SPONSORED:

Mike Bloomberg really gets under Trump's skin — and that's good for Bloomberg

Mike Bloomberg really gets under Trump's skin — and that's good for Bloomberg
© Getty Images

Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden selects Gina Raimondo for Commerce chief: reports 7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics NFL, politics dominate 2020 ratings MORE, still a long shot to win the Democratic presidential nomination, has an important booster: Donald J. Trump.

The billionaire former New York City mayor is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on his effort and attacking the president.

He may be replacing Joe BidenJoe BidenKaty Perry and her 'Firework' close out inauguration TV special Arizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Tom Hanks: After years of 'troubling rancor,' Inauguration Day 'is about witnessing the permanence of our American ideal' MORE as the top target of Trump's tweet attacks — and that would be welcome news for Bloomberg. There is nothing that unites Democrats more than drawing Trump's ire; in Democratic politics, ‘Trump’s enemy is our friend.’

ADVERTISEMENT

There could be a parallel to 1966 when Richard M. Nixon, a former Vice President and failed gubernatorial candidate, was considered a has-been. Then his presidential bid got a big boost when he was attacked by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, paving the way for his nomination and election.

Trump now is assailing the Democratic candidate as "Mini Mike" — one of his more feeble insults — and charging, without merit, that Bloomberg has "personal problems." He went ballistic over a Bloomberg ad assailing the administration on health care, especially threatening protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Trump claimed he was the one guaranteeing this protection. The fact is Trump has brought a suit to end that protection.

The New York Times’ Maggie HabermanMaggie Lindsy HabermanThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats formally introduce impeachment article The Hill's Morning Report - Trump finally concedes; 25th Amendment pressure grows The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from chaotic downtown DC MORE, a premier Trump watcher, reported that top advisers — including his politically tone-deaf son-in-law, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Pardon talk intensifies as Trump approaches final 24 hours in office Trump preparing another 100 pardons, commutations before leaving office: reports MORE — advised him to ignore Bloomberg. Trump has “repeatedly expressed anxiety” over Bloomberg's deep pockets.

Look for more Trump attacks, which — like LBJ and Nixon more than a half century ago — will only help the Democrat.

ADVERTISEMENT

One of the reasons Bloomberg drives Trump crazy is that he's everything the president pretends or would like to be: a genuinely rich billionaire who built an enormously successful company, is a much admired philanthropist and respected by New York elites. (Full disclosure: for 14 years, until last January, I worked for Bloomberg News and the Opinion.)

Worth more than $50 billion, Bloomberg is at least 25 times richer than Trump, whose true wealth, it's suspected, is much less than he claims. In contrast to Bloomberg's wide-ranging charitable activities, Trump's foundation was shut down after being charged with "persistently illegal conduct," and Trump was fined by court order.

Until Bloomberg got into the fray late last year, Trump enjoyed a huge money advantage as Democratic presidential candidates battled each other. But the former New York Mayor is spending not only on his own campaign ads, but he’s also buying ads attacks on Trump, including pro-impeachment ads, and making major digital buys, leveling the playing field.

With the massive spending, Bloomberg is inching up in national polls, tied for fourth with former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day Biden faces tall order in uniting polarized nation OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks | Democrats eye action on range of climate bills | Biden pushing to cancel Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he takes office: reports MORE, in single digits, behind front runners Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Sanders's inauguration look promptly gets a bobblehead Booker brings girlfriend, actress Rosario Dawson, to inauguration MORE (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Top Senate Democrat backs waiver for Biden Pentagon nominee Consumer bureau director resigns after Biden's inauguration MORE (D-Mass.).

Bloomberg’s chances may largely depend on Biden. If the former Vice President wins the Iowa caucuses and then later next month two of the other early contests, Nevada and South Carolina, he becomes a formidable front runner. That undercuts the Bloomberg rationale that the New Yorker would be the only one who could stop Sanders and then beat Trump in the fall.

If Biden falters in February, however, Bloomberg’s theory of the case will start to resonate.

In addition to the huge ad buys, the Bloomberg camp — with basically unlimited resources — is hiring talented political organizers and operatives around the country, paying them far more than they're making elsewhere.

The campaign has made several good moves in choosing attractive venues and enlisting second-tier politicians like Chicago Congressman Bobby RushBobby Lee RushCongress: Support the ARC Act to prevent amputations Hillicon Valley: Judge's ruling creates fresh hurdle for TikTok | House passes bills to secure energy sector against cyberattacks | Biden campaign urges Facebook to remove Trump posts spreading 'falsehoods' House passes bills to secure energy sector against cyberattacks MORE. (Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot suggested, on Hill TV, that she may support the former New York Mayor; that would be a first-tier endorsement.)

Other Democrats, however, still wonder if its top command is up to the rigors of a tough, contested race.

Bloomberg won't be able to keep avoiding media scrutiny on thorny  questions: Does he still think that China's Xi Jingping isn't a dictator, as he said in an interview last fall; can he distance himself from his global business interests in places like China and Saudi Arabia; why won't he release his financial assets and tax returns before the big March primaries?

As an antidote to Trump, these all are requisites.

Bloomberg has said if elected he will sell his company or put it in a blind trust; it'd have to be sold, as any trust wouldn't be blind.

And he's likely to get more flak for the foolish decision to paralyze the Bloomberg News' political coverage by declaring it can't do any probing reporting on Bloomberg himself or other Democratic candidates — but will still investigate Trump. That has afforded the president the shot to outrageously threaten to cut off Bloomberg News from White House coverage.

For now, this is overshadowed by a gift: “Mini Mike” is driving Trump crazy.

Albert R. Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter-century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter @alhuntdc.