March 7, 2016

How do you tell your billionaire boss he buried the lede?

Nine grafs into a column published by the media company he owns, entrepreneur-turned-politician Michael Bloomberg announced he won’t make a much-anticipated run for president in 2016.

Ever the data-driven technocrat, Bloomberg dispassionately cited electoral math as the primary reason he’s not throwing his hat — and his ample stores of wealth — into the ring:

But when I look at the data, it’s clear to me that if I entered the race, I could not win. I believe I could win a number of diverse states — but not enough to win the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the presidency.

In a three-way race, it’s unlikely any candidate would win a majority of electoral votes, and then the power to choose the president would be taken out of the hands of the American people and thrown to Congress. The fact is, even if I were to receive the most popular votes and the most electoral votes, victory would be highly unlikely, because most members of Congress would vote for their party’s nominee. Party loyalists in Congress — not the American people or the Electoral College — would determine the next president.

Speculation about a possible Bloomberg campaign has been swirling since The New York Times reported in January he was considering a White House run. That conjecture was ratcheted up when he told the Financial Times (a rival of Bloomberg News) that he was giving the matter serious thought. A recent deep-dive by New York’s Gabriel Sherman said the mogul had convened a group of trusted advisers who were gaming out the possibility of a Bloomberg run in his “Beaux-Arts mansion on East 78th Street.”

Bloomberg’s chief strategist, Doug Schoen, conducted polls showing that voters feel record levels of disaffection for both parties. Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s longtime consigliere, made calls to veteran Democratic and Republican strategists, feeling out potential campaign staffers and strategizing over how they could massage Bloomberg’s anti-gun stance for a pro–Second Amendment electorate. Howard Wolfson, Bloomberg’s former communications director, crafted a national media strategy. Bradley Tusk, who managed the 2009 mayoral campaign, consulted with ballot-access experts about the herculean challenge of collecting the 579,000 signatures required to get on the ticket in all 50 states.

Today’s news presumably comes as a huge relief to the scribes at Bloomberg Politics, who have been wrestling with company policy that prohibits them from covering the personal life of the company founder. In recent weeks, that conflict prompted Kathy Kiely, the Washington news director for Bloomberg Politics, to quit the company. Kiely explained her decision in an interview with The Huffington Post, noting that “you can’t cover the circus unless you can write about one of the biggest elephants in the room.”

Although reporters with Bloomberg Politics may greet their boss’ announcement with jubilation, it may be a source of despair for the rest of the campaign press corps, which would have had yet another rogue element to chronicle in an already chaotic race for the presidency.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

More News

Back to News