DOVER, N.H. — Michael Bloomberg looked alot like a traditional presidential hopeful on Tuesday with a well-attended speech in New Hampshire, a factory visit and a walking tour of local businesses. But he didn’t sound much like a Democratic candidate.
Other than his sharp criticisms of Donald Trump on climate change, the government shutdown and the president’s governing style, the New York billionaire seemed intent on testing the limits of how far he could deviate from Democratic Party orthodoxy.
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Some of the most popular issues among Democratic candidates — tuition free college, Medicare for all and a wealth tax — were among the proposals Bloomberg deemed unrealistic, too expensive and even unconstitutional during his one-day New Hampshire swing.
The billionaire slammed a Medicare for All proposal floated by 2020 candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), saying the country could “never afford” replacing the employer-offered health care system in its entirety.
As for tuition-free college, former New York City mayor was similarly dismissive. “Free college tuition would be a nice thing to do but unfortunately professors want to get paid,” Bloomberg said. “It’s totally impractical.”
The Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat managed to find some common ground: he supports citizenship for Dreamers, and green cards for other undocumented immigrants. He also supports Medicare for those without health insurance, but he does not want to do away with the employer-provided model. He calls for a more progressive tax rate, but sees the wealth tax advocated by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as going too far.
Bloomberg says he is putting together the details of a Green New Deal, but offered few details aside from an emphasis that it should be ‘practical.’
“I believe that that plan should be bold and ambitious and most importantly achievable,” Bloomberg said in Manchester. “I’m a little bit tired of listening to things are pie in the sky, that we never are going to pass, are never going to afford. I think it’s just disingenuous to promote those things. You’ve got to do something that’s practical.”
Bloomberg’s jibes at his potential rivals Tuesday stood out in a campaign where candidates and would-be candidates have largely avoided criticism of one another so far, saving it all for President Trump.
Later in the day, Warren hit back at Bloomberg’s claim that her wealth tax proposal is “probably unconstitutional.”
“Billionaires like Howard Schultz and Michael Bloomberg want to keep a rigged system in place that benefits only them and their buddies. and they plan to spend gobs of cash to try and buy the presidency to keep it that way. Not on my watch,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a tweet.
Bloomberg, who has not yet announced his intentions for 2020, started Tuesday with a speech to a crowded room at St. Anselm’s College, a key stop for any candidate hoping to make their mark in New Hampshire. He played up his local roots — Bloomberg grew up in Medford, near Boston.
In the afternoon, he toured a factory in Nashua, where he spoke with workers about jobs and the economy and held court with dozens of reporters. Later in the day, he went up to Dover for a downtown walking tour with Bill Shaheen, a Democratic National Committeeman and the husband of Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. In the evening, Bloomberg headlined a house party in Concord.
Tuesday’s trip was Bloomberg’s second visit to the Granite State this cycle. He also sparked 2020 speculation in an trip to New Hampshire in October.
Bloomberg says he’s still undecided about a 2020 run.
“You just get a feel if you can relate,” Bloomberg said of his New Hampshire visit.
No one candidate would knock him out of the running, the New York billionaire said. He’s focused on whether his talents would be most useful in the race or working with Bloomberg Philanthropies. The billionaire funds Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for gun reform, and donates to the Sierra Club to shift the country from coal to clean energy sources.
Asked for his opinion of fellow billionaire Howard Schultz, who said he’s seriously considering running as an independent in 2020, Bloomberg said the former Starbucks chief has no chance of winning. Bloomberg considered an independent run of his own in 2016, but ultimately decided against it.
“You can’t win as an independent,” Bloomberg said. “All it would do would be to reelect Donald Trump.”
“Back in 2016 I said I did not want to be the one to give us Donald Trump, so I did not run as an independent,” Bloomberg continued. “And you got Donald Trump anyways. At least my obit won’t be ‘He’s the one who gave us Donald Trump.'”