Presumably out of concern that none of the declared Democratic 2020 presidential nominees could defeat President Trump next year, former New York Mayor Bloomberg has suddenly signaled his own intention to jump into the race.

He has taken the unorthodox route of filing for the Democratic primary in Alabama just under the deadline Friday, and in time to meet the upcoming deadline in New Hampshire, which will be the first significant test as the traditional opening primary following the Iowa caucuses in early February.


Mr. Bloomberg’s surprise comes after earlier declining to run, and according to aides has been driven in part by perceived disappointment in the start of former vice president Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Mr. Biden began as the frontrunner in the early polls but has slipped in some of them with the rise of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is advancing a more progressive agenda.

Mr. Biden, beleaguered by old allegations as “a gaffe machine” for careless comments, nevertheless has rebounded in some recent surveys as Trump has singled him out as a prime target and has sought help from the Ukrainian president to undermine him.

Mr. Bloomberg’s action is a naked gambit of throwing his billionaire’s fortune into the race against the other contenders as well, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and newcomer Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

Mr. Bloomberg has said he will use his own money, which should exclude him from the next televised debate sponsored by the Democratic National Committee in Los Angeles on Nov. 20. Qualifiers must have 165,000 donors to make the cut.

His bold move also is a direct challenge to Ms. Warren’s central campaign theme that the wealthy have too much influence in today’s politics. She has called for heavier taxation of the very rich to pay for her Medicare for All scheme that would kill all private-industry health insurance.

Mr. Biden has been the principal defender of the Affordable Care Act, now widely dubbed Obamacare, and Mr. Bloomberg’s entry into the race conceivably could backfire against to him to Mr. Biden’s advantage as Obamacare’s savior among voters clinging to policies for which employers and unions pay the premiums.

At age 77, Mr. Bloomberg would add a forth to the trio of septuagenarians already running — Mr. Sanders, Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren — and only further muddy the Democratic field and counter the efforts of all the other declared hopefuls to gain political traction in the race.

Last March, Mr. Bloomberg said: “I believe I would defeat Donald Trump in a general election. But I am clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field.” Although he did not now mention Mr. Biden, the inference could be drawn he was less impressed with his ability to capture the nomination.

A Bloomberg spokesman, Howard Wolfson, said: “We now need the finish the job and ensure that Trump is defeated. But Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that.” Mr. Biden himself had no immediate comment, but Mr. Sanders offered: “The billionaire class is scared and they should be scared.” And Ms. Warren tweeted: “Welcome to the race, @Mike Bloomberg!”

It is far from clear at this stage, however, that the onetime Republican mayor of the nation's largest city would immediately or even eventually climb to the top of the Democratic heap as voters approach stating their choices. It all starts in February, heading to the earliest-ever Super Tuesday in March in California and elsewhere. New York does not hold its presidential primary until April 28.

In any event, a Bloomberg skyrocket would be unanticipated. A Monmouth University poll of eight months ago gave him a favorable rating of only 27% to 26% unfavorable and about half with no opinion. Perhaps the American electorate already has had more than its fill of a billionaire in the Oval Office.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power” (Smithsonian Books). His email is juleswitcover@comcast.net.