As if the punditocracy had nothing else to talk about, now comes word that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking a concrete step toward running for president as an independent.
Bloomberg, the two-term mayor of New York who bills himself as a pragmatic progressive, is planning to attend a conference this weekend at the University of Oklahoma to discuss ways to minimize partisan stalemate and rancor in Washington. The prime organizer, former Sen. David Boren, now president of the University of Oklahoma, says openly that 2008 may be an excellent time for an independent candidate should the major parties' nominees seem headed for more deadlock if elected.
Other participants expected are former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
The Washington Post and the New York Times both carried stories about the conference in the past two days, prompting speculation that Bloomberg is more serious than ever about an independent candidacy.
Among his advantages would be his success as mayor, his reputation as a problem solver, and his personal fortune, estimated at more than $2 billion. Bloomberg has spent his own funds freely in his two successful mayoral races and would be expected to significantly self-finance a presidential bid if he ran.
Bloomberg loyalists say they are prepared to begin the process of ensuring a place for him on state ballots in case he decides to enter the race.
The last major independent or third-party candidate was Ross Perot, a Texas billionaire who got 19 percent of the vote in 1992 but failed to carry a single state or win a single electoral vote.
Consumer activist Ralph Nader also ran for president in recent cycles, and many Democrats feel he seriously damaged as a spoiler Al Gore's prospects in 2000.
By Kenneth T. Walsh