The Slatest

Michael Bloomberg Would Make an Awkward Democratic Candidate for President

Michael Bloomberg speaks at an event in London on June 18, 2018.
Michael Bloomberg speaks at an event in London on June 18, 2018.
Niklas Halle’n/Getty Images

The long list of potential Trump challengers just got a little longer: Michael Bloomberg is now openly considering running for president in 2020. His declaration follows weeks of unconfirmed reports that he was eyeing a White House run, and it comes with a twist: The former New York City mayor, who was elected twice as a Republican and once as an independent, says if he runs, he’ll do so as a Democrat. “I’m just way away from where the Republican Party is today,” Bloomberg told the New York Times. “That’s not to say I’m with the Democratic Party on everything, but I don’t see how you could possibly run as a Republican.”

There is good reason to doubt how seriously Bloomberg is considering running. The billionaire has been teasing a presidential run for more than a decade, and most recently flirted with an independent bid in 2016 before pulling the plug over fears he’d accidentally swing the election to Donald Trump. But Bloomberg has also been acting an awful lot like someone eyeing a future inside the Democratic Party of late. Earlier this year, he forcefully condemned Republicans for failing to act as a check on the president, and he promised to spend $80 million to help Democrats retake the House. He’s also been making the political rounds out West, where he’s been fêted by the likes of Nancy Pelosi, who now has 80 million reasons to sing his praises as a man whose “name is synonymous with excellence.”

But the more interesting question is not if Bloomberg will jump into the Democratic primary but how he would fit into it. The short answer: awkwardly. He’s a billionaire who defends big business and Wall Street, and he’s a former mayor who is still defending his administration’s reliance on stop-and-frisk searches that predominantly targeted men of color. He’d also enter the race as an older white man at a time when the Democratic base has made it clear it’s increasingly interested in candidates who know firsthand what it’s like to live in America as anything but that.

One need look no further than the comments Bloomberg made about #MeToo to the Times for evidence that the 76-year-old is either unwilling or unable to speak the language of today’s left. “The stuff I read about is disgraceful—I don’t know how true all of it is,” Bloomberg said when asked about the recent spate of allegations of sexual harassment and assault by powerful men. He then offered up a defense of Charlie Rose, who was fired by CBS and PBS after numerous women credibly accused him of sexual misconduct. (Rose recorded his PBS show in one of Bloomberg’s TV studios.) “We never had a complaint, whatsoever, and when I read some of the stuff, I was surprised, I will say,” he said. “But I never saw anything and we have no record, we’ve checked very carefully.” Bloomberg also declined to say whether he believed the allegations against Rose. “You know, is it true?” he said. “You look at people that say it is, but we have a system where you have—presumption of innocence is the basis of it.”

Still, Bloomberg’s 2020 campaign wouldn’t necessarily be DOA, especially if the Democratic field turns out to be as crowded as expected. He’s got experience in government and in business, and a liberal track record on issues like climate change and gun control. He’s worth an estimated $53 billion, and he could use that cash to make an early splash and to keep his campaign afloat for as long as he’d like. And while he doesn’t appear to have a natural constituency among Democratic primary voters, with so many big names racing to the left, it’s conceivable Bloomberg may be able to cobble together a coalition of support among moderates looking for a pragmatic candidate running closer to the center. But even then, Bloomberg would likely have competition, be it from someone like Joe Biden or one or more of a handful of other mayors considering a run. In the meantime, though, Bloomberg seems to be enjoying the attention. After all, he’s grown accustomed to it.