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Inside Bloomberg’s half-billion dollar belly flop

The billionaire businessman’s ambitious experiment bombed: He didn’t win a single Super Tuesday state, emerging victorious only in American Samoa — a devastating return on his investment of more than half a billion dollars.

Bloomberg placed third or fourth in every state, and he trailed the two leaders by hundreds in the delegate count. His chances would not improve if he continued campaigning. In fact, doing so could hurt Joe Biden, the leading moderate in the race, his advisers reasoned, despite Bloomberg’s demand earlier in the day that reporters ask Biden why he wouldn’t drop out for Bloomberg.

So the former mayor flew back to New York City with his family on a private jet Tuesday evening and huddled early Wednesday morning with his closest advisers in one of his Manhattan offices. Alongside campaign manager Kevin Sheekey, chair Patti Harris and adviser Howard Wolfson, Bloomberg reviewed the final results from the biggest night of the Democratic primary, one that was essential to his strategy to win the nomination.

They saw no path to success. Democratic voters had been inundated with the most positive — and occasionally misleading — messages money could buy, and they still roundly rejected him. He then opted to drop out of the race and throw his support — and potentially his vast resources — behind Biden in an effort to halt Bernie Sanders’s surge and realize his ultimate goal of defeating President Trump in November.

“Obviously, last night did not go as we hoped,” Sheekey, who has been encouraging Bloomberg to run for president since 2007, told Bloomberg staffers on a conference call late Wednesday morning.

Sheekey said he hadn’t expected Bloomberg to run for president in the first place.

The billionaire had just spent more than $115 million to help elect a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, combing through dozens of races before sinking his fortune into two dozen of them.

When Bloomberg’s own race was over, Sheekey tried to frame the campaign as a valiant, even historic, effort to ensure there was ample early pressure on Trump.

“Mike went from 1 percent in the polls to a serious contender for the Democratic nomination at a point in our history that I quite frankly have never known to be more important,” Sheekey said. “We surged past some really good candidates who have been at this for well over a year. And yesterday, nearly 2 million Americans cast their vote for Mike from all over the country.”

Bloomberg — who disdains partisan politics and only re-joined the Democratic Party in 2018 when he was contemplating a White House bid — enjoyed a rapid surge after his Nov. 24 entry into the crowded field. He apologized for a race-based policing strategy he oversaw as New York City mayor, saturated air waves across the country with ads and amassed a campaign apparatus of more than 2,400 staffers across 43 states, giving him time to lay groundwork while his competitors duked it out in Iowa.

Bloomberg started with a record-breaking ad buy of $34 million. The blitz was aimed at attracting African-American and Latino voters, two demographic groups key to winning the nomination. It was his means of catching up with those at the top of the Democratic ticket and for a while, polls showed that it may have worked in his favor: by the end of January,he polled in double digits, just behind Elizabeth Warren. By mid-February, he was the top choice among 20 percent of black voters.

He spent nearly $200 million in Super Tuesday states, including more than $30 million in the South, but he only crossed the 15 percent threshold in two Southern states.

He reasoned that he could skip the first four voting states in favor of delegate-rich ones that vote on Super Tuesday. In recent weeks, at least two high-ranking campaign advisers have privately questioned his decision not to compete in South Carolina, where they believe he could have done well.

The strategy seemed to be working in his favor until mid-February, when a 2015 audio clip of Bloomberg making charged remarks about young black and Latino men surfaced online. Bloomberg struggled to contain the fallout, as leaders for his black and Latino constituency teams gathered on a call with staffers around the country to calm their nerves.

In a conference room at his Times Square headquarters, Bloomberg assembled black pastors for a previously scheduled meeting that lasted more than two hours and included face time with the candidate. In a sign of the pressure to come, the recording was quickly raised.

Things got worse when he stepped onto a national debate stage after persuading the Democratic National Committee to alter the qualifying rules to allow entry for a self-funded candidate who did not accept outside donations.

That gamble proved disastrous.

Bloomberg was almost immediately knocked on his heels by rival Elizabeth Warren over complaints about treatment of women at his eponymous financial news service company — claims he settled years ago with payouts and non-disclosure agreements that Warren’s grilling forced him to agree to lift.

Sanders and others attacked his personal wealth, which totals more than $60 billion, insisting he knows nothing of the problems facing the majority of Americans he wanted to lead.

Bloomberg, who at 78 years old wasn’t about to change his personality, let his irritability seep through. Defensive and annoyed, he referred to the comments he made to female employees as “jokes” and he said he couldn’t release his tax returns yet because he could not use TurboTax — a popular tax preparation service among many Americans.

Afterwards, Bloomberg tried to reverse his fortunes by identifying three confidentiality agreements with women related to alleged comments he made, and inviting them to be released from the pacts.

He never recovered from the evening.

“A lot of people thought we were running as Biden’s understudy, and they were sort of right,” said one aide. “When he collapsed in Iowa and New Hampshire, we surged. When Biden had a comeback in South Carolina, we cratered. I don’t think most people expected the moderate wing to be frantically trying to stop Bernie on Super Tuesday, but that’s what it came down to, and it was out of our control.”

Two other campaign aides said the first debate performance reversed his climb, even as he rebounded for a better showing in a second debate and pivoted to the message that Americans want a “commander in chief,” not a “debater in chief.”

Some political insiders have questioned why his team put him on a debate stage at all, knowing his vulnerabilities would be laid bare and he wasn’t inclined to soften his matter-of-fact attitude or contain his eye rolls. To that end, several campaign aides said every focus group and poll showed voters were demanding to see him participate in the grueling face-offs.

Then came South Carolina, where Biden resurrected his collapsing campaign with a blowout victory that demonstrated his dominance with black voters who are key to winning a Democratic nomination. Biden seized almost 50 percent of the vote Saturday night — and nearly two-thirds among African Americans — as Bloomberg was crisscrossing the Deep South in futile search of the same supporters.

Bloomberg’s internal polls showed him in free fall and his aides said that after South Carolina, they knew it would be difficult to survive Biden’s ascent.

They saw no path, but did not want to drop out before he had an opportunity to test his theory that with virtually unlimited resources he could build support without competing in the first four voting states. It was a humbling end for a man who insisted he was the best option to challenge Trump.

Bloomberg had first aimed his fire at Trump in a prime-time Democratic National Convention speech in 2016 that was more about eviscerating the current president than elevating Hillary Clinton. He even took the opportunity to remind viewers he doesn’t favor partisan politics.

But he did not opt to challenge Trump until his team said internal polling showed Biden weakening and the moderate lane opening. Once he got in the contest, Bloomberg essentially ran a general election campaign — spending his energy on Trump instead of the field of Democrats he would have to defeat.

The left wing of the party, however, was having none of it and moderates rekindled their affection for Biden. But Bloomberg did attract some moderate Republicans who showed up to his events, saying he was the only Democrat they would cross the aisle for.

“I switched parties because I’ve had enough of Donald Trump. He’s not professional, he’s certainly not presidential,” Mike Vaughn, a 57-year-old Florida resident, said at Bloomberg’s party Tuesday night. “Mike has always gotten things done and I think he’s the absolute best candidate. I switched parties in order to vote for this man.”

Bloomberg spoke Wednesday morning with Biden, an aide told POLITICO. “I’ve known Joe for a very long time. I know his decency, his honesty, and his commitment to the issues that are so important to our country — including gun safety, health care, climate change, and good jobs,” he wrote in the statement announcing his decision.

Bloomberg aides said it was still unclear how he’d be involved in Biden’s campaign. Advisers on the all-staff call said they are working on a plan for how they’ll wind down the campaign. The advisers stressed they built their massive operation to continue the fight against Trump in battlegrounds regardless of whether he’s the nominee.

“We’re going to do that, as promised,” said Dan Kanninen, the states director, adding that organizers on the ground throughout the states will be given the opportunity to continue working on the effort. “Obviously, that means we’re shifting this entire operation to do that and it will take a little bit of time for us to figure out exactly how that looks,” Kanninen added.

Sheekey suggested the transition would happen fast.

“This is a large enterprise that we will have to transition quickly and we will begin that today,” he concluded. “But Mike, myself, the team here, and I hope all of us, stay off the sidelines and stay in this fight to do everything that we possibly can to the best of our ability — just as you have — going forward.”

Maya King contributed to this report.

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California Super Tuesday results: live updates

California, with its whopping 415 pledged delegates, is Super Tuesday’s biggest prize.

Because of its new primary date, the populous Western state takes on greater significance in the nomination process this year. Previously, California wasn’t slated to vote until early June, when the nominee had typically already been chosen. But to increase its influence, state officials moved its primary up to Super Tuesday for 2020.

The presidential race is far from the only thing on the ballot, though. All 53 congressional districts held House primaries, and the 25th Congressional District also conducted a closely watched special election to replace former Rep. Katie Hill.

Of the primaries, a few are particularly contentious: In the state’s 16th District, progressive challenger and Fresno City Council member Esmeralda Soria is attempting to unseat eight-term Democratic incumbent Jim Costa. And in the 50th District, a slew of Democrats and Republicans are vying for Duncan Hunter’s old seat, which will remain empty until next year.

Polls in the state were open until 8 pm PT (11 Eastern), and voters were able to mail in their ballots until midnight on Election Day.

Because of its mail-in voting, getting full results from California might take a while. When they are in, they could have some major implications for the 2020 race and several key House seats. Vox has live results below, courtesy of our friends at Decision Desk. Follow the rest of our live results here.

Democratic primary: Sanders leads polls — with a lot of delegates at stake

California’s 415 pledged delegates, effectively a fifth of what candidates need in order to win the Democratic nomination, make the state a major target this year.

Because of California’s proportional allocation rules, candidates can earn delegates by hitting either the 15 percent threshold of support statewide or the same threshold in an individual congressional district.

According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Sen. Bernie Sanders led the field statewide before Super Tuesday with 35 percent voter support, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden, who has 23 percent, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has 16 percent. The state is known for its progressive and diverse electorate: 31 percent of eligible voters are Latino, and 15 percent are Asian American or Pacific Islander.

For the candidates that are able to clear the necessary thresholds, the state could be a windfall of delegates — and momentum.

California’s 16th District primary: Longtime incumbent Jim Costa faces a challenge from the left

Eight-term incumbent and Blue Dog Democrat Jim Costa is facing a formidable challenge from the left this cycle.

Costa represents California’s 16th District, which includes Fresno and part of the state’s heavily agricultural Central Valley. He’s known for being one of the more conservative Democrats in the House, particularly on environmental issues. In the past, he’s been called out by liberals for the donations he’s taken from corporate agricultural interests and oil companies, as well as for a state bill he authored which severely limited rent control in California.

Fresno City Council member Esmeralda Soria, former diplomat Kim Williams, and Republican Kevin Cookingham are all running for Costa’s seat. Soria and Williams both have highlighted themselves as more progressive alternatives to Costa. And Soria, who’s also the member of a statewide task force on addressing homelessness, has picked up support from local organizers and activists including SEIU California. Williams, meanwhile, has gotten the backing of the Democratic Socialists of America and Our Revolution.

Because of the top-two primary system in California, the top two finishers will advance to the general election taking place in November, regardless of party affiliation.

California’s 25th: A primary and a special election for Katie Hill’s district

California’s 25th, the southern swing district that Katie Hill flipped last cycle, is open once again, after she decided to resign in the wake of allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a staffer and a smear campaign involving revenge porn.

A staggering 13 candidates are running in a primary for the seat, which is currently rated as “Likely Democratic,” by Cook Political Report.

Again, because of the top-two primary system in California, the top two finishers will advance to the general election taking place in November, regardless of party affiliation.

In addition to the primary, however, the district is also holding a special election for someone to replace Hill and serve out her existing term through this year.

Ten candidates will participate in both races — and one will have to secure a majority of the vote to win the special election. Otherwise, the top two candidates will head to a runoff set to take place on May 12.

The individuals vying for the seat in the primary and special election run the gamut of familiar names across both parties. The Democrats include Young Turks co-founder Cenk Uygur and state Assembly member Christy Smith, while the Republicans include former district Rep. Steve Knight (whom Hill unseated just two years ago), former fighter pilot Mike Garcia, and former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.

California’s 50th District primary: Members of both parties — including former Rep. Darrell Issa — are duking it out for Duncan Hunter’s old seat

California’s southern 50th District, which includes part of San Diego County, is now vacant after former Rep. Duncan Hunter, who pleaded guilty to violations of campaign finance laws, resigned.

A longtime Republican district that’s poised to stay that way, the race has still attracted candidates from both sides of the aisle who will be competing in the primary.

Ten candidates faced off on Super Tuesday in an attempt to qualify for the general election ballot. Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar is trying once more to flip the seat, and he’s joined this time by businesswoman Marisa Calderon. Notable Republicans competing for the seat include former Rep. Darrell Issa and former San Diego City Council member Carl DeMaio.

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Sanders and Trump Stare Into Their Graves

Biden summoned high turnout from precisely the diverse constituencies of African-Americans, suburbanites, working-class and older voters that another aging pol more at home with coalition politics than movement politics—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—marshalled to re-take the House in 2018.

In the near-term, Biden’s achievement indicated that Sanders has no convincing path to defeating this coalition with young people or previous non-voters. The only formula for his revival would involve Sanders somehow managing to encroach on support Biden won so handily from these groups. If not, it’s shovel time, no matter how long the nomination contest slogs on (which likely will be quite a while).

For the general election, the implications of Tuesday are equally urgent for Trump. Voter turnout in the primaries was up from 2016 in almost every state—in Virginia, for instance, turnout increased by more than two-thirds. The overwhelming evidence is that it is Trump, not any Democrat, who is stimulating this surge. Increased energy on the Democratic side, in the likely event this holds through the fall, means Trump must also stimulate new voters or it is shovel-time for him, too.

Perhaps most profoundly, Tuesday night represented history reasserting itself. It was a signal that not all the old ways of thinking about national politics are defunct in an age of disruption.

So much of the Trump era has been so bizarre—from the circumstances of his 2016 victory to payoffs to a porn star to the surrender and servility of former Republican critics—that it can’t be understood with reference to precedent or familiar norms. The Trump era has been a séance with Henry Ford, who famously said, “History is more or less bunk.”

Biden’s victory, contrast, can be understood through a historical prism—indeed it doesn’t really make much sense through any other prism. The old saw that Democrats fall in love while Republicans fall in line has not usually been true. In most nomination contests for the past 40 years—Jimmy Carter in 1980, Walter Mondale in 1984, Bill Clinton in 1992, John Kerry in 2004, Hillary Clinton in 2016—the party has ultimately coalesced over the more consensus-oriented politician in the spring after a flirtation with more flamboyant or purely ideological insurgents.

There’s nothing mystical about these migratory patterns. It reflects that majority power in the Democratic Party resides in familiar places among familiar constituencies whose habits and allegiances stretch back decades. What was notable on Super Tuesday was the suddenness and velocity with which this customary migration took place, as well as how it benefited even a candidate whose political infirmities most of the past year have been on such glaring display.

The fact that history is reasserting itself does not mean that the next several months are about to become routine or easily predictable. To the contrary, most of what we in the POLITICO newsroom are observing suggests that events are going to remain very interesting.

Some other Super Tuesday observations:

Movement politicians create counter-movements

Journalists instinctually love to explain outcomes through dramatic moments: the climactic showdown, the secret strategy, the behind-the-scenes story.

After a cup of coffee or two, however, most of the narrative reconstructions about Biden’s comeback seem a bit facile—not wrong, just insufficient. His revival is more indicative of something deep and important going on in the electorate precisely because it does not have a plausible precipitating event.

Yes, South Carolina’s Jim Clyburn is a respected African-American leader, and has been for decades. But there are not previous examples of him directing huge swaths of voters in his state or across the South merely on his say-so. His endorsement likely was powerful not because so many of his loyalists were waiting to be told what to do by him but because he understood what many of his loyalists were already feeling. (Biden was ahead in South Carolina’s absenteee voting before Clyburn’s endorsement.)

Likewise, Biden’s team no doubt needed an infusion of energy from a talented political veteran like Anita Dunn. But it’s hard to conceive that any internal changes had much to do with Tuesday’s Biden wave, which was not accompanied by any big change in messaging or spending. Biden’s most recent debate performance and his victory speech after South Carolina were better than some previous outings but were hardly Churchillian.

The more credible explanation was that these things were like well-timed sparks in a dry forest.

Specifically, while Sanders is a movement politician, the socialist who has never formally become a Democrat is clearly also creating a counter-movement within the party. The number of late-deciding voters, as reflected in exit surveys, suggests that many Democrats desperately want to reconvene the 2018 mid-term coalition to defeat Trump and fear Sanders is not the right person to do that. The counter-movement, based on latest evidence, is larger than the movement itself.

This is also the peril for Trump, the greatest movement politician of the past couple generations. Typically, movements compensate for smaller raw numbers with the greater passion of adherents. In this case, though, it’s likely he has inspired equal or greater passion among the opposition.

Not all the history is encouraging for Biden

Long marches to the nomination often don’t bode well for general election prospects. This is true historically, as in Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980 after a bitter nomination fight against Ted Kennedy. And it’s true recently, as in Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump after an extended and sullen contest against Sanders. A large survey released in 2017 by the Cooperative Congressional Election Study found that 12 percent of Sanders voters ultimately backed Trump. Others did not vote at all.

The other relevant history concerns Biden himself. If he were an articulate and even-performing politician it is possible he would have taken command of the race months ago. The candidate who often meandered in debates, who has ample baggage after 50 years in politics, who never won a state in two previous presidential runs, is the same candidate who today has the aura of a winner. We can be sure there will be many challenges to that aura from both Sanders and Trump in the days ahead.

Democrats remain in a highly fluid state

Just as Trump is almost a cartoon version of a political disrupter, Biden can look like a cartoon version of a return to conventionality.

Don’t forget that even the most moderate Democrats in the 2020 race, Biden among them, backed ideas on expanding health care and bringing business to heel that went well beyond what a progressive like Barack Obama supported in 2008.

It is improbable that Biden is in the process of marshalling an ideological mandate. More likely: Super Tuesday voters eager above all to beat Trump regarded Sanders’ democratic socialism with its high expense and uncertain popular appeal as a bridge too far.

But Biden is perfectly credible as an ideological placeholder until the party’s reappraisal for a new generation of voters is more mature. That reappraisal is coming in any event. An analysis by a center on youth voting at Tufts University’s Tisch College showed Sanders winning the under-30 vote in all nine states where data was immediately available. In Minnesota, despite Biden’s late-surging victory, one in five voters was under 30, a percentage tied with Massachusetts for highest on Super Tuesday. Despite Biden’s 30-point win in Virginia, Sanders still won 55 percent of younger voters.

The human dimension matters

It is notable how many politicians backing Biden cited his personal decency and kindness. Historically, these have not been major prerequisites for the presidency. To the contrary, at times (as in the case of Richard Nixon and Trump) voters have seemed to reward a certain ruthlessness, as evidence of necessary strength in the presidency. It seems likely Trump’s pattern of insults and conflict in office have many voters placing a premium on opposite traits.

Sanders, whose strengths are consistency and passion, often seems to view politics as a clash of interests which casts “the people” as more of an abstraction, rather than connecting with or projecting empathy toward individual people with their flesh-and-blood problems.

This dynamic could be an important factor during the balance of March. Based on Tuesday, Biden looks well-positioned for contests in Louisiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Florida. More competitive—and therefore an opportunity for Sanders to hit the brakes on the trajectory of the race or for Biden to become de facto nominee—are Arizona, Michigan, and Ohio.

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2020 Democrats learned the lesson of Trump’s GOP takeover: Unite or die

WASHINGTON — If President Trump is defeated in the fall election this year, history books will most likely pinpoint Leap Day weekend as a decisive moment, when Democrats did what Republicans could not do four years earlier. 

Until this past weekend, Democrats were headed for a hostile takeover by a candidate with only about 30 percent support in the party, Bernie Sanders. It was eerily similar to Trump’s path to the Republican nomination in 2016. 

The Republican Party did not want Trump in 2016: not the majority of voters, or party leaders, or even delegates to the convention. Even Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, described him as “unacceptable” early in the process, according to an associate of his. 

But Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and John Kasich and Ted Cruz split the majority vote among themselves and let Trump in the door and on his way to the White House. When it was all over, Trump won the nomination after winning about 45 percent of the primary vote. On the Democratic side in 2016, meanwhile, Sanders won 43 percent of the vote but still lost to Hillary Clinton, the only other major candidate in the race. 

Sanders watched what happened when Trump took on a crowded field and saw a path to the nomination for himself in 2020. This might help explain why the Democratic socialist from Vermont did not make more of an effort to reach out to supporters of other candidates after strong showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. 

Sanders’s qualified defense of Fidel Castro on a recent episode of “60 Minutes” reflected his trademark refusal to change his tune for moderate voters. The Vermont senator’s fans appreciate what they see as his bluntness and authenticity, but for those more skeptical of Sanders, his refusal to ever tack to the center looks like a worrying ideological rigidity.  

Sanders did not anticipate that Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer might learn from 2016 and adapt. 

Buttigieg dropped out the day after the South Carolina primary and endorsed Biden the day before Super Tuesday, the same day that Klobuchar dropped out and endorsed Biden. It was exactly the kind of fall-on-your-sword self-sacrifice that would have saved the GOP from Trump in 2016. 

Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz at a debate in 2016. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Now, Biden is the delegate leader, the popular vote leader, and the frontrunner with a clear path to the nomination, though Sanders will likely fight to the convention in July.

“What we have that the people in 2016 didn’t have is 2016,” a senior adviser to one of the departed candidates, who didn’t want to identify their specific campaign, told Yahoo News. 

“The Cruzes of the world, they did not think Donald Trump was going to win. We know, because we have the benefit of history and hindsight, when you get into a dynamic like that, that person with 30 percent of the vote — who does not represent a majority of your party, let alone the country — can still win,” the Democratic campaign adviser said. 

But if experience was a teacher pushing Buttigieg and Klobuchar away from the example of 2016, the incentive pulling them toward their concession speeches was more likely fear of another four years for Trump as much as anything else. 

“The animating question has been who can beat Donald Trump,” the senior adviser said. 

Tim Miller, who was a spokesman for Jeb Bush’s 2016 campaign, told Yahoo News that Democrats had followed the path he wrote about in late February, before it was clear that Biden even had a shot at a resurgence.

“If Sanders is going to be stopped … recognize how substantial his advantage is, use the maximum possible leverage to reverse it, and take it to him,” Miller advised the Democrats.

Half measures, waiting to see how things played out — anything less than an “all in” approach, Miller said — would merely help Sanders. 

Joe Biden at his Super Tuesday night rally in Los Angeles. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
Joe Biden at his Super Tuesday night rally in Los Angeles. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Miller also told Yahoo News that Democrats have a “different and more pragmatic coalition” than Republicans do. That’s largely a reference to the African-American vote, which is “not purely ideological,” unlike the progressive voters who form the bedrock of Sanders’s support. The black vote, Miller said, combined with an overflow of voters in the more moderate suburbs to boost Biden.

Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropped out in response to an overwhelming vote of support for Biden from South Carolina Democrats, the majority of whom are African-American. 

“I don’t think Pete Buttigieg dropped out because someone told him to. He’s a free-thinking human being,” said Lily Adams, who was the communications director for Sen. Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign, which ended in early December.

Sanders complained Wednesday that his campaign “has taken on the entire political establishment, and that is an establishment which is working frantically to defeat us.”

But the truth is that the only organized action taken by establishment figures was to remove themselves from consideration, of their own free will, to narrow the options for voters, who then overwhelmingly went to the polls on Tuesday to support Biden. 

The massive turnout numbers — up exponentially from 2016 — is not a sign of a Democratic electorate that is dissatisfied with fewer options, but rather an indication of excitement that the party is uniting around a consensus pick to take on Trump. 

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Read more from Yahoo News:

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Senate Republican sees next step in Biden probe as Democratic presidential race narrows

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) – A U.S. Senate Republican disclosed the next step in his probe of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son on Wednesday, after the former vice president emerged as front-runner in the race for his party’s nomination.

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, told reporters he expected to issue an “interim report” on an investigation involving the former role of Biden’s businessman son, Hunter Biden, as board director for the Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

“I’m hoping to do it in a month or two,” Johnson told reporters after Joe Biden’s surge in the Super Tuesday primaries narrowed the Democratic race to a choice between him and Senator Bernie Sanders. The nominee will face Republican President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

“These are questions that Joe Biden has never adequately answered, and if I were a Democrat primary voter, I’d want these questions satisfactorily answered before I cast my final vote.”

Hunter Biden’s position with Burisma while his father was vice president has been attacked as corrupt by Trump and his Republican allies in the U.S. Congress. No evidence has been given to back up the accusation.

The Bidens have denied wrongdoing.

Trump was impeached on abuse-of-power and obstruction charges in the Democratic-led House of Representatives after he asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens last July. Democrats said he was trying to shore up his re-election prospects by targeting a leading candidate in the Democratic race to challenge him. Trump was later acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Democrats have warned that Johnson’s investigation could aid disinformation efforts by Russia. Intelligence officials have told lawmakers that Russia appears to be engaging in disinformation and propaganda campaigns to help both Trump and Sanders, according to congressional sources.

Johnson said he planned to hold a committee vote next week on a subpoena that would seek documents and an interview from Andrii Telizhenko, a former Ukrainian diplomat and consultant for Blue Star Strategies, a lobbying and consulting firm. Johnson alleges that Blue Star sought to leverage Hunter Biden’s Burisma role to make inroads with the State Department.

Johnson insisted that his actions were not tied to Joe Biden’s bid for the White House.

“My investigations are not focused on the Bidens. They just aren’t. But I can’t ignore them, because they’re part of the story,” the Wisconsin Republican told reporters. (Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Sanders sharpens ‘us vs. them’ attacks on Biden

While prognosticators have suggested that the slate of primary states voting later in March could be fertile ground for Biden’s coalition of voters, Sanders suggested that the former vice president could struggle to run on his record in states that he said “have been hit very hard” by trade woes.

“Joe is going to have to explain to the people, the union workers in the Midwest why he supported disastrous trade agreements” like NAFTA that Sanders said have “cost this country millions of good paying jobs, and in fact have resulted in a race to the bottom.”

Sanders went on to needle the former vice president on his past votes for the Iraq War and the Wall Street bailout. And he dinged Biden’s opposition to Medicare for All, calling for a debate “talking about why the United States is the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all people through something like” Sanders’ signature health care proposal.

He also hammered home attacks on Biden’s decades-old advocacy for freezing spending on social safety net programs, echoing attack ads he launched earlier in the day.

“At a time when half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to make ends meet,” Sanders told reporters, “Joe is going to have to explain to the American people why he voted for a disastrous bankruptcy bill, which benefited the credit card companies.”

After cruising as the party’s clear frontrunner through the first four nominating contests, Sanders on Wednesday found himself for the first time with a true rival for the Democratic nomination. Unlike Sanders, who won three of the first four nominating contests, Biden struggled through the primary’s early races. But the former vice president won a commanding victory in South Carolina, where he was powered overwhelmingly by the support of black voters.

That momentum carried the former vice president into Super Tuesday, when he won primaries all over the country, including dominating wins in the South and upset victories in Texas and Massachusetts. His performance, along with Sanders’s wins in California, Colorado and Utah, put the two men on a collision course for the Democratic nomination, leaving the only two remaining candidates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, in the dust.

Sanders on Wednesday railed against the consolidation of Democratic establishment support behind Biden after his more moderate rivals, with whom he’d split much of the vote, dropped out and endorsed him this week. He also homed in on Biden’s support from wealthier Americans, asserting that “at last count, [Biden] has received funding from at least 60 billionaires.”

“Joe is running a campaign, which is obviously heavily supported by the corporate establishment,” Sanders argued, touting his own campaign’s status as a grassroots fundraising behemoth.

“So what does it mean when you have a campaign which is funded very significantly by the wealthy and the powerful?” he asked. “Does anyone seriously believe that a president backed by the corporate world is going to bring about the changes in this country that working families and the middle class and lower income people desperately need?”

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Elizabeth Warren has no one to blame but herself for Mass. loss

Stop for a moment and savor with me the delicious schadenfreude of Sen. Warren’s faceplant of a POTUS campaign. However bad you hoped it might be — it was worse.

As a candidate for high public office, Liz Warren makes Martha Coakley look competent. As a champion of progressive politics, she’s done more damage than a bevy of Fox News hosts. As a representative of the quality of Massachusetts politicians she …

OK, she aced that.

How lousy is Liz Warren at running for POTUS?

Here’s former DNC chair Donna Brazile: “For Warren to come in third, or even second, in Massachusetts — that’s terrible.”

Here’s CNN liberal Dana Bash: “She lost to a man who never even campaigned in her state. She’s the senior senator in Massachusetts. … It’s an embarrassing defeat.”

And here’s the Boston Globe-Democrat: “She was, to my mind, the smartest, most exciting, inspiring, and best prepared presidential candidate since Barack Obama in 2008.” That was from a Globe columnist AFTER she lost her home state.

Week after week, defeat after defeat, the house organ of the Warren campaign kept cranking out pro-Liz agitprop. One Globe-Democrat reporter said after Liz’s New Hampshire defeat, “Warren’s done everything right!” And if you ignore the whole “getting people to vote for you” part, maybe she did.

Of course, the Globies are blaming Warren’s loss on sexism. And who’s more sexist than Massachusetts’ Democrats, right? Except maybe the misogynists of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine — the other New England states where Warren’s campaign stunk up the joint.

With 94% of the vote reported late yesterday, Warren had won a total of 12 Massachusetts cities and townships. Out of 351. Ah, yes, those right-wing Democrats in Concord, Newton and Natick just couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a woman.

Or put another way, more than a million members of the Massachusetts “He-Man Woman-Hater’s Club” turned out to NOT vote for a Elizabeth Warren.

Maybe the dumbest analysis of the day came from “strategist” and Boston native Andrew Feldman, who said Joe Biden beat Warren here because of his “Irish roots.”

“Biden has a stronger connection to Massachusetts voters than anybody ever knew or most pundits didn’t realize,” Feldman told Politico.

What — did he convert to Catholicism after the South Carolina primary? Because Biden’s been Biden his entire life and he was never leading in the polls here. No, it wasn’t a papist juggernaut that brought Liz Warren down. It was Liz Warren.

As the home state candidate, Democratic primary voters were Liz’s to lose. And she did. Nearly every vote for Biden and Bernie was a one-time Warren voter who said, “I can do better.”

And that includes the 70% of Massachusetts women who backed somebody else.

I’ve been asked a dozen times since Tuesday “How did she lose so badly?” And my answer is always the same: Because she’s a bad candidate. Liz Warren is arrogant, she’s angry, she’s insufferable and most of all she is totally and utterly inauthentic.

No, I’m not making a cheap #Fauxcahontas joke. Who is Liz Warren at her core? The one-time Republican academic rationally supporting free markets? Or the screaming, socialist lady standing outside Everett Mill in Lawrence, yowling about the sinister conspiracy of wealthy elites?

Is she the tireless fighter who never gives up? Or the hapless woman who (as she falsely claims) got fired for being pregnant and went home with her tail between her legs?

Is she the Cambridge prof swilling chardonnay with Deval Patrick? Or the Okie from Muskogee who don’t want nuthin’ more than to get her a cold beer.

The answer: Liz Warren is whatever she has to be to get you to give her what she wants.

On Tuesday, she got what she deserved. And it was wonderful.


Michael Graham is a regular contributor to the Boston Herald. Follow him on Twitter @IAmMGraham.

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Bloomberg Blew $130 in Ads on Each Vote for the Presidency, More Than a Dozen Times More Than Biden, Sanders, Clinton and Trump


Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg makes a stop at one of his campaign offices in the Little Havana neighborhood on March 3, 2020, in Miami, Florida. Bloomberg continues to campaign as voters cast their ballots in 14 states and American Samoa on what is known as Super Tuesday.
Joe Raedle/Getty

Michael Bloomberg, who folded his campaign on Wednesday after a disappointing Super Tuesday finish, spent about $136 for each vote he earned in key primary states—a record-setting amount that left little in return for the former New York City mayor who set his sights on the presidency.

Bloomberg sank more than $234 million into Super Tuesday advertising expenditures that included television, radio and digital ads, according to data collected by the media analytics firm Kantar and analyzed by CNN. By Wednesday afternoon, he had counted a little more than 1.7 million votes, ringing in at more than $136 for each one he brought in. The figure does not include other campaign spending, such as for staff or transportation.

Although the figure could change slightly because vote totals are not final in every state, that’s more than a dozen times more for Democratic primary front runners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, as well as 2016 presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—who won that election.

About $44 million of that was spent in five states—Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Vermont and Virginia—that were dominated by his opponents. He spent the most in powerhouses California and Texas, more than half of his overall Super Tuesday budget.

By contrast, Vermont Senator Sanders spent about $4.32 for each vote he earned in these states. For former Vice President Biden? Just 42 cents for each vote, or 344 times less than Bloomberg spent—and he won all five states.

“He’s really putting his thumb on the scales for ad buying. It’s incredible to have one campaign have that much impact,” Sheila Krumholz, the executive director for the Center for Responsive Politics, told Newsweek.

As the vote totals were still being reported, it became clear Bloomberg would finish with only a small fraction of the 1,357 delegates awarded on Tuesday across 14 states and American Samoa, the only jurisdiction where he pulled off a win.

Bloomberg’s spendthrift presidential campaign echoes his three mayoral bids in New York. When in 2001 he mounted a run on the Republican ticket to succeed Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Bloomberg spent a record $69 million. He also chose a strategy much like the one in play Tuesday: flooding the field with ad buys.

According to financial disclosures reported by The New York Times at the time, Bloomberg—who ran as a Republican—spent $8.4 million on television ads during the final leg of the campaign alone. The cost per vote during his first mayoral run, according to the Times, was $92.60, a figure that included all campaign expenditures.

”He bought it fair and square, and by spending a historic amount on television ads he controlled the airwaves and altered people’s perception of reality,” the campaign manager for his Democratic opponent told the Times at the time.

For his presidential campaign, Bloomberg spared no expense. He invested more than half a billion dollars of his own money into his 2020 bid. In the fourth quarter of 2019 alone, he shelled out more than $188 million, shattering all previous spending records for this period, according to Bloomberg News, which he owns.

The sheer volume of Bloomberg’s spending is perhaps best understood when viewed in the context of the entire field. Throughout the campaign, Bloomberg spent more on advertising than all of his primary opponents combined.

For example, FiveThirtyEight estimates that Bloomberg spent $407 million on television advertisements across the country, which is around $250 million more than was spent by the next-highest ad buyer, billionaire Tom Steyer, who bowed out of the race days ago.

When you compare with other presidential campaigns, Bloomberg, who didn’t make it past the primary, still stands out. Trump, who clinched the Electoral College, spent about $334 million, Cato figures showed. His cost per vote: $5.32. As for Clinton, who won the popular vote, the libertarian think tank showed that she spent more than $632 million on her campaign, bringing her total cost per vote to $9.46.

What that shows, said Matt Bennett, co-founder of centrist think tank Third Way who worked on both of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns, is that “money does not necessarily buy success.”

“It’s just a very unsure bet to dump a ton of money into a campaign if you don’t have the other elements of success, which are: some sense of mission and purpose, name identification and a compelling narrative,” he said. “If you don’t have those things, no matter how much you spend it’s not going to work. Money is important, but it’s not determinative of the way many people think it is. If he turns over that huge set of resources to take on Trump, that can even the playing field. It may not guarantee a win for Democrats, but it can certainly help.”

Still, as money becomes an increasingly central part of political life, advertising surges have their benefits.

“I think in the vein of no news is bad news, you want people talking about you,” Krumholz explained. “To get the name recognition and cachet, or just to be considered a player in the field of candidates, there are definitely advantages.”

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Joe Biden Poised to Win Big If Mike Bloomberg Supporters Vote For Their Second Choice, New Poll Shows


Democratic presidential candidates former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg (L) and former Vice President Joe Biden speak during a break during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Paris Las Vegas on February 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mario Tama/Getty

Former Vice President Joe Biden could win big in the coming Democratic primary contests if former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s supporters vote for their second choice in upcoming primaries, according to a new poll.

The Morning Consult poll found that 48 percent of Bloomberg voters said Biden would be their second choice. Twenty-five percent of Bloomberg voters chose Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and 15 percent picked Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as second choice candidates.

Morning Consult stated that this would equal to “a potential 8-percentage-point increase” to the 36 percent of potential Democratic primary voters who already support Biden, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

The Morning Consult told Newsweek in an email that this poll was conducted “among 472 Democratic primary voters who identified Michael Bloomberg as their first choice in the Democratic presidential primary.” The responses were collected beginning on Monday afternoon through Tuesday.

Bloomberg dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination Wednesday after a poor performance on Super Tuesday. In his statement informing the public of his decision, the billionaire also endorsed Biden.

“I’ve always believed that defeating Donald Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it,” Bloomberg stated. “After yesterday’s vote, it is clear that candidate is my friend and a great American, Joe Biden.”

“I’ve known Joe for a very long time. I know his decency, his honesty, and his commitment to the issues that are so important to our country – including gun safety, health care, climate change, and good jobs,” the statement continued.

While Biden seems to benefit the most from Bloomberg dropping out, Sanders is the candidate who would most likely benefit from Warren ending her campaign. Forty percent of likely Democratic voters who support Warren said Sanders would be their second choice, according to a Morning Consult poll of 13,428 likely Democratic voters conducted in late February. Biden was the second choice for 16 percent of her supporters.

Biden is the current Democratic frontrunner for the nomination after winning 10 of 14 states on Super Tuesday. He did so after receiving numerous endorsements in the days leading up to Super Tuesday, including from former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Both Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropped out of the race prior to Super Tuesday.

In addition to Biden, Sanders and Warren, Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard also remains in the race for the Democratic nomination. Gabbard currently has one delegate — earned in American Samona on Super Tuesday.