Will Bloomberg’s endorsement of Clinton sway moderate voters?

Michael Bloomberg is expected to endorse former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, appealing to independent voters to also get behind the Democrat.

Virginia Mayo/AP
United Nations Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg speaks during a June media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels. Mr. Bloomberg is expected to appeal to swing voters on behalf of Hilary Clinton during a prime-time address at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made no mystery of his desire to block Donald Trump’s run for the White House, but he will go one step farther at the Democratic Convention on Wednesday by officially endorsing Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The rare politician unbound to a party, Mr. Bloomberg left the Democratic Party in 2000 in order to run for the New York mayorship as a Republican. He later became an independent.

Bloomberg expects to use his prime-time address to make the case for why moderate voters should lean blue this presidential election cycle, a Bloomberg advisor told The New York Times. The New York billionaire’s support for Mrs. Clinton’s economic policies is intended to counter Mr. Trump’s pitch that his business acumen makes him fit to set US economic policy.

"As the nation's leading independent and a pragmatic business leader, Mike has supported candidates from both sides of the aisle. This week in Philadelphia he will make a strong case that the clear choice in this election is Hillary Clinton," Howard Wolfson, senior Bloomberg adviser and former Clinton spokesperson, told CNN.

Bloomberg scrapped plans for a third-party presidential run earlier this year, saying he could not in good conscience risk facilitating the election of Donald Trump, who “has run the most divisive and demagogic presidential campaign I can remember, preying on people’s prejudices and fears.”

Bloomberg has sharply criticized Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigrants and threat of trade wars with China and Japan, warning they could trigger a global recession.

While Bloomberg’s views on gun control, immigration, and climate change align with the Democratic Party, he won’t embrace the Democratic message completely - particularly breaking with the party’s sharp words for Wall Street. His enthusiasm for Clinton’s campaign may lead the way for others who might be drawn in by a more moderate tone than that of the Sanders wing of the party.

Clinton has struggled more than Donald Trump to appeal to independent voters. Of the approximately one in 10 voters who identify as independent, 63 percent viewed Trump negatively compared to 70 percent who viewed Clinton negatively, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll published earlier this month. The same poll shows that 40 percent would vote for Trump, and 30 percent would vote for Clinton (down from 40 percent in April).

The divisive rhetoric Bloomberg derided in his decision not to run for office appears to have contributed to the decline in the number of Americans who would even consider switching between the parties.

“Negative partisanship has encouraged a sense of tribalism between Republicans and Democrats, leaving an increasingly small population – now just 1 in 20 US voters – who will switch from one party to another from election to election,” Story Hinckley wrote for The Christian Science Monitor.

Because of their shrinking numbers, swing voters have largely lost their moderating influence on presidential candidates, who appeal to their party’s most committed members – now generally located on the ideological extremes.

But Bloomberg is hoping to speak to the rare breed of American who – like him – isn't firmly planted in one party or the other.

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