Mike Bloomberg’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination stands at a crossroads after results from Super Tuesday voting indicated his $500m gamble had failed.
The questions will start with the wisdom of Bloomberg foregoing the first four state contests to plow more than half a billion dollars of his estimated $55bn personal fortune into campaigning in the 14 Super Tuesday states and territories, with only a victory in tiny American Samoa to show for it.
The former New York mayor and media mogul attempted to maintain an upbeat demeanor during Tuesday evening’s appearance at a campaign rally for supporters in West Palm Beach, Florida, which holds its own primary on 17 March.
But as results from states including Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama and Alabama were recorded, it was clear Bloomberg would suffer a disappointing night, and that a big decision was looming.
NBC News reported on Tuesday night that Bloomberg would discuss with his advisers on Wednesday “whether there’s a reason to continue with this”.
“As the results come in here’s what is clear: no matter how many delegates we win tonight, we’ve done something no one else thought was possible,” Bloomberg said in a 10-minute speech, his tone and content mostly flat. “We’ve gone from 1% in the polls to being a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.”
To add insult to injury Donald Trump hurled insults at Bloomberg on Twitter, calling him “the biggest loser tonight, by far” whose bid for the White House had seen “the complete destruction of his reputation. Way to go Mike!”
Trump and Bloomberg have traded insults on Twitter ever since Bloomberg announced his candidacy in November, with Trump frequently referring to his rival as “Mini Mike” and Bloomberg repeating his barb tonight that “where I come from intelligence is measured from the neck up”.
But Bloomberg’s campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey, was adamant on Tuesday that Bloomberg would press on and not stand aside to endorse his fellow moderate Joe Biden as other former rivals had done in recent days. “Absolutely not,” he told reporters when asked if Bloomberg would bow out tonight.
Bloomberg himself also indicated a desire to press on, at least until the Florida primary in two weeks’ time. “I came here because winning in November begins in Florida,” he told hundreds of his supporters, whose parking and refreshments at the Palm Beach county convention center were paid for by his campaign.
“I know we can do it, and you know who else knows we can do it? Donald Trump,” he added, referring to the White House incumbent whose Mar-a-Lago resort was only four miles away from the gathering.
The remaining six or so minutes of Bloomberg’s speech were devoted to standard stump talk including promises on issues including immigration, healthcare and gun reform.
Earlier in the day, Bloomberg was prickly at a campaign stop in Miami when he was asked if he had considered withdrawing from the race after two poor debate performances and tepid polling numbers.
“Joe is taking votes away from me. Have you asked Joe if he is going to drop out?” Bloomberg snapped back. “When you ask him, then you can call me.”
Asked if he thought his resistance was helping his progressive rival, Bloomberg said: “I’m not helping Bernie Sanders, I’m trying to help myself. I got in because I thought that I could beat Donald Trump and I thought I could do the job of being president and that’s why I’m here.”
Bloomberg, 78, spent the day crisscrossing Florida to support his push for its 219 primary delegates, a state campaign on which he has already spent about $35m on TV advertising. But supporters at the Palm Beach rally had mixed opinions over Bloomberg’s best next move. Some urged him to stay in the race; others thought the time had come to end a withering campaign that they saw as no longer viable.
Victoria Van Pelt, a Democratic delegate for Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, said disappointing results meant “he should stand aside and put all his money behind Joe Biden”.
Telbis Bailey, 40, a grocery store worker, disagreed. “He needs to stay in the race. You can’t win anything if you quit,” he said.
“Bloomberg would still be the best president, with the best laws, bringing jobs, wealth and profits.”
Adam Schoenfeld, a 56-year-old probability manager from West Palm Beach, said he would switch his support to Biden. “Mike Bloomberg is the most efficient mayor in my lifetime, incorruptible and, as opposed to the president, he can read and speak in a coherent manner,” said Schoenfeld, who is from New York.
“I was touting Bloomberg to my friends long before he declared he was running. New York ran like a fine timepiece under his administration. But if he doesn’t have a clear path I hope he will throw his resources and support to Biden. Bernie is not my first choice, but I would vote for anyone to beat Trump.”