George Pataki says he’s open to 2012 bid

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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George Pataki said he’s thinking about running for president in 2012, but the former New York governor is tight-lipped about how likely it is that he will ultimately join the race.

“We’ll see as the campaign goes forward,” Pataki, a Republican, said in an interview with The Daily Caller.

Pataki, who runs an organization called No American Debt, said his “focus is simply on holding the political leadership starting with President Obama accountable for dealing with the deficit in a meaningful way.”

He revealed few details about his thinking on a White House bid, saying he has not set a deadline for deciding.

“Everybody’s excited about 2012 and people would rather talk about politics rather than the policies of a country,” Pataki said.

While he has done very little to signal he’s preparing for a run, Pataki was in New Hampshire this week speaking to college students at New England College about the country’s $14 trillion debt.

“I got to say everything he said sounded like somebody who is seriously thinking about running for president,” said Wayne Lesperance, a professor of political science at the college in Henniker, N.H.

Those eyeing the Republican nomination also include former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, businessman Herman Cain, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson are also running or contemplating a campaign.

Pataki’s path to winning the nomination is not very clear. But Lesperance said Pataki could be appealing to residents in New Hampshire, where there are fewer social conservatives than in other early primary states and voters might have a taste for a moderate Republican.

“I’m not sure how he’d do in a place like Iowa or South Carolina,” he said. “But certainly if the message is about fiscal responsibility, he seems to be framing himself as a person who can talk seriously about that.”

Democratic party spokesman Hari Sevugan said he’d welcome Pataki into the field.

“It’d be good for the field to have another liberal Republican join Jon Huntsman – especially on issues like cap and trade and expanding gay rights,” Sevugan said. “It’s been dragged way out of the mainstream.”

Recently, a number of potential GOP candidates have announced they are not running for the White House, including Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Without prompting, Pataki expressed admiration for Daniels and called it “unfortunate” that he decided not to run: “I think Gov. Daniels would’ve brought [the issue of debt] to the forefront had he been a candidate.”

Pataki is not the only New Yorker contemplating running. An adviser to Rudy Giuliani, Jake Menges, told TheDC that Giuliani “will seriously consider getting into the race” if no candidates emerge that he thinks can beat President Obama.

The former governor said No American Debt is airing ads in New Hampshire about the country’s debt.

“I am concerned,” he said. “I do believe any Republican who is serious about challenging President Obama has to have a real and strong deficit reduction package,” he said.