Trump, Bloomberg trade schoolyard taunts as spending war heats up


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg traded withering taunts on Sunday, in an exchange that suggests the Bloomberg campaign is willing to fight Trump’s notorious insults head on.

U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One with First Lady Melania Trump at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland en route to West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Trump’s remarks to FOX News Channel’s Sean Hannity, coupled with a series of Twitter posts late on Saturday, also indicate the president is keeping a wary eye on the billionaire and former New York City mayor as a potentially tough competitor.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday showed Bloomberg in third place among registered voters for the 2020 Democratic nomination after he spent millions of dollars of his own money on adverts.

Trump told Hannity in an interview due to air Sunday afternoon that Bloomberg, who stands at about 5 feet 8 inches compared to the president’s 6 feet 3 inches, had requested a box to stand on during the Democratic debates.

Last week, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) scrapped a rule requiring candidates meet a threshold of grassroots donations, opening the door for Bloomberg to participate in a Feb. 19 debate in Nevada. Bloomberg, a late entry to the race, has pledged not to take any donations and to finance his campaign by dipping into his estimated $60 billion fortune.

“He wants a box for the debates. Why should he be entitled to that? Really. Does that mean everyone else gets a box?” Trump told Hannity during the interview which was taped on Saturday at the Republican president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

Trump, who often coins denigrating nicknames for his political opponents, also unleashed a series of tweets dismissing Bloomberg as “mini Mike” on Saturday evening.

On Sunday, Bloomberg’s campaign denied it had requested a box and took aim at the president’s own personality and appearance.

“The president is lying. He is a pathological liar who lies about everything: his fake hair, his obesity, and his spray-on tan,” said Bloomberg spokeswoman Julie Wood.

Trump also suggested the DNC was bending its rules to allow Bloomberg to participate in the debates.

“I think it’s very unfair for the Democrats. But I would love to run against Bloomberg. I would love it,” said Trump.

Some Trump advisers, however, privately say they fear Bloomberg becoming the Democratic candidate because of his ability to spend what has been estimated at upwards of $1 billion to take on the president.

The Trump and Bloomberg campaigns were each spending $10 million to run adverts during the Super Bowl on Sunday night, which is watched by many millions of people.

Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Michelle Price and Daniel Wallis

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