As former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz used CBS' "60 Minutes" last night to lay the potential foundation for a 2020 run, another billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, is creating his own 2020 presidential political buzz.
And it goes beyond some recent public statements Bloomber's made attacking President Trump's competence to hold the job, or even his statement on Monday that he won't run as an independent — as he has flirted with in the past — because it would split the ticket and re-elect Trump.
For me, the biggest telltale sign that Bloomberg is leaning toward a 2020 presidential run is the increasing nervousness of the journalists who work at Bloomberg News. People there tell me that in casual conversations, Mike has made it clear that he wants to run for president, and here's what has them on edge: If he does run, they think there is a good chance he will have to do something with the news division of his company, Bloomberg LP., such as sell it or even close it down.
Let me make clear, I'm not saying I have hard and fast proof that Bloomberg is definitively running for president or looking to jettison his news unit — which employees close to 3,000 people, operating in 120 countries and provides first-rate journalism on a consistent basis. And neither are the people I have spoken with. They're just connecting a lot of dots, piecing together strands of information and coming to the following conclusions based on facts that Mike has made it clear internally that he really wants to run and this will be his last shot to nab the Democratic nomination (he's turning 77 in February).
And, these people tell me, you can't have a significant news organization that bears your name if you're running to be the leader of the free world.
To be sure, Bloomberg does still have serious concerns about getting through a primary given that the party has moved so far to the left. He is, after all, a former Wall Streeter, billionaire entrepreneur and he was once a Republican who holds pretty right-of-center views on the economy (he likes low taxes and less regulation) despite his nanny-state impulses (Google "Bloomberg and "soda ban" and you will know what I mean).
But Bloomberg believes he's got a chance to be president precisely because he is more of a centrist, the perfect foil to the extremism evident in both parties at a time when most Americans are professed moderates.
Most of all, Bloomberg knows he's got more than enough dough to get his message out. Bloomberg, it should be noted, hasn't made his money from shadowy business ventures (and you know who I'm talking about). He's worth an estimated $47 billion through selling terminals and information to Wall Street, and much of his money is liquid.
All of which is bad news for the news team, or so people there are saying. Bloomberg's terminal business is a cash cow. His news division, though first rate in its coverage of business, global financial markets, politics, technology and a lot more, is a value-added supplement to an operation that prints money.
Bloomberg needs to keep his terminal business so he can shell out what some people close to him say could be as much as $2 billion to beat back the progressives, win the Democratic nomination, and then convince even some Republicans he is a more palatable choice for president than the ethically challenged, Twitter-obsessed dude currently in the White House.
Meanwhile, having a prominent news division with his name on it will raise concerns over a conflict of interest and hurt his campaign. Recall, when he was New York City mayor, Bloomberg hired people to watch the store while he ran the city, and claimed he had no role in the company's coverage. But covering New York City Hall was a pretty niche beat for Bloomberg News. Bloomberg's coverage of a president, or even a presidential candidate, will be a completely different animal, thus the need to sell it, people there say.
Some more dots being connected by Bloomberg staffers: At a meeting a month or so ago, at a time when Mike began making some serious noises about a presidential run, the issue of what happens to the news division came up. The answer, from management, went something like this: We won't know until he decides.
It wasn't, "We're safe, so don't worry about your jobs," as you might expect. The answer was more along the lines that no one knows and everything is on the table, including a sale of the news division or something worse.
Bloomberg, of course, has flirted with a presidential run for years, even while he was mayor of New York City and backed away because he didn't think he could win that time as an Independent. It wouldn't surprise anyone if he woke up tomorrow and decide he has better things to do with his time and money because the party has moved so far to the left that would be impossible for him to win.
But the betting inside Bloomberg these days is that he will wake up either tomorrow or in the coming days and tell the world he is running, and when he does, the for-sale sign will be hanging over the news division.
Yes, there is a lot of dot connecting going on here, so how about one more? I ran all of this by a spokesman for Bloomberg's business operations, who is usually good about providing guidance. I expected him to tell me the people I'm talking to are paranoid, and I should work on some real news.
Instead he emailed me the following: "Hope you're well. We decline comment. Thanks for reaching out."