vision 2020

Bloomberg Dips Toe In Presidential Primary Waters

Bloomberg will at least be on one Democratic ballot: in Alabama, of all places. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

It’s a move probably designed to keep the option open rather than to exercise it, but it’s still big and surprising news, as reported by the New York Times:

Michael R. Bloomberg is actively preparing to enter the Democratic presidential primary and is expected to file paperwork this week designating himself as a candidate in at least one state with an early filing deadline, people briefed on Mr. Bloomberg’s plans said.

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.

To be clear, Alabama’s is the first 2020 primary filing deadline. It’s not like the former Gotham mayor and gun control enthusiast thinks he has an important pocket of support in the Heart of Dixie. Probably a more important and relevant filing deadline comes up a week from Friday, in New Hampshire.

But even if Bloomberg has not yet clearly opted into the 2020 race, he hasn’t opted out, either, and as the Times notes, an actual Bloomberg candidacy could be quite the game-changer, if only because he combines vast wealth with a public resume and name ID that Tom Steyer could only dream of:

Should Mr. Bloomberg proceed with a campaign, it could represent a seismic disruption in the Democratic race. With his immense personal wealth, centrist views and close ties to the political establishment, he 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.

But Mr. Bloomberg could also reshape the race in other ways, intensifying the Democrats’ existing debates about economic inequality and corporate power, and offering fodder to the party’s rising populist wing, led by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who contend that the extremely rich already wield far too much influence in politics. Mr. Bloomberg has repeatedly expressed discomfort with certain policies favored by both Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders.

The odds are actually good that Bloomberg’s presence in the race could help Warren and Sanders immensely, not only by cutting into Biden’s support (particularly among donors, financial-sector elites, and “centrist” opinion-leaders) but giving them an ever-present symbol of corporate politics to demonize.

Outside the Biden campaign, though, the fear a Bloomberg run would most intensely arouse among Democrats is that he might lose the nomination but then decide to go third-party, serving as a heaven-sent spoiler on behalf of the hellish Donald Trump. Everything Bloomberg has been saying lately indicates that he won’t go there so long as Trump is in the race. But you can expect him to be asked explicitly to rule it out early and often–even in Alabama.

Bloomberg Dips Toe In Presidential Primary Waters