He is always in motion. Last Thursday evening, in Washington's ornate Union Station on Capitol Hill, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg spoke to a dinner for Conservation International on how to address climate change. The glittery crowd—it included Queen Noor and Harrison Ford—loved him, and, Washington being Washington, the question of whether Bloomberg might make an independent run for the White House was an implicit Topic A. At cocktails, a top Democrat told me he just did not see how a Bloomberg campaign would work. After Bloomberg's rousing talk about common-sense solutions and candor, the Democrat stopped me. "I want to revise my remarks," he said.
Bloomberg, meanwhile, was already on to the next event—a late-night flight across the country to the other Washington. "C'mon," he said. "Let's go to Seattle." He swept out, piled his entourage into black Suburbans and was soon aboard one of his three jets. In the air, after exchanging his pinstripes for faded blue jeans and an orange golf sweater, Bloomberg had a sandwich and slept for a few hours.
Even at rest, then, he was moving. For our cover story, I spent a good deal of time with Bloomberg, the most interesting wild card in the 2008 presidential race. We have had rich men who thought they should be president, but the Bloomberg scenario is unique, for he is a rich man with a strong record of governing New York City and of taking on national and international issues (from immigration to guns to global warming). He is seriously considering whether to make history in March by announcing an independent campaign for president—a campaign in which he would be willing to spend $1 billion of his own money (his estimated net worth is roughly $13 billion).
The interest in a Bloomberg bid reflects the perennial dissatisfaction with the two-party system, but we have all heard that before. What is different about the Bloomberg possibility is that he is not a vanity candidate. He does not want to run for president simply to change the conversation. (He is already doing that from city hall.) He will enter only if he thinks he can win, and he will decide that once the major-party nominees are selected.
He surely has the money, and he may already have the message, too. "I think there's much too much partisanship," he said in a conversation at Gracie Mansion last week. "I've been a Democrat, I've been a Republican, and now I'm an independent … You'll find despicable people and brilliant, philanthropic patriots in both parties. What we have to do is we have to pick the best out of both parties and pull them together instead of having this partisanship where it's either-or. That's what this country is suffering from."
He may just be the man who could help cure it, or at least try to. (If Rudy Giuliani is Batman, a dramatic caped crusader, then Mike Bloomberg is Bruce Wayne, a more buttoned-down but effective force for philanthropy and centrist public policy.) With reporting from Jonathan Darman, Suzanne Smalley, Mark Hosenball, Eve Conant, Ashley Harris, Roxana Popescu and Karen Breslau, we profile Bloomberg this week. In addition, Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe interview Barack Obama; Wolffe and Evan Thomas chart Iowa's terrain; Jon Alter explores the emergence of "Slick Hillary," a smooth but possibly overly packaged front runner; Holly Bailey tries to explain Mike Huckabee; and Andrew Romano, Newsweek's political blogger, jams with the former Arkansas governor. Fareed Zakaria looks at how Iraq and other foreign-policy challenges will play out.
Bloomberg loves risk—a pilot, he has walked away from airplane and helicopter crashes—and loves public life. "In briefings," he says, "I always start out, 'Let me tell you what we know'." The story will move, for he is always moving, but here, for now, is what we know about Mike Bloomberg.