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Originally published Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Analysis fuels talk of Bloomberg run

With presidential prospects in both parties volatile, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been polling and conducting a sophisticated voter...

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — With presidential prospects in both parties volatile, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been polling and conducting a sophisticated voter analysis in all 50 states as he decides whether to launch an independent presidential bid, associates said Wednesday.

The data collection started months ago, and when the review begins shortly, it will provide the data-obsessed billionaire businessman with the information he will use to decide whether to make a third-party run for the White House.

The scope of the research demonstrates how seriously Bloomberg is considering running for president despite his almost-daily denials that he isn't entering the race.

"They want a hardheaded sense of their chances," said Doug Schoen, who spearheaded Bloomberg's voter-database efforts, known as microtargeting, for his two mayoral campaigns.

Bloomberg's spokesman Stu Loeser declined to comment.

Schoen said he is not working for Bloomberg now, but he is part of the mayor's inner circle and in a new book, "Declaring Independence," he discusses how a third-party candidate could run for president.

Schoen was widely recognized for his microtargeting work in Bloomberg's first campaign. It was considered a groundbreaking concept in 2001 to gather and use information on individual voters, rather than voting blocs, to tailor and tweak the campaign message, advertisements and overall theme.

Using the microtargeting model, research firms working for Bloomberg, 65, are gathering information on voters throughout the country, such has who owns a home, has children in college, where they vacation, type of car or computer and past political support. The information will then be arranged to create a picture of each individual.

The data will then be analyzed to determine how each voter fits into several categories: "strong supporter," "persuadable supporter" or "potential volunteer."

New York state Independence Party Chairman Frank McKay said he began getting calls about Bloomberg-related polling from states such as Wyoming, Minnesota and New Mexico in early December. The pace of the polling appears to have picked up the past two weeks, McKay said.

"It's all coming down to one word — polling — and he's doing a ton of it," McKay said Wednesday night.

Bloomberg's public denials of any interest in running are getting weaker; he typically says only that he is "not a candidate."

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On Monday, he participated in a bipartisan summit in Oklahoma that fueled speculation about his interest in seeking the presidency.

On Wednesday, the mayor repeated his stock denial.

"I am not a candidate for being president of the United States," he said. "Dec. 31, 2009, I'll have my last day at City Hall," he said. "On Jan. 1, 2010, I will go to the inauguration of my successor. On Jan. 2, 2010, I'll take my mother out to dinner for what will be her 101st birthday. On the third of January, I think I'll go and play golf for three or four days ... and then a life of philanthropy I think is what is going to happen."

William Cunningham, who worked on Bloomberg's mayoral campaigns and was communications director during his first term, said it makes sense that Bloomberg — who founded the financial-information company, Bloomberg — would gather voter information this way.

"The mayor has both built a business and managed the city by using data and analyzing it, so it would seem to me that any other venture he gets involved in, he'd be analyzing and collecting data," he said.

For Bloomberg's campaigns in 2001 and 2005, he spent more than $155 million, and in both cases, poured millions into the development of his voter database.

The obstacles to a third-party victory are enormous, but Schoen said they are not insurmountable.

Previous independent bids such as those by George Wallace, John Anderson and Ross Perot faced problems of money, organization and ballot access that someone like Bloomberg could more easily overcome.

The mayor has the money: Fortune magazine estimates his worth in the neighborhood of $11.5 billion, and others have speculated it could be double that.

Next comes organization, and Bloomberg operatives think they could recruit 1 million volunteers within a month of launching a campaign, aided by information gleaned from the voter database.

A major task for the volunteer force would be doing the ground work to get him on the ballot, a tricky process that differs wildly by state.

The first deadline to get on a state ballot is May 12 in Texas, and petitioners can only begin collecting signatures after the state's March 4 major-party primary.

Material from Newsday is included in this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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