WASHINGTON — Michael Bloomberg is reaching out to prominent Democrats in key states and scrambling to meet fast-approaching primary filing deadlines, his first steps toward formalizing a late run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Among those Bloomberg has reached out to: Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor who remains popular in the state. Vilsack told The Associated Press that Bloomberg called him Thursday evening and left a voicemail indicating he plans to run.
“He is in,” Vilsack said of Bloomberg’s message.
Bloomberg advisers say the former New York City mayor has not made a final decision on whether to launch a White House run, but acknowledged that he is moving quickly to preserve the option.
Bloomberg was expected to file paperwork to get on the ballot in Alabama ahead of the state’s Friday deadline and is also making plans to file in Arkansas, which has a Tuesday deadline.
The billionaire businessman is reconsidering a presidential bid because he is worried the current crop of Democrats is not well positioned to defeat President Donald Trump. He’s spent the past few weeks talking with prominent Democrats about the state of the race, expressing concerns about the steadiness of former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign and the rise of liberal Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, according to people with knowledge of those discussions.
Biden, campaigning in New Hampshire on Friday, welcomed Bloomberg to the race.
“Michael’s a solid guy, and let’s see where it goes,” he told reporters. “I have no problem with him getting in the race.”
Bloomberg’s moves come as the Democratic race enters a crucial phase. Biden’s front-runner status has been vigorously challenged by Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who are flush with cash from small-dollar donors. But both are viewed by some Democrats as too liberal to win in a general election faceoff with Trump.
Trump told reporters Friday that Bloomberg might well spend “a lot of money” but “doesn’t have the magic to do well.” Trump suggested he’d easily beat the former mayor and fellow billionaire.
“Little Michael will fail,” Trump said at the White House, adding: “There is nobody I’d rather run against than Little Michael, that I can tell you.”
Despite a historically large field, some Democrats anxious about defeating Trump have been looking for other options. Former Attorney General Eric Holder and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick have quietly had conversations with supporters urging them to consider a run, but neither appears likely to get in the race.
Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent who registered as a Democrat last year, has flirted with a presidential run before but ultimately backed down, including in 2016. He endorsed Hillary Clinton in that race and, in a speech at the Democratic Party convention, pummeled Trump as a con who has oversold his business successes.
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