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Why Does Elizabeth Warren Seem To Be Locked In A Death Spiral Of Mutual Destruction With Michael Bloomberg?

Warren may very well turn out to be the person who buries Bloomberg. But how does that help her?

If you watched the South Carolina Democratic debate last night, you might come away with the impression that job #1 for the Massachusetts senator right now is obliterating the former Mayor of New York.

That debate wasn’t the best so far, by far, but it contained a lot of substantive exchanges about policy among the other candidates. Though when it came around to Warren it seemed like “Bloomberg, Bloomberg, Bloomberg.” (Which overshadowed meaningful exchanges about why her healthcare proposals are better than Bernie Sanders’, etc.) So much so that unlike at the previous debate in Las Vegas, other candidates spent comparatively little time attacking Bloomberg. Because they probably knew they didn’t have to, because Warren was a lock to do that part of the job.

And he’s hardly the frontrunner right now, especially after she destroyed him in Las Vegas. Which was good strategy at the time. But now? In our view, at least, her venomous and unyielding focus on Bloomberg, made both of them look worse.

“OK, you made your point!” we kept yelling through our laptop.

So we’re having trouble seeing how Warren’s strategy makes sense. (Maybe you can help us). Unless the Massachusetts Senator has decided she has no chance at the nomination, and if she’s going down, at least she’s going to take Bloomberg down with her? She clearly despises him. Otherwise? (We acknowledge this is the second story along these lines we’ve published in the past 2 weeks, so maybe we’re getting overly focused on this too.)

But look at this Warren video ad she’s putting out for Super Tuesday. What does this tell us about Warren other than she can’t stand Bloomberg?

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Why waste money that way?

• What would make the most sense is probably the most far-fetched possibility: that she’s secretly teamed up with another candidate who has more of a shot at this point, but doesn’t want to waste his/her time on Bloomberg; would rather talk policy. But #1, that’s a conspiracy theory and we have nothing to back it up, and #2 it doesn’t make a lot of sense either except as a “back room deal” that would presuppose she’s agreeable to losing.

• Is it because he’s a billionaire and a hypocrite and liar who’s supported terrible policies in the past? We already got that. No overload of Bloomberg ads on our Facebook feed (which we hardly look at anymore) is going to change that.

• Maybe she’s demonstrating what she’d do to Trump. It seemed to start out that way. Her first statement about Bloomberg in Las Vegas, which was the first thing she said in the debate there about anything at all, was:

“So I’d like to talk about who we’re running against, a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

And many of the paths she’s going down with Bloomberg are equally or even more applicable with Trump. But it’s not really coming off that way anymore. More like a personal grudge. (Although, as one of our readers pointed out today, Warren’s very good at thinking on her feet, so could still be very effective against Trump, should she get that far.)

• Or that Bloomberg’s wishy-washiness about NDAs with former female employees should be taken to mean he’s Harvey Weinstein lite? Not something he’s very good at defending himself against. But again, we got that point, in abundance, the first time Warren made it.

• Or is it simple revenge, as Warren pointed out multiple times in the South Carolina debate (and Bloomberg didn’t deny), that Bloomberg supported her Republican opponent, Scott Brown, when she won her Senate seat in Massachusetts in 2012? (Not to mention him supporting Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, considered a “moderate” when John McCain was alive, but who’s now morphed into Trump’s best buddy).

Since we can’t figure it out, we figured we’d look at what other ideas some news organizations that are a lot smarter than we are have about it.

The Intercept reminds us Elizabeth Warren is at her best when she’s “on the attack….slaying villains.” And yeah, that’s true. Maybe what she’s trying to show is how she’s a real bulldog who will go all out for the American people. But in order to do that, we think, at some point you have to stop fighting against everybody else, and start fighting for yourself.

• The ever-practical Politico asserts “Warren’s punches pay off” in a very literal sense: her attacks on Bloomberg at least temporarily revved up her fund raising in a big way after Las Vegas. And yeah, we shouldn’t underestimate that in the balancing act that a political campaign often is.

• And NBC News asserts: “Elizabeth Warren nailed Michael Bloomberg. But he’s too rich for any criticism to stick”. Now this we totally disagree with. While there’s no way of quantifying it, since nobody’s had the opportunity to vote for him yet (his own doing), he’s really slipped in polls, despite his heavy spending. So much for “nobody watches the debates/Bloomberg’s spending a fortune to get in front of their faces”. And that’s due in some part at least for his unbelievably poor performance in his first debate, which can largely be credited to Warren’s efforts. Also we think to people getting so inundated by Bloomberg ads that they’re starting to get annoyed by them/him. (Usually he’s smarter than this.) Plus we really don’t think TV ads matter that much anymore except to show you’re “present” in a certain market. Beyond that, we don’t think volume matters much. Online ads too, except in the context of what your friends may be saying about them. (But we digress — and that’s a whole story for another day.) Then again, Warren’s results or poll numbers don’t seem to have benefited from her sustained attack on Bloomberg either. So why double-down on that?

Yes, if you don’t like/believe in Bloomberg it’s worth keeping extraordinary pressure on him at least until he finally starts appearing on the ballot. Assuming (as many are now), he’ll underperform at that point. Which’ll be next Tuesday. Super Tuesday. But at the expense of your own well-thought out messages, plans and policies? Unless your message is you’re gonna immovably fight anything and anyone who thinks they can use money and power to elbow others out of the way? Still, we don’t get it. Elizabeth Warren has truly interesting (whether you agree with her or not), often workable ideas (and unlike other candidates often takes the time to show how they will play out and be paid for). Going after Bloomberg until he’s killed as a candidate may be necessary, but seemingly dropping everything for that, after you already totally took him apart…?

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