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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now, if you are among those dissatisfied with your presidential choices, there might still be one more candidate running. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told us last year there's no way he is running. But because he has the money to pay for an independent race, people keep speculating.

So NPR's Robert Smith decided to investigate signs that Bloomberg might really try.

ROBERT SMITH: Every year Bloomberg gives his state of the city address, a 60-minute laundry list of his achievements and plans for New York. But this year, people in the audience could amuse themselves with a question: Does this man sound like he's running for president?

Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (Independent, New York): To those politicians who all of a sudden have embraced xenophobia, I say, open your eyes, take a look behind me. This is what makes America great.

(Soundbite of applause)

SMITH: I'm actually standing here in the back of the hall. And you know, this speech can get a little dull so I've made up something I call the Candidate Bingo Card. I've put all the signs, the ways you can tell that someone is running for president on this card. Things like mention the word change over and over again, quote John F. Kennedy excessively.

Now, as he speaks we'll play along on this bingo card.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mayor BLOOMBERG: We remain committed to extending the $400 property tax rebate to all homeowners.

SMITH: Did you catch that? He just promised a tax cut. Mark it off on the bingo card.

Mayor BLOOMBERG: Keeping housing affordable is an essential to remaining a city that welcomes the middle class.

SMITH: When a billionaire talks about helping the middle class, he may just be running for president.

(Soundbite of applause)

SMITH: After an hour of the speech, though, I wasn't anywhere close to yelling out bingo. And that's even counting the squares that Bloomberg gets for free. As a billionaire, he already has all the money he needs to run. As a former CEO, he certainly has the ambition and ego to be president. But still, I followed Bloomberg all week long, and he passed up one opportunity after another to act like a candidate. At a morning event, faced with a buffet full of sweets, did he grab a donut just to look like an average Joe?

What's for breakfast today? What are you going to pick?

Mayor BLOOMBERG: I'm going to have an eighth of a pumpernickel bagel.

SMITH: An eighth of a bagel. How would this man even survive at a state fair? All right, another one of the squares on the Candidate Bingo Card is to take credit for the work of others. It's a time-honored, political tradition. But when asked about his successes, Bloomberg thanks his staff.

Mayor BLOOMBERG: In the end, the head of any government candidate's job is not to do the work themselves, it is to attract good people.

SMITH: Okay. Mayor Bloomberg is just leaving an event here at the South Street Seaport Mall. We're going to see how many hands he shakes.

There's one. There's two. Oh, he goes in for a side kiss. And that's it.

He needs to shake at least 20 hands to be considered a viable candidate and for me to get a square on this bingo card. And don't get me started on the babies. At event after event, Bloomberg snubbed every adorable, chubby-cheeked infant in his path. He made not a single funny face, offered not a single smooch, until yesterday right at the end of the state of the city speech.

Mayor BLOOMBERG: God bless you and God bless New York City.

(Soundbite of applause)

SMITH: Now, wait a minute. A mother with a small little baby is approaching the mayor and handing him the baby. He's not kissing the baby, but he's holding her up for the camera. That will do. We can mark that one off.

Still, there's not enough on this card to call bingo. Of course, to be fair to Bloomberg, 10 years ago no one would have picked him as the next mayor. New York City had a tradition of larger-than-life controversial leaders.

But Bloomberg showed that New Yorkers actually like a calm, efficient manager, without all that baby-kissing. And perhaps that's the big opportunity for Bloomberg. He's waiting for voters to get so tired of filling up their bingo cards with all those typical politicians that they beg for a candidate who plays a different game.

Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

INSKEEP: We want to help you find out if somebody that you know is running a shadow campaign for president. You can find out for sure by printing off our Candidate Bingo Card, which is available at npr.org.

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