Michael Bloomberg takes steps towards Democratic presidential run
Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, is laying the groundwork to enter the Democratic presidential race months before voters in Iowa and New Hampshire kick off the fight to choose the 2020 nominee.
Mr Bloomberg, 77, ruled out a run in March, saying he was “clear eyed” about the difficulty of breaking through a crowded field where much of the energy had been with candidates well to his left.
But Howard Wolfson, a Bloomberg adviser, said the former mayor had grown concerned that the Democratic candidates were “not well positioned” to defeat Donald Trump.
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Mr Bloomberg would file the necessary paperwork this week to be included on the ballot in Alabama, which has an early filing deadline for its primary.
People close to Mr Bloomberg said he had held back from entering the race as Joe Biden, the former vice-president, remained the frontrunner. Over the past few months, however, Mr Biden has lost some of his initial steam.
Mr Biden remains ahead in national polls, followed by Elizabeth Warren and her fellow progressive senator Bernie Sanders. Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend mayor who is positioning himself as the younger, moderate alternative to Mr Biden, is in fourth place.
But in Iowa and New Hampshire — the first states where voters have seen the candidates up close — Mr Biden has lost the lead. Ms Warren is now in front with Mr Biden dropping to fourth.
Mr Bloomberg, who ran for New York mayor as a Republican, is considering entering the race as a Friday deadline to file election papers looms in Alabama. If he does so, Mr Bloomberg would be the fourth Democratic contender in their 70s.
“If Mike runs he would offer a new choice to Democrats built on a unique record running America’s biggest city, building a business from scratch and taking on some of America’s toughest challenges as a high-impact philanthropist,” Mr Wolfson said.
A campaign would raise questions about the future of Mr Bloomberg’s eponymous financial data company, which is the source of his wealth. Mr Bloomberg told an Iowa radio station last December that he would either put Bloomberg LP in a blind trust or sell it if he were to run.
Analysts have questioned Mr Bloomberg’s chances of winning over large numbers of Democratic primary voters, but see a campaign by the centrist New Yorker posing a particular challenge to Mr Biden. Both are white men in their 70s who appeal more to the party’s moderate wing.
Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia politics expert, said it was unclear how Mr Bloomberg would win the nomination.
“I’m not sure what his path is, or if he even has one. You can’t buy a nomination,” said Mr Sabato, pointing to the case of Tom Steyer, another billionaire who has spent millions but has gained little traction. “Bloomberg must think Democrats want to reject the field they have. Actually, most Democrats seem reasonably happy with their choices.”
Billionaires have been the butt of stump speeches by candidates, including Mr Sanders and Ms Warren, as the party debates policies from universal healthcare to a wealth tax. Mr Steyer is polling less than 1 per cent nationally, according to an average of recent polls by RealClearPolitics.
The Warren campaign said the move revealed that the wealthy were scared. Her team trolled Mr Bloomberg on Twitter, copying him on a tweet promoting her “calculator for billionaires” tool. The calculator shows how much more billionaires would pay in taxes if Ms Warren became president.
“They’re doing whatever they can to try to stop Elizabeth and our movement from winning in 2020 and bringing big, structural change in 2021,” the Warren campaign said.
Cory Booker, the New Jersey senator who has been unable to break out in the polls, used the news about the Bloomberg move to raise money from his supporters.
“Michael Bloomberg is planning to file petitions tomorrow to get on the presidential ballot in Alabama,” the Booker campaign told supporters in an email. “We already have one self-funding billionaire in this race, and it looks like we just got another.”
Mr Bloomberg has been a big political donor. He spent more than $100m to help Democrats in the 2018 midterms, in addition to his campaigns through Bloomberg Philanthropies on issues such as climate change, gun control and tobacco cessation.
His adviser Mr Wolfson said in a statement: “Based on his record of accomplishment, leadership and his ability to bring people together to drive change, Mike would be able to take the fight to Trump and win.”
Mr Bloomberg also considered making a run for president as an independent in 2016, but decided not to proceed because he could not see a path to victory. He was also worried that he would make it easier for Mr Trump to win the presidency.
The billionaire had even vetted Mike Mullen, a respected retired admiral who served as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, to serve as his running mate.
Mr Bloomberg would become the 18th contender in the 2020 Democratic field, which has shrunk from 26 candidates. New York City mayors have a poor record in races for higher office. Bill de Blasio, the incumbent, withdrew from the Democratic race in September.