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GOP money group prepares opposition research blitz against Mike Bloomberg if he runs for president

Brian Schwartz
It's a sign that Republican Party insiders are taking the prospect of a Bloomberg run seriously as President Donald Trump prepares to run for re-election.

A major GOP money group is getting ready to slam Mike Bloomberg with negative talking points if the billionaire Democrat makes a run for the White House in 2020.

America Rising, a super PAC whose targets have included Hillary Clinton, is preparing an opposition-research blitz against Bloomberg that would focus on a range of topics, from his close relationships with Wall Street executives to controversial comments he made about women.

It's a sign that Republican Party insiders are taking the prospect of a Bloomberg run seriously as President Donald Trump runs for re-election.

"If Bloomberg decides to run, he will be part of the America Rising 2020 Initiative. We have already begun opposition research, rapid response, and video tracking on a host of potential Democratic candidates including Bloomberg," Sarah Dolan, the PAC's chief spokeswoman, told CNBC.

Bloomberg told the Associated Press in an interview on Tuesday he will make his decision on running by early 2019. A spokesman for Bloomberg did not return a request for comment for this story.

Bloomberg joins a list of possible 2020 Democratic targets for America Rising, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, California Sen. Kamala Harris and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, among others.

The group hopes to drive a bigger wedge between the centrist, pro-business Bloomberg and the Democratic base.

"Within the Democratic primary that is increasingly shifting to the left, Bloomberg's cozy relationship with Wall Street and his record on crime, specifically stop and frisk, and his previous comments on women and issues of sexual harassment, will be pressed by his primary opponents and America Rising," Dolan said.

America Rising, which was founded in 2013, raised just over $990,000 during the 2018 election cycle and spent $601,000, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The group raised and spent considerably more money in 2016, when Clinton ran against Trump. That year, America Rising poured $1.4 million into the election and raised $1.3 million through top Republican donors such as billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer.

The super PAC is looking to play up some of Bloomberg's controversial statements about women, including his recent remarks to The New York Times about news anchor Charlie Rose and the #MeToo movement.

"The stuff I read about is disgraceful — I don't know how true all of it is," he told the newspaper in September. Rose, who has been accused of sexual misconduct, used to produce his PBS show from Bloomberg's offices.

America Rising also has at the ready excerpts of interviews Bloomberg gave in the 1990s before he became the mayor of New York.

"I like theater, dining and chasing women," he once said. "Let me put it this way: I am a single, straight billionaire in Manhattan. What do you think? It's a wet dream."

Bloomberg, however, has championed causes for women.

In September, he spoke at an event sponsored by EMILY's List, a political action committee dedicated to helping pro-choice women get elected into Congress, and defended women who have spoken out throughout the #MeToo movement.

"Thanks to so many women who have courageously spoken out, the Me Too movement has shone a spotlight on sexual assault, abuse, and harassment – that, disgracefully, society has tolerated for a very long time," he said at the time.

He also spent millions supporting women running for office during the past election.

America Rising also wants to put Bloomberg's ties to Wall Street under the microscope. They plan to home in on his criticism of how the financial crisis was handled under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

"It's a cheap shot to be able to go after the banks," he told Bloomberg TV in 2014.


Bloomberg fighting to stay in Democrats' good graces

The talking points demonstrate the hurdles Bloomberg could face if he goes after the Democratic nomination.

A recent Morning Consult/Politico poll shows the former New York City mayor struggling to gain early traction with Democrats as he considers running for office. He registered at 2 percent ranked seventh in the overall poll. Biden and Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders lead the survey.

The study was conducted online with 733 Democratic voters and has a 4-point margin of error.

Still, Bloomberg has been fighting to get into the good graces of the party. He re-registered as a Democrat in October . He has also been a Republican and an independent.

The former New York mayor spent more than $110 million to elect Democrats throughout the midterm election campaign. Based on voting projections, 21 of the 24 House candidates he supported through his super PAC, Independence USA, are projected to win their races.

NBC News is projecting Democrats will gain at least 34 House seats, while Republicans are going to expand their thin majority in the Senate.

Bloomberg also has remained in close contact with his old friend House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is angling to become House speaker for a second time.

Bloomberg, along with the board of directors from his philanthropy office, met with Pelosi in New York on Tuesday , to discuss the midterm results. CNBC was first to report the gathering before the billionaire confirmed it to the AP.

"I said, sitting next to her, without mincing words, I said, 'You know, we expect you to do a good job,'" Bloomberg said to the AP. "That's why we supported the Democrats."