Jason Lange: Billionaire Bloomberg willing to spend to oust Trump

Jason Lange: Billionaire Bloomberg willing to spend to oust Trump
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speaks to a large crowd during the opening of the Bloomberg for North Carolina headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina. Picture: Caleb Jones/The News & Observer/AP.

The eighth-richest man in the US has kicked off his election campaign with a $37m advertising blitz in a bid to unseat Donald Trump, says Jason Lange.

US presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg says he is willing to spend much of his vast fortune to oust the president, Donald Trump, from the White House in 2020.

The billionaire has rejected criticism from rivals for the Democratic nomination that he is trying to buy the US election.

Ranked by Forbes as the eighth-richest American, Bloomberg has flooded US airwaves and social media feeds with messages that he stands the best chance to beat Trump, spending more on ads since he launched his campaign, in November, than his main Democratic rivals have over the last year.

“Number one priority is to get rid of Donald Trump. I’m spending all my money to get rid of Trump,” Bloomberg told Reuters aboard his campaign bus on Saturday during a 480km drive across Texas, one of the 14 states that will vote on Super Tuesday, on March 3.

“Do you want me to spend more or less? End of story.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading Democratic presidential contenders, who has vowed to get money out of politics, blasted Bloomberg’s $37m (€33.3m) TV advertising blitz, accusing the former New York City mayor of trying to buy American democracy.

“These are just political things they say, hoping they catch on, and they don’t like me doing it because it competes with them, not because it’s bad policy,” Bloomberg said.

After entering the race late and missing the first six Democratic debates, Bloomberg sits fifth in national public opinion polls, behind Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Warren, and Pete Buttigieg.

All four are too liberal to beat Trump, says Bloomberg.

“One of the reasons I’m reasonably confident I could beat Trump is I would be acceptable to the moderate Republicans you have to have,” said Bloomberg, a former Republican, who made his fortune selling financial information to Wall Street firms.

“Whether you like it or not, you can’t win the election unless you get moderate Republicans to cross the line. The others are much too liberal for them and they would certainly vote forDonald Trump.”

After a late entry into the race, he is skipping the first four Democratic nomination contests, in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, all due to take place in February.

Instead, Bloomberg is waging a nationwide campaign to capture delegates in later contests, such as Texas, which will be the second-largest prize among the 14 Super Tuesday states.

At campaign events in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas, in Texas, on Saturday, Bloomberg said his bipartisannature makes it more likely he coulddeliver on his pledges to expand health insurance coverage, fight climate change, and reduce gun violence.

While his speeches drew modest crowds of no more than a few hundred in Austin, and fewer still in San Antonio, many who attended said they are independents or former Trump supporters, who have learned about Bloomberg through his massive advertising campaign.

“He’s better than Trump,” said Marcelo Montemayor, 75, who listened to Bloomberg speak at a taco restaurant in San Antonio.

Montemayor voted for Trump in 2016, but worries that the president’s conservative appointees to federal courts could undermine abortion rights.

Bloomberg’s television ads have dominated the airwaves, both nationwide and in Texas.

In the top four media markets in the Lone Star State, which include Houston and Dallas, Bloomberg has spent more than $15m on television ads through mid-January, said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Houston’s Rice University, who analysed Federal Communications Commission records on ad buys.

That exceeds the combined spending, nationwide, by Democratic frontrunners in 2019, according to a Wesleyan Media Project analysis of Kantar/CMAG television ad data through mid-December.

And for this year’s Super Bowl, which will be broadcast on February 2, from Miami, Trump and Bloomberg both plan to air a 60-second television commercial — a prime example of their ability to devote vast resources to reaching millions of viewers.

Trump officials said the campaign paid $10m for air time. Last year’s marquee American football game drew nearly 100m viewers.

“You can’t get to 330m people by shaking hands. Television is still the magic medium,” Bloomberg said.

“If the Super Bowl wasn’t a place to get to an awful lot of people, they wouldn’t be charging a lot, or nobody would be paying it. This is capitalism at work.”

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