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Michael Bloomberg reaches for a supporter's hand during his visit in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday, February 13, 2020.

GREENSBORO — Close to 300 people braved the chilly wet weather Thursday morning to see Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, whom some saw as the best candidate to become president this November.

"I am running to beat Donald Trump," Bloomberg said, spurring thunderous applause from the crowd. He said he is the candidate who will "start getting things done and get the united back in the United States of America."

Early in his speech, Bloomberg got the city's name wrong: "We have eight offices, including one here in Gainsboro," he said, prompting a murmur among the crowd correcting his gaffe. He later correctly used Greensboro when referring to the city.

Referencing the 60th anniversary of the Woolworth sit-ins, when four N.C. A&T students sat down at a whites-only lunch counter downtown, Bloomberg said, "(They) returned day after day and it's that kind of determination that we must have to realize all the rights that we're all fighting for."

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Michael Bloomberg holds a baby for a photo during his visit in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday, February 13, 2020.

Bloomberg, who also spoke in Winston-Salem and Raleigh on Thursday, called Trump a bully. "I know how to deal with New York bullies," the former New York City mayor told the mostly white crowd. He also touted plans to create new jobs with higher wages, provide health care to all Americans, fight climate change, improve social inequality and pass "common sense" gun laws.

"Getting it done (his campaign slogan) means finally fixing our broken immigration system and creating a path to citizenship to the 11 million people living in the shadows," Bloomberg said. "And getting it down also means protecting a woman's right to choose."

He said he raised salaries by 43% while mayor in New York City. He also claimed graduation rates rose by more than 40% while he was in office and that he cut the number of people without health insurance by 40% "and raised life expectancy by three whole years."

Bloomberg said he was the only candidate who could "send Donald Trump permanently to Mar-a-Lago," referring to Trump's Florida residence. He shared the same message at his earlier stop in Winston-Salem.

"I think he's the only one who can beat Donald Trump," said 26-year-old Lee Goldston, district director for the Progressive Turnout Project, a grassroots organization aimed at getting Democrats to vote.

Robin Williams thought Bloomberg gave a good speech. "I like his positions on health care, his positions on education and his just sheer ability to beat Donald Trump, who's an uncaring person," she said. Still, Williams said she hasn't decided who she will vote for. "But I do think it's going to take a more moderate candidate to bring our country together, to get all the votes we need."

James Bennett, 83, said, "I want somebody strong enough to beat Trump." Bennett, who describes himself as a moderate, said he initially was for former Vice President Joe Biden, but that "he's not showing the strength I want."

About half a dozen protesters stood in the rain across Market Street from the event venue at Cadillac Service Garage. They carried signs that read "Guns Save Lives" and "Bloomberg Wants to Buy a Fiefdom/Show Him You Will Not Be Slaves!" 

Andrew J. Stevens, director of legislative affairs for Grass Roots North Carolina and the protesters' spokesman, said Bloomberg is trying to buy his way into the Democratic presidential primary. Grass Roots North Carolina is a nonprofit that primarily focuses on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

"He's trying to spend $60 million of his money to turn state legislatures blue like he turned the state of Virginia blue, taking gun rights and turning them into gun crimes," said Stevens, who lives in King in Stokes County. "North Carolina will not be allowed to be bought by Michael Bloomberg's money."

Melodie Wigent of Jamestown said she liked Bloomberg's strong stance on gun control. "We need more restrictions on guns," Wigent said, adding that she also liked Bloomberg's intent be a global leader in the fight against climate change.

Sarah Lamb said she's a registered Republican and mainly came to the rally to learn more about Bloomberg. "I don't vote for the party, I vote for the person and what they stand for," the 63-year-old Greensboro woman said.

Jerry Pinsker of Greensboro was impressed with Bloomberg's speech. "He has a record of actually doing something and being a collaborative leader, where he was in New York for 12 years," the 70-year-old said. "We need to address the new issues, not just do video clips." 

But Bloomberg's mayoral record — he served from 2002 through 2013 — also could hurt him, according to John Dinan, a political science professor at Wake Forest University.

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Michael Bloomberg speaks with a supporter during his visit in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday, February 13, 2020.

He faces the challenge of justifying his support for the controversial “stop-and-frisk" policing tactic that has been found to disproportionately affect minorities, Dinan said. "Especially in light of this week's release of years-old audio of Bloomberg commenting on and defending these policies."

Bloomberg's campaigning as an alternative to the more progressive wing of the party also is problematic, Dinan said.

"First, he is competing against several other candidates, including Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, who also want to represent the moderate wing of the party, and nobody knows how this competition among moderate candidates will shake out.

"Second, even if Bloomberg does emerge as the choice of the moderate wing of the party, he would still have to face off against the choice of the progressive wing, which increasingly looks to be Bernie Sanders,” Dinan said. "And it is not clear how Bloomberg would fare in such a competition."

Bloomberg ignored campaigning for the Democratic nomination in the four early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Instead, he has focused his efforts on states like North Carolina that vote in the March 3 “Super Tuesday” contests, when the largest number of delegates are up for grabs.

A High Point University poll released Wednesday said that Bloomberg is ranked third in North Carolina among likely Democratic voters for the March 3 primary, with 16% saying they prefer him. Biden leads among likely voters with 24% and Sanders comes in second with 20%.  

The Biden campaign also had a presence in Greensboro on Thursday. At another early-voting campaign event, Biden’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens, was scheduled to make an afternoon appearance on his behalf at N.C. A&T’s Dudley Building.

Bloomberg, who founded business-information and news service Bloomberg LP in 1981, is now the eighth-wealthiest American with a net worth of $62 billion as of Wednesday, according to Forbes.  

Forbes reported that he has donated $8 billion to gun control, climate change and other causes.

The Associated Press reported that Bloomberg has already spent more than $300 million on TV, radio and digital advertising, according to the ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics. His campaign told the news service earlier this week that he plans to double his spending in the coming weeks. 

The AP said he has flooded TV, Facebook and Google with advertising that has improved his standing, even though he has not appeared in a single debate.

In addition to the new advertising spending, AP reported, Bloomberg’s campaign announced it will also double its number of staff, taking the campaign’s headcount to 2,100.

His campaign told AP that he will have 125 offices by the week’s end and staffers in 40 states and territories, including 450 workers in the battlegrounds of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona, Florida and Michigan.

Bloomberg was a Democrat before he ran for the mayor's office in New York, changing his affiliation to Republican for the election. 

The New York Times reported that he registered as an independent midway through his time at City Hall. In 2016, he spoke in support of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. In 2018, he officially returned to the party.

Dinan said North Carolina can expect more visits from political candidates in the coming weeks.

"The first four states are naturally getting most of candidates' attention these weeks," Dinan said, "but North Carolina and other populous states voting as part of the March 3 Super Tuesday primaries are going to start attracting even more candidate attention.”

Staff writer Richard M. Barron and Winston-Salem reporter Lillian Johnson contributed to this report.


Earlier reporting from Richard M. Barron on Bloomberg's Thursday morning appearance in Winston-Salem.

Send Trump 'back to Mar-a-Lago permanently,' Michael Bloomberg says in Triad stop

WINSTON-SALEM – Flanked by an overflow crowd jammed into Footnote Coffee and Cocktails, Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg brought his singular message to the Triad: That he’s the man to beat President Donald Trump.

“He’s a conman and he deserves to go,” Bloomberg said to the loud cheers of the crowd of 300 people sitting and standing in and around the small café.

A former New York City Mayor, Bloomberg said, “I’m going to take the fight to him. He’s a bully, but he’s a bully from New York.”

Bloomberg, who has waged a campaign based largely on advertising aimed at states holding March 3 primaries, took the stage early Thursday morning to the sound of U2’s “Beautiful Day.”

“We’re waging a campaign for change, a campaign for honesty, a campaign for compassion and a campaign for human decency,” he said. “It means sending Trump back to Mar-a-Lago permanently.”

Between lines designed to draw cheers from his supporters, Bloomberg laid out a list of goals he hopes will set him apart from the fragmented field of Democratic hopefuls headed into the North Carolina primary.

He said the foundations of his campaign are: restoring health care to uninsured Americans, addressing gun control issues, curbing climate change, improving social inequality, growing jobs, creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and support for a woman’s right to choose an abortion.

“We can do it,” he said. “Why? Because unlike other candidates I don’t just talk about things, I have a record of reaching across the aisle.”

“Being mayor is a management job,” he said, “being president is a management job.”

He said while mayor, he managed to bring more health care options to New Yorkers, raised teacher salaries, reduced the city’s carbon footprint to fight climate change, built a coalition to pass gun control laws and he said he’ll pursue the same goals as president.

He became mayor after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the city was in “tatters,” he said.

During his administration, Bloomberg said, New York added 500,000 new jobs, built 175,000 units of affordable housing and attracted 25 hotels to the decimated area of lower Manhattan.

“We all want to live in a place we’re proud of and go outside and enjoy it,” he said, whether it’s New York or Winston-Salem.

After his talk in the main bar area, Bloomberg worked his way through a kitchen area to the more than 100 people who had waited in the rain on 4th Street but were unable to get to where he was speaking. With a handheld microphone, he delivered a similar message.

He soon left Winston-Salem and headed for events in Greensboro and Raleigh.

Bloomberg served as mayor of New York City from 2002 through 2013. 

A High Point University poll released Wednesday said that Bloomberg is ranked third in North Carolina among likely Democratic voters for the March 3 primary with 16% saying they prefer him. Former Vice President Joe Biden leads among likely voters with 24% and Sen. Bernie Sanders comes in second with 20%.  

Bloomberg, who founded business-information and news service Bloomberg LP in 1981, is now the eighth-wealthiest American with a net worth of $62 billion as of Wednesday, according to Forbes.  

Forbes reported that he has donated $8 billion to gun control, climate change and other causes.

Bloomberg is betting his substantial resources on primaries that come in the later stages of the campaign without entering any contests before Super Tuesday, March 3. Super Tuesday includes 14 state primaries, including North Carolina, Texas and California, American Samoa and Democrats Abroad. 

The Associated Press reported that Bloomberg has already spent more than $300 million on TV, radio and digital advertising, according to the ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics. His campaign told the news service earlier this week that he plans to double his spending in the coming weeks. 

The AP said he has flooded TV, Facebook and Google with advertising that has improved his standing, even though he has not appeared in a single debate.

In addition to the new advertising spending, AP reported, Bloomberg’s campaign announced it will also double its number of staff, taking the campaign’s headcount to 2,100.

His campaign told AP that he will have 125 offices by the week’s end and staffers in 40 states and territories, including 450 workers in the battlegrounds of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona, Florida and Michigan.

Bloomberg was a Democrat before he ran for the mayor's office in New York, changing his affiliation to Republican for the election. 

The New York Times reported that he registered as an independent midway through his time at City Hall. In 2016, he spoke in support of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. In 2018, he officially returned to the party.

Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.

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