NEW YORK (AP) — They are circling each other like wary boxers, with taunts on Twitter, snarky asides and belittling descriptions. They rose to prominence in Manhattan on parallel tracks, amassed wealth real and perceived and displayed a penchant for putting their names on things.
That's where the similarities end. President Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg could hardly be more different as people, but now they both want the same job: Trump's.
Bloomberg is making the case that he is many things that Trump is not: a builder of a financial data and media company that employs 20,000 people, a billionaire whose worth Forbes estimates at $60 billion, a problem-solver with a steady temperament who was elected three times as mayor of the nation's largest city, and one of the world's leading philanthropists.
"Bloomberg is someone Trump would have liked to have been: to have invented something everyone uses, to have real wealth, to be seen as a creative person. Trump had to create an image for himself," said George Arzt, onetime press secretary to former New York Mayor Ed Koch. Arzt knows both men professionally and personally.
He said Bloomberg is someone who likes to solve problems, who likes to be hands-on, even including the design of new Department of Sanitation trucks, while Trump is "basically a showman." Arzt said that Trump always sought the limelight while Bloomberg shied away from it until he ran for mayor.
Trump, who said he once considered Bloomberg a friend, had a brutal assessment of his now-rival during a CNBC interview this week: "He's spending a fortune. He's making a lot of broadcasters wealthy. And he's getting nowhere."
Howard Wolfson, Bloomberg's senior adviser, jabbed right back: "Mike hired Donald Trump to run a golf course in the Bronx but would not hire him for any other job. And the president knows that."
Bloomberg is running for the Democratic nomination for president on a path no serious candidate in the party has ever taken, forgoing early primary states and debates while spending hundreds of millions of dollars on ads in larger Super Tuesday states, almost all of which take a hard shot at Trump. He does not accept any campaign donations.
Trump has responded by calling Bloomberg "Mini Mike" on Twitter, trying to ridicule his 5-foot-8-inch stature. Bloomberg has hit Trump in another way that might hurt more. In Texas, when asked whether the country wanted a race between two New York billionaires, he replied, "Who's the other one?" Trump is widely believed to exaggerate his own wealth, a topic exacerbated by his refusal to release his tax returns.
Bloomberg has said that even if he fails to win the Democratic nomination, he is prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps more, to deny Trump reelection.
On Thursday, he started running a new nationwide ad that condemns Trump's treatment of decorated military leaders, and his campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey, went on Fox News to highlight it.
Their fight will be a test of the power of television and digital ads versus the impact of Twitter and the megaphone of the presidency. A key question is whether Bloomberg's attacks on Trump will do damage to an incumbent who does not have a serious primary challenger.
The president and his campaign team have been warily watching Bloomberg's spending spree since the former mayor's late entry into the presidential race.