Feb 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Bloomberg's theory of Trump

Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Others have tried this tactic without success — remember Hillary Clinton? — but Mike Bloomberg plans to attack President Trump on his business record.

One difference: Trump's pre-White House career can now be linked with his decisions as president. Another difference: Bloomberg will be making this argument as a multibillionaire who built a multinational company.

Between the lines: The crux of Bloomberg's argument is that Trump has only ever had to think about crushing his next adversary in a deal rather than building a long-term customer relationship — and that this short-term, win-at-all-costs mindset defines how Trump operates as president, and with allies.

  • "He is a real estate promoter as opposed to a businessman," Bloomberg told me at a campaign stop last Monday in Compton, south of downtown LA. "And they have very different ways of going about things."

Bloomberg's full comments:

"A promoter does one transaction and is never going to see that customer ever again. In his case, he sells a building to you and chances are he'll never have you as a customer again. So he can be much more aggressive in terms of trying to get the best deal for himself.
A businessperson, you always want to leave something on the table for the other side of the transaction because you're going to come back and try to have another transaction. And in fact, in this day and age, you can be a customer of another firm, they can be a customer of yours, you can be partners with them, you can have a lot of different relationships.
So the business world is much more complex, and you don't behave that way. And I think that explains a lot of ... his demeanor here versus other presidents or what I would do. ... That's the way I've always thought about it. Because you look at him and you say, 'Why does he do this?' That's what my conclusion is."

Go deeper

Trump-Bloomberg feuding reaches new levels

Mike Bloomberg addresses local leaders in Oakland, California, as part of his focus on states with large numbers of delegates, Jan. 17. Photo: Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group.

Maybe it was the eye-popping FEC data about Mike Bloomberg's Q4 spending. Or a rivalry over their Super Bowl ads. Or a change to Democrats' rules that may soon allow Bloomberg to participate in the primary debates.

In any case, President Trump raged overnight on Twitter, primarily going after the height of the 5-foot-8 billionaire who's running as a Democrat. And Bloomberg's campaign shot back, hitting Trump for his weight and hue.

Letter from Planet Bloomberg

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Mike Bloomberg's campaign feels corporate. It's calm, orderly and punctual. His audiences clap politely, and you can't walk two steps without running into a paid staffer with talking points. Nobody whoops or yells. Nothing is left to chance. No expense is spared. The candidate is self-consciously low-key.

The big picture: After being immersed in Donald Trump's freewheeling White House and campaign for more than four years, I found the day I spent flying around with Bloomberg's campaign last week in California to be a foreign experience.

Bloomberg's baggage, and barrage

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Top 2020 Democrats, armed with decades of opposition research, plan to savage Mike Bloomberg as a Democratic Trump — an egomaniac New York billionaire who's stained by sexism and racial slights, and hell-bent on buying power and puppeteering mass media.

Why it matters: Bloomberg knows it's coming, has rehearsed his retorts, readied ads and policy plans to deflect, and will unleash $1.5 billion more on ads and staff to clean up any damage.