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Michael Bloomberg Is Really Running For President

The former New York City mayor is a verrrrry late entry to the Democratic presidential primary, months after saying he would sit it out.

Last updated on November 24, 2019, at 12:09 p.m. ET

Posted on November 24, 2019, at 10:15 a.m. ET

Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, has decided to run for president in the Democratic primary.

Bloomberg launched his campaign Sunday morning with an ad painting him as a "jobs creator" and on his website writes that America "may never recover from the damage" if Donald Trump were to win a second term.

"I believe my unique set of experiences in business, government, and philanthropy will enable me to win and lead," he wrote.

He officially filed a "statement of candidacy" with the Federal Election Commission, a formal step in the process of entering the race, last Thursday.

He is joining the race very late, with the Iowa caucuses under three months away on Feb. 3. His decision also comes after he has already filed to get on the primary ballot in several states ahead of deadlines, but he did so without saying definitively if he would run.

Bloomberg's decision is something of an about-face for a politician who has considered and declined presidential runs many times before. In March, he said he would skip the race because he said he was "less interested in talking than doing."

While there would be no higher honor than serving as president, my highest obligation as a citizen is to help the country the best way I can, right now. That's what I'll do, including the launch of a new effort called Beyond Carbon. My full statement: https://t.co/b3cQUF1PhU

He's also the second person to make that flip this month, after former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick joined the Democratic primary race earlier in November.

Bloomberg, 77, is a strange fit in the primary. He was first elected as mayor of New York City as a Republican in 2001, before leaving the party in 2007 and winning a third term as an independent in 2009. He registered as a Democrat in 2018, when he was considering running for president.

Party allegiance has already been an issue in the race this year — Joe Biden has implicitly criticized Elizabeth Warren for being a registered Republican decades ago. “I’ve been a Democrat my whole life," Biden said at a recent fundraiser in Pittsburgh. "This person has only fairly recently in the mid-’90s become a Democrat."

He's also joining a campaign where extreme wealth has been a focus. Warren and Bernie Sanders have laid out proposals that would tax high wealth, something that would clearly impact Bloomberg, who is worth $52 billion. Bloomberg attacked Warren's wealth tax proposal in January, comparing it to socialist schemes in countries like Venezuela.

Warren, who has generally avoided personally criticizing other candidates in the primary, has eagerly gone after Bloomberg. She initially responded to reports about Bloomberg's potential campaign with a link to her wealth tax plan.

Welcome to the race, @MikeBloomberg! If you're looking for policy plans that will make a huge difference for working people and which are very popular, start here: https://t.co/6UMSAf90NT

Bloomberg also took a swipe at the progressive focus on "Medicare for All;" and in the ad a narrator says Bloomberg will work so "everyone without health insurance is guaranteed to get it, and everyone who likes theirs can go ahead and keep it."

One of the clearest signs that Bloomberg would really join the race came in mid-November, when Bloomberg apologized for his administration's use of stop-and-frisk policing when he was mayor. The tactic, which disproportionally impacted the city's black and Latino communities and was eventually deemed a “policy of indirect racial profiling” by a federal judge, was "wrong," Bloomberg said at a Brooklyn church.

Bloomberg has spent much of the last several years dedicating his money to pushing for climate change prevention and gun control measures. His affiliated group Everytown for Gun Safety spent $2.5 million in Virginia's legislative elections this week, successfully helping to turn the state to Democratic control, and he spent millions on behalf of Democrats in 2018's elections. He's already planning to spend millions more in this year's elections, including on a wave of anti-Trump ads.

It's not clear exactly what Bloomberg's path to success would be in the primary at this point. Democratic voters have largely said that they are happy with the candidates who were already running — 65% of Democratic-leaning registered voters said in a Pew survey this summer that they considered the candidate field to be "excellent" or "good." In a series of tweets, Howard Wolfson, a longtime Bloomberg adviser, said Bloomberg "is increasingly concerned" that the Democrats already running would not be able to defeat Donald Trump.

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's aides have also said he does not intend to contend in the first primary and caucus states, but instead run a national campaign going hard at the states that begin voting in March.

Bloomberg's late decision to enter the race is particularly complicated for his current employees. Late last year, Bloomberg said in a radio interview that if he ran for president, he would likely try to sell his company Bloomberg LP or place it in a blind trust. That interview worried reporters in the company's news division, who were concerned over how Bloomberg News would handle covering the presidential campaign if its namesake was part of the race. At the time, Bloomberg said if he ran, he would consider having Bloomberg News "not cover politics at all."

In an email to staff Sunday morning, Bloomberg editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said: "There is no point in trying to claim that covering this presidential campaign will be easy for a newsroom that has built up its reputation for independence in part by not writing about ourselves." He said the newsroom would "write about virtually all aspects of this presidential contest in much the same way as we have done so far."

But there will be significant changes to how Bloomberg News approaches the campaign, Micklethwait wrote. "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. We cannot treat Mike's Democratic competitors differently from him."

Bloomberg EIC John Micklethwait sent a note to staff this morning, "The Newsroom and Mike's Campaign,” including some guidelines for the newsroom and changes for opinion. (1/2, sorry)

The company's opinion section will also have organizational changes, in part to account for some staff — including Tim O'Brien, a longtime Trump chronicler and Bloomberg Opinion executive editor — leaving to join Bloomberg's campaign.

Bloomberg is the second billionaire this year to decide against running for president and then change his mind, after Tom Steyer.

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