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Politics

Michael Bloomberg, after exiting race and endorsing Biden, says he’s committed to beating Trump

Michael Bloomberg
Former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was a late entrant into the Democratic presidential race.
(Spencer Platt / AFP/Getty Images)

After spending a record-shattering sum, former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ended his presidential bid Wednesday after a dismal showing in the Super Tuesday primaries left him no pathway to the Democratic nomination or the White House.

Bloomberg swiftly endorsed Joe Biden, the former vice president who pulled a stunning comeback Tuesday and surged into the lead in the nomination race. The two spoke on the phone early Wednesday.

“I am clear eyed about our overriding objective, and that is victory in November. Not victory for me, or our campaign, but victory for our country,” Bloomberg told more than 1,000 staffers at an afternoon meeting in New York. “If you remember, I entered the race for president to defeat Donald Trump, and today, I am leaving the race for the same reason, to defeat Donald Trump, because staying in would make it more difficult to achieve that goal.”

Bloomberg, who grew emotional as he thanked his team for taking him from 1% in the polls to 2 million votes, said that after Tuesday’s results, he did not have a viable path to the Democratic nomination.

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The billionaire spent a whopping $676 million as of Tuesday, or about 1% of his net worth, but won only American Samoa and five of its six delegates. He won a few dozen other delegates in other contests.

Biden thanked his former rival. “This race is bigger than candidates and bigger than politics. It’s about defeating Donald Trump, and with your help, we’re gonna do it,” Biden tweeted.

Bloomberg’s departure clears the way for fellow moderate Biden to go head-to-head against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist, in the remaining primaries, starting with Tuesday, when six more states will vote.

Bloomberg is expected to continue pouring his fortune into the campaign, and to swing his extensive field organization behind Biden, who has few field offices. Many of Bloomberg’s staffers have contracts through the fall election.

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The former mayor said Democrats must unite to defeat Trump in November, and that after Biden’s sweep of nine states Tuesday he deserved to be the nominee.

“Joe has fought for working people his whole life. Today I am glad to endorse him — and I will work to make him the next President of the United States,” he said.

Trump, who has mocked Bloomberg relentlessly since he entered the race, added another dig Wednesday.

“Mini Mike Bloomberg just ‘quit’ the race for President. I could have told him long ago that he didn’t have what it takes, and he would have saved himself a billion dollars, the real cost,” the president tweeted. “Now he will pour money into Sleepy Joe’s campaign, hoping to save face. It won’t work!”

The latest shakeup in the Democratic race follows days of turmoil. After Biden swept South Carolina’s primary Saturday, three competitors — former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and California billionaire and activist Tom Steyer — dropped out. Buttigieg and Klobuchar endorsed Biden, helping him consolidate support going into Super Tuesday, and he won the vast majority of late-deciders at the polls.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii remain in the race, but neither has won a primary. Warren suffered the indignity Tuesday of winning only third place in her home state, putting pressure on her to drop out.

“Elizabeth is talking to her team to assess the path forward,” a Warren aide said Wednesday morning.

Warren and other Democrats had campaigned for nearly a year in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina by the time Bloomberg entered the race in November.

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Charting a new course, Bloomberg skipped the four early states and bet heavily on Super Tuesday, when California, Texas and 12 other states held their primaries.

Bloomberg hired armies of lavishly paid campaign staffers across the country and bombarded the airwaves with ads. Through Tuesday, Bloomberg spent $552 million on television, radio and digital advertising, according to Advertising Analytics, a firm that tracks political ad spending.

The TV blitz allowed him to forgo the retail politicking expected in the early states, which was never his strength.

Here are 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders’ plans on healthcare, immigration, climate, gun control and housing and homelessness.

He touted his record as former mayor, his business acumen and success, as well as the vast sums he had spent to help fight for gun control and climate change action, two issues important to the Democratic base.

Initially, he began to rise in polls while Biden’s campaign flailed, losing the first three contests. But then voters, many who first were introduced to him in slickly produced television ads, saw the unscripted Bloomberg on his debut debate performance in Las Vegas in February. It was a disaster.

Bloomberg had not debated in years and faced candidates who had honed their skills for months. Some relished the chance to attack Bloomberg, accusing him of trying to hide his past and buy the nomination. Bloomberg argued that since he was not taking donations, he was beholden to no one.

During the debate, Bloomberg was hammered about past boorish comments about women, nondisclosure agreements his company signed with women who had filed sexual harassment claims, and his stop-and-frisk policing policy as mayor that disproportionately affected minorities and ultimately was ruled unconstitutional. To many, he appeared rusty and haughty.

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Bloomberg has pledged that if he didn’t win the nomination, he would support the Democratic candidate by funding an independent anti-Trump effort.

On a Wednesday morning call with top campaign advisors in 43 states, Bloomberg’s national states director, Dan Kanninen, said the campaign apparatus needs to be restructured for its new role, and that he expected to have a plan by the end of March.

Bloomberg’s spending on his campaign was off the charts. The prior modern-day records were held by Ross Perot, who ran as an independent in 1992, and Steve Forbes, who ran as a Republican in 2000. Each spent about $110 million in today’s dollars. Steyer, a hedge-fund manager turned environmental activist, spent more than a quarter-billion dollars before he dropped out last week.

But Bloomberg’s political spending is unlikely to affect his bottom line.

The businessman and former three-term mayor of New York City is worth an estimated $55 billion, making him one of the richest men in the world. He made his fortune by creating a business that provides news, analytics and data to financial companies at a premium cost through terminals.

The 78-year-old had flirted with presidential runs for more than a decade. He announced in March 2019 that he would not run. But then Bloomberg grew unhappy with the Democratic field and Biden’s apparent weakness. When he finally jumped in last November, he kicked off his campaign with a $37-million week-long ad blitz.

Bloomberg was criticized by his rivals over his personal riches — especially in light of his opposition to a wealth tax. He was accused of not being a true Democrat, given his party registration shifts over the years.

Bloomberg brushed aside such criticism, saying in November, “I am going to make my case and let the voters, who are plenty smart, make their choice.”

Times staff writer Michael Finnegan contributed to this report.


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