POLITICS
08/01/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bloomberg Praises McCain On Education

Five days after John McCain met with and applauded education reform in New York City, the city's mayor is set to repay the favor.

On Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the most the high-profile independent politicos in the nation, will commend McCain for his willingness to buck party lines on education policy.

"In this speech like in others, when people step up on issues the mayor is going to applaud them on it,' said Lindsay Ellenbogen a spokesperson for Bloomberg. "And we are optimistic that Sen. McCain will continue to step up on education."

This past Sunday, McCain met privately with school chancellor Joel Klein during a visit to New York City, in which he praised the his newest initiative, the Education Equality Project - an effort to achieve scholastic reform and racial parity by focusing on teacher pay, accountability, and parental options. The measure is a big tent effort, with Reverend Al Sharpton already a backer. And Bloomberg, while not endorsing McCain, is scheduled to applaud his willingness to come on board.

Friday's address, which will occur at the Minnesota Independence Party and was first reported by ABC News, marks yet another deft step made by Bloomberg in the heat of the presidential campaign. The mayor has been complimentary of both McCain and Barack Obama, assumed the role as a bridge between the two candidates, and kept his name in the heat of the vice presidential sweepstakes -- all while maintaining his independence.

"He has been all of the above," said Craig Swaggert, state party chair of the Minnesota Independence Party. "But I think the biggest role will be to keep the focus on the important issues and the attention on the bulk of Americans who are independent."

Early in the general election, Bloomberg found himself aligned with the presumptive Democratic nominee. Last month, for instance, he denounced the "whisper campaigns" against Obama during a speech in Florida (offering the candidate a bit of aid within skeptical Jewish communities). On several occasions since then, he preceded the Illinois Democrat in tackling pertinent campaign issues.

In July, the mayor spoke at the NAACP convention, outlining new measures to combat poverty, including changing the federal poverty line. A few days later, Obama endorsed Bloomberg's plan.

Around that same time, both figures - with the mayor speaking first - took nearly identical stances in welcoming the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the D.C. handgun ban.

The commonalities between Bloomberg and Obama and Bloomberg and McCain has cast attention on issues that normally receive short shrift during a presidential campaign. But they have also resulted in increased speculation that the mayor could be in line for a vice presidential nod. This past week, Washington Post columnist David Broder listed Bloomberg as McCain's top three choices, citing the need for financial wizardry. Similar speculation (though less seriously regarded) has developed around the idea of an Obama-Bloomberg ticket.

Doug Bailey, a long-time Republican consultant who started Unity 08 - a vehicle to encourage politically independent figures, including Bloomberg, to run for office - proclaimed it unlikely that any V.P. position was in the offing. He did, however, see the mayor's role in the current campaign as compelling, arguing that Bloomberg's policy proposals, statements, and even personal leanings could play a major role in determining the next president.

"My impression is that he has a long time friendship and affinity for McCain, has known him for many years and they like and enjoy one other. On the other hand he has gotten know Obama quite well and likes him a lot. And his differences with McCain may be on some issues and his differences with Obama are on experience. His attitudes towards the two people are both very positive but for different reasons," said Bailey. "If you were to list people that the public might, sort of say 'that guy understands the economy,' you would probably put Michael Bloomberg very high on that list. In that sense his support for one candidate or the other would be significant."