In his brief three-month campaign for president, Michael Bloomberg poured nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars into building an advertising and data-mining juggernaut unlike anything the political world had ever seen.
But a big part of the strategy hinged on a wildcard named Joe Biden.
Biden’s resurgence after a dominant victory on Saturday in South Carolina has upset that calculation in the critical do-or-die sprint before “Super Tuesday,” when Democrats in 14 states vote for the candidate to challenge Republican Donald Trump in November’s election.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The billionaire former New York City mayor’s strategy was partly based on expectations that Biden would falter in the first four states. Bloomberg, who skipped the early contests, would then become the moderate alternative to frontrunner Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist.
Although Biden underperformed in Iowa and New Hampshire, he did better in Nevada and bounced back in South Carolina on a wave of African-American support to end Sanders' winning streak and establish himself as the race’s top-tier moderate Democrat.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s once-ascendant campaign has struggled after he came under fire in debates over past comments criticized as sexist and a policing policy he employed as New York's mayor seen as racially discriminatory. He has apologized for the policing policy and for telling "bawdy" jokes.
Advisors and people close to the Bloomberg campaign say they are still in the race and rebuff criticism that he’s splitting the moderate vote and making it easier for Sanders to win.