TEXAS – Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg made his third campaign trip to Texas Saturday, stopping in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas to kick off his national bus tour.
- Spent weekend touring Texas
- Vowed to make the state a priority
- Experts say strategy could be high risk
“Today we're calling 'Day One' because it's our campaign’s very first nationwide day of action. We are leading together thousands of our hardworking supporters and volunteers from across the country, in 27 states and 150 different events. So, this is the road to November, and it's the road to victory and it's starting right here,” said Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, speaking to the crowd at his rally in Austin.
The tour is part of the New York billionaire’s unconventional campaign strategy.
After his late entry into the race, Bloomberg announced he would be focusing on delegate-rich states like Texas, rather than first early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
“I'm fighting to win your 38 electoral votes. Beto showed that a Democrat can win Texas, but he showed that by only investing time and resources in each and every one of your 254 counties, and I am going to help turn Texas blue,” said Bloomberg. “We started with a state headquarters in Houston, and will open over a dozen more offices throughout this entire wonderful state.”
Despite his campaign’s investment in Texas, not prioritizing the Iowa caucus is a major gamble.
“It’s the way Iowa is structured, it’s structured to be a weeding out process,” said Ed Espinoza, executive director of Progress Texas. “If a candidate has less than 15 percent of the vote, they get zero percent, that’s how the caucus works. New Hampshire’s a bit different. So what’s going to happen is you’re going to have four states with tremendous momentum and media coverage, before Bloomberg is on a ballot. And that’s a high-risk strategy.”
But with his self-financed campaign, hundreds of staffers, and more than $100,000,000 of campaign ads, Espinoza says Bloomberg has an advantage over the other candidates in the highly saturated field.
“One thing that Bloomberg has going for him that the other candidates don’t, is that he’s not going to run out of money,” said Espinoza. “When you have your vote split so many different directions amongst so many different candidates, you really only need 15 percent in a poll to really try and make a dent in a primary somewhere. That might not be good enough for an Iowa caucus, but it could be good enough on Super Tuesday, and that’s where his opening is.”
However, Espinoza says that money alone cannot win over Texas voters.
“This is not a state where you can just come in and buy up a bunch of TV time and think that you're going to win over voters,” said Espinoza. “Texas voters are savvy, they will see right through that, they want you to show up to their town, they want you to come out and shake some hands.”
That’s exactly what Bloomberg did on his tour of Texas Saturday, and a couple hundred voters turned out to the rally in Austin, with many saying Bloomberg is their first choice for the Democratic ticket.
“I want a positive, successful businessman as my president, not just another politician,” said Bloomberg supporter Lucy Kissinger.
Supporters at his Austin rally cited Bloomberg’s experience as New York City mayor and his career as a businessman as reasons why they believe he’s the best candidate to go head to head with Donald Trump.
“He's a very responsible person who's been in political office before. He's also been very successful in business— he's never declared bankruptcy like our current president has done many times. He comes with a strength of knowledge about what's important in life, and being 77 years old and having all the money you would ever need, and all the power you would ever need, he doesn't have an agenda that is about getting more money or getting more power. He's not a bully. And all those reasons cause me to believe he's a guy who cares about the earth. He cares about people. And he cares about the right issues. And that's why I'm gonna get behind him,” said Bloomberg supporter Rick Kissinger.
Judge Judy Sheindlin accompanied Bloomberg on his tour of Texas, and introduced him before the Austin crowd, saying, “America may need a little tweaking. But America does not need a revolution. America is the greatest country in the world. America needs someone who is a proven leader, a visionary, a man with courage, a man who's innovative."
Many voters said they see Bloomberg as a moderate candidate, and an appealing alternative to former Vice President Joe Biden.
“[Bloomberg] is able to argue coherently without being intimidated,” said Bloomberg supporter Ashwin Ghatalia. “I think Biden has in the past made certain goofs. I think Mike is much more composed with regards to what he says."
“I think he’s more middle of the road, which is probably what we need to have a real chance to defeat Trump,” said Bloomberg supporter Carolyn Saathoff.
But to some voters, his policy positions were a major factor in their support.
“I like his green policy, I like how he started to push solar energy and things like that, you know, that’s where we’re headed,” said native Austinite Victor Reed. “He's really big on the environment. And you know, in forming jobs with helping the environment— it's a win-win situation.”
“What Bloomberg has really demonstrated in the years heading up to his campaign is that he really was a very model activist for a wealthy individual,” said Espinoza. “He put his money where his mouth is, he’s very involved in climate, extremely involved in gun safety, the kind of things that you want to see from somebody who has those sorts of means and can be able to influence the Americans to do the right thing.”
Climate change and climate safety were some of the many issues Bloomberg spoke about before the crowd at his Austin rally.
“We took on Donald Trump. And we fought the NRA and we beat them both,” said Bloomberg. “The NRA today is in chaos; they have trouble raising money. We've created a new gun safety organization; every Town has 6,000,000 members already.”
Bloomberg also mentioned his massive financial investment in Democratic campaigns across the country, saying: “I helped to elect 21 new Democrats to the House this last time, that turned the House from red to blue, it put Pelosi in charge, and it brought along the impeachment process, and finally Congress is doing what the Constitution said it should do.”
Espinoza says his messaging at the rally seemed to resonate with the voters there.
“When you look at the messages, he talked a lot about climate, he talked a lot about treating each other fairly. He said that we shouldn't be looking at issues as winning and losing we should be looking at them in the context of what's right and what's wrong, even if it's something he necessarily doesn't agree with, but he thinks, somebody else does. He wants to find a solution, he wants to be solution oriented, very much sounds like a mayor, and I thought that that was very well received by the crowd that was there,” said Espinoza.
“This is a campaign for change and to return our country to sanity and to honesty and to inclusion and compassion and dignity,” said Bloomberg. “There's terrible divisions in this country as Judy pointed out, but I believe we can come together and we can build an America that we're really proud of. We've just got to get people talking to each other and sharing ideas and saying, I'll do it, whether it's a win for you or a loss for me it doesn't matter if it's the right thing for the country, that's what we're gonna do. That's the kind of government I promise you, and I think I know how to pull things together to do it.”