Feb 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy

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.

Driving the news: Trump tweeted that if Bloomberg qualifies for the next Democratic debate, he'd try to "stand on boxes, or a lift." Trump also accused Bloomberg of getting the DNC "to rig the election against Crazy Bernie," and he vented more in a Sean Hannity interview previewed by Fox News.

  • Democrats have done away with a required fundraising threshold, which Bloomberg would not meet because he is self-funding. But the new rules require a 10% polling average that Bloomberg hasn't yet met.

The other side: Bloomberg first fired back through his campaign's national press secretary, Julie Wood: "The president is lying. He is a pathological liar who lies about everything: his fake hair, his obesity, and his spray-on tan."

Later, Bloomberg responded directly: "I will stand on my accomplishments of what I’ve done to bring this country together and get things done. I’ve been doing it for a long time. I stand twice as tall as he does on the stage, on the stage that matters."

While skipping the first four states to run an unconventional national campaign, Bloomberg will be jetting around California while the rest of his opponents are in Iowa.

  • "Iowa and New Hampshire have 65 delegates," said Bloomberg's national spokesperson Galia Slayen. "California, Michigan and Pennsylvania have 726."
  • I'll be joining Bloomberg on Monday, for stops in Sacramento, Fresno and Compton. On Tuesday, Bloomberg plans to campaign in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Behind the scenes: Three of President Trump's advisers told me that Trump seems to view Bloomberg as a serious problem. Trump takes Bloomberg more seriously than some of his advisers, including the Trump campaign team, sources with direct knowledge told me.

  • A senior administration official, who told the president that Bloomberg has no hope of winning the Democratic nomination, said Trump replied: "You're underestimating him."
  • "He [Trump] thinks that money goes a long way," the official told me.
  • Another Trump adviser said: "He [Trump] takes money seriously. He's a businessman."
  • Trump has been lashing out at Bloomberg’s constant TV ads, despite some aides advising him to ignore the billionaire who is still polling well below Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Trump began his series of tweets about Bloomberg at 12:10 am today.

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, said of Bloomberg: "His outsized wealth and outsized ego are matched by his overwrought jealousy and spitefulness towards the president. Jealousy is a dangerous motivator for people, leading them to confuse with a sugar high that money can buy with substance that voters demand to hear."

  • Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson responded to Conway's quote: "History will call to account every single person within this administration who has enabled and abetted this lawless and dangerous president."
  • "Mike got into this race with the singular goal of defeating Donald Trump and a strategy of contrasting his record of accomplishment with Trump's lies and broken promises," Wolfson added. "Clearly it's working."
  • Conway responded to Wolfson: “Howard and I have already made history together. His work for Hillary and my work against Hillary helped keep her out of the White House.”
  • Wolfson, who worked for Clinton’s losing 2008 presidential campaign but not her losing 2016 campaign, replied, again, to Conway: “And in less than a year we will make history again when Kellyanne and Mr. Trump will have to stand and watch Mike take the oath of office.”
  • At this point, I ended my role as quote mediator.

Go deeper: Mike Bloomberg copies Trump to beat Trump

Go deeper

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 says he hopes Sanders changes

Bloomberg stands by his campaign bus after speaking at an event in Compton Monday. Photo: Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images

Mike Bloomberg tells me he'd support Bernie Sanders over Donald Trump if those were his two options, but that people should understand Sanders at this moment is "so far to the left it's not practical" and that "what he wants to do would never get through Congress."

Why this matters: While Bloomberg's also seeking the Democratic nomination, he's committed to supporting whoever wins it.

Bloomberg's big bet on the power of money

Data: Advertising Analytics, FEC; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Michael Bloomberg’s prolific spending aims to make him as legitimate and familiar as his rivals. It also confronts two realities: President Trump is out-raising all the other Democrats with ease, and the Democratic National Committee is anemic.

Why it matters: Bloomberg is betting that enough exposure — through a $300m+ ad campaign and a non-traditional run that looks past the early four states — will make him competitive in Super Tuesday, and make all Democrats stronger in the general election.