Michael Bloomberg has been spending unprecedented sums of money on TV and online campaign ads for the US Democratic primary vote in the three weeks since he joined the race, with analysts skeptical that the strategy can win the Jewish billionaire the nomination.
Bloomberg and fellow billionaire Tom Steyer, who announced his own bid in July, have together spent almost $200 million just on ads, Politico reported Wednesday.
The former New York mayor alone has poured $120 million into the race in just three weeks — more than twice the combined spending of all other Democratic candidates, excluding Steyer, throughout the entire year.
“We’ve never seen spending like this in a presidential race,” Jim McLaughlin, a political strategist who was a consultant for Bloomberg’s mayoral runs in New York, was quoted as saying. “He has a limitless budget.”
“We’re running out of ways to describe [the ad expenditures] at this point,” said Nick Stapleton of television ad tracking firm Ad Analytics. “It’s pretty difficult to make a comparison… You’re looking at one third of Obama’s 2012 total [ad] spend through the general [election] in one month.”
The ads by the 77-year-old former Republican and independent appear in all 50 US states, but focus especially on the big and delegate-rich ones in which the vote will be held on or around Super Tuesday on March 3, including California, Texas and Florida.
While Bloomberg polling has steadily improved — a poll this week had him in fifth place with 7 percent support — experts cited in the report cast doubt on the spending strategy continuing to yield the desired results.
“After you see the same TV ad 10 times, it’s not going to have as big an impact,” said Christian Heiens, a political marketer with Saber Communications, who cited Jeb Bush’s failed Republican primary bid in 2016, in which he spent nearly $55 million on ads before dropping out.
“Rich white billionaires don’t have any real appeal to black voters in the South,” said Brad Coker, a pollster with Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy. “Billionaires have never really done well with Southern voters.”
Steyer is also polling in the single digits — well behind front-runners Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg — despite spending some $83 million on ads since July. The next biggest spender is Buttigieg, who is way behind with $19 million.
Steyer is currently focusing most of his efforts on the four early voting states — Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire.
Bloomberg last month rolled out plans to spend an estimated $15-20 million on a voter registration drive designed to weaken US President Donald Trump’s reelection chances in five battleground states.
That effort will target 500,000 voters from traditionally underrepresented groups that typically lean Democratic, including African Americans, Latinos, Asians, young voters and those living in some rural communities. The drive will begin early next year in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, but could expand to more states.
Sanders, a socialist and fellow Jewish candidate, last month launched a broadside against Bloomberg at a rally in Iowa, shortly before the latter joined the race.
“Tonight we say to Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires: Sorry, you ain’t gonna buy this election,” the Vermont independent said.
The Democratic Party is largely focused on its presidential primary phase of the 2020 election, which will be decided at the party’s national convention in July. Trump has no significant primary challenger, so he’s already working aggressively to strengthen his reelection bid.
Agencies contributed to this report.