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Will Bloomberg Run for President?

NEWS
Will Bloomberg Run for President?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mayor Bloomberg had a public lunch last week with a bunch of fellow billionaires – the kind of people who will pay more taxes under President Obama’s health reforms and are wary of Democrats writing new Wall Street regulations.

He was introduced by hedge funder Donald Marron, who joked they may need Bloomberg as President by 2013.

“I’m not running,” Bloomberg said later. “Don’t worry about that.”

Except that his closest advisers never stopped thinking about it.

The mayor is mired in his usual work of balancing the budget and dealing with Albany. He keeps himself busy by expanding his foundation and watching his growing business.

None of that is the sort of Next Big Thing that captures Bloomberg’s imagination.

Running for President? That’s different. He had a taste of it in 2008. He liked the flavor.

“That’s the impression everyone has,” said someone plugged into Bloomberg’s thinking. “Otherwise [former Deputy Mayor Kevin] Sheekey wouldn’t have gone to Bloomberg L.P.”

A third-party campaign by a divorced New York Jew was a long shot in 2008, and it would be an even longer shot in 2012. But still, Sheekey has left City Hall for the mayor’s company, where the bosses would be lenient if he needed some time to play politics.

Sheekey was replaced by Howard Wolfson, a veteran of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The mayor’s campaign manager, Bradley Tusk, is now a political consultant for hire.

They are watching and waiting, doing their day jobs but paying attention to the prevailing winds.

“There’s no way in April 2010 to know what the climate is going to be in November 2012,” said a Bloomberg veteran.

Bloomberg’s last presidential flirtation was predicated on the hope that Democrats and Republicans would nominate hard-edged ideologues who would rub the broad middle of America the wrong way. Hillary Clinton on the left and Rudy Giuliani on the right, his team figured, would leave an opening for a pragmatic independent like Bloomberg who could finance his own campaign without worrying about party infrastructure.

It didn’t work out that way. Obama ran as a reasonable moderate who could end partisanship and bring the country together – taking up the space Bloomberg needed.

Now look forward. If Obama can recover his honeymoon image as a responsible centrist – and if the economy starts humming again – it’s tough to imagine Bloomberg taking on a strong incumbent. If not? If Obama is seen as a doctrinaire Democrat and Tea Partyers take over the GOP?

Bloomberg would love to be President. His confidants would love to help him. Consultants would love to jump on his payroll.

In the meantime, Bloomberg offers measured praise for Obama. “I think he’s doing a good job,” Bloomberg said last week. “You want the President to succeed. If you disagree with him, in the last year, that’s the time to campaign against him. Throw him out and put somebody else in.”

Perhaps Bloomberg was being hypothetical. Perhaps not.

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