PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg and Gov. Gina Raimondo played it coy Wednesday about whether she could be his running mate, after she became the first governor in the country to endorse the former New York City mayor.
Bloomberg traveled to Providence to join Raimondo at a well-attended rally in the Wexford Innovation Complex, where she announced she will serve as a co-chair of his campaign. The two began their morning at the vegan eatery Plant City, then walked to the event across Providence’s new pedestrian bridge — giving Bloomberg’s campaign ad team a made-for-TV visual.
During a joint interview with WPRI 12 after the event, Raimondo described it as “an easy decision” to back Bloomberg, praising his experience as well as his policies on climate change and gun control.
“Mike’s a friend,” she said. “He has an unbelievable track record of delivering. He’s the only one running who’s run something — he’s run, very successfully, the largest most complex city and a large company that he started from scratch.”
Bloomberg returned the praise, saying Raimondo “sets a model for being a governor. She’s taken a state that has problems, and she’s made it dramatically better.”
Bloomberg and Raimondo have been political allies for years, but the endorsement is still a noteworthy moment for his campaign as he seeks to convince Democrats to give him a serious look. She is the first governor in the country to back Bloomberg — one with national connections as a recent chair of the Democratic Governors Association — and she is also viewed as a leading voice for the more moderate wing of the party.
Bloomberg didn’t tip his hand on whether Raimondo could eventually be his pick for vice president. “I’m looking at everybody,” he said. “I’ve watched her for years and I’ve been very proud to support her, and I think she has a great future in this country wherever she decides to go.”
Would Raimondo take the job if offered? “Let’s first get him the nomination,” she said, chuckling.
Bloomberg is part of a still-crowded Democratic field, but argued what sets him apart is his laser focus on defeating President Trump. He castigated the incumbent’s “tone and character,” suggesting Trump does not represent “American values.”
Of the other Democrats, he said, “I’m running against Donald Trump — they’re running against each other. And my polls are going up, and their polls are going down. If I were them, I’d change their strategies.”
Bloomberg’s own strategy is unorthodox — he only entered the race last November, and he’s skipping the closely watched early contests in states like Iowa and New Hampshire to focus on primaries later in the process. The multibillionaire has already poured roughly $200 million into his campaign, with no sign of letting up.
“I’m happy he’s taking an unconventional route, because we have to go toe-to-toe with the president, and if Trump’s anything he’s unconventional,” Raimondo said.
Bloomberg rejected suggestions he is hurting other moderate Democrats — notably Vice President Joe Biden, who is on track to come in a disappointing fourth place in Monday’s Iowa Caucus — by preventing them from consolidating like-minded voters.
“What’d I miss? Why? Am I not as important to this country?” Bloomberg said. “I’ve been an American for longer than Mayor Pete [Buttigieg] has. I’ve been an American for longer than Joe Biden has. I have a right to run, as well, and the public can pick and choose.”
Locally, Bloomberg already has a staff in Massachusetts gearing up to contest the state’s presidential primary, coming up on Super Tuesday, March 3. His campaign says he plans to open a Rhode Island office soon and hire nearly two dozen workers. Veteran political strategist Cara Cromwell has signed on as his Rhode Island state director, while PR executive Jon Duffy is serving as a senior adviser.
Rhode Island’s primary is April 28.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook