By Recker McDowell —
If you watched the NFL playoffs or posted on social media this weekend you probably have probably seen ads for Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer.
The two billionaires are putting a focus on Arizona in their Democratic presidential bids. They hope Arizona — where moderate Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won a U.S. Senate in 2018 — is hospitable to their wealth and business backgrounds.
Bloomberg has already landed staff and operations in Phoenix and Tucson and Steyer bankrolled an unsuccessful renewable energy initiative in Arizona in 2018.
Steyer and Bloomberg will test the marketplace of political ideas both among Democrats and in battleground states such as Arizona.
At the national level, the two rich businessmen contrast with the backgrounds and some of the policies of more progressive (and sometimes socialist) candidates in the race such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They also could divide voters in the primaries (including Arizona’s in March) potentially siphoning support from centrists such as Joe Biden and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
In Arizona, how Bloomberg and Steyer do vis-a-vis the likes of Sanders and Warren will show where Democratic voters are on the progressive versus moderate spectrum. Steyer has been a vociferous critic of President Donald Trump and advocates progressive policies. But Democratic voters will have to decide on his business background and wealth.
All of that could help show the direction of the U.S. Senate race between the GOP’s Martha McSally and Democrat Mark Kelly as well as how voters are feeling about Sinema’s middle-of-the-road path and reticence to criticize Trump.
Bloomberg and Steyer will also show directions of other Arizona races, including at the local level. Their television and social media spots are taking up space and voters’ attention. That will be a challenge this election cycle for candidates as Trump dominates news cycles.
State and local candidates will have to find ways to get their names and messages out to voters in a crowded political and social media landscape.
If Bloomberg and/or Steyer make waves in the presidential race and in Arizona it could show voters prefer a more moderate path and candidates with business backgrounds.
But if the two billionaires fail to make wave (including in Arizona) it would show Democrats are in for more a progressive wave both nationally and down the ballot.
That would then set up a stark contrast with Trump and Republicans in November.