While the other Democratic presidential candidates slug it out and slog through snowy Iowa, Mike Bloomberg is busy planting seeds across the country â€“ and in North Carolina.
His campaign is unlike any before: It has unlimited money. Itâ€™s taking an untried path. And itâ€™s not just about electing Bloomberg.
Last week, Bloomberg gave a small group of North Carolinians a look behind the curtain. He and his campaign leaders hosted a conference call for about 30 political donors, fundraisers and business leaders from across the state.
One person who listened in on the call reported that Bloomberg said he wonâ€™t keep running if â€œmy dear friendâ€ Joe Biden is successful. But Bloomberg will run hard if â€œthe old mathâ€ doesnâ€™t work and Biden falters.
Why? Because the campaignâ€™s polling says Trump would win reelection today â€œin a landslide.â€
Bloomberg believes Democrats have to nominate a moderate, mainstream candidate to win in November.
Heâ€™s taking a road not taken before. Heâ€™s skipping the sacrosanct early states of Iowa and New Hampshire and going directly to the March 3 Super Tuesday prizes of California, Texas, North Carolina and 11 other states.
The people who every four years decry the outsized role of two small, snow-bound and nearly all-white states should celebrate that.
Since Bloomberg is targeting North Carolina, you see his strategy playing out here. You see it on TV â€“ two or three Bloomberg ads every half-hour. You see it on Facebook â€“ ubiquitous targeted Bloomberg ads. You see positive bio ads about Bloomberg (â€œMike Will Get It Doneâ€), and you see ads slamming President Trump on health care, jobs and economic insecurity. But not impeachment.
Nationally, Bloomberg has already spent $200 million on TV. It could end up being a billion-dollar campaign. But even that wonâ€™t dent Bloombergâ€™s $30 billion fortune. Which he made, one ad tells us, after he was fired at age 39.
You donâ€™t see everything that Bloombergâ€™s money buys. Like the 80-100 staffers heâ€™s putting on the ground in North Carolina. Theyâ€™re being paid, Iâ€™m told, $6,000 a month. Thatâ€™s two or three times what theyâ€™d make in other campaigns. And the checks donâ€™t bounce.
You also donâ€™t see â€“ not directly, anyway â€“ the millions of dollars the campaign spends on polling, focus groups, ad-testing, data analytics and voter targeting.
Bloomberg says heâ€™s here through November, even if heâ€™s not the nominee. â€œWe wonâ€™t be returning our rental cars March 4,â€ one of his campaign people said on the call. Beating Trump is the big goal, but voter registration and turnout are important in the races for Governor, U.S. Senate, the legislature and down the ballot.
The campaign road-tested its operation last year in Kentucky, where a Democrat unseated the Republican governor, and Virginia, where Democrats took the legislature.
Bloomberg called North Carolina â€œthe new Virginia,â€ likely to tip toward Democrats in the years ahead.
The person who described the call admitted to being a â€œjadedâ€ veteran of campaign conference calls. But this one was different: â€œIt was crisp, business-like and impressive.â€
And there was no fundraising pitch. Because Bloomberg is paying for everything.
Which some Democrats donâ€™t like. They donâ€™t like rich guys â€œbuyingâ€ the race. They blame the â€œbillionaire classâ€ for much of whatâ€™s wrong in America.
Wouldnâ€™t it be the height of irony if billionaire-bashing Democrats were saved by a billionaire?