As Utah inches closer to its March 3 presidential primary, Democratic candidate and former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg is stepping up his already robust campaign in the state.
Bloomberg has spent more than a quarter of a billion dollars across the country on advertising — more than double all other candidates combined, according to an analysis by Axios. It’s part of an unconventional strategy to skip early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire to focus on Super Tuesday states.
But Mike for Utah State Director Lauren Littlefield said the campaign is not just focused on advertising. It opened an office in Salt Lake City in January, and plans to open another in the southern part of Salt Lake County on Saturday. The campaign has hired 19 people in a little over a month, according to Littlefield.
“Our field team is busy making voter contact: knocking on doors, making phone calls, attending community events, utilizing social media and texting to reach out to our huge unaffiliated voter universe,” Littlefield said.
More than one out of every three voters in Utah is unaffiliated, as of late 2019, and the Utah Democratic primary is open to those unaffiliated voters.
Bloomberg’s campaign is attempting to position him as a moderate who has what it takes to defeat President Donald Trump, and Mike Bloomberg 2020 States Director Dan Kanninen said the campaign’s network of more than 1,700 staffers outside the campaign headquarters is evidence of that.
“The president’s campaign is very strong,” Kanninen said. “And it will take the strongest team Democrats have ever built to effectively take him on this fall.”
On Monday, the day before Utah’s mail-in ballots were set to be sent out, Littlefield said support for Bloomberg was growing. She pointed to recent endorsements from former Salt Lake City mayor Ralph Becker and Congressman Ben McAdams, D-Utah, and to a January poll of Democratic primary voters from the Salt Lake Tribune / Suffolk University that puts Bloomberg in fourth place. Ten percent of those voters said they favored Bloomberg, far less than the 27% who said they would vote for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said Bloomberg’s big spending on advertising has boosted his profile enough to earn him more support than what’s expected for someone who entered the race late in the cycle.
“It's unusual for candidates to have those kinds of resources,” Burbank said. “There are … Democrats who will be voting in this primary who were saying, ‘Gee, you know, I really can't support somebody like Bernie Sanders. Who else is out there?’ And the name that they've seen over and over and over again at this point is Mike Bloomberg. It may encourage some of them to, in fact, vote for Bloomberg.”
Still, Burbank said he doesn’t expect that to be enough for Bloomberg to place in the top tier of Democratic candidates in Utah.