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In recent days, Bloomberg’s campaign office has begun the process of interviewing new staffers to work a presidential campaign that appears increasingly likely, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. It’s unclear how many people Bloomberg is prepared to hire, or if he has extended any formal offers. But FOX Business has learned that his campaign office has met with several people with the intention of hiring several dozen advisers to complement the half-dozen campaign officials Bloomberg already has on staff, these people say.
The discussions suggest the former New York City mayor, Wall Street trader and founder of the eponymous news and financial data behemoth, Bloomberg LP, is leaning toward a formal announcement where he would compete to become the Democratic Party’s nominee to challenge President Trump in 2020. It also comes as polls show that the 77-year-old multibillionaire would face an uphill battle to win the nomination after he took steps toward entering the race recently by registering for the Alabama and Arkansas Democratic primaries late last week and earlier this week.
Bloomberg himself has spoken about the difficulty he faces in winning as one of nearly two dozen potential Democratic candidates that include current frontrunners, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden. Bloomberg had initially stated he was sitting out the election, though FOX Business reported in late September that he had maintained a campaign office with a paid staff of about six people conducting polls for a still-possible run in 2020.
Indeed, Bloomberg himself has privately answered questions about his intentions to run by stating that the nomination will be difficult to win in a party that has a base dominated by progressives and anti-business populists who favor Warren and socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. But he has also said that his record as a fiscal conservative with ties to the business community and solid record as a moderate mayor makes him a better candidate to compete against Trump in the general election. “I probably can’t win the nomination but I think I can win the general,” Bloomberg told one person a couple of weeks ago.
It’s difficult to know what exactly has changed Bloomberg’s calculus that he is now taking overt steps toward entering the race, including interviewing people to greatly expand his campaign staff, as FOX Business has learned. One factor pushing Bloomberg to run: He is said to be concerned that a progressive like Warren won’t be able to defeat Trump in the general election given the strong state of the economy and her own far-left proposals. Warren has proposed massive spending programs like Medicare-for-all, high taxes and increased regulation on banks and technology companies.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg is said to be worried about the lackluster performance in debates and on the campaign trail of the race’s leading moderate, Biden. The 76-year-old Biden and Bloomberg had maintained a non-aggression pact unless Biden began slipping in the race, which according to some polls, is now taking place.
More than anything, Bloomberg staunchly believes he can beat Trump by running on his accomplishments as a businessman and his moderate and successful tenure as mayor of New York City, and contrast that with the president’s volatile governing style that has produced low approval ratings despite a strong economy. The current impeachment hearings have also contributed to Bloomberg’s optimism that he could beat Trump in a head-to-head matchup.
“Mike Bloomberg doesn’t do things off the cuff,” said veteran Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “He will hire as many people as he needs to run and that’s what he’s doing now.”
Spokesmen for Bloomberg didn’t return multiple requests for comment, but did not deny the moves to expand his campaign staff.
Bloomberg is one of the richest people in America with a net worth of about $53 billion accumulated over a long career on Wall Street, but mostly as an entrepreneur who created the Bloomberg terminal that can be found in every trading desk on Wall Street spitting out analytics and investment information. Bloomberg took a break from the business to run for mayor of New York City, and beginning in 2002, he served three terms first as a Republican, then as an Independent where he governed as a fiscal conservative who was tough on crime but also advocated a number of social issues that would classify him as a progressive.
But for most of his adult life Bloomberg has been a registered Democrat and in recent years he has returned to the party. During the 2016 presidential election, he endorsed Hillary Clinton over Trump, and became a staunch critic of the president while using his enormous wealth promoting left-of-center causes such as climate and gun control.
By making moves that he will enter the campaign, Bloomberg has already upended the race. Warren and Sanders have accused him of potentially using his nearly unlimited bank account to buy the nomination. Biden, meanwhile, has expressed dismay that he will have to compete with another centrist, and one who could spend countless billions of his own money in the coming months.
Of course, Bloomberg could decide not to run, as he has done in the past. He has toyed with running as an Independent, but decided against the move because he didn’t think he could win in a general election. Polls show he has an uphill battle to the nomination; Warren and Sanders will use his status as a billionaire and his record on crime (Bloomberg as New York City mayor employed the controversial policing technique known as “stop and frisk” that some say discriminated against minorities) to engage the party’s progressives, which dominate early voting in Iowa and New Hampshire.
But Bloomberg’s strategy is to largely sit out those early primaries and focus on the later primaries like South Carolina and the mega Super Tuesday primary in late March, where more moderate voters go to the polls. And at least for now, people who know Bloomberg say he wants to run president even if he’s not 100 percent sure he should get into the race. These same people say that they could even see a scenario where Bloomberg jumps into the race at some point as an independent.
“It’s never a definite with Mike until you see the announcement,” said one person with knowledge of the matter. “But the best sign yet that he wants to do this thing is that he is looking to hire more people. You don’t do that unless you’re very serious.”