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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

Biography reveals details behind Bloomberg's motivation

Former Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg addresses his

Former Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg addresses his staff and the media after announcing that he will be ending his campaign on Wednesday in New York City. Credit: Getty Images/Spencer Platt

One measure of the brevity of Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign is the fact that a new biography of him, which came out in September, was not published in time to even allude to it. 

Yet Eleanor Randolph’s “The Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg” has a lot to say about why the former New York City mayor got in the 2020 presidential race, and what he might do now that he decided to get out on Wednesday (ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren). 

That’s because Bloomberg had pondered such questions as recently as spring of 2019, and Randolph had access to him and his advisers. That allowed her to shed light on the decision. 

Why would the self-described data guy take the leap into such a difficult contest? Randolph notes that after he left City Hall, Bloomberg’s calendar had “too many open hours.”

In 2019, soon to turn 77, Bloomberg told his most loyal advisers, “I don’t want to have any regrets,” Randolph writes, citing interviews with advisers. 

He took the preparation seriously, with an eye to his age. He went on a “lettuce diet” of greens, purchased “futuristic hearing aids,” and “was avoiding his glass or so of good wine,” reports Randolph. 

In March, though, he decided against the run. He later changed his mind, but the downsides of running were the same then as they were in November: “It became clearer by the day that the new left would target Bloomberg as the Scrooge candidate” despite his record on climate and guns and more. 

The analysis of what would come next is also relevant today. Randolph lays out three goals Bloomberg had as a non-candidate powerbroker.

First: Oust Donald Trump from the White House. 

Second: Fight climate change, partially by backing congressional candidates who wanted to do the same. 

Third: “ … Shore up the Democrats, perhaps by strengthening party weaknesses in technology and fund-raising.” 

It’s a battlefield that Bloomberg 2020 ended up embracing, and one that could be important now that he’s ended his effort: “He and his people knew plenty about the bots, the memes, the high-energy quarters of the Internet that had become the trolling fields for Republicans and their supporters.” 

That meant there would be room for a “digital counterattack” — one that wasn’t enough for Bloomberg, but maybe will have better odds behind someone else.

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