Tom Steyer, the former hedge fund investor turned impeachment activist, announced on Tuesday that he would challenge President Trump in 2020, reversing a previous decision not to enter the race.
In a video announcing his campaign, Mr. Steyer positioned himself as a populist outsider, railing against corporate interests that he described as holding too much sway over the political system.
“Americans are deeply disappointed and hurt by the way they’re treated by what they think is the power elite in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Steyer said in the video. “And that goes across party lines and it goes across geography.”
Included in the video were images of men who, Mr. Steyer seemed to imply, represented the excesses of corruption and greed, including Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s incarcerated former adviser; Bernard Madoff, the notorious Ponzi schemer; and Jeffrey Epstein, the investor who was indicted this week on charges of sex trafficking.
Mr. Steyer said in an interview that he would hit the campaign trail quickly: After speaking at the liberal Netroots Nation conference in Philadelphia, he said he would campaign in the early primary state of South Carolina. He said he would unveil a plan for “structural changes” in the campaign finance system in the next few weeks and pledged to release his tax returns, though he did not set a deadline for doing so.
Mr. Steyer may be a questionable vessel for a populist message, as a billionaire financier in a party increasingly defined by concern for economic inequality, and as a 62-year-old white man in a Democratic Party preoccupied with racial diversity and gender equality.
Yet his candidacy instantly transformed the financial shape of the primary. Alberto Lammers, a spokesman for his campaign, said Mr. Steyer planned to spend “at least $100 million” on the race, starting with a round of television ads in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
That figure exceeds the total fund-raising over the last three months by Joseph R. Biden Jr., Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris — combined. A $100 million budget would represent about half the cost of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 primary campaign; most candidates who run for president spend a fraction of that sum.