Michael Bloomberg is running at 4 percent nationally as he teases a presidential bid, showing that he's well known — but widely disliked — by the Democratic electorate, according to a new poll.
No contender is viewed more negatively by Democrats than the billionaire former New York City mayor.
The Morning Consult poll, released Sunday, reflects the enormous challenge confronting Bloomberg as he considers a late entry into the 2020 race. He sits in sixth place, just behind Sen. Kamala Harris of California, and would begin his campaign far outside the top tier.
Nearly 25 percent of likely primary voters view him unfavorably — the highest unfavorable rating in the field — while about 31 percent view him favorably, according to the poll.
In contrast, nearly three-quarters of Democratic primary voters view Joe Biden favorably, compared to about 18 percent who hold an unfavorable opinion of him.
Biden, the former vice president, continues to lead the primary contest nationally, with about 31 percent support. He is followed by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, at about 20 percent and 18 percent, respectively, according to the poll.
And though Bloomberg performs well in a hypothetical matchup against Donald Trump — leading him 43 percent to 37 percent — Biden, Warren and Sanders outpace the Republican president by between 4 percentage points and 6 percentage points, too.
“In terms of he’s running because of me, the last polls I looked at, I’m pretty far ahead,” Biden told reporters in New Hampshire on Friday. “If I’m not mistaken, I’m doing pretty well both relative to Trump and relative to all the people running in the Democratic primary."
National polling is often discounted by candidates focused more narrowly on early nominating states. But it is especially significant to Bloomberg, who does not plan to campaign aggressively in the first four states, but instead focus on the broader swath of states voting on Super Tuesday.
Bloomberg has not yet said definitively if he will run, and his supporters believe that the money he could immediately pour into advertising if he does could move public opinion. The contest remains unsettled less than three months before the Iowa caucuses, potentially helping a newcomer.
It was only recently that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg “suddenly became a player,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic strategist who worked on Bloomberg’s last mayoral campaign.
“Bloomberg is a very smart guy who calculates very clearly,” Scheinkopf said. “No one thought he would win the New York City mayoralty. He did. Nobody thought he could win a third term. He did.”
Even a losing run could reshape the dynamics of the race. Bloomberg could claw moderate support from Biden if he becomes a serious contender. Or, if he runs but does not crack the top tier, his candidacy could help Biden by spending on messaging against causes championed by more progressive Democrats in the race.
“Thus far in the primary we’ve seen really a race to the fringe — who could be the most progressive, almost a game of one-upmanship,” said Colin Strother, a veteran Democratic strategist. “What we haven’t talked a lot about is electability … That basically seems to be his rationale for even entertaining this idea.”
“This is a big boon for the Joe Bidens of the world,” Strother said. “This is good for the Amy Klobuchars of the world. It’s going to be bad for the Bernies and the Warrens.”
One Democratic manager of Senate and House campaigns said of Bloomberg’s entry into the race, “He’s basically Biden’s Super PAC.”
Bloomberg has called Warren’s wealth tax “probably unconstitutional,” slammed Medicare for All and called free college tuition “totally impractical.” And as Bloomberg began making overtures last week, Sanders and Warren greeted him with sharp elbows.
“The billionaire class is scared and they should be scared,” Sanders wrote on Twitter.
Bloomberg has deep connections in Democratic Party circles and has spent heavily for Democratic causes and candidates. He and his aligned entities have poured millions of dollars into elections and ballot measures across the country in recent years, and Bloomberg remains a fixture in the gun control and climate change movements, two major priorities of Democratic voters.
Yet even before the latest poll, there was little evidence of any clamoring among Democrats for a 77-year-old billionaire to join the race. Early polling by Morning Consult, in February, showed 14 percent of Democratic voters would definitely not vote for Bloomberg — the highest percentage of any candidate surveyed.
The latest poll, conducted Friday, included 5,387 registered voters, including 2,225 Democratic primary voters, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.