No endorsement yet from Bloomberg

July 25, 2008 6:17:07 PM PDT
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told Minnesota independents Friday that he hasn't made up his mind between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama - and might not until Election Day. The billionaire businessman, who considered running for president as an independent, said both candidates have spurned special interests on a few issues but need to be pushed to do so even more. He wouldn't say directly whether he was leaning toward one or the other.

"I'm going to work very hard between now and Election Day to try to urge, cajole - embarrass, if you will - these two candidates to say explicitly how they would answer to the American public," Bloomberg said at a $100-a-plate breakfast in Minneapolis hosted by the Independence Party of Minnesota.

He added: "Nobody can say they didn't have a choice in this election."

Independents are a key voting block in Minnesota. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted earlier this month showed McCain with a slight lead among independents, and running about even with Obama overall in the state. A quarter of the voters have yet to settle on a candidate.

Bloomberg's speech included praise for both senators - for Obama's positions on gun background checks and the federal gas tax and McCain's stances on immigration, campaign finance reform and global warming. About 100 people, including candidates for Congress and the state Legislature, listened studiously.

He had a few more words for McCain.

"I heard him the other day - he was talking about free trade in the Rust Belt. That's not an easy position to take, but I think it's fair to say John McCain is a principled person and he's willing to stand up," Bloomberg said.

Ben Golnik, regional manager for McCain's Minnesota operation, said he expects independent voters to be "very receptive" to the Arizona senator's message.

"It's been a hallmark of his career, working across party lines," Golnik said.

Nick Kimball, Obama's Minnesota spokesman, said Obama is appealing to voters across the political spectrum.

For his part, the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent mayor said he wants to hear more specifics from both candidates about how they will implement the policies they are proposing.

"Tell us how they're going to get it through Congress," Bloomberg said. "I hear all the good apple pie and motherhood stuff, but who's going to pay for this, and how do you build the constituency that you need in a democracy to change the law and to put it into effect?"

Later, Bloomberg held a news conference in St. Paul with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell to call for a big boost in federal spending on infrastructure. The two are asking the Republican and Democratic national committees to prioritize money for roads, bridges, sewers, waterways and other public assets.