You only have one chance, the old saying goes, to make a first impression. Well, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at the opening of his new Denver presidential campaign headquarters, made not just a good one for the more than thousand people who showed up to meet him. He may have done even better.
Bloomberg, a late entrant into the Democratic field of candidates for president, kept the crowd waiting on a postcard perfect February day. But once he arrived, he hit all the right notes. He talked about taxes, immigration and guns---reversing the Trump tax package, creating a more humane immigration policy and reducing the number of guns.
“He checks all the boxes for me,” said college professor Jack Steele, who stood outside Bloomberg’s 14th and Blake Colorado headquarters for the better part of an hour before being allowed inside what used to be the Patagonia store. “Everybody thinks he’s the guy who can beat Trump… bring in all the moderates and independents.”
The crowd, mostly older and almost exclusively white, reacted with almost gushing enthusiasm when Bloomberg aimed his words at President Trump, once a constituent during Bloomberg’s days as Mayor of New York. In previous speeches, Bloomberg has spoken harshly of Trump, saying ‘New Yorkers know a con when they see one!’ It’s a criticism Bloomberg will hammer home again and again as the campaign goes on.
Bloomberg, who has a home in Vail, was making his second appearance in the state since December. Colorado has an added importance in this year’s presidential election as it trends a deeper shade of purple.
Bloomberg promised the enthusiastic crowd he would reverse Trump’s signature legislative accomplishment, the tax cut that resulted in the New York billionaire’s huge savings. “I didn’t need a tax break,” said Bloomberg whose financial wealth has been pegged at somewhere north of $55 billion.
Under Bloomberg, the nation’s wealthiest, beginning with those making $5 million or more annually, would end up paying more in taxes. He also promised to raise corporate taxes and revamp the estate tax. His said his tax policy would return $5 trillion to the treasury, money that could be used to pay for health insurance for the nation’s poor, improve education and rebuild infrastructure across the country.
Bloomberg vowed that if elected he would, as he did in New York, take on the NRA and the gun lobby. “We need to change gun laws,” he said. His words hit a chord with this crowd. Colorado has lived through gun tragedy, including Columbine and the Aurora Theater shootings. But changes to gun laws in Colorado have also been flashpoint issues for gun rights groups. Just a few years ago, two Democrats who advocated for tougher gun laws, Pueblo’s Angela Giron and El Paso County’s John Morse, were both recalled for their votes tightening up gun laws.
One thing Bloomberg did not mention nor have to respond to from reporter’s---he did not take questions---was an explanation for the controversial ‘stop and frisk’ policy initiated during his tenure as New York’s mayor. It overwhelmingly targeted black and Latino men. It ended when a federal judge ruled that it was “a form of racial profiling.” It, so far, has not been ruled unconstitutional. Bloomberg has since apologized for the practice.
While Saturday’s meet-and-greet was a buoyant affair, many of his critics have complained about his late entry into the campaign and accuse him of buying his way in. Bloomberg will have a place in the next Democratic debate, set for February 7th.