We found out one of two things on Super Tuesday.
a) You can’t buy elections.
b) You can’t buy them the way Mike Bloomberg tried to.
Alas, the former New York City mayor’s bid to enter the race late and swoop in after early chaos didn’t work out.
Oh, there was plenty of early chaos and the guy who had the biggest Venn diagram overlap with him, former Vice President Joe Biden, had stumbled badly. It was, in fact, Bloomberg’s moment to shine if he wanted it.
And then he got on the debate stage in Las Vegas and it all began to slowly end in tears.
While the meltdown happened in slow motion — or at least as slowly as things could possibly develop in a primary season that suddenly, after well over a year of campaigning, feels compressed — it seemed to conclude on Tuesday, but only after Bloomberg had spent over $500 million on his campaign, including more than $224 million in ad spending just in Super Tuesday states.
Bloomberg, you see, had essentially gambled everything on performing well on Super Tuesday.
He ended up getting one win out of it.
And that win wasn’t even in a state, mind you; it was in American Samoa.
“No matter how many delegates we win tonight, we have done something no one thought was possible,” Bloomberg said in his rote Tuesday night speech, according to USA Today.
This is accurate. He burned through about as much money as Donald Trump and the groups who supported him raised to win the presidency in 2016, and won an American overseas territory where Tulsi Gabbard finished second.
Everywhere else was a disaster.
In many states, Bloomberg didn’t even meet the 15 percent threshold needed to qualify for delegates. In Virginia, where he spent exorbitantly, he didn’t even make 10 percent, coming in 0.3 percent shy at 9.7 percent.
He even lost out to Elizabeth Warren, a woman who finished third in her own home state, in the Old Dominion.
In Alabama, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Vermont, Bloomberg also didn’t hit the 15 percent mark.
In many other states, he barely hit the 15 percent qualifying mark (Minnesota 15.4, Tennessee 15.9, Arkansas 16.7). Whether he makes the qualifying threshold in California, Texas and Maine is still to be determined.
In no state did he break into the top two. That could theoretically change. In Utah, with 88 percent reporting as of early Wednesday morning, he’s only down to Joe Biden by 0.2 percentage points, 17.1 to 16.9 percent. Sanders, at almost 35 percent, doubled both of their vote.
The results were devastating enough that Bloomberg had no choice but to drop out on Wednesday and endorse Biden.
What doomed a candidacy that was making it rain across the fruited plain for Super Tuesday?
It’s easy to point to the Las Vegas debate, where Bloomberg stumbled up on stage as if he was a man who’d never seen one of the blood-soaked gladiatorial displays he’d just bought his way into.
The mouth-agapeness of that spectacle couldn’t have been written any more cringeworthy if it were scripted for a movie. Bloomberg was savaged for decades of alleged mistreatment of women — particularly by Warren — and he tried to play it off as if some woman in accounting didn’t like a joke he told or whatever.
But what was his fundamental appeal as he stumbled onto the stage that night? He was an inveterate nanny-stater, a man who promised to be our national Mr. Wilson, sitting on the porch of the White House and telling all of us Dennis the Menaces that we needed to drive smaller cars and buy smaller sodas.
At least Biden, for all his foibles, had that return-to-normalcy angle he was passionately selling to the moderate wing of the Democratic Party.
Bloomberg’s message to the party, at a time when the former vice president looked terminally flawed, was essentially this: “I’m not Biden and I’m not crazy. Oh, and Donald Trump’s afraid of me.”
For a while, that worked. Then Joe Biden realized he could say, “I’m not Mike Bloomberg and I’m not crazy. Oh, and Donald Trump’s afraid of me.”
Meanwhile, in the two debates he competed in, Warren was determined to engage in mutually assured destruction with the former New York City mayor.
On Tuesday night, both of them retreated from view early, seemingly dazed by the magnitude of their embarrassments. It was tough to determine which did worse — although you really didn’t have to.
Bloomberg will now be remembered as the definitive proof money can’t buy elections. Bereft of any ideas but bad ones, Bloomberg came across as Montgomery Burns without the charm, something not even an unbelievable sum of money couldn’t wallpaper over.
Also, Donald Trump apparently isn’t afraid of him:
The biggest loser tonight, by far, is Mini Mike Bloomberg. His “political” consultants took him for a ride. $700 million washed down the drain, and he got nothing for it but the nickname Mini Mike, and the complete destruction of his reputation. Way to go Mike!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2020
So long, Mike Bloomberg. We barely knew you.
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