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Now we have a story about a campaign promise made by someone who's not even a candidate anymore. Former New York mayor and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg made the promise earlier this year to spend whatever it takes to help Democrats defeat Donald Trump. NPR's Mara Liasson reports on whether that's actually happening.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: When a billionaire with a history of investing generously and strategically in campaigns promised to spend whatever it takes, it made Democrats sit up and take notice. Jim Messina, who ran Barack Obama's 2012 campaign, interpreted Bloomberg's pledge this way.
JIM MESSINA: Spending about a billion dollars - it meant making sure that Donald Trump did not have a typical incumbent advantage on finance. And it meant helping us catch up in a couple places where Trump was well ahead of us, which was digital and data.
LIASSON: Bloomberg has already spent well over $350 million for Democrats this cycle, including a $35 million investment in a digital and data platform he gives to Democratic campaigns at cost. Bloomberg fully intends to spend whatever it takes, according to Michael Nutter, the former Philadelphia mayor and national political chair of Bloomberg's short-lived billion-dollar primary campaign. But Nutter says that can't be defined by a specific dollar amount. Instead, it's how and where Bloomberg spends that matters.
MICHAEL NUTTER: Two hundred seventy-five million dollars of anti-Trump ads during the candidacy, $18 million transferred to the party, another $20 million to help, you know, Dems who, you know, may have some challenges. It's $5 million to Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight.
LIASSON: And the list goes on and on. Altogether, it makes Bloomberg the single biggest donor to the Democrats this cycle. In the battleground state of North Carolina, for example, Bloomberg has put money into field organizing, says Democratic state Rep. Graig Meyer, who's in charge of funding and recruiting state-level candidates.
GRAIG MEYER: What the Bloomberg campaign did right was they put money into field organizing. And so that - getting campaign operations up and running, building a volunteer base, setting up the structure for direct voter contact - all of that is happening because they made that investment through the DNC.
LIASSON: But, says Meyer, to give Democrats in North Carolina a real advantage, Bloomberg could do a lot more.
MEYER: In no way has the Bloomberg operation put direct money into down-ticket races besides through the overall coordinated effort. Thirty to $50 million is probably the right amount that would be a completely transformative game-changer. I imagine Bloomberg could afford to do 30- to $50 million in North Carolina if he wanted to.
HOWARD FRANKLIN: I think he did set the bar high.
LIASSON: That's Howard Franklin, who was a senior adviser to the Bloomberg campaign in Georgia. He says to make Georgia truly competitive, Bloomberg should make an eight-figure investment there.
FRANKLIN: Eight figures gets you on the television in the media market you care about. I think it puts boots on the ground. I think it, you know, gets you telephones and social media. And you know, again, with everything the country is going through and the attention that the city of Atlanta in particular has gotten, I just think that there isn't a better place to make the case for a more socially just and equitable approach to policing.
LIASSON: Bloomberg is getting pitches like that all day, every day. Although there's no evidence yet that he's spending all that he promised, that doesn't mean Bloomberg can't or won't in the remaining 97 days of the campaign. Bloomberg has a history of coming in late and spending big. In 2018, he was the single biggest Democratic investor in House races, and the donations he made in September helped flip 21 red districts blue. Nutter says the details on Bloomberg's remaining 2020 investments are TBD.
NUTTER: All of which are still being determined and decided and figured out. I mean, this is politics. You don't just, you know, kind of throw the money out the window and hope it lands in the right places. Mike makes strategic investments to change outcomes using data and evidence.
LIASSON: In the next month or so, Bloomberg's team says it will be clear how much and where he has decided to invest, and then Democrats can decide for themselves if they think he's spending whatever it takes.
Mara Liasson, NPR News.
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