Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken the next step to join the scrum to unseat Donald Trump, formally filing to run as a Democrat for the post of President of the United States.
The billionaire Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat-again declared his candidacy with the Federal Election Commission early on Thursday afternoon. Mike Bloomberg 2020 Inc., his campaign committee, also filed FEC paperwork.
A Bloomberg spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the filings. But no sooner had the filing been made public did word emerge that he had not yet made a final decision about his candidacy—merely filling out paperwork for it.
Should he announce a run publicly, Bloomberg will face a herculean task. He is likely to avoid competing in the early primary states—with hopes that his expansive war chest will allow him to fair better in later contests. His potential entry will be into an already crowded Democratic presidential primary field, one that has already attracted another late entrant on the party’s more moderate flank, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
Bloomberg has already taken steps to attempt to repair his image among segments of the Democratic electorate likely to suspiciously eye an ultra-wealthy business executive with a technocratic record of promoting policies that are not necessarily popular with the public, including a harsh law enforcement policy that disproportionately affects New York’s African American community.
At an appearance at a Brooklyn black megachurch over the weekend, Bloomberg apologized for policies such as “stop-and-frisk,” a highly controversial police tactic that gives police broad authority to physically search anyone. NYPD abuse of the policy during Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor largely targeted black and Latino communities.
“Over time, I’ve come to understand something that I long struggled to admit to myself: I got something important wrong,” Bloomberg said at Brooklyn’s Christian Cultural Center, reversing course on a position he repeatedly defended as mayor and after leaving office. “I didn’t understand back then the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities. I was totally focused on saving lives—but as we know: good intentions aren’t good enough."
Bloomberg is nevertheless likely to occupy an ideological space closer to the center of the Democratic primary field. That will likely pit him against former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg for similar blocs of primary voters, and position him in opposition to the race’s more progressive standouts, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
In spite of potentially problematic positions on issues such as urban policing, Bloomberg does bring a long record of championing other issues dear to the Democratic faithful. He is one of the country’s most outspoken supporters of new gun control policies, and has used his fortune to finance groups pushing for such measures.
Early polling shows that Bloomberg would face a steep climb to the upper echelons of the Democratic primary field. Despite his strong name recognition, a recent survey by Reuters and Ipsos found him pulling just 3 percent support nationally, the same level as California Sen. Kamala Harris and well behind Biden, Buttigieg, Warren and Sanders.
One area that likely will not be a challenge for his candidacy is money. Bloomberg is worth an estimated $52 billion, and has not hesitated to pour money into political contests. He is among the Democratic Party’s largest donors of the Trump era, and has almost single-handedly financed his own super PAC, Independence USA, to which he’s donated $112 million since 2012.
Though nowhere near as wealthy as Bloomberg, California hedge funder Tom Steyer, who entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in July, has largely opted to self-fund his campaign. The immense amounts of his personal fortune that Steyer has dumped into his campaign have managed to land him on one debate stage, but haven’t propelled him to viability in the Democratic field.