Bloomberg files to join Democratic field
The Democratic presidential primary was shaken up this week after Michael Bloomberg—the billionaire businessman and former three-term mayor of New York City—filed to run in Alabama and Arkansas, barreling into the primary’s center lane. Bloomberg, who at 77 has amassed a $52 billion fortune on the strength of a global media company, said in March that he would not run in 2020. But he’d grown increasingly concerned that the front-runners, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), could not beat President Trump. Bloomberg, who became a national political force by donating tens of millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and gun control groups, has said he would finance any campaign with his own money. Advisers said that his wealth lets Bloomberg be “unbought and unbossed” and that he’d spend “whatever it takes” to defeat Trump. One national poll showed Bloomberg leading Trump by 6 percentage points—but garnering support from only 4 percent of Democratic primary voters.
Bloomberg’s potential candidacy drew rebukes from party bosses in Iowa and New Hampshire—two states whose early primaries he plans to skip in favor of focusing on Super Tuesday (March 3), when 14 states hold primaries. His likely entry into the race also prompted Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who have both proposed new taxes on the rich, to accuse him of trying to buy the presidency. “The billionaire class is scared, and they should be scared,” said Sanders, while Warren called his candidacy “another example of the wealthy wanting our government and economy to only work for themselves.” Trump, meanwhile, quickly applied a mocking nickname to his potential adversary, saying, “There’s nobody I’d rather run against than Little Michael.”
What the editorials said
“Go, Mike,” said the New York Daily News. Unlike that “huckster demagogue” in the White House, Bloomberg is a “real New York billionaire” who built a business from scratch, drove crime down in New York City, “made bold moves to improve public health, created safer and better streets and public spaces,” and ushered in New York’s emergence as a “tech economy leader.” Bloomberg’s candidacy has “several large issues,” said the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. He needs to convince voters that his motivation has more to do with beating Trump than with Warren’s wealth tax, and he fares poorly with blacks and Hispanics, who were “most often stopped and frisked without cause” by New York police during his mayoralty. Bloomberg also has to contend with allegations that he made sexist remarks and oversaw a company with a deeply sexist work environment.
What the columnists said
Michael Bloomberg’s run is “a vote of no confidence” in Joe Biden, said Dan Balz in The Washington Post. For months, the New York billionaire has waited on the sidelines, confident that the centrist Biden’s strong polling showed he could defeat Trump. But as Biden stumbled, falling in the polls and reportedly encountering difficulty raising cash, Bloomberg decided he’d seen enough. His run is “evidence that the donor wing of the party” is “truly terrified” that “Warren has gained the upper hand in the nomination contest” but will not sufficiently appeal to moderate voters to win the general election.
If Bloomberg wants to avoid a Warren victory, he has it backward, said Peter Beinart in TheAtlantic.com. What better way for Warren, whose national numbers have dipped following her avowed support for “Medicare for All,” to get “her mojo back” than to campaign “against a billionaire 52 times over who keeps slamming her proposed wealth tax”? With Bloomberg potentially in the race, Biden’s donors are reportedly reconsidering their support. And if “Bloomberg stops anyone,” it’s most likely to be Pete Buttigieg, the rising candidate whose “moderate turf” Bloomberg wants to “muscle onto.” Bloomberg’s run “will empower the very forces” he fears.
We don’t even know if Bloomberg is definitely running, said Gabriel Debenedetti in NYMag.com. This may just be a “trial balloon to see how voters and the media treat him before fully committing.” Or his potential campaign might be “an insurance policy” against the possibility that Biden gets whupped in the early primary contests. That would explain his unorthodox decision to skip the first four primary states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina) and position himself “as a white-knight candidate who could step in if Biden collapses.” ■