Can Bloomberg ever recover from his disastrous debate debut?

Michael Bloomberg is at the crux of a battle of clichés. America may be the land of second chances, but you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

The level of saturation of Bloomberg’s television advertising actually is working against him now. Few are potential voters who have not been bombarded with the theme that “Mike can get it done,” featuring a candidate who appears strong yet accessible, powerful but caring. However in Las Vegas, Bloomberg pulled back his own curtain, having bribed the DNC to change its rules and allow him onstage, and Americans saw an uncertain-yet-imperious, cold, little man being bullied and out-talked by Elizabeth Warren, mumbling excuses for non-disclosure agreements that lasted just a few days until the mighty oligarch capitulated to the fake Native American.

The stark contrast between what the ads promised and what the reality delivered will take roughly forever to fade from memory. Bloomberg provided his own gotcha, debunking his marketing thrust as a strong man of action.  

Americans instinctively distrust politicians, and they instinctively distrust manipulative advertising.  We love to scorn the pretentious, the high and mighty brought down from their lofty perches.

Even worse for Bloomberg, television advertising is not a welcome interruption of the programming that attracted the eyeballs in the first place. Why do you suppose so many ads these days use humor? It’s as if insurance companies are in the comedy business, not selling a product whose necessity is unpleasant to contemplate. They will happily settle for a  vague association with a cute talking animal or a working class heroine, sold with a sugar coating of humor.

When those television interruptions are all for the same product – a politician – and come with stirring music and visuals, but no humor, resentment starts to kick in, and more ads produce more resentment. The only humor related to Bloomberg ads now is scornful laughter directed at him.

So, will voters warm to him enough to support his bid to dislodge Bernie Sanders from what looks like a commanding lead in delegates following the Nevada caucus? Clearly, fear of a party disaster with a socialist at the top of the ticket inclines some loyal Democrats to support Anyone-But-Bernie (ABB), but can they unite? Bloomberg’s candidacy has rested on the assumption that sustained saturation advertising could win public favor for him that would pay off if a lavishly funded field organization were in place to drive turnout.

This theory will not be tested until March 3rd, when 14 states will allocate 1,357 of the 3,979 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Bloomberg will be back on a presidential debate stage next Tuesday in Charleston, South Carolina, even though he will not be on the primary ballot in the Palmetto State when voters allocate delegates next Saturday, the 29th. So, he has his next debate performance, plus advertising, plus endorsements from prominent party figures (many of whom turn out to have benefitted from Bloomberg Bucks one way or another) as his tools to drive support. And he has to accomplish the goal of uniting the ABBs behind himself under great time pressure.

I can’t say with certainty that it won’t work. Bloomberg has at his command the best talent that money can buy, and all remaining advertising space available for sale. But he has to redefine himself having inadvertently supplied a powerful negative impression.

Caricature by Donkey Hotey

Michael Bloomberg is at the crux of a battle of clichés. America may be the land of second chances, but you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

The level of saturation of Bloomberg’s television advertising actually is working against him now. Few are potential voters who have not been bombarded with the theme that “Mike can get it done,” featuring a candidate who appears strong yet accessible, powerful but caring. However in Las Vegas, Bloomberg pulled back his own curtain, having bribed the DNC to change its rules and allow him onstage, and Americans saw an uncertain-yet-imperious, cold, little man being bullied and out-talked by Elizabeth Warren, mumbling excuses for non-disclosure agreements that lasted just a few days until the mighty oligarch capitulated to the fake Native American.

The stark contrast between what the ads promised and what the reality delivered will take roughly forever to fade from memory. Bloomberg provided his own gotcha, debunking his marketing thrust as a strong man of action.  

Americans instinctively distrust politicians, and they instinctively distrust manipulative advertising.  We love to scorn the pretentious, the high and mighty brought down from their lofty perches.

Even worse for Bloomberg, television advertising is not a welcome interruption of the programming that attracted the eyeballs in the first place. Why do you suppose so many ads these days use humor? It’s as if insurance companies are in the comedy business, not selling a product whose necessity is unpleasant to contemplate. They will happily settle for a  vague association with a cute talking animal or a working class heroine, sold with a sugar coating of humor.

When those television interruptions are all for the same product – a politician – and come with stirring music and visuals, but no humor, resentment starts to kick in, and more ads produce more resentment. The only humor related to Bloomberg ads now is scornful laughter directed at him.

So, will voters warm to him enough to support his bid to dislodge Bernie Sanders from what looks like a commanding lead in delegates following the Nevada caucus? Clearly, fear of a party disaster with a socialist at the top of the ticket inclines some loyal Democrats to support Anyone-But-Bernie (ABB), but can they unite? Bloomberg’s candidacy has rested on the assumption that sustained saturation advertising could win public favor for him that would pay off if a lavishly funded field organization were in place to drive turnout.

This theory will not be tested until March 3rd, when 14 states will allocate 1,357 of the 3,979 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Bloomberg will be back on a presidential debate stage next Tuesday in Charleston, South Carolina, even though he will not be on the primary ballot in the Palmetto State when voters allocate delegates next Saturday, the 29th. So, he has his next debate performance, plus advertising, plus endorsements from prominent party figures (many of whom turn out to have benefitted from Bloomberg Bucks one way or another) as his tools to drive support. And he has to accomplish the goal of uniting the ABBs behind himself under great time pressure.

I can’t say with certainty that it won’t work. Bloomberg has at his command the best talent that money can buy, and all remaining advertising space available for sale. But he has to redefine himself having inadvertently supplied a powerful negative impression.

Caricature by Donkey Hotey