Michael Bloomberg, the multi-billionaire former New York City mayor, campaigned Monday in Vermont — in the city where rival candidate Bernie Sanders served as mayor in the 1980s.
The businessman argued he's well-suited to go head-to-head with President Donald Trump, because he's familiar with the president's style from past policy debates in the city — and he claims to know where Trump is weak.
"I've always believed real leadership starts with integrity," Bloomberg told a crowd at the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington.
Bloomberg told Vermont voters he wants to work hard on reducing gun violence, reversing the effects of climate change and ensuring equality for all people. The candidate described his leadership style as aiming to put aside an era of divisiveness to bring Americans together.
"He breaks promises and I keep them," Bloomberg said Monday of Trump. "He's a climate denier and I was trained as an engineer and actually believe in science — imagine that. He tweets and I follow facts and respect data and try to tell the truth. I think I do every time."
Last week, Trump tweeted about Bloomberg, insulting him and predicting Bloomberg will lose in the Democratic primary, calling his campaign "hopeless." The president also doubted whether Bloomberg will help other Democrats, as Bloomberg has promised to do.
"Michael Bloomberg came to be productive, not to attack people," observed voter Kathleen Kelleher of South Burlington. "Except for the current president, who deserves to be attacked."
"One self-made billionaire versus an inherited billionaire? I'll take those odds all day long," added Tyler Barnes, another voter from South Burlington.
Bloomberg is focusing, for now, on states that vote on Super Tuesday, when many delegates candidates need to secure the nomination are awarded. Vermont is one of the 14 states voting March 3.
That list includes states with large populations, including Texas, Virginia, Massachusetts and California.
In his Burlington appearance, the businessman acknowledged he was on the home turf of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won the Vermont Democratic presidential primary in 2016 with nearly 86% of the vote.
However, Bloomberg said he's offering a different approach than Sanders, which he bets will appeal to many undecided voters.
"I think the country wants evolution, rather than revolution," Bloomberg said in response to a reporter's question about differences between him and Sanders.
Middlebury College political scientist Matt Dickinson attended the event at ECHO, and told NECN and NBC10 Boston that Bloomberg's strategy to blanket key states with tens of millions of dollars' worth of TV and radio ads will get him noticed.
However, Dickinson noted Bloomberg will need to back that spending up with relatable policies if he is to grow his single-digit poll numbers.
"Money will get you so far," Dickinson observed. "It will get you out there in prominence — it'll get your message out there. But if the message itself doesn't resonate, the money's not enough."
After his event in Burlington, Bloomberg traveled to Maine for another campaign rally.