So, as everyone agrees, Mike Bloomberg bombed in his first debate appearance last night, wholly eviscerated by Elizabeth Warren. The worst moment for him of the night was when Warren asked him to release the women he had non-disclosure agreements with. Bloomberg had no answer at all.
This is a bit odd. Bloomberg seems to genuinely, deeply want Trump out of the White House, and he presumably thinks he’s the best person for the job. He has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars to win enough delegates to become the nominee. So why not drop a few million on debate prep? He could hire the best TV prep people in the world, and he could hire all kinds of people to try and anticipate the most obvious attacks from his opponents.
Maybe Bloomberg did a bunch of debate prep, but it doesn’t seem so. So, then, what happened? Here are a few guesses, none of which are mutually exclusive.
(1) Sheer Arrogance: Bloomberg believes he’s just so much better than the other candidates in lots of ways that he didn’t think he needed debate prep. He’d just think on his feet, muddle through, and then keep focusing on Super Tuesday. He underestimated the ferocity of his opponents’ attacks and overestimated his ability to respond perhaps because he simply couldn’t imagine anyone cutting him down to size.
(2) Indifference to Debates: Bloomberg knows he has to debate, but doesn’t think debates matter all that much at this point in the primary process because not that many people are tuning in. Perhaps he has research suggesting that the debates don’t matter, and so he didn’t prepare enough as a result.
(3) Personality Barriers: Bloomberg’s personality is such that debate prep wouldn’t do him much good. He’s not charismatic, he’s brash and arrogant, and he’s mostly set in his ways (he is 78, after all). So he anticipated that debate prep would be a lot of irritating and painstaking work for little benefit.
(4) Not Fully Committed: deep down, Bloomberg really just wants Trump gone and isn’t sure he wants to be president for reasons we don’t know. He’s happy to spend millions attacking Trump, but some part of him would rather just help the Democrats in general. At 78, and with $60 billion in the bank, maybe he doesn’t relish the thought of being the most politically powerful man in the world.
Even given these explanations, I’m still stunned he didn’t try at least a little harder.