Alexander Burns of the New York Times reports that Michael Bloomberg is actively preparing to enter the Democratic presidential race. He is expected to file paperwork this week designating himself as a candidate in at least one state — Alabama — with an early filing deadline.
According to Burns:
Mr. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire businessman, has been privately weighing a bid for the White House for weeks and has not yet made a final decision on whether to run, an adviser said. But in the first sign that he is seriously moving toward a campaign, Mr. Bloomberg has dispatched staffers to Alabama to gather signatures to qualify for the primary there. Though Alabama does not hold an early primary, it has a Friday deadline for candidates to formally enter the race.
It’s easy to see the temptation for Bloomberg to enter. The frontrunners are two far leftists — Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — and a more sensible candidate who exudes weakness — Joe Biden. The field is so unimpressive that Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of a small city, is running neck and neck with Warren for the lead in Iowa, according to one very recent poll.
Why, then, shouldn’t the comparatively moderate, relatively successful former mayor of our biggest city conclude that he has a shot at replacing Biden as the candidate of choice for Democrats who don’t prefer a hard leftist and/or are concerned about their ability to elect one?
Could Bloomberg actually displace Biden? I question whether he would. Biden has the Obama connection plus the loyalty of many Democrats who have seen him in the trenches for decades. Bloomberg, a former Republican, is assuming a lot if he thinks he can brush Biden aside.
Are there enough non-radical Dems to carry Bloomberg to the nomination if he displaces Biden? Again, there is room for doubt. In 2016, half of the Democratic primary voters and caucus goers favored Sanders, an avowed socialist.
With his immense personal wealth, centrist views and close ties to the political establishment, [Bloomberg] would present a grave and instantaneous threat to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has been struggling to raise money and assemble a ideologically moderate coalition.
That’s probably true. Even if Bloomberg didn’t displace Biden, he likely would cut into the the former vice president’s support.
But Bloomberg would face two major problems in a run for the nomination. First, he’s a year behind the field. As Burns says, the former VP would have to build a campaign from scratch in the early primary and caucus states, and it might be difficult for him to qualify for the two remaining debates this year.
The other problem is ideological. As Burns points out:
[Bloomberg] has been a vigorous advocate for core liberal causes, like gun control and battling climate change. But as mayor [he] also championed police searches that targeted black and Latino men; in an interview last fall, he defended his administration’s stop-and-frisk policing strategy and also expressed skepticism about the #MeToo movement.
Bloomberg is even further out of touch with identity politics than is Biden, who has had many months to try to learn some of the lyrics. That’s a major drawback for someone seeking the nomination of the modern Democratic party.
For what it’s worth, I don’t see Bloomberg emerging with the nomination or even coming close. I hope he enters, though. He would make things even more interesting than they are now.