NEW YORK – Michael Bloomberg may soon begin a massive operation to get on the ballot in up to 15 states even though the billionaire mayor may not decide until May whether to run for president, according to associates.
Despite John McCain’s widening lead in the Republican race, an imminent ballot deadline for third-parties in Texas and a recently expanded denial of interest from Bloomberg himself, these associates say the mayor and his operatives are actively laying necessary groundwork for an independent campaign and are in no hurry to decide whether to run.
Bloomberg’s political operatives have spent several months assembling the skeleton of a nationwide ballot-access movement, one confidant of the mayor told the Associated Press.
Bloomberg’s evaluation of his own plans could stretch all the way into May, contrary to conventional wisdom that he would make up his mind after Super Tuesday, said Doug Schoen, who was Bloomberg’s pollster in his mayoral campaigns and remains part of the mayor’s inner circle.
“This can play out over the next two to three months before he has to make a decision,” Schoen said.
Bloomberg may even launch early-state petition drives to get his name on the ballot before he decides whether to run, Schoen and another associate said. The other associate, requesting anonymity while discussing private strategy, said the early petition drives would start in Texas and likely another 10 to 15 states.
“There is a mechanism in place; there are specific steps being taken and a sense that there is a viability to his candidacy,” said Schoen, who wrote a book about how conditions are ideal this year for a third-party candidate like Bloomberg.
The ballot effort comes at the same time as a sophisticated 50-state voter analysis that Bloomberg also quietly launched in recent months, and is another sign about how seriously Bloomberg is considering a White House run, even as questions have emerged about whether his presidential balloon had begun to deflate.