After two years of playing coy about his presidential ambitions, Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared in a newspaper editorial Wednesday that he will not run for president as an independent and said he might support the candidate who "takes an independent, nonpartisan approach."
The 66-year-old billionaire businessman, who aides had said was prepared to spend $1 billion on his own independent campaign, wrote in an opinion column posted on the New York Times' Web site that he will be working to "steer the national conversation away from partisanship and toward unity; away from ideology and toward common sense; away from sound bites and toward substance."
Bloomberg, who has almost two years left in his second term at City Hall, had publicly denied any interest in running for president since one of his political advisers first planted the seed more than two years ago.
But his denials grew weaker in recent months as aides and supporters quietly began laying the groundwork for a third-party campaign.
"I listened carefully to those who encouraged me to run, but I am not — and will not be — a candidate for president," he wrote.
Among his biggest obstacles was getting on the ballot, a process that varies wildly from state to state and would have required him to obtain hundreds of thousands of signatures according to a timetable on which the first key date is March 5.
Bloomberg did not say why he had decided not to run and was critical of the Republican and Democratic contenders, saying they appeared afraid to "level with" voters on many important issues such as trade, the environment and immigration.
"I believe that an independent approach to these issues is essential to governing our nation and that an independent can win the presidency," he wrote. "I have watched this campaign unfold, and I am hopeful that the current campaigns can rise to the challenge by offering truly independent leadership.