Dem nomination for sale?

DENVER — Democratic presidential candidate Michael R. Bloomberg has spent more than $124 million on advertising in the 14 Super Tuesday states, well over 10 times what his top rivals have put into the contests that yield the biggest trove of delegates in a single day.

The only other candidate to advertise across most of those states so far is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has spent just under $10 million on ads for the March 3 primaries.

Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, has also poured millions into ground operations in Super Tuesday states. In Colorado, where voters already are casting primary ballots by mail, he has a paid staff of 55 people; Sanders has two.

For nearly three months, Bloomberg has been the only Democrat to devote most of his travel to those states, which include California, Texas and North Carolina. His opponents are still scrambling to gain traction in contests on Saturday in Nevada and Feb. 29 in South Carolina. Bloomberg is skipping those races, as he did earlier in Iowa and New Hampshire.

There will be 1,357 pledged delegates up for grabs on March 3; it takes 1,991 to capture the nomination.

Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University in Georgia, said it was “very significant” that Bloomberg was banking so heavily on Super Tuesday, an unprecedented strategy that makes the biggest day on the Democratic calendar even more important than usual.

“It’s going to really reshuffle the race,” he said.

Bloomberg’s money is having an impact on the highly fluid Democratic race. He now ranks in the top tier, behind Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden and just ahead of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., according to a Real Clear Politics aggregate of national polls.

Bloomberg’s rise has made him a prime target.

“Democracy to me means one person, one vote _ not Bloomberg or anyone else spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to buy an election,” Sanders told 11,000 supporters at a noisy rally in Denver.

In an interview that aired on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Biden attacked Bloomberg for defending police stop-and-frisk tactics during his 12 years as mayor. Bloomberg’s $60-billion personal fortune “can buy you a lot of advertising, but it can’t erase your record,” said Biden, who is counting on black voters in South Carolina to revive his faltering candidacy after dismal results in the mainly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

A week before launching his campaign in November, Bloomberg apologized for stop-and-frisk — six years after a federal court found the policy violated the rights of African Americans and Latinos.

In Colorado, Bloomberg has spent $5.5 million, and Sanders just under $500,000, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm that provided data to The Times.

The pattern is similar in most of the other Super Tuesday states. In three of them — Virginia, Alabama and Oklahoma — Bloomberg is the lone Democrat on the air.

The most expensive state for ads is California, which awards 415 delegates on March 3, more than any other state. Bloomberg has spent nearly $41 million in California, and Sanders, $5 million, Advertising Analytics found.

Much of what will shape Super Tuesday is outside Bloomberg’s control, above all the momentum that rivals will gain in Nevada and South Carolina.

Warren hopes to emerge in a stronger position to compete with Sanders for the party’s progressive voters.

Biden, Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar are vying to consolidate the party’s moderates, posing a more direct challenge to Bloomberg, a centrist and former Republican. If Democrats rally behind one moderate by the end of February, that candidate could wind up dominating in states such as Colorado on March 3.

Sanders, who trounced Hillary Clinton in Colorado’s 2016 caucuses, is relying on his strong grass-roots following.

By Michael Finnegan

Los Angeles Times