Mayor Michael Bloomberg, no longer a potential presidential candidate, said Thursday the candidates are starting to reflect his brand of bipartisanship and that his endorsement is up for grabs.
The billionaire mayor, who is friendly with Republican John McCain as well as Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, finally put to rest more than two years of speculation that he would launch his own independent bid for the White House. He said he had thought "long and hard" about whether to run.
"The candidates that are emerging, I think in all fairness, are showing some hopeful signs of understanding the need for independent leadership," Bloomberg told reporters. "And I believe that the most productive role I can play is to continue pushing them in that direction."
Bloomberg spoke after writing an op-ed piece for Thursday's New York Times that pledged unequivocally that he would not run this year. But the article dangled another juicy tidbit that is sure to keep him in the spotlight as the race chugs on without him: He might throw his support toward one of the campaigns.
Looking for an independent-minded candidate
Asked at a news conference what a candidate might do to win his endorsement, Bloomberg began by saying "they're all in contention."
He said he is looking for the candidate who does not work along party lines, addresses the intricacies of issues and has thought ahead to the legislative process and how to finance specific programs. He said he wants to see them "coming up with things that make some sense to me."
Obama, speaking to reporters on his campaign plane Thursday, said he will "definitely be reaching out" to Bloomberg.
"I hope that Mayor Bloomberg will look at my track record — of trying to reduce special interest influence in Washington, having commonsense energy plans that can put us on a more stable economic footing — and conclude that I'd be in the best position to put forward the kind of pragmatic kinds of commonsense solutions that he's championing in New York," Obama said.
Meanwhile, Clinton told reporters after a campaign event in Ohio that she has "the highest regard for Mayor Bloomberg" and looks forward to working with him in the future.
Bloomberg, who is closer to Democrats in his support for abortion rights, gun control, gay marriage and stem cell research, said his endorsement will not be based strictly on issues.
A Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent, the mayor said he is more interested in a candidate who has a clear business plan for executing his or her agenda, even if Bloomberg does not agree with all of it.
As for using his wealth, estimated by Forbes magazine at $11.5 billion, Bloomberg would be limited to only $2,300 in direct contributions to a presidential candidate, but he could spend an unlimited amount of his money advocating independently for a candidate as an individual, as long as he didn't coordinate his spending with a campaign and didn't form an association with other individuals.