Mayor Mike Bloomberg will make an endorsement triple play Tuesday, backing both a Democrat and a Republican in competitive U.S. Senate contests, along with an urban Democratic mayor whose education reform pushes mirror his own.
The trip comes at a time when Bloomberg has become the national face of support for the ground zero-area mosque, a fact that will certainly play a role at each press conference he holds and could end up highlighting a difference between him and the person he's backing.
Yet Bloomberg is also able to help attract some fundraisers and free media, and he's become a brand that would-be hopefuls are using as partial models (like California gubernatorial Republican hopeful Meg Whitman) or as boosts to their own efforts.
In the morning he'll endorse Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa) in Philadelphia in his Senate bid. From there he'll head to Washington to back Mayor Adrian Fenty, who endorsed Bloomberg in his 2009 re-election bid and who has made education reform a major issue, as the Big Apple mayor has.
In the evening, he'll headline an event for Rep. Mike Castle, the Delaware Republican pushing aggressively to capture the Senate seat formerly held by Vice President Joe Biden in Delaware. The fundraiser will be in New York City (a planned event in Delaware had scheduling issues).
Still, the candidates are from very different ends of the spectrum.
"Basically the mayor has two criteria he uses to determine endorsements," said Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson. "The first is whether or not the candidate has been a leader on issues that New Yorkers care about, whether it's guns or immigration, or recently FMAP (funding)...and the second is whether someone who has shown bipartisan leadership in working across party lines in Washington to get things done."
"Some people fit both categories or one of them, but everyone fits one or the other," he added.
He said the process by which Bloomberg comes to endorse happens "fairly organically," including many cases where people have been involved in his crusade against illegal guns (as was the case with Republican Rep. Mark Kirk, running for Senate for President Obama's old seat in Illinois).
"In this moment political where both parties are held in fairly high disrepute, an endorsement from the leading independent in the country is highly coveted," Wolfson said.
In New York State, Bloomberg has endorsed four Democrats and three Republicans for a range of local and congressional offices.
Nationally, in addition to Sestak, Castle and Kirk, he's backed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Mayor David Cicilline (D-R.I.) for the House, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, to name a few.
These will not be the last such trips or endorsements Bloomberg will make in the lead-up to the November election, Wolfson said, adding, "He's in fairly high demand."
Bloomberg is widely believed to be considering a presidential bid in 2012, funded with his personal fortune and aimed at the center.
However, his main national issue heading into Tuesday, thanks in part to President Obama's comments Friday, is the mosque. Political watchers questioned how the mayor's position will play with independent voters, and whether Bloomberg's strong support of it could be a complicating factor for people he backs, a thought Wolfson rejected.
"I have to believe that the issue of the mosque is not going to be a defining issue for voters in November anywhere, given all the issues" facing the country and individual voters," he said. "I just don't see it."