The former New York mayor and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination Mike Bloomberg will spend at least $100m to support Joe Biden in Florida, in an attempt to counter any infusion of personal cash by Donald Trump and to seek a decisive victory in early voting.
Bloomberg, a media billionaire reported to have 17 times as much money as Trump, is reckoned to have spent around $1bn on his failed bid for the Democratic nomination. Such spending did however appear to get under Trump’s skin.
News of Bloomberg’s intervention in Florida prompted a characteristic response from the president, who was campaigning in Nevada.
“I thought Mini Mike was through with Democrat politics after spending almost $2bn,” Trump tweeted, with a familiar insult aimed at Bloomberg’s height. He also used a racist nickname for the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, who famously attacked Bloomberg on the debate stage, and advised the former mayor to “save New York City instead”.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Bloomberg adviser Kevin Sheekey said: “Voting starts on 24 September in Florida so the need to inject real capital in that state quickly is an urgent need. Mike believes that by investing in Florida it will allow campaign resources and other Democratic resources to be used in other states, in particular Pennsylvania.”
Trump has been out-raised by Joe Biden, amid reports of cutbacks which the president has called fake news. Earlier this week, before a rally in North Carolina, another swing state, Trump told reporters he might spend his own money.
“If I have to, I will,” he said. “Whatever it takes, we have to win.”
Florida offers 29 electoral college votes, vital in a close race. No Republican has won the White House without it since 1924. Infamously, George W Bush, the last two-term Republican president, won Florida against Al Gore in 2000 after multiple recounts and with the intervention of the US supreme court.
In 2016, Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Florida by 1.2%. The state is close again, polling averages putting Biden ahead but not by much more. Among Democrats, concern is rising that Trump is gaining among Latino voters, a key constituency in Florida and other contested states including Nevada.
Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders insisted the campaign was “doing the work” despite restrictions on travel given coronavirus concerns.
“You saw [Biden’s running mate Kamala] Harris out in Florida just this past week,” she said. “She also did virtual events in Arizona. Vice-President Biden himself will be traveling to Florida next week and we’ll be doing virtual events and interviews.”
On the same network, senior Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller predicted “a big increase in spending from the Trump campaign this week, we’re expanding into new battleground states. We’ll have ads up in Arizona and Pennsylvania.”
Bloomberg is aiming to encourage early voting, to counter Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that such voting is vulnerable to fraud and fears that the president may use any uncertainty over the result on election day to attempt to hold on to power.
Hawkfish, a technology firm funded by Bloomberg, caused a splash earlier this month when it detailed what it called a “red mirage”, meaning an apparent win for Trump on election day that would disappear when all votes were counted, after delays likely to be exacerbated by coronavirus precautions.
“We are sounding an alarm and saying that this is a very real possibility, that the data is going to show on election night an incredible victory for Donald Trump,” Hawkfish chief executive Josh Mendelsohn told Axios on HBO.
“When every legitimate vote is tallied and we get to that final day, which will be some day after election day, it will in fact show that what happened on election night was exactly that, a mirage. It looked like Donald Trump was in the lead and he fundamentally was not when every ballot gets counted.”
On Sunday Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson told the Post heavy early voting for Biden in Florida “would give lie to what we expect to be Trump’s election night messaging that Democrats are stealing the election, because unlike other battleground states, Florida counts its absentee ballots on or by election day. We think Florida is incredibly close but winnable.”
Bloomberg, a former Republican and independent, endorsed Biden and spoke at the Democratic convention. He has also used his money to back groups including Everytown for Gun Safety, Fair Fight and Swing Left.
In May, Abe Rakov, a veteran Democratic operative, told the Guardian the former mayor “was one of the biggest contributors to Democratic causes before he ran and he still is after. There are a lot of organisations and programs across the country that would be in really bad shape if he decided to disengage after he ran.”
The Post reported that an unnamed Democratic consultant said large sums would be needed for effective advertising in Florida, where such buys are expensive.
“The bottom line is when you have additional resources, you can solidify your voters and then communicate with those who are still on the fence for some reason,” Florida representative Val Demings said.
“One hundred million can do just that.”