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Bloomberg's Connecticut spending is eye-opening

With the fizzle of Iowa as the predictive season opener of Democrats' 2020 race to beat President Donald Trump, Michael Bloomberg's big bet on an alternative primary strategy already looks more interesting.

And that unfolding Bloomberg plan, to look beyond the traditional early primary scrum and work the long game, is no more apparent anywhere than here in Connecticut.

The former New York mayor already has launched an unprecedented presidential primary campaign organization here, with five now on staff and dozens more hires expected soon.

Two Connecticut state representatives are co-chairing the effort. Look for a big rollout soon of Connecticut events, endorsements and volunteer drives.

And, of course, there will be lots more advertising. Bloomberg, who already has spent close to $300 million, said after the Iowa debacle that he is doubling the ad buys.

Connecticut hasn't seen this kind of mobilization for a presidential candidate in decades. It's happening all over the country, but it seems especially remarkable here, in what's been a presidential election backwater for so long.

Brett Broesder, the new state director of the Bloomberg campaign here, told me they will be opening offices around the state, including one in New London or Groton.

"We definitely plan to have a significant footprint," he said. "It's exciting, overdue."

Gov. Ned Lamont's early fundraising in Connecticut for Joe Biden, whose campaign is already sputtering, I suspect, will reveal once again how politically tone deaf our Democratic governor can be. The fundraiser held at the governor's Greenwich mansion raised close to $450,000. Yawn.

Connecticut Democrats will vote April 28 in what's become known as the Acela primary, since it's held in five states served by Amtrak's fast Northeast Corridor train.

The Super Tuesday vote, March 15, could crack open the race and make every succeeding state primary and its delegates important. Bloomberg will be ready.

If Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders is in the lead at that time, a lot of moderate Democrats, including many of those sipping cocktails with Biden last fall at Lamont's Greenwich mansion, will think Bloomberg looks pretty good.

The most common lament about Bloomberg I hear from Democrats is that he is a New York billionaire trying to buy the presidency.

I don't buy it.

First, he's not buying votes, just spending his own money to get your attention and make his case. This is America, right?

He's not accepting a dime from anyone and so will owe allegiance to no one.

I'd much rather see a rich guy spend his own money, up front and in the open, than candidates using dark money that can't be traced, thanks to Republican-backed obscuring of campaign finance disclosure. He's even using it to explain his own tax-the-rich-more plans.

Is a billionaire spending his own money really worse than millionaires mingling and donating at a Greenwich mansion, expecting something in return?

Mostly I like Bloomberg's spending because I am practical. A guy worth more than $50 billion, money he made because he's wily and smart, promising to spend whatever it takes to get rid of Trump, makes me positively giddy.

We can reform campaign finance laws after we win back the White House.

After watching the fawning Republicans in the U.S. Senate shirk their constitutional responsibilities, shrugging off the power of Congressional oversight, I believe our democracy is at risk in this election.

The other thing that delights me about the Bloomberg 2020 push is that he promises to keep spending, whether he is the candidate or not. He says his campaign staff, which is already more than 2,000 strong, will stay in place until the November election.

That eventual saturation of the media should be able to drown out the inevitable Russian interference that Trump and his enablers in the Senate have done nothing to stop. Bloomberg and truth to counter Russian distortions.

I heard Trump promise during an early rally in New Hampshire in the 2016 race that he would self-fund his campaign and therefore be beholden to no one.

Who better than Michael Bloomberg to expose that big lie, a warmup from candidate Trump that set the stage for thousands more from President Trump.

Better yet, Bloomberg will be the candidate to make the exact same promise, and keep it.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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