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Published: 6/27/2007

The Bloomberg factor

"I LOVE New York " is one of those slogans that is not universally embraced across the country. While a couple of Republican mayors have polished the image of the Big Apple, and the events of 9/11 made its residents seem more sympathetic, New York City remains a nice place to visit for many Americans but they wouldn't necessarily want their president to come from there.

That is the problem facing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who may run for president but has little chance of winning. If he does run, however, the intolerably early 2008 presidential campaign just became tolerably more interesting.

Mr. Bloomberg's intentions have been the subject of speculation since at least last summer, but they dramatically revived when he recently announced that he had dropped his Republican affiliation, perhaps to position himself to run as an Independent next year. Although he has denied any ambition larger than finishing out his second term as mayor, his aides are working intensely behind the scenes to promote the idea of his candidacy.

The city finds itself in an unusual political limelight. His predecessor as mayor, Rudy Giuliani, is seeking the Republican nomination, but he is another whose New York-bred liberalism is likely to be too much for conservatives to embrace. For her part, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton works hard representing her adopted state of New York, but her problems, and her political views, did not spring from the five boroughs.

Because he has supported gay marriage, abortion rights, gun control, and stem-cell research, Mr. Bloomberg might siphon off more Democratic votes than Republican ones if he were to run as an Independent. (He was, after all, a longtime Democrat before he became a Republican).

Yet that is not certain. Candidates of both parties are busy courting their hard-core faithful in this abnormally early campaign, leaving the great middle unclaimed.

Those Democrats uneasy with their party's embrace of labor unions or those Republicans put off by the GOP's pandering to the Christian Right may very well be in the market for a third-party candidate who, in Mr. Bloomberg's case as a billionaire businessman, also promises the one thing that the Bush presidency has woefully lacked: competency.

The mayor seemed to pitch his remarks to the great middle of the electorate in explaining his change of registration: "Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles, and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular ideology."

Mr. Bloomberg may be a long shot, but this sort of independent thinking would be a timely rebuke to both parties.



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