New centrist group gives reluctant Mayor Bloomberg platform for presidential run

The powerful mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, moved yesterday to extinguish renewed speculation that he could put his hat in the 2012 presidential ring while touting his own vision of ending partisan squabbling in Washington better to govern the country.

His remarks to NBC television came on the eve of the unveiling in Manhattan this morning of a newly minted political organisation called No Labels, dedicated to the notion of compromise in the centre at a time when the ideological divide in American politics is more obvious than ever. Among a long list of glittering names expected to grace the event, Mr Bloomberg's is perhaps the most prominent.

"No way, no how," Mr Bloomberg, who is in his third term running New York, responded when asked about fresh rumours that the White House may be the next prize in his sights. "I'm not going to run for President," he went on. "I've great job. I want to go out being, having a reputation, as a very good, maybe the greatest mayor ever."

Mr Bloomberg, who became a multi-billionaire with the electronic financial data and news company that bears his name, has often showed a knack for generating precisely that kind of speculation. It has mushroomed again recently, in part because of anticipation ahead of the first No Labels conference.

He also yesterday ruled out changing his mind about running for the White House. Yet most political commentators believe he might be tempted to push open that door again if he decides that the main party candidates nominated during 2008 would worsen the polarisation of American politics. That could be the scenario if, for instance, Mr Obama were to face Sarah Palin in the election.

If a Bloomberg candidacy were to emerge, he could certainly expect the support of the No Labels group, in the same way that rallies behind whomever the Democrats put forward and that the Tea Party has sprung up to give grassroots backing to the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

The slogan of the group makes its aims clear: "No Labels. Not Left. Not Right. Forward." Among its founders and lead organisers is Mark McKinnon, a Republican consultant who worked on the John McCain campaign in 2008.

"The driving rationale for No Labels is that we know there are millions of Americans who are sick of the hyper-partisanship in Washington," he said last week. "We are not the Tea Party, and we are not MoveOn. We are just a passionate band of citizens dedicated to a more civil dialogue and hope to be a microphone to amplify the voices of millions of Americans from the vast middle of America."

Others apart from Mr Bloomberg expected to speak at the No Labels conference today include Antonio Villaraigosa, Democratic Mayor of Los Angeles, the retiring Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, also a Democrat, and Joe Scarborough, a former Republican member of Congress who is now a political anchor for the MSNBC cable news network.

Third party candidates

* Ralph Nader Ran several times, most notably in 2000. Blamed by Democrats for splitting the liberal vote, and thereby "losing" the election for Al Gore with his 2.7 per cent of the total.

* Ross Perot Ran twice. As an independent in 1992, pushing a libertarian agenda, the billionaire picked away support from George Bush Snr and managed to get 19 per cent of the total.

* Theodore Roosevelt After eight years as Republican President, ran with the progressive "Bull Moose" Party in 1912. Won 27 per cent support, dividing the right-wing vote and handing presidency to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

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