Obama Allies Push Back on Bloomberg Ads Framing Mayor as Obama Pal

February 18, 2020

Ads casting Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg and former president Barack Obama as close political allies aren't supported by the facts of their relationship, former top Obama aides said Tuesday.

"That is not how I remember it," former senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on MSNBC. "I do remember that 2012 endorsement that came five days before the election and to say it was damning with faint praise would be generous.... I think these ads tell a story that is belied by the reality of that relationship, [which] I think is somewhat complicated."

Pfeiffer said he didn't know how Obama personally felt about Bloomberg's strategy, but he said people in Obama's orbit were "maybe a little frustrated" by the ads and their ubiquity. Bloomberg has already spent more than $400 million on advertising, helping him rise quickly in national and state Democratic primary polls.

Former Obama National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor tweeted Tuesday, "It's jarring to see all these Bloomberg ads that suggest Obama has endorsed him, especially considering how ... perfunctory his endorsement of Obama was back in 2012."

Obama's former speechwriter Jon Favreau replied to Vietor, "Perfunctory is putting it kindly." Pfeiffer, Vietor, and Favreau are cohosts on the popular left-wing podcast "Pod Save America."

Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe recounted last week how someone at his California gym asked him why Obama "chose Bloomberg over the rest of the field," even though he is actually maintaining neutrality in the primary.

"The power of saturation advertising," Plouffe wrote.

Bloomberg has touted warm words from Obama in national ads that discuss their work together on gun control and education, calling him a "great president" in the latest iteration.

The former New York City mayor, however, was strongly critical of Obama throughout his presidency and not a supporter beforehand. He didn't endorse Obama in his 2008 campaign against former senator John McCain.

Less than one month after Bloomberg introduced Obama for remarks at a Manhattan college, Bloomberg introduced McCain for a speech in Brooklyn on April 10, 2008, calling the Republican a "good friend" who deserved the title of "hero." McCain campaigned for Bloomberg in his first successful mayoral election in 2001.

Bloomberg said he voted for one of the two major-party nominees that year but refused to say whom when pressed by reporters in 2009. Bloomberg had by this time become an independent after being a Republican from 2001 to 2007. He became a Democrat in 2018.

Bloomberg waited until five days before the 2012 election to back Obama over Republican Mitt Romney, despite what he described as Obama's "divisive populist agenda focused more on redistributing income than creating it."

Bloomberg ripped Obamacare as a "disgrace" and suggested the president fire his advisers in 2010, said Obama didn't have a cohesive worldview in 2012, and said Obama bore responsibility for widening racial divisions during his presidency. He also expressed policy disagreements with the then-president on the Middle East, taxes, and Wall Street, among other issues.

Former vice president Joe Biden has expressed irritation with Bloomberg essentially hijacking a major part of his campaign pitch. Biden consistently invokes being Obama's loyal No. 2 and promises an expansion of the former president's policies.

"The advertising I’ve seen, you’d think that Mike was Barack’s vice president," Biden told donors last week, according to New York magazine.

New York magazine also reported Bloomberg was one of the only major Democratic contenders not to alert Obama before his announcement that he was running. Bloomberg said in March he wouldn't run but reversed himself and launched his candidacy in November.