George Pataki has ruled out a Senate run, but he's leaving his options open on a bid for the White House.
In an interview with The Hill, the former New York governor said, "I love the private sector ... There are going to be a lot of good people running [in 2012] and my focus is on 2010."
"I've learned never to say never," said Pataki, who toyed with the idea of running for president in 2008.
The ex-governor recently passed on a run against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to set up a 501(c)(4) nonprofit called Revere America, the purpose of which is to gather grassroots support for getting rid of, and then replacing, the new healthcare reform law.
Pataki said he informed National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) that he was bypassing a bid for the upper chamber to launch Revere America.
Earlier this month, Cornyn speculated that Pataki was eyeing 2012: "[Pataki] told me he wasn't going to [run for the Senate.] I've been talking to him for a year and a half, and I've been reading the polls. I think there's real opportunity there. But he's decided he's not running for it. My thought is, of course, he's rumored to be a potential candidate for president, and I think he's got his sights set on other offices, maybe including running for president. That'd be my guess."
Revere America has already launched its first ad, and Pataki is making the round in the nation's capital to build its profile. Pataki's group would not reveal specifics on the initial ad buy, but pointed out it ran on Fox and MSNBC as well as in cities where it held rallies on the kick-off tour, including Boston, Reno, Nev. and Des Moines, Iowa.
Pataki cited a new report by the chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to assert that the president's health reform package would increase health costs, cause some people to change their health plans and increase the deficit.
He faulted both parties for the nation's large deficit. Pressed on whether the GOP-led Congress should have passed the Medicare prescription drug bill, Pataki defended the legislation, but said Republicans should have offset its costs.
The nonprofit is an emerging way for candidates to build up their national profiles in advance of a presidential bid. Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) is the best example, having used his poverty nonprofit as a means to stay on the national radar, travel the world, and have an infrastructure in place for a repeat presidential campaign in 2008. It also does things like allowing staff to have jobs in between campaign seasons.
But Pataki’s 501(c)(4) represents a different approach than other potential Republican candidates are taking. While Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin are using political action committees to barnstorm for 2010 candidates and get their potential 2012 bids off the ground, Pataki has abandoned his own PAC and won’t be doing much in the way of fundraising for congressional hopefuls.
“I don’t anticipate that as being a major part of what I’m doing,” Pataki said on Friday. “From time to time, though, I imagine I will help candidates.”
He said Republicans can cut off funding for the new healthcare law if they capture just one chamber of Congress this fall.
As part of his new venture, Pataki will attempt to compile one million signatures in favor of repealing the healthcare law (He said his group has already collected 50,000 signatures in five days). But he cannot transfer that list, or anything else from the nonprofit, to a presidential bid without paying fair market value for it.
Paul Ryan, an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center, said 501(c)(4)s are less a way of building an actual campaign than of building a national profile.
“I don’t see the value of 501(c)4 as accumulation of assets,” Ryan said. “The benefit of having a c4 is having it to do activities in the present moment that will benefit a future run.”