The campaign manager for former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg warned in a new interview that Democrats will be headed to an electoral disaster if they nominate Bernie Sanders to run against President Trump.
“I understand when you hear him speak, why it’s compelling,” Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s top campaign official, said about Sanders, who appears to be gaining momentum in the first two states that will weigh in on the Democratic primary.
“The problem is that, in my view, he loses a general election pretty clearly and decisively, particularly in those six swing states” likely to determine the outcome of the election, he said.
At the same time, Sheekey seemed to back the provocative comments made by Hillary Clinton in a soon-to-be-released documentary that “nobody likes” Sanders and that “nobody wants to work with him. He gets nothing done.”
“I think it’s a sentiment that a lot of people would agree with,” said Sheekey, who has served Bloomberg for years as a deputy mayor of New York City and more recently as global head of communications and government relations with Bloomberg’s media company. “You know, I try to find what he’s done, you’d have to probably go back to when he was a mayor [of Burlington, Vt.,] and that might be 30 years ago.” (Bloomberg took his own dig at Sanders over the weekend, telling a Jewish group, “I know I’m not the only Jewish candidate running for president. But I am the only one who doesn’t want to turn America into a kibbutz.”)
Sheekey made those comments during an interview for the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery,” in which he laid out Bloomberg’s long-shot and novel campaign strategy: avoiding the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary and focusing instead on a national campaign of saturation television ads entirely self-funded by the New York billionaire.
It also will include well-financed operations on the ground in a half-dozen battleground states that Bloomberg has identified as the key to victory.
“They’re the only states that matter in the general election,” Sheekey said, identifying them as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida and Arizona.
“From the position where I sit in terms of the campaign we’re running, we are already stronger than any other Democrat to compete in those states that are important in November,” he said. “Let’s look at North Carolina. We have 80 people working in North Carolina with 16 offices across that state. The next Democrat has zero. No one else has anyone in North Carolina.”
Download or subscribe on iTunes: “Skullduggery” from Yahoo News
So far, Bloomberg’s campaign — featuring a barrage of television commercials that will include one during this Sunday’s Super Bowl — has netted him modest inroads in the polls. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday showed that, among Democratic voters nationwide, Bloomberg is now fourth, favored by 8 percent, ahead of Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar, but well behind frontrunners Joe Biden, with 32 percent, and Sanders, with 23 percent.
Three other polls released over the weekend found Sanders in the lead in both Iowa and New Hampshire, although one found him neck and neck with Biden in the Hawkeye State.
This all leads to the question that might be the most difficult of all for Bloomberg, who is running as an unabashed centrist who got into the race in part out of concerns that Biden would falter: What happens if Biden doesn’t and actually wins in either Iowa or New Hampshire, becoming the prohibitive favorite?
If Biden “ultimately can put the kind of campaign together that the rest of the party should get behind, then the rest of the party, including us, should get behind it. And if he can’t, we’re in real trouble,” Sheekey said.
He was then pressed on whether Bloomberg could drop out before Super Tuesday, when voters in 15 primaries go to the polls March 3, if the Biden campaign is looking unstoppable.
“Unclear,” Sheekey replied.
But if Bloomberg does drop out, he also said, the multibillionaire media mogul would keep his campaign operation up and running, turning it into a so-called independent expenditure (IE) political committee dedicated to one purpose: defeating Donald Trump. “Mike Bloomberg would be running the most impressive and earliest-starting IE to stand in the way of Donald Trump’s election,” Sheekey said.
Would that include backing Sanders were he to become the Democratic nominee?
“Yeah,” Sheekey said. “It would.”
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