BY DAVID CATANESE
MCCLATCHY WASHINGTON BUREAU/ TNS
WASHINGTON – Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign has hired more than 200 staffers to work in 21 states, aides told McClatchy, providing the New York billionaire with the largest organization after the early voting states of any 2020 Democratic candidate.
Bloomberg, a late entrant into the White House race, finalized a fleet of state leadership hires this week, signing on a cadre of former campaign hands to Barack Obama, past presidential and gubernatorial races and national and state party committees.
It means Bloomberg, who is skipping the first four nominating contests in February, now has teams in nine of the 14 Super Tuesday states that vote on March 3, as well as aides in four states that vote in April. The campaign’s beefed-up ground game supplement the north of $80 million the former New York City mayor has already spent on TV ads through this week.
“We can have a large and concurrent conversation with the American people in 29 or 30 contests all at once while our opponents are stuck talking to a narrow portion of the electorate in the early states,” said Dan Kanninen, a veteran Democratic operative directing Bloomberg’s effort in the states. “It means we’re out of the sandbox. … While we’re late to the contest overall, we’re going to be early to the March states.”
Hiring in Florida
Bloomberg, who has tapped into his massive personal wealth to fund his campaign, is hiring staff in the following states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, which all vote on Super Tuesday; Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi, which vote a week later on March 10; Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio, which vote on March 17 and Georgia, which votes March 24.
Additionally, Bloomberg has already assigned staff to the general election battleground state of Wisconsin, the sole primary on April 7, as well as the late April contests of Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania.
Planned Bloomberg campaign office projections include 13 in Pennsylvania, 12 in Ohio, nine in Michigan, seven in Wisconsin and five in Tennessee, according to a partial list shared first with McClatchy.
The moves are a reflection of the political talent that can still be drawn to a longshot, unorthodox presidential bid if its largely unconstrained financially. The strategy is to plant deep roots in places that are not only vital in a prolonged primary slog, but in a general election against President Donald Trump.
“So many of the most critical states in the fall are in those March contest states,” said Kanninen. “Donald Trump is not governing — he’s campaigning in all these places and Democrats aren’t. When we get to these places there’s relief that there’s a Democrat there to take on Donald Trump.”
To start, the initial 170 staff will be placed in the states, with the rest helmed in Bloomberg’s New York headquarters. The team will only grow from there after the holidays.
In California, the largest delegate trove in the country, Kyle Layman, the former western states political director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, will serve as a senior adviser.
He’ll be joined by Drew Godinich, another former DCCC aide who will run communications and strategic initiative director Christine Turner, who served on Obama’s National Security Council.
Carla Brailey, a vice chair of the Texas Democratic Party, is heading up Bloomberg’s team in the state with the second biggest delegate pool. Florida will be overseen by Brandon Davis, a former chief of staff at the Democratic National Committee who ran Andrew Gillum’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2018. Davis will also serve in a senior advisory role out of New York.
Obama alumni hired
In North Carolina, James Mitchell, a Charlotte city councilman and former president of the National League of Cities, will join Justin Vollmer, a Democratic organizer who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, as senior advisers.
Other Obama alumni turned Team Bloomberg include Colorado senior adviser Ray Rivera, who directed Obama’s western caucus strategy, Maryland senior adviser Jason Waskey, who was Obama’s 2012 state director, Maine senior adviser Michael Cuzzi, who was Obama’s 2008 New Hampshire political director, Missouri state director Grant Campbell, who was Obama’s director of advance, Ohio state director Aaron Pickrell, who was Obama’s 2008 Ohio director and Virginia senior adviser Lise Clavel, Obama’s 2012 Virginia director.
Democratic operative Michael Ceraso, who worked for Pete Buttieig’s campaign earlier this year, said Bloomberg is attracting Obama-era talent because they are sober about the main task of this election.
“The current political environment isn’t looking for hope and change. No, voters are placing a premium on beating the other team above everything else. Former Obama operatives understand this,” said Ceraso. “Oh, and it doesn’t hurt they can collect a huge check along the way.”