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Michael Bloomberg Speaks to Democratic Business Council of NoVA: Some Thoughts on His Potential 2020 Presidential Candidacy

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Former NY City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in northern Virginia yesterday, speaking before a packed house to the Democratic Business Council of NoVA. See below for some excellent (as always) photos by Mike Beaty — of Bloomberg, Gov. Ralph Northam, Rep. Don Beyer, Rep. Gerry Connolly, former Rep. Jim Moran, etc.

So what did Bloomberg have to say at the event in Tysons Corner yesterday morning? According to Politico and the Washington Post, he ripped Trump (“a complete failure of presidential leadership,” “totally incompetent management,” This is a person who should not be the president of the United States…He is way in over his head,” “Donald Trump and the nightmare on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” etc.); talked about the “cynical, political stunt” of the Trump/GOP government shutdown; “ticked off a list of major national challenges that need attention: the opioid drug crisis, millions of Americans without health insurance, the proliferation of guns and gun violence, crumbling infrastructure, wage stagnation, underperforming schools, and climate change“; and not surprisingly “touted his [own] credentials for the job” of President (“This is about competence — or the lack of it. The presidency is not an entry-level job”; “We’ve gotta make sure that we offer real alternatives for 2020 — candidates that can do the work, that have training, have experience in delivering services rather than just going to rallies and giving speeches, the people that know how to manage…These jobs — whether it’s president or governor or mayor — those are executive jobs. … And we’ve gotta make sure we put up candidates that do that.”).

I thought Rep. Gerry Connolly’s comments were interesting, that while Bloomberg “brings enormous credentials and experience and authority to a possible presidential run,” the “real question…is given sort of where our party has shifted, is that something that can excite the base and can he inspire with that managerial-first approach?” That’s a good question, and I have some thoughts on it (see below), along with some quick pros and cons that spring to mind of a Bloomberg candidacy.

  • First off, let’s get one obvious downside out of the way – Bloomberg is no spring chicken, to put it mildly. To the contrary, Bloomberg will turn 77 years old on February 14, and if he were elected president in January 2021, would hit 79 a few weeks later. So yeah, Bloomberg’s even older than Trump (72 years old right now). He’s also older than Bernie Sanders (77), Elizabeth Warren (69), and Sherrod Brown (66). Is that too old? I mean, I’d prefer someone younger, all else being equal, but given the incredible work Nancy Pelosi (78 years old) has been doing, I’d say it’s more about ideas, vitality, and health than about age per se. But that’s just me; it’s clear that among many Democratic activists and voters, there’s a desire for someone younger. So on balance, I’d say that being in his late 70s is not going to help Bloomberg, the only question being how much it would hurt him.
  • And now for an obvious potential upside in terms of winning the White House in 2020, which we obviously MUST do: Bloomberg is super-rich, FAR more so than Trump, with a net worth somewhere around $50 billion. So clearly, this guy wouldn’t have trouble spending whatever it took to win in November 2020.
  • Another potential downside from a political point of view is that Bloomberg is a white guy, at a time when many Democrats appear to be yearning for more women and more diversity. If elected, Bloomberg would be the country’s first Jewish president, so there’s that, but I’m not sure it’s going to help him much/at all in winning the Democratic nomination.
  • One major upside to Bloomberg is that he does have a lot of experience – in business, as an elected official (three terms as Mayor of NY City, the largest city in the country), as a philanthropist and political activist (mostly on gun violence prevention and climate change, but in other areas public health, the arts, government innovation, education as well). And he’s basically been successful in all these areas – quite a contrast with Trump.
  • According to PredictIt, right now Bloomberg ranks right around Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar in his chances of winning the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination. So definitely not top tier, but not too shabby either.
  • According to 538.com’s “5 Corners Of The 2020 Democratic Primary” analysis, the goal of Democratic 2020 candidates is “to build a majority coalition from voters in (at least) three out of the five groups” – “Party Loyalists,” “The Left,” “Millennials and Friends,” “Black voters,” “Hispanic voters.”  I’m not sure I see Bloomberg fitting naturally into the “Party Loyalists” category, given that he considered himself a Republican from 2001 to 2007 and an Independent from 2007 to 2018. That’s right, Bloomberg hasn’t been a Democrat since before 2001, so…yeah, not much of a “Party Loyalist” there (note: it was interesting to see so many elected and former elected Democratic officials at the Democratic Business event yesterday in Tysons). As for “The Left,” the latest Daily Kos straw poll (around 35,000 votes cast) had Bloomberg…nowhere, basically, with Kamala Harris leading the pack at 27%, Elizabeth Warren second at 18%, Joe Biden third at 13%, Bernie Sanders fourth at 12%, Beto O’Rourke fifth at 8%, Sherrod Brown sixth at 6% and Cory Booker seventh at 2%. How about “Millennials and Friends?” Hard to see Bloomberg having a great deal of appeal there; although old guy Bernie Sanders certainly did in 2016, his ideological appeal is wildly different than Bloomberg’s, so…no, just don’t see it. As for “Black voters” and “Hispanic voters,” I’m not sure I see the natural appeal of Bloomberg to either of those groups either. Which leaves Bloomberg with…none of the major Democratic Party voter coalition groups. Not promising.
  • On the issues, Bloomberg is a mixed bag — generally liberal on social issues (pro-LGBT, pro-choice, for strongly for gun violence prevention, for comprehensive immigration reform) and strong on environmental issues (excellent work both as mayor of NY City and afterwards on climate change, in particular), but also “a staunch proponent of stop-and-frisk,” while “on economics and foreign issues, Bloomberg has tended towards a conservative or moderate stance.” Again, not sure how many Democratic primary voters that combination would appeal to…
  • In terms of competition for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, it seems to me that Bloomberg would be in a similar “lane” in terms of “socially liberal/economically conservative” as former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. If it came down to those two – which I seriously doubt it will – I’d strongly support Bloomberg over McAuliffe, mostly because of Bloomberg’s FAR superior position on the environment. I’d also note that there are at least two other actual/potential major Democratic 2020 candidates from the New York/New Jersey area, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Cory Booker (also note that Bernie Sanders was born and raised in NY City, moving to Vermont at age 26; and that Terry McAuliffe was born and raised in Syracuse, NY), which also might make it more difficult for Bloomberg to gain traction.

The bottom line is that, while Michael Bloomberg is admirable in many ways, and also has basically unlimited money, I’m not really seeing a particular path to the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination for him. The main thing is that he doesn’t consider running as an independent in 2020, which could allow Trump a path to sneak back into the White House — something the country and the planet absolutely can NOT afford.

Michael Bloomberg addressing the Democratic Business Council

Ditto

Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Ralph Northam. Rep. Gerry Connolly

Gov. Ralph Northam, Rep. Gerry Connolly, Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay, Rep. Don Beyer, Michael Bloomberg

Northam, Connolly, McKay, former Rep. Jim Moran, Beyer, Bloomberg

Several of the folks I’ve noted already, plus Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s Chief of Staff Larry Roberts on the far right (not politically, of course – heh)