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Billionaire Michael Bloomberg could face a steep climb in the 2020 presidential race

Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Tom Steyer, a San Francisco hedge-fund billionaire in the Democratic race, taunted Bloomberg on Friday. "If Michael Bloomberg decides to support a wealth tax, I welcome him to this race," Steyer said. "If not, it's very clear that he should not be the Democratic nominee."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota took offense at Bloomberg's suggestion that nobody in the field was fit to defeat Trump. "I don't buy that and I don't think you do either," she said to a crowd in Iowa.

One of Bloomberg's biggest challenges would be his demographic profile.

"Older white male billionaire and former Republican -- I think that pretty much covers the gamut of challenges that he will face to get the nod for the nomination," said Christine Sierra, co-author of "Contested Transformation: Race, Gender, and Political Leadership in 21st Century America."

Bloomberg has maintained he could overcome initial resistance to his candidacy, pointing to his three mayoral victories in a city where whites are a minority.

In 2001, Bloomberg left the Democratic Party to run as a Republican for mayor of New York City. He won the election in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and served three terms. In the middle of his tenure, in 2007, he registered as an independent, then in October 2018 he rejoined the Democratic Party.

The ideology that Bloomberg most closely represents -- socially liberal, but economically relatively conservative -- is popular in elite circles in the U.S., but distinctly unpopular among other Americans. An analysis of polling data by the nonpartisan Voter Study Group in 2017 indicated that such voters make up about 4% of the U.S. electorate.

Bloomberg is well known as an opponent of the tobacco and soft drink industries. He approved New York's ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, but his attempt to outlaw large soft drinks was overturned in court. His foundation has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to curb tobacco use in the developing world. He also has poured money into campaigns to promote gun control and fight global warming.


In 2016, Bloomberg made elaborate preparations to run for president as an independent, but abandoned the idea after deciding he had no path to victory in a three-way race against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. He denounced Trump in a well-received speech at the Democratic National Convention and has since described him as a dangerous and incompetent president.

Bloomberg, who grew up in the Boston area and earned a master's degree in business administration at Harvard Business School, worked in investment banking at Salomon Brothers on Wall Street before he founded Bloomberg LP, the information technology and media company that produced his personal fortune.

(Staff writers Mark Z. Barabak, David Lauter and Melissa Gomez contributed to this report.)

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