Prominent Democrats flush with cash sit out presidential race
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.