Billionaire media mogul and former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg jumped into the Democratic presidential race Sunday, muscling into the crowded field with a bulging bank account and plans to flood the airwaves with campaign ads.
He entered the race taking swings at President Trump, but his tough talk was a more immediate threat to the other Democratic hopefuls vying for the more moderate lane in the race.
“I’m running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America. We cannot afford four more years of President Trump’s reckless and unethical actions,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement.
He condemned Mr. Trump as “an existential threat to our country and our values.”
“If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage. The stakes could not be higher,” he said. “We must win this election. And we must begin rebuilding America.”
The rhetoric echoed the campaign battle cry of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, a top contender for the nomination who nevertheless has lagged in fundraising and suffered from uneven performances on the debate stage and the campaign trail.
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Mr. Bloomberg’s late entry in the race, as well as that of former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, underscores dissatisfaction in some quarters of the Democratic Party with the current crop of candidates.
Mr. Bloomberg has flirted with a White House run for years. He had been inching toward the announcement for weeks and telegraphed his plans for a campaign spending spree.
Last week, he spent at least $30 million for a one-week TV ad blitz slated to start Monday, The New York Times reported.
The 60-second biographical spot will introduce him to voters across the country.
Jeanne Zaino, a political science professor at Iona College in New York, said Mr. Bloomberg could create headaches for Mr. Biden, the one-time front-runner who has failed to impress on the stump and the other candidates in the field, such as Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who are trying to seize the moderate mantle in the race.
“I think people are crazy to make the mistake of underestimating this guy,” Ms. Zaino said. “He has been successful in every race and everything he has done. I think people have to take his candidacy seriously … He is in it to win it and I do think he sees a path forward.”
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Ms. Zaino credited Mr. Bloomberg with sharing the perspective of former President Barack Obama, who recently warned the party against moving too far to the left and against losing middle-of-the-road voters who are not interested in a political revolution.
In announcing his run, Mr. Bloomberg touted his “unique set of experiences” that he said will give him an advantage against Mr. Trump and for leading the country.
Mr. Bloomberg’s business empire started with Wall Street data terminals that grew into the Bloomberg news organization.
He led New York for three terms as a mayor who not only tightened the nuts and bolts of municipal government, but also championed social causes, such as trying to crack down on large-size soda cups to fight childhood obesity.
Beyond elected office, he has poured his fortune into various political causes, especially gun control efforts such as his Everytown for Gun Safety.
Still, he has been all over the map politically. He was a Democrat before switching to the Republican Party for his 2001 mayoral run. He later became an independent before re-registering as a Democrat ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Mr. Bloomberg’s biggest challenge will be winning over the far-left of the party, including those who will be asking whether they are ready for another wealthy white businessman in the race.
Moving to head off criticism of his policies in New York that today run afoul of the party’s alignment with Black Lives Matter, Mr. Bloomberg this month abrupt reversal on his support for a stop-and-frisk policing strategy.
“He is somebody who has governed as a Republican and as a well-known moderate,” Ms. Zaino said. “In the sort of environment they have created in the Democratic Party, the fact that he is a white, wealthy businessman is going to be something that is going to be brought up, as well as his age.”
The 77-year-old has a net worth of $54 billion.
His largesse also works to his benefit, given his track record of investing it in Democratic candidates and liberal causes.
“I think there is an argument to be made on that, with Democrats taking over the House and being in a position to impeach the president … much of that comes back from Mayor Bloomberg,” she said. “They may not like the system, they may not like the money in the system, but the money in the system matters, and he has put it on the side of Democrats and liberal causes.”
The former mayor follows another billionaire in the Democratic race, Tom Steyer, who previously plowed his hedge fund fortune into liberal causes, including climate change and a campaign to impeach Mr. Trump.
Mr. Bloomberg played an instrumental role in the 2018 federal election, spending $95 million on contests — more than anyone else with the sole exception of GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, according to federal campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Tom Steyer was third on the big spender list, investing $73 million in that election cycle.