Beyond the six candidates on stage earlier this week in Iowa, there are three other viable candidates still in the running for the Democratic primary. I use the term “viable” to say that these candidates have at least maintained a presence in many polls, even though they may sit near the bottom in most of them. Here’s what’s happening around the primary off the debate stage where the campaign continues.
Bloomberg continues building momentum
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg didn’t make the debate stage due to his decision to not accept individual campaign donations. Bloomberg said he’d love to debate, but the DNC would have to change the rules to let him in. That didn’t stop him from making news during the debate on Tuesday when he spent the time gaining attention with some whacky social media activity:
Michael Bloomberg wasn’t present at Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, so his campaign appealed to voters in a different fashion: quirky tweets.
Throughout the night, the Team Bloomberg account posted “interesting facts” about the candidate and off-beat jokes. The former New York City mayor and billionaire is self-funding his campaign and thus didn’t meet the debate’s donor requirements.
“Test your political knowledge: SPOT THE MEATBALL THAT LOOKS LIKE MIKE,” the account tweeted along with a photo of meatballs. One tweet joked that Bloomberg can “telepathically communicate with dolphins.”
— Team Bloomberg (@Mike2020) January 15, 2020
All joking aside, the activity worked to keep his name in the news and have voters asking why he wasn’t on stage despite his poll numbers being better than Tom Steyer and Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
With an eye toward seriously examining Bloomberg’s efforts, though, he continues to look like a real contender, with Buzzfeed News pointing out that it almost seems like his decision to get in late hasn’t hurt him all that much:
As other Democratic presidential candidates briefly departed a freezing Iowa ahead of next month’s caucuses, Michael Bloomberg was hosting a large and grand rally at the Sheraton in Midtown Manhattan, the first big hometown event for the former mayor since he announced his campaign nearly two months ago. The theme: women for Mike.
In his remarks, Bloomberg said his next stops were to be in California, Utah and Washington DC — again an unusual move for a candidate competing in a primary two weeks before the caucuses.
But Bloomberg’s strategy appears to be exactly that — to not run a primary campaign at all, and to act as though he’s in a general election. His campaign strategy reportedly hinges on states whose primaries are held later, essentially skipping the early states other Democrats are so focused on.
And he’s said his campaign will remain active even if he doesn’t win the nomination, directing his campaign’s resources toward defeating Trump regardless of who the nominee is.
If you just tuned in to pay attention in January, you’d think Bloomberg had been running a campaign for at least six months already. He’s got a national presence, he’s got state-level organizations, he’s got ultra-slick advertising, and he’s already on President Trump’s radar.
In years past, no candidate would dream of jumping in a race this late for fear of being swallowed up and ignored. That would be the case, for most candidates (see Deval Patrick), but it’s not the case if you’re a billionaire with a few hundred million to play with.
Bloomberg carries on, and has his eye set toward Super Tuesday and beyond, hoping to compete in some larger states and pick up enough delegates to stay in contention. Even if he doesn’t win the nomination, as he has already stated, he will not end his political activity in 2020 as he’s intently focused on defeating Donald Trump by any and all means he has at his disposal.
Yang unveils new celebrity endorsements
Andrew Yang also missed the debate stage falling just a couple of polls shy, but he didn’t exactly stay at home watching from afar. Instead, Yang held a rally at the campus of Drake University, the debate venue, the day before the event to keep his name fresh and noticed and announced some big endorsements this week:
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang had a somewhat quieter night, but the Yang Gang — Yang’s avid online fanbase — made his absence from the stage known online. For much of the debate, the hashtag #AmericaNeedsYang trended at second in the United States, boosted by Yang himself.
Yang didn’t just rely on his unparalleled online support; he held a rally at Drake University — the site of the debate — on Monday ahead of the event, and Tuesday promoted a volunteer initiative that was dubbed Yang National Visibility Day by his supporters as they headed out to knock on doors.
He also rolled out a very Andrew Yang endorsement on Tuesday morning: the comedian Dave Chappelle, who will perform in South Carolina to benefit the campaign later in the month. In December, Yang picked up support from another comedian: Donald Glover, who is also an actor, a Grammy-award winning rapper, and, most recently, a Yang 2020 “creative consultant.”
Granted, celebrity endorsements may or may not be of any value since Hillary Clinton had an entire ocean liner full of them in 2016 and still fell short. For a candidate like Yang, at this point in the race, these endorsements help get his name back in the headlines, and earn some more google searches from fans wondering who this Asian guy is that Dave Chappelle likes?
As ABC News also pointed out after the debate, Yang was tweeted about more than three of the candidates on stage:
— ABC News (@ABC) January 15, 2020
Yang is still considered a long-shot for any caucus or primary victory, but he has the cash on hand and a cadre of dedicated supporters to keep his campaign rolling along. He can go well into February and probably stick it out until Super Tuesday quite easily to see what kind of actual votes he can garner.
Tulsi Gabbard basically lives in New Hampshire now
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is still strongly in the race, though her poll numbers remain quite weak. Gabbard has temporarily moved to New Hampshire where she believes she has the best shot at capturing support in an early state. She has been knocking on doors, holding rallies, and trying to work the retail politics angle in the Granite State while the rest of the field is busy in Iowa. So far, we’ve learned that it’s a bad idea to challenge Gabbard to a competition of physical activity:
The whole push-up challenge started when Joe Biden responded to a voter in Iowa who accused the former vice president od being “too old for the job.” Biden, in response, challenged the voter to do push-ups with him. The voter did not accept Biden’s challenge. Gabbard, on the other hand, did:
But on Thursday night, it was Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s turn at a town hall in Manchester, N.H. One of her supporters questioned whether the candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination from Hawaii, a 38-year-old Iraq War veteran, might be the one to defeat Biden — in push-ups. (Biden later said he was joking and “probably shouldn’t have” challenged the 83-year-old to do push-ups).
Gabbard said she would challenge anyone. And while, realistically, she has no chance of being president in 2021, she might very well win any fitness competition among the contenders.
The candidate’s spontaneous fitness test should come as little surprise. Gabbard, who has not qualified for the last two debates, has made no secret of her rigorous workout regiment. Throughout the 2020 campaign, her active lifestyle has almost become a campaign ad in itself. She has surfed with her fans (in frigid New Hampshire waters.) She has done CrossFit training with her supporters. And, early the morning of the first debate, she held a “team boot camp” for her campaign staffers in 90-degree Miami heat.
Gabbard won’t be appearing on the debate stage again any time soon, but she’s still giving it a shot in New Hampshire. She’s in the long-shot category as well, but with worse prospects at this point than Andrew Yang. She could still be a VP option, under the right circumstances, but even that is looking grim given how many Democrats don’t trust here.
In the end, of the three non-debate candidates, Bloomberg sits in the best position right now having unironically spent the most money.
Yang has work cut out for him, but he’s doing everything he can despite being left off the debate stage to stay in the public eye and stay relevant in the campaign. Gabbard is taking a different tact, focusing on one state, but she seems determined to stick it out at least until voting begins.