Michael 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.

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, 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.

Bloomberg called a number of prominent Democrats on Thursday to tell them he was seriously considering the race, including former Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the retired majority leader who remains a dominant power broker in the early caucus state.

Reid said in a brief interview that Bloomberg had not explicitly said he was running for president but that the implication of the call had been clear.

Should 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 Joe Biden, who has been struggling to raise money and assemble a ideologically moderate coalition.

But Bloomberg, 77, would likely face a difficult path in a Democratic primary largely defined so far by debates about economic inequality. His presence in the race would offer fodder to the party’s rising populist wing, led by Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who contend that the extremely rich already wield far too much influence in politics.

And his mayoral record, including his support for stop-and-frisk policing and his championing of charter schools, has the potential to alienate pillars of the Democratic Party’s political base.

Faiz Shakir, Sanders’s campaign manager, signaled the stiff resistance Bloomberg would face if he joined the race.

“More billionaires seeking more political power surely isn’t the change America needs,” Shakir said in an email.

Howard Wolfson, a close adviser to Bloomberg, said today that the former mayor viewed President Trump as an “unprecedented threat to our nation,” and noted Bloomberg’s heavy spending in the 2018 midterm elections and this week’s off-year races in Virginia.

Bloomberg, he said, has grown uneasy about the existing trajectory of the Democratic primary.

“We now need to finish the job and ensure that Trump is defeated — but Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that,” Wolfson said. “If Mike runs he would offer a new choice to Democrats built on a unique record running America’s biggest city, building a business from scratch and taking on some of America’s toughest challenges as a high-impact philanthropist.”

Bloomberg will have to move quickly if he is to compete in a serious way for the Democratic nomination.

Beyond Alabama, several other states have filing deadlines in quick succession, including Arkansas and New Hampshire, with its crucial early primary.

While he has maintained a cluster of high-powered advisers in New York, he would have to build a campaign from zero in the early primary and caucus states, and it may be difficult for him to qualify for the two remaining debates this year.

A Fox News poll found in late October that Bloomberg would face more opposition than enthusiasm at the outset of a primary campaign: Presented with Bloomberg as a hypothetical entrant into the primary, 6 percent of Democratic primary voters said they would definitely support him, while 32 percent said they would never vote for him.

In a Democratic race, Bloomberg would face a battery of complicated questions about his political ideology and governing record.

He has been a vigorous advocate for core liberal causes, like gun control and battling climate change.

But as mayor Bloomberg also championed police searches that targeted black and Latino men, and in an interview last fall, he defended his administration’s stop-and-frisk policing strategy.

In the same interview, Bloomberg also expressed skepticism about the #MeToo movement in general, as well as the specific allegations of sexual misconduct against Charlie Rose, the disgraced anchor who for many years broadcast his show from the offices of Mr. Bloomberg’s media company.

A former Republican who repeatedly explored running for president as an independent,  Bloomberg registered as a Democrat ahead of the midterm elections last year.

 

 

Attribution:The New York Times
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