Michael Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders (AP Photo/Getty Images/Salon)

Does the Bloomberg-Biden tug of war over the middle open a left-wing win by Sanders?

Destiny might clear a path for Sanders to the nomination with risk averse moderates splitting their affections


Bob Hennelly
March 3, 2020 9:59AM (UTC)

This article was originally published by InsiderNJ. Used by permission.

With former Vice President Joe Biden's impressive South Carolina resurgence, just 48 hours before Super Tuesday, New Jersey's June 2 Democratic primary looms larger in the 2020 narrative.

It also raises the stakes for the April 28 primary when New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Washington D.C. all get to weigh in.

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And while Senator Bernie Sanders poor finish in the Palmetto state dented his front-runner status, Mr. Biden's Lazarus-like revival undermines the rationale of former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's campaign that only the former Republican has what it takes to head off the nomination falling into the hands of  Senator Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist.

With a freshly re-animated Mr. Biden, very much back in the game, and Mr. Bloomberg shattering campaign spending records every day, it would appear destiny might clear a path for Mr. Sanders to the nomination with risk averse moderates splitting their affections.

Super Tuesday Petri dish 

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As we enter the 48-hour countdown for Super Tuesday, when voters in fourteen states will head to the polls and more than a third of the total delegates will be selected, we will soon have live results of Mr. Bloomberg's half-billion-dollar experiment.

Mr. Biden's poor performance in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada contests played out as Mr. Bloomberg flooded the zone with hundreds of millions of dollars in TV ads that featured file footage from 2013 of former President Barack Obama offering a glowing testimonial for the former Mayor.

"He's been a leader throughout the country for the past 12 years, Mr. Michael Bloomberg is here," Obama says in the ad. "And I want to thank the mayor of this great city, Mayor Bloomberg, for his extraordinary leadership. And I share your determination to bring this country together to finally make progress for the American people."

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As New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush reported over the weekend, the former president "hasn't tried to referee how the current candidates are using his name, image or record" while he "studiously avoided playing favorites."

But back in November, at a Democratic National Committee (DNC) fundraiser on Nov. 21 in Silicon Valley, Mr. Obama appeared to put his presidential pinky on the scale for the moderate Biden/Bloomberg wing. He warned the assembled wealthy audience that Democrats must recognize that "the average American doesn't think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it."

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There's a kind of irony in the fact he was invoking the views of the "average American" to an audience that had paid ticket prices ranging from $10,000 to $355,000.  In trying to tip the party towards moderation, Obama said Democrats' "ultimate goal is to defeat a president and a party that has…taken a sharp turn away from a lot of the core traditions and values and institutional commitments that built this country."

Bloomberg burst

Up until the Biden comeback, former Mayor Bloomberg appeared to be getting traction in the tug of war for the mantle of moderation in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

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Seemingly almost overnight, the former Mayor won the endorsement from an impressive list of current and former elected officials nationally. Locally, the long list included former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, New York House of Representative Members Gregory Meeks and Max Rose, and New Jersey House of Representatives Jason Gottheimer and Mikie Sherrill.

Pennsylvania State Senator Sharif Street is a vice chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party whose father is former Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street.

As a top state party official, Mr. Street says he has pledged not to endorse a presidential candidate ahead of the April primary but added during a phone interview that his father had endorsed former Vice President Biden.

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Biden favorite son?

"Vice President Biden's impressive showing in South Carolina has been noticed by people across the country and especially in Pennsylvania for those Democrats who believe a moderate can help carry down ballot candidates in our suburbs," he said.

"It's true that Mayor Bloomberg has that same appeal, but the Vice President was born and raised in Scranton."

Such calculations take on even greater significance in a state like Pennsylvania that in 2016 went for Donald Trump after voting for President Obama in 2008 and 2012.

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Unlike New Jersey, where Hillary Clinton beat Mr. Trump by a half-million votes or New York where the former Secretary of State bested the real estate developer by 1.7 million votes, Mr. Trump carried Pennsylvania by just 44,000 votes.

For Pennsylvanian Democrats to prevail in November, African Americans have to turnout. While much has been written about the potential role of Russian interference in 2016, the decision by 700,000 African Americans not to vote was determinative.

When hope & change ran out of gas

According to the Pew Center "the black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to 59.6 percent in 2016 after reaching a record high of 66.6 percent in 2012."

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Pew's analysis continues. "It's also the largest percentage decline among any racial or ethnic group since white voter turnout dropped from 70.2 percent in 1992 to 60.7 percent in 1996."

Michigan was even closer for Mr. Trump than Pennsylvania, with him besting Ms. Clinton by just over 10,000 votes. Ms. Clinton got three million more votes across the country, but Mr. Trump got 306 electoral votes compared to her 232.

For Mr. Trump, the path to power ran through Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18) and Michigan (16), states that Mr. Obama had carried twice.

In 2016, Ms. Clinton was running what was in essence a campaign of continuity, after eight years of President Obama. And while the aggregate national economic statistics painted a rosy picture, the granular reality in the rust belt was very different with tens of thousands of zombie-homes the physical manifestation of a bailout that preserved Wall Street at the expense of MLK Blvd. and Main Street.

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A loss that lingers

Yes, an African American had won the White House, but hundreds of thousands of African Americans lost their homes as a result of the Great Recession that played out after the Obama milestone.

The Great Recession, the most consequential downturn since the Great Depression is something that has had generational consequences, that endure to this day, particularly for African Americans families

Washington's failure to protect homeowners from the predations of Wall Street, which often included large sale criminal fraud for which the banks merely paid civil penalties, left a mark that endures to this day particularly for African American families.

"And even today, although black incomes have recovered, African Americans are still making only 63% of what whites earn," writes Vincent Adejumo in Marketwatch. "Coupled with net worth and homeownership figures not recovering and even regressing since the recession officially ended, it means that blacks are still vulnerable to future economic downturns."

He continues. "In 2016, an African American household had an average net worth of just $138,200, compared with $933,700 for a white family….This can be partly explained by a sharp difference in the rate of homeownership — one of the key pathways to secure, long-term financial stability. For blacks, it's just 42% — down from a high of 48% in 2004 — compared with 73% for whites."

Trump as motivator

Senator Street, who practiced law before he joined the legislature, says he sees 2020 as a change election that will feature a highly energized African American electorate no matter who the Democratic standard bearer is because they "are motivated by Donald Trump."

From reducing gun violence to addressing the serious impacts of hospital closings, the North Philadelphia legislator says there's a very long list of things that need doing after decades of neglect.

"We have 75 percent of the schools in Pennsylvania that are dealing with lead and asbestos contamination that's going to take over a billion dollars to remediate," he said. "We have had a teacher diagnosed with mesothelioma."


Bob Hennelly

Bob Hennelly has written and reported for the Village Voice, Pacifica Radio, WNYC, CBS MoneyWatch and other outlets. He is now a reporter for the Chief-Leader, covering public unions and the civil service in New York City. Follow him on Twitter: @stucknation

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