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Michael Bloomberg gave SC Democrats a $50,000 donation. Shouldn't he run here?

It was a welcome donation from a New York billionaire meant to help the S.C. Democratic Party in its growth spurt.

Last year, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg — the $54 billion man — gave the state party a check for $50,000 to boost its 2018 operations.

It wasn't the largest donation the party ever received, but it did show Bloomberg's interest in influencing state-level politics. Or, in prepping for his long-desired White House run, which is days away from becoming official.

S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson said Bloomberg gave the money because of one bold move: He approached Bloomberg and struck up a conversation. The setting was an event for U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn in Columbia.

"I asked him for it," Robertson told Palmetto Politics of his chat with Bloomberg. "And I may have asked him for more than that."

When the $50K was reported on state ethics forms, it listed Bloomberg's occupation as philanthropist.

Donations by presidential hopefuls to state parties are not uncommon; both sides do it. But the Democrats are in the spotlight this year and so are those in the running. 

Billionaire businessman 2020 hopeful Tom Steyer gave the party $25,000, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who briefly toyed with running for the White House this year, presented Robertson with a check for $100,000 from his political action committee.

Garcetti's donation meant the City Hall leaders from America's two largest cities — New York and Los Angeles — invested in Palmetto State Democrats.

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That brings up the question: If Bloomberg cares so much about helping out the state party's momentum, then why doesn't he file to run for president here, which indications are that he doesn't plan to do? He already has the support of influential Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.

Right now, Bloomberg's strategy appears to be in favor of skipping the four lead-off states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, and jumping into the March 3 Super Tuesday states that vote three days after South Carolina on Feb. 29.

He's already paid to get on ballots in Alabama, Arkansas and Texas.

Robertson said he's grateful for Bloomberg's donation, which he said contributed to party wins, including flipping Charleston's seat in Congress. He still would like to see Bloomberg put South Carolina and its first-in-the-South, large African American voting bloc into his presidential strategy.

"Our hope is, is that he will participate in some form or fashion in South Carolina," Robertson said. "We welcome him and I think that there would be a lot of interest in his candidacy."

Benjamin also said he'd encourage Bloomberg to run here but that he understands how strategy works, especially after some of the candidates' campaign have been on the ground in the state for a year.

Benjamin pointed to Bloomberg's successful business and brand, his time running a city with an economy bigger than other countries, and his multiple philanthropic endeavors as part of what makes him attractive.  

All of the candidates looking to run in the S.C. Democratic primary have until Dec. 4 to turn in their paperwork.

Also required: a filing fee of $20,000.

Pocket change to Bloomberg. 

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

Political Editor

Schuyler Kropf is The Post and Courier political editor. He has covered every major political race in South Carolina dating to 1988, including for U.S. Senate, governorship, the Statehouse and Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.

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