Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's closest advisors have been interviewing potential aides in early caucus and primary states as the billionaire considers a 2020 run for president, CNBC has learned.
Kevin Sheekey, one of Bloomberg's closest confidants, has been meeting with prospective staff members in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter. Iowa and New Hampshire serve as the first two states in the presidential primaries while also acting as an early litmus test for those looking to capture the nomination. Both of the early contests are expected to take place in February 2020.
"Bloomberg has the money and smart people around him, but they're preparing to build a larger campaign apparatus to compete against the other 2020 candidates if he decides to run," a person familiar with the plans told CNBC on the condition of anonymity.
A Bloomberg spokesman declined to comment.
Many of the 2020 candidates already in the hunt, including Sens. Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris, have been snapping up top talent in these states.
Even former Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime friend of Bloomberg's, has been trying recruit the best talent to go up against his competitors if he chooses to run. Biden's team has been interviewing seasoned political operatives in the primary state of South Carolina and he's publicly acknowledged to be in the "final stages" of deciding his future.
The Washington Post reported in January that Bloomberg had quietly hired two senior strategists within Iowa and New Hampshire. Matt Paul, a former Iowa state director for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, has been brought into the Bloomberg inner circle. "I'm on a retainer for him" Paul said in a text message to CNBC. While it's "not an exclusive agreement," he added that he's "advising during deliberative phases."
Liz Purdy, who used to work in The Granite State for Clinton during her 2008 run for president has also reportedly been hired.
If he were to jump into the race, one of the areas where Bloomberg will have a clear advantage is how much money he will be able to invest in his own campaign.
In December, CNBC was first to report that Bloomberg is prepared to spend at least $100 million on his 2020 campaign for president. With a net worth of $55 billion according to Forbes, Bloomberg was a kingmaker for Democrats during the 2018 congressional midterm elections. He spent $110 million to help the party win over 20 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Bloomberg has been one of the most vocal advocates for fighting climate change while also holding firm on a number of moderate policies. He's also been a strong supporter of gun control since his days as mayor of New York.
At one of his most recent visits to New Hampshire, Bloomberg criticized, the "Green New Deal" as a "pie in the sky" proposal.
"I'm a little bit tired of listening to things that are pie in the sky, that we never are going to pass, are never going to afford," he said at the time. "I think it's just disingenuous to promote those things. You've got to do something that's practical."
He's also been critical of Warren's idea of initiating a wealth tax of 2 percent on households with more than $50 million in assets and households worth $1 billion or more paying 3 percent.
Warren, for her part, has called on billionaires like Bloomberg running for president to not self fund their own campaigns and to focus their efforts on appealing to grassroots voters.
Bloomberg is not faring well in early polling. Only 2 percent of respondents to a Morning Consult poll published on Tuesday said they would support the former mayor. Ahead of him are the likes of Biden, Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke. The poll surveyed more than 15,000 registered voters who indicated they may vote in a Democratic primary or caucus. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percent.