Can I just say that it would be incredibly sweet to see a guy who made his fortune in the news media defeat an incumbent president who has declared the news media to be the enemy of the people?
Or is my conflict of interest on this issue too great even by the standards set by said incumbent?
Seriously, I don’t know enough yet about Michael R. Bloomberg’s record as mayor of New York City to judge whether he’d be a better candidate than former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota and Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, or any of the other Democratic candidates in the “moderate” lane Bloomberg seeks to occupy. I’m just supremely confident that if he does jump into the race, as news reports hint he will, and then goes on to win the nomination, he would be a far better president than the one we have now.
For starters, unlike President Donald Trump, he wouldn’t come into office bereft of any experience or understanding of how the federal government works. In his 12 years as mayor of the largest city in the United States, he also showed an interest in the sort of fact-based, data-driven policy that Trump finds unappealing. Perhaps most important, he recognizes that climate change is an enormous problem that needs to be tackled for the sake of humanity. That alone makes him a better leader for this country than Trump has been.
Having said all that, I don’t know how Bloomberg can win the nomination.
Yes, he’s a billionaire. And although that’s not working out so well for Tom Steyer, Bloomberg is much better known around the country. But the polls show far more support among Democratic primary voters for liberal candidates than truly moderate ones, aside from Biden. And it’s hard to tell how much of Biden’s support stems from his more moderate approach to policy versus Democrats’ understandable affection and nostalgia for the president Biden served under, Barack Obama.
Bloomberg also comes with a significant piece of baggage: his support for the New York Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” policy. While he has asserted that the policy helped slash the city’s homicide rate, critics say it unfairly targeted black and Latino New Yorkers. Given the blowback Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, has gotten for her record as a prosecutor and state attorney general, one can only imagine what grief Bloomberg will take from progressives who have prioritized criminal justice reform.
Add that to the challenge that centrists in both parties face in generating enthusiasm among primary voters, and I’m not sanguine about Bloomberg’s chances. But it’s early yet in the race for votes, even though it’s late in the fundraising chase. And one thing Michael Bloomberg doesn’t need is anybody else’s money.
Jon Healey is the Los Angeles Times’ deputy editorial page editor.