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'NONPARTISAN APPROACH' URGED

Bloomberg Won't Run, but Says an Independent Can Win

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had considered a presidential campaign, but he wrote in today's New York Times: "I am not -- and will not be -- a candidate for president."
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had considered a presidential campaign, but he wrote in today's New York Times: "I am not -- and will not be -- a candidate for president." (By Chip Somodevilla -- Getty Images)

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By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 28, 2008

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced last night that he will not be an independent candidate for president this year, but said he is prepared to support a candidate who calls for unity over partisanship and who is willing to challenge party orthodoxy in favor of common-sense solutions to the country's problems.

He announced his decision in an article published on the op-ed page of today's New York Times. "I believe that an independent approach to these issues is essential to governing our nation -- and that an independent can win the presidency," he wrote. "I listened carefully to those who encouraged me to run, but I am not -- and will not be -- a candidate for president. I have watched this campaign unfold, and I am hopeful that the current campaigns can rise to the challenge by offering truly independent leadership."

The billionaire mayor, who is serving his second term in New York, had given repeated signs of interest in an independent presidential campaign. He traveled across the country calling for an end to bitter partisanship, and decried the ideologically driven politics seen in the nation's capital for a decade or more.

Last year, Bloomberg changed his party registration in New York from Republican to independent in what was taken as another sign of his interest in seeking the White House. He authorized extensive research into the prospects for an independent candidate to win the presidency, and aides suggested he was prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars from his personal fortune to underwrite a campaign.

Now, he said, he is prepared to get behind one of the major-party candidates, asserting that the presidential race is "too important to sit on the sidelines." Without saying whom he might favor, he wrote, "If a candidate takes an independent, nonpartisan approach -- and embraces practical solutions that challenge party orthodoxy -- I'll join others in helping that candidate win the White House."

Bloomberg's route to running depended to a considerable degree on the outcome of the Republican and Democratic nomination battles. Aides had said that his only realistic hope was that the major parties would nominate candidates from their liberal or conservative bases. That would have left the center of the electorate open to a candidate with appeal to independents and with a message of pragmatism and getting things done in Washington.

But the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, is anything but that kind of candidate. He has repeatedly clashed with members of his party and has demonstrated appeal to independent voters in his 2000 campaign and his current campaign.

On the Democratic side, the current leader in the popular vote, states won and delegates accumulated is Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. His candidacy has generated broad grass-roots support, and its message is similar to that of Bloomberg's in its appeal to turn the page on the politics of partisanship. Obama has repeatedly said his goal is to unite Democrats, independents and some Republicans into a coalition to change the country.

Obama, however, has yet to lock up the Democratic nomination against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. Contests next week in Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island offer him the opportunity to achieve an insurmountable lead.


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