Throw in at least one unimaginative New York-centric analogy — this is New York, after all. From the Gore piece (emphasis ours): Among Gore’s “failures as a candidate,” Heilemann mused, was his “failure to present a consistent or coherent image of himself, instead offering an incessant series of self-reinventions that made him seem about as authentic as a Prada bag on Canal Street.” And, from Heilemann’s Bloomberg story (emphasis ours): “[Bloomberg’s Deputy Mayor Kevin] Sheekey ignited speculation that would soon be blazing like a Bronx tenement circa 1977. By the summer, rarely a week would go by without another story about Bloomberg 2008 — most of them the handiwork of Sheekey …” (unlike this story).

5) Elevate your subject’s profile by setting him up as the opposite of some other, perhaps better-positioned potential candidate. Back in May, Heilemann dubbed Gore the “Un-Hillary.” This week he describes Bloomberg in passing as “un-Giuliani-like” (the “Un-Giuliani?”) for the way Bloomberg handled the recent post-bachelor-party shooting in Queens.

So what does a reporter get out of writing such pieces? A chance, perhaps, to fantasize? Heilemann writes that Bloomberg’s decision (to run or not to run) “may yield a result that makes 2008 even more interesting than it’s already guaranteed to be” for me, the New York-based reporter with a Rolodex full of close Bloomberg contacts (and good will).

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.