His uncertain debut on a TV debate stage in Nevada on Wednesday marked a significant moment in what many regard as a historic campaign that poses a huge question. Is it possible to buy your way to the US presidency?
While his rivals have been on the campaign trail for months, the former mayor of New York has been biding his time. He only announced his intention to run in the Democrat presidential candidate election in November, skipped the early voting contests, and until now has only made carefully choreographed personal appearances. He’s also spent a lot of his own money. And while avoiding scrutiny, the 78-year-old has soared in the polls.
Estimates suggest Bloomberg has already lavished $360m (£279m) of his own money on a barrage of ads on TV, radio and digital media. Put in a UK context, 75 parties and 18 campaign groups spent around just £43m between them in the 2017 general election.
And with a personal fortune of more than $60bn at his disposal (Forbes ranked him as the 12th wealthiest person in the world), Bloomberg’s campaign spending is certain to dwarf anything ever seen in US politics.
Who is Michael Bloomberg?
Born in a suburb of Boston, the 78-year-old gets his extraordinary wealth from the company he founded in 1981 after he was fired following 15 years in finance.
Bloomberg LP provides financial information to traders across the world, and is also a news agency. It is privately held, with Bloomberg himself owning most of the company (he has said he will sell it if he becomes president). Analysts estimate the company generated over $10bn in revenue last year.
Bloomberg was mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013, and originally ran as a Republican. But he left the party mid-way through his second mayoral term and won his third stint as an independent. He rejoined the Democrats in 2018.