- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has dropped more than $100 million on ads in his 2020 White House bid, surging past his Democratic rivals in the money race as he tests the outer limits of how far unlimited financial resources can carry a presidential campaign.

Since entering the race a little more than two weeks ago, Mr. Bloomberg has leveraged his estimated $50 billion-plus fortune to blanket the airwaves nationwide — to the frustration of more seasoned candidates who are struggling to keep their campaigns afloat.

“If you have the ability to drop $100 million on a media campaign, you have kind of circumvented these market forces that tend to favor so-called high-quality candidates — people with a message that’s resonating,” said Michael G. Miller, a political science professor at Barnard College.

Mr. Bloomberg has run or booked more than $100 million worth of ads as of this week, according to ad-tracking data.

Fellow billionaire Tom Steyer was the next-biggest spender at about $80 million, which is well ahead of what leading candidates such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernard Sanders of Vermont spent or booked.

Mr. Bloomberg is in a position where he could literally spend $1 billion in the Democratic primary race and $2 billion in a would-be general election without really taking a hit to his net worth, said Michael Starr Hopkins, who served as national press secretary for former Rep. John Delaney’s 2020 presidential campaign.

“He’s opened Pandora’s box,” Mr. Hopkins said. “Because he’s doing something that’s never been done before, there will be questions after this about how do we fix our broken election system.”

Ms. Warren and other Democratic hopefuls have decried the deep-pocket strategy, accusing the billionaire candidates of trying to buy the party’s nomination.

“If that is how a Democratic primary is going to work, if the only people who have a chance to be nominated are either billionaires themselves or spend their time sucking up to billionaires, then we’re going to have a democracy that just works better and better for billionaires and doesn’t work for anybody else,” Ms. Warren said while campaigning in Nevada.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, though, appeared to welcome the deluge of spending and suggested that voters wouldn’t appreciate the strategy.

“Michael, keep spending,” Mr. Biden told reporters when he stopped in Nevada this week. “When people think that somebody is in a position where they have a distinct or unfair advantage, they’re not happy about it.”

Mr. Bloomberg has been unapologetic in the face of such criticism, saying the spending is a continuation of years of putting money into causes he cares about, whether it’s the environment or gun control.

“I am running as an American citizen who believes in this country, who thinks that I can make a difference,” he told CNN this week. “So far I think I’ve given away something like $10 billion for things that I think are important in this country, one of which is getting us a good president.”

Before entering the race, Mr. Bloomberg’s team had also said he planned to drop $100 million on anti-Trump ads and put between $15 million and 20 million into voter registration efforts in key states.

On Wednesday, Mr. Bloomberg’s team said he would be directing $10 million to try to boost the campaigns of vulnerable House Democrats amid the ongoing impeachment fight.

Mr. Hopkins said the investment in House races is a smart move, and that it inoculates Mr. Bloomberg somewhat to criticism from the left that his money would be more valuable for Democrats if he directed it toward down-ballot races or other causes.

“For all the candidates that are saying that money could be better spent funding other races, well, he can walk and chew gum at the same time. He can fund those races and he can fund his race without taking any donations,” he said. “That’s something that no one ever really considered a candidate being able to do.”

Early polling has been mixed. Mr. Bloomberg has risen to as high as fifth place in some national polls, even as Democratic voters don’t view him as favorably as they do other candidates.

Mr. Miller said there’s not a lot of evidence that says a well-heeled candidate can automatically “buy” a race, and that he’s skeptical someone entering the race this late and relying on such large-scale media buys can make headway.

“If I had a candidate who had raised $80 million in contributions, especially if they’re from small, individual contributions, and a candidate with $100 million all from his own bank account, give me the $80 million candidate all day long,” he said.

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