After much speculation, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Sunday that he was entering the 2020 Democratic primary race.
"I'm running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America," Bloomberg declared in a statement on his campaign website.
"We cannot afford four more years of President Trump's reckless and unethical actions. He represents an existential threat to our country and our values. If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage."
Bloomberg, 77, had said in March that he would stay out of the race because he was "clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field." But earlier this month, it appeared he was reconsidering that decision, and his adviser Howard Wolfson said the Bloomberg media company founder was "increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well-positioned" to beat Trump.
The speculation that he would run became almost a certainty after he registered as a candidate in Alabama ahead of that state's deadline.
As a late entry in an already crowded field, Bloomberg hopes his wealth - which Forbes estimates at more than $50 billion - will give him the resources to overcome any disadvantage he might suffer from missing the first five debates and his rivals' months-long head start on the campaign trail.
Because other candidates have had so much time on the ground, Bloomberg doesn't plan to focus his energy on the first four primary states - Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina - and instead will try to make a splash on March 3, the day known as Super Tuesday, when almost a quarter of the Democratic delegates are up for grabs.
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Bloomberg is a moderate who returned to the Democratic Party only last year after becoming a Republican in 2001 ahead of his first mayoral bid. He then registered as an independent in 2007, saying it was important not to get locked into a "rigid adherence to any particular political ideology," before winning a third term in 2009.
Bloomberg has rejected ambitious Democratic proposals such as "Medicare for All" and the Green New Deal, and he has called for what he considers more pragmatic approaches.
Two of Bloomberg's progressive rivals for the Democratic nomination were less than enthusiastic about his decision to enter the race.
In response to news that Bloomberg had bought more than $30 million worth of TV commercial airtime, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said Friday that he was "disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political process and spend tens of millions of dollars to buy elections."
I'm disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political process and spend tens of millions of dollars to buy elections.
If you can't build grassroots support for your candidacy, you have no business running for president. https://t.co/jyIBVXUToj
- Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 22, 2019
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also decried Bloomberg's ad buy.
"Elections should not be for sale, not to billionaires, not to corporate executives," she said Saturday in New Hampshire, according to the Boston Herald.
"I understand that rich people are going to have more shoes than the rest of us, they're going to have more cars than the rest of us, they're going to have more houses," she said. "But they don't get a bigger share of democracy, especially in a Democratic primary."
Former Vice President Joe Biden told CNN on Friday while discussing the prospect of Bloomberg entering the race that "I welcome the competition." CNN anchor Don Lemon told Biden that Bloomberg has "specific concerns about your ability to carry this through to the finish line."
"Watch me," Biden replied. And he rejected "the idea that I'm not in better shape than Mayor Bloomberg, physically and otherwise."
On Sunday, Bloomberg vowed that as a candidate he could bring together "a broad and diverse coalition of Americans to win." And he touted his "unique set of experiences in business, government and philanthropy," which he said give him the "skills to fix what is broken in our great nation."
"And there is a lot broken," he said.
Among the issues Bloomberg said need to be addressed were health care costs, "an economy that is tilted against most Americans," gun violence, a "cruel and dysfunctional" immigration system, education, climate change and Washington gridlock.
More: Michael Bloomberg qualifies for Democratic primary ballot in Alabama
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election 2020: Michael Bloomberg announces he is running for president