A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by Liz Marlantes.

Will Bloomberg’s big spending scramble the Democratic contest?

Why We Wrote This

The former New York mayor is pouring money into TV ads and building ground operations in the states. In a race with no clear frontrunner, he may have an opening.

Dear reader:

Since entering the presidential race just a few weeks ago, Michael Bloomberg has spent $100 million on campaign ads. That’s more than the top-polling Democrats have spent all year combined.

So far, that has resulted in only a modest bump in the polls. The latest Morning Consult poll shows Mr. Bloomberg at 6% nationally, behind the top four Democratic candidates, albeit ahead of the rest of the field.

The former New York mayor, whose net worth is estimated to be roughly $55 billion, is also building ground operations in the states, offering prospective field organizers salaries well above the going rate, according to The Washington Post.

Mr. Bloomberg is trying something that typically hasn’t worked in the modern campaign era. He is bypassing the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, and banking instead on a strong showing in the delegate-rich states that vote on Super Tuesday and beyond.

Previous candidates who’ve tried to skip or downplay the early contests – such as another former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani – quickly found themselves marginalized and unable to generate momentum.

But none of those candidates had Mr. Bloomberg’s resources.

Some analysts are speculating that the fragmented nature of today’s Democratic electorate could give Mr. Bloomberg an opening. The same four candidates – Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg – have been at the top of the polls all year, though they have traded places at various times. Each is strong with different factions of voters – whether it’s seniors, young people, college-educated white voters, African Americans or Hispanics. No one has been able to grow their support beyond 20-25%.

“Typically, the Democratic winner in Iowa parlays that victory into dominant status. That was the winning playbook for Barack Obama in 2008 and John Kerry in 2004,” National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar recently wrote. “It’s not looking likely that dynamic will repeat itself in 2020.”

If no clear frontrunner emerges out of the four early states, it would create a wide-open contest going into Super Tuesday. Mr. Bloomberg appears to be positioning himself for just such a scenario.

Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

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