Bloomberg's Long-Game Strategy In Idaho: Keep Campaign Infrastructure In Place Until November

Feb 11, 2020

Michael Bloomberg
Credit Courtesy Bloomberg 2020

With less than one month until the March 10 Idaho primary, Michael Bloomberg's presidential campaign is opening offices in three Gem State cities.

And while the billionaire has every intention to make a make a big push on Super Tuesday, March 3 and the Idaho primary the following week, campaign spokeswoman Erin Hudson says the plan is to keep Bloomberg's campaign infrastructure in place until November's general election, "no matter who the nominee is." Simply put, Hudson said the strategy is for the ultiamte nominee of the Democrat party to emerge victorious.

Morning Edition host George Prentice spoke with Hudson, and Dr. Jaclyn Kettler, associate professor and political scientist at Boise State University about Bloomberg's considerable resources.

“Idaho is not just a conservative state. It’s not black and white; not red or blue. The plan is to have an infrastructure in place and have people on the ground, whether or not {Bloomberg] is the nominee.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: Most people know a couple of things about Michael Bloomberg. He was the mayor of New York, he ran as a Republican. And they know that he's very rich but I'm guessing it's your job to expand that resume and reintroduce Mike Bloomberg to Idaho.

ERIN HUDSON: Yes. So Mike has an extensive career not just in business but in his philanthropy work and the work that he's done to make sure that we have clean air, clean water, healthcare, all those kinds of things and he wants to take that to a national scale. And he has one goal in mind and that is to get a Democrat in the White House in November.

PRENTICE: Why Idaho? The last time, by the way that Idaho gave electoral votes to a Democratic candidate was Lyndon Johnson. And before that it was Harry Truman. Why does Idaho matter to the Bloomberg campaign?

HUDSON: Mike got into this race a little late. He's not gonna be on any ballots until Super Tuesday. He's going to be on the ballot in Idaho and therefore it matters. Idaho is not just a conservative state. It's not black and white. It's not red or blue. And the plan is to build an infrastructure in place and have it in place and have people on the ground whether or not he's the nominee. Those systems that infrastructure will be in place already setup, already ready to go for whomever the nominee is.

PRENTICE: So there is a long game there.

HUDSON: Yes, so his game is to get a Democrat in the White House whether it's him or it's whoever the nominee is. So he wants to set up a support system. And fortunately, because he is wealthy, he has the resources to set that up for someone so he's willing to do that to make sure that everyone's goal is the same on the Democratic side, right? Get a Democrat in the White House and he is building that out to make sure that happens.

PRENTICE: You have opened a campaign office here in Boise.

HUDSON: Mm hmm.

PRENTICE: And you have plans to open others. Yes?

HUDSON: Yeah. So, we are working on opening up our office in Pocatello and we will have an office opening in Coeur d'Alene. We have teams in place. They are getting the groundwork ready and they will be opening their offices soon.

PRENTICE: It's tough not to see a Michael Bloomberg ad on commercial television lately. Correct me if I'm wrong. Health care seems to be at the top of his list.

HUDSON: Yes. He's very adamant about health care, it's his personal philosophy in any of the companies that he runs. He has excellent benefits set up for his employees and he wants to be able to have that on a national scale. He believes that health care costs should not be prohibitive. He believes drug prices for lifesaving medicines should not be prohibitive and should be lowered. It should be basic health care for everybody and it should be accessible to everybody.

PRENTICE: Gun control is a flash point for many Idahoans. Many folks own firearms. That said I'm guessing that the conversation is fairly fluid. And Mike Bloomberg has very definite views on firearms.

HUDSON: His philosophy is gun safety. He believes in the common sense gun reform making sure that they're not in the hands of people who are dangerous, dangerous to themselves or others. And he is a believer in the Second Amendment, so he doesn't discount that it is part of our Constitution but he believes that there are certain safety measures that need to be put in place to make sure that vulnerable populations are not at risk.

PRENTICE: I'd be remiss if I didn't ask if the campaign offices will be staffed by folks coming into Idaho or will there be?

HUDSON: They're all local. OK. They're all from Idaho. We're all from Idaho. We all know what's important to Idahoans as we are Idahoans ourselves. So, he's investing in our people here locally which I think is important.

PRENTICE: She is Erin Hudson, Idaho Communications Director for the Bloomberg campaign. Erin, thank you.

HUDSON: Thank you, George.

PRENTICE: Dr. Jaclyn Kettler, assistant professor and political scientist at Boise State, has been listening in. Dr. Kettler, welcome.

JACLYN KETTLER: Thanks for having me.

PRENTICE: Michael Bloomberg and his considerable resources, which is to say money, can't be dismissed in this race.

KETTLER: Right. I mean, money is not the only thing that matters in a campaign —spending the most doesn't guarantee you a win but it definitely matters. It helps provide infrastructure, campaign advertising, something that the Bloomberg campaign is already spending a lot on. Those elements matter for helping get people to support you to turn out to vote, making sure that your campaign can go the distance as well.

PRENTICE: What do you make of this investment in Idaho which is so conservative?

KETTLER: Yeah it's interesting and not only is Idaho conservative but we've seen, on the Democratic side, the progressive kind of issues really resonate, right? So Bernie Sanders won the Democratic primary in 2016 with almost 80 percent of the vote. Paulette Jordan won in 2018 with some of those same progressive issues. So it's not clear that a moderate candidate can also, will automatically be successful among Democrats either. So, it is an interesting question because Bloomberg came into the presidential primary a little late, that makes a lot of the later states matter more. And so they really do need to invest across a lot of these states.

PRENTICE: Super Tuesday used to matter a number of political cycles ago, not so much the last couple, but this year I'm sensing, wow, Super Tuesday is the game changer.

KETTLER: Super Tuesday is going to matter this year and potentially Idaho and some of these other later states will also be able to play a bigger role, as I expect this primary Democratic primary nomination to take much longer to decide than usual.

PRENTICE: And what we have learned in years past is while Idaho may not turn out the votes, there are pockets of Idaho that turn out a fair amount of money and there are communities in Idaho that have become ATMs for some successful campaigns.

KETTLER: That's a great point. And so that's another reason why you know it's kind of investing in Idaho early to help create a base may help for identifying and getting that financial support from individuals within Idaho.

PRENTICE: And I'm thinking of the Wood River Valley. 

KETTLER: Yeah.

PRENTICE: And the treasure Bill.

KETTLER: Sure, yeah. And so I agree and I think that can be really important, as well as, one thing the Bloomberg campaign has said is that, Bloomberg has said that they're going to keep all these offices operating until the general election. And so that can really help turn out people even if they're not turning out people to vote for Bloomberg. Help people know about the election, turn them out to vote, especially if they're doing a lot of kind of on the ground like door knocking, one-on-one interactions that can really help boost attention and turnout.

PRENTICE: And to that end it may have an impact on down ticket races.

KETTLER: True. That's a great point. So, you may see a little bit more competition in some of those more competitive legislative districts or some of those areas, if you have a particularly good Democratic turnout.

PRENTICE: She is Dr. Jacqueline Kettler, assistant professor and political scientist at Boise State. Buckle in for this race, right?

KETTLER: For sure.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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