SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg, roundly targeted by rivals in his first debate Wednesday night, found friendlier confines while rallying Utahans on Thursday morning.
A crowd of nearly 600 gathered at downtown Salt Lake City’s Venue 6SIX9, bundled for winter in the early hours leading to the New Yorker’s visit.
U2’s “Beautiful Day” rang loudly as Bloomberg, flanked by large projections of American and Utah flags and the campaign graphic “Utah Will Get It Done,” fist-pumped his way to the podium just after 9 a.m.
Billing himself the “un-Trump,” the former New York City mayor awkwardly dropped ice breakers that cited the Mormon prophet Brigham Young and a crack about interstate traffic along the booming Wasatch Front.
“You’ve all heard the slogan, ‘Mike will get it done.’ And if you haven’t, I’ve wasted an awful lot of money here,” he said.
The billionaire, who served as mayor of the Big Apple from 2002 through 2013, touched only briefly on Wednesday night’s Democratic debate during a 16-minute speech that focused nearly all of his script on the sitting president.
“So how was your night last night?” Bloomberg said, adding, “The real winner in the debate last night was Donald Trump.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren ripped Bloomberg as an “arrogant” billionaire “who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians” during the brouhaha in Las Vegas, which saw Bloomberg pummeled over a controversial stop-and-frisk policy and sexually crude comments that led to nondisclosure agreements.
Bloomberg quickly shifted gears, however, and keyed on a “campaign that will compete everywhere.”
“No state is too red for the Democratic party,” Bloomberg said, jockeying for Beehive State’s six electoral votes. “No voter is too liberal or too moderate or too conservative to help us make Donald Trump a one-term president.”
Hecklers who chanted “No Mike!” briefly interrupted the speech and were escorted away by police.
Bloomberg painted Trump as a “bully,” mocked the president for being “scared” of him, and praised to Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who recently broke with his party and voted to convict Trump during impeachment proceedings.
Bloomberg also pushed back against current 2020 front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“If we choose a candidate who appeals to a small base – like Senator Sanders – it will be a fatal error,” he said. “We need Democrats and independents and Republicans to win.”
Bloomberg did not take questions from the audience at the rally and opted for handshakes, selfies and the occasional autograph.
He was introduced by Peter Metcalf, founder of outdoor gear specialist Black Diamond, who celebrated the candidate’s promise of public land stewardship.
Attendee Maria Luisa Torres, a proud “Latina,” said concerns over immigration brought her to the event. Of Bloomberg’s first debate, Torres said, “They sure did beat up on him.”
As Torres spoke, a passing group bemoaned Wednesday’s debate.
“All they did was tear each other down,” one woman said.
The room nearly empty, Michael Ascani sat at ease on a couch and watched for friends.
“You know what actually sparked my interest is when Bloomberg basically said, “I’m here to defeat Trump,” Ascani said. “I like that.”
Ascani, a one-time New Yorker who now resides in the nearby Avenues neighborhood, added Bloomberg “doesn’t govern by tweet” and is geared toward building teams.
A lone protester sporting a “Trump 2020: **** Your Feelings” T-shirt stood at the entrance prior to the rally – an American flag in hand. He was nowhere to be found following the festivities.
On Thursday, the Bloomberg campaign announced that the billionaire has pumped more than $464 million into the nomination bid, scorching all previous records for self-funded candidates.
“Mike is the only candidate with the record and resources to build the national infrastructure Democrats need to beat Donald Trump,” campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement.
Bloomberg opened a Utah headquarters in Salt Lake City in early January. Thursday’s rally marked his second time visiting the state in 2020.