Bloomberg: I'm Not Running for President, Really!

"I can't believe you're even asking"

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2010  |  Updated 3:00 PM EDT
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Bloomberg: I'm Not Running for President, Really!

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Bloomberg says he has no plans for higher office, yet.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday he has "no plans" to run for president and insisted that hiring Hillary Rodham Clinton's former media strategist is not a step toward a future White House bid.

But the billionaire Republican-turned-independent appeared to enjoy the speculation when asked about the political implications of Howard Wolfson joining his administration as an adviser.

Wolfson's broad political experience will likely renew national interest in Bloomberg, just as it did in the lead-up to the 2008 race, when it thrust him into the spotlight instead of letting him fade away as a second-term mayor.

Bloomberg smiled and told a reporter, "I can't believe you're even asking" about presidential plans, then went on to say he's thrilled to have someone like Wolfson leave a lucrative consulting business to join city government.

"There's no other political reason for him, whatsoever," Bloomberg said.

The former Clinton strategist has worked for both New York senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with many other New York officials.

The Democrat is known for his tough style and is an expert at the art of political jujitsu — forcing the opposition onto the defensive while making it look like the offensive.

That skill will also serve Bloomberg this term as he faces a new class of emboldened and outspoken elected officials in city government who have said they're not afraid to criticize the blunt-spoken mayor.

Wolfson's official title will be a newly created job of "counselor to the mayor," although Bloomberg said he replaces outgoing communications director James Anderson, who is leaving to work at Bloomberg's philanthropic foundation.

Wolfson will earn a $200,096 salary and advise Bloomberg on communications, policy and political strategy.

His addition to the team and Bloomberg's recent promise to focus more on national issues this term will no doubt keep alive the presidential buzz. Bloomberg would be 70 in 2012.

For two years before the last presidential election, Bloomberg denied having any White House aspirations while his associates worked behind the scenes to explore the potential of mounting a third-party bid.

He traveled the country testing his appeal and paid for polling and research on how he could get on the ballot.

He ultimately decided not to run, but the story line served to make Bloomberg relevant in what was supposed to be his last term.

When the presidential possibilities died, though, he set about getting the city's term limits law changed so that he could run again for mayor. Wolfson joined the re-election campaign early on and was one of three senior staffers who earned $400,000 bonuses on top of their salaries.
 

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