Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor who jumped into the 2020 presidential race late and spent over $500 million on an unorthodox campaign, ended his bid for the Democratic nomination on Wednesday, but vowed to stay in the fight in an attempt to defeat President Donald Trump in November.
“After yesterday’s results, the delegate math has become virtually impossible — and a viable path to the nomination no longer exists," Bloomberg said in a statement. "But I remain clear-eyed about my overriding objective: victory in November. Not for me, but for our country. And so while I will not be the nominee, I will not walk away from the most important political fight of my life."
Bloomberg said defeating the president means uniting behind the most viable Democratic candidate, whom he deemed to be former Vice President Joe Biden.
“I’ve known Joe for a very long time," Bloomberg said. "I know his decency, his honesty, and his commitment to the issues that are so important to our country — including gun safety, health care, climate change, and good jobs.
"I’ve had the chance to work with Joe on those issues over the years, and Joe has fought for working people his whole life," he continued. "Today I am glad to endorse him — and I will work to make him the next president of the United States."
Speaking to staff and supporters later at an event in New York, an emotional Bloomberg said he "will not be our party’s nominee, but I will not walk away."
"I'm sorry we didn't win, but today's the best day of my life, and tomorrow's going to be even better," he said, his voice cracking with emotion as the audience clapped and cheered.
An aide to Bloomberg said the former mayor had spoken to Biden on Wednesday morning.
Shortly after Bloomberg's endorsement, Biden thanked him in a post on Twitter for his "tireless work on everything from gun safety reform to climate change."
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"This race is bigger than candidates and bigger than politics," he wrote. "It’s about defeating Donald Trump, and with your help, we’re gonna do it."
The president lost little time in criticizing Bloomberg, writing in several Twitter posts that the former mayor "didn't have what it takes" and saying that he should fire his campaign advisers.
Bloomberg's campaign had inklings of what was to come Tuesday even before the results started coming in, campaign officials told NBC News. The campaign’s internal polling in the last couple of days found that voters were making up their minds at the last minute. That’s when the campaign started to realize that Tuesday was shaping up to be a landslide for Biden, the official said.
Bloomberg, who sat out the first four nominating contests in the Democratic primary, had banked heavily on success on Super Tuesday and afterward, pouring almost half a billion dollars (as of late February) of his personal fortune into ad spending in the states voting on and after that day.
But the former Republican and independent, who pitched himself as a moderate Democrat who could beat Trump, was not able to earn those votes effectively following the resurgence of fellow moderate Biden.
Bloomberg also suffered from several mishaps during his campaign that appeared to significantly mute any chance he had at building momentum — including underwhelming debate performances in which he was the target of blistering attacks.
At the Las Vegas debate Feb. 19, his first of the cycle, progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., slammed him over his past critical statements about women — calling him “a billionaire who calls women 'fat broads' and 'horse-faced lesbians'” — before demanding on the spot that he release the women making the allegations against him from their nondisclosure agreements.
Bloomberg also faced repeated attacks over his mayoral administration’s controversial stop-and-frisk policing policy, which gave police wide authority to detain people they suspected of committing crimes. In practice, it was mostly black and Hispanic men who were stopped.
Bloomberg entered the presidential race in November — several months after most of his competitors — following several weeks of speculation. He quickly began spending on states that vote on Super Tuesday and afterward, employing a risky strategy, dubbed by longtime Bloomberg aide Howard Wolfson as a “broad-based, national campaign,” that saw him skip the four early nominating contests.
Bloomberg’s exit from the race doesn’t mean he won’t continue to shape it. In January, NBC News reported that his massive campaign apparatus and an army of some 500 staffers would march on through the general election — even if he lost the Democratic nomination — shifting their efforts toward working to elect whomever the party selects to face Trump.