Michael Bloomberg, the media executive and former mayor of New York City, is planning to plough $100m into former vice-president Joe Biden’s bid for the White House against Donald Trump in Florida, a pivotal battleground in the November election.
Aides to Mr Bloomberg announced the move on Sunday, citing the importance of Florida’s 29 electoral votes to the outcome of the election, and polls in the Sunshine State showing a shrinking lead for Mr Biden over the US president in recent weeks.
“Mike Bloomberg is committed to helping defeat Trump, and that is going to happen in the battleground states,” Kevin Sheekey, a senior adviser to Mr Bloomberg, told the Financial Times in a statement.
“Mike’s substantial investment in Florida, in addition to his contributions to the DNC [Democratic National Committee] and to voter protection and restoration efforts this cycle, will mean Democrats and the Biden campaign can invest even more heavily in other key states like Pennsylvania, which will be critical to a Biden victory,” he added.
Mr Bloomberg made his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination this year, but failed to gain much traction among the party’s moderate voters who overwhelmingly backed Mr Biden. Mr Bloomberg had vowed to use his large personal fortune to help the Democratic nominee beat Mr Trump, but had not made any large spending moves in a particular swing state until Sunday.
While Mr Biden has a lead of 7.5 percentage points nationally in the race against Mr Trump, he is only ahead by 1.2 percentage points in Florida, compared with an 8.4 percentage point advantage in the state as recently as July, according to a polling average by Realclearpolitics.com.
Mr Bloomberg’s Florida spending plan, which was first reported by the Washington Post, comes as voting is set to begin on September 24 in the state. According to an aide to Mr Bloomberg, it will fund efforts to turn out Democratic voters in the state, including through communication with the Hispanic community, where Mr Biden is underperforming Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, according to a recent NBC poll in the state.
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“Frankly . . . if the president doesn’t win Florida, he doesn’t win,” said Al Cardenas, the former chair of the Republican party in Florida, told NBC News on Sunday.
Mr Bloomberg’s move in Florida was revealed as Mr Trump was on a campaign trip to Nevada, where he is also trailing in a tight contest. On Saturday night, Mr Trump held a rally near Lake Tahoe in which he angrily warned that the widespread use of postal voting due to the coronavirus pandemic would lead to a “rigged” election, repeatedly attacked the media, defended his handling of the health crisis, and touted his stewardship of the economy.
If [Biden] got in we would have the greatest depression in the history of our country . . . because he would do everything wrong,” Mr Trump told the crowd.
Mr Biden did not hold any public events this weekend, but Symone Sanders, one of his top aides, told ABC that he would be in Florida and Minnesota in the coming week, paying much more attention to social distancing and mask-wearing compared with Mr Trump.
“We are letting the science lead us. We are listening to the experts. You know, safety is of the utmost importance to our campaign — the safety of the voters, the safety of our campaign staff,” Ms Sanders said.
Mr Biden has repeatedly attacked Mr Trump in recent days after allegations in The Atlantic magazine that he disparaged America’s war dead. He has also focused on comments dating back to February published by Bob Woodward, the veteran Washington Post reporter, in which the US president acknowledged the deadly nature of coronavirus despite playing it down in public. Mr Trump has said he did not want to excessively alarm Americans about the disease at the time.
“Donald Trump said he didn’t want to tell the truth and create a panic. So he did nothing and created a disaster,” Mr Biden wrote on Twitter last week.
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