Bloomberg Champions Moderates in Year of Extremes

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Barring rewriting the law -- a feat he has pulled in the past -- this will be his final term as mayor of New York, which has led to much guesswork about his next political move. Some interpret the political endorsements as the first stirrings of a 2012 presidential run.

Wolfson, who incidentally played an integral role in Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, said Bloomberg "has flatly ruled out a 2012 run." That hasn't stemmed the tide of rumors. New York Magazine's recent cover story went to great lengths to explain how Bloomberg throwing himself into the 2012 race as an independent would be Sarah Palin's best shot at the presidency.

"I'm guessing ... he wants to see whether or not there is a permanent moderate constituency, and if he could tap into that as an independent candidate," said Stephen Wayne of Georgetown University.

Republicans and Democrats Make It Tough for Third Party Contenders

Wayne is quick to point out that third party candidates have several strikes against them. The majority of Americans identify themselves as Republican or Democrat, he said, and since 1988 there has been a high correlation between party affiliation and voting behavior, e.g., 90 percent of Democrats voted for Obama in 2008, and 90 percent voted for McCain. Finally, said Wayne, the laws governing elections are made by Democrats and Republicans, and they are specifically designed to make it difficult for third party candidates to get on the ballot. Still, a Bloomberg run could influence the political playing field.

"By running a moderate campaign, [Bloomberg] will move both parties toward the center," said Wayne. "The question is how long will they stay there after the election, which is hard to say."

For the present, the White House has its eye on the mayor's shuffle onto the national stage. In the past few months, Obama has invited Bloomberg for a round of golf on Martha's Vineyard, dispatched Vice President Joe Biden to Gracie Mansion to seek the mayor's economic advice, and even hinted that Bloomberg is in the running to become the next Treasury secretary.

But for Bloomberg, that might be akin to settling, something this billionaire and former CEO is loath to do.

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