WASHINGTON - Two late entries to the Democratic race are threatening to shake things up and upend the entire primary system, less than three months before the first votes are cast.
“I’m glad to announce that I’m running for president, to defeat Donald Trump and to unite and rebuild America,” said billionaire Michael Bloomberg upon announcing his presidential run on Nov. 24.
The former mayor of New York City plans to skip all the early primaries and instead focus on the delegate-rich Super Tuesday states like California and Texas.
Bloomberg is willing to spend his vast personal fortune on his campaign, but political observers question whether that will be enough.
“I don’t know if a billionaire, Democratic candidate who is so closely tied to Wall Street is going to play well with a very anti-corporate Democratic progressive base,” said Matt Klink, a GOP strategist.
“That’s why I’m so concerned about Michael Bloomberg jumping into this race, dropping $37 million in one week on ad buys,” Democratic candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on Bloomberg.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg made his first foreign trip as a presidential candidate, appearing at a United Nations global climate conference in Madrid, where he planned to share the results of his private push to organize thousands of U.S. cities and businesses to abide by the terms of a global climate treaty that the Trump administration is working to abandon.
The appearance came as Bloomberg, a former Republican whose dedication to the environment earned him the designation of special UN envoy for climate action, tries to find his footing in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary election.
It's rare for a presidential candidate to step onto the international stage before securing the nomination, and virtually unheard of for a candidate to do so in the first month of his or her candidacy.
“I’m going to the climate summit in Madrid because President Trump won’t,” he said, adding that he plans to “meet with environmental leaders from around the world about next steps on tackling the climate crisis.”
Bloomberg also vowed in a statement to rejoin the Paris climate agreement in his first official act as president.
The 77-year-old billionaire has used his wealth to make an impact in the global fight against climate change and in his 2020 presidential campaign.
He is the largest donor in the history of the Sierra Club, and he has spent more than $60 million in the first two weeks of his campaign on television ads now running in all 50 states.
Another late entry, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, 63, will also begin to compete after Iowa.
“I am today announcing my candidacy for President of the United States,” Patrick said on Nov. 14.
He is hoping to score points in the New Hampshire primary, but many agree that without the resources of a billionaire, it will be hard for Patrick to gain traction.
Experts also question how Patrick fits in with the current field of candidates.
“Is he a Massachusetts progressive? Is he a moderate who can kind of be like a 2020 Barack Obama?” Klink asked.
“I don’t think the jury is still out yet on where Deval Patrick fits in and probably the same holds true for Michael Bloomberg,” the GOP strategist said.
“I’m running for president because those values of community, that we have a stake in each other and of generational responsibility, I think, are frayed in the country,” Patrick said in Columbia, South Carolina, in November. “I come in humbly... I want to be a listener.”
Arguing that voters are just now beginning to tune in, with the first votes less than 100 days away, Patrick has said he will have visibility when the populace is really paying attention.
In November, Patrick launched a tour of early-voting states, visiting Nevada and Iowa before South Carolina.
To win South Carolina, which holds the first Southern primary of 2020, he would need a base of support from the black voters who comprise roughly two-thirds of the state’s Democratic electorate.
His late entry, though, makes it that much tougher to raise the awareness that his campaign will need to meet the polling and fundraising thresholds for future debates.
Due to the strict rules the DNC put in place to qualify for the national debates, neither candidate may ever meet the donor or polling thresholds needed to take the stage.
Meanwhile, Democrats in Florida have submitted 18 candidates for the March 17 presidential primary at the end of November.
The crowded field submitted to state elections officials ahead of Saturday’s deadline includes the most recent entries — Bloomberg and Patrick.
New Hampshire’s presidential primary is set for Feb. 11, eight days after Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses.
The campaigns of two candidates in nearby states, Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have emphasized New Hampshire’s importance to their campaigns. Patrick is a third candidate geographically familiar with New Hampshire, having served as former Massachusetts governor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.