As most Democratic presidential candidates wage a primary fight, slogging through a series of early-voting states, Mike Bloomberg is doing something else entirely: Building a robust general election operation.
He’s paying top dollar to some of the most talented political strategists in the country, including hiring key operatives from Barack Obama’s previous campaigns. He’s hiring hundreds of staffers and opening offices in pivotal swing states. He’s spending more money on advertising than all of his leading rivals combined.
It’s a high-risk gamble that has never been successfully done by a presidential candidate of either party, but it shows that his campaign is not simply a made-for-TV enterprise.
But the Bloomberg campaign’s announcement on Friday that more than 200 aides have been hired in 20 states – with more coming soon – is only the latest example the former New York City mayor is doing far more than running TV ads to promote his presidential candidacy.
“We’ll be competing with teams on the ground in more states at once than any campaign in history,” said Dan Kanninen, the states director for the Bloomberg campaign. “Our seasoned team has deep ties in all corners of states throughout the country.”
For weeks, the Bloomberg campaign has been recruiting advisers and on Friday released a state-by-state list of names who will work for his candidacy when he jumps into the race on Super Tuesday and begins competing for delegates.
He is skipping the first four contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, but focusing on states that come next in the primary calendar, particularly as the floodgate of delegates open in March through a series of subsequent contests in big states across the country. By Saturday, he will have visited Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin this week alone.
It was an intentional show of strength, as other Democratic candidates were waking up here in Los Angeles after the final debate of the year, designed to send a message that he is investing in a massive general election campaign operation now.
The moves underscore how Bloomberg is leveraging his wealth – a point of criticism from several of his rivals – to build a sprawling campaign that virtually no other candidate could afford to do. But it doesn’t answer the question of whether voters will embrace his candidacy.
In Democratic political circles, the roster of Bloomberg aides is a who’s who of party operatives, several of whom cut their teeth helping elect Obama in 2008 and re-elect him in 2012.
Mitch Stewart, who will be a senior adviser on campaign strategy, is an Obama veteran from the Iowa caucuses in 2008 who went on to work in states across the country. Aaron Pickrell, one of Ohio’s top Democratic strategists, will run the Bloomberg campaign operation in that pivotal battleground state.
It’s an open question, of course, whether Bloomberg will ever reach the general election. But it underscores how his strategy is rooted in one thing above all: presenting himself as the strongest candidate to take on President Donald Trump.
“As he did at his company and in government, Mike Bloomberg excels at bringing together the best teams to challenge convention and innovate,” said Kevin Sheekey, campaign manager Bloomberg. “The impressive team we’ve built across the country will help us connect with voters and make Mike’s case against President Trump everywhere.”