Mike Bloomberg quits 2020 race after spending more than $500m

Billionaire candidate faced controversy over his wealth, stop-and-frisk policy and past remarks against women and minorities

The billionaire Mike Bloomberg has suspended his Democratic presidential campaign after spending more than $500m on a failed attempt to seize the moderate lane from rival Joe Biden.

Bloomberg, one of the richest people in the world, blitzed the Super Tuesday voting states with an extensive and expensive advertising campaign, after controversially skipping the early primary voting states – with almost nothing to show for his millions of dollars.

“I entered the race for president to defeat Donald Trump, and today, I am leaving the race for the same reason: to defeat Donald Trump,” he said at a rally of staff and supporters at a Manhattan hotel on Wednesday. In a rare show of emotion, the stoic mayor became tearful when closing his speech, saying he was amazed at “how many people have stood with me shoulder to shoulder.”

The 78-year-old former New York mayor and media mogul was hit by controversy since entering the race in November and put up weak performances in the two televised presidential debates he took part in.

He has also drawn fierce criticism from fellow candidates for his wealth and self-funding his campaign; for the New York police department’s stop-and-frisk policy, which disproportionately targeted men of color during his time in office as mayor; and his history of derogatory comments against women and minorities.

Bloomberg endorsed Biden on Wednesday, the moderate candidate he had come into the race expecting to trounce but instead watched rise to unexpected frontrunner status.

“I’ve always believed that defeating Donald Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it. After yesterday’s vote, it is clear that candidate is my friend and a great American, Joe Biden,” he said in an official campaign statement and on Twitter.

Three months ago, I entered the race to defeat Donald Trump. Today, I'm leaving for the same reason. Defeating Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it. It's clear that is my friend and a great American, @JoeBiden. pic.twitter.com/cNJDIQHS75

— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) March 4, 2020

Bloomberg had a disastrous Super Tuesday, when he was officially tested by voters for the first time having begun his campaign late last year but delayed his official entry onto the ballot until after the first four contests had taken place – in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina in February.

As 14 states went to the polls on 3 March, Bloomberg was banking on making a big splash and washing Biden out of the race, to emerge as the savior of the divided centrists and go on to crush the progressive wing of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and clinch the nomination. He failed spectacularly.

Donald Trump rushed to gloat on Wednesday over an old New York ‘frenemy’.

Mini Mike Bloomberg just “quit” the race for President. I could have told him long ago that he didn’t have what it takes, and he would have saved himself a billion dollars, the real cost. Now he will pour money into Sleepy Joe’s campaign, hoping to save face. It won’t work!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2020

Since entering the race in late November, when others began their runs as early as last spring, Bloomberg splashed the cash on slick television and online advertising and held rallies all across the country, organized by a huge paid staff, but didn’t submit to probing media interviews or the ballot box in early voting states.

He touted his record as a supposed get-things-done mayor of New York who guided the city to improved prosperity and lower crime – even if the path to get there was ruthless gentrification amid a developer-friendly environment, and a racist stop-and-frisk crusade focused chiefly on young men of color in minority neighborhoods that was ultimately ruled unconstitutional.

Moves to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places, tackle obesity via food regulation, and build a nationwide coalition of local leaders and activists campaigning for gun control, made the public safer and healthier – but his autocratic style alienated many.

His jump into the presidential race quickly brought back to the surface a fleet of lawsuits accusing his eponymous financial news and information company of discrimination against women.

Bloomberg had a history of making sexist jokes, allegedly undermining women in his workforce and, some of those suing said, openly discriminating against employees who got pregnant, including a corroborated report of him asking one of his workers who was joyously sharing news of her pregnancy with colleagues if she was going to “kill it”.

And having qualified for a late spot at the Democratic debates, he got on stage for the first time in Las Vegas in late February and was almost immediately speared by a laser-like attack from Elizabeth Warren on his record with female employees.

He lacked charisma and articulacy, and despite improving somewhat in the next debate, struggled to look like a top contender.

Bloomberg spent Super Tuesday in Florida and ended the night with a short speech to subdued supporters, signaling a moribund campaign.

He lost badly to Biden and Bernie Sanders in every state and, humiliatingly, had just one victory to brandish – the tiny island territory of American Samoa in the Pacific, where he had sent a clutch of well-paid campaigners to get out the vote.

In his statement on Wednesday, Bloomberg continued: “Three months ago, I entered the race for president to defeat Donald Trump. Today, I am leaving the race for the same reason: to defeat Donald Trump – because it is clear to me that staying in would make achieving that goal more difficult.

“I’m a believer in using data to inform decisions. After yesterday’s results, the delegate math has become virtually impossible – and a viable path to the nomination no longer exists.”

He then followed with his endorsement for Biden.

Ironically, given that he has been obliged to apologize repeatedly for his administration’s long stop-and-frisk campaign in New York, he then said: “I am immensely proud of the plans we proposed – including our Greenwood Initiative to right historic wrongs, fight racial inequality, and make the promise of equal opportunity real for the black communities that have endured centuries of exploitation and discrimination.”

Bloomberg has promised to carry on spending on the Democratic ticket for rest of the election cycle.


Enjoli Liston and Joanna Walters in New York

The GuardianTramp

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