One of the most powerful moments at the Democratic National Convention last month was when gun-control proponent Mike Bloomberg unloaded his verbal assault weapon on Donald Trump. But the former New York mayor isn’t stopping with the rat-tat-tat takedown of his fellow billionaire.
On the apparent theory that any friend of his enemy is an enemy, too, Bloomberg is going after Republican politicians who are supporting Trump -- and he is also getting behind those who have declined to endorse their party’s nominee.
On Friday, the Bloomberg-funded Independence USA PAC began running TV ads against incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. The 30-second spot has Ayotte promising to be “an independent strong voice for New Hampshire.”
Then with a washed-out image of Trump in the background and a reference to a Vox story from August 15 entitled, “The 40 Top Republicans (and counting) Who Won’t Support Donald Trump for President,” a voiceover says, “Independent-minded Republicans across America put principle ahead of party and said ‘no’ to Trump – but not Kelly Ayotte. She says she still supports Trump. If she’s so independent, why is she still supporting Trump?”
Morning Consult says the PAC will spend $2 million to air the commercials.
On the flip side, Independence USA is backing incumbent Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. The PAC’s website has a statement from Bloomberg, whom it calls “the leading political independent in the United States,” praising Toomey for crossing party lines after the 2013 shootings in Newtown, Conn., ‘to lead the fight to reduce gun violence in America.”
Independence USA has sponsored TV ads supporting Toomey, according to The Hill
Bloomberg also writes that he is supporting candidates on both sides of the aisle who are willing to lead from the center and compromise. “As I said when I appealed to Republicans and Independents from the stage of the Democratic National Convention in Pennsylvania…I look at the candidate, not the party label because we can only solve our biggest problems if we come together across party lines. Chances are that no candidate is ever going to be perfect for you on every issue, but when brave people buck party orthodoxy and demonstrate bold, pragmatic leadership, they deserve support from all of us.”
Still, despite the lofty language, there is one other likely reason Toomey has Bloomberg behind him: the one-term senator has not endorsed Trump or even said he would vote for him.
Toomey could be key to the Republicans retaining control of the Senate, and despite the money that is pouring in to support him (including from the Koch brothers, The Hill says), he could be in a tough spot because of the double-digit lead Clinton now has in battleground Pennsylvania.
So by supporting Toomey, Bloomberg is essentially staying true to his stated purpose of electing pragmatic leaders, no matter what their party label – even if that means the Republicans retain control of the Senate.
And by opposing Ayotte, the man Trump referred to in a July 29 tweet as “"Little" Michael Bloomberg, who never had the guts to run for president,” may be sending a message to other Republican politicians who are lined up behind The Donald: I’ll be gunning for you.