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NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's latest critique of the U.S. political system on Wednesday stirred renewed debate whether the independent billionaire may mount a third-party run for the White House.
Bloomberg has said repeatedly he will not run for president in 2012, but he also once ruled out seeking 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 for the third time with a self-financed campaign.
His comments on national politics have kept him in the conversation at a time of voter discontent with the major political parties. On Wednesday, he said Americans were growing more frustrated and skeptical about government.
"As families struggle to get by, they have seen little but partisan gridlock, political pandering and legislative 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 in a speech.
That followed comments in an interview with GQ magazine for the December issue in which Bloomberg directly criticized Obama, saying he needed better advisers and had angered both his supporters and 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.
Regardless, the speculation about a White House run refuses to die.
"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.
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