Feb 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Shortage of dollars, not delegates, may sink Dems

In this illustration, Bloomberg stands behind a wall of money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats should be watching 2020 candidates' spending and cash flow, not their polls, to understand "more about where this race is going," trail veteran Peter Hamby writes for Vanity Fair.

Where it stands: In response to the big question of who can scale up for Super Tuesday, Bloomberg is spending the most digital and network ad money on Super Tuesday and the Rest Belt — not on early primary states, like the rest of his Democratic competitors.

The big picture: Bloomberg is betting that enough exposure — through a $300m+ ad campaign and a non-traditional run that looks past the early four states — will make him competitive in Super Tuesday, and make all Democrats stronger in the general election, per Axios' Alexi McCammond and Stef Kight.

David Axelrod, President Obama's 2008 campaign manager, told Vanity Fair: "The cost of competing across 14 states is astronomical ... For Bloomberg, the Super Tuesday ante is lunch money. He will be able to communicate at a high level everywhere."

  • "Bernie has a reliable, renewable war chest and universal recognition."
  • "[T]he others ... have to hope to catch a wave of publicity and dollars off of unexpected showings in Nevada and South Carolina."

Lily Adams, a former adviser to Sen. Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton, told Vanity Fair: "[I]f the Democrats are holding onto the precious myth that the first four states can somehow level the political playing field and lift up underdog campaigns ... they’re in for a brutal reality check..."

  • "To run a competent ballot chase program in say, California, you need real sustained money, not money you get from one good night."

The bottom line: Super Tuesday — essentially a national primary — is just three days after the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29, the last of the early four.

Go deeper: Bloomberg's Super Tuesday splurge

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