Back in May, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg ended speculation that he would run for president, shattering the hopes of everyone who wanted an even older, even richer, white male New York businessman in the White House. "I know we can do better as a country. And I believe I would defeat Donald Trump in a general election," the 77-year-old wrote. "But I am clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field." It now appears that Bloomberg's eyes are foggier than his justifications for illegally stopping millions of innocent black and Hispanic New Yorkers.
According to the Times, Bloomberg "is expected to file paperwork" in Alabama so he can appear on the ballot for the Democratic primary there, and he has started calling prominent Democrats to signal his interest. (Apparently this is more serious than his 2016 balk.)
Bloomberg's desire to run again comes as the preferred candidate of moderate Democrats, former Vice President Joe Biden, struggles to raise money and maintain his lead in early primary states. "The billionaire class is scared and they should be scared," Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted last night as news of Bloomberg's potential candidacy emerged. Senator Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax calculator now includes a form entry specifically for Bloomberg (he'd pay a little more than $3 billion under Warren's proposed wealth tax).
Former deputy mayor and Bloomberg whisperer Howard Wolfson, who currently works for the Bloomberg Foundation, laid out his boss's case on Twitter:
The cliche to describe Bloomberg's style during his 12-year tenure as mayor is that he was a competent manager who was happy to delegate tasks to trusted deputies. "The Great Technocrat" put his desk in the bullpen at City Hall to sit amongst his common staffers, like any good, roll-up-your-sleeves Wall Street boss. (Former 2020 presidential candidate and Bloomberg's Democratic successor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, moved his desk back into a private office.)
Bloomberg was a Democrat, then a Republican, then an Independent, but what mattered most is that he was rich. Bloomberg spent more than a quarter of a billion dollars on his three campaigns for mayor (his last campaign he spent $174 per vote and initiated a one-time change in the city's term limit rules to eke out a win against his largely forgotten opponent). His fortune has only ballooned since leaving office, to $53 billion by last count.
He did things his way, which of course meant it was the Right Way. This decisive style of governance was effective sometimes, like when it came to pedestrianizing Times Square or devising sweeping plans to protect the city from global heating or ridding our lungs of noxious cigarette smoke, or generally keeping the city's developer class humming with luxury housing.
But Bloomberg was also stubbornly arrogant—about the millions of illegal searches that his NYPD conducted that had no actual effect on the falling crime rate, about hiring a friend with zero experience in education to oversee New York City's school system, about a cartoonishly stupid boondoggle that ended up costing taxpayers almost a billion dollars.
And if you think Bloomberg's potential Republican opponent in the 2020 race is out of touch with the reality of the vast majority of his constituents, try a guy who flew to Bermuda almost every weekend of his mayorality, whose idea of energy efficiency was to strap an apartment-grade air conditioning unit to the window of his mayoral SUV, and who looks at a box of Frosted Mini Wheats like it's an alien life force.
And then there's his history of alleged sexism, the worst of which was distilled by Megan Garber for The Atlantic last year:
In his 1997 autobiography, Bloomberg by Bloomberg, the mogul bragged about keeping “a girlfriend in every city” during his years working as a Wall Street stock trader in the 1960s and ’70s. He is reported to have said, of the computer terminal that made his fortune, “It will do everything, including give you [oral sex]. I guess that puts a lot of you girls out of business.”
There’s more: Bloomberg reportedly saying to a journalist and the journalist’s friend, as he gazed at a woman at a holiday party, “Look at the ass on her.” (He denied having made that comment.) Bloomberg, according to a top aide, seeing attractive women and reflexively remarking, “Nice tits.” Bloomberg, mocking Christine Quinn, the then-speaker of New York’s City Council, for going too long between hair colorings. (“The couple of days a week before I need to get my hair colored,” Quinn once said, “he’ll say, ‘Do you pay a lot to make your hair be two colors? Because now it’s three with the gray.’”) Bloomberg mocking Quinn again, she said, for failing to wear heels at public events. (“I was at a parade with him once and he said, ‘What are those?’ and I said, ‘They’re comfortable,’ and he said, ‘I never want to hear those words out of your mouth again.’”) Bloomberg, quoted by colleagues as saying, “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdale’s.” Bloomberg being asked in a deposition, “Have you ever made a comment to the effect that you would like to ‘do that piece of meat,’ or I’d ‘do her in a second’?” Bloomberg replying, “I don’t recall ever using the term meat at all.”
Bloomberg largely stepped out of the spotlight when he left the mayor's office in 2013, except to occasionally announce that he was tossing crumbs of his fortune to support Democrats and various "common-sense" causes like gun control and fighting climate change.
In those intervening six years, have his views changed enough to make him competitive in a Democratic field where candidates compete for small donors and where two of the top candidates have explicitly campaigned on taxing the hell out of people like Michael Bloomberg?
The Times interviewed Bloomberg earlier this year during his first 2019 dalliance with a candidacy:
In the interview Friday — his first extended comments on his thinking about a 2020 presidential run — Mr. Bloomberg expressed stubbornly contrary views on those fronts. He criticized liberal Democrats’ attitude toward big business, endorsing certain financial regulations but singling out a proposal by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to break up Wall Street banks as wrongheaded. He also defended his mayoral administration’s policy of stopping people on the street to search them for guns, a police tactic that predominantly affected black and Latino men, as a necessary expedient against crime.
And while Mr. Bloomberg expressed concern about allegations of sexual misconduct that have arisen in the last year, he also voiced doubt about some of them and said only a court could determine their veracity. He gave as an example Charlie Rose, the disgraced television anchor who for years broadcast his eponymous talk show from the offices of Mr. Bloomberg’s company.
“The stuff I read about is disgraceful — I don’t know how true all of it is,” Mr. Bloomberg said of the #MeToo movement. Raising Mr. Rose unprompted, he said: “We never had a complaint, whatsoever, and when I read some of the stuff, I was surprised, I will say. But I never saw anything and we have no record, we’ve checked very carefully.”
A recent Fox News poll showed that 8 percent of respondents would vote for Bloomberg in a general election, while 32 percent polled said they would not.
If Bloomberg liquidates his fortune (which he has essentially planned to do anyway) he can afford to spend $387 for each of the 136 million votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, more than double his 2009 expenditure.