Michael R. Bloomberg, who bypassed his own run for the presidency this election cycle, will endorse Hillary Clinton in a prime-time address at the Democratic convention and make the case for Clinton as the best choice for moderate voters in 2016, an adviser to Bloomberg said.
The news is an unexpected move from Bloomberg, who has not been a member of the Democratic Party since 2000; was elected the mayor of New York City as a Republican; and later became an independent.
But it reflects Bloomberg’s increasing dismay about the rise of Donald Trump and a determination to see that the Republican nominee is defeated.
Clinton is seeking to reach out to middle-of-the-road swing voters and even moderate Republicans uneasy about Trump. Polls show that significant numbers of Republicans remain wary of Trump and question his fitness for the presidency.
Bloomberg will vouch for Clinton “from the perspective of a business leader and an independent,” said Howard Wolfson, a senior adviser to Bloomberg.
“As the nation’s leading independent and a pragmatic business leader, Mike has supported candidates from both sides of the aisle,” Wolfson said. “This week in Philadelphia he will make a strong case that the clear choice in this election is Hillary Clinton.”
Bloomberg, who has been sharply critical of Trump’s views on immigration and the economy, may fortify Clinton’s appeal to the political center.
And with the Republican nominee basing his campaign on his background as a businessman, Bloomberg, a billionaire media executive and philanthropist, may help counter the Trump sales pitch.
It is unusual, but not unheard of, for a speaker who is not a member of a political party to address that party’s convention. Bloomberg is expected to speak Wednesday, the same evening as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Bloomberg and Clinton are not personally close but had a positive working relationship when he served as mayor and she as a senator from New York.
Wolfson said the Clinton campaign had contacted Bloomberg several weeks ago to ask if he would be willing to address the convention. Bloomberg, he said, mulled over the idea and ultimately agreed to speak, after drafting a speech that reflected his distinctive set of political views rather a boilerplate Democratic message.
Wolfson also said Bloomberg was pleased by the selection of Sen. Tim Kaine, a former mayor of Richmond, Virginia, and a strong supporter of gun control, as Clinton’s running mate.
Bloomberg is not an entirely natural fit for the Democratic Party of 2016: Though he has been an energetic advocate on issues related to guns, immigration and climate change, he has also been a vocal ally of the financial services industry and has defended the strict policing tactics his administration employed in New York.
Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director, said Bloomberg would bring to the convention “a unique and important voice that lays out the choice in this election.”
“As a business leader and philanthropist, Michael Bloomberg has lived his values and fought to make a difference for others,” Palmieri said.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the past, Bloomberg has rebuked Democrats for attacking Wall Street — a part of his record that may sit uneasily with liberal Democrats, and especially with the supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont who are already smarting from his defeat.
Bloomberg has been quiet about the presidential race in recent months. But in the past he has criticized Trump in stark terms, describing him as a threat to American security.
When he decided late last winter not to run for the White House, Bloomberg explained that he could not take the risk of running an independent campaign that might inadvertently ease Trump’s path to power.
Bloomberg castigated Trump at the time for his proposals to ban Muslim immigration and deport millions of immigrants in the country illegally, as well as his pledge to launch trade wars with China and Japan.
“These moves would divide us at home and compromise our moral leadership around the world,” Bloomberg wrote. “The end result would be to embolden our enemies, threaten the security of our allies, and put our own men and women in uniform at greater risk.”
In April, he warned in a commencement address at the University of Michigan that the country faced an unprecedented political threat from “demagogues” in both parties.
Bloomberg, who served for 12 years as the mayor of New York, has never addressed a political convention in a partisan capacity. He appeared at the 2004 Republican convention in New York in his role as mayor of the host city.
He endorsed Obama for re-election in 2012, writing in a column that his views on climate change had been the decisive factor.