Via Financial Times

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, has taken another step towards declaring his official candidacy for president by filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run as a Democrat.

After ruling out a run in March, Mr Bloomberg, 77, revealed earlier this month that he was laying the groundwork to enter the Democratic presidential race with less than three months to go before the Iowa caucuses.

Mr Bloomberg filed the necessary paperwork on November 8 to be included on the ballot in Alabama, which has an early filing deadline for its primary. Howard Wolfson, a Bloomberg adviser, said at the time that the former mayor was concerned that the more than dozen Democrats already running for president “were not well positioned” to defeat Donald Trump in 2020.

Mr Bloomberg has since also filed to run in party primaries in Arkansas and Texas.

The FEC filing, dated Thursday, listed Geller & Co at 909 Third Avenue in Manhattan as his campaign committee’s address. Geller & Co is run by Mr Bloomberg’s longtime accountant and financial adviser Martin Geller, who sits on the board of Bloomberg LP, Mr Bloomberg’s eponymous financial data company.

Mr Bloomberg, who first ran for mayor of New York City as a Republican and later became an independent, would join a crowded field of 18 Democrats vying to take on Mr Trump.

Joe Biden, the former vice-president, had been seen as a frontrunner since launching his campaign earlier this year, although his support has slipped in recent months. He faces a formidable challenge from Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, who is running on a progressive platform of “big structural change”, and Bernie Sanders, whose leftwing credentials continue to energise parts of the Democratic base. All three candidates are in their 70s, and Mr Bloomberg would be the fourth septuagenarian Democrat running for president if he joined the field.

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At the same time, Mr Biden, Ms Warren and Mr Sanders are now contending with the growing popularity of Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who now leads many polls in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Many political analysts say Mr Bloomberg’s entry to the race would damage the prospects of Mr Biden, a fellow centrist.

Mr Biden continues to outpoll his rivals among African-American voters, especially in the early voting state of South Carolina, where 44 per cent of black voters said they backed the former vice-president in a recent poll. In an apparent attempt to woo black voters, Mr Bloomberg last weekend apologised for having been “really wrong” about the stop-and-frisk policy that soured relations between the police and black New Yorkers when he was mayor.

But last week, Steve Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, gave Mr Bloomberg’s supporters reason to believe the former mayor could outperform in the southern state.

Mr Benjamin told the Associated Press he would be willing to endorse Mr Bloomberg, saying: “He’s got what it takes and he’s got the resources to take it to Trump. I believe firmly that Mike Bloomberg can win. I think resources are going to matter.”

Last week, Mr Bloomberg, who is worth an estimated $51.5bn, launched a $100m online advertising campaign attacking Mr Trump in battleground states. US media reported that Mr Bloomberg planned to spend another $15m-$20m on an anti-Trump voter registration drive in battleground states.

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Mr Wolfson told the AP that if Mr Bloomberg were to enter the race, he would “run two campaigns simultaneously” — a Democratic primary campaign and a broader effort against Mr Trump.

Bloomberg employees remain in the dark about what Mr Bloomberg’s candidacy would mean for his financial information company. Senior executives emailed staff earlier this month to say the executive committee would continue running day-to-day operations. Mr Bloomberg has not publicly addressed his plans for the company since telling an Iowa radio station last December that he would either sell it or put it into a blind trust if he were to become president.