Billionaire Mike Bloomberg could enter the presidential race and immediately make a mark, longtime Republican pollster Frank Luntz told CNBC on Friday.
“Mike Bloomberg has more money than God,” said Luntz, explaining how the businessman, philanthropist and former New York City mayor could benefit from his wealth if he enters the race. He said Bloomberg could sweep into the Democratic nomination process in March with a funding blitz when other candidates will be running on monetary fumes after early contests in February, including the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.
“It’s going to be difficult for him. But I’m not saying it’s impossible,” Luntz said. “If you look at the … primary and caucus map, [the other candidates] will have spent everything they have to win those first four states. And Mike Bloomberg will come in with more money than all of them, potentially more money than all of them combined.”
Bloomberg, according to media reports, is considering mounting a 2020 Democratic campaign, starting with at latest one state contest on Super Tuesday, March 3. Bloomberg has said in the past that if he ran for president he would be willing to spend $100 million of his own money. As of Friday, he was No. 8 on the Forbes billionaires list, with a net worth of over $52 billion.
Luntz sees a lane for Bloomberg among more centrist Democrats who don’t like fading front-runner former Vice President Joe Biden and are scared that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., would be too far left in a general election to beat President Donald Trump.
“The focus groups, the research says Biden is collapsing,” Luntz said, adding that Warren’s attacks on millionaires and billionaires are “frightening traditional Democrats” who are not sold on any of the other candidates already in the race.
Bloomberg is “something different,” said Luntz. “We’ve heard from these candidates again and again. They’re continuing to participate in debates, the next one coming up in 10 days.”
All that said, Luntz feels that Bloomberg, if he were to get the race, should do so an independent, saying running as a Democrat would be a mistake. “I would have argued, if I were advising him, that he should have run as an independent.”
Bloomberg has flirted with an independent candidacy in the past, but said in January an independent run would likely “split the anti-Trump vote and end up re-electing the President.”
In September, billionaire former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said he won’t make an independent run for president after saying he was seriously thinking about it at the beginning of the year.
“Howard Schultz is not Mike Bloomberg. Mike Bloomberg has shown his willingness to invest in the campaign. He’s shown his willingness to be tough enough to be able to take the criticism, which Howard Schultz was not,” said Luntz. “If [Bloomberg] had run as an independent, then he would get the disaffected Republicans, the disaffected Democrats, and that large group right dead center.”
CNBC’s before the bell news roundup
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