Michael Bloomberg is positioning himself to enter the crowded race for the Democratic presidential nomination, setting up a potential showdown with fellow septuagenarian Joe Biden as the leading centrist candidate. Photo: Kena Betancur / AFP

Descended as I am from a long line of Alabamians, I can hardly wait for March 3. That’s primary day for the two major parties – and both the Republican senatorial primary and the Democratic presidential primary are likely to be as interesting as US politics gets.

For one thing, Donald Trump’s fired attorney general Jeff Sessions wants to recover his old Senate seat. He’ll be fighting for the nomination against former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore – the zealot known for having gone to extremes of monument building in public places, lest we forget that the Ten Commandments were written in stone.

Workers move the Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the State Judicial building on August 27, 2003, in Montgomery, Alabama. The monument inside the building had been ordered removed by federal courts. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended for refusing to comply with the order. Photo: AFP / Gary Tramontina / Getty Images

Roy Moore vs. Jeff Sessions: In overwhelmingly devout Alabama, the outcome will depend to a great extent on voters’ answer to the question, “What would Jesus do?”

The most recent direct precedent, from 2017, seems unfavorable to Moore. Seriously damaging to the rep of the sin-obsessed judge, charges surfaced ahead of that year’s Senate by-election (for the seat that Sessions had vacated) that the purportedly upright Moore had acted on his attraction to women as young as 14 and had sexually assaulted some of them.

Thus, in an otherwise reliably deep-red state, Moore amazingly lost in 2017 to Democrat Doug Jones. (Whoever wins the Republican nomination this time probably will then campaign against Jones, who’s running in the Democratic primary to succeed himself.)

But it’s more complicated than that because the God-fearing Alabamians who’ll be answering that key question about what Jesus would do are among the American voters most devoted to notorious sinner Trump.

It’s a long story, but having grown up and gone to Sunday school with them I can attest that evangelicals confronted with Trump’s well documented behavioral problems have learned from preachers of the religious right to pay less attention to Moore’s beloved Old Testament – which paints a portrait of a fierce and punitive deity – and focus instead on the New Testament’s message of forgiveness.

“We’re all sinners,” they’ll tell you as they shrug off Trump’s long list of documented or alleged violations of the Commandments.

Trump’s own standing in the state is so godlike that the question, leaving Jesus aside, could become, “What would Trump do?” And the president – for the time being – is crystal clear that Sessions, who as attorney general enraged him by refusing to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation, is his enemy. On the other hand, Trump endorsed Moore in 2017.

Mayor Mike

And that’s just the opening act in Sweet Home Alabam. The big show is likely to be a contest pitting surviving members of the Democratic presidential lineup against a candidate who believes that lineup needs a new entry.

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire financial data and news tycoon and former New York City mayor, beat the Friday 5 pm deadline by a half-hour and filed the necessary papers to compete in the primary, the Mongomery Advertiser reported.

What’s happened here is that Joe Biden’s star has faded somewhat, at least partly due to intense focus on his son.

Hunter Biden wouldn’t phrase it this way but he undeniably sold the family name to a Ukrainian corporation, whose board of directors he joined while his dad was overseeing White House policy toward Ukraine. (One could say he had already long since sold the family name, by choosing lobbying as his profession.)

Although the former vice president has been able to maintain that there was nothing illegal about the Ukraine arrangement, there’s no way a constant drumbeat of news about it could be reassuring to voters who are looking to replace the hyper-corrupt Trump (and his family) with an honest Democrat.

So even if Trump ends up getting impeached for his attempt to buy official Ukrainian help for his campaign to smear Biden, he may in the process end up having succeeded in sidelining the prospective opponent who had the best chance of beating him.

Politico reported Thursday that Bloomberg’s plan to file for the primary “would be a first step toward a national campaign, though Bloomberg has not made a final decision to run.” That gives him wiggle room to abandon his campaign later if he wishes.

The Politico story quoted an email from a longtime aide: “We now need to finish the job and ensure that Trump is defeated — but Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well-positioned to do that.”

Unpacking those words, we can note that Bloomberg is a moderate who considered a 2020 presidential race earlier but dropped the idea after Biden decided to run.

If Biden should continue a downward trend in polling, that would leave from the current top-polling group of Democratics Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – both progressive senators who are considerably to Bloomberg’s left – and, on the moderate side, Pete Buttigieg.

Just think for a second how the former Mayor Mike (77) of the Big Apple, who thought of running for president any number of times earlier, would react to seeing that youngster (37) Mayor Pete of South Bend (population 102,000) take the prize.

Bloomberg is a talented fellow, well qualified for taking on big jobs. If he has weak spots in the 2020 election one may be that he, like Trump, is a billionaire with worldwide financial interests.

Even if he should turn the Bloomberg empire over to professional managers, as he did while mayor, what kind of pressure could countries where the company rents out its data terminals be in a position to exert on his administration? One clue: Beijing in 2013 put enough pressure on the parent company that Bloomberg News spiked a detailed investigative story its journalists had been preparing.

Full disclosure: I used to work for Bloomberg News. Mike was away being mayor at the time and I didn’t know him personally. Nevertheless I like everyone else spoke of him using his first name. As far as I know, he’s a stand-up dude.

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