Inside Bloomberg’s big play for black voters
Montgomery, Ala. – A meeting with nearly 80 black pastors in Detroit. A speech before a black Democratic organization in Montgomery. A rally at a historically black university. A tour of Martin Luther King Jr.’s church. An early voting kickoff at an African American museum. All in the past two weeks.
While Michael Bloomberg’s rivals battled it out in majority-white Iowa and New Hampshire, the billionaire presidential candidate aggressively courted the black voters critical to any Democrat’s chance of winning the nomination. The effort, backed by millions of dollars in ads, has taken him across Southern states that vote on March 3, from Montgomery, Alabama, this week in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, states where African American voters can decide a Democratic primary.
His pitch is one of electability and competence – hoping to capitalize on black Democrats’ hunger to oust President Donald Trump. But as he courts black voters, he’ll also have to reconcile his own record as mayor of New York and past remarks on criminal justice.
Bloomberg’s outreach aims squarely at former Vice President Joe Biden, who is banking on loyal black voters to resuscitate his bid after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“Who can beat Donald Trump? That’s what people care about,” said former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who is among the black leaders endorsing Bloomberg. Nutter says Bloomberg’s record of accomplishments outweighs the damage of flawed policing.
Bloomberg has no doubt been helped by his limitless financial resources and his strategy to focus on states conducting primaries on Super Tuesday. One of the world’s richest men thanks to a net worth of roughly $60 billion, Bloomberg has spent more than $300 million of his own money on advertising, including spots on black radio stations, a Super Bowl ad that featured an African American mother who lost her son to gun violence and a national ad touting his work with President Barack Obama on gun legislation and a teen jobs program.
He’s also racked up endorsements from African American mayors and held events with key figures in the black community, including a meeting with black pastors in Detroit and a speech at an Alabama Democratic luncheon. Much of the outreach has been aimed at middle-age and older voters, who turn out more reliably, and appeals to a sense of pragmatism. Bloomberg may not be the candidate you know best, the campaign argues, but he’s the best poised to beat Trump.
On Wednesday, Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath endorsed him, citing his record on gun violence prevention. McBath ran for Congress in 2018 after her teenage son was shot to death in a car over a dispute about loud music. She was the first Democrat elected to her seat since 1979.
A new poll shows signs of success for Bloomberg, whose support has been hovering around 1 in 10 Democratic voters in most national polls.