Steyer says that despite late entry, many voters undecided

November 5, 2019 GMT

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Democrat Tom Steyer says he knows he got into the presidential race relatively late but he thinks most voters are going to make up their minds at the last minute before they start casting ballots in February 2020.

“I think this race is completely up in the air,” Steyer told reporters in Henderson on Monday before hosting a town hall meeting.

Steyer, a billionaire philanthropist who joined the race in July, told voters who showed up to his midday event that Monday he wanted to introduce himself a bit because most media stories primarily describe him as being wealthy.

“I used to joke that I changed my first name from “Tom” to “Billionaire Tom,” Steyer said.

Steyer described his a public school teacher mother, his father who was the first in his generation to go to college, the investment business that made him wealthy and the causes he’s spent millions advocated for, including a push for action on climate change and registering young voters for Democrats.

He’s also become a familiar face for his television ads he’s been running as part of his two-year campaign calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Steyer told the crowd that when he launched the effort in 2017, people thought he’d lost his mind.

“They said, ‘You know, it’s a liberal pipe dream. You’re wasting your time. You should be doing something more serious,’” Steyer said. “But look at where we are.”

With the U.S. House of Representatives now pursuing an impeachment inquiry of Trump, Steyer said he thinks impeachment will be beneficial for Democrats. He said he’s not worried about impeachment galvanizing the president’s supporters, though the Trump campaign has been doing just that.

Steyer said that when Congress eventually holds televised hearings into whether the president violated his oath of office by asking a foreign country to investigate a political opponent, the public will be convinced to support impeachment.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or Democrat. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Trump supporter or not,” he said. “Everybody’s going to draw the conclusion of, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s not acceptable.’”

Bonnie Berns, a 64-year-old Democrat who said Steyer is her top candidate in the crowded Democratic field, asked the businessman if he would consider bringing on Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as his vice-presidential candidate. Steyer didn’t answer the question directly, instead speaking about his respect for Warren and the women he’s hired for to run his campaign and initiatives.

Berns said Steyer’s indirect answer wasn’t dismaying to her — in fact, it told her he’s ready despite it being his first-ever run for public office.

“He doesn’t have the political experience Elizabeth has but he has the political skill when he pivoted,” Berns laughed.

Steyer on Monday also met with veterans and planned to meet Monday evening with immigration activists.