Prom­i­nent Democrats flush with cash sit out pres­i­den­tial race

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

For­mer New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg an­nounced last week that he is bail­ing on a 2020 pres­i­den­tial run, elim­i­nat­ing the prospect of a heavy­weight show­down be­tween a cou­ple of the Big Ap­ple’s rich­est and most po­lar­iz­ing po­lit­i­cal fig­ures.

His de­ci­sion fol­lowed an­nounce­ments by 2016 nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton, for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr. and Sen. Jeff Merkley of Ore­gon that they, too, have bet­ter things to do than take their chances in the mas­sive 2020 Demo­cratic field.

That de­prives the party of some of its star power but en­sures that Democrats will of­fer a new op­tion to vot­ers next year rather than a re­peat of the 2016 race be­tween Mrs. Clin­ton and Pres­i­dent Trump.

Mr. Bloomberg had been the most an­tic­i­pated can­di­date of the four, with his bil­lions of dol­lars and high pub­lic pro­file of­fer­ing a juicy matchup to Mr. Trump.

But he said he didn’t want to spend time run­ning for a nom­i­na­tion he might not win and would rather in­vest time and money ad­vanc­ing his other pet projects, in­clud­ing ef­forts to fight cli­mate change and tighten gun con­trol laws.

“I know there’s much more we can ac­com­plish over the next two years, but only if we stay fo­cused on the work and ex­pand upon it. And the fact is: A na­tional pres­i­den­tial cam­paign would limit my abil­ity to do that,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a state­ment posted on the web­site of his busi­ness em­pire, Bloomberg News.

He ac­tively in­ves­ti­gated his chances in early pri­mary states and took steps such as send­ing hand­writ­ten thank-you notes af­ter a re­cent visit to New Hamp­shire, which con­vinced some po­lit­i­cal ob­servers that he would en­ter the race.

Mrs. Clin­ton’s de­ci­sion was less of a sur­prise.

Party lead­ers and ac­tivists have been ea­ger to put the ugly 2016 nom­i­na­tion race be­hind them and let the 2020 elec­tion serve as a show­case for some of the party’s other high-pro­file fig­ures and ris­ing stars.

“I’m not run­ning, but I’m go­ing to keep on work­ing and speak­ing and stand­ing up for what I be­lieve,” Mrs. Clin­ton told News 12 in New York.

Mrs. Clin­ton said she has held pri­vate meet­ings with sev­eral of the can­di­dates and that she plans to play a role in the cam­paign.

“I’m not go­ing any­where,” Mrs. Clin­ton said. “What’s at stake in our coun­try, the kind of things that are hap­pen­ing right now are deeply trou­bling to me. And I’m also think­ing hard about how do we start talk­ing and lis­ten­ing to each other again? We’ve just got­ten so po­lar­ized. We’ve got­ten into re­ally op­pos­ing camps un­like any­thing I’ve ever seen in my adult life.” Mr. Trump mocked the news on Twit­ter. “(Crooked) Hil­lary Clin­ton con­firms she will not run in 2020, rules out a third bid for White House,” Mr. Trump said. “Aw-shucks, does that mean I won’t get to run against her again? She will be sorely missed!”

Mrs. Clin­ton re­sponded with a meme from the movie “Mean Girls” in which a char­ac­ter asks, “Why are you so ob­sessed with me?”

The big­gest names still to de­cide on bids in­clude for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den and for­mer Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas.

Mr. O’Rourke re­cently said he has made a de­ci­sion but isn’t ready share it, and Mr. Bi­den has said his fam­ily has prod­ded him to take the plunge but is con­cerned about tak­ing them through a dif­fi­cult cam­paign.

Mr. Holder, who served as at­tor­ney gen­eral in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, said his time is bet­ter spent work­ing on re­dis­trict­ing re­forms in the states.

Mr. Merkley said he will fo­cus on run­ning for re-elec­tion in Ore­gon.

“I will work to help build coali­tions around bold pol­icy so­lu­tions, and I am go­ing to work to fix our bro­ken and dys­func­tional Se­nate so it just isn’t a graveyard for good ideas,” he said.

Mr. Merkley and Mr. Holder barely reg­is­tered in polls, while Mr. Bloomberg was seen as a wild card — though one who some­what scared Repub­li­cans.

The Wash­ing­ton Times/CPAC straw poll of ac­tivists at last month’s Con­ser­va­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Con­fer­ence put him as the fourth most for­mi­da­ble Demo­crat in the po­ten­tial field.

An­a­lysts said Mr. Bloomberg’s vast wealth would al­low him to blan­ket the air­waves with tele­vi­sion ads high­light­ing his work on gun con­trol and cli­mate change.

Polls, though, found that many pri­mary vot­ers held neg­a­tive views of Mr. Bloomberg, who went from be­ing a Repub­li­can to in­de­pen­dent dur­ing his three terms as New York mayor and only re­cently reg­is­tered as a Demo­crat.

Mr. Bloomberg ap­pears to have de­cided that he would strug­gle to win over lib­eral ac­tivists, who likely would be turned off by his cen­trist eco­nomic views and ties to Wall Street and who have blamed wealthy in­di­vid­u­als in­clud­ing him­self and cor­po­ra­tions for rig­ging the eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal sys­tem in their fa­vor and against the mid­dle class.

“It’s es­sen­tial that we nom­i­nate a Demo­crat who will be in the strong­est po­si­tion to de­feat Don­ald Trump and bring our coun­try back to­gether,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “We can­not al­low the pri­mary process to drag the party to an ex­treme that would di­min­ish our chances in the gen­eral elec­tion and trans­late into ‘four more years.’”

Fel­low bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man Howard Schultz, who is mulling a run as a third-party or in­de­pen­dent can­di­date, praised Mr. Bloomberg as a model for gov­ern­ing “from the cen­ter with big ideas, prag­ma­tism and com­mon sense.”

“I’ve long said that there isn’t room for cen­trist mod­er­a­tion in ei­ther party, and it ap­pears Mr. Bloomberg has come to that same con­clu­sion,” Mr. Schultz said.

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