Michael Bloomberg files to enter Democratic presidential primary

Michael Bloomberg files to enter Democratic presidential primary
Source: Bloomberg Opinion

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Billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken his first steps towards the 2020 presidential race. Representatives of Bloomberg filed paperwork with the Alabama Democratic Party on Friday, 10 November, to put his name on the ballot for the upcoming Super Tuesday contest on March 3 next year.

The submission of the paperwork indicates that Bloomberg intends to run for the Democratic nomination for president.

What do we know so far?

Bloomberg was required to submit the paperwork because Alabama has the earliest primary filing date in the country, and failing to submit in time would have resulted in him being omitted from the ballot.

The New York Times reports that Bloomberg plans to skip the first four primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. He will instead focus on states such as Alabama and California that hold primaries soon after.

According to the New York Times, Bloomberg’s strategy is unconventional and high-risk. He would shun the town hall meetings and door-to-door campaigning that is archetypal of states like Iowa and New Hampshire. In a “route to the Democratic nomination that has never succeeded in modern politics,” Bloomberg would instead rely on a sustained and costly campaign of paid advertising and canvassing on a grand scale beginning after the primaries (primary election) have started.

Despite filling for the Alabama primary, reports suggest that Bloomberg has yet to make a final decision on his candidacy.


Why is Bloomberg thinking of running?

Despite deciding against running for president earlier this year, it appears that Bloomberg has reversed this decision. According to Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson, the billionaire is entering the race to “ensure that Trump is defeated" in next year’s election.

Alongside the desire to defeat Trump, CNN adds that the strength of the Democratic field concerns Bloomberg. The travails of Joe Biden on the campaign trail have led to concerns among moderates that he is not strong enough to secure the nomination.

The difficulties experienced by Biden has opened the door for other candidates. Leftwing senators like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have joined Biden as frontrunners in the race. Bloomberg is concerned that Sanders and Warren are too left-wing to secure a victory against Trump.

A Democratic strategist who has worked with Bloomberg told CNN that Bloomberg reconsidered his decision after the election in Virginia, where investments from his gun control group – Everytown for Gun Safety – helped Democrats win control of the General Assembly.

Running for president is a long-standing ambition for Bloomberg. At 77, the 2020 election may represent the final opportunity the former New York City mayor will get to run for the White House. Bloomberg has previously considered running as an Independent in the 2008 and 2016 elections.

According to a BBC report, a more simple motive for Bloomberg entering the Democratic race is that he thinks he can win. Polling shows that there are still a lot of Democrats who haven’t decided upon their preferred candidate.

During a New York Times/Siena College poll, the majority of respondents in four of six presidential battleground states replied ‘don’t know’ in response to all the Democratic choices. A recent Economist/YouGov poll also showed that 22% of respondents wished they had more choices than the Democrats currently running.

However, polling also found that Bloomberg would be the sixth-favorite candidate should he enter the Democratic race now. Additionally, these results showed that Democratic primary voters dislike Bloomberg more than any other candidate.

What does this mean for the Democratic race?

If Bloomberg enters the race, he will be another candidate in an already crowded field. Seventeen candidates remain, even after others have dropped out.

Progressive politics has energized the Democratic race. Medicare for All and the Green New Deal have been at the forefront of debate. Liberal Senators Warren and Sanders have advanced as frontrunners.

If Bloomberg runs, he is expected to adopt a moderate, centrist position. It is unclear how successful another centrist candidate would fare in the race. The Democratic Party base has shifted to the left, and ideas that were once on the fringe are now mainstream.

Regardless, the emergence of a centrist alternative would harm Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. The two candidates have been competing for the center-ground since the race began. The Atlantic reports that “Bloomberg is considering spending vast sums of money to muscle onto the moderate turf.”

The Atlantic also claims that Elizabeth Warren may benefit if Bloomberg enters the race. A Bloomberg candidacy could reinvigorate the Warren campaign. Polls suggest that support for Warren has stagnated. They also show that she might struggle in a contest against Trump. Warren has built her candidacy on the claim that plutocrats control America’s government. Running against a multi-billionaire who has slammed her proposed wealth tax, which is supported by more than 80% of Democrats, would be an ideal scenario for Warren.


What has been the reaction?

Appearing in Iowa with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders rebuked Bloomberg’s potential presidential bid. Calling Bloomberg by name, Sanders responded, “so tonight we say to Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires: sorry, you ain’t going to buy this election.”

Sanders has been a long-term critic of the billionaire class. In the October 2019 Democratic debate, Sanders said that “billionaires should not exist.”

Bloomberg also faced criticism from local Democratic parties about his intended strategy of sidestepping the primaries in early voting states.

Troy Price, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, criticized Bloomberg’s decision by saying that the early primaries “makes candidates and their campaigns better prepared for a general election fight.” Iowa voters, he said, “kick the tires and ask the hard questions.”

Bloomberg was also criticized by the chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, Ray Buckley. “We are disappointed and frankly very surprised that any candidate would launch a campaign for the White House where their path doesn’t run through New Hampshire or any of the other early states,” Buckley said.

Joe Biden welcomed Bloomberg into the race, despite the notion that the billionaire was entering the race because of his own flaws. “Michael is a solid guy, and let’s see where it goes. I have no, no problem with him getting into the race.”

“In terms of he’s running because of me, the last polls I looked at, I’m pretty far ahead,” Biden added. “If I’m not mistaken, I’m doing pretty well both relative to Trump and relative to all the people running in the Democratic primary."

Former Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, a moderate who has endorsed Biden, said it is possible that Bloomberg could take some of Biden’s support. “I very much would like to see Joe Biden be president, but if Mike Bloomberg was the nominee of the Democratic Party, would I be disappointed? Not in the slightest.”

The Republican National Committee released a statement saying that the billionaire’s prospective entry “underscores the weak Democrat field."

President Trump has said that Bloomberg would be an ideal rival because he “doesn’t have the magic to do well.”

“Little Michael will fail,” Trump replied to reporters. “There is nobody I’d rather run against than Little Michael, that I can tell you.”

Bloomberg’s political history

Bloomberg served as the 108th Mayor or New York City. He was first elected in 2001 and held the office for three consecutive terms until 2013.

Despite being a life-long Democrat, Bloomberg switched his party registration in 2001 to run for mayor as a Republican. He ran as an Independent in his third term.

As Mayor, he defended the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy. Critics say this disproportionately targeted African Americans and Hispanics.

He endorsed Hilary Clinton in the 2016 election, and in 2018, changed his political affiliation back to Democratic.

Bloomberg has donated millions as a philanthropist. The Chronicle of Philanthropy listed Bloomberg as the second-most generous philanthropist of 2018, behind Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos. In April 2018, Bloomberg pledged $5.5 million to help cover the US financial commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement for the year. In the same year, he donated $1.8 billion to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins.