Yes, well - No -- maybe?
Sara Kugler at the Associated Press reads the media tea leaves for the answer.
When a big-time politician changes a crucial word in a stock response, people notice. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's denials that he is running for president seem to be getting weaker.
In three nationally televised interviews and a news conference over the past week, the billionaire independent dropped the phrase "I'm not running" from his responses, which had been nearly automatic up until then.
Instead, the mayor is going with "I'm not a candidate" -- more a statement of fact than intention. [...]
Bloomberg's responses to questions about his political future have slowly morphed since the presidential speculation first sprouted from a seed planted in 2005 by his political adviser and deputy mayor, Kevin Sheekey.
Asked in early 2006 if there was anything that might change his mind about not running, Bloomberg retorted: "Which letter of the word 'No' do you not understand?" When it came up again a few months later, he ridiculed the idea and dismissed the speculation as "a very fun game to play."
In May, just before he announced he was dropping his Republican affiliation to become an independent, he acted exasperated with the whole presidential story line.
"I'm not running for president, I'm not planning to -- what else do you need?" he said at a news conference.
The following month, shortly after he bolted the GOP, he allowed one scenario in which he might be willing to run: only if he were the last person alive on Earth. Then, maybe.
A few weeks later, while still saying "I'm not running," Bloomberg surmised that the attention he was receiving must be "a reflection of people's dissatisfaction with the gridlock and the way this country is going."
Later in the summer, during an interview with Dan Rather, Bloomberg did some speculating of his own.
"Nobody's going to elect me president of the United States," he predicted.
He also wouldn't "categorically" close the door on running, which is interesting mostly because he enthusiastically does so when asked about other potential political paths. Consider, for instance, this pledge: "I categorically will not run for governor," he said Tuesday in response to a New York Post story that raised the idea.
But back to the presidential trajectory.
In September, he posted a statement on his personal Web site, answering a question that no one had asked that day. No, he's not running, but there just happens to be a void in the candidate field.
"For too long, the American people have been served up empty promises based on what politicians think we want to hear," he said. "It's time for something real. ... That's what this upcoming campaign needs to be about."
Then last week, Bloomberg stopped saying he isn't running, starting with an interview on CNN. He also ducked a request to rule out the possibility, insisting it was the wrong question.
"What you have to ask is why can't we get the candidates that are running -- and there are plenty declared candidates, both Republican and Democrat -- why can't they stop this partisan bickering in Washington?" he said. "Why can't they address the issues? Why do we have this continued money-and-influence kind of politics that's wrong?"
It looks like Bloomberg relishes being the "what if" guy in the race. After seeing Fred Thompson play that role to the hilt, and fail miserably, it's a wonder why Bloomberg would do the same.
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