The campaign manager for former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg admitted on Tuesday his boss was less focused on winning the presidency, but rather running a general election race until the eventual Democrat nominee emerges.
Kevin Sheekey, who led Bloomberg’s three mayoral campaigns before signing up to direct his White House run, made the disclosure while being interviewed for The Washington Post’s “Cape UP” podcast. During the interview, Sheekey argued that because Trump was incumbent and lacked a major primary challenge, he had the benefit of running a general election campaign from the start, a benefit not extended to Democrats.
“As a party, we’re running a primary to pick a party nominee and Donald Trump is running a general election, and they’re happening in two different places,” Sheeky said, elaborating that winning early nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire was not conducive to winning a general election in “places that matter.” He went on to say:
If we really wanted a primary that would give Democrats an advantage and ultimately, in my view, a winning advantage. You would restructure the primaries so that the first state would be Wisconsin. Second state would be Michigan, third state would be Pennsylvania, the fourth state would be Florida.
Sheekey’s view helps explain why Bloomberg is eschewing the early nominating contests of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina as he seeks the Democrat nomination. Instead of pouring time and resources into those early states—only two of which could be considered competitive in the general election—the billionaire is taking direct aim at the states that made Trump’s victory possible in 2016. As such, the mayor has already opened an office in North Carolina and spent more than than $100 million on advertising since entering the race on November 24.
The money, which amounts to an average of $3.7 million-per-day, has been used to plaster purple states with Bloomberg’s message, which highlights his own candidacy as much it does the flaws Democrats see in Trump.
Sheekey told the Post:
We’re not only running digital ads around the country and in Super Tuesday states on Mike’s behalf, we’re running ads against the president right now in the upper Midwest, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and we’ll stretch that to 10 other states.
The strategy seems not necessarily to win the primary, an outcome that is unlikely given Bloomberg’s late entrance and low standing in the polls, but to counter Trump’s general election campaign until a Democrat nominee can emerge. Sheekey said:
Mike has started the general election now on behalf of Democrats and, again, is doing things that are not designed to benefit his candidacy but are meant to weaken the president, so when there is a nominee, we can replace him.
It remains unclear if Bloomberg believes outright victory in the Democrat primary is unattainable and therefore his strategy is to soften up Trump for whmever does win the nomination. The campaign did not return requests for comment.
Sheekey, however, did tell friends and supporters in his morning news roundup on Tuesday that Bloomberg was “putting much of his attention” on the states that will “truly” elect the next president.
“While the other Democratic presidential candidates are investing in winning the four early contests (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina), Mike is focusing on the Super Tuesday states and putting much of his attention on the six states in particular that will truly decide the 2020 election,” the campaign manager wrote.