March 4 (Reuters) – Billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ended his presidential campaign on Wednesday and said he was backing Joe Biden for the Democratic Party’s nomination to challenge President Donald Trump in the November election.
“A viable path to the nomination no longer exists,” Bloomberg said in a statement, having failed to deliver convincing wins in his electoral debut on Super Tuesday despite lavish spending on campaign ads across the United States.
Endorsing Biden, Bloomberg said: “I will work to make him the next president of the United States.”
His exit ended a novel electoral strategy, a vast experiment in political advertising, as Bloomberg, 78, skipped the four early-voting states and instead focused on the 14-state Super Tuesday contest.
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His only victory on Tuesday came in the U.S. territory of American Samoa.
Biden, 77, the former vice president, accomplished his Super Tuesday goal of muscling Bloomberg aside and consolidating support of moderates to turn the race into a one-on-one contest against the democratic socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Bloomberg was winning more than 15 percent of the vote, enough to pick up some delegates, in Tennessee, Texas, Colorado, Utah, California and Arkansas.
Since entering the race on Nov. 24, Bloomberg spent more than $500 million of the fortune he built on his eponymous media company on an ad campaign that vaulted him into the top tier of the Democratic field.
After blanketing the airwaves with promises that he could defeat the Republican Trump in the Nov. 3 election, his support among Democrats and independents in public opinion polls rose to around 15 percent from about 5 percent when he entered.
He hired thousands of staff and mounted a vigorous national tour focused on the 14 states that voted on March 3.
But Bloomberg was dogged along the way by criticism over his past support of policies seen as racially discriminatory, including stop-and-frisk policing, which ensnared a disproportionate number of African-Americans and Latinos, as well as past sexist remarks.
Warren still in it
His Democratic rivals attacked him in his first presidential debate on Feb. 19 in Nevada. Sen. Elizabeth Warren lambasted him for making crude jokes about women and Sanders accused him of trying to buy the election.
Outside his rallies – which were often smaller than those of his rivals – protesters regularly waved signs echoing Sanders’ claim. Inside them, Bloomberg detractors and enthusiasts alike ate from tables stocked with free food.
Bloomberg was assailed for his spending despite his pledge to use his personal fortune to support the eventual Democratic nominee, whoever it was. Bloomberg apologized for stop-and-frisk a few days before he announced his candidacy.
When Bloomberg got into the race many months after other leading candidates, he said he was worried none of the other candidates could beat Trump.
“Trump would eat ’em up,” he told CBS’s “This Morning” on Dec. 6. He increasingly pitched himself as the centrist alternative to Sanders. In the Feb. 19 debate, he described Sanders’ policies as “communism.”
Bloomberg’s political fortunes initially rose after Biden, who led in public opinion polls during much of 2019, performed poorly in the first three nomination contests: Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
Bloomberg did not compete in those races, nor in the fourth contest in South Carolina, saying his late entry made it impossible to assemble a competitive election staff in those states.
Bloomberg heavily criticized Trump, and the two New York billionaires traded insults, with Trump mocking Bloomberg’s short stature on Twitter, nicknaming him “mini-Mike.”
Bloomberg earned his estimated $60 billion fortune by founding Bloomberg News, a leading purveyor of financial information for Wall Street firms.
After spending much of his life as a Democrat, he switched to the Republican party in 2001 to run for mayor of New York. He became an independent in 2007, and switched back to the Democratic Party in 2018.
His past as a Republican also dogged him during his presidential run. Warren attacked Bloomberg at the Democrats’ Feb. 25 debate for giving money in 2012 to support the election campaign of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican and a key ally of Trump.
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(Reporting by Jason Lange; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Howard Goller)
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