Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a presidential run on Sunday, unveiling a minute-long campaign video that called the billionaire, one of the richest men in the world, a “middle class kid who made good”.
“I’m running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “We cannot afford four more years of President Trump’s reckless and unethical actions. He represents an existential threat to our country and our values. If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage.”
The Bloomberg campaign aimed to make up for an unusually late entry in the Democratic primary with historic spending on national advertising and an unorthodox strategy for navigating the primary calendar. Bloomberg has expressed concern that none of the top candidates can defeat Trump.
Bloomberg’s campaign has reserved more than $30m in television ad time, called the largest ad buy in primary election history. His first ad touts his performance as mayor after the September 11 attacks and his work on gun control, climate change and other issues.
Under the theme “rebuilding America”, the ad skips over the Democratic primary field to focus on Trump, flashing a picture of the president with the line: “And now he’s taking on him.” The ad closes with the lines “Mike Bloomberg for President” and “Paid for by Bloomberg 2020”.
“I’m Mike Bloomberg and I approve this message,” he says.
Bloomberg, who spent a record $102m – or $172 per vote – in his third and final election as New York mayor in 2009, was a Democrat before being elected mayor in 2001 as a Republican. He switched to register as an independent before returning to the Democratic party in 2018.
“We’re about to see how much money can buy,” tweeted CNN polling analyst Harry Enten, “cause prior to him getting in Bloomberg’s polling is not good to put it mildly.”
This month the billionaire mogul established a campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission and he has qualified for the ballot in at least three states.
Jumping into the race almost a year after Senator Elizabeth Warren announced she was exploring a candidacy, Bloomberg is pursuing an unorthodox strategy in which he will skip the first four states in the primary season calendar – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – to make a play for the so-called Super Tuesday states in early March.
He has announced that his campaign will be entirely self-funded, meaning he cannot qualify for the Democratic presidential debates under current rules, which require candidates to receive at least 10,000 individual donations. Those rules could be revisited in January, the Washington Post reported.
“He has never taken a political contribution in his life,” chief adviser Howard Wolfson told the Associated Press. “He is not about to start. He cannot be bought.”
The billionaire’s media company, Bloomberg News, said on Sunday members of its editorial board had taken leaves of absence to work on the campaign and the outlet would cease producing unsigned editorials.
“We will continue our tradition of not investigating Mike (and his family and foundation) and we will extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries,” the company said.
Bloomberg, 77, has a net worth estimated at more than $50bn. His entry to the race was not welcomed by the current field.
“I’m disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political process and spend tens of millions of dollars to buy elections,” Vermont senator Bernie Sanders tweeted Saturday.
“If you can’t build grassroots support for your candidacy, you have no business running for president.”