New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has begun detailed polling and highly sophisticated voter analysis in all 50 U.S. states as he considers an independent bid for president, associates said Wednesday.
The exhaustive data collection quietly started months ago, and when the analysis begins shortly, it will provide the data-obsessed billionaire businessman with the information he will use to decide whether to launch a third-party run for the White House.
The scope of the research, details of which were revealed to The Associated Press, demonstrates how seriously Bloomberg is considering running for president, despite his almost-daily denials that he isn't entering the race. The extensive coast-to-coast research effort shows that Bloomberg is willing to dig deep into his wallet simply to gauge his chances of winning and line up the proper support network along the way.
"They want a hard-headed sense of their chances," said Doug Schoen, who spearheaded Bloomberg's voter database efforts, known as microtargeting, for his two mayoral campaigns.
Bloomberg's spokesman Stu Loeser declined to comment.
Bloomberg's public denials of any interest in running are getting weaker. He typically says only that he is "not a candidate," which states only a fact of the day.
Schoen says he isn't working for Bloomberg now. But he is part of the mayor's inner circle and makes a case in his new book, "Declaring Independence," for how a third-party candidate such as Bloomberg could launch a White House bid and upset the election this year.
Previous independent failures like George Wallace, John Anderson and H. Ross Perot faced problems of money, organization and ballot access that someone like Bloomberg could more easily overcome, Schoen says in his book.
The 65-year-old mayor already has the money - Fortune magazine estimates his worth at around $11.5 billion, and others have speculated it could be double that.
So far, the surprise outcomes of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary have added urgency and strength to the Bloomberg operation, Schoen said.
"The uncertainty in the nominating process on both sides makes it more likely that Mike Bloomberg will explore a candidacy," he said.
Microtargeting gathers information on individual voters, rather than voting blocs, to tailor and tweak the campaign message, advertisements and overall theme.
Information includes whether a voter owns homes or has children in college, where he goes on vacation, what kind of car he drives, what kind of computer he uses, what he watches on television, which magazines he reads, whom he supported in past elections. All the puzzle pieces will then be arranged to create a picture of every person.
Most of the data already exists in commercial databases that Bloomberg can simply purchase. It will then be analyzed to determine how each voter fits into several categories: "strong supporter," "persuadable supporter," or "potential volunteer."
A strong supporter might be someone who voted for an independent in the past, is not affiliated with any party, and who expresses strong disgust about the two-party system, Schoen said.
A persuadable supporter might be a voter who doesn't feel strongly about a particular Democrat or Republican candidate yet. And a potential volunteer might be someone who responds to the idea of a third-party candidate and is interested in activism.
Microtargeting has become a crucial tool for political campaigns.