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Bloomberg Leaves GOP, Denies Presidential Rumors

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this week he is leaving the Republican Party to become an independent, fueling speculation that he plans to run for president in 2008. A political reporter discusses the move.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, suddenly a politician without a party. NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    New York Mayor Bloomberg tried today to dampen speculation that he would run for president.

    MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, Mayor of New York City: I'm not running for president, and I'm going to be mayor for the next 925 days.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Bloomberg insisted that he would see out his second term, but added…

  • MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

    I do think the more people that run for office, the better.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The 65-year-old multi-billionaire businessman-turned-mayor fueled the speculation yesterday when, after six years as a Republican, he changed his political status to "unaffiliated." In a statement, he said, "I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our city."

    This isn't the first time Bloomberg has switched his political affiliation. The longtime Democrat jumped to the GOP to run for mayor in 2001.

    Bloomberg made his billions with a steady rise through the ranks on Wall Street that culminated in his giant financial news and media empire, Bloomberg L.P. He spent a reported $70 million of his own money in his first try for elected office, narrowly beating Democrat Mark Green.

    Taking over with the endorsement of popular predecessor Rudy Giuliani after the September 11th attacks, Mayor Bloomberg took unpopular stands on some issues. He raised property taxes to boost the city's battered post-9/11 economy; took over its public school system; enacted a smoking ban and a city ban on trans-fats in foods.

    But in 2005, Bloomberg went on to win a second term by a wide margin, and his efforts to reduce crime, handle a citywide transit strike, and jumpstart plans for the Ground Zero site increased his popularity with many New Yorkers. Today, Bloomberg enjoys nearly his highest approval ratings, about 74 percent.

    Bloomberg has garnered attention on the national stage for his calls to combat global warming and crack down on illegal guns. Yesterday, after a conference in Los Angeles aimed at bridging the partisan divides in American politics, Bloomberg and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke with the NewsHour's Judy Woodruff.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    If you feel so strongly about these issues, why not run as an independent, as some have done in the past, at the very least to get those issues out there and in the national debate?

  • MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

    You don't have to run for president to get the issues out there. The only reason to run for president is to win and be president and to affect, not just the dialogue, but to change things.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So you would only run if you thought you could win?

  • MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

    Oh, I think anybody that runs for anything should want to run to win. I can't imagine why you would run to lose.