Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is gearing up for plans to run for president in 2020, it has been reported.
In news that sent reverberations through the race to become the Democratic challenger to take on Donald Trump in 2020, the New York Times said it understood Mr Bloomberg intended to enter the crowded primary and would file paperwork for his candidacy in at least one state with an early filing deadline.
He is expected to file in Alabama, which has a Friday deadline for candidates entering the race.
The state is due to hold its primary on March 3, when around a dozen states hold ballots on what is called “Super Tuesday”.
The newspaper said while the 77-year-old billionaire, said to be the world’s 14th richest person, and who has a fortune of around $50bn, had not yet made a final decision, he had sent people to the southern state to obtain signatures that would allow him to qualify for the primary there.
Howard Wolfson, a close adviser to Mr Bloomberg, said the former mayor viewed Mr Trump as an “unprecedented threat to our nation,” and recalled Mr Bloomberg’s heavy spending in the 2018 midterm elections and this week’s off-year races in Virginia. He said Mr Bloomberg had grown uneasy about the trajectory of the Democratic primary.
“We now need to finish the job and ensure that Trump is defeated – but Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that,” Mr Wolfson said. “If Mike runs he would offer a new choice to Democrats built on a unique record running America’s biggest city, building a business from scratch and taking on some of America’s toughest challenges as a high-impact philanthropist.”
Mr Bloomberg, who served as mayor from 2002 to 2013, has been the focus of speculation about a possible presidential run several times before, most recently in 2016. That year he decided not to enter the race, but to use his money to support candidates he supported, something he repeated during the 2018 midterms, when he re-registered as a Democrat.
Reports suggest his appetite to plunge into the race at this late stage was connected to what he perceived as the stumbling performance of former vice president Joe Biden.
Mr Biden, 76, who has outlined a series of moderate policy proposals, is seen by many as having the best change of defeating Mr Trump, though his lead in the polls has slipped as the likes of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and – more recently – Pete Buttigieg, have made ground.
There have also been questions asked about Mr Biden’s mental and physical acuity after several debate performances in which he appeared to stumble.
It is unclear what impact Mr Bloomberg would have on the race, were he to enter. Another billionaire, entrepreneur Tom Steyer, effectively bought himself a slot at the last debate by spending around $30m of his own money on advertising in key states to raise name awareness, something that was attacked by other Democrats.
Whether the party is in the mood to select a centrist billionaire to take on Mr Trump, is also unclear.
Mr Bloomberg has made no official comment. But the Associated Press said a spokesman for the Arkansas Democratic Party said a person representing a “mystery candidate” made contact on Thursday afternoon asking about the requirements to join the ballot in the state.
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 February 3 leadoff contest at any time.
Additional reporting by agencies