We've had half a day to absorb the news, but it's still kind of crazy that Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to drop his 6-years-old Republican coat for an unaffiliated one. Here's his official statement:

“I have filed papers with the New York City Board of Elections to change my status as a voter and register as unaffiliated with any political party. Although my plans for the future haven’t changed, I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our City.

“A nonpartisan approach has worked wonders in New York: we’ve balanced budgets, grown our economy, improved public health, reformed the school system and made the nation’s safest city even safer.

“We have achieved real progress by overcoming the partisanship that too often puts narrow interests above the common good. As a political independent, I will continue to work with those in all political parties to find common ground, to put partisanship aside and to achieve real solutions to the challenges we face.

“Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology. Working together, there’s no limit to what we can do.”

You can see the paper he filed right here (PDF from WNBC).

The Daily News, Post, and NY Times put Bloomberg news on the front covers (although Hillary Clinton's Sopranos spoof got top billing on the tabs). The Post reports Bloomberg allegedly spoke to Oklahoma governor David Boren about a third-party run, as Mayor Mike's aides have been discussing third party ballot access with other election officials. Democrat strategist Donna Brazile told the News, "I think it's a wakeup call to our two-party system that there is another player in town." Of course, it's not clear whether he's running, as he keeps saying he wants to be Mayor until his term ends in 2009, but it's pretty safe to say this is the big signal that says, "It's on." And who can blame him - he doesn't want to have to host GOP fundraising parties anymore!

What's unclear how successful candidate Bloomberg would play outside of urban areas and the coasts. The NY Times notes he "has never proved to be a particularly personable campaigner, known for giving a stiff speech and given to impatience at the often numbing demands of retail campaigning." Still, the fuss is good: Barnard professor Esther Fuchs, who advised Bloomberg during his first term, told the Observer, “I think it’s important for him to be on the national stage regardless of whether he runs. I think whether he runs or not, he needs to do everything to make himself a relevant figure in the national political debate. It makes sense for him to do this because he will be taken most seriously this way on issues that are important to New York City—and that’s really his goal.”

We're betting he'll put his money into conducting polls to figure out how to win with his millions and billions. Bloomberg railed against Republicans and Democrats alike during two speeches in California on Monday, but he did say that Senators Schumer and Clinton had been helpful to him. Aw, that's a silver lining in the Bloomberg-cloud for Clinton.