Michael Bloomberg launched his presidential bid last week at an occasion in Virginia, where the billionaire former mayor of New York instantly reminded us why nobody has ever accused him of being a pure politician. “I think that there’s a larger risk of getting Donald Trump re-elected than there was before,” he stated. “And in the end, I looked in the mirror and stated I just can not let this happen.” However other than the person staring back at him in the mirror, it’s unclear who precisely is beating the drums for a Bloomberg candidacy.
A Gallup survey released in October found that three-quarters of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents “are generally pleased” with the selection of candidates, which “is among the highest levels of satisfaction” since the polling company first requested the question in 1992. Among the 1 in 5 Democrats who want someone else were running, there are reasons to doubt somebody like Mr. Bloomberg is who they’ve mind.
It isn’t that Mr. Bloomberg doesn’t have a solid record of accomplishments as a private citizen and elected official. He built one of the world’s most successful financial-media corporations and is now worth an estimated $54 billion. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, last yr he donated $767 million to numerous charities, second only to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. And as mayor of New York from 2002 to 2013, he oversaw an expansion of school choice for low-income minorities and sharp reductions in violent crime and incarceration.
Mr. Bloomberg’s problem is that these past accomplishments in business and politics are liabilities amongst today’s Democrats. To win the assist of teachers unions, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have attacked the charter-school movement that Mayor Bloomberg championed. And the social-justice activists now ascendant in the party are much more interested in racial parity amongst individuals arrested than in reducing crime rates and keeping the streets secure. Progressives view the Mike Bloombergs of the world primarily as rhetorical punching bags who should have their wealth confiscated by politicians and then sprinkled amongst others in society who’re considered more deserving.
Of course, Mr. Bloomberg could be very much aligned with today’s Democrats on any variety of different issues. He can check off all the best boxes on climate change, tax hikes and gun control, for instance. However none of these views distinguish him in the current field or justify his decision to join the race. He’s running because he’s worried about Joe Biden’s candidacy petering out. Earlier this yr, when Mr. Bloomberg initially introduced he wouldn’t seek the presidency, he cited Mr. Biden’s decision to run as the reason. Both men view themselves as pragmatists who can get things done and keep the left-wing extremists in verify. However Mr. Biden’s lack of ability to date to drag away from the other candidates has some Democratic officers concerned.
Mr. Bloomberg spent almost $72 million throughout his first campaign for mayor, in 2001, which was 5 times as a lot as anybody had ever spent seeking the office and more than Ross Perot had spent running for president in 1992. He donated not only to political allies but also political opponents. To mute criticism, he even gave to activists like Al Sharpton. Last yr, based on Politico, Mr. Bloomberg contributed $110 million to 24 Democratic congressional candidates, and 21 of them won. Which is to say that he doesn’t simply throw cash at politics however knows the way to aim, and his choice to spend as a lot as $500 million of his personal riches on the 2020 presidential race shouldn’t be dismissed as a vanity project.
Throughout an interesting podcast discussion last week, the editors of Commentary magazine speculated that Mr. Bloomberg may have a big influence on the race even if he doesn’t turn into the nominee, which is probably not his main goal. Mr. Bloomberg may use his war chest to go after President Trump and drive down his approval rating in battleground states as easily as he may use it to make the case for his personal candidacy.
One other possibility is that Mr. Bloomberg may direct negative ads at Ms. Warren, Mr. Sanders or anyone else who will get too close to taking down Mr. Biden in the primary. And because political campaigns pay for tv advertising at low cost rates, Candidate Bloomberg can spend his lucre more efficiently than he might as a private citizen operating via a political-action committee.
Mr. Trump’s job-approval rating has remained underwater despite decent economic growth, low unemployment and rising wages. That means he may be vulnerable to any Democrat who wins the nomination, not just a more moderate candidate. However who could blame someone in Mr. Bloomberg’s shoes for not wanting to take any possibilities?