mayor of New York secure the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in a brokered convention, and if he could, could he go on to win the Presidency? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be too fast to count him out. If we’ve learned anything in the past four years, we’ve learned that anything can happen.