Here's the growing dilemma for 2020 Democrats vying for a one-on-one showdown with frontrunner Bernie Sanders: Do they have the guts — and the money — to first stop Mike Bloomberg?
Margaret Talev and Jim VandeHei write that those rivals are already struggling to catch up with Sanders in national support and campaign dollars. Turning their focus toward Bloomberg only complicates that task.
- There's another risk, at least for the moderates: Weakening the one who may be best poised to stop Sanders, a democratic socialist, if they fail themselves.
The biggest test so far will come at Wednesday night's Democratic debate in Las Vegas, three days ahead of the Nevada caucuses.
- Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders and Warren will be on the stage — and Bloomberg, who hasn't been eligible for earlier debates, is poised for a last-minute qualification.
- So far, Bloomberg has been focusing his hundreds of millions in advertising on President Trump — not his primary rivals.
Bloomberg's climb in the polls and saturation of the airwaves have inspired an acceleration of opposition research and investigative reporting into his decades as a businessman and New York mayor.
- Biden told Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that "billions of dollars, can take you a long, long way" but that "you all are going to start focusing on him like you have on me, which — I'm not complaining."
- Klobuchar said on the same show that Bloomberg "just can't hide behind the airwaves."
- Warren, whose standing has slid as Sanders consolidates progressives' support, sees Bloomberg as a badly needed chance to regain her footing with her credentials as a protector of consumers against big banks and Wall Street.
The big picture: By not competing in the four early states, Bloomberg has gone basically unchallenged, allowing him to define himself.
- This has made him a top-tier candidate and the only one with the certain cash to run to the end.
The bottom line: Each day the rivals wait, Bloomberg grows stronger. Each day he grows stronger, his case for being the electable one strengthens.