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A Bloomberg Run Looks Less Likely

By Peter Brown

The political events of the past few weeks have conspired to reduce to unlikely the chances that Michael Bloomberg will run for president.

There's no inside information here, just an analysis of how the political cookie has crumbled.

The New York mayor continues to tell questioners that he is not planning an independent presidential candidacy, but his past actions have fueled speculation that he hasn't ruled out such a run. In recent days, his denials have seemed firmer, yet his aides continue to feed speculation that he may run.

In the last week, there have been two developments that would seem to make his candidacy less likely.

Sen. John McCain appears to have virtually wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination, with his solid performance on Super Tuesday.

Neither Hillary Rodham Clinton nor Barack Obama has been able to clinch the Democratic nomination, and their fight will go on, perhaps for many months.

The selection of McCain means that the GOP nominee will be the least conservative of the potential contenders and, perhaps more important, less polarizing than might be the case if one of the other Republicans had triumphed.

Bloomberg's chances would be better, almost everyone agrees, if the Republicans were to nominate a far-right candidate - a description that does not fit McCain - and the Democrats, one from the far left.

Although Obama is considered farther to the left than Clinton - he was judged to have the most liberal voting record in the Senate last year by the respected and nonpartisan National Journal - he is considered a less divisive figure than is she.

It is also possible that the polls Bloomberg reportedly commissioned to gauge his standing with voters may not have been encouraging for a candidacy.

Separate Quinnipiac University polls done last summer in Florida and Ohio, two of the key states in the Electoral College, found that Bloomberg was not that well-known. Even among the minority who said they had an opinion of him, as many viewed him unfavorably as viewed him favorably - not a good omen.

All along, the idea behind a Bloomberg independent candidacy was that he could offer a pragmatic, non-ideological option to voters unhappy with the partisan bickering in Washington.

With McCain, who is not seen as much of a polarizing figure, in the race, it might make it difficult for Bloomberg to argue that he is the only one able to get things done in Washington. McCain can boast of a long Senate career in which his efforts at bipartisanship have often been criticized by more ideological members of his own party.

Moreover, the lack of a clear Democratic nominee at this point creates problems for Bloomberg in two areas. First of all, the clock is ticking. If Bloomberg wants to launch an independent candidacy, he needs to get on with it, and a key factor in his decision will be the Democratic and Republican nominees.

There are upcoming deadlines he must meet to be able to get on states' ballots, not to mention the task of organizing a presidential campaign in all 50 states without any party structure to help.

Of course, the billions of dollars in his personal fortune would make things a lot easier for him than for most candidates. He presumably would not have to spend the huge amount of time candidates normally devote to fundraising.

Bloomberg spent about $160 million of his own money in a landslide reelection as New York mayor in 2005 and reportedly would be willing to toss in $1 billion for a White House run.

That would likely be required, since time is running short. Next month, Texas will be the first state to begin gathering petitions to gain ballot access. Yet Bloomberg is apparently confident that the logistical obstacles to an independent White House effort - getting on the ballot, creating campaign operations in all states, hiring staff, etc. - can be surmounted.

The unknown for Bloomberg is how well he will play off-Broadway, in much of America where New York City is not necessarily thought of lovingly.

The New York Times has reported that Bloomberg's bottom line is that he will run only if he thinks he can win and will decline to do so just to influence the election. No non-major-party candidate has ever come even close to winning the White House.

The developments of recent weeks seem to make that possibility even more remote, hence the increasing likelihood Bloomberg will take a pass.

Peter A. Brown is assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. He can be reached at

Copyright 2008, Politico

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