WE Philadelphians hold these truths to be self-evident, that Ed Rendell, our former mayor and governor, is an irrepressible flirt who loves to be spoken about in terms of future potential rather than accumulated legacy.

Proof could be found in Tuesday's New York Times, which cited "high-powered advisers" to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who are now searching for the city's next mayor.

Among the big-league names floated: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman and . . . our own New York-born Rendell.

Rendell in the story calls mayor of New York City "the second-most-difficult job in the country."

He didn't specifically say what the most difficult job is, but it seems clear that he was talking about president and not political pundit for MSNBC (one of Rendell's current gigs).

Bradley Tusk, who ran Bloomberg's 2009 campaign, told the Times that a few businesspeople wanted Rendell to run.

Rendell admitted that he doesn't know much of the city now except for Manhattan, but he told the Times that if Tusk wanted to poll New Yorkers to see how they feel about Rendell, he was fine with that.

Pennsylvania bloggers ate that story up.

Twitter followed.

And then it was time for Rendell to douse the very flames he had just fanned.

"Absolutely ludicrous," Rendell told me, when asked about the Times story.

He quickly added: "It's a fascinating idea."

See the game Rendell is playing? He wants to be in the conversation, not the campaign.

Rendell said that he no longer considers himself a New Yorker, and it "wouldn't sit right with me to do it," even if there was strong support for his candidacy.

At that point, Rendell pivots to a poll Monday from Public Policy Polling, which tested Gov. Corbett's numbers against eight potential opponents in the 2014 gubernatorial race. The poll found Rendell leading Corbett 46 percent to 40 percent.

Rendell was the only potential challenger with a lead on Corbett.

The state constitution would have to be changed to allow Rendell to seek another term as governor.

It's also worth noting that Rendell brought up the poll - unprompted - while complaining about his name getting thrown around in political speculations.

That's the move of an attention flirt, casting himself as the pursued rather than the pursuer.

Tusk, who knows Rendell from his time as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, agreed that a run for mayor in New York is not likely.

"There is no there there," Tusk said by email. "A few people here half seriously raised the idea. It was pretty clear it wasn't feasible on any level."

Another person who is familiar with the conversation but who didn't want to be named said that a Rendell run for New York mayor would have been fun but concluded that he was just "looking for a little love."

Rendell is not necessarily done with political campaigns. He's just done being the candidate.

Rendell says that his only interest would be as campaign manager and then maybe White House chief of staff for a certain potential presidential candidate.

He laid that out in the closing passage of the book he released last year: A Nation of Wusses: How America's Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great.

"But I do have one more race I want to run - not for me, but for Hillary Clinton. I would, for one last time, invest my heart and soul in trying to elect our first woman president," he wrote.

Phone: 215-854-5973

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: philly.com/phillyclout