After much speculation, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Sunday that he was entering the 2020 Democratic primary race.
"I’m running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America," Bloomberg declared in a statement on his campaign website.
"We cannot afford four more years of President Trump’s reckless and unethical actions. He represents an existential threat to our country and our values. If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage."
Bloomberg, 77, had said in March that he would stay out of the race because he was "clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field." But news media reports surfaced in October that he was reconsidering that decision, and his adviser Howard Wolfson said earlier this month that Bloomberg was "increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well-positioned" to beat Trump.
The speculation that he would run became grew to near certainty after he registered as a primary candidate in Alabama ahead of that state's deadline.
As a late entry in an already crowded field, Bloomberg hopes his wealth – which Forbes estimates at more than $50 billion – will give him the resources to overcome any disadvantage he might suffer from missing the first five debates and his rivals' months-long head start on the campaign trail.
Because other candidates have had so much time on the ground, Bloomberg doesn't plan to focus his energy on the first four primary states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – and instead will try to make a splash on March 3, the day known as Super Tuesday, when almost a quarter of the Democratic delegates are up for grabs.
The 2020 candidates: Who is running for president? An interactive guide
Bloomberg built his wealth on technology providing investors and traders with financial data, which he expanded into a media empire.
Bloomberg is a moderate who returned to the Democratic Party only last year after becoming a Republican in 2001 ahead of his first mayoral bid. He then registered as an independent in 2007, saying it was important not to get locked into a "rigid adherence to any particular political ideology," before winning a third term in 2009.
He has rejected ambitious Democratic proposals such as "Medicare for All" and the Green New Deal, and he has called for what he considers more pragmatic approaches.
Bloomberg's name has been floated as a potential candidate in several past elections and he openly flirted with the idea of running as an independent in 2016. But Sunday's announcement marks the first time he has actually entered a presidential race.
Two of Bloomberg's progressive rivals for the Democratic nomination were less than enthusiastic about his decision.
In response to news that Bloomberg had bought more than $30 million worth of TV commercial airtime, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said Friday that he was "disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political process and spend tens of millions of dollars to buy elections."
I’m disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political process and spend tens of millions of dollars to buy elections.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 22, 2019
If you can’t build grassroots support for your candidacy, you have no business running for president. https://t.co/jyIBVXUToj
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also decried Bloomberg's ad buy.
"Elections should not be for sale, not to billionaires, not to corporate executives," she said Saturday in New Hampshire, according to the Boston Herald.
"I understand that rich people are going to have more shoes than the rest of us, they’re going to have more cars than the rest of us, they’re going to have more houses," she said. "But they don’t get a bigger share of democracy, especially in a Democratic primary."
Last year in New Hampshire, when Bloomberg was first exploring a run for president, he said Warren's proposed "wealth tax" is "probably unconstitutional" and warned it could ruin the economy.
"We need a healthy economy, and we shouldn’t be embarrassed about our system," Bloomberg told The Washington Post. "If you want to look at a system that’s not capitalistic, just take a look at was perhaps the wealthiest country in the world, and today people are starving to death. It’s called Venezuela."
Former Vice President Joe Biden told CNN on Friday while discussing the prospect of a Bloomberg run that "I welcome the competition." Anchor Don Lemon told Biden that Bloomberg has "specific concerns about your ability to carry this through to the finish line."
"Watch me," Biden replied. And he rejected "the idea that I'm not in better shape than Mayor Bloomberg, physically and otherwise."
Trump reacted with a shrug when reporters at the White House asked him on Nov. 8 about the possibility of Bloomberg seeking the nomination.
"He doesn't have the magic to do well," Trump said, dismissively predicting "little Michael will fail." He added that he would be happy if Bloomberg won because, "There is nobody I'd rather run against."
Appearing on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Bloomberg's candidacy signaled that "the Democratic field is underwhelming."
Some have questioned whether Bloomberg will be able to win over voters in the Democratic base given his wealth, Wall Street ties and past support of the New York Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which critics said disproportionately targeted racial minorities.
Bloomberg apologized and acknowledged for the policy often led to the detention of blacks and Latinos while speaking at a predominantly African-American megachurch this month in Brooklyn.
Critics and civil rights activists skeptically noted that after more than a decade of defending the practice, the apology finally came as he was preparing to run for president.
'People aren't stupid': de Blasio slams Bloomberg's 'stop-and-frisk' apology
On Sunday, Bloomberg vowed that as a candidate he could bring together "a broad and diverse coalition of Americans to win." And he touted his "unique set of experiences in business, government and philanthropy," which he said give him the "skills to fix what is broken in our great nation."
"And there is a lot broken," he said.
Among the issues Bloomberg said need to be addressed were health care costs, "an economy that is tilted against most Americans," gun violence, a "cruel and dysfunctional" immigration system, education, climate change and Washington gridlock.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election 2020: Michael Bloomberg announces he is running for president