Democratic Party heavyweights from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to financiers who bundle contributions for the party’s top candidates are baffled by Michael Bloomberg’s move to possibly enter the Democratic primary, FOX Business has learned.
They say the former New York City mayor and Wall Street billionaire has little chance of winning the nomination and may accomplish what he is actually trying to prevent: Electing a far-left progressive nominee who will likely lose against President Trump in 2020. Schumer made his remarks at a fundraiser in New York City Thursday night, according to people in attendance, just hours after news broke that Bloomberg was planning to enter the race.
Other Democratic Party fundraising types expressed similar astonishment that Bloomberg believes he can win the nomination since his very presence will likely galvanize the party’s progressive base to support a candidate like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has been surging in recent polls.
Despite being a darling of the left, a majority of recent polls show Warren facing a difficult task beating Trump in a head-to-head contest.
“Chuck was baffled,” said one attendee. “He said he had no idea why Bloomberg is doing this since the field is so crowded already.” A Schumer spokesman did not respond to a telephone call or email for comment.
In a statement released Friday after officially filing in Alabama, a Bloomberg campaign manager said:
"If we run, we are confident we can win in states voting on Super Tuesday and beyond, where we will start on an even footing. But the late timing of our entry means that many candidates already have a big head start in the four early states, where they've spent months and months campaigning and spending money. We have enormous respect for the Democratic primary process and many friends in those states, but our plan is to run a broad-based, national campaign."
By filing in Alabama, the state with the first primary deadline, he is keeping his options open about a possible presidential bid, people close to him tell FOX Business. In recent years he has toyed with running for president as a fiscally conservative, socially liberal Democrat and Independent while demonstrating mixed party loyalty since he entered politics as the Republican mayor of New York City in 2002. More recently, he has been a staunch critic of Trump and endorsed his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 election.
But as FOX Business was first to report in late September, Bloomberg, 77, has maintained an active campaign office and polling staff — and advisers said he never completely gave up on the idea of running in the 2020 election despite a previous announcement that he would likely sit it out. The reason: He was worried that amid a crowded field of potential nominees — 17 Democratic candidates are in the race — an unelectable, far-left progressive would gain support and overtake the nominal frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden, 76, who has stumbled in debates and in fundraising.
That scenario is on the cusp of becoming reality with the surge of Warren in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and with national polls showing she is on the heels of Biden to gain frontrunner status for the nomination. Warren’s emergence has sent a chill through parts of the Democratic coalition, including moderates and business community executives worried about her strident class-warfare rhetoric and calls to socialize vast parts of the U.S. economy that would lead to massive tax increases, deficits and a steep decline in job creation and the markets.
Democratic centrists including business leaders such as JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon and others have recently stepped up their criticisms of Warren, pointing out that these very policies make her toxic to many Americans. While these corporate types represent a small part of the Democratic Party, given their ability to raise money they have wielded tremendous clout in nominating candidates.
And, as they are now pointing out with greater urgency, Warren could face a difficult task in defeating Trump. The president maintains low personal favorability ratings given his volatile and, at times, noxious behavior, but has enacted economic policies creating more jobs and resulted in a booming stock market. Warren’s far-left positions on remaking the U.S. economy will be hard for most Americans, particularly moderates and independent voters to stomach, they say.
Many of these concerns are also what is animating Bloomberg’s latest soul-searching on a 2020 run, according to people who know him. Biden’s shaky standing in recent polls and in debate performances and problems fundraising are other reasons why Bloomberg is now seriously thinking about a presidential run.
In fact, people close to Bloomberg tell FOX Business he had an unofficial pact with Biden where he promised not to run if Biden looked strong enough to win the nomination, an agreement that was reached last year during a meeting between both men.
With Bloomberg’s growing skepticism of Biden’s chances of beating Trump, the former mayor also believes there is a possible path for him to beat back Warren’s progressive wave, and to gain the nomination by appealing to moderates. Middle-of-the-road Democrats have proved decisive in the midterm elections, and most recently in helping a Democrat win the governorship of a red state like Kentucky, these people say.
Once on the ticket, Bloomberg is said to believe he will easily trounce Trump in a general election.
“Bloomberg would not take this risk if he didn’t have a path,” said veteran Democratic Party strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “He’s an engineer by training. He’s very thoughtful and careful before he makes his moves. The nice thing about being Bloomberg is he has an awful lot of friends, he can put it together fast and his people are very loyal to him.”
A Biden spokesman didn’t respond for comment.
Another advantage Bloomberg has as a candidate is money. Trump, a former real estate magnate and reality TV star, boasts a net worth of $10 billion, though most wealth experts believe it’s far lower — and much of it is illiquid. Bloomberg, a self-made billionaire, earned his estimated $50 billion fortune as a Wall Street trader, and most notably as the founder of the eponymous and highly-lucrative data-analytics and news company, Bloomberg LP.
Speculation has continuously swirled that Bloomberg keeps a stash of Treasury bonds worth $20 billion that he is ready to spend at a moment’s notice. He used his own money to run for New York City mayor (winning three times) and people close to him tell FOX Business he will spend what it takes to win the presidential nomination and election if he decides to run.
In Trump, Bloomberg would face a challenger who is already setting fundraising records and on his way to raising $1.5 billion, even if Bloomberg could spend multiples of that. The fundraising gap for the current Democratic frontrunners is even greater; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leads the pack by raising $73 million, while Warren and Biden have raised $60 million and nearly $37 million, respectively.
Democratic Party insiders, however, say it will take more than money for Bloomberg to have a clear path to the nomination. And Bloomberg himself is not totally convinced he can win, which is why he hasn’t announced and may ultimately decide not to run, people close to him say.
A billionaire businessman using unlimited funds to win the nomination would undoubtedly ignite enthusiasm within the left-wing of the party, making Warren and her message of redistributing wealth more appealing to base voters. Bloomberg, meanwhile, has often had strained relations with the black community during his years as New York City mayor; he was, for example, a staunch advocate of the controversial policing practice known as “stop-and-frisk,” which was criticized as unfairly profiling minorities.
In order to win the nomination, he will need to appeal to black voters, who are key members of the Democratic Party base and dominate primaries in the south. Biden, of course, served as vice president to the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, and has close to ties to many prominent black leaders.
And Biden is said to understand Bloomberg’s vulnerability with black voters; FOX Business has learned that the former vice president is planning a major announcement in the coming days to show the depth of his support among black leaders and politicians.
“People forget, the nomination of any Democrat goes through the black community,” said one Biden operative. “And Joe has plenty of goodwill in that community.”