Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Is Running For President : The NPR Politics Podcast Bloomberg announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination, saying Trump "represents an existential threat to our country and our values." The businessman is a late entrant to a crowded field. This episode: Congressional correspondent Susan Davis, political correspondent Scott Detrow, and political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben.

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Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Is Running For President

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PRESTON: Hello. It's Preston (ph) from Colorado, calling in from my bedroom way early in the morning, where I just finished recording my political show for the week for my school radio. You're listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. And this show was recorded at...

SUSAN DAVIS, HOST:

2:36 p.m. on Tuesday, November 26.

PRESTON: Things may have changed by the time you hear this, including how much coffee I've drank today, because, boy, am I going to need it. Enjoy the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Looks like a long career in...

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Whoa, Preston.

DETROW: ...Broadcast journalism with that approach.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah.

DAVIS: Potentially a future host...

DETROW: (Laughter).

DAVIS: ...Of the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.

KURTZLEBEN: He's gunning for us.

DAVIS: Hey there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.

I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.

KURTZLEBEN: I'm Danielle Kurtzleben. I cover politics.

DETROW: I'm Scott Detrow. I think I've had five cups of coffee today, and I cover the campaign.

DAVIS: Cool. Let's do this.

DETROW: Yeah.

DAVIS: Just when you thought the field for the Democratic presidential primary was set, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has officially entered the 2020 race. So, Lionel Richie, please help us say hello.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HELLO")

LIONEL RICHIE: (Singing) Hello, is it me you're looking for?

DAVIS: I'm OK with more candidates getting in...

KURTZLEBEN: Exactly.

DAVIS: ...Because I love this song.

DETROW: (Laughter).

KURTZLEBEN: Same - hard same.

DAVIS: So Bloomberg joining the race brings the count to what now for candidates?

KURTZLEBEN: Eighteen.

DAVIS: Eighteen candidates.

DETROW: You're right. I thought it was 19, but we lost Wayne Messam.

KURTZLEBEN: Yes.

DETROW: Yeah, yeah.

DAVIS: One step forward, two steps back in this race.

KURTZLEBEN: (Laughter).

DAVIS: So Michael Bloomberg gets in the race. How did he make it official, Scott?

DETROW: So he went to Virginia for his first stop - interesting move because it's not an early primary state...

DAVIS: And not where he's from.

DETROW: ...And not where he's from. Mike Bloomberg is totally skipping the New Hampshires, the Iowas, South Carolinas, Nevadas, starting with the march states. And I think he went to Virginia to make a big point. And that is he is someone who has invested a ton of money in the Democratic Party over the last few years, even though he was a Republican for a good chunk of his time as New York mayor. He started out his press conference being introduced by someone who was just elected to the House of Delegates, who won by something like 27 votes. It was an under-30 vote margin. And she said, thanks, Mike Bloomberg, for your group, for helping fund my campaign. And right off the bat, he says, I've been funding statehouse races. I've been funding congressional races. I've been funding anti-gun efforts. I've been funding climate change efforts. So basically, lay off, liberals. I'm giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the things you care about.

DAVIS: So wait. He announced in Virginia. Is that part of his strategy, that he's just sidestepping all the early states? Is this like a Super Tuesday victory path?

DETROW: Super Tuesday on; he's in Arizona today, getting on the ballot there. And he's just kind of doing a more organized, better funded version of the Howard Schultz campaign that we covered for a couple of weeks, where he was just going to general election states.

DAVIS: Can I just be really skeptical at the top and say...

DETROW: Yeah.

DAVIS: There's always these candidates that think they can win the nomination by sidestepping the traditional path of the early states. And there is no precedent for anyone ever winning the nomination by avoiding the early state process.

KURTZLEBEN: But listen. What he can do, as we know, is that Michael Bloomberg has a crazy amount of money. And for example, I was just opening up a YouTube video yesterday. I think I was looking up an SNL clip. And lo and behold, the pre-roll was a Michael Bloomberg ad. I have already had multiple friends tell me, yeah, I just saw a Michael Bloomberg ad at the gym. I mean, he can get himself in front of voters even though he won't make the debate stages because he is not seeking out donors. And you need individual donors to make these debate stages. Instead, he's funding himself, so he is getting himself in front of voters by doing these ads instead of standing on a debate stage.

DETROW: Both Bloomberg and Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor who also hopped into the race within the last few weeks, are making a bet along the lines of the argument that you've been hearing from former President Barack Obama, among a lot of other people - that the Democratic electorate as a whole is not as liberal, is not as out to blow things up, is not as super progressive as the Twittersphere (ph), as the activist wing of the party makes it appear to be. And they think there's a lane there. And the assumption there is that Joe Biden is a weak candidate. Of course, Joe Biden has been resilient all year long, leading in the national polls, leading in a couple of the early key states, despite being beat up for most of the year. But they think that they can make the case where he can't.

DAVIS: Is there a disconnect here between the party elites and the voters?

DETROW: Yes.

DAVIS: Because you hear so much about, the elites are worried about the field, or the party's not sure they have a sure thing. But you guys spend more time talking to voters than anyone in the newsroom. And I wonder if you hear from voters, oh, I wish there was more candidates...

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: ...In this field.

DETROW: Definitely not. I think there is an overwhelming anxiety that anybody can beat President Trump...

KURTZLEBEN: Yes.

DETROW: ...Because that is, like, a key thing in this race. But if you look at the polls...

DAVIS: Democrats seem pretty jazzed.

DETROW: Yeah.

DAVIS: Voters - Democratic voters seem pretty enthused right now.

DETROW: Happy with their choices and very energetic and showing up at way higher rates than we saw in 2016.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. It's a mixture of enthusiasm and anxiety, I guess, kind of like Scott was saying. I mean, I have yet to meet a voter who says, man, there's no one in this field I can vote for.

DAVIS: Yeah.

KURTZLEBEN: I mean, voters always come at you - when I ask them, who do you like best? They either tell me one choice with a few second choices or just a mess of a list to tell me. But you also will often hear them say, you know, I like Sanders, but I wonder if he's too old, too left. I kind of like Biden. I wonder if he's too old or too moderate.

DAVIS: Or not left enough (laughter).

KURTZLEBEN: Or - yeah, exactly. I like Warren. Is she - euphemistically - electable? Will people vote for a woman? Is Buttigieg experienced enough? So I think there is a disconnect in that voters like who's out there, but there is something there in terms of voters are, as we've been saying this whole cycle - this is not new - voters are scared. Democratic voters are scared.

DETROW: But I think if you don't have grassroots enthusiasm for your campaign, you're not going to go too far. And I think Deval Patrick is a really compelling warning sign for Mike Bloomberg. He hops into the race late. He gets tons of national press attention, front page of The New York Times, all over the airwaves. A week later, he had to cancel an event in...

DAVIS: Yeah, I saw that.

DETROW: Yeah, because nobody showed up.

DAVIS: Well, it'll be really curious to see, if Bloomberg has campaign events, what his crown draw is, what the enthusiasm is for the billionaire mayor in the race.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. I mean, this all brings me back to 2016. And it reminds me of an interview I did earlier this year with a guy named Charlie Spies. He was the head of Right to Rise, which raised all of that money for Jeb Bush. Remember. Early in the 2016 campaign, Jeb Bush was leaps and bounds ahead of other candidates in his fundraising by virtue of his superPAC. So what Charlie Spies told me was, essentially, money is necessary but not sufficient.

DAVIS: Yeah.

KURTZLEBEN: I mean, that's really the bottom line here. The money is a megaphone. You'd better have a good message to put through that big of a megaphone. And it's a big question of whether Bloomberg does.

DAVIS: So Bloomberg doesn't need any money, but everyone else in the race does. Danielle, I know you've been looking at how - some of the breakdowns and what the donations tell us so far and what it means for women who are giving money into the system.

KURTZLEBEN: Right, so it's pretty rare for women to be more than half of a candidate's donations, at least based on analyses from past years, which is surprising, right? - or maybe surprising because women are more than half of voters always. But in this particular race, you have a few candidates who appear to be getting half or more than half of their money from women. You have author Marianne Williamson, former HUD secretary Julian Castro, California Senator Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and then Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar coming in at just under half.

DAVIS: That makes sense, though, right? Women maybe didn't give as much in politics before because they didn't see themselves reflected in politics, but more women candidates means more women donors.

KURTZLEBEN: That's quite possible. And also, I mean, listen. Women tend to earn less than men. There are a lot of things that can come to play in here. Women have less disposable income than men then. I mean, to me, what's interesting is, yes, first of all, it appears that the women in this race, largely but not entirely, are doing well, getting money from women. Tulsi Gabbard is a big exception. She's way at the other end. Most of her donations are from men. To me, the most interesting stat from all of this is that of the donations that are countable - and this data is from the Center for Responsive Politics. The Center for Responsive Politics found that 43% of all donations that they were able to itemize and count - 43% came from women, so men still dominate the money game. And at the high end of things, when you look at the richest Americans, men dominate that too. So there are more ways to count political power than votes. Money is a big part of it. Before you even get to the Election Day, to the ballot box, those candidates have already been chosen. And money is big part of that.

DAVIS: And Donald Trump has also seen an uptick in female donors as well.

KURTZLEBEN: He has. Yeah, thus far, 35% of his donations are from women. At least those are the countable donations thus far. That is up a bit from 2016. It's hard to say what exactly that means thus far. It doesn't necessarily mean more votes from women. He's still deeply unpopular with women, but it could mean more buy-in from some influential Republican women.

DAVIS: All right. Let's take a quick break. And when we get back, we're going to talk bread and butter politics.

DETROW: Ooh (ph).

DAVIS: I swear it'll make sense.

And we're back. And we're going to talk about bread and butter issues. So we have...

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: (Laughter).

DAVIS: ...Brought in Domenico Montanaro, who has issues with bread and butter. Explain, Domenico (laughter).

MONTANARO: That's very good. You know, for the fact that this is a day of a lot of puns, that was very well done.

KURTZLEBEN: But is it a kitchen table issue?

DAVIS: Ooh.

MONTANARO: Well, it depends.

DAVIS: It is this week.

DETROW: No, not for them.

KURTZLEBEN: That's true.

MONTANARO: Not for them because what we're talking about is the presidential turkey pardon, this very strange and misunderstood tradition.

DAVIS: And the turkeys' names are...

MONTANARO: The turkeys' names are Bread (ph) and Butter (ph).

KURTZLEBEN: (Laughter).

DAVIS: OK, just to clear the punny (ph) joke at the top.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Butter, I wish you a lot of luck. I hereby grant you a full and complete pardon.

DETROW: Can I just say the tradition we have developed in the four years of this podcast is that every Thanksgiving, Domenico comes and rants about how much he hates this White House...

DAVIS: It's our Thanksgiving episode (laughter).

MONTANARO: I don't love it.

KURTZLEBEN: It's the airing of grievances. It's...

MONTANARO: Not really airing grievances...

KURTZLEBEN: It's a Thanksgiving...

MONTANARO: It's more correcting the record.

KURTZLEBEN: OK.

DAVIS: Domenico, before we get to the news of the day...

MONTANARO: Yeah.

DAVIS: Can you just give a little bit of background on the - what I believe you see as a esteemed history...

DETROW: (Laughter).

DAVIS: ...Of turkey pardons at the White House?

MONTANARO: I, this year, have wrote my 11th turkey history of what's happened. And every year, I've sort of added a wrinkle to it. And this is an event that was started in 1947 by the National Turkey Federation, AKA Big Turkey, if you will. This is literally the turkey lobby in Washington, D.C. They've spent about $3 million over the last 20 years to, you know, keep turkey on the kitchen table, essentially, for Thanksgiving. This tradition started where it was about eating turkeys, where they gave them to presidents at the White House not pardoning them.

DAVIS: Why did they start pardoning them?

MONTANARO: They started pardoning the turkeys officially - the official pardon, this event that we know now, is actually 30 years old. Not that long ago, George H.W. Bush started the ceremony. But before that, John F. Kennedy was the first one to actually pardon or give a reprieve to a turkey for Thanksgiving. He - in fact, just to tell you how much that this was intended to be eaten, the bird had a sign hanging around its neck. In all caps, it said, good eating, Mr. President.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZLEBEN: What?

DETROW: Domenico, I feel like you come in here and you say you don't like this event, but I think you love it. You know every single twist and turn of history of the turkey pardoning.

MONTANARO: Well, I'll tell you why I started actually reporting on this was because I just wanted to dress up a story I was doing when I was at NBC at the time, previewing this event. And I heard Bill Clinton say that it was Harry Truman who was the first to pardon a turkey and that this tradition goes back 50 years. That was 1997. And so for, like, 12 years, this thing had still been sort of hanging out there, so I contacted the Truman Library to just say, like, maybe they have some photos or something that, like, I could just put in my story. They sent me back this cryptic note that was like, we have no record of Harry Truman ever having pardoned a turkey. In fact, he was very explicit with reporters in saying that every turkey he'd received was destined for the family dinner table.

DAVIS: (Laughter).

MONTANARO: So that started me on this thing, and it was just a string that kept on unspooling.

KURTZLEBEN: Wait. So why are there two?

MONTANARO: I don't know.

KURTZLEBEN: (Laughter).

DAVIS: President Trump likes to break all kinds of norms, but he seems quite jazzed to be part of the annual turkey pardon tradition.

MONTANARO: And why not, right? I mean, this is kind of like a fun event where they can have all their puns and dad jokes and whatever. And, you know...

DAVIS: He didn't order the execution of Bread and Butter...

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: ...Like a strong president, not compared to the weak presidents of the past.

MONTANARO: In fact, quite the opposite - he made an impeachment joke, and he talked about how these turkeys were subpoenaed to appear in Adam Schiff's basement, I guess referring to the skiff (ph) where they've had all these closed-door depositions. And (laughter) he, you know, essentially said that Democrats are accusing him now of being too soft on turkeys.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: It seems the Democrats are accusing me of being too soft on turkey. But Bread and Butter, I should note that unlike previous witnesses, you and I have actually met. It's very unusual.

KURTZLEBEN: (Laughter).

DAVIS: All right. That's a wrap for today. But before we go, we want to remind you that we have some live shows coming up. We'll be in Chicago on January 10 and at Drew University in Madison, N.J., on January 22. Come hang out with us, and you can buy your tickets to do that at nprpresents.org.

I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.

KURTZLEBEN: I'm Danielle Kurtzleben. I cover politics.

DETROW: I'm Scott Detrow. I cover the campaign.

MONTANARO: And I'm Domenico Montanaro, senior political editor and correspondent and, apparently, turkey historian.

DAVIS: And thank you for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")

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