Feb 8, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Bloomberg's big bet on the power of money

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Data: Advertising Analytics, FEC; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Michael Bloomberg’s prolific spending aims to make him as legitimate and familiar as his rivals. It also confronts two realities: President Trump is out-raising all the other Democrats with ease, and the Democratic National Committee is anemic.

Why it matters: 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.

  • He’s blowing through cash to create a parallel (or bigger) unofficial, uncoordinated party infrastructure in case the DNC can’t help the eventual Democratic nominee enough in states that should be competitive with Trump.

Driving the news: Bloomberg is publicly capitalizing on the chaos coming out of the Iowa caucus.

  • His campaign announced Tuesday that they will double their ad spending, which is expected to put it around $600 million for TV and digital ads alone.
  • That spending alone is over 9x all of the money the DNC raised in 2019.
  • Bloomberg, thanks in part to the massive exposure his ads have provided, has risen to 10% support in national polls — fourth place in the average of polls available.
  • That's despite the fact that he isn't competing with fellow Democrats in the early voting states, and he's the only candidate in the Top 8 who hasn't yet stood on the primary debate stage.

Between the lines: The Republican National Committee can't match Bloomberg's spending either, but they've out-raised the DNC by more than two to one for eight months in a row.

The big picture: Bloomberg's campaign has repeatedly said its will spend "whatever it takes" to defeat President Trump. There’s nothing stopping Bloomberg from topping $2 billion.

  • With 2,100 paid staff, Bloomberg has three times as many as Trump, five times as many as Joe Biden and more than twice as many as Elizabeth Warren, according to data the campaigns provided to Axios.
  • He pays his staff more than any other 2020 Democrat's campaign and offers housing if they have to move to New York City, according to a campaign official.

What they're saying: "He’s building his own infrastructure, he has been able to invest in the tech and data to really build his own operation," said a Bloomberg campaign aide. "If you look at what happened in Iowa, it’s a good problem for us to have that we are self-reliant."

By the numbers: In just over a month, Bloomberg spent more than the top 2020 contenders spent for the whole final quarter of 2019 combined, according to Federal Election Commission data. He also outspent the entire RNC and DNC.

  • He's locked down big names in Democratic politics, many of whom were crucial in Barack Obama's election.
  • Since January, Bloomberg has spent more on Facebook ads than Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Warren combined.
  • Trump is the king of Facebook ads, but Bloomberg has spent $5.7 million more than the president's campaign in the past month.
  • Stories about Bloomberg have remained in the top 5 for social media interactions for the past few weeks, according to the Axios-Newswhip 2020 Attention Tracker.
  • But he doesn't get nearly the online attention that Biden, Sanders and Warren have long enjoyed — a metric that is often correlated to enthusiasm for a candidate.

Our thought bubble: The question is, will the anti-capitalist base of the Democratic Party reject a billionaire because of his very ability to self-finance, or could Democrats rally around the idea that it will take a billionaire businessman to beat Trump?

The bottom line: The American people are getting a lesson in how campaigns could be run if money were literally no object — and whether that’s enough to beat Trump.

Editor’s note: The datavisual has been updated to include all ad spending by candidates, not just spending on national ads.

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