Bloomberg sets up battle of the billionaires

All guns blazing: Bloomberg (right) says he is “taking the fight to Trump directly”.

Can he beat Donald Trump? Billionaire Michael Bloomberg has finally stepped into the crowded presidential race. Supporters say he has the money and credentials to get under Trump’s skin.

As he announced his long-rumoured entrance into the presidential race on Sunday, 77-year-old billionaire Michael Bloomberg had his sights set firmly on Donald Trump.

“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,” said Bloomberg. “If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage.”

Bloomberg, who has served three terms as mayor of New York, is making a late appearance in a crowded field of candidates for the Democratic Party nomination. He has repeatedly said that none of the 17 other candidates could beat Trump, who is currently locked in a high-stakes impeachment battle.

With an estimated $54.1 billion (£46bn) in the bank, Bloomberg’s fortune dwarfs Trump’s $3.5 billion (£2.7bn) net worth. Most of his money comes from the financial news company that bears his name, which Bloomberg says he built “from a single room to a global entity”.

This wealth could be a powerful weapon against a big spending president. Bloomberg has already spent over $30 million (£23m) on TV advertising, and plans to spend $100 million (£76m) on anti-Trump adverts in swing states.

But Left-wing Democratic candidates are not impressed.

“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,” fumed Bernie Sanders.

What kind of candidate is Bloomberg? Most commentators see him as a centrist alternative to Joe Biden, whose campaign has floundered in recent weeks.

Bloomberg’s priorities include expanding health insurance and fighting the climate crisis. Perhaps most significant of all, he has spent at least $300 million (£233m) of his own fortune fighting for increased gun control.

But he is also a friend of Wall Street, which critics say leaves him alienated from ordinary voters. Seeking to head off this line of attack, Bloomberg’s campaign video presents him as a “middle class kid who made good”.

Is this the person who can beat Donald Trump?

Wolf of Wall Street?

He alone has the track record to go up against Trump: rebuilding New York City after the 9/11 attacks; leaving a legacy of improved education and health, and investing millions in the causes he believes in. Non-partisan and with a business background that’s more successful, Bloomberg has the resources to take on Trump — and very possibly beat him at his own game.

But many doubt that he will get that far. Bloomberg’s early polling is weak, amid claims that he doesn’t offer anything new. The race already has a centrist elder statesman figure in Joe Biden, who is more popular with African-American voters. “I just don’t think there’s a hunger for Michael Bloomberg in a Democratic primary,” says political consultant Rebecca Katz.

You Decide

  1. Will Trump be re-elected next November?
  2. Are billionaire politicians bad for democracy?

Activities

  1. Write down five qualities required in a good president. Do you think Bloomberg has these qualities? Does Donald Trump?
  2. Design a one-page poster profile with information about another candidate of your choice in the Democratic race.

Some People Say...

“I am not smarter than anybody else, but I can outwork you.”

Michael Bloomberg, US businessman, author and politician

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Bloomberg’s campaign will skip the first round of state votes in February in favour of focusing on “Super Tuesday” when 15 states head to the polls on 3 March. The winner of the Democratic nomination will become clear some time between March (when most states vote in the Democratic primaries) and the Democratic National Conference in July. The US presidential election takes place in November 2020.
What do we not know?
Whether Donald Trump will finally release his tax returns. The question will soon be decided by the Supreme Court, the USA’s highest court. Unlike Trump, Bloomberg has willingly released his tax returns since he became mayor of New York in 2002.

Word Watch

77-year-old
Donald Trump is 73; Elizabeth Warren 70; Joe Biden 77, and Bernie Sanders 78.
Existential
To do with the big questions about the meaning of life and human existence.
Impeachment
Last week saw the start of the first public hearings that could lead to Donald Trump’s removal from office. They are trying to establish if he improperly sought help from Ukraine to boost his chances of re-election in 2020.
Spend $100 million
Bloomberg spent a record $102m — or $172 per vote — in his third election as New York mayor in 2009. He outspent his opponent 14-to-one.
Circumvent
To get around an obstacle.
Floundered
Struggled. Last weekend, The New York Times reported that Biden is struggling in the key state of Iowa thanks to a “spotty campaign”.
Wall Street
An area of New York City that forms the heart of its financial district. It can be used as a metonym (part of something substituted for the whole) for the USA’s financial sector.
Non-partisan
He switched from Democrats to the Republicans between 2001 and 2007, and remained an independent for 11 years before re-joining the Democrats in 2018.
More popular
While serving as mayor of New York City, Bloomberg controversially supported “Stop and Frisk”, a policy that opponents say unfairly targets ethnic minority groups.

Subjects

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