A former Republican who repeatedly explored running for president as an independent, Mr. Bloomberg registered as a Democrat ahead of the midterm elections last year. In his past flirtations with the presidency, Mr. Bloomberg has never before taken the step of filing to put his name on a state ballot.
Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, S.C., said in an interview that he spoke with Mr. Bloomberg in late October, and the two discussed the unfolding presidential race. Mr. Benjamin, a Democrat who has not taken sides in the primary, predicted Mr. Bloomberg’s background as a businessman and mayor, and his stances on climate and guns, would make him a formidable contender if he runs.
“There’s a lot of work to be done in gearing up for the first four primaries and caucuses, and certainly for Super Tuesday, but I would caution anybody not to underestimate Mike Bloomberg,” Mr. Benjamin said.
Ms. Raimondo, the Rhode Island governor, stopped short of backing Mr. Bloomberg as a presidential candidate but issued a glowing statement about his record.
“While this is not an endorsement, Michael Bloomberg is a friend and I admire his track record as a successful business leader and mayor who finds practical solutions to some of America’s biggest challenges, from creating good jobs to addressing the opioid crisis and fighting for common-sense gun safety,” Ms. Raimondo said.
Even if Mr. Bloomberg enters the race almost immediately, it would likely be impossible for him to qualify for the next debate on Nov. 20. The deadline is just six days away, and he would need 165,000 unique donors and four polls showing him at 3 percent or higher (or two early-state polls at 5 percent). There may not even be four qualifying polls released in the next six days, and those that will be released may already be underway without Mr. Bloomberg’s name.
For the December debate, he would need 200,000 unique donors and four polls showing him at 4 percent or higher, or two early-state polls at 6 percent. The deadline for meeting that threshold is Dec. 12.