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Bloomberg sets own rules on campaign, coverage

JULES WITCOVER

WASHINGTON — Billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his unvarnished effort to buy the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, has set his own road map and instructions to his Bloomberg News media on how to cover it and those of his party rivals.

Bloomberg has said he will skip the first four Democratic state delegate-selecting contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina in February in order to focus on the Super Tuesday voting in California and other states, where he arguably can get more for his gobs of bucks against less well-heeled contenders.

In doing so, he will in effect buy his way out of competing with the many other Democratic 2020 hopefuls who will put their chances and more limited resources on the line in those traditionally early states that have in the past provided a foothold on the nomination.

According to The Washington Post, the Bloomberg strategy is focused on 25 states that will choose nearly two-thirds of the national convention delegates picking the 2020 nominee over a 15-day period commencing on the March 3 Super Tuesday date.

In addition, the Post has reported, Bloomberg has committed more than $95 million for his campaign and $100 million for digital spending against Trump in swing states he won in 2016.

The Bloomberg challenge is premised on the notion that early frontrunner Joe Biden, who began slipping in some early state polls like Iowa, was not up to the task of beating Trump, nor were any of the other Democrats running. But Biden largely has been able to hold on, after a week-long bus tour and latest Iowa poll showing him regaining the lead there.

According to Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait, the boss has ordered that its journalists, which number about 2,700, not report on his family, wealth or other personal matters, and to do likewise regarding his challengers for the nomination.

Bloomberg himself has told CBS News that his reporters “get a paycheck” that “with your paycheck comes some restrictions and responsibilities,” and they “just have to learn to live with some things.” So much for the freedom, independence and reliability of the American press.

This outrageously self-serving edict will further put a heavier foot on the scales in terms of the voters’ ability to appraise his candidacy and those of all the others in the Democratic race, who have had to meet rigid Democratic National Committee qualifications for the of televised debates of this campaign season.

Bloomberg at first had decided not to run. But he has now said: “When I took a look at what was happening, and things were getting worse — and I didn’t see others that I thought could beat Donald Trump — I said, ‘Shame on me if I didn’t have the courage to stand up and a least try.'”

So far at least, Bloomberg’s self-perceived sacrifice for his country has not yet seemed by the vox populi as such, according to polls registering reaction to his offer to be a Democratic sacrificial lamb.

To the idea that he might contribute some of his millions to one of the other Democrats running, he has told The Post: “I don’t think I’m going to be in a situation where I’ve got to look to another Democratic candidate and help them.”

Bloomberg did add, though, that “regardless of who the Democratic candidate is, I will support them.” So maybe win or lose, as a non-candidate, some of Bloomberg’s fortune may be offered after all to the cause he seems so selflessly to desire.

Meanwhile, he is traveling to various key states like Texas and handing out checks to swell their coffers for them as well as for himself. “The way I see it,” he told The Post recently, “Texas (is) the biggest battleground state, and I’m going to fight like hell to win its 38 electoral votes.”

As he does so, the other dozen or so other Democratic candidates of far lesser means will continue to hit the long trail through the early voting states from Iowa to Nevada, laboring the old-fashioned way of retail door-to-door politics to win support, and possibly the nomination that Mike Bloomberg hopes to buy with his billions.

Editor’s note: Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at juleswitcovercomcast.net.