West Palm Beach, Florida (CNN)Michael Bloomberg, after building the most expensive primary campaign team in history, flew back home to New York Tuesday night surely questioning his return on investment.
His formal entry into the Democratic presidential race did not go remotely like Bloomberg had planned — or deliver what he had paid for. After spending months touting his ability to win on Super Tuesday, Bloomberg turned in such a dismal performance that he and his top campaign advisers admitted that he would be reassessing his path forward on Wednesday.
Bloomberg’s top campaign aides see a silver lining in the fact that the former New York mayor is actually set to win some delegates. But the good news pales in comparison to what Bloomberg’s top campaign advisers expected they would be celebrating on Tuesday.
A grim reality has set in around Bloomberg’s New York headquarters: Former Vice President Joe Biden is overwhelming him in one state after another, despite spending virtually nothing compared to Bloomberg’s millions.
“This isn’t going as planned,” one adviser said bluntly.
That mood is compounded by a sense of fear sweeping through Bloomberg’s operation that the New York mayor’s well-funded, sprawling operation could complicate Biden’s extraordinarily swift consolidation of the moderate wing of the party, and eventually help Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the candidate he set out to stop.
“No,” a top Democrat close to the campaign told CNN. “He does not want to help Sanders become the nominee.”
Bloomberg’s campaign looked to mask the poor showing with an opulent, electric event here in West Palm Beach, where supporters were given free t-shirts, a smorgasbord of food and all the wine and beer they could drink. Fans of the former mayor danced and sang to beats mixed by a local DJ as a smoke machine set the mood.
But, when it came time for Bloomberg to speak, it took mere minutes for him to diminish the importance of Super Tuesday, a series of contests that his team spent months building toward.
“As the results come in, here is what is clear,” Bloomberg said. “No matter how delegates we win tonight, we have done something no one else thought was possible.”
He added: “In just three months, we have gone from 1% in the polls to be a contender for the Democratic nomination for president.”
Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s campaign manager, put a finer point on it shortly after the speech: “Tonight, only one-third of delegates will be allotted.”
That spin stands in stark contrast to what Bloomberg’s campaign was saying about Super Tuesday not long ago — a sign that the former mayor’s calculation was forced to change by his poor performance.
The bad night started early, when CNN and other outlets called the race in Virginia for Biden.
Bloomberg’s campaign, before