Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has the money and name recognition to shake up the Democratic presidential race, but he will face huge hurdles to the nomination if he makes the leap to become a formal candidate.
The billionaire media mogul is laying the groundwork for a possible candidacy and kept his options open by filing paperwork on Friday to run in the Democratic primary in Alabama, which has an early deadline for ballot qualification.
The decision to run would be an about-face for Bloomberg, 77, who announced in March that he would not seek the White House.
Ranked by Forbes as the eighth-richest American with an estimated worth of $53.4 billion, his potential bid drew immediate criticism that he was just another wealthy businessman trying to buy an election.
Bloomberg also will face questions about his record as a three-term mayor of New York, particularly from the Democratic Party’s vocal progressive wing, and about why he is needed in a race that still has 17 candidates vying to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in November 2020.
“There is no constituency for Michael Bloomberg that isn’t already taken by one of the candidates who are already running,” said Charles Chamberlain, chair of the Vermont-based progressive group Democracy for America.
But Bloomberg is skeptical that any of the current candidates can beat Trump, according to a spokesman.
The late entry into the race would force Bloomberg to play a quick game of catch-up to build the sort of campaign infrastructure his rivals have spent months constructing.
As a result, Bloomberg will skip early contests like the Feb. 3 caucus in Iowa and emphasize later voting states where his rivals will not have as big an organizing advantage, starting with the Super Tuesday primaries in at least 15 states including Alabama on March 3.
“If we run, we are confident we can win in states voting on Super Tuesday and beyond, where we will start on an even footing,” Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson said in a statement reported by the Washington Post.
Opinion polls show three contenders battling at the top of the Democratic race: U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who lead the progressive wing, and moderate Joe Biden, the former vice president.
Bloomberg has been critical of Warren and her desire to institute a tax on the super-wealthy, which she would use to fund programs ranging from universal healthcare to free college tuition.
Biden, meanwhile, has turned in uneven debate performances and lagged behind his top rivals in fundraising. Bloomberg would likely seek to appeal to the same moderate voters drawn to Biden.
“It’s almost like he’s running because this billionaire wants to stop Elizabeth Warren,” Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist who advises progressive groups and labor unions, said of Bloomberg. “It’s lousy for Joe Biden but great for Elizabeth Warren.”
Public opinion polls show most Democrats do not share Bloomberg’s dissatisfaction with the contenders. A Monmouth University poll taken in late October and early November found three-fourths of Democrats were satisfied with their choice of candidates and just 16% wanted someone else.