Senior advisor Ryan Hawkins charts the former mayor’s path forward in Missouri
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s game plan for the Democratic presidential nomination is unconventional. He’s forgone the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, focusing his time and an exorbitant amount of money on other places — including Missouri.
It’s a unique strategy for sure, but it’s one Ryan Hawkins, a senior advisor for the campaign in Missouri, is confident could work for Bloomberg and leave a lasting impact on Democratic politics for years to come.
In a long-ranging interview about Bloomberg’s path forward in Missouri — and his investment into the Democratic campaign infrastructure within the state — Hawkins touted the former mayor as “that middle ground of practical realism” for voters. Former Vice President Joe Biden has gotten off to a rough start, and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s progressive policies “are not in line” with Missouri values, Hawkins said.
Ahead of the state’s March 10 primary, Bloomberg’s campaign has funneled more than $4 million into Missouri, crowding the airwaves with ads promising he will “fight for our future.” A Remington Research Group poll conducted earlier this year — and before the debacle of the Iowa caucuses — put Bloomberg in second place, just behind Biden.
And Bloomberg has a robust team in place in Missouri, employing more operatives throughout the state than Biden or Warren, according to data from the Missouri Democratic Party.
Bloomberg, a 77-year-old billionaire, served three terms as New York City’s mayor — first as a Republican and then as an independent. He championed efforts to strengthen the city’s public education system and alleviate poverty.
But it’s Bloomberg’s positions on the environment and gun violence, specifically, that will resonate with Missourians, Hawkins said.
Hawkins, a partner at the Winding Creek Strategies consulting firm, has been involved with a bevy of political campaigns nationwide, from polling for then-President Barack Obama in 2012 to aiding U.S. Senate races in North Dakota. But he didn’t have plans to join a presidential campaign until he got a call from a friend about Bloomberg’s peculiar strategy.
“This is the first time in modern history that somebody is actually running for the nomination, not to be governor of Iowa, and understands delegates in California and Texas and Missouri and Michigan, these are all important places that we should be running,” Hawkins said.
And just as Bloomberg is committed to winning the nomination and defeating Republican President Donald Trump in November, he is focused on making investments in the Democratic Party as well, Hawkins said.
“There’s just not a lot of skilled operatives and staff that have the latest training, that understand how to merge the worlds of digital organizing with traditional voter contact,” Hawkins said. “It’s been great to see: We have almost 40 people on staff across the state, and I’m watching them take their skills to the next level. They’re going to be here for 2022, 2024. This is important for state politics, but it’s also really important for us to be competitive.”
The Bloomberg campaign keeps a map on its website of where he’s traveled. He hasn’t visited Missouri yet, but Hawkins said he expects him to as the Show-Me State “is definitely a focus” (and this New York transplant hopes he will bring bagels with him). But in the meantime, surrogates are coming to Missouri, and the campaign has planned a whole host of “intimate-type setting” events for potential voters, from a “Kansas City barbecue caucus” to pairing hockey matches with health care discussions.
But can another wealthy New Yorker win a presidential nomination — especially in the Democratic Party — so soon after Trump’s victory in 2016? And will Missouri voters trust a candidate from the nation’s largest city?
“We’re past the labels of where you’re from, what party. The country is kind of in crisis, and I think voters have two choices. They have the chaos that is coming from the White House and the ‘me, me, me’ mentality, or they have somebody who says, ‘We’re going to tackle healthcare. We’re going to make sure that pre-existing conditions are protected. We’re going to tackle climate change,’” Hawkins said.
Bloomberg has five total campaign offices in Missouri so far: Bridgeton, Clayton, Kansas City, and St. Louis.
Missouri’s presidential preference primary election is March 10, a week after Super Tuesday. Feb.12 is the last day to register to vote.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.