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Bloomberg praises ally Pelosi as a strong leader. But he could send big bucks to Dems who have come out against her

Key Points
  • Mike Bloomberg has vowed to spend $80 million to help Democrats flip the House in the 2018 midterm elections.
  • That means he could back candidates who don't support Nancy Pelosi's bid to regain the speaker's gavel if the blue wave comes to pass.
  • "I think she has been a very effective leader and that she was always there for the city when we needed her," Bloomberg said in a statement to CNBC.
Chief Executive Officer of media company Bloomberg Michael Bloomberg is seen at the launch of Bloombergs new European Headquarters in the City of London on October 24, 2017.
Daniel Leal-Olivas | AFP | Getty Images

Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has always had a strong relationship with Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Yet, he could be on the verge of backing several candidates that have vowed not to support Pelosi for speaker if the Democrats flip the House of Representatives during the 2018 congressional midterm elections. Bloomberg has promised to spend $80 million to help the Democrats accomplish just that in November.

In a statement to CNBC, Bloomberg praised Pelosi for their work together when he was mayor and said she's an "effective leader."

"I think she has been a very effective leader and that she was always there for the city when we needed her," Bloomberg said.

The two spoke over the phone this week about Bloomberg's new efforts and those close to her say Bloomberg's involvement in the 2018 midterms is a "major development," according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Howard Wolfson, a former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who runs Bloomberg's political operation, noted that Bloomberg has not decided who he will support in the runup to the November election.

Even so, Wolfson said he "imagine[d] there would be some overlap between candidates" supported by his boss and those backed by Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a vocal critic of Pelosi. Moulton recently created a political action committee, Serve America, which exclusively backs military veterans running for Congress who are looking to flip Republican districts.

Wolfson also said there will likely be "overlap" between the lists of candidates linked to Pelosi and the DCCC.

At least 11 of the 18 candidates Moulton supports have publicly denounced Pelosi as the party's leader and have called for change. One of them is Gil Cisneros, who is running to replace outgoing Republican Ed Royce in California's 39th District.

"While I respect Leader Pelosi's years of advocacy on behalf of California and the Democratic Party, it's time for new leadership," Cisneros told the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday.

When asked if Bloomberg would back candidates that have declared they will not vote for Pelosi as speaker, Wolfson said, "It's impossible to say, given that we aren't close to finalizing our list."

A spokesman for Moulton says that being anti-Pelosi is not one of the criteria for being backed by their political organization. He also confirmed that Moulton and Bloomberg have had "great meetings" about Serve America's candidates. He declined to get into further details about those discussions.

A spokesman for Pelosi said she "has always enjoyed the overwhelming support of House Democrats and that will continue into the majority she's so focused on winning. Democrats don't let Republicans choose our leaders."

Bloomberg close with Pelosi and Moulton

In 2012, after Hurricane Sandy hit New York, Bloomberg went to Capitol Hill to meet with Pelosi and then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to advocate the need for $42 billion in disaster relief.

Pelosi took up New York's cause and worked to pass the Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill, which increased federal flood insurance from $20 billion to $30 billion. It passed both the House and the Senate in 2013.

Bloomberg also has a solid relationship with Moulton, as the two have been friends for years. The former New York City mayor endorsed Moulton when he first ran for Congress in 2014, and they've stayed in contact ever since.

Bloomberg works to flip House, as Pelosi fights to keep gavel

While Bloomberg is clearly fond of Pelosi, his goal of flipping the House could clash with her objective of regaining the speaker's gavel.

Currently, there are at least 20 candidates who have said they will not back Pelosi for speaker if the Democrats were to win the House, creating nearly impossible odds for her to win a leadership position. If the Democrats pull off a victory by a narrow margin in November, Pelosi would only be able to lose a few lawmakers to safely secure the speakership.

Political strategists say candidates are turning their backs on the California Democrat because of the fear that her links to the Washington, D.C., establishment will push voters away.

"Pelosi has been a hot-button issue in campaigns for the last two cycles," Democratic political strategist Hank Sheinkopf said in an interview. "Distancing themselves from her gets rid of the possibility that Republicans will use the message they've been trying to use against Democrats for years, which is that she's part of the Washington establishment and she can't be trusted."

"It doesn't bode well for Nancy Pelosi to have candidates running away from her since she wants to be speaker if the Democrats win," he added.

Regardless of the final decision on where Bloomberg will direct his campaign funds, Wolfson said they are backing those that "share Mike's values."

As mayor of New York, Bloomberg jumped from running as a Republican to becoming an independent for his last term in office.

Among his contributions to the city, Bloomberg became known for taking on the National Rifle Association by co-founding a nonprofit organization that later became known as Everytown for Gun Safety.

Originally called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group battled the NRA for expanded background checks and for improved gun safety technology.