Tacked onto an announcement about the city's nuisance hotline, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told political reporters Wednesday the only way he would run for president is if everyone else dropped dead.
"If everybody in the world was dead and I was the only one alive, yeah, sure," Bloomberg joked about a 2008 run.
Less than a day after announcing he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent, Bloomberg's office had sent out a press release notifying reporters of a big press conference — fueling speculation that he might announce his plans for a White House bid.
Instead, the term-limited mayor announced the 50 millionth call on the city's 311 phone line for information on government and business services. The extended announcement left reporters with a wealth of details about the city's trash pick-up service and parking ticket administration but little about a possible shake-up in the 2008 race.
On Monday, Bloomberg, 65, who had left the Democratic Party to join the GOP so he could run for mayor in 2001, said he was fed up with the way both parties are operating in Washington, D.C. He said he was becoming an independent, a position that is more in step with his operation of the city.
"Partisanship every day is becoming more important and people are looking at the issues less," Bloomberg said Tuesday. "I think that as we get involved in a lot of things that we care about for New York City but are national issues, for example getting guns out of the hands of criminals ... it would make more sense to not let being a member of one party get in the way. If you are independent, it just gives you a flexibility, and the more I thought about that, the more I think it felt right."
Bloomberg has been the object of derision of gun rights advocates who say he went too far with a sting operation that targeted gun salesmen in Virginia.
News of the party switch made headlines of major newspapers and television news stories, and left an unfilled expectation of more big news to come.
Bloomberg said that he was flattered by all the attention paid to him in the news media, though it had no impact on his plans.
"It doesn't change my future aspirations. It's very flattering and ... my thought this morning when I was looking at it I guess was a little bit selfish. I thought, you know, I am not running for president and I am going to be mayor for the next 925 days. But there's a reason why my picture was there — they thought that I would be a credible candidate, they must think that I am doing a decent job," he said
Would It Be Worth It?
The billionaire businessman could fund a presidential campaign all on his own but that doesn't mean he would win. According to the latest Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll, the mayor doesn't beat fellow New Yorkers, Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former New York City Mayor Republican Rudy Giuliani in home state polling.
The poll, conducted before Bloomberg announced his departure from the GOP, found him pulling votes about equally from Clinton and Giuliani. The poll had Clinton with the support of 43 percent of New York state registered voters, former New York City Mayor Giuliani at 29 percent and the current mayor at 16 percent.
With Bloomberg out of the equation, Clinton led Giuliani, 52 percent to 37 percent.
"Bloomberg for president? Not in New York state. At least, not yet," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Hamden, Conn.-based polling institute.
The good news for Bloomberg is that among New York City voters, he leads Giuliani, 22 percent to 14 percent. The bad news for Bloomberg: Clinton captures 54 percent of the city vote.
Clinton and Giuliani lead national polls in the battle for their respective parties' nominations.
Quinnipiac's telephone poll of 1,369 registered voters was conducted June 12-17 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Asked about the polling, Bloomberg said the polling companies shouldn't include his name in the surveys.
"I think they are wasting their time. I am not a candidate so they should get down to polling on people who are candidates, and we've got a lot of them in this country. We even have two people from New York who are candidates for president of the United States. I am not sure the state needs a third," the mayor said.
In the battle for the Democratic nomination, Clinton leads former Vice President Al Gore, 44 percent to 18 percent, with Sen. Barack Obama at 14 percent among New York voters. Gore has not entered the race.
Among Republican contenders, Giuliani leads former Sen. Fred Thompson, 46 percent to 14 percent, with Sen. John McCain of Arizona at 8 percent among New York voters. An April poll had McCain in second place in New York. Since then, Thompson has let it be known that he is seriously considering entering the race.
Greg Meuller, president of CRC Public Relations and a former senior adviser to Steve Forbes' and Pat Buchanan's presidential campaigns, said Bloomberg would probably draw more votes from Democrats than Republicans if he were to run as an independent in the 2008 race.
"Bloomberg could be to Senator Clinton or Senator Obama in '08 what Ross Perot was to President George H.W. Bush in '92," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.