Today’s Campaign Update (Because the Campaign Never Ends)
Ok, so, who’s the biggest flop of all time in presidential politics? – In 1980, all of the nation’s punditry made huge fun of Texan John Connally for spending the then-princely sum of $6 million in the early GOP primary races before dropping out without having won a single delegate. He was widely considered at that time to be the biggest loser in modern presidential political history.
Boy, Connally sure doesn’t hold that dubious title anymore.
That trophy got taken in 2016, when Jeb! Bush and his supporting super PAC frittered away a grand total of around $300 million. For that phenomenal investment, Jeb! and his backers won exactly 0 delegates to the GOP convention. The former Florida Governor had entered the race as the odds-on favorite to become the eventual nominee, but, after taking a pounding from Donald Trump in the party’s 2015 debate season, the low energy candidate dropped out after a horrific showing in the New Hampshire primary.
But luckily for Jeb!, all of that $300 million was other people’s money, and he was able to slink back to Florida to resume his life of immense privilege. Like Connally in 1980, his political career was well and truly over but his personal fortune was intact.
There have been other big presidential primary flops in modern times – Howard Dean in 2004 and Rudy Giuliani and his infamous “Florida strategy” in 2008 come immediately to mind – but in terms of throwing good money after bad candidacies, no one could compare to Connally and Jeb!.
Interestingly, the motto for the Jeb! Bush campaign in 2016 was “Jeb can fix it!”, which is eerily reminiscent to the “Mike will get it done!” motto for the campaign of America’s new all-time biggest flop in presidential primary politics, Michael “Mini-Mike” Bloomberg.
As only he can do, President Donald Trump summed up Mr. Excitement’s Super Tuesday showing in a 280 character tweet:
The biggest loser tonight, by far, is Mini Mike Bloomberg. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2020
Yeah, that’s pretty much it, all right.
But hey, Mini-Mike did manage to win a caucus – in American Samoa, where a grand total of less than 400 people participated in the process. His campaign hasn’t told us how many millions he dropped on TV ads in that tiny island territory that most Americans don’t even know exists.
Otherwise, despite an investment of more than $500 million, with another reported $200 million of his personal fortune already committed in ad buys, Mini-Mike came up bupkis in terms of actually winning. Oh, he’ll rack up several dozen delegates once all the votes are finally counted in several states in which his third-place finishes got him above the 15% viability threshold, but that will be small consolation for this very small, hubris-driven man.
Rumors are circulating this morning that some of his teeming masses of senior advisors – none of whom apparently have a clue about what they’re doing to judge by the candidate’s performance – urged him on Monday to drop out of the race in order to avoid the humiliation he – and, let’s be honest, they – suffered last night.
It was good advice, as things turned out. They could see what was coming, even if the candidate could not.
Rumors are also circulating that Bloomberg was under “immense pressure” from party leaders Tuesday night to announce the end of his campaign following his latest disastrous showing. Assuming that is really happening, it is also good advice, because Mini-Mike is dead in the water. He could burn through his entire $60 billion fortune between now and the July convention and probably not win a single state primary.
The reason why is simple: Because the product being advertised does not match the reality of the product, and everyone knows it now. Mike Bloomberg is the Ford Edsel of American politics, and no amount of paid advertising can sell an Edsel.
Joe Biden has had to run his campaign on a shoe-string for the last several months. He spent pretty much no money at all on paid advertising in the majority of states he won on Tuesday, yet he was the big winner of the day. Similarly, in 2016, the Pantsuit Princess spent 3 times as much money on paid advertising as Donald Trump, and still lost because she, like Bloomberg, was a horribly unappealing candidate.
As I noted a few days ago, in fact, Bloomberg’s campaign is a perfect illustration of the very limited returns on investment in paid advertising. Those returns are becoming increasingly limited over time, since younger people under the age of 40 pretty much do not watch any paid advertising at all. What Mini-Mike bought with his half-billion dollar investment was a certain level of name recognition and pretty much nothing beyond that.
The temptation for Bloomberg and his enormous ego will be to keep soldiering on at least through March 17, when Florida – where he has been leading in the polls – is up, along with Illinois and Ohio, where he has also spent gobs of bucks. Hell, he’s already in for $700 million – why not make it an even billion and try to save some face here?
The problem with that reasoning, though, is that all of those Florida polls were taken before Biden’s win in South Carolina, and the huge boost that provided to his campaign. The next round of polls are very likely to show that “Joe-mentum” has carried Biden into the lead in all of those upcoming states.
When that happens, the pressure on Mini-Mike to drop his pretense of a campaign and line up behind Quid Pro Joe, as distasteful as that may seem to him, will become overwhelming.
But regardless of what Mr. Excitement does going forward, he has earned the title of the single biggest flop in modern presidential electoral history, and nobody, at least in this election cycle, can take that away from him.
That is all.
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