The rise of hedge-fund-bashing Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left is causing Wall Street’s plutocrats to inflate another Mike Bloomberg–is-running-for-president bubble. On Tuesday, New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin became the latest pundit to pump air into the speculation by reporting that Bloomberg is telling friends he’d consider an independent run if he finds the general-election candidates “problematic.” The piece noted that Bloomberg could “easily” self-fund a campaign and get on the ballot in all 50 states. “It’s not a zero-chance thing,” one friend told Sorkin.
I have heard the same chatter myself. In recent weeks, as I was reporting on Democrats’ mounting anxiety over Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, I was also told that Bloomberg could jump into the race either as a Democrat or an independent. One wealthy Bloomberg friend explained it this way: “He could not prevent himself from getting in if Hillary collapses. Secondly, the rise of Trump has changed his thinking. For years Mike thought a divorced billionaire with bad hair couldn’t get elected. But then Trump comes along.” The friend told me that Bloomberg has been huddling with a kitchen cabinet that includes his top political strategist, Kevin Sheekey, and former City Hall officials Patti Harris, Joel Klein, and Bob Steel.
The only problem with the draft-Bloomberg effort: The candidate isn’t onboard. When I looked into it, I found little evidence to support the notion that Bloomberg is making any serious moves to position himself like, say, Joe Biden has. Howard Wolfson, a top Bloomberg adviser who worked on Clinton’s ’08 campaign, told me multiple times in recent days that Bloomberg doesn’t want to run for president anymore, and said that Bloomberg has not asked for his advice on campaign strategy. “A lot of people are urging him to do it, but it’s not something he’s considering,” Wolfson said. In 2013, Bloomberg himself told New York’s Chris Smith that he was “100 percent” convinced an independent run is impossible.
Of course, Bloomberg is famous for changing his mind, whether it’s his reversal on running for a third term as New York’s mayor or vowing not to return to his financial data company. But running for president is a career decision on an entirely different scale and one that involves massive amounts of planning — planning that doesn’t appear to be happening at the moment it would need to be. “Bloomberg isn’t going to run,” a close friend told me. “He’s too late.”