While the rest of the Democratic field frantically barnstormed New Hampshire on Saturday, a field director for Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign was opening his pitch to a room full of volunteers about an hour beyond New Hampshire’s southern boundary, in Massachusetts.
This time of the year in New England, presidential organizing doesn’t usually make it south of the New Hampshire line. Traditionally, campaigns have made winning in the early voting states a priority, with most pinning their hopes on securing more cash and momentum to make it viable to set up operations in Super Tuesday states and beyond.
The idea that a campaign would already be staffing up and training volunteers in Massachusetts—or anywhere beyond New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, the next three states to vote—would almost be too presumptuous, a waste of precious campaign resources. Conventional wisdom dictates that if you can’t win in New Hampshire or South Carolina, the money and the support will be gone by the time you get to Massachusetts, which votes this year on March 3. If it’s three days before the New Hampshire primary, every resource is up north, not in suburban Boston, coaching volunteers for a primary nearly a month away.
But this past week, Bloomberg’s operation was doing just that, and a great deal more—something more on the scale of a national campaign kickoff. First was the announcement that Bloomberg was increasing his nationwide campaign staff to 2,100 and expanding his already expansive ad buys around the country. And then, on the Saturday before the New Hampshire primary, Bloomberg was traveling to Alabama and Oklahoma to make campaign stops, while surrogates spread out through other states. It was all part of a “weekend in action” with events in 30 states, including Massachusetts, a Super Tuesday state and the former New York City mayor’s home state. (He grew up in Medford.)
“We’re in swing states,” Nick Alto, a Bloomberg Massachusetts field director, told the 20 or so volunteers who showed up in Brookline on Saturday said. “We’re in these important states…and with big staffs.” He added for emphasis, “Huge operations.”
The message to the volunteers was clear: You should feel the power, the methodical investment, and the stability of Bloomberg’s growing campaign and understand that he’s not going to come or go based on the whims of a handful of early voting states. Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina don’t matter—not that Bloomberg is even on the ballot there; he missed the filing deadlines—because Bloomberg is doing something bigger and has the unlimited resources to sustain it. In Brookline, Alto’s volunteer training emphasized not only that the investment has been made, but that it will continue, “even if he’s not the nominee.” Bloomberg has pledged to spend heavily to help the eventual Democratic nominee defeat President Donald Trump.
The volunteers who showed up to the Brookline state headquarters for Bloomberg seemed comforted by that message of power and stability, describing Bloomberg as someone who, as an avowed capitalist and the ninth-richest person in the world, was not vulnerable to accusations of socialist politics.