Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, plans to file paperwork to get on the Democratic presidential primary ballot in Alabama – a first step toward running for the White House, according to reports Thursday evening in the New York Post and The New York Times.
Bloomberg has flirted with running for president time and time again, but he’s never launched a campaign before. Bloomberg seemed to have already finished his quadrennial ritual, floating a 2020 campaign last year, then publicly announcing in March of this year that he wouldn’t be running. But U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s rise in the polls – the staunch economic progressive, who advocates higher taxes on wealthy Americans like Bloomberg, is now essentially tied with former Vice President Joe Biden for the lead – reportedly inspired him to reconsider.
Why Alabama? The Deep South state seems like an unlikely target for the Northeastern billionaire, but Alabama has an early deadline, on Friday, for presidential candidates to get their names on the Democratic primary ballot. If Bloomberg, 77, is even considering a run, he had to get petitioners on the ground in Alabama to keep a potential run possible.
According to the Times, “Mr. Bloomberg called a number of prominent Democrats on Thursday to tell them he was seriously considering the race, including former Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the retired majority leader who remains a dominant power broker in the early caucus state.”
The list of Bloomberg’s political assets – near-limitless wealth, name recognition and potential appeal to independents and moderate Republicans in states with open primaries – would seem to be far outweighed by his liabilities among Democratic voters. While Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is in third place in national polling averages, call for redressing the nation’s yawning income and wealth gap, Bloomberg’s money and pro-capitalism politics make him an obvious foil. The son of suburban Boston made his fortune on Wall Street and by launching a company that sells expensive information services to financial firms. He lives in a luxurious townhouse steps from Central Park – when he’s not riding his private jet to his vacation home in Bermuda. He also lured the 2004 Republican National Convention to New York City, where he delivered fulsome praise for then-President George W. Bush from the podium – and he kept protesters at bay with aggressive tactics for which the city had to later settle a lawsuit. During his tenure, stop-and-frisks and arrests for smoking marijuana, both of which overwhelmingly targeted black and Latino New Yorkers, skyrocketed.
Moreover, the former three-term mayor only recently rejoined the Democratic Party and would seem to lack the grassroots support and infrastructure the other candidates have been building a nearly a year. And the race already has a white male billionaire spending gobs of his own money, so far with little success: Tom Steyer.
On the other hand, Bloomberg has a dedicated cadre of experienced top-flight political talent ready to go work for him – he reportedly pays top dollar – and a reputation for managerial acumen, whether running his highly successful eponymous company, the nation’s largest city, or a political campaign.
Bloomberg has pulled off the politically near-impossible before, winning three straight terms as mayor of an overwhelmingly Democratic city without ever having run for office before, but a campaign for president would be his most challenging bet yet.
Bloomberg himself has been silent on the run as of late, and his longtime spokesman, Stu Loeser, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It still remains possible, of course, for Bloomberg to back out.
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