WASHINGTON - Supporters of a third-party presidential bid by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a 50-state petition drive Tuesday seeking to "draft" the billionaire who is edging closer to entering the race while continuing to deny he is a candidate.
The petition effort was announced by two veteran political hands who say the current system in Washington is broken and needs a nonpartisan, pragmatic leader like Bloomberg.
Gerald Rafshoon, a former spokesman for President Jimmy Carter, and Doug Bailey, a longtime Republican consultant, are not the first to launch an online petition drive for the mayor, but their move comes at the height of primary campaign season. The two filed papers with the Federal Election Commission and the IRS to start the draft Bloomberg effort.
"He'd be a very unique candidate for a very unique time," said Rafshoon.
Bloomberg, a 65-year-old Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent continues to maintain that he is not a candidate, but has quietly been polling and conducting a sophisticated voter analysis in every state as he decides whether to launch a presidential bid.
In New York, the mayor demurred Tuesday when asked about the new appeal.
"It's very flattering but I am not a candidate for president of the United States. I've got a job which I think is a phenomenal job," he said.
Bloomberg's supporters say part of his appeal is that he would not take campaign donations, and instead self-fund the bid by drawing on the billions he made building a media empire.
The nascent pro-Bloomberg group said they are enthusiastic about the mayor not because of any position he has taken, but due to his resume as a CEO and elected official - particularly as the country moves closer toward a possible recession.
"It's the economy stupid, and I would put my chips on Michael Bloomberg with his experience and his ideas," said Rashoon.
In a year where most voters say they are fed up with Washington and worried about the economic future, the 2008 election campaign has seen candidates of both parties sell themselves as the most likely to make significant changes as president.
Bloomberg, his backers argue, is the most likely to deliver on such promises.
Bailey, who founded a political consulting firm in 1968, said the mayor has too much money to be beholden to special interests.
Asked why a billionaire politician would need help from a petition drive, Bailey said: "I'm not sure it is necessary. I hope it is helpful in convincing him."
On the Net:
Draft Bloomberg Committee: http://www.draftbloomberg.com