RALEIGH—Amid the recent resurfacing of a controversial audio recording of Michael Bloomberg defending “stop and frisk,” the Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City mayor cast himself as the “un-Trump” at a rally Thursday.
In the 2015 audio, Bloomberg said that 95% of murderers and victims are “male minorities, 16 to 25.” Bloomberg didn’t directly address the recording or have media availability Thursday but apologized at a news conference Wednesday, saying his words didn’t “reflect how I led the most diverse city in the nation.”
Instead, the eighth richest person in the world cast himself as the candidate best equipped to beat President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. In front of a packed house at Raleigh’s Union Station, he touted his ability to get things done in a “common sense” way and draw in a broad coalition of voters as a moderate.
“This is a national emergency. We can’t last another four years with Donald Trump. The stakes could not be higher,” Bloomberg said. “The way to defeat Donald Trump is with sensible, workable solutions to our biggest problems.”
Bloomberg has taken advantage of chaos in the Iowa caucuses and leveraged hundreds of millions in personal advertising spending, surging in the polls despite not participating in the first four states’ caucuses and primaries.
Instead, Bloomberg has focused on Super Tuesday states like North Carolina and its 110 delegates that he and his campaign see as crucial to winning the nomination. Bloomberg has recently campaigned in Greensboro, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Fayetteville, with North Carolina being the first state where Bloomberg opened a headquarters. Early voting opened Feb. 13 ahead of the March 3 North Carolina primary.
Bloomberg is attempting to capitalize on former Vice President Joe Biden’s dismal showings in Iowa and New Hampshire. In recent weeks, he has surged to third in national polling at 14%, trailing just behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (24%) and Biden (19%), according to RealClearPolitics’ polling average. Biden allies that fear Sanders and his liberal policies winning the nomination have been “eyeing” Bloomberg, POLITICO reported Wednesday.
Despite his late start to the campaign, recent North Carolina polling shows Bloomberg in third in North Carolina among likely voters, with Biden at 24.5%, Sanders at 18% and Bloomberg at 15%. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren sits at 11.5%, trailed by former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttegieg at 8.5%.
Bloomberg touts ‘un-Trump’ policies
Trump called Bloomberg a "5'4" mass of dead energy" in a Thursday morning tweet that the former mayor apparently referenced at the rally. Bloomberg pushed back.
“Our party needs a candidate who can go toe-to-toe and fight with him,” Bloomberg said. “[His] insults don’t bother me. I’ll never run away from a fight. He’s not going to bully me and I’m not going to let him bully you either.”
Bloomberg said he is running to stand up for Americans that Trump has hurt, calling for less partisanship, division and tweeting. From a policy standpoint, the Democratic candidate didn’t delve into the details of his plans, but painted a picture of himself as an “un-Trump” and being able to reach across the aisle to implement policy.
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Bloomberg called to give health insurance to all people that don't have it without a "massive middle class tax hike" or ending private insurance, apparently referencing Sanders' Medicare for All plan. His platform calls for an expansion of the Affordable Care Act while cutting drug costs. The former mayor asserted he reduced New York’s uninsured by 40%.
After Trump announced that he planned to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2017, Bloomberg said that he would make America a "global leader” in fighting climate change. His platform calls to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half in the next 10 years and rejoin the Paris Agreement.
He also called to make a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people and address discrimination and inequality. He received arguably his most raucous applause of the afternoon when he said he would protect women’s right to choose.
“If you share my belief for opportunity for all, welcome to Bloomberg 2020,” he said.
Bloomberg also called for “common sense” gun laws, saying he has a track record of cutting violence, claiming a 50% reduction in murders in New York. His platform calls for a ban on assault weapons and "more effective" background checks.
Endorsements abound for Bloomberg
Former North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue, the first female governor of the state who served from 2009 to 2013, also endorsed Bloomberg Thursday.
“Whenever you look at Mike’s record, you can understand that no one can challenge him. He has put his money where his mouth is,” Perdue said. “I like Mike.”