Pop politics quiz: Which New York politician might be planning a late entry into the 2012 presidential race?
Hint: it’s not Rudy Giuliani and it’s not Michael Bloomberg.
The answer is former Gov. George Pataki.
After months of indicating he wouldn’t run for president, Pataki now says his decision depends on whether the other GOP contenders propose a major deficit reduction plan.
“I hope one of the Republican candidates comes out with a good, solid, serious plan,” Pataki told NBC New York. “If it doesn’t, we’ll see what may or may not happen down the road.”
The three-term Republican governor flirted with a bid for the White House in 2008, but ultimately decided not to run. He’s also stayed on the sidelines for the 2012 campaign until recently.
He formed an organization called No American Debt, which is running a TV commercial -- in early-voting New Hampshire. The ad takes aim at President Obama, but also targets Republicans who have failed to address the nation’s spiraling deficit.
“Right now the eyes of the public are on New Hampshire. And that's always the case as you approach a presidential election. We want this to be a national priority. Yes, for the Republican candidate, but certainly for this president," said Pataki.
He declined to identify a time frame for making a decision about whether to enter the race.
But the possibility of his candidacy got some internet fuel Thursday when Time blogger Mike Murphy wrote a column called “The Great New Hampshire Heist.”
Murphy wrote, “My bet? Pataki is going to try to steal the New Hampshire primary: First, ignore all the silly inside games and get on television pronto with a good message. Move up quietly in the polls — with Mitt Romney sitting at a third of the vote, Palin unelectable and Tim Pawlenty drifting near the margin of error, Pataki could televise his way into second or third place in Granite State polls by midsummer. Then let the national media discover the Pataki surge and get bonkers about it.”
NBC New York asked Pataki if New York voters have the appetite for true deficit reduction, considering they just rejected the upstate Republican who had embraced the House budget plan. When voters were asked why they chose the Democrat instead, many they said they worried about cuts to Medicare.
“It comes down to leadership,” said Pataki. “None of this is ever easy, because you cannot simply say we’re going to tinker at the margins when you have $14.3 billion of deficit. You have to be serious about it.”