Is it over for Uncle Joe?
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Former Vice President Joe Biden is in New York City Thursday night mingling with Wall Street Democratic fundraisers who he hopes will give him enough cash to fuel his sputtering campaign and help him clinch the party’s 2020 presidential nomination. The back-to-back fundraisers are expected to gin up a solid $1 million in campaign cash
But behind the scenes, the word from the party’s fat-cat set is that the Biden campaign may already be lost despite the Wall Street C-suite names attending the events because former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is poised to take sole control of the party’s moderate wing.
“I feel sorry for Biden,” said Leon Cooperman, a billionaire hedge fund investor who has supported Democrats in the past despite being critical of President Obama. “He should withdraw; he has no chance.”
Like Cooperman, these executives — who work at hedge funds, on Wall Street and in real estate — cite as evidence several factors including Biden’s poor showing in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. They say that much of the money delivered to the Biden campaign as part of Thursday fundraisers at New York City restaurants Sarabeth’s and The Wayfarer was earmarked before his big losses in Iowa and New Hampshire and that big donors have more recently pulled back.
Even more importantly, they point to the emergence of Bloomberg — well-known among the Wall Street money set since many of them are his friends. The former New York City mayor was a Wall Street trader before he started the eponymous news and financial data outfit that made him one of the richest men in America, worth an estimated $60 billion. As FOX Business was first to report, Bloomberg is planning to spend as much as $2 billion of his fortune on the 2020 campaign to either personally defeat President Trump — whom he personally loathes — or finance the Democratic nominee.
And those ad buys are working, giving Bloomberg growing confidence that he can become the party’s nominee to defeat Trump in November. After a slow start, national polls show Bloomberg gaining ground; the most recent Quinnipiac poll has him now at 15 percent nationally, as the former front-runner Biden fades to 17 percent, and Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders leads with 25 percent. Biden supporters expect Sanders’ national number to drop even after he won, albeit narrowly, in Iowa and New Hampshire because only the most progressive of the party’s base will support an avowed socialist for president who will take away private health insurance, abolish border control and put voting booths in prison.
But that may not help their man; Bloomberg’s poll numbers may rise even more as he gains endorsements from African American politicians despite his embrace of controversial policing tactics while mayor of New York City. A defection of black votes would deal a potentially fatal blow to Biden, who had strong support from this constituency because he served as President Obama’s vice president. African Americans are seen as perhaps the most crucial voting bloc in the Democratic Party.
Cooperman was one of the first money men to openly support Bloomberg, who isn’t taking outside money but has been soliciting support from key financiers. Cooperman says Sanders, despite his current front-runner status, is ultimately unelectable. “Sanders is a communist and we are not ready for a communist or socialist as president,” Cooperman said.
Bloomberg, meanwhile, could win the nomination possibly through a so-called brokered convention, where there is no clear-cut victor, when the Democratic convention in Milwaukee opens in July and delegates fight over the winner, he added. With the nomination undecided and Sanders still in the race, Bloomberg could convince enough delegates that the same policies he pushed as mayor — fiscal conservatism and advocacy for progressive laws on issues such as the environment and guns — not to mention limitless funds, will defeat Trump in the general election.
“This wouldn’t even be a conversation if Trump conducted himself in a normal manner,” said Cooperman, referring to the president’s sometimes volatile disposition and penchant to name-call political opponents, in addition to dealings with the Ukraine that earned Trump an impeachment (he was later exonerated by the Republican-controlled US Senate).
For those reasons, Trump maintains historically low approval ratings, meaning a Democrat who can attract enough moderates can win the general election despite a strong economy.
“I believe Trump should not seek a second term unless he will change the way he treats people and talks to people,” Cooperman said. “Trump has every reason to take a victory lap — unemployment for everyone and minorities are at a record low, there is constructive dialogue with China, and the stock market is booming.”
“Bloomberg will assume the mantle of running the economy and not being Trump,” Cooperman added.
Strengthening Bloomberg’s hand is an improving relationship with African American politicians; Several black elected officials have endorsed him despite his so-called stop-and-frisk policing policy as mayor and even after a tape emerged showing him vigorously defending the policing tactic that is said to unfairly target minorities for crimes. Bloomberg himself has recently publicly apologized for stop-and-frisk, and people close to his campaign say key Bloomberg officials are privately stating that he will seek to strengthen ties to black votes by possibly selecting an African American running mate if he wins the nomination.
The two names being discussed so far have both dropped out of the 2020 running: Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and California Sen. Kamala Harris.
A Bloomberg spokesman had no immediate comment; press representatives for Patrick and Harris couldn’t be reached for comment.
The Bloomberg appeal seems to be based on the notion that with Biden slipping, there is simply no one who can beat Trump despite the president's low approval ratings. Biden’s chances largely hinge on having a strong showing in the upcoming South Carolina primary, where black voters dominate, and then the Super Tuesday primaries where a third of all the delegates needed to win the nomination will be chosen.
But polls show him fading, which is why Biden’s Wall Street supporters are talking up Bloomberg.
Wall Street and real estate executives have donated significantly to former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has done well in recent primaries, coming in first in Iowa and a close second in New Hampshire. But big-money donors looking for a Biden alternative tell FOX Business they doubt Buttigieg — a former mayor of a midsized city -- has the stature to win the nomination, much less the general election.
Meanwhile, another front-runner, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, appears to be fading as fast as Biden, plus her policies put her far to the left of everyone seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination other than Sanders.
“The Democratic Party does not want Sanders or Warren to lead their ticket,” Cooperman said. “In the general election, the winner will depend on if people vote their pocketbooks or values.”