As other Democratic presidential candidates were consumed Tuesday by confusion over the Iowa caucus results, Michael Bloomberg, who is skipping the early voting states to focus on delegate-rich contests in March and beyond, brought his deep-pocketed campaign to Philadelphia.
After spending Monday in California and Tuesday morning in Michigan, the billionaire former mayor of New York City drew an enthusiastic crowd of more than 1,000 people inside the National Constitution Center Tuesday evening.
Bloomberg’s message was simple: I can unite the Democratic Party and defeat President Trump.
“I’m the un-Trump,” he said as supporters wearing white “PA for MIKE” T-shirts waved campaign signs behind him. “He breaks promises. I keep them. He divides people. I unite them. He’s a climate denier. I’m an engineer. I actually believe in science, imagine that!”
In his 10 weeks since launching his campaign, Bloomberg has pitched himself as a moderate alternative to the likes of senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — and a candidate with virtually unlimited resources to spend against Trump, who delivered his third State of the Union address Tuesday on the eve of an expected impeachment acquittal.
Bloomberg has already poured more than $200 million of his personal fortune into the race, including roughly $10 million for a single Super Bowl commercial.
Hoping to capitalize on the turmoil in Iowa, he authorized his campaign team on Tuesday to boost his spending on TV and digital ads even further while doubling his field staff.
He appears to be winning some converts. Young voter Gabby Siwiec attended the rally Tuesday night as a Sanders supporter, but acknowledged she may back Bloomberg for strategic reasons.
“Bernie’s a fun shot in the dark. It’d be nice if maybe he got far enough,” said Siwiec, 22, of Bayonne, New Jersey. “I just don’t think America’s ready for Bernie. I think America might be ready for Bloomberg.”
Other attendees, like Todd Westby, were more upbeat about Bloomberg.
“Mike strikes me as someone that’s very solutions-based, big on numbers and getting things done and a real positive leader,” said Westby, a Villanova resident who is retired from a career in financial services.
“Mike Bloomberg is one who can bring people together and make a difference in the world,” added Thomas Grant, a Liberian-born entrepreneur who has lived in Delaware for 27 years. “And the humble background from which he came from, I find that to be very interesting and very much similar to someone like me.”
Bloomberg was introduced Tuesday night by former Philadelphia Eagle Dhani Jones, who called the candidate “America’s linebacker,” and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who is the campaign’s national political co-chair as well as a paid consultant.
They riffed on the campaign slogan “Mike will get it done” and highlighted Bloomberg’s record as a businessman, mayor and advocate for causes such as gun-control and the environment.
For a candidate with a reputation for being a bit stiff on the campaign trail, Bloomberg delivered a few zingers Tuesday night. After vowing to name the Flyers mascot Gritty as his vice president, he addressed the “elephant in the room.”
“People ask me, ‘Do you really want a general election between two New York billionaires?’” he said. “To which I say, ‘Who’s the other one?’”
Bloomberg’s national polling average is now around 8% even though he has not appeared in a single debate. That number is below Democratic rivals Joe Biden, Sanders and Warren, but above the likes of Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar.
Bloomberg, who founded the eponymous financial news and data company, has said he is skipping the first four Democratic contests in February — those in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — to focus on the so-called Super Tuesday states and beyond.
Voters in those 14 states, which include California and Texas, will go to the polls on March 3.
Pennsylvania does not hold its primary until April 28, but it’s a key swing state in the general election where the Bloomberg campaign says it wants to invest resources early.
The campaign said it currently has 35 staffers in the state, with plans to scale up to 90 people by the end of February.
Nationally, the campaign says it will have staffers in 40 states and territories by the week’s end.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.