It is hard not to see in this tale how Bloomberg would campaign, and how he would govern were he to win. Just like he determined that he could not win a Democratic primary in 2001, so Bloomberg has determined that he can’t win in the first four primary states, and so is relying on another path. His aides say he was the first candidate in history to personally register for the nomination in Arkansas, and while the rest of the field can resemble a children’s soccer game, chasing after the ball wherever it lands, Bloomberg will follow a path through delegate-rich states like California and Texas, places that don’t often see the kind of full-throttle campaign resources his team believes it can bring.

And his campaign believes he has a story to tell that will at least get liberal Democrats to give him a look. It is not just on guns, immigration and the environment, either. Despite his push for a third term, Bloomberg has made a name for himself a political reformer, pushing for nonpartisan elections outside New York as well as inside. It is easy to imagine him calling for filibuster reform, or strengthening voting rights, or even adding a Supreme Court justice. His comments over the past several years defending Wall Street have gotten him in trouble, but his aides point out that not only did Bloomberg raise taxes in a way that no other candidate in the field has, but he also built 185,000 units of affordable housing (a figure that essentially means building another South Bend, Indiana, and still having tens of thousands of housing units to spare), lowered the racial temperature in a city reeling from 9/11 and eight years of Giuliani, defended the right of Muslims to build a mosque near ground zero, drastically raised teacher pay, reduced the city’s prison population by 40 percent, mounted an aggressive anti-poverty campaign that recalculated the city’s poverty rate to allow more people to receive federal benefits, and spent $3.1 billion on new school construction.

“The argument is going to be, ‘You can listen to what other people say they are going to do, or you can look at what Mike actually did,’” one adviser said.