The billionaire former New York City mayor will file paperwork Friday to qualify for Alabama’s Democratic primary, taking his first official step toward running for president while still leaving himself an escape hatch to opt out of the race, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The sources stressed Bloomberg hasn’t completely made up his mind about running, but said the 77-year-old Hizzoner has dispatched staffers to Alabama this week to gather signatures in order to make it onto the Yellowhammer State’s primary ballot.
"They’ve totally geared up over the last few days and they’re doing 'round the clock meetings,” a former Bloomberg administration official told the Daily News on Thursday.
Alabama’s primary isn’t until March, but the state has a Friday deadline to qualify for the ballot. A candidate needs 500 signatures to make the cut.
The former administration official said Bloomberg “appears enthusiastic." However, even if Bloomberg qualifies for the Alabama primary, he doesn’t have to launch a campaign, and the sources noted that he’s not totally on board yet.
Top Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson claimed his billionaire boss is the ideal Democrat to “take the fight to Trump and win.”
“Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that," Wolfson said in a statement. “If Mike runs he would offer a new choice to Democrats built on a unique record running America’s biggest city, building a business from scratch and taking on some of America’s toughest challenges as a high-impact philanthropist.”
Some of Bloomberg’s fellow 2020 hopefuls believe the ultra-wealthy New Yorker is out of touch with the modern Democratic Party.
“The billionaire class is scared and they should be scared,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted in a not-so-subtle dig at Bloomberg amid news of his Alabama move.
Sanders’ like-minded Senate colleague, Elizabeth Warren, piled on.
“Welcome to the race, Mike Bloomberg! If you’re looking for policy plans that will make a huge difference for working people and which are very popular, start here,” Warren tweeted, along with a link to a widget on her campaign website that allows billionaires to calculate how much they’d pay under her proposed wealth tax.
If he ultimately decides to join the race, Bloomberg would likely pose a challenge to Joe Biden, who espouses similar centrist views but has recently dropped in the polls and struggled to raise cash.
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But Bloomberg’s moderate policy ideals and aversion of big government solutions to health care and other kitchen table issues could make him a progressive punching bag.
He’d also join the race with less than three months to go until February’s Iowa caucuses, leaving him a narrow window for campaigning and assembling a political base.
Bloomberg, who began flirting with a White House bid nearly a year ago, has faced heat from fellow Democrats over his legacy in New York, which includes the controversial stop-and-frisk policing strategy that targeted young black and Latino men.
In September 2018, Bloomberg drew a barrage of criticism after he disputed the credibility of some #MeToo victims in an interview with The New York Times.
"The stuff I read about is disgraceful — I don’t know how true all of it is,” Bloomberg told the newspaper.