PROVIDENCE – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg doubled down Wednesday on his belief that the other Democratic candidates for president are “too far left or not tough enough” to take on President Trump in November.
Bloomberg’s harsh critique of his Democratic opponents came during a brief visit to Rhode Island where Governor Gina Raimondo endorsed him for president and announced she would serve as a co-chair of his campaign.
Raimondo, the first sitting governor to back Bloomberg, has long said she too fears that left-leaning Democrats may struggle in a general election against Trump, who used part of his State of the Union address Tuesday evening to decry socialism.
“I've said before that I think certain of the Democratic candidates are so far to the left that they would not beat Donald Trump, because to win, you're going to have taken some votes from the moderate Republican side, and they would not do it,” Bloomberg said during a brief interview after a campaign rally in Providence.
Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman who was elected mayor of New York City as a Republican and later became an independent before entering the race for president as a Democrat, is following an unusual campaign strategy that hinges on winning on Super Tuesday rather than in the early states, like Iowa and New Hampshire.
But his self-funded campaign has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising, and he vowed to double down on spending following the Iowa caucuses. He has sought to carve out a position as the moderate alternative to progressive frontrunners like US Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
With 75 percent of precincts in Iowa reporting as of Wednesday at 2 p.m. former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg held a slight lead over Sanders in that state. Sanders, who easily won Rhode Island in 2016, is considered the frontrunner in next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.
While both Raimondo and Bloomberg have pledged to support any winner of the Democratic primary, Raimondo said she hopes voters understand that it won’t be easy to defeat Trump. She said that’s one of the reasons she is support Bloomberg.
“Any Democrat who underestimates how hard it will be to beat the president will be mistaken,” Raimondo said.
Bloomberg said his first priority is beating Trump, “and then we have to do a good job” in the White House.
"That's your problem,” Raimondo quipped.
Asked if Raimondo could end up being his pick to serve as vice president, Bloomberg joked that he keeps getting that question. He praised the work she has done as governor, but stopped short of naming her as a potential running mate this early in the campaign.
“I literally haven’t thought about it, other than I’ve said that my vice presidential candidate will be somebody that I’m convinced can run the country,” Bloomberg said.