NEW YORK New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg denied again on Wednesday he would run for president but his latest critique of the U.S. political system has stirred new speculation about his political plans.
Bloomberg's newest comments on national politics come at a time of voter discontent with the major political parties. He also has a record of changing his mind.
"There are those that suggest 2012 will be the ideal opportunity for somebody who's willing to spend a billion dollars to win the presidency," said Scott Levenson, president of The Advance Group, a Democratic political consulting firm.
"I don't know why anyone would count that out as a possibility," he said.
Bloomberg himself tried to count that possibility out on the "CBS Evening News," telling interviewer Katie Couric: "I'm not going to run for president. Period. End of story."
Bloomberg has made similar comments before, which did not end speculation about his political future.
Levenson attributed that largely to Bloomberg's previous pledge not to seek a third term as mayor. He then engineered changes in the city's term limits law so he could run again in 2009, when he won with a self-financed campaign.
In a speech on Wednesday, he said Americans were growing more frustrated and skeptical about government.
"As families struggle to get by, they have seen little but influence-peddling. Finger-pointing, blame games, and endless attacks. Put simply: when it comes to creating jobs, government hasn't gotten the job done," Bloomberg said.
That followed comments in an interview with GQ magazine for the December issue in which Bloomberg directly criticized Democratic President Barack Obama, saying he needed better advisers and that he had angered both his supporters and his opponents by changing positions when under political pressure.
"Throughout American history, we have Americans rising up and saying the existing system is rotten, follow me. There is no evidence at this point the mayor is going down that road, but maybe he is," said William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Forbes magazine ranks Bloomberg 23rd on the list of the world's billionaires with an estimated net worth of $18 billion, built mostly from his financial news and information company Bloomberg LP, a direct competitor to Thomson Reuters.
A longtime Democrat, Bloomberg became a Republican to run for mayor in 2001. He was re-elected as a Republican in 2005 and ran as an independent, although with Republican backing, in 2009.
Bloomberg opted for a third term as mayor after considering a run for the White House in 2008, which he abandoned after advisers concluded he could not win.
Just last month, Bloomberg said he doubted an independent could win the White House in 2012, perhaps the best reason to believe he may stay out of the race.
"There's always czar and emperor should the presidency not be available," Levenson said. "When you have $17 billion fortune and a political environment and a media that is ready to be bought and paid for, potential is limitless."
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Basil Katz; Editing by Peter Cooney)