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Mike Bloomberg spent $500 million to win nothing but American Samoa

Bloomberg spent more money on TV and radio than all the remaining candidates combined — and he flopped horribly.

Mike Bloomberg held his Super Tuesday night event in West Palm Beach, Florida, on March 3, 2020.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential race on Wednesday and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden — after spending more than $500 million of his own fortune on his campaign, all to only win the American Samoa caucus.

Bloomberg appeared on the ballot for the first time on Super Tuesday, with a particularly weak showing, despite throwing more money at his presidential bid than all the remaining candidates combined. His only victory was in the tiny American Samoa caucus, where he got five delegates (out of 1,991 need to win). Otherwise, he didn’t make the top two in any state on Super Tuesday, based on the results so far. While he may still win some delegates in California, and could pick up some district-level delegates in other states, Bloomberg was on track to come out of Tuesday with just one-tenth as many delegates as Biden, who’s now the frontrunner in the race.

Virginia marked a particularly embarrassing loss for Bloomberg, as Vox’s Emily Stewart has explained:

Bloomberg came in a distant fourth in Virginia, which former Vice President Joe Biden won, and appears to have failed to pass the threshold to get delegates. Not a great sign, given that he poured $18 million into television and digital ads there, spent millions of dollars there in the 2018 midterms, and held multiple campaign events and rallies there. A Bloomberg aide told CNN that though Bloomberg’s operation was good, it’s a “breeding ground” for Biden voters.

As Wall Street Journal reporter Julie Bykowicz pointed out, Biden and his allies spent about $360,000 in Virginia — 2 percent of what Bloomberg put into the state. Biden won Virginia with 53 percent of the vote, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders with 23 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 11 percent, and then Bloomberg with 10 percent. Bloomberg didn’t even get the 15 percent of the vote needed to qualify for delegates there.

One of the fears among the moderate wing of the Democratic Party going into Tuesday was that Bloomberg would play as a spoiler to Biden, who has surged in the polls thanks to a big primary win in South Carolina. Bloomberg didn’t even do well enough to accomplish that — as Biden swept most of the states on Tuesday, including delegate-rich Texas.

All of this was obviously bad news for Bloomberg, but it’s good news for Democrats who were worried about big money buying presidential elections. In Bloomberg’s case, that didn’t seem to be true. And it also wasn’t true for billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who recently dropped out after his own presidential bid sputtered.

That doesn’t necessarily prove that money doesn’t play a big role in elections. Maybe it’s just that Bloomberg is a uniquely weak candidate — a real possibility, given his disastrous initial debate performance and forgettable second debate. And Bloomberg launched his presidential bid relatively late, which is why Tuesday was the first time he appeared on any ballots.

But hundreds of millions of dollars later, it was all for nothing.