Can Money Buy Bloomberg Love?

I’m going to start this newsletter tonight with perhaps the most obvious statement about politics ever written.

Money matters.

Just ask Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana or Senator Kamala Harris of California or any of the dozen other candidates who have already dropped out of the presidential race.

But for the man with the most money in the contest, the question is not whether money matters but whether it matters enough.

As we’ve written before, Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, is pursuing a highly unconventional approach in his campaign for the Democratic nomination.

Basically, his effort revolves around advertising. And a lot of it.

As Nick Corasaniti detailed for us last week, Mr. Bloomberg dropped more than $30 million on his first week’s worth of television ads across the country. It was the most expensive week for a presidential candidate in a primary election in United States history. He spent more in just four markets than the entire rest of the field spent that week combined.

On Monday, Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm, reported that Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign had spent $54.2 million on digital, broadcast and cable ads since he started advertising — two weeks ago.

Mr. Bloomberg is doing some on-the-ground campaigning, too. Today he visited Aurora, Colo., the site of a 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater, to unveil a sweeping gun control agenda.

But the scale of his advertising effort has become a flash point in the race, attracting a flood of criticism from rivals who argue that Mr. Bloomberg is benefiting from a political system — and party — that makes it far too easy for billionaires to buy their way into the contest.

Last night, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts went on Mr. Bloomberg’s own television network to make the case against him.

“I don’t believe that elections ought to be for sale,” she said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “And I don’t think as a Democratic Party that we should say that the only way you’re going to get elected, the only way you’re going to be our nominee, is either if you are a billionaire or if you’re sucking up to billionaires.”

But could Mr. Bloomberg’s unorthodox effort actually, well, work? To answer that question, I called up Lynn Vavreck, a political scientist at U.C.L.A. (and a contributor to The Upshot here at The New York Times).

All the academic research, conducted with different methods, on different races and in different years, comes up with the same results, she said: There is an impact from political ads. But it’s small. And short-lived.

As soon as a candidate matches a rival on ad spending, any advantage tends to disappear, Professor Vavreck said. The benefit is not all that sizable, anyhow, perhaps a couple of points in the polls.

Professor Vavreck cites a study she conducted of the 2012 presidential election, in which she found that while ads had an effect on voter attitudes, the impact was small and disappeared within a week.

Of course, no one has spent the way Mr. Bloomberg can, so there isn’t a perfect test case for his approach. But Professor Vavreck is doubtful that he’ll find much success, unless the advertising leads to significant amounts of media coverage and is matched with a robust traditional campaign operation.

“Can he stay home, do nothing else, buy $50 million in advertising and win the primary? The answer is that it’s highly unlikely,” she said. “There are lots of people who spend a lot of money. You can’t buy these things.”

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The week in impeachment

With the impeachment inquiry racing ahead, it can be hard to keep track of the daily stream of developments. So our colleagues from the Impeachment Briefing newsletter have generously volunteered to catch us up every Thursday on what has happened during the week.

The investigation moved to a new phase. After weeks of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, the Judiciary Committee took over the case this week. The panel, led by Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, is responsible for reviewing the evidence and writing up the formal articles of impeachment.

Democrats and Republicans released reports. The reports presented evidence collected during the Intelligence Committee’s investigation, with each side reaching its own conclusion: Republicans did not concede a single point of wrongdoing by President Trump, while Democrats made a vigorous case that Mr. Trump had sought to pressure Ukraine to interfere in the next election.

Constitutional scholars weighed in. In the Judiciary Committee’s first hearing, four legal experts explained the historical and constitutional basis for impeachment. Three experts brought in by Democrats said that evidence of Mr. Trump’s efforts clearly met the definition of an impeachable abuse of power; a fourth expert, invited by Republicans, disagreed.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for articles of impeachment. At a news conference on Thursday morning, Ms. Pelosi said she would ask the chairmen of the House committees to begin drafting articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump. Democrats hope to bring the articles for a full House vote before Christmas.

You can sign up for the Impeachment Briefing newsletter here.

… Seriously

Was there something in the water today? Everyone sure seemed a little testy.

Joe Biden: “You’re a damn liar, man.”

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