February 21, 2020 10:00am

Bloomberg Rocks It

Most predict he will win the Tennessee Democratic primary. After him, it's slim pickings.

Photo of Bruce Dobie
Nashville, TN Correspondent

With Tennessee's presidential nominating contest quickly advancing, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg — he prefers regular old "Mike" actually — appears in solid position to place first in the state's March 3 Democratic primary, according to the latest Power Poll.

It isn't even close.

Reasons for his support are many, but one would have to mention his far-reaching investments in well-known Tennessee political consultants, gobs of paid media, and hired boots-on-the-ground in all parts of the state.

This statewide Power Poll surveyed Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and a database of powerbrokers in every other county across the state.



Perhaps more importantly, Power Poll members were asked who they THINK will win, as opposed to whom they are voting for.  Results were utterly unsurprising.


Members were then asked:

About this Survey

Again, the Power Poll is not a scientific survey. But it does glean the political intelligence of the most influential and powerful residents of the state of Tennessee. Power Poll members include elected officials at all levels, leading business CEOs, important non-profit heads, university presidents, and more. It is a crowd whose opinions are worth paying attention to.

A total of 3,187 Power Poll members were surveyed statewide. 731 participated in the survey, for a participation rate of 22.93%


The Super Tuesday Primary, now bearing down upon us, has a history deeply rooted in the South and the Democratic Party. Tired of their party nominating lefty candidates to the presidency, Southern Democrats banded together to try to nominate a conservative, moderate candidate — a person much like them. They decided to do so by grouping all of their state primaries together as one and voting in a bloc on the same day. Strength in numbers.

In 1988, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, and six other neighboring states held their primaries together. Results were mixed at best. Ask Al Gore. Votes were split every which way. And a Massachusetts technocrat (Michael Dukakis) ultimately got the nomination, with the Southern Golden Boy Gore throwing in the towel well before the convention.

Over time,  Super Tuesday's rationale—selecting a moderate candidate—dissipated, to the point that Super Tuesday is now just a mish-mash of states. But it's a honker. A massive number of delegates—approximately one-third of so-called "pledged" delegates—will be allocated on Super Tuesday. Texas and California, which are the two largest states in the nation, are Super Tuesday states.

So is Tennessee. And by virtue of that fact, we Tennesseans enter into the political calculus of Mike Bloomberg, who, upon entering the presidential race not only late but well behind in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, decided to roll the dice, place hundreds of millions of campaign dollars towards amassing Super Tuesday delegates, and smash the Iowa-New Hampshire stranglehold on the nominating process. I mean, you fish where the fish are, which is on Super Tuesday. If Tennessee's Power Poll numbers are any indication, all is working according to plan.


Pre-Bloomberg, early bets were a clear Biden win in Tennessee, with African-American support notching him a win in heavily black Memphis and his moderate vibe otherwise scoring him older white votes. Biden could always mangle the English language, which voters appeared able to forgive. But today's language mangling seems older, confused, short-circuited. Biden has suffered. Power Poll members do not look favorably on his future here.

As to the lefty Democratic candidates on the ballot—Sanders and Warren—neither have ever really stood a prayer here. The other moderates—Buttigieg and Klobuchar—are not investing in Tennessee with much in the way of organization or paid media.

That leaves Bloomberg, the billionaire gorilla, who has hired a significant on-the-ground presence in Tennessee, managed by the very capable Courtney Wheeler (former Karl Dean for governor honcho). He has hired a veteran communications director, field organizers, data analysts, and more. He has bought heavy TV rotation in Tennessee.

(Disclosure: I have a family member on Bloomberg's Tennessee campaign staff.)

One other thing.

Most of this Power Poll survey was taken before the Democrats' circular firing squad of a debate Wednesday night, in which Bloomberg quickly became the favorite shooting target for most of the evening, leaving most of America to speculate if this ahistorical political moment we are living through can get any weirder.

If I had to guess why Tennessee's Power Poll members appear emboldened to support Bloomberg, it is that they see in him someone with the executive horsepower to right the nation's careening ship. As we all wonder whether we're living through late-stage democracy, maybe Bloomberg, we think, is a man who will spend his billions, win this thing, put the hammer down, and fix our countless problems. Bloomberg supporters, in their own strange way, want him to make America great again.

Power Poll Members: Do you have a friend or colleague who should be on Power Poll? Please invite them to join!

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

More on This Poll

More Polls

More on This Poll