Wednesday 11 December 2019

Former NYC mayor Bloomberg mulls last-minute entry to US presidential race

Michael Bloomberg. Photo: Getty Images
Michael Bloomberg. Photo: Getty Images

Tim Walker in New York

With just one week to go before voters in Iowa decide the first contest of this year's by turns exhilarating and exasperating US presidential election, another wild-card billionaire is weighing whether to step in.

Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, could disrupt the campaign momentum of rivals on both sides. Yet some Republicans and Democrats have rushed to welcome the 73-year-old to the race. "I'd love to compete against Michael," Donald Trump, the Manhattan real-estate magnate and Republican frontrunner, told CBS's 'Face the Nation', adding: "I think he might very well get in the race and I would love to have him."

John Kasich, Governor of Ohio and a more mainstream GOP hopeful who has surged to second place in the New Hampshire polls, told reporters Mr Bloomberg would "stimulate the debate" should he run. "I'm all in favour of that," Mr Kasich said. "Maybe we could have a more serious debate instead of, you know, some of the things we see."

Thanks to the financial and media empire that bears his name, Mr Bloomberg is worth an estimated $36.5bn (€33.7bn), a personal fortune more than eight times the size of Mr Trump's. Originally a Democrat, he was twice elected mayor of New York on the Republican ticket, but declared himself an independent before serving his third and final term. Since leaving office in 2013, he has spent millions of his own money on progressive causes, in particular backing political candidates who favour gun control.

Discomfited by the direction of the presidential primaries, Mr Bloomberg has had plans drawn up for a potential tilt at the White House, 'The New York Times' reported at the weekend. If Mr Trump or his closest rival, Ted Cruz, takes the Republican nomination from the right, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders scrapes past his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton on the left, Mr Bloomberg believes there may be room for a run up the political centre. He is said to be willing to spend $1bn on a campaign.

Mr Sanders said that he believed a Bloomberg candidacy would clear his way to the White House. Speaking to 'Face the Nation', the socialist senator said that in a three-way contest between himself, Mr Trump and Mr Bloomberg, the two billionaires would fight each other to a standstill. So far, so theoretical.

Ms Clinton, meanwhile, told NBC's 'Meet the Press' she intended to "relieve" Mr Bloomberg of the obligation to run by winning the Democratic nomination herself. Mr Bloomberg also came close to running in 2008, the last time a dominant Ms Clinton was faltering in the primaries. The two are thought to have a mutual respect, if not a close personal friendship; Mr Bloomberg was New York's mayor when Ms Clinton was a New York senator. In 2012, Mr Bloomberg reportedly attempted to recruit Ms Clinton to run as his successor.

Primary season kicks off with the Iowa caucuses on February 1. Mr Bloomberg is expected to make a decision on whether he will run no later than March, by which time the Republican and Democrat races may at last have begun to take recognisable shape. The most successful independent candidate of recent times was businessman Ross Perot, who had 19pc of the popular vote in 1992. However, he got approximately that proportion of the vote in each state, and thus won none of the electoral college votes.

In December, Mr Bloomberg reportedly commissioned a poll to see how he would fare in a match-up with Ms Clinton or Mr Trump. It remains unclear whether, as a centrist candidate, he would attract more votes from the left or the right. With his close ties to the financial industry and his staunch support of socially liberal causes, he could put off voters from both sides of the partisan divide. (© Independent News Service)

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