(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Donald Trump could have a billionaire rival on his hands in the presidential election — former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg is newly considering a third-party bid and has asked his advisers to come up with a plan for what a theoretical campaign would look like, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
He has considered running in the past, but didn't think he could win. But now, "a confluence of unlikely events in the 2016 election ... has given new impetus to his presidential aspirations," according to The Times' Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns.
The "unlikely events" are the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, and of the fellow New York City billionaire Trump, the Republican front-runner.
The 73-year-old Bloomberg has reportedly said that he would be willing to spend $1 billion of his own money on a run for the White House, according to The Times. Bloomberg will reportedly decide on whether to go ahead with a campaign by early March. Any later entry might make it impossible for him to get on the ballot as an independent candidate in all 50 states.
A source familiar with Bloomberg's thinking told Business Insider in October that Bloomberg might run if he "sees a highly flawed field of candidates emerge." The sources said that if Trump looks set to take the Republican nomination and Sanders is primed to win the Democratic nomination, then Bloomberg would run. The Times added Saturday that Bloomberg would be likely to run in the event that Cruz wins the GOP nomination.
Bloomberg, a Democrat turned Republican turned independent, would likely try to carve a path up the middle to counter Trump's popularity with the far right and Sanders' with the far left.
The Times further elaborated on Bloomberg's plan for a run: "Bloomberg’s aides have sketched out one version of a campaign plan that would have the former mayor, a low-key and cerebral personality, deliver a series of detailed policy speeches, backed by an intense television advertising campaign that would introduce him to voters around the country as a technocratic problem-solver and self-made businessman who understands the economy and who built a bipartisan administration in New York."
This could serve as a moderate foil to Trump — he has also crafted an image as a businessman and problem-solver, but with bombastic rhetoric and a bigger focus on sound bites than on detailed policy plans.
Bloomberg reportedly hired a consultant to advise him on getting on the ballot in every state, asked aides to study past third-party bids, and commissioned polls to gauge whether he could beat the other candidates in the race.
The Times noted that no independent candidate has ever won the US presidency and that his "close Wall Street ties and liberal social views, including his strong support for abortion rights and gun control, could repel voters on the left and right."
Still, Bloomberg might be able to win support from establishment Democrats. Edward Rendell, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told The Times that if Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, he might throw his support behind Bloomberg.
"As a lifelong Democrat, as a former party chairman, it would be very hard for me to do that," Rendell told the Times. "But I would certainly take a look at it — absolutely."
Sanders is currently leading by a huge margin in New Hampshire, the first primary state, and the first-caucus state of Iowa is a dead heat.
Polling on Bloomberg’s potential effect on the race has been sparse, but a recent Morning Consult poll showed that Bloomberg would take more votes from Clinton than from Trump and would net 13% of the support, most of it coming from independents.
Jay Yarow contributed to this report.
More From Business Insider