Michael Bloomberg says he's bidding for US presidency due to 'greater risk' of Trump win

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said in March he would not seek the White House in 2020, and also decided against a run in 2016. PHOTO: AFP

NORFOLK, VIRGINIA (BLOOMBERG) - Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday (Nov 25) he changed his mind and decided to make a late entry into the 2020 Democratic presidential race out of fears that the current field of candidates would lose to Mr Donald Trump.

"I think that there is a greater risk of having Donald Trump re-elected than there was before, and in the end, I looked in the mirror and said, 'We just cannot let this happen,'" Mr Bloomberg told reporters in Norfolk, Virginia, in his first campaign stop after announcing his bid on Sunday.

He said in March he would not seek the White House in 2020, and also decided against a run in 2016.

The billionaire also defended his decision to fund his campaign without seeking outside donors, despite criticism from other Democrats that the billionaire businessman is trying to "buy" the presidency. He has already spent record amounts on ads in key states.

"For years, I've been using my resources for the things that matter to me. I was lucky enough to build a successful company" while working on enacting stricter gun-control laws, stopping climate change and helping Democrats get elected, he said.

He also said he would outline plans during the campaign on issues, including "raising taxes on wealthy individuals like me." Mr Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

Mr Bloomberg chose Norfolk for his first campaign stop to highlight his efforts to oppose gun violence and help elect Democrats.

The state had a narrow Republican majority in the state legislature until the 2019 elections, when Democrats took complete control for the first time in more than two decades - with the help of Mr Bloomberg backing 15 legislative candidates who supported mitigating climate change and preventing gun violence.

Virginia Beach, Virginia, was the site of a mass shooting on May 31 that killed 12 people. Mr Bloomberg cited that "massacre" as another reason for visiting the state. He founded "Everytown for Gun Safety."

Virginia is also one of the states holding Democratic primaries March 3 on Super Tuesday. Because of his late entry in the race, Mr Bloomberg doesn't plan to compete in the initial primaries and caucuses in February and instead focus on states voting later - a strategy no recent presidential candidate has used successfully.

Mr Bloomberg has vowed to entirely self-finance his campaign and work for US$1 (S$1.37) a year if elected. He has already planned to spend at least US$34 million, a record, in an initial TV ad blitz across the country this week, as well as other spending including US$100 million in digital issue ads targeting Mr Trump in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

That prompted a new wave of criticism on Monday from Ms Elizabeth Warren, who said in Iowa that Bloomberg is betting he only needs "bags and bags of money" to win.

"His view is that he doesn't need people who knock on doors. He doesn't need to go out and campaign, people. He doesn't need volunteers. And if you get out and knock on 1,000 doors he'll just spend another US$37 million to flood the airwaves and that's how he plans to buy a nomination in the Democratic Party. I think that is fundamentally wrong," she said.

Not accepting donations means Mr Bloomberg would not be able to participate in debates based on current Democratic National Committee rules.

Mr Bloomberg said he'll participate if the rules change and he becomes eligible, but otherwise he plans to "talk directly to the public."

Norfolk is home to the largest naval base in the world and the North American headquarters for Nato, and Mr Bloomberg criticised Mr Trump's role in Navy Secretary Richard Spencer's resignation on Sunday over the case of a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes in Iraq that angered Mr Trump.

"We have a president, a commander in chief, who has no respect for the rule of law, and no concern whatsoever for ethics or honour - or for the values that truly make America great," Mr Bloomberg said, echoing the sentiments expressed by the other 2020 Democratic candidates. "The stakes could not be higher: we must win this election."

Asked about the impeachment inquiry proceeding in the US House against Mr Trump, Mr Bloomberg said while he believes in voters having their say, he would vote to impeach if he were a congressman.

He focused his comments Monday almost entirely on Mr Trump, saying he knows how to defeat him and turn Republican areas Democratic. He met Monday at the Selden Market in Norfolk with Delegate-elect Nancy Guy, one of the candidates he supported in the November elections through his Beyond Carbon Action Fund.

Mr Bloomberg also spent more than US$100 million in 2018 to help Democrats take control of the US House, building goodwill in the party as he considered a bid for the presidency in 2020.

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