Bloomberg in Mississippi

By CHARLIE SMITH,

Mississippi normally doesn’t get much attention during presidential elections because it’s virtually guaranteed to go to the Republican nominee. The last Democrat to carry the Magnolia State was Jimmy Carter in 1976, and since then the state has only continued to shift further to the right.

It’s illustrative to look at the percentages that the GOP presidential nominee has received in Mississippi over the past two decades.

• 58%, Donald Trump, 2016

• 55%, Mitt Romney, 2012

• 56%, John McCain, 2008

• 59%, George W. Bush, 2004

• 58%, George W. Bush, 2000

No matter who the candidates are on either side, the Republican is a sure bet to get a firm majority of between 55% and 59%. If Barack Obama, who was hugely popular among the state’s sizable black population, could not break that pattern, then it’s almost guaranteed that no other Democrat can.

In spite of that, billionaire Mike Bloomberg is pouring millions into a campaign in Mississippi. Mississippi Today reported this week that the former New York City mayor has hired 24 full-time staffers in Mississippi leading up to the March 10 primary. No other Democratic candidate has more than two.

And Bloomberg has spent at least $2.3 million in Mississippi on TV ads, according to FCC records tracked by FiveThirtyEight referenced in the Mississippi Today story. No one else has put in more than a paltry $25,000 by longshot Tom Steyer.

So why is Bloomberg, a savvy businessman, pouring so much money into what is bound to be a losing effort? The only explanation that makes sense is that Bloomberg is maneuvering to get attention to his campaign by winning a large number of state primaries, and the easiest way to do that is to campaign hard in states where the other candidates aren’t trying.

That could well lead him to his party’s nomination. After that, Bloomberg could focus on the swing states that could actually have bearing on the outcome of the race.

Although it’s off-message for a party that preaches it represents the little man to have an affluent mogul essentially buy the nomination, Bloomberg does represent the party’s best hope. The other Democratic candidates are too extreme to attract the independent voters who went overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016.

Whatever the outcome of the Democratic primaries, you can bet that Mississippi will be no more than an afterthought by the time the general election rolls around in November. The Republican lock on Mississippi politics guarantees that no statewide race will go to a Democrat for many years to come, and presidential candidates from both parties are well aware of that, regardless of Bloomberg’s pre-primary efforts.