'His trial balloon went over like the Hindenburg': Democrats are sceptical of Michael Bloomberg's potential 2020 run

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesPresident Barack Obama with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2016.
  • Michael Bloomberg, the former Republican mayor of New York, is considering a run for the presidency in 2020 as a centrist Democrat, despite an energised left wing and a crowded field.
  • Many Democratic strategists say Bloomberg has no path to victory.
  • “It’s hard to imagine someone more out of touch with the Democratic base,” said one operative.

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul and former New York mayor, is seriously considering a run for the presidency in 2020 as a centrist Democrat, despite an energised left wing and a crowded field.

The former Republican, who’s spending $US80 million largely on Democratic candidates in this year’s midterm elections, has received a warm welcome into the Democratic fold from party leaders, but strategists on the left say a presidential bid would likely be dead on arrival.

Despite his newfound allegiance to the Democratic Party, Bloomberg holds an array of positions anathema to the progressive left.

While an influential champion of gun control and environmental protection policies, Bloomberg defends stop-and-frisk policing (ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2013), breaks with progressive Democrats on bank regulation, and believes the movement against sexual misconduct has gone too far in some cases, according to a recent interview he did with The New York Times.

The 2020 primary is looking to be a competitive battle for the left – half a dozen likely presidential contenders in the Senate have spent the last few years catering to the party’s energised base with increasingly progressive policy proposals and rhetoric. Some Democratic operatives say Bloomberg couldn’t be farther from what progressives are looking for.

“It’s hard to imagine someone more out of touch with the Democratic base than a billionaire who defends racist policing tactics, advocates going soft on Wall Street, and dismisses the significance of the #MeToo movement,” said one New York-based Democratic strategist, who requested anonymity to avoid jeopardizing relations with fellow Democrats. “Even millions of dollars couldn’t make those viewpoints palatable to Democratic voters.”

Other liberal Democrats expressed the same sentiment, in slightly softer terms.

“I think it’s great that the Democratic presidential primary is shaping up to be robust, but at the same time I feel as though he may not be completely in touch with where the Democratic Party is right now,” said Carolyn Fiddler, communications director for the progressive advocacy group Daily Kos.

Bloomberg has long been called out of touch – both on the left and the right. And this isn’t the first time he’s mulled a presidential run. He considered running as an independent in 2016 – an idea the GOP laughed off, citing his positions on guns and abortion as far too liberal to appeal to a primary electorate. He ultimately decided not to run after determining he had no path to victory.

“His trial balloon went over like the Hindenburg,” the Democratic strategist said.

But others in the party would like a moderate in Bloomberg’s mould on the general election ticket, although they concede the chances of that happening are low.

“In a general election he would do exceptionally well, he would pull in a lot of independents, he would pull in a lot of moderates,” said Adrienne Elrod, a former spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, said of Bloomberg, adding, “The left and progressives are louder than they have ever been. They’re vocal, they’re energised, they’re motivated, and they want someone whose ideologies align with theirs.”

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