Michael Bloomberg is polling very well with black voters and it has caught plenty of pundits and political junkies off guard. Some have expressed surprise at his rising poll numbers and skepticism that his appeal will have staying power.
It’s likely that lots of people assume that Bloomberg’s long time support for stop-and-frisk policing in New York City—which he apologized for in November—will make it hard for him to win over black voters. They assume, based on early poll numbers and past experience, that Biden has that constituency in the bag.
It is impossible to know for sure what is driving these numbers for Bloomberg and obviously his tidal wave of television ads is moving the needle. But, there is no doubt that Bloomberg has carved out his own education lane and drawn a striking contrast between himself and the rest of the field.
I have two words for the skeptics and the doubters—Andrew Gillum. Remember the young black Florida mayor who ran for governor in 2018 and saw his hostility to educational choice and charter schools come back to bite him with black moms? Unlike his opponents who are literally taking turns kissing the ring of the two major teachers’ unions. Bloomberg is leaning into his K-12 record in New York City and doubling down on his support for charter schools. (In an utterly wild twist today, Trump’s budget cuts federal dollars for charter schools.)
A majority of black voters support charter schools and school choice, largely because they have historically found themselves zoned to schools that have failed their communities for generations. The Gillum campaign made the calculation that black voters would overlook his positions on education and remain reliable Democratic voters. That calculation turned out to be a mistake. 100,000 black women opted for his Republican opponent and that was enough to tip the scales.
Bloomberg’s soaring poll numbers with black voters may be fleeting or may just be the natural result of his ad-spending spree. But I doubt it. We’d at be wise to also keep our eye on voter reaction to his education record and education plan—if history is any guide, it will appeal to black voters.