As the political world holds its breath to see if Michael Bloomberg will make a long-rumored run for the White House, those familiar with the mayor's thinking and those charting a possible bid say a decision could be as much as two months away.
On Friday, the New York Times higlighted that New Yorkers, many media outlets, and even members of Bloomberg's administration have grown impatient with the mayor's prolonged flirtation with the 2008 race.
"Bloomberg's dalliance with the idea of running for president has stretched on and on, with his enthusiastic approval despite the public denials," the Times reported. "But even before actually entering the contest, Mr. Bloomberg may have already risked losing something: people's patience."
And yet, all signs suggest that voter tolerance for Bloomberg's indecisiveness will likely be tested even further. According to those with direct knowledge of the mayor's decision making, it is highly unlikely that he will launch a presidential bid without first seeing which candidates emerge from the Republican and Democratic primaries. The more "divisive" the field -- see: Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee -- the more likely it is Bloomberg offers up his name. Those close to the mayor say such a scenario comes up frequently in conversation.
"I think that [impatience] is a view that a few people hold, but not many," said Doug Bailey, a longtime Republican consultant and former head of the centrist organization Unity08. "There may be some frustration in the parts of the media, but I don't sense it on the part of the public... [Bloomberg] should make a decision in mid-February based upon having seen the results from February 5th [the super-primary] and some assessment as to the nominees of each party."
But, as Bailey notes, Bloomberg may not have time to waste in order to build an effective infrastructure should he choose to run for the White House. Fundraising is not a problem for the billionaire mayor. But getting on state ballots, researching voter issues, and organizing campaign advisers, operatives, and a running mate all pose formidable tasks. Bloomberg is reportedly investing money into conducting national polls, and the Huffington Post previously reported that the mayor has conducted foreign policy tutorial sessions with former Clinton administration official Nancy Soderberg.
"As a practical matter the Mayor ought to make a decision based upon as much knowledge as he can collect," said Bailey.
Added Carey Campbell, national chairman of the Draft Michael Bloomberg Committee: "It's at least two month before it's appropriate for him to make a commitment. We have to produce the grassroots effort that would convince him he is needed on the ballot."
On Friday night, Bailey and fellow Unity08 founder Gerald Rafshoon, a former official in the Carter administration, left the organization to start their own 50-state signature-gathering operation on behalf Bloomberg. According to Elizabeth Benjamin of the New York Daily News, the move was approved by the mayor's staff.
Campbell said that he hoped to combine forces with the Bailey and Rafshoon to launch the ballot drives and political organizing needed to convince Bloomberg to run. That process, he said, will take some time.
"It's our job to leave Mr. Bloomberg's jobs open," said Campbell. "It isn't time for Mr. Bloomberg to commit yet. There is a whole lot of work that remains to be done before that. Those of us who want him to run have to continue the network we are trying to build. We need to go out there and get the signatures to put him on the ballot."