After suffering a string of humiliations in his primary debate debut earlier this month, Mike Bloomberg lucked out on Tuesday when, miraculously, he found himself in front of what appeared to be the most Bloomberg-friendly audience in the country. It was all incredibly weird.
Despite a number of questions about who was able to acquire tickets and how, an unnamed Bloomberg official told NBC that the campaign “did *not* pay people to attend the debate and cheer for Bloomberg.” One could be forgiven for having suspected otherwise. Just last week, 70 pro-Bloomberg Twitter accounts were suspended for violating the site’s rules against platform manipulation. And a few days before that, the Wall Street Journal reported on “a multimillion-dollar-a-month effort” in which the Bloomberg campaign was paying more than 500 staffers “to promote Mr. Bloomberg weekly to everyone in their phones’ contacts by text message and make daily social-media posts supporting him.”
But if the Bloomberg campaign assures us its enthusiastic debate support was organic, who are we to question that? At least, that’s the sentiment that’s been filling my email inbox for the past 24 hours.
After I wrote a post marveling at the sudden appearance of a small army of Bloomberg die-hards, a remarkable number of similarly devout fans began emailing me to inform me of the error of my ways. It has been perhaps the most passionate pushback I’ve got from any candidate’s supporters since the primary began, quite unlike any other response I’ve gotten.
Have we simply underestimated the appeal of the largely reviled businessman? Was it just a coincidence that last night’s audience was the first in history not to cheer wildly at someone slamming billionaires? And just how out of touch am I with the salt-of-the-earth popular movement in support of Bloomberg? My inbox has answers. (All typos as originally delivered.)
From: Alan A.
Former mayor NYC is endorsed by hundreds of mayors who know what a difficult job being Mayor is Mayors work for everybody
From: Pooneh W.
He really cleaned up NY and runs one of the best companies. Why wouldn’t he have a supportive crowd? Many moderate republicans say they would vote for him. Democrats need the crossover votes. I used to respect Warren but she has trouble staying on topic and has been more focused on division and attacks in the party rather than focusing on her real opponent. There needs to be more unity within the party. Bernie held up exceptionally well and defended his policies.
Sent from my iPhone
From: Kelly H.
Subj: Just say what you mean
Rather than suggest it with thinly veiled sarcasm. I’m not a billionaire. My vote hasn’t been bought. Mike may have had a lot of supporters in SC because many people like me think he’s the most capable and productive of the pack. You’re likely to see more of that in the coming months.
Sent from my iPad
From: Josh A.
Subj: Re Bloomberg supporters in audience in SC
Have you considered that it’s simply because Mayor Bloomberg is growing increasingly popular? (After all, he is polling in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd depending on which state)
Warren’s underhanded, vile attacks on a good man, and a great mayor, citing alleged private jokes made over 30 years ago, are impressing no one, and rather, are annoying as hell
From: Michael R.
It’s because Bloomberg IS the best and probably only hope we have to flush Dump down the toilet! Frankly it pisses me off the way you try to trash Bloomberg. Elizabeth Warren will lose if she is the Dem candidate as will Bernie Sanders or Pete . Don’t you know that? The system is so degraded and corrupt at this point thanks to the SCOTUS handing Trump unlimited dark money that only equally unlimited funds in opposition have a chance. If it’s four more years of Trump, we can all kiss our asses goodbye! And it WILL BE if Bloomberg isn’t the Dem candidate. He may not be your ideological favorite but so what? He isn’t a fucking insane traitor and criminal like Trump! WAKE UP!
From: Maisa S.
Subj: You are obviously Bernie bro’s!
Not reading you any longer! Sad to think I thought you were unbiased! Done!
Sent from my iPhone
From: Alison T.
Subj: Bloomburg last night
I don’t think people were cheering billionaires last night, and frankly I don’t understand why people rail against them unless it’s envy. I think people realize that the only person who can beat Trump is Bloomberg. I like all the candidates, but let’s get real here. Pete doesn’t stand a chance because there’s a lot of jerks out there who are offended by homosexuality. Steyers, who is that? I don’t even think I got his name right. Bernie is a socialist, and a lot of people don’t want that, including this Democrat. Warren disappointed me with her vendetta against Bloomberg because he backed her opponent, sounds like a female Trump to me. I was impressed that Amy tried to get Warren to stop digging up the past and focus on the issues. Biden is …been there, done that. This election is crucial, and now is not the time to make a statement about the electability of women, or gays, or socialists or to creep under the protective blanket of Obama. Mike has class, which we desperately need in our president. He has governmental experience in getting results and surrounds himself with capable people. He deeply cares about our country, he doesn’t need to work in government, he chooses to become involved. He could be lounging on a private island, but he threw himself into the race because he saw the writing on the wall. He’s not divisive, many times in these debates he’s encouraged members of the Democratic party to pull together instead of tearing each other apart. The Democratic party has been espousing this pie in the sky nonsense where everyone gets everything they need, but they aren’t fooling anyone. They have to get realistic. And Mike is a realist. So, do we want to “make a statement” and get four more years of the Orange Horror, or do we want to have an electable person on the Democratic ticket? There’s a whole other country between California and New York. Who do you think they’ll vote for?
From: Roy S.
Subj: Bloomberg heads
People are accepting the idea you need a raucous money man to fight and stand up against Trump. He’s not fighting on policy but personality. SC voters and others are coming to terms with this idea.
From: Bob A.
Subj: Mike is a hit. Why so?
Why did I see the Billionaire Bloomberg as a great choice for POTUS?
Billionaires who support ($$$$)candidates of every stripe contribute only for one reason: They make their wealth this way. Legislation that is favorable to their business increases their wealth exponentially.
A big ah-ha for those that reason.
Tell that story. Bloomberg does not use anyone’s money but his. He owes no one a favor!
Thank you Mike Bloomberg. I’m in
From: Annette C.
Subj: Mike Bloomberg
I am throwing all my support behind Mr. BloombergI can’t take it any longer how Warren and the rest of the candidates are trying to define Mike Bloomberg only by his billionaire status
I’m a forer New Yorker and I saw firsthand what Michael Bloomberg is all about and how he turn the city around.
In my opinion and I think many others only a mayor who has ran such a diverse major city in the world is able to take on the challenges of the presidency.
He is thoughtful he has integrity he is kind he is brilliant and also he just have the money to bury Trump.
His philanthropy has brought great change and great assistance too many people and that’s what he needs to make others aware of
I feel it’s the Bloomberg it’s the one who can bring our country together as one United States of America again
From: Karl N.
Subj: Bloomberg supporters
Sent from Mail for Windows 10
Using the following way to describe Warren’s harsh attack on Bloomberg is certainly a way to make the reaction from the Bloomberg supporters to seem like weird angry jeering.
“after mentioning an allegation from a former Bloomberg employee”
Personally I thought that Warren came across like inspector Javert nailing some hateful culprit. Totally jeer worthy.
From: Janice J.
Subj: Audience at Debate
If you’re looking to create a conspiracy theory then go elsewhere.
I was not there but wish I could have been.
Maybe more and more Americans are sick of petty attacks and finger pointing and want a candidate with integrity and middle of the road politics.
Trump is the man driven by attacks and lies.
Bloomberg can beat Trump.
Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone
From: twisted sister
Subj: (no subject)
Yes, America sick of bashing. I DID like Elizabeth Wartrn but now find d her disgusting. Will not vote for her now from her ridiculous claims from 30 years ago towards Bloomberg. HE has my vote, spent alot of time in NYC and saw all he did while mayor. He’s the o ly one who can beat trump, so enough with all the bashing!!! Good for the crowd cheers and jeers.
From: Chuck S.
I suspect the audience was comprised of normal people who want to win a general election in a country with a center-right electorate.
From: Franklin R.
Subj: (no subject)
I don’t know how they got there but positive reactions to negative criticism has always won out throughout our history.
Sent from Mail for Windows 10
Subj: Bloomberg in Charleston
What I know:
- Is a candidate who grew up middle class, worked hard, got lucky, and became a billionaire necessarily bad?
- Is a billionaire who doesn’t brag about his 2019 donatIon of $1.5 billion to his alma mater …for financial aid… uncaring about kids getting a good education?
- Is a billionaire who does not brag about his committment to give ~$450 million to an alternative energy research effort (in which he has no ownership) necessarily bad?
- Is a billionaire who supported stop and frisk but who also (Per the judge in that case) is not a racist based on him starting the WeCare jobs program for low income citizens, the anti-poverty Ctr for Economic Opportunity, and other initiatives necessarily a bad candidate. He doesn’t brag about them.
Maybe he should.
Since Mr Trump was elected, many Americans seem fixated on who says what we’d like to hear, and what they’d like to do, irrespective of how well HOW they plan to do it reflects reality or the whole truth.
Maybe the Charleston supporters noticed these things. Maybe we should all listen more carefully to what he says and how he plans to accomplish his goals.
A lot to think about, certainly. But if you have anything you’d like to add in the meantime, please do.
Support our 2020 coverage
Slate is covering the election issues that matter to you. Support our work with a Slate Plus membership. You’ll also get a suite of great benefits.Join Slate Plus