Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a swing through Iowa on Tuesday, increasing speculation he may run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. The official reason for Bloomberg’s trip was to highlight climate change solutions and unveil his new film on the subject, but it also served as an early preview of what a presidential bid might look like.
That preview was pretty simple and clear-cut: a Bloomberg run would focus on climate change, gun safety, possibly opioid addiction and make calls for bi-partisanship.
“We’ve got to have a government that faces the issues. You can’t have a government that doesn’t believe in science,” Bloomberg said to reporters in Ankeny. “For God’s sake, if you get sick, do you really want to go to a witch doctor? … We have to face climate change. We have to face guns.”
Bloomberg’s day featured stops at a solar panel business in Cedar Rapids, the wind turbine engineering program at DMACC in Ankeny, a Moms Demand Action and Everytown USA event, and the screening of Paris to Pittsburgh.
Responding to questions about a potential presidential campaign, Bloomberg explained that he’d decide on that around the first of the year.
Were he to run, Bloomberg would clearly bring significant financial resources to his campaign, likely at a level of which that few other candidates could match. He also starts out with some of the highest name ID in the field. And his very well-known backing for anti-gun violence efforts would help him build up a niche of support among Democratic activists who care about that issue the most.
However, he’d also face skepticism over his significant wealth, the fact that he was a Republican and independent before becoming a Democrat, and many of his more controversial policies in New York City. Some in the party aren’t too keen on a bi-partisan message, and some would also wonder if he’d be able to campaign well against Donald Trump (Bloomberg was somewhat stilted in his interaction with students at DMACC).
During this trip, he largely stuck to his policy message.
“Iowa is a state that has worked very hard to address the issue of climate change,” Bloomberg said. “Every farmer I’ve talked to either has seen a problem or is expecting a problem in terms of the crops growing differently than what they did before. They require different care. More water or less water. Farmers are faced with droughts. Farmers are faced with floods. Farmers are faced with diseases.”
Bloomberg was pressed on some of his past statements on ethanol and biofuels, to which he played down past concerns.
“I think ethanol and biofuels are part of the mix,” he said. “There’s a place for it. I think eventually you’d like to get to a world where we don’t burn anything. That’s the way you really clean the air the most. But we’re a long ways from that … If I were a farmer growing corn, I would not worry about ethanol going away.”
Bloomberg was joined by local and national leaders of the gun safety movement in Des Moines. He recognized Senator-elect Claire Celsi for running on the issue in her campaign, and thanked Amber Gustafson, the former state leader of Moms Demand Action, for her close race against Jack Whitver.
“30,000 people will either commit suicide or get shot with illegal handguns,” Bloomberg said. “No one wants to take away anyone’s guns. But we should have background checks so that we don’t sell guns to minors. We shouldn’t sell guns to people with psychiatric problems. We shouldn’t sell guns to people with criminal records. The vast majority – 85%, 90% – of NRA members who are gun owners would agree with all three of those things.”
While this was the former mayor’s first visit to Iowa this election cycle, Bloomberg had invested heavily in the Iowa Democratic Party here. He gave at least $250,000 to the party this cycle.
“The reason I supported them was because they said they were going to provide the service we need, check and balance and addressing all the social and economic issues,” Bloomberg explained, adding that he encouraged Nancy Pelosi to work across the aisle with their new majority, unlike what the Republicans did.
One of the more interesting aspect of Bloomberg’s evening event with the film screening was just how well-produced it all was, from the amount of staff to the quality of the setup. It will be noteworthy to see how Bloomberg’s Iowa events look like if he does run for president; whether he commits to a full retail politicking strategy or sticks to larger, managed events.
Bloomberg did get a small protest at the start of his film screening, which he joked made him feel at home.
by Pat Rynard