Michael Bloomberg’s possible entrance into the presidential race sent shock waves throughout the Democratic primary field this week, as campaigns scrambled to size up a potential rival whose high profile and vast personal fortune threatens a major shift in the contest.
News of the former New York City mayor’s plans were greeted with consternation and anger by some Democrats, who see the move as late-breaking and disruptive, coming less than three months before the first votes are cast in the nominating contest.
At the same time, Bloomberg’s centrist views and personal wealth would likely put him in direct competition with former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the leading moderates in the Democratic race.
Bloomberg, 77, has not made a final decision on whether to pursue the Democratic presidential nomination, a person familiar with his thinking said.
But he is expected to file paperwork on Friday to get on the primary ballot in Alabama ahead of the state’s deadline that day for candidates to enter the race.
There are lingering questions about whether Bloomberg would be able to break out in the Democratic primary at a time when the party’s progressive faction is on the rise.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the leading liberals in the race, have hinged their presidential campaigns on the argument that the wealthy already hold too much influence in the U.S. political system.
As news of Bloomberg’s plans broke on Thursday, their presidential campaigns pounced, declaring that the former mayor’s potential candidacy was a form of backlash to their progressive proposals.
“The wealthy and well connected are scared,” Warren’s campaign said in an email to supporters. “They’re scared that under a Warren presidency, they would no longer have a government that caters to their every need. So 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.”
But there are signs that Democratic voters may be looking to nominate a moderate in 2020. And Bloomberg, a former Republican and independent who re-registered as a Democrat in 2018, could fit that profile.
A New York Times/Siena College poll released Friday found that a majority of Democrats surveyed in six battleground states — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — prefer a more centrist-minded candidate who promises to find common ground with Republicans.
To be sure, Bloomberg would face a slew of challenges if he mounts a bid for the White House.
His would-be rivals for the Democratic nomination have already been campaigning and organizing for months in the early primary and caucus states that play a crucial role in choosing a nominee, and the contest has largely coalesced around four leading candidates: Biden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg.
And while money would be a nonissue for a possible Bloomberg campaign — his net worth from building his financial data and media business exceeds $50 billion — he would have to amass the support of hundreds of thousands of donors quickly if he has any hope of participating in the Democratic primary debates.
There are concerns that Bloomberg could choose to forgo campaigning in the early primary and caucus states altogether and hinge his presidential ambitions on a strong performance on Super Tuesday.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley and Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price issued a rare joint statement on Friday nudging Bloomberg to visit the early states if he mounts a presidential bid.
“We are excited that this Democratic presidential nomination contest has so many qualified candidates who all have plans to grow our economy, make quality health care more accessible, and make college more affordable, and we are certain that Granite Staters, Iowans, and other early state voters are eager to ask Michael Bloomberg about his plans to move our states and our country forward,” Buckley and Price said. “We hope that they will have that opportunity.”
Bloomberg previously flirted with a presidential bid. But he held off from entering the race earlier this year, in part because he believed that Biden would prove too difficult to beat in a primary.
Howard Wolfson, a longtime adviser to Bloomberg, suggested on Thursday, however, that the former mayor’s thinking had changed, noting that he has become “increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned” to defeat President Trump in 2020.
“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,” 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.”
If he mounts a campaign for the Democratic nomination, Bloomberg would likely pose the most significant threat to Biden, a fellow moderate who has sought in recent weeks to sharpen his case against the primary field’s progressives, Warren and Sanders.
Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said it’s unlikely that a late entrant into the race like Bloomberg would be able to break through among primary voters at this point in the cycle, though he could pull support away from Biden.
“Short of Michelle Obama, I can’t think of any late entrant who could make a dent other than to hurt one of the existing front-runners,” Murray said. “Bloomberg could end up hurting Biden but actually helping Sanders or Warren nab the nomination.”
A Monmouth University poll released in March showed Bloomberg polling at only 2 percent in the Democratic primary race.
Likewise, it found 27 percent of respondents reporting a favorable opinion of him while 26 percent reported an unfavorable opinion. Nearly half said they either hadn’t heard of him or didn’t know enough about him to form an opinion.
Still, the prospect of a Bloomberg candidacy has irked some in the primary contest, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who criticized the notion that Bloomberg may run because of his belief that others in the race are not well-positioned to beat Trump in 2020.
“We don’t need anyone coming in and telling us that none of them, with all of the work people have done for our country, are good enough,” she said. “I don’t buy that and I don’t think you do either.”