Bloomberg launches Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial bid

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Steve Peo­ples AP Na­tional Po­lit­i­cal Writer

NEW YORK » Bil­lion­aire and for­mer New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the world’s rich­est men, has for­mally launched a Demo­cratic bid for pres­i­dent.

End­ing weeks of spec­u­la­tion, the 77-year-old for­mer Repub­li­can an­nounced his can­di­dacy Sun­day in a writ­ten state­ment posted on a cam­paign web­site de­scrib­ing him­self as uniquely po­si­tioned to de­feat Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. He will quickly fol­low with a mas­sive ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign blan­ket­ing air­ways in key pri­mary states across the U.S.

“I’m run­ning for pres­i­dent to de­feat Don­ald Trump and re­build Amer­ica,” Bloomberg wrote.

“We can­not af­ford four more years of Pres­i­dent Trump’s reck­less and un­eth­i­cal ac­tions,” he con­tin­ued. “He rep­re­sents an ex­is­ten­tial threat to our coun­try and our val­ues. If he wins an­other term in of­fice, we may never re­cover from the dam­age.”

Bloomberg’s en­trance comes just 10 weeks be­fore pri­mary vot­ing be­gins, an un­ortho­dox move that re­flects anx­i­ety within the Demo­cratic Party about the strength of its cur­rent can­di­dates.

As a cen­trist with deep ties to Wall Street, Bloomberg is ex­pected to strug­gle among the party’s en­er­gized pro­gres­sive base. He be­came a Demo­crat only last year. Yet his tremen­dous re­sources and mod­er­ate pro­file could be ap­peal­ing in a pri­mary con­test that has be­come, above all, a quest to find the per­son best-po­si­tioned to deny Trump a sec­ond term next Novem­ber.

Forbes ranked Bloomberg as the 11th-rich­est per­son in the world last year with a net worth of roughly $50 bil­lion. Trump, by con­trast, was ranked 259th with a net worth of just over $3 bil­lion.

Al­ready, Bloomberg has vowed to spend at least $150 mil­lion of his for­tune on var­i­ous pieces of a 2020 cam­paign, in­clud­ing more than $100 mil­lion for in­ter­net ads at­tack­ing Trump, be­tween $15 mil­lion and $20 mil­lion on a voter reg­is­tra­tion drive largely tar­get­ing mi­nor­ity vot­ers, and more than $30 mil­lion on an ini­tial round of tele­vi­sion ads.

He did not say how much he would be will­ing to spend over­all on his pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tions, but se­nior ad­viser Howard Wolf­son did: “What­ever it takes to de­feat Don­ald Trump.”

Wolf­son also said that Bloomberg would not ac­cept a sin­gle po­lit­i­cal do­na­tion for his cam­paign or take a salary should he be­come pres­i­dent.

Even be­fore the an­nounce­ment was fi­nal, Demo­cratic ri­vals like Bernie San­ders pounced on Bloomberg’s plans to rely on his per­sonal for­tune.

“I’m dis­gusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any bil­lion­aire thinks they can cir­cum­vent the po­lit­i­cal process and spend tens of mil­lions of dol­lars to buy elec­tions,” San­ders tweeted on Fri­day.

El­iz­a­beth War­ren, an­other lead­ing pro­gres­sive can­di­date, also slammed Bloomberg on Sat­ur­day for try­ing to buy the pres­i­dency.

“I un­der­stand that rich peo­ple are go­ing to have more shoes than the rest of us, they’re go­ing to have more cars than the rest of us, they’re go­ing to have more houses,” she said af­ter a cam­paign stop in Manch­ester, New Hamp­shire. “But they don’t get a big­ger share of democ­racy, es­pe­cially in a Demo­cratic pri­mary. We need to be do­ing the face-to-face work that lifts ev­ery voice.”

Bloomberg does not speak in his an­nounce­ment video, which casts him as a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man who came from hum­ble roots and ul­ti­mately “put his money where his heart is” to ef­fect change on the top pol­icy is­sues of the day — gun vi­o­lence, cli­mate change, im­mi­gra­tion and equal­ity, among them.

Bloomberg has de­voted tens of mil­lions of dol­lars to pur­sue his pol­icy pri­or­i­ties in re­cent years, pro­duc­ing mea­sur­able progress in cities and states across Amer­ica. He has helped shut­ter 282 coal plants in the United States and or­ga­nized a coali­tion of Amer­i­can cities on track to cut 75 mil­lion met­ric tons of car­bon emis­sions by 2025.

But he is far from a left­wing ide­o­logue.

Bloomberg has de­clined to em­brace Medi­care for All as a health care pre­scrip­tion or the “Green New Deal” to com­bat cli­mate change, fa­vor­ing a more prag­matic ap­proach.

Still, he has en­deared him­self to many of the na­tion’s may­ors, hav­ing made huge in­vest­ments to help train lo­cal of­fi­cials and en­cour­ag­ing them to take ac­tion on cli­mate, guns and im­mi­gra­tion in par­tic­u­lar.

Ahead of Bloomberg’s pres­i­den­tial an­nounce­ment, the may­ors of Columbia, South Carolina, and Louisville, Ken­tucky, en­dorsed him. De­spite that show of sup­port from two lo­cal black lead­ers, Bloomberg may have trou­ble build­ing a multi-racial coali­tion early on given his tur­bu­lent record on race re­la­tions in New York.

He an­gered many mi­nor­ity vot­ers dur­ing his 12 years in the New York City mayor’s of­fice for em­brac­ing and de­fend­ing the con­tro­ver­sial “stop-and-frisk” po­lice strat­egy, de­spite its dis­pro­por­tion­ate im­pact on peo­ple of color. Fac­ing an African-Amer­i­can con­gre­ga­tion this month in Brook­lyn, Bloomberg apol­o­gized and ac­knowl­edged it of­ten led to the de­ten­tion of blacks and Lati­nos.

The apol­ogy was re­ceived skep­ti­cally by many prom­i­nent ac­tivists who noted that it was made as he was tak­ing steps to en­ter the race.

The cam­paign will be head­quar­tered in Man­hat­tan and man­aged by long­time ad­viser Kevin Sheekey. Wolf­son will also play a se­nior role.

Bloomberg’s team did not es­tab­lish a su­per PAC be­fore launch­ing the cam­paign, pre­fer­ring to run the pri­mary cam­paign and a si­mul­ta­ne­ous set of gen­eral elec­tion-fo­cused moves like the anti-Trump in­ter­net ads and voter reg­is­tra­tion drive out of the same of­fice.

The path ahead may be de­cid­edly up­hill and un­fa­mil­iar.

Bloomberg plans to by­pass the first four states on the pri­mary cal­en­dar — Iowa, New Hamp­shire, Ne­vada and South Carolina — and fo­cus in­stead on the crush of states that vote on Su­per Tues­day and be­yond. It’s a strat­egy that ac­knowl­edges the lim­i­ta­tions of en­ter­ing the race at this late stage and the op­por­tu­ni­ties af­forded by his vast per­sonal wealth.

His team has noted that sev­eral can­di­dates have de­voted much of the year to build­ing sup­port on the ground in the ear­li­est states, and Bloomberg needs to be re­al­is­tic about where he can make up ground.

Nearly a quar­ter of pri­mary del­e­gates are up for grabs in the March 3 Su­per Tues­day con­tests, which have got­ten far less at­ten­tion so far.

Bloomberg has openly con­sid­ered a pres­i­den­tial bid be­fore, but as an in­de­pen­dent. He de­clined to en­ter the 2016 con­test only af­ter de­cid­ing there was no path to vic­tory without the back­ing of a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal party.

He ex­plored a run ear­lier this year, too, but de­cided there was no path with es­tab­lish­ment-fa­vorite Joe Bi­den in the race. Bi­den’s per­ceived weak­ness, along with the rise of pro­gres­sive fire­brand War­ren, con­vinced him to re­con­sider.

“We be­lieve that vot­ers are in­creas­ingly con­cerned that the field is not well po­si­tioned to de­feat Don­ald Trump,” Wolf­son said of Bloomberg’s de­ci­sion to change his mind.

Ini­tially regis­tered as a

Demo­crat, the Mas­sachusetts na­tive filed pa­per­work to change his voter reg­is­tra­tion to Repub­li­can in 2000 be­fore his first run for New York City mayor, ac­cord­ing to a spokesman. In June 2007, he un­en­rolled from the GOP, hav­ing no for­mal party af­fil­i­a­tion un­til he regis­tered again as a Demo­crat this Oc­to­ber.

While some will ques­tion his new­found com­mit­ment to Democrats, he vowed al­le­giance to the party in an As­so­ci­ated Press in­ter­view ear­lier in the year, say­ing, “I will be a Demo­crat for the rest of my life.”

JOHN LOCHER-THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this Feb. 26 photo, for­mer New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a news con­fer­ence at a gun con­trol ad­vo­cacy event in Las Ve­gas.

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