Bloomberg, Obama Chat Over Eggs In NYC

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barak Obama, D-Ill., left, has breakfast with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, at a diner in Midtown Manhattan in New York. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff)
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vowed to keep out of the presidential race, but he can't seem to stay away from it - he and Democratic candidate Barack Obama had a breakfast date in Manhattan.

The billionaire mayor and the Illinois senator chatted over eggs and potatoes early Friday at the New York luncheonette on East 50th Street, in what could be the first of several sit-down meetings Bloomberg may have with the declared candidates.

The mayor allows his aides to openly promote speculation that he will run for president, but continues to deny any interest in doing so. He has said he intends to inject himself into the national dialogue to try to influence the debate.

"We are trying to push our agenda because it helps New Yorkers, and because what's worked in New York will work elsewhere," said Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser. "There are a lot of people we'd like to speak to and we're going to continue to press our case."

No other meetings have been set, he said.

Obama picked up the check for the $17.34 meal with Bloomberg, and left a $10 tip, according to their waitress, Judith Perez. They left without addressing a media throng outside.

The pair of politicians discussed a number of domestic issues, including education, climate change and homeland security, Loeser said. He said the meeting was not about joining forces on a ticket or against Obama's chief opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Obama "is a person who is not only setting policy in the senate, he's also one of the handful of people who are shaping the national debate," Loeser said.

A spokesman for Obama, Robert Gibbs, said the men share a similar view: that Washington has been consumed by partisan politics.

The meeting had the potential to annoy Clinton, who is Bloomberg's home state senator. The mayor always speaks well of her publicly, although she did not endorse him when he twice ran for mayor as a Republican.

Bloomberg last saw Clinton at the Sept. 11 anniversary ceremony, and their last private meeting was in March, Loeser said.

Bloomberg has dropped his party affiliation to become an independent, and he enjoys constantly stirring the speculation that he will get into the presidential race. He dined earlier this week with Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, further fueling speculation.

Bloomberg and Obama met last January when the mayor testified about security grants before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security.

The breakfast comes a night after a fundraiser for Obama held at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem. Hundreds of supporters paid $50 apiece to attend the fundraiser, which marked Obama's first visit to Harlem since launching his presidential bid. He was introduced by comedian Chris Rock, who cracked up the audience with the evening's only direct reference to Clinton.

He told the audience they'd be "real embarrassed" if Obama won and they had been backing Clinton instead. "You'd say, 'I had that white lady! What was I thinking?"'

The Illinois senator, who is running to be the first black president, touched on several themes of racial justice before the largely black audience. He said he was tired of seeing young black men "languishing" on city streets and that he dreaded the thought of living through another administration that appeared to care little for the concerns of minority citizens.

"I don't want to wake up in four years and find out we still have more black men in prison than in college," he said to cheers.

Obama told the crowd he deplored the fact that hanging nooses and "Jena Six" cases are still found in America and that if elected president he could be counted on to enforce civil rights laws.

Cornel West, a longtime black history professor at universities including Harvard and Princeton, also appeared onstage to welcome Obama. He called Obama "an eloquent brother, a good brother, a decent brother," and appeared to address concerns voiced by some black leaders that Obama was a relative newcomer to the civil rights movement.

"Barack Obama comes at an incredibly powerful moment in the year 2007, and we don't expect him to be Marcus Garvey ... or Martin Luther King," West said of the two famed civil rights icons.

Before the fundraiser Obama dined with Al Sharpton, a national civil rights leader and Harlem denizen who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.

The two men ate fried chicken and cornbread at Sylvia's, a popular Harlem restaurant. But Sharpton said the visit shouldn't be construed as an endorsement of Obama's candidacy.