Former Vice President Joe Biden is the presumed Democratic presidential primary favorite. Political experts have said the nomination is Biden’s to lose.
On Friday, Biden woke up to the news that his runoff with President Donald Trump may not happen.
Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, is opening the door to a 2020 Democratic presidential campaign.
And he’ll pull voters straight out from under Biden.
Bloomberg says he has not made a final decision on whether to jump into the race. If he launches his campaign, he will dramatically reshape the Democratic contest less than three months before primary voting begins.
The 77-year-old has spent the past few weeks talking with prominent Democrats about the state of the 2020 field, expressing concerns about the steadiness of former Biden’s campaign and the rise of liberal Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, according to people with knowledge of those discussions.
In a statement on Thursday, Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson said the former mayor believes Trump must be defeated.
“But Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that,” Wolfson said.
Bloomberg’s moves come as the Democratic race enters a crucial phase. Biden’s front-runner status has been challenged by Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who are flush with cash from small-dollar donors. But both are viewed by some Democrats as too liberal to win in a general election faceoff with Trump.
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Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent who registered as a Democrat last year, has flirted with a presidential run before but ultimately backed down, including in 2016. He endorsed Hillary Clinton in that race.
Biden has not addressws Bloomberg’s potential candidacy. Biden didn’t mention his New York rival at a fundraiser Thursday night in Boston.
With immense personal wealth, Bloomberg could quickly build out a robust campaign operation across the country. Still, his advisers acknowledge that his late entry to the race could make competing in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, which have been blanketed by candidates for nearly a year, difficult. Instead, they previewed a strategy that would focus more heavily on the March 3 “Super Tuesday” contests, including in delegate-rich California.
Some Democrats were skeptical there would be a groundswell of interest in the former New York mayor.
“There are smart and influential people in the Democratic Party who think a candidate like Bloomberg is needed,” said Jennifer Palmieri, who advised Clinton’s 2016 campaign. “But there is zero evidence that rank-and-file voters in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire feel the same.”
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Bloomberg would pose an immediate challenge to Biden, who is running as a moderate and hopes to appeal to independents. But the billionaire media mogul with deep Wall Street ties could also energize supporters of Warren and Sanders, who have railed against income inequality and have vowed to ratchet up taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
“He’s a literal billionaire entering the race to keep the progressives from winning,” said Rebecca Katz, a New York-based liberal Democratic strategist. “He is the foil.”
Bloomberg will have to move quickly in the coming days and weeks to get on the ballot in many of the primary states, including Alabama. New Hampshire’s filing deadline is Nov. 15.
In Arkansas, another Super Tuesday state, a Democratic Party spokesman said a person representing a “mystery candidate” reached out Thursday afternoon asking about the requirements to join the ballot. Reed Brewer, communications director for the Arkansas Democrats, said he walked the individual through the process — which simply requires filing documentation with both the state party and secretary of state, as well as paying a $2,500 fee — and was assured that the fee would be “no problem” for the mystery candidate.
There is no filing requirement for a candidate to run in the Iowa caucuses, which are a series of Democratic Party meetings, not state-run elections. It means a candidate can enter the race for the Feb. 3 leadoff contest at any time.
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The Associated Press contributed to this article