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
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Michael BloombergMichael BloombergHillicon Valley: Trump raises idea of delaying election, faces swift bipartisan pushback | Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google release earnings reports | Senators ask Justice Department to investigate TikTok, Zoom Meme group joins with Lincoln Project in new campaign against Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump pivots on convention; GOP punts on virus bill 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 Biden2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump's NASA moon program Don't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency Abrams: Trump 'doing his best to undermine our confidence' in voting system 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.’

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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 HabermanTrump appeals to 'Suburban Housewives of America' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - Mask mandates, restrictions issued as COVID-19 spreads Does Donald Trump even want a second term? MORE, a premier Trump watcher, reported that top advisers — including his politically tone-deaf son-in-law, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerDeutsche Bank launches investigation into longtime banker of Trump, Kushner Watchdog group accuses Stephen Miller of violating Hatch Act with Biden comments Ivanka and Kushner earned at least M in outside income last year: financial disclosures 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.

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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 ButtigiegFormer Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan dies How Republicans can embrace environmentalism and win In politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over MORE, in single digits, behind front runners Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP lawmaker: Democratic Party 'used to be more moderate' 4 reasons why Trump can't be written off — yet Progressives lost the battle for the Democratic Party's soul MORE (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Warren4 reasons why Trump can't be written off — yet Here are top contenders to be Biden's VP Kamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' 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 RushIllinois lawmaker says Trump wants to instigate a race war The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump, GOP senators at odds over next stimulus bill Democrats set to hold out for big police reform 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.