Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is featuring Barack Obama in his campaign ads despite years of criticizing and distancing himself from the former Democratic president.
Bloomberg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on ads promoting his candidacy, including one spot in which Obama praises him. On Tuesday, Bloomberg released another ad, titled “Difference,” pairing the two as “a great president and an effective mayor” involved with “leadership that makes a difference."
While Obama hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the Democratic race, being featured in Bloomberg’s onslaught of ads has led some to believe he has thrown his support behind the billionaire former Republican, who endorsed George W. Bush in 2004.
“The power of saturation advertising. Someone at my gym in California asked me why Barack Obama chose Bloomberg over the rest of the field,” David Plouffe, Obama’s former campaign manager and White House adviser, tweeted last week.
David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Obama, told the Wall Street Journal he had “fielded numerous calls in recent days from political operatives and some elected officials asking if Obama had endorsed Bloomberg.”
“It’s jarring to see all these Bloomberg ads that suggest Obama has endorsed him, especially considering how … perfunctory his endorsement of Obama was back in 2012,” wrote Tommy Vietor, a former Obama spokesman.
Bloomberg didn’t endorse Obama in 2008 and announced his support late in the 2012 race, saying Obama would be better than Republican challenger Mitt Romney on climate change. The editorial in which he announced the endorsement, however, was critical of Obama.
“As president, he devoted little time and effort to developing and sustaining a coalition of centrists, which doomed hope for any real progress on illegal guns, immigration, tax reform, job creation and deficit reduction,” wrote Bloomberg. “And, rather than uniting the country around a message of shared sacrifice, he engaged in partisan attacks and has embraced a divisive populist agenda focused more on redistributing income than creating it.”
“Twenty-twelve Bloomberg basically attacked Obama in that column for supporting all of the policies that 2020 Bloomberg now supports,” noted Dan Pfieffer, who also advised Obama. “What a world!”
In 2016, Bloomberg criticized Obama for not doing more to heal racial division in the country.
“I would argue that today we are more segregated, in America certainly, than we were, in terms of race, than we were a dozen years ago, and yet we’re just finishing up eight years with our first black president,” Bloomberg said at an event at Oxford University. “‘Why are we more separated than we were before?’ is the question you’ve got to ask yourself. Why during the Obama administration didn’t we pull together? Ask the president. That’s his job really to pull people together.”
In 2010, Bloomberg called Obamacare “a disgrace” that would do “absolutely nothing to fix the big health care problems.”
Other Democratic presidential candidates have tied themselves to Obama, particularly in South Carolina, where the African-American vote will be critical in the Feb. 29 primary. Joe Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president for both terms, often invokes their White House as a defense against attacks on the Washington status quo. In December, Sen. Elizabeth Warren released an ad narrated by Obama, in which he praises her.
“Elizabeth understands what I strongly believe: that a strong, growing economy begins with a strong and thriving middle class,” Obama said in the spot.
Warren and other candidates in the race, including current frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders, have criticized Bloomberg for attempting to buy the nomination. Critics of the former mayor point to his record on race, including his administration’s policies such as stop-and-frisk and surveilling Muslims, as well as 40 sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits filed against him and his company, as disqualifying him from the nomination.
Since announcing his candidacy in late November, Bloomberg has risen to second in some national polling and leads in some Super Tuesday states.
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