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Mike Bloomberg is running for president in a parallel campaign world. Here’s the story from Utah, not Iowa

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg spoke in Salt Lake City. Rick Bowmer/Associated Press/Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — In a campaign rally here last weekend that was produced with presidential precision, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg took the stage and read from a teleprompter for 18 minutes about how he’d govern in a fact-driven, bipartisan way.

After the speech, he didn’t take questions. There wasn’t a selfie line. A phalanx of about 20 fastidious staffers kept everything moving just so as the candidate met with attendees. And if voters wanted more Bloomberg, they could turn on the television, where his ads were running in an almost continuous loop, or visit the local campaign office, where according to Utah’s Democratic Party chairman, the candidate has the largest and most respected staff of any campaign in the state.


Less than two weeks before the first caucuses, and three weeks before the first-in-the-nation primary, the top Democratic presidential candidates are focused on winning the early contests, battling for an edge in the fields of Iowa and the mountains of New Hampshire.

Then there is Bloomberg, the ninth richest person on the planet according to Forbes, who is mounting a White House campaign unique in the history of the United States.

He is skipping the four early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, and instead focusing his time and massive wealth on the states that come after and make up 96 percent of delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination.

“The last time I checked, if I take 50 minus four, there is something like 46 other states left, and I am trying to get to those,” Bloomberg said in an interview with the Globe, as his white SUV wound its way from downtown Salt Lake City to the home of the local congressman on a quiet tree-lined street.

The event wasn’t a fund-raiser, of course, because a man worth $60 billion doesn’t need any extra cash.


In his eight-week-old campaign, Bloomberg has already spent $250 million on ads, which The Wall Street Journal found made up three-quarters of all advertising spent by all candidates this cycle, including President Trump. Bloomberg is buying up so much advertising he has increased advertising rates for television in some markets by as much as 40 percent.

The Bloomberg campaign says it has already hired 1,000 staff in 33 states, including three dozen in Massachusetts who are now working to open six offices in the state. No other campaign comes close.

Massachusetts, Utah, California, Texas, and 10 other states will vote on March 3, Super Tuesday, collectively allotting roughly 35 percent of all delegates.

If Bloomberg’s juggernaut campaign is sending a message with the volume of its advertising and size of its staff, so is his schedule: He began Saturday in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles before hopping on his private jet to Salt Lake City. There he met with local Democratic power brokers, held a public rally in front of about 300 people, did one-on-one interviews with local journalists, and then attended a reception at the home of Representative Ben McAdams, who is something of a Democratic folk hero in this deeply Republican state. (Bloomberg, of course, already hired McAdams’s campaign manager.)

After that low-key soiree, Bloomberg jetted to Oklahoma, another less traveled Super Tuesday state. On Sunday, he gave what the campaign called a major speech on economics and race in Tulsa.


Figuratively and literally, Bloomberg was far from the action.

While he was in Salt Lake City, all other candidates were in a full sprint in the early states — and sometimes jabbing at each other.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang kicked off a 17-day bus tour in Iowa. Also in the state that day were Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg. Senator Bernie Sanders was in New Hampshire where he drew over 1,000 people at one event in Exeter and donned festive mittens before speaking outside at a women’s march.

And just before jetting from Iowa to South Carolina, former vice president Joe Biden, leading the national polls, was defending himself against Sanders’ charge that he was once open to cutting Social Security benefits. In the interview, Bloomberg said he doesn’t pay much attention to the back-and-forth among the other candidates.

But does he feel like he is campaigning in a parallel universe?

“No, I am just living in the other states,” Bloomberg replied flatly, clutching a three-ring binder briefing book with the day’s date on the cover.

He spoke with the same passionless, just-the-facts sensibility he had just displayed on stage at his only public event while in Utah. He explained he was an engineer by training: “I actually believe in facts and data and science,” he said.

He introduced himself as a middle-class kid, who took a job in New York and made so little he needed a loan from his boss to just cover rent and food — before creating a successful company.


He reminded the audience that he became mayor soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And he gave the nickel-version of his record: reformed schools, helped address climate change, and managed the city through a recession.

He didn’t mention he won two of his three terms as a Republican, nor the controversial stop-and-frisk policy he supported as mayor and then recently apologized for, nor his previous abortive almost-runs for president in 2008, 2012, and 2016 — and even earlier in this same 2020 election cycle.

In the Globe interview, the Medford, Mass., native said he was watching the Democratic field and “started thinking maybe they’re not the right people for the job,” and didn’t think they could beat Trump. “And that’s when I changed my mind. It was too late for the early four states. Will it work? I think so. I’m going to do everything I can to make it work. “

And with Bloomberg, “everything” means something different to him than the 24 other Democrats who are or were running for president.

When he attends a large private gathering of elites in Silicon Valley, like he did last week , it isn’t for a fund-raiser — and he picks up the tab. When other candidates are fretting about qualifying for the next debate, Bloomberg just shrugs. He says that if the rules change and if qualifies for a future one, he will participate.


“Sure, why not,” he said.

Other campaigns sell T-shirts and buttons to solicit campaign contributions, Bloomberg’s campaign gave them out for free at his event at a co-working space.

Retired teacher Rick Bowman, 64, fumbled pinning a Bloomberg button on his jean jacket, as he said it was “awesome” to see a presidential candidate and that he is a Bloomberg voter.

“He just lines up with where I am politically and I love his ads,” said Bowman, who, unlike many voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, last set his eyes on an in-the-flesh presidential candidate in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was running for reelection and made a stop in Utah.

Simply showing up was a theme Bloomberg played up during his appearance.

“I’m here today for one simple reason, and that is the voters of Utah have been ignored by national Democrats for too long, and not just in the presidential primary, but all over,” said Bloomberg to one of his best applause lines of the day. “We shouldn’t be writing off any state, no matter how red people think it is.”

Tom Chambless, a retired political science professor at the University of Utah, noted that Utah is the same size as Iowa.

“The fact that he came here at all, even if for a few hours on a Saturday,” said Chambless, “will go a long way in this state’s primary.”

James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com.