Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be in Tampa on Sunday, his first campaign event in Florida as a presidential candidate.
The rally is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at Embarc Collective, a downtown startup incubator created by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.
Florida is critical to Bloomberg’s strategy for winning the Democratic nomination after a late entry into the race. Bloomberg missed the deadline to qualify for the first four nominating contests, and he is instead focusing on the Super Tuesday states (March 3) and populous states that will send a large number of delegates to the Democratic convention, like Florida.
The billionaire has already pumped millions of dollars into those contests — hiring staff, opening offices and airing television commercials across. His swing through Florida will be the first public appearance in the Sunshine State for any of the Democratic contenders since the calendar turned to 2020.
Bloomberg’s show of force here is only possible because of his vast wealth. None of the other contenders can afford to match his spending in Florida while the race remains a toss up in Iowa and New Hampshire. But that’s also part of his appeal to voters: Only he can afford to go head-to-head with the Trump campaign in a critical battleground like Florida.
The other candidates are largely relying on the Florida Democratic Party to organize a ground game to hand off to the eventual nominee.
“To actually win a general election, you need a campaign on the ground talking about your candidate and your vision and why you’re the best to take on Donald Trump,” said Scott Kosanovich, the state director for Bloomberg’s campaign.
Before the event, Bloomberg has coffee scheduled with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor at Trips Diner. It’s not an endorsement meeting, Castor spokeswoman Ashley Bauman said.
“She’s meeting with any candidates who are willing to meet with her to help transform Tampa’s tomorrow,” Bauman said. The last candidate to meet with her was former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is no longer in the race. He’s also the last candidate to hold a public event in Tampa, which was way back in July.
Vinik plans to attend Bloomberg’s event, a spokesman said, as does former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Neither are endorsing yet, either.
“Happy to welcome him but haven’t signed up,” Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday, though he said he would only consider formally supporting Bloomberg or former Vice President Joe Biden in the Democratic primary.
From Tampa, Bloomberg will travel to Miami for a “United for Mike" rally, an outreach event aimed at South Florida’s Jewish community.