Bloomberg eyes 2020 presidential run as a Democrat, but can a centrist unite the party?

By Guardian Web

For the past two election cycles, thrice-elected New York city mayor Michael Bloomberg has toyed with a bid for the US presidency. With 2020 approaching, the financial news data billionaire is again looking at his chances, but with one crucial difference.

In 2012 and 2016, Bloomberg considered running as an independent; each time he concluded that he could not win and ran the risk of splitting the Democratic vote and helping the Republican candidate to win office.

But in 2020, sources close to the finance mogul have told the Guardian, if the now 76-year-old candidate does eventually jump into the race, he plans to run as a Democrat. But after two, and now three, election cycles in which Bloomberg has teased his interest and poured over polling data, there are still questions about his ultimate commitment to a run.

In previous flirtations, Bloomberg has explained that he dropped the effort to avoid splitting the Democratic vote and risking a Republican presidency.

When he pulled out from formally entering the 2016 race, he wrote on his company’s opinion pages that Trump has “run the most divisive and demagogic presidential campaign I can remember, preying on people’s prejudices and fears.” Trump, he wrote, “appeals to our worst impulses.”

Nor was he impressed by the other candidates, whom he accused of “doubling down on dysfunction.”

According to veteran Democratic campaign manager Hank Sheinkopf, Bloomberg’s relevant rivals are not Democratic party political picks, likely among them former vice president Joe Biden, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachussetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California. But instead Sheinkopf sees the main threat coming from other wealthy business people believed to be toying with presidential runs, like businessman and Mark Cuban, former Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz and investor and billionaire liberal activist Tom Steyer.

“There are lots of business people talking about this, but Mike Bloomberg is the only one of them who has had success as a candidate and who has extensive experience running campaigns across the United States on issues that matter to him,” Sheinkopf said.

“That alone makes him a much better candidate than any of the business types, and he’s already shown he can win over the political types.”

“The cemetery of American political candidates is filled with people who had lots of money but didn’t know what they were doing,” he added. In previous cycles, Sheinkopf says, “there were lots of arguments about whether Bloomberg could win as an independent. Now the question is, can he win as a Democrat?”

One signal of Bloomberg’s commitment to 2020 is his engagement with helping Democratic congressional races in November’s midterm elections, an effort that includes spending $80m toward the goal of flipping control of the Republican-controlled House to Democrats.

Bloomberg, whose fortune is estimated at $51bn, has said he is prepared to support candidates in both parties where they align with his positions on “bipartisan gun safety, environmental and immigration reform measures.”

The candidates Bloomberg has backed include Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who co-wrote a bipartisan bill that supported closing a loophole in gun background checks. But after almost two years in control of both chambers of Congress he wrote in June on Bloomberg.com, Republicans had failed to prove they could govern responsibly.

“As we approach the 2018 midterms, it’s critical that we elect people who will lead in ways that this Congress won’t… by upholding the checks and balances that the Founding Fathers set up to safeguard ethics, prevent the abuse of power, and preserve the rule of law.”

But does a centrist like Bloomberg have a chance of uniting a Democratic party that is engaged in a fierce battle between its moderate upper echelons and an activist base that is pushing for a leftward shift?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defines herself as a democratic socialist, sent shockwaves through the Democratic party system in June when she defeated incumbent Joseph Crowley, a 10-term House Democrat, in the Bronx’s district primary.

The gulf between 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez, as a representative of the party’s passionate, radical wing, and Mike Bloomberg, a financier billionaire, may prove too wide.

“The question to be asked is can someone run up the centre, picking up support from both the left and the right, to win the nomination and the general election. That’s the question Mike Bloomberg is facing,” said Sheinkopf.

This article provided by NewsEdge.