ABC News' Teddy Davis Reports: New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg plans to reinject himself into the presidential campaign on Friday by talking up Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in a speech to the Independence Party of Minnesota.
Bloomberg plans to praise McCain's record of bucking his own party while stopping short of making an endorsement.
"I feel confident that there will be some positive statements about Sen. McCain," said party chair Craig Swaggert based on indications he began receiving from Bloomberg aides in "the last week or so."
A Bloomberg spokesperson did not quibble with Swaggert's expectation that the New York mayor will single out McCain for praise when he speaks to the party's $100 per head fundraiser. "We look forward to the speech in Minneapolis," said Lindsay Ellenbogen, a Bloomberg spokesperson. "I expect him to talk about effective independent leadership and leaders who exemplify it."
Last month, Bloomberg went to Florida and denounced what he called a "whisper campaign" linking Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to Islam.
Before Bloomberg ruled out an '08 independent bid for president, Minnesota's Independence Party tried to draft him into the presidential race by circulating a petition.
McCain recently met with the chairman of Minnesota's Independence Party which will weigh this weekend whether to take the unusual step of making a presidential endorsement.
Swaggert said he finds Obama inspirational but he is disappointed that the Illinois Democrat has threatened to pull the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if Mexico does not go along with tougher labor and environmental standards.
"We really need to be part of a global economy," said Swaggert.
In an interview with ABC News, Swaggert praised McCain for breaking with his party on immigration, spending, and the environment.
"What we need right now," said Swagger, "is a leader who can focus on the major issues and bring the parties together to cooperate and move ahead rather than voting along ideological lines."
The presumptive Republican nominee, who has long enjoyed a positive relationship with Bloomberg, recently ingratiated himself by meeting behind closed doors with Joel Klein, the chancellor of the New York City school system. The Bloomberg speech takes place at Nicollette Island in Minneapolis at 9:00 am ET.
Later Friday, at a 3:00 pm ET press conference at the St. Paul Hotel, Bloomberg will join Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell (in person) plus California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (via satellite) for a press conference calling on both parties to adopt an infrastructure plank to their party platforms.
This bipartisan group wants the feds to make "smarter, less politicized" investment decisions.
Minnesota was chosen as the site for this bipartisan platform push because the one-year anniversary of the Minneapolis bridge collapse is Aug. 1.
Bloomberg plans to take questions from the press at both events.