US billionaire Michael Bloomberg plans to skip early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire if he launches a presidential bid and instead focus his efforts on the crush of states that vote on Super Tuesday and beyond.
It's a strategy that acknowledges the limitations of his likely entry into the race at this late stage and the opportunities afforded by the billionaire's vast personal wealth.
Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson says other candidates already have a big head start in the first four states to vote - Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina - and Bloomberg needs to be realistic about where he can make up ground.
"If we run, we are confident we can win in states voting on Super Tuesday and beyond, where we will start on an even footing," Wolfson said. Fifteen states and American Samoa vote in the March 3 contests.
After previously ruling out a 2020 bid, Bloomberg is reconsidering a run for the Democratic nomination, citing concerns about the ability of the current crop of contenders to defeat President Donald Trump. He's expected to announce a final decision in the coming days.
Bloomberg's team has moved swiftly to carve out space for the former New York City mayor. Bloomberg himself has called prominent Democrats to alert them to his likely run, and his staff is scrambling to meet fast-approaching primary filing deadlines.
Among those Bloomberg has reached out to: Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor who remains popular in the state. Vilsack told The Associated Press that Bloomberg called him Thursday evening and left a voicemail indicating he plans to run.
"He is in," Vilsack said of Bloomberg's message.
Despite the outreach to Vilsack, advisers say Bloomberg would not make a serious play for votes in Iowa and the other early states. Other candidates in the crowded field have spent months courting voters there and building campaign operations.
The early states offer just a small percentage of the delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination. But victories there typically give candidates crucial momentum that helps carry them into bigger states with more delegates on the line.
Bloomberg is calculating that he could build an advantage in those states now with his ability to quickly pour money into staff, television advertising and other campaign operations while other candidates are competing elsewhere.
Bill Carrick, a veteran Democratic strategist based in Los Angeles, said he doesn't think skipping the early voting states is ever a viable strategy.
"I don't think you can just hopscotch around the calendar to suit your own political purposes," Carrick said. "You skip the early states, you're going to have a difficult time. I don't see any evidence that strategy ever works."
On Friday, Bloomberg qualified to get on the ballot in Alabama, one of the states that votes on Super Tuesday. His team is also making plans to file in Arkansas, which has a Tuesday deadline.
Biden, campaigning in New Hampshire on Friday, welcomed Bloomberg to the race.
"Michael's a solid guy, and let's see where it goes," he told reporters. "I have no problem with him getting in the race."
Australian Associated Press