Pataki exploring 2016 White House run

Former New York Gov. George Pataki told Fox News on Monday he's "seriously" exploring a 2016 Republican bid for president.

The former governor said he plans to travel to New Hampshire on Tuesday to meet with political figures and citizens, and "lay out my ideas" for the country.

"I'm thinking about it very seriously," Pataki told Fox News, when asked if he might run.

The move comes just days after 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney told supporters he would not run for the GOP nomination in 2016, after flirting with a potential candidacy for much of January.

While Romney's exit left former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as a likely favorite for the so-called Republican establishment, a new Iowa poll released over the weekend showed Bush ranking only in the middle of the pack. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was on top of the field in that survey.

Whether Pataki, who for more than a decade was a major figure in the Republican establishment and is cut from a similar partisan cloth as Bush and Romney, could carve out his own niche in the primaries is an open question.

Pataki, 69, has been teasing his own run for the White House for some time. The three-term former New York governor announced early on that he was weighing one, and in October launched a super PAC called Americans for Real Change, which produced an ad this past fall timed with earlier visits to New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state.

He made appearances recently on Fox News praising the New York City Police Department in the wake of the execution-style killing of two police officers, and accused New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Attorney General Eric Holder of putting officers' lives at risk.

Pataki served as governor from 1995 through 2006. The lengthy tenure was the pinnacle of a long career in politics that began with a run for mayor in his hometown of Peekskill. He won in 1981, and served two terms before going on to the New York State Assembly, then the State Senate, where he served one term.

He rode a national Republican wave into the governor's mansion in 1994, and was held in high esteem as a fiscal conservative who was able to win the top office in a traditionally blue state. But his positions on gun control, gay rights and global warming created a schism with his more socially conservative supporters, and fiscal conservatives were still underwhelmed by his economic policies during his years as governor. These complaints, analysts have noted as he has flirted with a 2016 bid, could have an effect on his success in the Republican primaries, should he run.

Nonetheless, he has taken a populist, small-government tone in recent television appearances and PAC commercials.

"Big government benefits the rich and powerful. They can afford to play the game -- you can't," he said in one televised ad. "It's time for a new America, with much smaller federal government. Washington can't run the economy, and shouldn't try to run our lives."

Though he has been mentioned frequently over the years as a potential U.S. Senate or vice presidential candidate, Pataki, who has continued working on energy and climate issues in his post-government career, has not been included in several recent presidential polls.