Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are getting most of the attention from almost all of the Democratic hopefuls in the 2020 presidential race, but Michael Bloomberg is looking beyond those contests. On Monday, his top campaign representative was in Leesburg laying the groundwork for a Virginia victory on Super Tuesday.
Former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter is the national political chairman of Bloomberg’s campaign. On Monday, he stopped in at the Leesburg Diner to meet around the breakfast table with Mayor Kelly Burk, Vice Mayor Marty Martinez and Councilman Neil Steinberg, along with Leesburg Diner owner Michael O’Connor and Leesburg entrepreneurs Ara Bagdasarian and Carmen Felder.
The visit was part of the campaign’s boots-on-the-ground strategy to make connections with—and hopefully win support from—local community leaders ahead of Virginia’s March 3 Democratic primary.
Loudoun has been a key stomping ground in presidential campaigns over the past two decades. While Nutter’s visit marks the first for a campaign during the current election cycle, it isn’t likely to be the last. Four years ago, Donald J. Trump, Hilary Clinton, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson all made campaign stops here. Trump held two Loudoun rallies. Since 1932, Loudoun County has been a bellwether of Virginia’s presidential elections; the candidates who won here have taken the commonwealth’s Electoral College votes since FDR was elected for his first term.
In laying out Bloomberg’s qualifications, Nutter stressed not just his political experience as a three-term mayor of the nation’s largest city, but also his success in business, his commitment to philanthropy and his engineer’s approach to problem solving. “Mike Bloomberg can go into virtually any city or state and in many countries around the world and see the impact of his work,” Nutter said.
He said that during his time leading New York City, the homicide rate was cut as he fought illegal guns and promoted gun safety, graduation rates increased, and the city’s carbon footprint was reduced.
“This is the kind of work that we’re talking about that someone did in their city, but now wants to scale that up across the United States of America and lead the way to restore the United States to a level of prominence and respect that has been diminished the last three years by the current occupant of the White House,” Nutter said. “Many of our allies are trying to figure out where the United States of America is, while the current occupant of the White House stands with dictators and murderers. People are wondering about the leadership of the United States.”
He said that Bloomberg would work to help struggling cities, not criticize them as President Trump has done on his Twitter feed.
“I have never seen in my 30 plus years of public engagement that any president of the United States of America would publicly attack a city for some of the challenges that they might face as opposed to being a partner in trying to solve those problems,” Nutter said.
“He’s a leader. He’s a listener. He’s a learner. And where he has made mistakes, and I haven’t met a public official yet who hasn’t made some mistakes … Mike Bloomberg is someone who learns from those issues [and] figures it out,” Nutter said. “In that regard, he is a problem solver. He doesn’t create problems to then try to solve. The current occupant of the White House is a guy who sets his porch on fire, gets a fire extinguisher and then wants a medal from the fire department for putting it out.”
Steinberg asked the question that is top of mind for many Democratic activists: Why did Bloomberg wait so long to get into the race and how should voters who have spent a year evaluating the qualifications of other candidates view his action? And why should voters throw their support behind another white male billionaire?
Nutter said Bloomberg already has the best organized campaign structure with more than 1,000 staffers deployed in 30 states working to build a support network with local officials and activists. And there is the $100 million of anti-Trump ads that have been inundating voters on TV and in their social media feeds.
Nutter said he and others pressed Bloomberg to run a year ago, but at that time he viewed the large Democratic field as providing ample choices for voters. In the fall, however, he came to believe that none of the front-runners could beat Trump in November.
Nutter said polls show that most Democratic voters haven’t locked in on one choice. While the efforts of the other candidates so far have focused the early primaries and caucuses that will be held in February in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, he noted those states represent about 4 percent of the convention delegates. On Super Tuesday, more than 60 percent of the delegates will be elected in March, in states where Bloomberg has been focusing his campaign efforts. On Super Tuesday, with primaries in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Democrats Abroad, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia, 1,344 of the convention’s 3,979 committed delegates will be elected. By contrast, candidates battling in Iowa and New Hampshire, are competing for 41 and 24 delegates, respectively.
“All billionaires aren’t the same. He could be off doing a whole bunch of other things and just stockpile money and buy yachts and travel around the world. He’s chosen not to do that. And has in many instances influenced the lives and the health and welfare of many of these young people and they don’t even know it,” Nutter said.
Burk and Felder noted that environmental issues will be key in winning support of young voters.
Nutter said Bloomberg’s record is strong in that field and that getting that message out is a fundamental element of the campaign.
“No one has given more money to climate change efforts and climate resiliency than Michael,” Nutter said. “No one. No one living. They probably don’t know that. What we are trying to do is help people to better know and understand who this person is who was mayor of that faraway place called New York City. That’s or effort, that’s our challenge.”