While Bloomberg said that he believed he could beat President Donald Trump in a general election, he said that a primary would be a challenge.
- Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul and former New York mayor, is preparing to join the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, The New York Times first reported on Thursday.
- This comes eight months after the politically moderate former Republican announced he wouldn't run for president in 2020.
- Bloomberg's campaign will likely be hampered by his status as a self-funding billionaire, allegations that he's made sexist remarks, and an increasingly progressive Democratic voter base.
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Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul and former New York mayor, is preparing to join the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, The New York Times reported Thursday.
This comes eight months after the politically moderate, former Republican announced he would forgo a run for president in 2020.
Bloomberg wrote in a March 2019 op-ed that he'd rather spend the next 18 months working on issues like climate change and gun control than spend his time and money on a primary bid he said would be challenging.
"I've come to realize that I'm less interested in talking than doing," he wrote. "And I have concluded that, for now, the best way for me to help our country is by rolling up my sleeves and continuing to get work done."
Many Democrats believe Bloomberg's virtually unlimited campaign cash, loyal staffers, and philanthropic record would make him a formidable presidential candidate.
Rebecca Katz, a progressive strategist and former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, told Insider in February that Bloomberg could outspend much of the Democratic primary field, running a self-funded ad-based campaign.
"Especially when you see the kind of money that Bernie is raising, who knows in a year who's going to be able to compete with that?" Katz said, referring to the stunning $6 million in small-dollar donations Sen. Bernie Sanders raked in the first 24 hours after he announced his 2020 bid.
Even though campaign cash may not be an issue, his centrist policy positions on key issues like criminal justice and financial regulation, allegations of sexist remarks and a #MeToo blind spot, and his status as a self-funding billionaire could narrow his path to the nomination. And being a 77-year-old wealthy white man won't help differentiate himself from a group of fellow white septuagenarians leading the 2020 pack.
"For too long the people at the top of the Democratic Party have been wealthier, whiter, more male, and more conservative than the base of the Democratic Party which looks a lot more like [Rep.] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez," Waleed Shahid, communications director for Justice Democrats, told Insider earlier this year.
Even without running for president, Bloomberg would have had a presence in the 2020 election. He and his well-staffed political team were reportedly ready to spend at least $500 million to support the Democratic nominee.
#MeToo and allegations of sexual harassment at Bloomberg LP
Bloomberg has batted away numerous allegations of a toxic misogynist culture at Bloomberg LP, which included sexist remarks allegedly made by Bloomberg and sexual assault allegations made against a top executive. But that history may well have come back to haunt him in a presidential race.
Several female employees sued Bloomberg LP in the 1990s alleging discrimination or sexual harassment.
One former Bloomberg employee, Mary Ann Olszewski, sued the company in 1998 alleging that she was raped by a company executive. At the time, Bloomberg said he wouldn't believe Olszewski's rape claims unless "an unimpeachable third-party witness" could back them up.
Other women, including former Democratic New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, have accused Bloomberg of regularly belittling women and making disparaging comments about their appearance.
And Bloomberg's own past words could have invited unflattering comparisons to the current US president.
In his 1997 autobiography, Bloomberg wrote that he kept "a girlfriend in every city" during his years on Wall Street in the 1960s and 70s. And he once told a reporter, "I like theater, dining, and chasing women ... Let me put it this way: I am a single, straight billionaire in Manhattan. What do you think? It's a wet dream."
Last September, Bloomberg appeared to question the #MeToo movement, telling The New York Times that the battle against sexual harassment and assault may have gone too far in certain cases.
A reluctant Democrat
Bloomberg left the Democratic Party in 2001 to run for mayor of New York City as a Republican. After being re-elected in 2004, Bloomberg registered as an independent in 2007 and won re-election yet again.
In 2016, he considered making an independent bid for president. Last October, Bloomberg re-registered as a Democrat.
Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster and strategist, said earlier this year that Bloomberg's "biggest problem" as a presidential candidate could be his status as a reluctant Democrat. That might make him attractive in a general election, she argued, but it wouldn't sell well in a primary.
"Democrats don't think of him as a Democrat," Lake told Insider earlier this year.
While he is liberal on social issues — abortion rights, gun control, same-sex marriage, a pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and more — his foreign policy and economic stances are more moderate.
Bloomberg's party-shifting also invited some comparisons to the president, who was a registered Democrat for nearly a decade.
"He's not going to like that I say this, but in many ways, he's like Donald Trump," GOP Rep. Pete King, a longtime friend of Bloomberg's, told The Atlantic last fall. "Donald Trump didn't really run as a Republican; he used the Republican Party to run. Mike's just using the Democrats to run."
Bloomberg's record of support for Republicans could hurt him in the primary. He held a fundraiser for King last fall, helping fend off a strong Democratic challenger.
And he's recently thrown his support behind other Republicans, including Staten Island Rep. Dan Donovan and Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, whom he spent $10 million to reelect in 2016.
With a net worth of more than $50 billion, Bloomberg will be another billionaire — and self-funder — to join the Democratic primary field (Tom Steyer is also running). At a time when economic populism is playing an increasingly central role in progressive politics, this may well have hurt him.
Over the past year, prominent voices on the left have pushed tax hikes on the wealthy and demanded that billionaires and corporations stay out of politics. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has made headlines by arguing that it's "immoral" for billionaires to exist in a society with widespread poverty.
And Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat running for president, has argued that no wealthy Democratic candidates should buy their way into the 2020 race.
And it may prove tricky to sell another New York billionaire to Democrats. Lake said she couldn't imagine Bloomberg appealing to blue collar Democrats.
"He's really going to sit down with 65-year-old retired union worker in South Carolina and have BBQ out of a paper plate?" she said.