Since announcing his candidacy late last year, [Mike] Bloomberg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars from coast to coast on TV and internet advertising – betting that [Joe] Biden, the early frontrunner would stumble in the early going. And indeed, Biden finished fourth in Iowa and an even more disappointing fifth in New Hampshire.
South Carolina, which votes on Feb. 29, is the former vice president’s firewall. In Georgia, Bloomberg operators are already quietly touching base with Biden supporters – just in case that firewall doesn’t hold.
“The outreach has already begun,” said Howard Franklin, senior adviser to the Bloomberg campaign in Georgia. Franklin is a managing partner in Ohio River South, a political consulting firm lodged in an old brick office building blocks away from both the state Capitol and City Hall.
Bloomberg made his Georgia debut in January with a rally at Paschal’s, the Atlanta soul food restaurant with a long civil rights legacy. Since then, Franklin has been fielding inquiries from undecided Democrats – especially fellow African-Americans.
On the plus side, Bloomberg’s philanthropic activities mesh well with Atlanta’s reputation as a hub for black entrepreneurs. There’s the Greenwood Initiative aimed at increasing home ownership and business ownership among African-Americans. His campaign spending includes a $3.5 million ad buy through the trade organization representing 230 black-owned newspapers.
“There’s so many hand prints, fingerprints of Bloomberg the man and the organization across the country that people don’t know about,” Franklin said. “On the merits, I think he’s got a really strong record of service that comports with what African-Americans – progressive, conservative, moderate or otherwise – what to see from their leadership.”
But then there’s “stop and frisk,” the policy that – during Bloomberg’s 12 years as mayor of New York – allowed police to stop millions of men of color on neighborhood streets without cause. Last November, before he launched his presidential campaign, Bloomberg stood before one of the largest African-American congregations in New York and apologized for the policy.“
I was wrong,” Bloomberg said. “And I am sorry.”
I asked Franklin how he approached the topic. “New York was going through an unprecedented crime surge, and a lot of it had to do with gun violence,” he said. “’Stop and frisk’ was already on the books from Mr. Bloomberg’s predecessor.” (Franklin couldn’t bring himself to name Rudy Giuliani.)“
This just seemed to be one of the tools in the tool kit that could be used to address this issue,” he continued.
But this was Franklin’s more important point: “I think it’s fair to grant an elected leader who happens to be the leader of a very diverse city – probably the most diverse city in the country – some grace on an issue like addressing crime prevention and keeping people safe,” he said. “This issue has cropped up when our leaders have been black, when our leaders have been white – any color, male, female, young or old. We haven’t quite figured out exactly the best way to make sure people feel both safe and their civil rights are protected.”