By Adam James
The Democratic Primary has been a bumpy road. The survivors will gather on stage Wednesday night; Senators Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders will be joined by former Vice President Joe Biden and former small town mayor Pete Buttigieg and billionaire activist Tom Steyer. They will be joined by a party crasher. Former 3-term mayor of New York City, billionaire activist and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg will be making his first appearance on a debate stage after spending $300 million in campaign infrastructure, merchandise, and ads without accepting any donations. The spending has sparked debates about campaign finance and “buying elections.”
As Super Tuesday approaches, the primary has heated up and Tennessee, which is not a bastion for national Democratic Party candidates, received a visit from the new kid in town: Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg has been investing heavily into his campaign here in the volunteer state. And while the state leans red—Trump’s approval rating here is around 60%, Bloomberg still sees a state worth competing in to win the state in the primary. I was in the audience at that Music City event and there appeared to be genuine excitement in the air.
News reports had the crowd at 1100 people. I believe it. Rocketown, a Christian youth club and concert hall, has a capacity of 1500 and a large chunk of the standing space was taken up by a series of tables with free campaign shirts on them like party favors. And at no point was the crowd asked for any donations. I spoke to several members of the Nashville crowd. Two audience members were proud to share that they participated in early voting and cast their votes for the former NY mayor. About a dozen others were there because they were intrigued.
It was noteworthy that Bloomberg choreographed his introduction with an eclectic group of people; a Dreamer, a local legendary Democratic politician, and a popular SC mayor. Bloomberg’s over encompassing message was, “My whole life I’ve been a doer, and I believe we need less talk, less partisanship, less tweeting.”
Donald Trump was the target of Bloomberg’s speech, although it was interrupted by a protestor who he thanked for making him “feel at home.” Bloomberg called Trump the biggest school yard bully and added, “He won’t bully me and I won’t let him bully you either.”
The 12-13 minute speech was heavy on pandering, a shout out to local candy Goo Goo Clusters, popular food dish hot chicken and mentioning that he kicked off his campaign in Tennessee. But the crowd seemed to appreciate his simple messages of offering, “workable, achievable, plans, with a record of getting things done.”
Bloomberg declared, “I am running to defeat Donald Trump.” According to national polls, that is the highest priority for Democratic voters. Bloomberg said it would be necessary “to restore honor to our government and build a country we will be proud of.” He added that it was time to start putting “the word ‘united’ back in the United States of America.”
He did promise not to tweet while being president, he said he’d raise the estate tax and make climate change a priority. After the event he spent some time greeting the audience and shaking hands. Tennessee will be an important opportunity for Bloomberg to get delegates on Super Tuesday, only Senator Elizabeth Warren and fellow Billionaire Tom Steyer hired staff in state.
Tonight’s Nevada debate will be the first time a wide American audience will see Bloomberg interact with the other candidates but we will also see if a national campaign can be effective in a primary that since the 60’s has been driven by Iowa and New Hampshire.