The sound bites from Mike Bloomberg’s evisceration of Donald Trump at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night have been repeated endlessly.
- “I built a business, and I didn’t start it with a million-dollar check from my father.”
- “Trump says he wants to run the country like he’s running his business. God help us.”
- “I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one.”
- “Truth be told, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.”
- “Hillary Clinton understands this is not reality television – it’s reality.”
- “Let’s elect a sane, competent person.”
But while Democrats gathered in Philadelphia, roared and clapped at the best one-liners of the convention, the billionaire former mayor of New York wasn’t really talking to them.
He was reaching out to independents like himself who don’t think their views are fully represented by one party or the other.
“When I enter the voting booth each time,” Bloomberg said. “I look at the candidate, not the party label. And probably not many people in this room can say that. But I know there are many watching at home who can. And now they are carefully weighing their choices.”
Bloomberg called on them to put differences aside for the good of the country, and “unite around the candidate who can defeat a dangerous demagogue.”
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It is not yet clear how much of a bump Clinton will get from the convention. It was a meticulously orchestrated and calibrated piece of political theater that surely will sway some independents.
But with the polls showing Clinton and Trump neck and neck, Hillary’s outreach to independents can’t end with one convention address, as forceful and as uncharacteristically personal as Bloomberg’s “unconventional convention speech” was.
A Fox New poll at the end of June found Trump ahead with independents by 39 percent to 31 percent for Clinton.
The tricky part, though, is crafting a message and employing surrogates who can speak to the Babel of voters who identify as independents. A Gallup poll taken in mid-July found that 42 percent of voters consider themselves independents
As an entrepreneur whose fortune makes him the sixth-riches person in America, Bloomberg speaks to small business owners, corporate chieftains and members of the financial community. His dumps on Trump should make him a powerful force should he go on the stump for Clinton.
But the Clinton campaign’s secret weapon could be Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who fought Clinton almost all the way to Philly and whose forlorn troops early on threatened to disrupt the convention.
Despite a spirited endorsement of Clinton and the impact he had on making the Democratic platform more progressive, Sanders usually looked glum when the TV cameras panned his way.
Now the Clinton camp needs to give him whatever more he wants to become a happy warrior for Hillary.
In an analysis of Sanders voters in May, the website FiveThirtyEight found that 40 percent of primary voters and caucus goers supporting Bernie identified as independents, Republicans or members of other parties. And in a YouGov poll around the same time, while only 55 percent of Sandernistas said they would vote for Clinton, just 15 percent said they would vote for Trump, leaving 30 percent looking for a home.
But that was before the Hillary wrapped up the delegate votes, before the convention concessions to Sanders and before Clinton’s acknowledgement that she has had gotten the message Bernie has been sending.
They have to be more than soothing words for his wounded troops, though. Clinton shouldn’t leave Philadelphia thinking the Sanders supporters have been dealt with and mollified. She needs to walk the talk and she desperately needs Sanders reigniting “the Bern.”