"As the race stands now, with Republicans in charge of both Houses, there is a good chance that my candidacy could lead to the election of Donald Trump or Senator Ted Cruz. That is not a risk I can take in good conscience," Bloomberg wrote in an op-ed yesterday.

The 74-year-old billionaire businessman had in February publicly announced the idea of leading a third-party campaign.

Blomberg slammed Trump, 69, for running a decisive campaign.

"I have known Mr Trump casually for many years, and we have always been on friendly terms. I even agreed to appear on 'The Apprentice' – twice," he said.

"Threatening to bar foreign Muslims from entering the country is a direct assault on two of the core values that gave rise to our nation: religious tolerance and the separation of church and state," he alleged.

"Attacking and promising to deport millions of Mexicans, feigning ignorance of white supremacists, and threatening China and Japan with a trade war are all dangerously wrong, too," he said.

Bloomberg was similarly critical of Ted Cruz, saying the Texas senator's "pandering on immigration may lack Trump’s rhetorical excess, but it is no less extreme".

His refusal to oppose banning foreigners based on their religion may be less bombastic than Trump's position, but it is no less divisive, he said.

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