New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in the Twin Cities today for two events -- one political and the other nonpartisan.

Bloomberg spoke this morning at a breakfast gathering of the Independence Party of Minnesota. About 100 people, paying a suggested $100 donation, heard him call for an end to public financing of primary elections that leave independent voters "out in the cold."

He did not, however, make the sort of news that political observers had expected, in the form of a quasi-endorsement of Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Instead, he offered qualified praise for both McCain and Democrat Barack Obama.

"We are lucky this year -- we have two candidates who I think have shown on at least some issues they are capable of thinking and acting independently of the special interests," said Bloomberg, an Independent who has previously been a Democrat and then a Republican.

He praised Obama for his stands on gun control and maintaining the federal gasoline tax. He said McCain has "buck[ed] the ideologues and party leaders on immigration, campaign finance reform and global warming."

Speaking afterward to reporters, he said he hasn't yet decided which man -- if either -- he will ultimately endorse, or even whether he will publicly declare his decision.

Asked whether he is leaning toward either candidate, Bloomberg said he's "leaning toward getting back to New York today."

Early this year, Bloomberg's name was floated as a possible Independent candidate for president. In February, he stated that he would not run for the White House.

This afternoon, Bloomberg is in St. Paul, host city of the Republican National Convention, on behalf of his national infrastructure advocacy group.

Building America's Future will make an announcement at the St. Paul Hotel. In a news release Thursday, the group said it is proposing a town hall meeting on infrastructure and invited presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama to participate.

The coalition describes its mission as "quite simply to bring people together from all sides ... to create an environment where infrastructure funding is treated like the national priority it should be."

It says it will be working with the presidential candidates and their parties' platform committees "to ensure that the next president understands the enormity of the infrastructure crisis, is committed to increasing federal funding, and that both party platforms reflect these commitments."

The Republican platform will be built during the party's convention in September. The Democrats will construct their platform in August in Denver.

Along with Bloomberg, the coalition's co-chairs are Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184