by James Perloff, James Perloff:
Although he is ranked as the twelfth richest man in the world (with a net worth of over $60 billion), I didn’t pay much attention to Michael Bloomberg until this January. Guns rights activists in Virginia have denounced him for funding Democratic legislators there as well as Virginia’s controversial gun control laws, which resulted in the huge Virginia gun rights rally on January 20.
Then I noticed the name of Bloomberg—who didn’t launch his campaign until last November—starting to appear in election coverage more and more. On February 13, Trump called him “Mini Mike” in a Tweet (Bloomberg is 5 feet 7 inches tall). Since Bloomberg cannot do anything about his height, the mainstream media rushed to his defense over this insult. Inadvertently or not, Trump had given Bloomberg a publicity boost.
Bloomberg is behind in the polls, but his numbers are rising. Could he rise fast enough to secure the nomination? Historically, it’s occurred fairly often. In 1976, according to a Gallup poll taken just seven months before the Democratic National Convention, less than 4 percent of Democratic voters had favored Jimmy Carter for President. What happened? Carter was anointed by David Rockefeller and Zbigniew Brzezinski, who had invited him to join their then-new Trilateral Commission. As Lawrence Shoup noted in his 1980 book The Carter Presidency and Beyond:
What Carter had that his opponents did not was the acceptance and support of elite sectors of the mass communications media. It was their favorable coverage of Carter and his campaign that gave him an edge, propelling him rocket-like to the top of the opinion polls. This helped Carter win key primary election victories, enabling him to rise from an obscure public figure to President-elect in the short space of 9 months.1
The media blitz included adulatory pieces in the New York Times, and a Wall Street Journal editorial declaring that Carter was the best Democratic candidate. Before the nominating convention, his picture appeared on the cover of Time three times, and Newsweek twice. Time’s cover artists were even instructed to make him look as much as possible like John F. Kennedy.2 The major TV networks inundated the public with his image.
The same process has happened with Republicans. Go back to 1940. Seven weeks before the GOP Convention, a poll showed only three percent of Republicans favored candidate Wendell Willkie, who, prior to that year, had been a registered Democrat. But, as if by magic, Willkie won the nomination. Ten-term Congressman Usher Burdick of North Dakota said of this:
We Republicans in the west want to know if Wall Street and the international bankers control our party and can select our candidate? I believe I am serving the best interests of the Republican Party by protesting and exposing the machinations and attempts of J.P. Morgan and the New York utility bankers in forcing Wendell Willkie on the Republican Party. . . .There is nothing to the Willkie boom for President except the artificial public opinion being created by newspapers, magazines, and the radio. The reason back of all this is money. Money is being spent by someone, and lots of it.3
If anyone can spend money today, it’s Michael Bloomberg. Recently, with a sense of déjà vu, I’ve noticed that he is getting mainstream media headlines every day. Here’s a screen shot of AOL’s lead news story on February 17:
(The “good news” was that Bloomberg would be appearing for the first time in the Democratic Party’s Presidential debates.)
On February 15, major news outlets noted that the Drudge Report claimed that Bloomberg was interested in having Hillary Clinton as his Vice Presidential candidate. Two days later, Business Insider reported: “Hillary Clinton ‘wants back in’ as Bloomberg campaign tries to quiet speculation she could be his VP.”
These announcements appear to have been pre-planned and well-coordinated. (Is it even conceivable that, behind closed doors, Hillary was promised a Vice Presidency as a consolation for 2016?) Some doubt the reports altogether, saying that Hillary would regard a Vice Presidency as a snub.
But whether the story materializes into reality or not, for Bloomberg, this hint of a move toward Clinton could sweep him to the top of the Democratic polls. Hillary’s many supporters, still stinging from 2016, might switch allegiance from other Democratic contenders to Bloomberg, just for a chance to see Hillary in the White House, a heartbeat away from the Presidency.
On February 17, the Bloomberg campaign began running an ad featuring former President Obama. Although it is older footage of Obama praising Bloomberg as mayor of New York City, the ad subliminally creates an impression that Obama is endorsing Bloomberg for President: