N.Y. Mayor Is Eyeing '08, Observers Say

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, right, marches in New York's St. Patrick's Day parade. He is in his second and last term.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, right, marches in New York's St. Patrick's Day parade. He is in his second and last term. (By Shiho Fukada -- Associated Press)
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 26, 2007

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a self-made billionaire, has told friends more than once that his definition of good financial planning is making sure the check to the undertaker bounces when it's finally time to go.

So how does a billionaire spend all his money before he dies? In Bloomberg's case, he just might drop a cool half-billion on a long-shot bid to become the nation's first modern president from outside the two major political parties.

As fellow New Yorkers Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) campaign vigorously across the country to become their parties' nominees and prepare for what would be an electric general-election clash, Bloomberg is governing the "ungovernable city" -- and patiently waiting in the wings.

Publicly, the Democrat-turned-Republican professes no interest in the top job at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But the founder of the Bloomberg financial news empire has dropped enough hints and has had enough tantalizing discussions with potential supporters that people who observe the city's politics for a living are convinced he is at least thinking about it.

"He would be a very compelling candidate," said civil rights activist Al Sharpton, himself a once and potentially future presidential hopeful from the Big Apple, and a friend of the mayor's. Sharpton called Bloomberg "Ross Perot with a resume" and predicted that "if he operates as he's done in other parts of his life, he will put both feet in."

Bloomberg, 65, has told confidants that he will not decide until early next year, when it has become clear whom Democrats and Republicans will nominate.

If he runs for president as a self-financed independent, New York could find itself home to a trio of presidential candidates, an oddity for a state and city often portrayed as far outside the mainstream of American political and social life.

"You are dealing with people who have in one way or another been perceived as having conquered New York," Sharpton said. "After that, what else is there to do but conquer the country?"

"It's the water," joked former New York mayor Edward I. Koch, who is supporting Clinton but said he would welcome Bloomberg to the race. "There's no lead in it, which can cloud your thinking."

Clear thinking might lead a politician to decide that running for president as a third-party candidate would be a fool's errand. Consumer activist Ralph Nader won about 2.7 percent of the vote in 2000. H. Ross Perot, another billionaire businessman, drew about 19 percent in 1992 after spending about $60 million of his personal fortune.

Stu Loeser, Bloomberg's press secretary, said flatly last week that his boss is not considering a presidential campaign.

"He has dinner with people. People ask him questions. He engages in conversation," Loeser said, explaining the genesis of stories about the mayor's presidential ambitions. "He has been very clear and explicit that he is not running for president."

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