WASHINGTON — New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a potential independent candidate for president, has scheduled a meeting next week with a dozen leading Democrats and Republicans, who will join him in challenging the major-party contenders to spell out their plans for forming a "government of national unity" to end gridlock in Washington.
Others who will be at the Jan. 7 session at the University of Oklahoma say that if the likely nominees of the two major parties do not pledge to "go beyond tokenism" in building an administration that seeks national consensus, they will be prepared to back Bloomberg or someone else in a third-party presidential campaign.
The meeting will include Democrats Sam Nunn, Charles S. Robb, David L. Boren and Gary Hart, all former senators; and, on the GOP side, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, former Republican National Committee Chairman Bill Brock, former Sen. John Danforth, and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.
"It is not a gathering to urge any one person to run for president, or to say there necessarily ought to be an independent option," said the meeting's host, university President Boren. "But if we don't see a refocusing of the campaign on a bipartisan approach, I would feel I would want to encourage an independent candidacy."
The group could muster the financial and political firepower. Others who have indicated that they will attend include former GOP Sen. William S. Cohen, who was Defense secretary in the Clinton administration; former Democratic Sens. Alan J. Dixon and Bob Graham; former GOP Rep. Jim Leach; Susan Eisenhower, a political consultant and granddaughter of former President Eisenhower; David M. Abshire, president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency; and former U.N. Ambassador Edward J. Perkins.
Bloomberg, a former Democrat who was elected mayor of New York as a Republican, left the GOP this past summer to become an independent.
While disclaiming any plan to run for president in 2008, he has continued to fuel speculation by traveling widely and speaking out on domestic and international issues.