Bloomberg spending $15M-$20M to register half million voters

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FILE – In this Feb. 26, 2019, file photo, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a news conference at a gun control advocacy event in Las Vegas. Tennessee’s top election officials say Bloomberg has requested a petition that would require securing 2,500 signatures from registered voters in less than a month if he wants to qualify for the state’s Democratic presidential primary ballot. The secretary of state’s office confirmed Wednesday, Nov. 13, that Bloomberg requested the ballot petition earlier this week. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — As he moves toward a presidential announcement, New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg is rolling out plans to spend an estimated $15 million to $20 million on a voter registration drive designed to weaken President Donald Trump’s reelection chances in five battleground states.

News of the large investment, confirmed by Bloomberg’s team on Wednesday, comes less than a week after the former New York City mayor unveiled a $100 million online advertising campaign attacking Trump in four general election swing states as well.

The new effort will target 500,000 voters from traditionally underrepresented groups that typically lean Democratic, including African Americans, Latinos, Asians, young voters and those living in some rural communities. The drive will begin early next year in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, but could expand to more states.

The move marks another significant show of financial force demonstrating Bloomberg’s ability to run what senior adviser Howard Wolfson described as parallel campaigns over the coming year.

Bloomberg has already filed paperwork to qualify for presidential primary ballots in three states. The 77-year-old former Republican and independent, who formally registered as a Democrat just last year, is expected to make a formal announcement about his 2020 intentions in the coming days.

“If Mike runs, we’re going to try to do what we can to run two campaigns simultaneously,” Wolfson said.

“One campaign is a primary campaign — and there are a lot of great people in that contest and a lot of focus and activity around that,” he added. “But at the same time, there’s another campaign going on that the president has begun that ends in November that also needs to be engaged. And one of the arguments that we would make on behalf of Mike to primary voters is (that) he is able to wage these two campaigns simultaneously — effectively and simultaneously.”

The new voter registration drive targets voters across five states that Trump won in 2016 largely by narrow margins. The Republican president carried Michigan and Wisconsin by less than 1 point and Arizona and North Carolina by 3 points. The exception is Texas, where Trump scored a 9-point victory, but where Democrats are increasingly hopeful that demographic shifts backed by California transplants will make the state more competitive next year.

Earlier in the week, the left-leaning organization NextGen America launched a registration and turnout operation of its own across 11 general election battlegrounds. The group, founded by Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, plans to spend $45 million over the coming year and register at least 270,000 young voters.

Madison, Wisconsin, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, who is part of a training program for mayors across the country funded by Bloomberg, said Bloomberg’s new investment would make a significant difference on the ground in her state, where Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes.

“That’s a big, hairy, audacious goal. I think it’s great,” she said.

As to whether she thinks Bloomberg should run for president, Rhodes-Conway noted there are already a lot of candidates, but said, “The more the merrier.”

The Democratic Party is largely focused on its presidential primary phase of the 2020 election, which will be decided at the party’s national convention in July. Trump has no significant primary challenger, so he’s already working aggressively to strengthen his reelection bid.

“Mike is taking the fight directly to Trump where it matters most, in general election battleground states,” said Bloomberg spokesman Jason Schechter. “He did it last week through a $100 million digital ad buy. He’s doing it this week at the ballot box.”

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