Updated Jan 23, 2020

Mike Bloomberg copies Trump to beat Trump

Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

To beat President Trump, Mike Bloomberg wants to be candidate Trump.

The state of play: Axios visited Bloomberg's new campaign HQ in Times Square yesterday, and we were struck by how much his 1,000+-person team is learning from — while trying to surpass — the Trump campaigns of 2016 and 2020.

The big picture: Bloomberg is no Trump, but is trying to beat the president at his own game.

  • Social creature: Trump's re-election campaign has deployed Facebook in a bigger way than any campaign in history, outspending all the Democrats combined. Bloomberg's team openly admires the digital prowess of Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and has built a "content factory" of constantly updating and iterating videos and messages that are narrowly targeted at — and constantly fed to — promising prospects.
  • Ubiquity: Trump forced himself into our lives with Twitter taunts and endless TV appearances. Bloomberg is buying his way into the minute-by-minute of our lives with TV ads. Bloomberg's team believes one of the key lessons of Trump campaign is that if voters see you on TV all the time, they'll take you seriously. At Bloomberg HQ, his TV ads play on a constant loop. It takes a while to realize it's not cable news, where his ads seem nearly as persistent.
  • Success sells: Like Trump, Bloomberg promises ad nauseam to replicate his professional success in governance. Many of Bloomberg's ads follow the rough arc of: 1) Hit Trump ... 2) Why the problem matters ... 3) What Mike did as New York mayor ... 4) What Mike would do as president. It's a key part of Bloomberg's effort to signal, both overtly and subliminally, that he's running against Trump — not the other Dems.
  • Slogan power: Bloomberg's massive data operation found that Bloomberg's record as mayor was one of his big selling points. And Bloomberg's inner circle thought "Make America Great Again" was an effective slogan. Voilà, the Bloomberg slogan: "Mike Will Get It Done." The twist: "It" can mean beating Trump, enacting gun control as president, or whatever the voter imagines.
  • It's all about brand, baby: Bloomberg, like Trump, has set up his campaign so his personal brand shines, win or lose. The former mayor is making plain he will spend up to $2 billion to win himself — or, if he loses, allocate some of that to the Democratic nominee and Bloomberg's pet causes. As a down payment, he's showering money on state and local parties to help them, up and down their tickets, regardless of who wins the primary.

The bottom line: Bloomberg wants to replicate and build off what Trump's campaign did best, without mimicking his style.

Go deeper ... Bloomberg: "I’m spending all my money to get rid of Trump"

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Trump-Bloomberg feuding reaches new levels

Mike Bloomberg addresses local leaders in Oakland, California, as part of his focus on states with large numbers of delegates, Jan. 17. Photo: Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group.

Maybe it was the eye-popping FEC data about Mike Bloomberg's Q4 spending. Or a rivalry over their Super Bowl ads. Or a change to Democrats' rules that may soon allow Bloomberg to participate in the primary debates.

In any case, President Trump raged overnight on Twitter, primarily going after the height of the 5-foot-8 billionaire who's running as a Democrat. And Bloomberg's campaign shot back, hitting Trump for his weight and hue.

Bloomberg's baggage, and barrage

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Top 2020 Democrats, armed with decades of opposition research, plan to savage Mike Bloomberg as a Democratic Trump — an egomaniac New York billionaire who's stained by sexism and racial slights, and hell-bent on buying power and puppeteering mass media.

Why it matters: Bloomberg knows it's coming, has rehearsed his retorts, readied ads and policy plans to deflect, and will unleash $1.5 billion more on ads and staff to clean up any damage.

Letter from Planet Bloomberg

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Mike Bloomberg's campaign feels corporate. It's calm, orderly and punctual. His audiences clap politely, and you can't walk two steps without running into a paid staffer with talking points. Nobody whoops or yells. Nothing is left to chance. No expense is spared. The candidate is self-consciously low-key.

The big picture: After being immersed in Donald Trump's freewheeling White House and campaign for more than four years, I found the day I spent flying around with Bloomberg's campaign last week in California to be a foreign experience.