Battling billionaires: Trump and candidate Bloomberg swap insults and attacks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump fired off a new round of Twitter insults aimed at political rival Michael Bloomberg on Thursday, shortly after the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign debuted a new television ad attacking the Republican seeking re-election.

FILE PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaks before the United States Conference of Mayors in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Trump mocked Bloomberg’s height, called the entirety of the Democratic field of candidates “clowns” and dismissed the idea that the former New York City mayor would help the ultimate Democratic nominee in the general election.

Bloomberg shot back on Twitter: “It shouldn’t be this easy to distract the President of the United States.”

Bloomberg might be getting under Trump’s skin with attack ads, part of a campaign focused on the president with an estimated cost so far above $200 million.

All of Bloomberg’s advertising spending has come from his personal wealth. And he has pledged to spend millions more before the November election - regardless of whether he wins the Democratic nomination.

In 2016, Trump spent about $66 million of his own money to secure the Republican nomination and then relied on donors in the general election.

The two men are among the most wealthy to run for president. Bloomberg’s personal fortune - estimated by Forbes magazine to be around $60 billion - dwarfs Trump’s own estimated wealth of around $3 billion.

Trump recently criticized Bloomberg in a television interview on CNBC and echoed some of the criticism on Thursday.

“When Mini losses, he will be spending very little of his money on these ‘clowns’ because he will consider himself to be the biggest clown of them all - and he will be right!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump, who has a propensity for coining derisive nicknames for his political rivals, recently began referring to Bloomberg as “Mini Mike,” a reference to the former mayor’s height of about 5 feet, 8 inches (1.72 meters). Trump is several inches taller.

Trump’s tweet came shortly after Bloomberg’s campaign unveiled the new ad on a conservative morning news program Trump is known to watch.

The ad blasted Trump as “an erratic and out of control president” who had reportedly belittled military staff at a meeting in 2017, as depicted in a newly released book by a pair of Washington Post reporters.

It is unclear why Trump thinks Bloomberg would renege on his pledge to spend heavily to help the Democrats beat Trump in the November presidential election even if Bloomberg is not the eventual candidate. He spent around $100 million in 2018 helping Democrats win midterm elections.

Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Ginger Gibson and Bill Berkrot