Why does Michael Bloomberg think Democrats want another billionaire businessman for president?

Lots of New Yorkers still like Mike. But that's not a path to the presidency in 2020.
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Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a news conference at a gun control advocacy event in Las Vegas on Feb. 26, 2019.John Locher / AP file
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By Molly Jong-Fast

We are currently being let by a president a “New York City businessman billionaire” — even though he’s more charlatan than businessman, and there’s no good evidence that he’s anything close to a billionaire — and he is a disaster. So it is unclear why actual businessmen like Michael Bloomberg persist in believing that the people who most firmly believe that having a billionaire businessman in the White House has been ruinous would vote for another.

Sure, Donald Trump and Bloomberg are not the same. Trump has a reputation for stiffing charities and contractors; Bloomberg recently gave $1.8 billion in college financial aid and Everytown for Gun Safety, which he essentially helped found and largely finances, is an excellent organization that is crushing the National Rifle Association. Bloomberg actually made his money at his job, and he did have a political career as a Republican (before switching back to the Democratic Party in 2018).

Bloomberg is also, unlike Trump, popular in New York City. Former advertising bigwig and MSNBC host Donny Deutsch loves Bloomberg. My parents also love him. I hear his ex-wife likes him and that the employees of his organizations largely like him. I’m going to go out on a limb here and postulate that 9 out of 10 affluent New York City residents would vote for him. In fact, if the presidential election were held today on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Bloomberg would be president … but elections don’t take place only on the Upper East Side.

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In fact, this election won’t, for all practical purposes, even really take place in Manhattan or even in New York state at all; it will take place in Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. And even before it comes to that, Bloomberg would have to appeal to the base of the Democratic Party, which does not consist solely of my parents and Deutsch and the residents of the Upper East Side.

Why does Bloomberg think the American people want to try another billionaire again? As I see it, there are two possible scenarios. One is that Bloomberg has "billionaire brain" — the state of being a billionaire, wherein no one ever tells you “no” and so you begin to believe that all your ideas, no matter how implausible, are beautiful. Many a company has been run aground by "billionaire brain" and many a family fortune has been squandered by a billionaire who thought his ideas were all brilliant.

The other possible scenario is that Bloomberg knows something we don’t — though this seems unlikely, unless what he knows is how much money he’s willing to spend on this fool's errand.

Bloomberg is worth at least $52.4 billion, perhaps more. In 2001, when he first ran for mayor, he spent $73 million dollars — a record for mayoral campaigns, which he then beat four years later and again four years after that, much of which came from his own coffers. What if Bloomberg has decided to spend many multiples more than anyone else in the race, flooding the zone with advertisements, commercials, lawn signs and beer cozies? Bloomberg could do to America what he did to New York City; it’s perfectly legal to self-fund your own federal campaign and, unlike Trump, he probably wouldn’t call it a loan.

Still, Bloomberg is famously a numbers guy who runs polling and employs some of the smartest people which makes his run even more confusing. As FiveThirtyEight noted: “According to last week’s Fox News poll, just 6 percent of likely Democratic primary voters said they would definitely vote for Bloomberg should he enter the race.” But you don’t need to be a skilled pollster to see that the Democratic base isn’t really feeling the billionaire maverick vibe right now.

If I were Bloomberg — which I’m not — I would use the cash I’d have to spend on my campaign and buy Fox News from Rupert Murdoch instead. Would Murdoch want to sell? Probably not, but I’m positive that there is a number he would take. Would Bloomberg need to overpay? Yes, he would. Would it be money well spent? Probably: You can’t put a price on saving America. And, if Bloomberg bought Fox News, he’d have a chance to deprogram some of the most red-pilled Americans. He’d also be a hero of the Democratic Party; even the most ardent socialist would embrace Bloomberg with open arms.

The biggest problem with Bloomberg’s presidential run is that, just like with Tom Steyer’s efforts, it bleeds the Democrats of much needed cash for other candidates and causes. It’s never good when two of your party’s biggest donors decide to become candidates themselves.

The good news is that, if both men drop out now, there is still time to throw their money into the greater good — namely, buying Fox News and making Tucker Carlson run segments about how much he loves Elizabeth Warren’s new health care plan.