Former New York Gov. George E. Pataki said Thursday he is concerned about the electability of the current GOP presidential field, as he prepares to visit Iowa next week before deciding whether to make a late entry into the race.
"I think it's very important not just that we choose a nominee who has the right vision but choose a nominee who has the ability to win the election," Mr. Pataki said. "It's wonderful to make a philosophical statement, but our country is at the point where we need a real change in direction and that's what it comes down to."
Referring to his three gubernatorial wins in strongly Democratic New York, he said, "I look back with pride on my ability to get conservatives, Republicans, independents and enlightened Democrats to vote for me."
The 66-year-old Mr. Pataki, who flirted with a 2008 White House bid, said he was disappointed that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels had chosen not to run. He declined repeatedly to reveal his own plans but acknowledged he could not wait forever.
"I don't have a deadline, but obviously there isn't a great deal of additional time," he said. "My family and I are doing a personal assessment as to the best way to change this country for the better, and we'll make that decision sometime in the near future.
"I certainly don't intend to just enjoy the private-sector life and not be involved in some capacity."
Mr. Pataki said he would be speaking at several venues in Iowa Thursday and Friday next week. Meanwhile, his nonprofit outfit, "No American Debt," has been airing a television ad in New Hampshire, the other early nomination battleground state.
Veteran political consultant Mike Murphy, who masterminded John McCain's 2000 New Hampshire victory over George W. Bush, wrote in Time magazine last month that he "saw [the ad] and had to smile."
"My bet?" Mr. Murphy wrote. "Pataki is going to try to steal the New Hampshire primary."
Backed by a strong television ad campaign, Mr. Murphy wrote, the New Yorker could turns heads around the country with a quiet rise in the polls in New Hampshire.
"With that national attention, reboot the once-massive Pataki money machine in New York State and start attracting more national money and support. Light the right match, and if it combusts correctly, stand back and watch the fire grow," the consultant wrote.
Mr. Pataki would be the fifth former governor in the race, joining Massachusetts' Mitt Romney, Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty, Utah's Jon Huntsman Jr. and New Mexico's Gary Johnson. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is also reportedly leaning toward running, while former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has said she is still weighing a bid.
While few political analysts think the increasingly conservative GOP primary voters would nominate Mr. Pataki - a supporter of abortion rights, gun control and the "cap-and-trade" energy policy - his candidacy could alter the dynamics of the race, particularly in the more independent-minded New Hampshire, where both Mr. Romney and Mr. Huntsman are banking on victory.
If Mr. Pataki were to take away votes from them in New Hampshire, it could open a door for Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, the tea party favorite now leading Iowa surveys by double-digits and polling second in the Granite State.
Mr. Pataki is not the only New Yorker who could yet jump into the race. Also citing doubts about the electability of the current field, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani told the Associated Press in an interview in New Hampshire on Thursday that he would decide by mid-September whether to run again.
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Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.
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