POLITICS
03/30/2015 01:35 pm ET Updated Mar 30, 2015

George Pataki Says He Is Definitely Probably Running For President

Former three-term New York Gov. George Pataki (R) has all but thrown his hat into the ring for president.

“If I were a betting person, I would bet that I would make the decision to go,” Pataki told WABC’s Rita Cosby on Sunday, adding that he is “strongly leaning towards” running.

Pataki, who has flirted with running in previous presidential primaries, added he is “closer to making that decision than I’ve ever been.”

“I know we need to change the direction of this country and in particular, our government,” he said. “I know I have the ability to not just lead a big, complex government, but to change it as I did in New York, so I’m seriously looking at it.”

“If you care about the country," he added, "it’s very hard to sit on the sideline if you believe you have the ability to run a government, like this country’s government, well.”

Pataki has made frequent trips to pivotal primary states -- including six visits to New Hampshire -- since September. Earlier this month, he attended a Republican donor event in Florida and joined other potential GOP candidates at an event in Iowa. He is scheduled to speak alongside other potential candidates at the South Carolina Freedom Summit in Greenville on May 9.

Pataki is the chairman of “We The People Not Washington,” a super PAC that, according to its website, is aimed at supporting Pataki’s vision to “dismantle the perpetual growth and overreach of the federal government and begin reducing the size of the federal government to a more appropriate level.”

Yet he told WABC Sunday that now is not the time to formally launch a campaign. “Given the way the federal rules are structured, I am not going to make that announcement, or the decision, at this time,” he said.

Pataki would enter the race slightly to the left of many in the crowded field of GOP presidential hopefuls. He has previously said that he is pro-choice and that he believes decisions on same-sex marriage should be left up to the states. And although he has said he doesn’t see the need for new federal gun laws, as governor of New York signed some of the nation’s tightest gun regulations.

On Sunday he also attacked Hillary Clinton for using her private email while serving as secretary of state, saying the likely Democratic presidential nominee should “be held accountable” for her actions.

“I find it inconceivable that for four years she never on that server said one thing that was classified while serving as secretary of state,” he said.

And he criticized President Barack Obama for not being aggressive enough toward the Islamic State group.

“I was governor on September 11th, and I saw the consequences of government thinking that because this radical Islam was thousands of thousands of miles overseas, it didn’t pose a threat to us,” he said. “It obviously did.”

“We cannot sit back and simply say they are over there,” he added. “They want to attack us here and I believe we have to go in, destroy as many of them as we can, as quickly as we can, destroy their recruiting centers and training facilities and then get out.”

In an interview with The New York Post earlier this month, Pataki positioned himself as a humble, Republican farm boy from a blue state.

“I’m from New York and I probably spent more of my life on a farm than anybody out there,” he said, referring to his GOP primary opponents. Pataki grew up on a farm in Peekskill and currently operates a cherry farm with his wife, where they also own 85 head of cattle.

“I am not unaccustomed to getting my hands dirty on a farm,” he said.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is the only top-tier Republican candidate to have officially launched a campaign. Other likely candidates include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

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