Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, bought at least $30 million in television ads on Friday ahead of an expected Democratic run for president, a formidable show of financial force in presidential politics.
The ad buy, covering only an eight-day period, will begin on Monday in more than two dozen states from California to Maine, according to ad trackers. This initial television campaign will feature 60-second ads — a sign of a massive 2020 Bloomberg campaign budget that could easily stretch well into the 9-figure range.
The scope of Mr. Bloomberg’s ad buy is staggering. It costs more than some smaller campaigns have spent all year on advertising, and more than what Senator Cory Booker had raised in donations from February through the end of September.
Mr. Bloomberg will spend $1.2 million in Los Angeles, $863,000 in Chicago, $754,000 in Boston, $626,000 in Houston and $611,000 in Dallas, according to Advertising Analytics, a media-tracking company. And more reservations were still arriving on Friday.
Mr. Bloomberg was not overlooking smaller states either. He had booked $43,000 in ads, for instance, in Fargo, N.D.
Mr. Bloomberg has not officially announced he is running for president, though earlier this week, he filed a formal “statement of candidacy” with the Federal Election Commission. He had previously filed to be on the ballot in two states.
His expected entry has injected a new element of uncertainty into the race, highlighting its fluidity as well as the level of angst among many moderates that the field has moved too far left. It has also stirred a debate among Democrats about the role of wealth in the primary and accusations from progressive rivals that Mr. Bloomberg is trying to buy the presidency.
The ad buy drew immediate criticism from some of Mr. Bloomberg’s rivals.
“Swell,” wrote Steve Bullock, the governor of Montana who is running a shoestring campaign for president based in Iowa, on Twitter. “Another billionaire who thinks the Democratic nomination is for sale.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, campaigning in New Hampshire, joked that she would also be announcing a multimillion ad buy.
“No, I’m not,” she said, with a laugh. “We are running this in a grass-roots fashion. I’m not going to be able to compete with the money of Bloomberg or Steyer,” referring to Tom Steyer, a billionaire who is also running for the Democratic nomination.
Ms. Klobuchar argued that Mr. Bloomberg’s wealth could turn off some primary voters, who are tired of big money in politics — and the White House.
“I am the opposite of some of these wealthy people running,” she said, recounting a middle class childhood and how she raised all the money to fund her political campaigns. “That’s what people are looking for. They are tired of all the money in our world that’s at the top and I don’t think they want that at the top of our country.”
His ads are slated to run from the early 5 a.m. local newscasts through the late-night shows, and on almost everything in between, including on prime time programming and major sporting events, according to some documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission. In Los Angeles, Mr. Bloomberg was slated to pay $114,000 for four 60-second ads on The Voice, NBC’s popular show.
A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg declined to comment.
Mr. Bloomberg’s advisers have said his campaign would bypass the first four states that will vote in February — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — and focus instead on Super Tuesday in March and beyond, where his personal fortune would give him an advantage.
A moderate who first ran for mayor as a Republican and then as an independent and is now looking to run for president as a Democrat, Mr. Bloomberg could shake up the 2020 primary by offering an alternative to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. With voluminous spending, he can crowd the airwaves so much that other campaigns cannot break through.
Mr. Steyer entered the race in July and had spent nearly $50 million by the end of September. But Mr. Steyer has taken a completely different approach, airing ads so far mostly in the early primary states, and on cable nationally.
Mr. Bloomberg, with an estimated net worth of more than $50 billion, is one of the wealthiest people in America, with a fortune that dwarfs even Mr. Steyer’s.
Still, waiting to compete until the March contests is a deeply risky gambit for Mr. Bloomberg; many past nominating contests have been all-but-settled after the first four states. Mr. Bloomberg has not registered as a serious contender in any Democratic primary polls conducted since he signaled he would enter the race.
While the March primary states were the overwhelming focus of Mr. Bloomberg’s ad buy on Friday, he also was making some reservations in states, such as New York and Pennsylvania, that will vote later in the calendar.
On Friday, Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign submitted forms to television stations designating himself as a federal candidate, which entitles him to the lowest price available for ads.
Among the other steps he has taken before formally declaring his bid: he filed to be on the ballot in Arkansas and Alabama, he announced a separate $100 million digital ad campaign against President Trump and a $15 million voter registration drive. He also went to a predominantly black church on Sunday and apologized for his long embrace of stop-and-frisk police tactics that disproportionately impacted blacks and Latinos during his mayoralty.
“I was wrong,” Mr. Bloomberg said, in what has been his only public remarks since he re-emerged as a possible presidential candidate. “And I am sorry.”
One of the open questions of the looming Bloomberg candidacy is just how much he will campaign in person, and to what extent his candidacy will lean mostly on paid advertising.
Lisa Lerer contributed reporting from Hennepin, N.H.