Michael Bloomberg has two dominant obsessions: defeating Donald Trump and becoming the 46th president. He will not head the effort to attain either.
The opening Bloomberg sees is in the fear that Senator Elizabeth Warren will be the Democratic nominee in the event of a Joe Biden failure – and that Donald Trump will easily defeat Warren by effectively attacking her policies as socialist.
Bloomberg went through the same calculus in 2016: if Bernie Sanders had been clearly positioned to beat Hillary Clinton for the nomination, Bloomberg would have entered the race. But when it was clear Clinton would win the nomination, Bloomberg held back. And like Biden, who also contemplated entering the 2016 campaign, Bloomberg did not want to be known as the man who stopped the first woman being nominated by a major party for president. That would have been too crippling a legacy to bear.
Bloomberg’s playbook is as unconventional as his wealth. He is skipping the early primaries and will focus on Super Tuesday March 3 and spend upwards of US$100 million on media to make a showing.
While no opponent can fail to be fazed by a $50 billion man, Bloomberg's prospects are in fact poor.
Bloomberg is not popular with Democratic voters. He is a plutocrat, out of step with today's aggressive, progressive mood of the party’s rank and file supporters. The Democrats’ answer to Trump is not another septuagenarian billionaire New York businessman, notwithstanding his credentials on gun control and climate change.
Biden will see Bloomberg as the threat he is, and actually become a better candidate as a result. Expect to see a lift in Biden's pace and engagement with voters.
The real contenders for the nomination will be the top finishers in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada in February. They will be getting the attention and momentum going into Super Tuesday. Bloomberg will find playing catch up harder in March than today.
And Bloomberg's political pedigree is a poor omen. This history of New York City mayors running for president – Bill deBlasio this year, Rudy Giuliani in 2008 – is one of chronic failure. Wrong city. President Grover Cleveland served as mayor of Buffalo, New York.