Bloomberg is Banking on Brokered Convention, But His Super Tuesday Performance Makes Scenario Unlikely, Experts Say

mike bloomberg campaigns florida ahead Super Tuesday
Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg makes a stop at one of his campaign offices in the Little Havana neighborhood on March 3, 2020, in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is banking on a contested convention to secure the Democratic Party's nomination, but as early results showed Tuesday night, his plan appears to be backfiring.

With Bloomberg's disappointing showing during Super Tuesday, his plan to force the brokered convention appears to be growing more and more unlikely, experts said. That's because in order to block either Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders or former Vice President Joe Biden—the race's leading candidates—from clinching the nomination, Bloomberg has to take away a fair amount of delegates from them. And to amass a state's delegates, he needs to capture 15 percent or more of the vote.

"The possibility remains open theoretically, but at this point it's not a sure thing at all," Caitlin Jewitt, a political scientist at Virginia Tech, told Newsweek ahead of Bloomberg's disastrous performance. "I think we're a long way from there still."

"It's possible he can stay in the race polling at 10 or 12 percent in some states, but at that point, either Sanders or Biden are likely to capture the majority of delegates needed for the nomination," Jewitt added.

As of Wednesday morning, Bloomberg had collected just 44 delegates and won only one Super Tuesday territory: American Samoa. He failed to be viable in Alabama, Massachusetts, Minnesota,Oklahoma, North Carolina, Vermont and Virginia, and it looks like he could be unsuccessful in capturing 15 percent of the vote in other states as well.

NBC News reported late Tuesday night that the Bloomberg team was going to "reassess" the campaign on Wednesday after the early results showed him gaining little traction with voters.

However, as Bloomberg headed into Super Tuesday with longshot odds, he appeared to be undaunted.

"Well, I don't think that I can win any other ways," he told reporters outside his Miami campaign office on Tuesday.

It was quite an admission for the billionaire candidate who debuted in the Democratic primary race Tuesday because he chose to skip the first four early-voting states to focus on gathering delegates in bigger, more diverse areas.

The public will have a much clearer picture of whether there will be a contested convention after St. Patrick's Day on March 17, according to Elaine Kamarck. She is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of Primary Politics: Everything You Need to Know About How America Nominates Its Presidential Candidates.

"By that point, you will see who has the delegate lead and how big that lead is," Kamarck explained. "The thing to watch for on a contested convention is: Do you have three or more candidates who are closely bunched together? That's pretty hard to do, and I wouldn't count on it."

The states that hold primaries on March 17 are delegate-rich Ohio, Illinois, Florida and Arizona. After St. Patrick's Day, more than 2,440 delegates of the total 3,979 up for grabs in the Democratic contest will have been awarded. By the end of March, 65 percent of all delegates will be allocated.

A contested convention—sometimes referred to as a "brokered" convention—occurs when no candidate earns enough delegates (1,991) to secure the Democratic nomination. If that were to happen, the process would enter a second phase where powerful superdelegates come into play.

Bloomberg made his own case for a contested convention during a Fox News town hall on Monday night, claiming that it provides the opportunity for "horse-trading" and that any of the candidates, not just the leaders, could "swap votes and make deals."

"It could be somebody that had only a small number of delegates," the ex-mayor said.

But experts say that even with a contested convention there's little chance Bloomberg would emerge victorious—especially if he doesn't prove himself in state primaries.

"I think the Democratic Party would be reluctant to go very far from where the voters wanted, because then they would fear really disrupting the party and angering voters," Jewitt said.

Regardless, Bloomberg appears determined to remain in the race. He has bristled at questions on whether he planned to drop out, telling reporters that he's won elections in the past and "doesn't plan to start losing now." Plus, he has the resources—he's pledged to spend $1 billion if necessary on his campaign—to stay in the fight until the Democratic National Convention in July.

"I think people should vote for me, and I'm in it to win it," he said Tuesday.