Former New York City Mayor and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies Mike BloombergJim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
Mike Bloomberg might end up running for president, after all.
Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, has indicated to associates in recent weeks that Joe Biden's recent struggles against Sen. Elizabeth Warren are making him rethink his decision to stay out of the 2020 Democratic primary. That's according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversations were deemed private.
Bloomberg has signaled he's "still looking at" running for president, but people close him say that the only way he could even go down that path is if Biden's fortunes suffer so much that he drops out before or during the early stages of the primary. Bloomberg could then enter the race as one of the rare moderates with enough name recognition and campaign funding to make a run. Forbes estimates his net worth at $51 billion, and he was planning to spend over $100 million on a campaign for president if he ran.
"I think it's something he wants. He has not been shy about that," one of Bloomberg's allies familiar with the talks told CNBC. "Nothing can happen unless Biden drops out, and that's not happening anytime soon," this person added.
"He's like everyone else. They can't get it out of their system," said a banking executive who has known Bloomberg for decades. "Bloomberg is in if Biden is out," said another New York billionaire with ties to Bloomberg.
During his three terms as mayor, Bloomberg was a Republican and an independent. He registered as a Democrat again one month before the party's triumph in the 2018 midterm congressional elections, during which Bloomberg was a big donor. He has said he would run as a Democrat if he pursued the White House this time.
Axios reported in April that Bloomberg might still run for president, despite his announcement a month earlier. Fox Business reported in September that he still has a team of political advisors and has kept the door open to running in 2020.
Bloomberg, who is 77, considered running in the 2016 election, but announced he wouldn't do it. He eventually endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the race. Before that, there was speculation he would run in 2012, but he declined and eventually backed President Barack Obama.
Representatives for Bloomberg did not respond to repeated requests for comment after several days of outreach. A spokesperson for the Biden campaign did not return a request for comment.
Biden, 76, is neck and neck with Warren, 70, in polling averages. The latest Quinnipiac poll has the Massachusetts Democrat receiving 29% of support from Democratic voters, while Biden has 26%. FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver pointed out that Biden continues to remain ahead of Warren in a combined average of recent polls, despite attacks from President Donald Trump.
Biden has been under siege from Trump, who has ripped the former vice president over his son Hunter's business ties in Ukraine and China.
The Bidens have denied all accusations of wrongdoing. House Democrats are conducting an impeachment inquiry into Trump after he asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.
Trump, 73, on Monday teed off again after Hunter Biden disclosed that he would step down from a Chinese-backed private equity firm.
Biden is set to take part in a debate on Tuesday night with 11 other candidates. Billionaire Tom Steyer, 62, is among the participants.
The primary season kicks off Feb. 3 with the Iowa caucuses. There is no indication Biden or any of the top Democrats are planning to withdraw from the race anytime soon. Biden's team told donors at a recent donor summit in Philadelphia that they are looking to ramp up their fundraising efforts in order to make their mark on Super Tuesday, which takes place in March.
When Bloomberg announced in March he would not run, he specifically mentioned the hurdle of winning the Democratic nomination due to the amount of candidates in the race.
"And I believe I would defeat Donald Trump in a general election. But I am clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field," he wrote in an op-ed. He said he would instead focus on some of his pet policy initiatives, including combating climate change, the opioid epidemic and reducing gun violence.
Since then, Bloomberg has said in numerous interviews that he is comfortable with the decision he made with not taking part in the primary. He has yet to commit to endorsing a candidate, including Biden.
"I didn't think that it was the right thing for me to do at this time," he said in August to MSNBC. He noted to CBS' "Face the Nation" that Biden has to "earn his spurs" before winning the nomination.
"No, I think — and Joe would certainly tell you — that he's not a lock for the nomination," Bloomberg told CBS then. "There are 20 candidates, of which the majority of them have a really legitimate chance."
Still, Bloomberg's chances of making inroads in a primary that's filled with progressive front-runners, including Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, 78, have been a question mark for voters.
In a poll taken by Morning Consult and Politico in February, a month before Bloomberg's announcement to not take part in the contest, 19% of registered Democrats said they would probably not vote for him in a caucus or a primary and 14% said they would definitely not back him.
Bloomberg has had his run-ins with Warren, setting up a possible battle between the two, regardless of whether he enters the race.
During a recent forum hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group Bloomberg founded and continues to financially support, the former New York mayor seemed to take a swipe at her anti-corporate policies.
"I just said to Senator Warren on the way out, 'Senator, congratulations, it's a nice talk. But let me just remind you if my company hadn't been successful, we wouldn't be here today, so enough with this stuff,'" he said.
In January, when he was considering a run for president, he took a shot at Warren's wealth tax proposal, calling it unconstitutional.
"It's called Venezuela," he said at the time.
A representative for Warren did not return a request for comment.