The last time Utah chose the Democratic nominee for president it was 1964, and that man was Lyndon B. Johnson.
Mike Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City and current Democratic presidential candidate, thinks he could be the next one. The way to do it, he told an audience of several hundred people Saturday in Salt Lake City, is to not discount Utah’s capability to turn blue.
“I’m here today for one simple reason," he said, “and it’s that voters in Utah have been ignored by national Democrats for too long, and not just in the presidential primary, but all over, and I made a commitment to try to change that...We shouldn’t be writing off any state no matter how red people think it is.”
The 77-year-old is relying on his 12-year track record in politics on issues like climate change and sustainability, job creation, public education and safety, affordable college and gun reform to sway voters. He also thinks he has a good shot at beating President Donald Trump.
“We will get the votes of the Democrats who stayed home last time because they didn’t like Hillary [Clinton]. We’ll get the votes of the moderate Republicans, who many of them like Trump’s policies but don’t like the way he does it, and I would be acceptable as a business guy,” Bloomberg told The Salt Lake Tribune after the event.
He also hopes to get support from independents.
At the event, held downtown at the co-working space and venue Impact Hub, Bloomberg described himself as a problem-solver who will hold himself accountable to campaign promises and unite people from all sides of the political spectrum.
Salt Lake City resident David Noffsinger, 55, said he’d been intrigued by Bloomberg since the former mayor announced his presidential run.
“I watched his ads. Watched everybody else’s. Watched the debates — those just become a screaming match — and now I’m like, ‘[Bloomberg’s] my guy,'" Noffsinger said.
Noffsinger, who works at a school, said he was impressed by Bloomberg’s stance on public education. He also liked Bloomberg’s view on the environment.
Bloomberg said during the event that when he raised teacher salaries in New York City, graduation rates also rose. He also said he wants to close coal-burning power plants to fight climate change.
The former mayor has taken an unconventional route to try to gain the Democratic nomination — effectively ignoring all four primary elections ahead of Super Tuesday, March 3, when 15 states and American Samoa will cast ballots. And because his campaign is self-funded, he hasn’t qualified for a Democratic debate, so he’s had to find other ways to get his message to the people.
To do that, he’s spent a lot of money on TV ads. At least $180 million as of Friday, FiveThirtyEight reported. About $1.6 million of that money went to ads in Utah.
He told The Tribune on Saturday that he thinks the advertisements are working (A RealClearPolitics average of polling data shows him coming in fifth nationally for the nomination) — and he isn’t too worried about people getting tired of seeing them.
Bloomberg said he’s brought up that possibility to his staff before, but he believes it’s never a bad idea to remind people he’s running for president.
“Advertisers that sell Coca-Cola and Cheez-Its, they’d tell you, you just got to keep blasting the message out,” he said.
Bloomberg is the fifth Democratic presidential hopeful to come to Utah this election cycle. Former Vice President Joe Biden held a fundraiser in Park City in September, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren hosted a campaign event in April. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and Rep. John Delaney also stopped in Utah.
Around the time Bloomberg took the stage Saturday, Trump’s team sent out a statement warning Utahns of Bloomberg’s “radical stance on the Second Amendment” and “his attempts to regulate every detail of Americans’ lives.” It called him “a complete embarrassment as mayor.”
The statement said, “Utahns have already seen what a Bloomberg presidency would mean for them.”
Bloomberg said he stood by his policy decisions.
“The things that what we’ve done, I would think most people from Utah would like that, and I’m very happy to track my record against Donald Trump’s,” he said. “If that’s the decision people have, I better start measuring the curtains in the White House.”