The 77-year-old billionaire philanthropist, media magnate, and former New York City mayor announced on Tuesday that he won’t make a 2020 White House run in an op-ed on his eponymous news service. He explained that he believes he would beat President Donald Trump in a general election but is “clear-eyed about the difficulty” of winning the Democratic Party nomination. Instead, Bloomberg is launching a new initiative, dubbed Beyond Carbon, to help transition the country toward clean energy and will work to ensure Trump is not reelected.
Bloomberg, had he run, would have positioned himself as a centrist candidate juxtaposed to more left-leaning figures such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). He was also expected to self-fund his campaign. But the former mayor appears to have decided he doesn’t see a path for himself to the White House, at least without changing his positions.
“I’ve run for office three times and won each time, in no small part because I’ve never stuck my finger in the wind to decide what I should believe,” he wrote. “It’s not who I am, nor do I think it’s what voters want in a leader.”
Bloomberg has for years been rumored to have White House aspirations, and he hasn’t kept them a secret. He contemplated running as an independent in 2016 but ultimately decided against it out of concern it might result in a Donald Trump victory. (Trump won anyway.) Though he has previously identified as a Democrat, a Republican, and an independent, Bloomberg switched his party affiliation back to the Democrats in 2018 and has become a fierce backer of the party. He donated millions of dollars to Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms.
The Washington Post reports that Bloomberg still plans to back Democrats and will fund a new political operation “with intensive voter targeting and outreach in swing states over the next 18 months.”
“It’s essential that we nominate a Democrat who will be in the strongest position to defeat Donald Trump and bring our country back together,” Bloomberg wrote on Tuesday. “We cannot allow the primary process to drag the party to an extreme that would diminish our chances in the general election and translate into ‘Four More Years.’”
Bloomberg could conceivably run as a self-funded independent, a path former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is mulling. But he won’t. In January, he warned that an independent run would “just split the anti-Trump vote and end up re-electing the President.”
What Bloomberg will do instead
Bloomberg, who is worth an estimated $56 billion, largely through his financial information and media conglomerate Bloomberg LP, has dedicated himself to philanthropy and a handful of specific causes since serving three terms as New York City mayor in the early 2000s.
He has focused much of his time on Bloomberg Philanthropies, an organization that encompasses all of Bloomberg’s charitable giving and focuses on five main areas: public health, the environment, education, government innovation, and arts and culture. The Chronicle of Philanthropy listed Bloomberg as the second most generous philanthropist of 2018, behind Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos. In 2017, he launched the Bloomberg Global Business Forum, an annual international meeting of world-leading and corporate executives in New York City meant as a replacement for the Clinton Global Initiative.
Bloomberg has focused on two main issue areas: climate change and gun safety. He plans to continue work on both fronts.
He said on Tuesday he will launch Beyond Carbon, the continuation of a 2011 initiative called Beyond Coal that he put together with the Sierra Club dedicated to moving the country away from oil and gas and toward 100 percent clean energy. According to the Post, Bloomberg and former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope have drafted a preliminary proposal for addressing climate change that they hope is more realistic than the Green New Deal put forth by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).
Bloomberg also said he will keep working to address gun violence, noting that “Congress has not passed a major gun safety bill in nearly 25 years.”
His post paints a fuzzy picture of a campaign that might have been — he also discusses improving public schools, college affordability, the opioid crisis, and investing in local communities. But it appears Bloomberg, a pragmatist who clearly isn’t into undertaking political campaigns he doesn’t think he can win, believes he will be most effective in the private sector.
“I hope those who have urged me to run, and to stand up for the values and principles that they hold dear, will understand that my decision was guided by one question: How can I best serve the country?” he wrote.