'I can beat him': Bloomberg, eyeing Trump, opens Detroit campaign office

James David Dickson
The Detroit News
Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg at the opening of his Eastern Market campaign office in Detroit on Saturday, December 21, 2019.

Detroit — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited Detroit on Saturday to open a presidential campaign office in Detroit's Eastern Market and to visit with business owners along the "Avenue of Fashion" on Livernois.

"We need someone to pull this country together," Bloomberg told dozens of his supporters, from a stage at his new office. "(President) Donald Trump is not a unifier. He's a destroyer who divides people."

Earlier:Bloomberg targets Michigan, will visit Detroit Saturday

"I can beat him in a general election," Bloomberg said at a later point in the brief speech.

Bloomberg joined the race for the Democratic nomination on Nov. 24, months later than other top Democratic contenders, such as former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

To get to the general election in November, Bloomberg will need to make headway, and fast, in states like Michigan. Michael Kurtz, state director of the campaign, reminded the crowd in his opening remarks that "absentee ballots go out in 35 days."

Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is greeted by Alex Albritton of Detroit at Good Times along Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion on Saturday, December 21, 2019.

"We are building an operation in Michigan, the likes of which we've never seen before," Kurtz said. 

Michigan votes on March 10 in the presidential primary in Michigan. That falls exactly a week after Super Tuesday, when 14 states will go the polls to determine which Democrat will face off against Trump next November.

Along with the Metro Detroiters eager to welcome the candidate to town, Bloomberg's speech was witnessed by a number of politicos, including Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Detroit City Council members Scott Benson and Roy McCalister, and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield. 

Timothy O'Brien, senior adviser to Bloomberg's campaign, made stops across the state this week ahead of Bloomberg's visit.

Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman, will be targeting Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — three swing states that President Donald Trump won in 2016 to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton — O'Brien said.

"The swing states are really important to us," O'Brien told The News previously.

Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg at the opening of his Eastern Market campaign office in Detroit on Saturday, December 21, 2019.

Trump won Michigan over Democratic contender Hillary Clinton by 10,704 votes in 2016 and held his second campaign rally of the year Wednesday in Battle Creek, where he attracted an estimated crowd of 5,400 and received nationwide television coverage in the wake of the House's impeachment of him. 

Inside the two open doors to the campaign office was a map of the three counties that make up Metro Detroit: Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb. 

This week:Trump targets Dingell, late husband during rally with hell reference

The longtime New Yorker said he was heartened to learn of a New York-style pizza place, Supino's, near the campaign office. Saturday's event made Supino's slices available to anyone who wanted them.

"I love Detroit-style pizza," Bloomberg joked after extolling the nearby pizza, made the way he's come to enjoy it: "thin crust, burnt, with pepperoni."

But, he noted, "I haven't been to Buddy's yet."

While taking issue with Trump's rhetoric — "how can he do that?" Bloomberg asked, of Trump's insinuation at a rally in Battle Creek that late former Congressman John Dingell is in hell — Bloomberg also argues that the president is "all talk, no action, or as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle."

Even so, he warned that Trump, who he knows from their New York days, is a "street fighter," one who "won't be easy to beat."

Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg autographs a photograph for Larry Taylor at the opening of Bloomberg’s Eastern Market campaign office in Detroit on Saturday, December 21, 2019.

"I think he's been terrible for the country," Bloomberg said. "He's worse than I ever thought he would be."

Bloomberg became the second Democratic candidate for president to open an official office in Michigan. The first was Warren, whose office in Detroit has been operational since the beginning of November, said Mike McCollum, her state director.

Bloomberg co-founded the financial information and media company Bloomberg LP in 1981, according to a Forbes biography. He was the mayor of New York City from 2002 through 2013. Bloomberg's net worth is about $54 billion, according to Forbes.

O'Brien, a senior adviser to Bloomberg's campaign, was previously a reporter at The New York Times and wrote a 2005 biography about Donald Trump, entitled "TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald." The biography spurred Trump to file a $5 billion suit against O'Brien that was later dismissed.

A statement from the Republican National Committee accused Bloomberg of attempting to "buy" his way into Michigan.

“Michael Bloomberg believes he can buy his way into Michigan and push the same radical policy ideas that plagued New York City during his tenure as mayor," said Ellie Hockenbury, a spokeswoman for the GOP. "Bloomberg was not good for New York and certainly will not look out for the best interests of Michiganders.” 

Staff writer Craig Mauger contributed to this report.