Why, yes, comes the response from Bloomberg’s team: He and his money are just what America needs, if the mission is to make sure President Trump doesn’t get a second term. Bloomberg’s aides see the massive spending he’d do in a primary as an argument in his favor. “It doesn’t hurt us—it helps us,” Wolfson said. More than anything, Democrats want to beat Trump, he said, and the money proves Bloomberg’s case that he’s the one to do it: “Having the resources to do the job is important.”
Read: Michael Bloomberg can buy popularity, but can he buy the presidency?
Ads will go up soon, on TV and online. Plans to hire staff on the ground across the country are moving forward. Wolfson put out a statement earlier Friday announcing that Bloomberg would skip Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, blowing past the four early states and into the mass of primaries on Super Tuesday on March 3, when the field will almost certainly be much smaller and more of the race will depend on who has the cash to advertise in markets across the country while running simultaneous operations in more than a dozen states. But aides aren’t planning to wait—operations are expected to be up and running within weeks. Bloomberg is notoriously underwhelming on the stump, and if this run happens, it will be less focused on glad-handing and speeches than perhaps any since William McKinley campaigned from his porch.
Last fall, when Bloomberg was first looking at running in 2020, I was talking with a person who worked for years alongside him, and I was trying to get a sense of just how much Bloomberg was willing to spend. $1 billion? Maybe. $2 billion? Could be. $3 billion? There’s no reason to take the one clear competitive advantage off the table, the person said to me, reflecting Bloomberg’s mind-set. (Others involved with the primary race already think he could safely win the nomination with $500 million, and that’s separate from the data operation he’s pledged to spend hundreds of millions on, or the amount he’d then spend in the race against Trump.)
The way it would work in his mayoral campaigns, Bloomberg’s aides told me at the time, was that they just had to present a plan for how the spending would win him votes, and as long as it looked solid, he’d sign off, whatever the price tag. Wolfson told me that for the 2020 campaign, there hasn’t been discussion of a spending limit, but he expects the same general system to apply.
In 2001, Bloomberg spent $74 million, or $99 a vote, according to a New York Times analysis. In 2005, that became $85 million, or $112 a vote. In 2009, after he overturned term limits so he could run for a third term as New York City’s mayor, he spent the most: $102 million, or $174 a vote, in what proved to be a race he almost lost. Any of these numbers are more than any presidential campaign has raised in total in the past year, but are also somewhere between a rounding error and a few days of interest for a fortune the size of Bloomberg’s. (Various estimates peg his current net worth north of $50 billion, which is well more than twice what the estimates were when he first ran for mayor.) The same would go for dropping that level of dough into this race: He could put $7 million into each of the Super Tuesday primary states for as much as he spent per vote in that 2009 race.