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Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks with the media on a trip to New Hampshire in January 2019. | Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Michael Bloomberg is finally making a run for the White House — and is ready to dump tens of millions of dollars into his bid.

Michael Bloomberg has flirted with the idea of running for president for years, and in 2020, he’s finally doing it.

The 77-year-old billionaire philanthropist, media magnate, and former New York City mayor announced on November 24 that he will make a run for the Democratic Party’s nomination to the White House. Bloomberg ruled out an independent bid in 2016, and in March he said he wasn’t running as a Democrat, but as the primary contest has gone on, he’s changed his mind.

“I’m running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America,” Bloomberg said in a statement announcing his bid. He continued: “The stakes could not be higher. We must win this election.”

Bloomberg, with a net worth of more than $50 billion, is taking a novel approach to his campaign: he’s not asking for donations and, because of the Democratic National Committee’s rules, therefore probably won’t make the debate stage. He’s dumping millions of dollars into television and digital ads, and he’s skipping the early primary (and low delegate) states to focus on states with high delegate counts that vote in March.

Bloomberg has for years been rumored to have presidential aspirations, and he hasn’t kept them a secret. Though he has previously identified as a Democrat, Republican, and independent, Bloomberg switched his party affiliation back to the Democrats in 2018 and has become a backer of the party. He donated millions of dollars to Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms.

That’s not to say that Bloomberg is going all-in on the progressive issues other Democrats embrace. He is a moderate and will likely compete for votes most directly with former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg rather than progressives Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

While he is a champion of gun control and addressing climate change, he has criticized Medicare-for-all as unaffordable, and has said Warren’s proposed wealth tax is likely unconstitutional. He has expressed optimism about the Green New Deal and said all of the concepts in it deserve consideration, but has warned that it should not put forth “things that are pie in the sky.” As New York mayor, Bloomberg backed stop-and-frisk policing, for which he apologized just days before announcing his candidacy. Overall, he is viewed as a more Wall Street-friendly, centrist candidate.

Bloomberg is entering the race late compared to everyone else — several candidates have already dropped out. It’s not clear whether he has a real path to victory or will be successful in competing with other moderates in the field, but he seems to be going for it anyway.

Michael Bloomberg, briefly explained

Bloomberg was born in Boston and grew up in the surrounding area before attending college at Johns Hopkins University and later, Harvard Business School. He subsequently joined Wall Street brokerage Salomon Brothers but after more than a decade at the firm was laid off after it was acquired — with a $10 million severance. In 1981, he used that money to launch what would eventually become Bloomberg LP. The company initially sold computer terminals with financial information to Wall Street and has now expanded to become a media and technology giant with some 19,000 employees.

He was a Democrat before his 2001 mayoral run in New York City, but switched to the Republican Party for his bid and subsequently won. He became an independent in 2007 and served three terms as mayor.

Since leaving city hall, Bloomberg, who is worth an estimated $52 billion, has dedicated his time to Bloomberg Philanthropies, an organization that encompasses all of Bloomberg’s charitable giving and focuses on five main arenas: public health, the environment, education, government innovation, and arts and culture. The Chronicle of Philanthropy listed Bloomberg as the second-most generous philanthropist of 2018, behind Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos. He gave $1.8 billion to his alma mater Johns Hopkins in 2018, which as Vox’s Dylan Matthews explained, while nice, was a sort of wasted opportunity — with that money, he could have done other things to boost college affordability.

Among Bloomberg’s most significant public endeavors are Everytown for Gun Safety, an outgrowth of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns group he helped create in 2006, and his attention to addressing climate change.

He also returned to lead Bloomberg LP, and in 2017 launched the Bloomberg Global Business Forum, an annual international meeting of world leaders and corporate executives in New York City meant as a replacement for the Clinton Global Initiative after it was ended.

Bloomberg has been a vocal critic of Trump’s presidency; speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention as an independent, he called Trump a “dangerous demagogue” whose presidency would be a “disaster in the making” and criticized Trump’s business acumen. He has continued to speak out against Trump about issues such as immigration and climate change — he said he would pledge $4.5 million to support the Paris climate agreement after Trump withdrew the US from it.

In 2018, he switched his party identification to Democrat again and spent about $100 million to support Democrats in the midterms. He has been clear that he believes running as a Democrat — not an independent — is the only path he sees to the White House.

“In 2020, the great likelihood is that an independent would just split the anti-Trump vote and end up re-electing the President,” Bloomberg said in a statement in January, taking a swipe at former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is mulling an independent run. “That’s a risk I refused to run in 2016 and we can’t afford to run it now.”

Bloomberg thinks there’s a path for him

Bloomberg is running as a centrist alternative to the more progressive candidates in the field, and appears to be trying to occupy the space Biden and Pete Buttigieg are competing in. His entrance into the race has caused some eye-rolls — he’s swooping in late in the game, when voters arguably already have a number of candidates with similar platforms to choose from. Granted, some of these candidates are not as well known as Bloomberg is, and he has the money to pay for his bid, regardless of any pushback.

As a candidate, Bloomberg is likely to focus on many of the same issues he’s championed in recent years: namely, gun control and climate change. He previewed this emphasis in speeches and appearances ahead of his announcement.

During a speech in New Hampshire in January, Bloomberg talked about the need for “common sense gun laws,” but was moderate in his rhetoric. “Nobody’s trying to take away anybody’s guns, but we shouldn’t be selling guns to criminals or people with psychiatric problems or minors,” he said. During the same speech, he touted his record on climate and pointed out he’s been working on the issue for more than a dozen years.

He visited Iowa in 2018, and prior to his arrival wrote an op-ed in the Des Moines Register in which he discussed the possibilities for clean energy in the state and the economic impact embracing green energy could have. He hosted a screening there of his new climate change documentary, Paris to Pittsburgh.

A January Politico profile laid out what Bloomberg seems to believe his path is to the White House. He won’t shy away from being fiscally moderate or conservative, but he believes that his years-long focus on two issues that matter to Democrats — climate and guns — will play well.

He will also be able to contrast himself with Trump as a more successful and savvy businessman.

That’s not to say he won’t have his fair share of problems with the Democratic base. In a generic sense, it’s not clear what sort of appetite there is among progressives for an older white billionaire to be the party’s nominee. More specific to Bloomberg, there are areas where he’s out of step with the left.

As the New York Times noted in September 2018, Bloomberg is out of line with Democrats on issues such as bank regulation and #MeToo. In an interview with the Times, he criticized progressives’ approach to big business and specifically singled out Warren’s push to break up the banks as a bad idea.

He also expressed concern about the rise in allegations of sexual misconduct against prominent figures, and cast doubt on those against journalist Charlie Rose, who was ousted from CBS and PBS after reports of sexual misconduct emerged. Bloomberg said he had “never had a complaint” about Rose and was “surprised” at the reports about him. Rose recorded one of his shows in the Bloomberg office.

Despite these potential vulnerabilities, Bloomberg appears ready to give it a go anyway. What sort of traction he’ll gain remains to be seen.

Author: Emily Stewart

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