The Conservative Political Action Conference, a yearly confab dedicated to all things on the right side of the aisle, is a bastion of support for President Trump’s re-election in 2020. Among the red dresses, dark suits, and MAGA hats, there aren’t many people who believe Trump can’t win another four years in the White House.
However, if forced to pick out a favorite in the Democratic field, many CPAC attendees—young and old—chose another New York businessman: Mike Bloomberg. The self-proclaimed conservatives cited the former New York mayor’s business acumen, his net worth, and his former GOP credentials as positive points about the Democratic presidential contender.
“I would pick Bloomberg, because I think he’s the most sane of them all,” Ron Fodor, a 67-year-old retiree, told The Daily Beast. “Basically because a wise man once said, ‘Be a success before you tell someone else how to be a success.’ I think Bloomberg, he’s been a success, there’s no doubt about it… He’s also a capitalist, where the other ones could swing to be more of a socialist, and that scares me.”
Bloomberg—who’s worth a staggering $59 billion—earned his riches after founding his eponymous global financial services, software, and media company, Bloomberg L.P. He’s poured an incredible amount of his own money into his campaign, which officially entered the national stage after the Iowa caucuses. At one point, he was spending over $38 a second.
Samuel, a 16-year-old former New Yorker who asked his last name be omitted, allowed that he would have a “penchant for Bloomberg” if someone held him at “gunpoint,” recalling Bloomberg’s performance as mayor.
For over a decade, Bloomberg served as New York City’s mayor as both a Republican and an independent. In 2005, he was even able to clinch the widest winning margin at the time for a Republican mayor of New York.
“I think that Bloomberg changed a lot for New York City so he clearly would be able to change a lot for America. I wouldn’t say it’s all for the better, [but] I would say he’s one I could deal with,” Samuel said. “He was a Republican for a long time. It doesn’t surprise me that he would switch over, the fact that he was mayor for so long as a Republican is quite something… but a lot of his policies now do seem in line with what he held before.”
Two Catholic University freshmen, Franchetta Groves and Mara Schleigh, said they saw Bloomberg as “not ideal” but that he got some points in their eyes for his “experience in business.”
“He’s actually not as far left as everyone else, it seems,” Schleigh said. “Then again, I really wouldn’t want any of them.”
Jennifer O’Reilly, a former New Yorker in her mid-forties, said she thought Bloomberg could clinch the Democratic nomination but questioned his party alignment and “message.” Bloomberg was a Democrat before he ran for mayor as a Republican in 2001, then changed his party affiliation to independent while he was still in City Hall. He officially came back to the Democratic Party in 2018.
“He ran as a Republican for the New York City mayor, he ran as an independent, and now he’s not a Democrat but he’s running as a Democrat,” O’Reilly said.
Tim Kaelin, a CPAC attendee in his mid-fifties, also said he didn’t think the former mayor was a “genuine Republican or a genuine Democrat” and couldn’t figure out what his agenda was. However, he said he did think Bloomberg would be effective in office.
“Bloomberg is a business guy. He’s going to be more autocratic than Trump is, certainly,” Kaelin said. “Whatever he wants to do, I think he will get done, but I’m not sure what it is.”
Kaelin had praise for another “moderate” in the Democratic field, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), saying she was a “competent” candidate who probably “would get things done that [I] wouldn’t like.”
“She’s passed over 100 bills in the Senate,” he said. “Nobody else has done that, I don’t even think Biden has done that.”
Arnette Davis, 62, who was wearing a bright red suit and a Trump hat, and 16-year-old Madison Spanodemos also said their favorite in the Democratic field was the “centrist” Minnesota senator—who often boasts about her real experience in the political “arena.”
“I think she’s one of the few candidates who has publicly identified and spoken out against how extreme the other Democrats are—not to say her policies aren’t extreme,” Spanodemos said. “But the fact that she’s willing to say, in public, that middle America and other voters won’t be so attracted to some of these ideas says a lot about how’d she’d be as president.”
Davis said she could see people like herself potentially “work[ing] with [Klobuchar] and she would be open to both sides.”
Still, 22-year-old Giovanni Gravano, echoing many attendees, said he thought the president winning re-election was a no-brainer.
“I think Trump still has 2020, hands down. I don’t think anybody on that Democratic stage has a chance at the moment, no matter how much money they have,” he said.