|Michael Bloomberg said he might lend his support to a candidate who takes an independent approach. (Associated Press/File)|
NEW YORK - After two years of playing coy about his presidential ambitions, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he will not run for president as an independent, declaring in a newspaper editorial that he might lend his support to a 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 campaign, wrote in a
"I listened carefully to those who encouraged me to run," Bloomberg wrote, "but I am not - and will not be - a candidate for president."
Bloomberg, who grew up in Medford, Mass., has two years left in his second term at City Hall. He had publicly denied any interest in running for president since a political adviser planted the seed 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.
Among his biggest obstacles was getting on the ballot, a process that varies significantly from state to state and would have required him to obtain hundreds of thousands of signatures according to a timetable whose first key date is March 5.
Bloomberg's preparation for a presidential bid was extensive. The work included mass polling and nationwide data collection to determine his viability as a candidate.
Associates had said in recent days that Senator Barack Obama's rise in the Democratic contest against Senator Hillary Clinton was increasingly diminishing the chance that Bloomberg would run.
In the Times editorial, posted online last night, Bloomberg wrote that while he is not running, the race is too important for him to stay completely out.
"And so I have changed my mind in one area," he said. "If a candidate takes an independent, nonpartisan approach - and embraces practical solutions that challenge party orthodoxy - I'll join others in helping that candidate win the White House."
Putting his endorsement - and wealth - behind a candidate could make a significant difference. And Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent, has ties to Obama, Clinton, and Republican Arizona Senator John McCain.
Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Atlanta, is the most prominent black leader to defect from Clinton's campaign. He also is a superdelegate who gets a vote at this summer's national convention in Denver.
Two weeks ago, he had said he was planning to switch his vote as a superdelegate to Obama. He formally endorsed the Illinois senator yesterday.
"I will release my tax returns," Clinton said during a debate Tuesday night with Democratic rival Barack Obama. "I have consistently said I will do that once I become the nominee, or even earlier."
Pressed about the timing of releasing her tax returns, campaign aides were more reticent, indicating that Clinton would not release the sensitive financial data during a hotly contested primary, but only at tax-filing time.
The debate drew 7.8 million viewers, making it the third-rated debate this political season.