With an increasingly cacophonous buzz that he's contemplating an independent run for president despite public pleas to the contrary, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a clear step toward that third-party bid on Tuesday by changing his party registration from Republican to "unaffiliated."
"I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our City," Bloomberg said in a statement, referring to how the one-time Democrat famously changed his party registration once before to run for mayor as a Republican. "A nonpartisan approach has worked wonders in New York: we've balanced budgets, grown our economy, improved public health, reformed the school system and made the nation's safest city even safer."
A Bloomberg aide tells ABC News there is a four-part test for the mayor to decide whether or not he'll get into the race after the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees are chosen next spring.
First, both party's nominees need to have unfavorable ratings at least in the 40s. Second, 70 percent of the nation needs to think the country is headed in the wrong direction, as is the case currently. We're there right now. Third, at least 60 percent of those polled need to have their minds open to a possible third-party bid. Lastly, 20 percent to 25 percent need to be open to the notion of President Mike Bloomberg. If those four criteria are met, Bloomberg will throw his hat into the ring.
ABC News' chief political correspondent George Stephanopoulos says Bloomberg's announcement taps into voters' frustrations.
"You now have a national figure giving voice to the national mood," Stephanopoulos said. "Americans are fed up with Washington. President Bush is near a record low in approval ratings. The Democratic Congress is near a record low in approval ratings. More Americans call themselves independent. He's seeing if he can create a movement out of this mood."
Bloomberg's party switch came just hours after a swing through California where Bloomberg bashed Washington, D.C., as "sinking into a swamp of dysfunction", and at a conference entitled "Cease-fire! Bridging the Partisan Divide" called for a new type of non-partisan leader.
"The point of this conference is clear," Bloomberg said Monday evening. "We do not have to settle for the same old politics. We do not have to accept the tired debate between the left and right, between Democrats and Republicans, between Congress and the White House. We can and we must declare a cease-fire — and move America forward."
At that conference -- where he told reporters he intended to serve his remaining 926 days as mayor -- Bloomberg received an endorsement of sorts from a fellow "post-partisan" liberal Republican with a reputation for reaching across the aisle: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"I myself think he would make an excellent candidate," Schwarzenegger said. "It's all about fixing problems, and creating a great vision for the future."