Michael Bloomberg has announced he is running for president, pitting the billionaire businessman and former mayor of New York City against a crowded field of Democrats vying to take on Donald Trump in 2020.
With just over two months to go until the Iowa caucuses, Mr Bloomberg said in a statement on Sunday that he was running for president to defeat Mr Trump and “rebuild America”.
He said his “unique set of experiences in business, government, and philanthropy” would enable him to “win and lead”.
Mr Bloomberg, 77, joins 18 other Democrats competing for their party’s presidential nomination, including three other septuagenarians: former vice-president Joe Biden, 77, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, 70, and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, 78.
On Sunday, John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, said the media group would stop running unsigned editorials and would neither investigate Mr Bloomberg nor his Democratic rivals.
Many political analysts say Mr Bloomberg’s entry to the race will damage the prospects of fellow centrist Mr Biden, who had been seen as the frontrunner when he launched his campaign earlier this year, but whose support has declined in recent months.
Mr Biden’s candidacy has already been challenged by Ms Warren, who is running on a progressive platform of “big structural change”, and Mr Sanders, whose leftwing credentials energise parts of the Democratic base. More recently, Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has emerged to lead the field in polling in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Mr Bloomberg is expected to skip Iowa and New Hampshire and instead focus his campaigning efforts on the more than a dozen states that will hold their primary contests on March 3, or “Super Tuesday”. His aides insist Mr Bloomberg sees a clear path to victory based on his record in the private and public sectors.
The former mayor nevertheless faces a significant challenge in appealing to African-American voters, and last week 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 in City Hall.
Mr Bloomberg, who is worth an estimated $51.5bn, spent more than $30m on Friday for a single week of television ads promoting his campaign — sparking outrage from many of his more left-leaning rivals.
Ms Warren said the advertising buy was “one way” to pay less under her proposed wealth tax, which would tax 2 per cent of wealth above $9bn.
“In a Warren administration, he and his billionaire friends would finally have to pay their fair share,” she added. According to Ms Warren’s campaign, Mr Bloomberg would pay more than $3bn a year under her proposed wealth tax scheme.
Mr Sanders, who raised $25.3m from 1.4m donors in the third quarter alone, said he was “disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any other billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political process and spend tens of millions of dollars to buy our elections”.
“If you can’t build grassroots support for your candidacy, you have no business running for president,” Mr Sanders added. “The American people are sick and tired of the power of billionaires, and I suspect they won’t react well to someone trying to buy an election.”
Howard Wolfson, Mr Bloomberg’s adviser, told the Associated Press on Saturday that Mr Bloomberg would not accept any political donations to his campaign, and would work for just $1 a year if elected president. Mr Bloomberg’s refusal to accept outside donations precludes him from participating in Democratic National Committee debates, which require candidates to have a certain number of individual donors in order to take part.
Mr Bloomberg’s first campaign video emphasises his “middle-class” childhood, with photos of the young Mr Bloomberg as a Boy Scout and a narrator explaining how he “had to work his way through college, then built his business from a single room to a global entity, creating tens of thousands of good-paying jobs along the way”. The video also underscores Mr Bloomberg’s charitable work, from his foundation of the anti-National Rifle Association gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, to his record $1.8bn donation to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, to fund scholarships for low and middle-income students.
It remains unclear what the full implications of Mr Bloomberg’s candidacy will be for Bloomberg LP, his eponymous financial information company, though senior management emailed the company’s staff earlier this month to say the executive committee would continue running day-to-day operations.
Mr Bloomberg told an Iowa radio station late last year that he would sell his company or put it in a blind trust if he were to become president.
Mr Bloomberg, 77, first revealed earlier this month that he was weighing entering the race, having initially ruled out a run in March. He filed the necessary paperwork on November 8 to be included on the ballot in Alabama, which has an early deadline for its primary, and later registered for primaries in Arkansas and Texas.
Last week, Mr Bloomberg, who initially ran for mayor of New York City as a Republican before becoming an independent, filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run for president as a Democrat.
Additional reporting by Joshua Chaffin and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in New York