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N.Y. Mayor Is Eyeing '08, Observers Say
Not running now? Or not running ever?
"The question has been asked every which way," Loeser said. "The answer is no. He has been very clear that he's not running."
But despite those denials the rumblings persist, perhaps because, unlike most politicians, Bloomberg has vast wealth that allows him the luxury to wait until next year to decide. As then-New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo (D) proved 15 years ago, there's nothing quite so appealing in politics as someone who is merely mulling a White House bid.
A close friend who has spoken to Bloomberg about the pros and cons of a presidential campaign said that "it is still on his mind." But the friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of respect for Bloomberg's privacy, said the mayor would have to be convinced that there is a compelling rationale for him to run.
"If he felt that the candidates were likely to be such that it gave him the opportunity, he would do it," the friend said. "It's a long shot, but not 100 to 1."
At No. 142 on the Forbes list of the word's richest people, Bloomberg is worth at least $5.5 billion. He controls a private company that provides real-time financial data to money managers and others around the globe. And he has built a news-gathering organization that employs more than 1,000 reporters.
A generous philanthropist, Bloomberg has pledged to eventually give away his fortune and has constructed a building around the corner from his East 79th Street townhouse to provide the headquarters for his charitable foundation. Political observers say he has enough money to blanket the country with television ads for months if he becomes a candidate.
"He'd be a candidate almost in the progressive tradition," said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York political consultant. "He could make the argument: 'A pox on both their houses.' He's a celebrity by definition because he's a billionaire."
His money -- and a post-Sept. 11 desire for a steady hand -- helped elect Bloomberg mayor in 2001. His first year was rocky; he confronted a budget deficit as high as $6 billion and pushed through an 18.5 percent property tax increase. His approval rating plunged to 41 percent.
The notion of a Bloomberg presidency grows out of his subsequent successes in New York, where he is now widely regarded as a popular, effective and smart leader who carries none of Giuliani's often polarizing personal attributes. By law, Bloomberg cannot run for a third term as mayor in 2009.
In its endorsement of his reelection in 2005, the New York Times editorial board praised his handling of the city's issues, from garbage to the homeless to crime. Bloomberg "focused on getting things done, not on getting headlines," the Times wrote, predicting that "he may be remembered as one of the greatest mayors in New York history."
The paper's only complaint: what it called the "obscene" and "out-of-control" campaign spending that Bloomberg employed to win his two campaigns. He spent about $85 million in his 2005 campaign against Democrat Fernando Ferrer.