Billionaire media mogul and former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg is reportedly preparing to enter the Democratic presidential primary within days.
According to his closest aides, although Bloomberg has not yet made an absolute decision on running, he has sent staffers to Alabama in order to gather signatures so that he can qualify for that state’s Democratic primary (although it isn’t an early primary state, Alabama has an early deadline for entry into the race). In addition, his team have begun contacting Democratic power brokers like Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island (the Chair of the Democratic Governors Association) and Harry Reid of Nevada (a former Senate Majority Leader).
While Bloomberg is a unique man, it is hard to see what distinguishing features can make him stand out to voters as a unique choice in the 2020 contest: he is an old white man (like Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and almost every other presidential candidate in United States history), he is a billionaire with a passion for climate justice (but so is Tom Steyer) and an experienced mayor (as are Pete Buttigieg and former candidate Bill de Blasio, the current mayor of New York.)
Bloomberg seemed to recognize he didn’t bring anything to a crowded field in March of this year, when he definitively declared that he would not be running for the presidency. What has changed between March and November?
According to Bloomberg’s team, the answer is that Joe Biden’s position in the primary looked unassailable back in March, whereas now the former Vice President looks comparatively weak. If Biden were to lose the nomination, Bloomberg is worried that the likely winner – either Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders – would be unable to beat Trump in the general election.
A quick look at RealClearPolitics polling averages shows that both Sanders and Warren would trounce Trump on the national level; they even beat him in crucial states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
A more likely reason for Bloomberg to take on Sanders and Warren is that he opposes their progressive views on economic and fiscal issues. While Bloomberg is a liberal on issues like gun responsibility, he is as conservative as they come on economic matters. Popular progressive ideas such as Warren’s wealth tax would ever so slightly reduce the gigantic personal fortune he’s accumulated.
On paper, Bloomberg is a political force to be reckoned with. He has decades-long relationships with many of the most powerful figures in the Democratic Party’s establishment, as well as his own media company, Bloomberg News, to spread his message. He is also staggeringly wealthy; with a net worth of $52 billion, he makes even Tom Steyer ($1.6 billion) look like a pauper.
With that level of personal fortune, he won’t face the kind of financial challenges that are currently besetting the Biden campaign.
Despite all that, Bloomberg has only a tiny chance of winning the Democratic primary. A recent Fox Noise Channel poll found that, while 6% of Democrats definitely support him, almost a third would never vote for him no matter what. He only has a net favorability among Democrats of +11%, despite being one of the most well known politicians in the country.
Neither Bloomberg’s ideas not his identity appear to be what the Democratic electorate are looking for in a 2020 candidate.
In a contest where debates have focused on inequalities and addressing racial differences, Bloomberg seems ready to insistently stick to his neoliberal economics and even defend the racist stop-and-frisk policies of the NYPD while he was New York’s mayor. Of course, Joe Biden shares many of Bloomberg’s policy positions, but the Vice President is more fondly viewed by middle and low income voters.
In an election where the number one priority of Democratic voters – no matter their race, class or geographic location – is to remove Donald Trump from the Oval Office, it seems inconceivable that they would turn to another New York billionaire, especially when they have the most diverse field of candidates in American history to choose a nominee from.