Billionaire quits presidential race
Billionaire and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg has dropped out of the US presidential race after a stunning collapse of his campaign overnight.
Bloomberg, who poured more than US$500 million of his personal fortune into his bid for the nomination, ended his campaign on Wednesday - just 101 days after starting it.
It came after a disappointing finish on Super Tuesday in the slate of states that account for almost one-third of the total delegates available in the Democratic nominating contest.
His substantial financial investment netted him a single win in American Samoa and several dozen delegates elsewhere.
"I'm a believer in using data to inform decisions," he said in a statement.
"After yesterday's results, the delegate math has become virtually impossible - and a viable path to the nomination no longer exists.
"I've always believed that defeating Donald Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it.
"After yesterday's vote, it is clear that candidate is my friend and a great American, Joe Biden."
Joe Biden won by a landslide in Southern states where Mr Bloomberg had poured tens of millions of dollars and even cautiously hoped for a victory. Two of his former Democratic rivals, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, dropped out of the race and endorsed Mr Biden as the moderate alternative to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday before Mr Bloomberg followed suit.
Three months ago, I entered the race to defeat Donald Trump. Today, I'm leaving for the same reason. Defeating Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it. It's clear that is my friend and a great American, @JoeBiden. pic.twitter.com/cNJDIQHS75— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) March 4, 2020
Mini Mike Bloomberg just “quit” the race for President. I could have told him long ago that he didn’t have what it takes, and he would have saved himself a billion dollars, the real cost. Now he will pour money into Sleepy Joe’s campaign, hoping to save face. It won’t work!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2020
AN UNPRECEDENTED CAMPAIGN
Mr Bloomberg ran an unprecedented campaign from the start. After years of flirting with a run, Mr Bloomberg launched his bid for the White House in November, pledging to use his vast resources to unite Democrats and moderate Republicans against President Donald Trump. His late entrance into the race saw him take the never-before-tried bath of skipping the first four contests in the voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
During his first 100 days in the race, Mr Bloomberg spent more than half a billion dollars of his personal fortune on his campaign, flooding airwaves around the country with advertisements, opening hundreds of offices across the country, and hiring more than 2,100 people on his team, building an operation from scratch that resembled a general election operation more than a primary campaign.
He said he was willing to "spend whatever it takes" to remove Mr Trump from office. Critics accused him of "buying his way" into the campaign and "skipping the democracy part" of the primary.
"Some of these candidates criticise me for spending a lot of money," Mr Bloomberg said in December.
"I think 'you want me to spend less to get rid of Donald Trump? I don't think so'."
Ultimately, he had staked his candidacy on gaining a critical mass of delegates on Super Tuesday, spending at least US$180 million on advertising in those states.
He had planned to continue deep into the primary calendar, already spending millions on advertising in states including Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Before results poured in on Tuesday, he projected confidence while campaigning in Florida, only to have his aides say the campaign would reassess the next day.
Voters ultimately rejected Mr Bloomberg's argument that he was the candidate best poised to take on Mr Trump. The Republican president, for his part, had paid close attention to the Democratic nominating contest and had been especially fixated on Mr Bloomberg.
The biggest loser tonight, by far, is Mini Mike Bloomberg. His “political” consultants took him for a ride. $700 million washed down the drain, and he got nothing for it but the nickname Mini Mike, and the complete destruction of his reputation. Way to go Mike!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2020
Mr Trump regularly railed against his fellow New Yorker on Twitter, mocking his short stature by calling him "Mini Mike" and claiming Mr Bloomberg was the candidate he wanted to run against. On Tuesday, he called the results a "complete destruction" of Mr Bloomberg's reputation.
Mr Bloomberg, 78, is one of the world's richest men, worth an estimated US$61 billion. His fortune flows from the financial data and media company that bears his name, which he started in the 1980s.
In addition to serving 12 years as New York mayor, he endeared himself to progressive groups by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into fighting climate change and curbing gun violence.
In the early weeks of his campaign, he used his vast fortune to introduce himself to voters outside New York on his own terms, and his rivals accused him of trying to buy the party's nomination and the White House.
As voting drew closer, the former Republican was forced to confront his Democratic rivals head on by appearing alongside them on a debate stage.
His first performance was shaky and uneven and caused voters to view him with a more critical eye. He proved unable to overcome consistent criticism of New York's use of the stop- and-frisk police practice under his tenure as mayor, which disproportionately targeted young black and Latino men for searches aimed at finding weapons.
The practice ended after a federal judge declared it unconstitutional, and Mr Bloomberg apologised for using it weeks before announcing his presidential run. He similarly faced pointed criticism - primarily from rival Elizabeth Warren - about the treatment of women at his company, Bloomberg LP.
Under pressure from Ms Warren, he said in mid-February he would release three women who sued him for harassment or discrimination complaints from confidentiality agreements. Women who worked for Mr Bloomberg were featured in a commercial praising his and the company's treatment of women, and his longtime partner Diana Taylor defended him as a champion of women.
Mr Bloomberg was dogged by accusations he was trying to buy the Democratic presidential nomination. His vast fortune proved a perfect foil for Mr Sanders, who has said billionaires should not exist at all.
Indeed, Mr Bloomberg had a vast circle of influence from his spending on key causes like gun control as well as his philanthropic efforts to boost American cities and provide leadership training for mayors.
Dozens of prominent mayors rallied behind his candidacy. That, combined with Mr Biden's resurgence in South Carolina and the rallying of the party's moderate wing behind him, doomed Mr Bloomberg's case that he was the best candidate to take on both Mr Sanders and Mr Trump.
What's next for Mr Bloomberg is unclear. He'd pledged to keep campaign offices open in key general election battleground states to help the Democrats defeat Mr Trump even if he lost the party's nomination. But Mr Sanders' campaign has said they do not want the help.
- With AP