Michael Bloomberg presidential run for president (Details).
February 14 will be, as always, Valentine’s Day. More significantly, and tragically, it will also mark the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting, in which 17 Florida high-school students and staff members were murdered. It will also be Michael Bloomberg’s 77th birthday.
The confluence of those last two events could make February 14 the perfect moment for Bloomberg to announce he is running for president, particularly because the tech billionaire and three-term New York City mayor has spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money fighting against the proliferation of guns. And his political team discussed the possibility of a February 14 announcement. One problem, though: Bloomberg still hasn’t made up his mind about whether he wants to become a candidate.
This is the latest lap around the presidential-indecision track for Bloomberg. The biggest difference, so far, is that in 2008 and 2012, it was his Wall Street friends and political strategists pushing him to run. This time, Bloomberg himself initiated the exploration, in June 2018, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s harsh crackdown on illegal immigration. Bloomberg’s enthusiasm hasn’t dimmed since then. Last fall, he reregistered as a Democrat, after equally pragmatic stretches as a Republican and as an independent, and he spent more than $100 million helping the party reclaim a House majority. To Bloomberg insiders, however, the strongest sign of his seriousness has been his ongoing willingness to travel and mix it up with rank-and-file voters. Bloomberg has visited obvious, high-profile early-primary states including Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, but he’s also made appearances at events in unglamorous Camden, New Jersey, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, ostensibly to hand out $2 million in grants for public arts projects, but also to take the Democratic temperature. “He’s felt pretty good coming out of these things,” a Bloomberg insider says. “But his priority No. 1 is Trump doesn’t get re-elected in 2020. Obviously, who else is running is a part of that. What the polls say is a part of that. But I wouldn’t say there’s one thing he’s looking for to make his decision.”
Indeed, Bloomberg is trying to calculate two things: whether he can have more influence on the issues he cares about by spending his money or by running for office—and, if he runs, whether he has a viable shot at winning the Democratic nomination. The hostile reaction to Howard Schultz’s independent-bid trial balloon was viewed, in Bloomberg’s camp, as underscoring the Democratic determination to beat Trump, not as a rejection of billionaire businessman candidates. Bloomberg’s team has weighed how his chances might change with different timelines: on the one hand, Bloomberg, unlike conventional politicians, doesn’t need to raise money, so he can wait as long as he likes and see how the field develops. On the other, a later entry makes recruiting field staff harder, and allows a front-runner to gain momentum.
Another significant factor is Joe Biden. Born nine months apart, Bloomberg and Biden have followed dramatically different paths to arrive at the same point, with money now playing an enormous, divergent role in their presidential campaign decisions. Biden, after some 40 years on the public payroll, is making real money for the first time in his life and providing well for his extended family; does he sacrifice that security after two unsuccessful presidential bids? Bloomberg, by contrast, has been fabulously wealthy for decades and could drop $500 million on a 50-state launch without flinching. A losing run would barely alter his bank account or his legacy.
Having two older, white, male, moderate-ish contenders in the field would likely hurt them both. So Bloomberg and Biden have been doing a peculiar dance, keeping a close eye on one another while acting as if they don’t care what the other decides. The two men crossed paths on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, giving speeches at Reverend Al Sharpton’s commemoration in Washington, D.C.; neither mentioned their potential candidacy. Both have kept their outreach to potential Iowa field staff to a minimum, even as Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and other declared contenders rapidly stock their campaign teams. “We’ve got a really strong field already,“ says Norm Sterzenbach, the former executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party. “People are looking forward—we don’t need the savior, the elder statesman, to set us on the right course. Though Bloomberg would start in a good place, because competency is going to be a big argument, given the president we have now.”
Last week, when a flurry of stories appeared detailing how Bloomberg, even if he didn’t run, would deploy his data operation to defeat Trump, a rival Democratic strategist interpreted it as a sign the Bloomberg team had picked up intelligence indicating Biden had decided to run. Bloomberg’s associates say they don’t have any inside knowledge of what Biden will do. And they don’t believe the former mayor is deferring to the former vice president, either intentionally or subconsciously, even though Biden’s decision would provide another highly valuable data point. “Mike still has an engineer’s brain,” one colleague says. Yet Bloomberg’s heart has been in this one far more than in previous flirtations—certainly because of his disgust with Trump, but also because that looming birthday is a stark reminder that if he doesn’t take a shot at the White House now, he never will