LOS ANGELES (AP) – New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who says he’s not a candidate for president, chose electoral vote-rich California Saturday from which to deliver a scorching assessment of Washington for failing to keep up with the need for new airports, roads, water systems and bridges across America.

While China and other nations are investing heavily in ports and high-speed trains “Washington doesn’t have a plan” to address crumbling U.S. infrastructure, Bloomberg said.

In remarks clearly aimed at a national audience, the mayor said politics trumps common sense in Congress, where pork-barrel spending takes priority. Inevitably, the economy will be strangled if goods and people can’t move easily, he warned.

“In politics, winning elections and protecting a party majority is more important than solving problems. And so short-term pork invariably wins over long-term investments,” the mayor said.

Washington “spends money to win votes and collect campaign cash no matter what the real needs are,” Bloomberg added. “It’s hurting our country.”

The Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent mayor appeared with Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican, and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, to announce a coalition that would push for more investment in ports, highways and other infrastructure. Both governors are known for reaching across party lines to achieve compromise.

“We have an independent here, we have a Democrat here, a Republican. I mean, how much better can you get?” Schwarzenegger said.

The coalition, Building America’s Future, will be a not-for-profit organization that will be made up of elected and other officials. It will work with presidential candidates and the platform committees of the national political parties to bring attention to infrastructure needs, which Schwarzenegger said exceed $1 trillion.

Bloomberg appearance came on the second day of a trip that also took him to Texas, another key state on the presidential election map where he met privately Friday with an expert in third-party ballot access who served as campaign manager for H. Ross Perot.

In an era when the public views government with suspicion and loathing, the billionaire mayor is honing an image as an innovative problem-solver working outside the partisan scrum of Washington politics.

Aides say Bloomberg will delay a decision until after the major parties produce clear front-runners.

Bloomberg has been quietly polling and analyzing voting trends in every state as he contemplates launching a campaign. On Tuesday, his supporters launched a 50-state petition drive in an attempt to “draft” him into the race.

As an independent candidate in California, Bloomberg would have to collect nearly 160,000 voter signatures between April 25 and August 8 to qualify for the ballot.

The billionaire mayor could fund the most lavish – and expensive – campaign in history, but the record of third-party candidates like Perot is not impressive.

“They usually show promise early on, and then voters go back to their partisan loyalties,” said Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, who’s worked on presidential campaigns for Bill Clinton, Dick Gephardt and Ted Kennedy.

Bloomberg met privately Friday with Clay Mulford, who is well-versed in third-party ballot access and served as campaign manager for Perot. The Texas businessman sought the presidency in 1992 and 1996.

Schwarzenegger was asked if he was staying neutral in the presidential race to see if Bloomberg would jump in, and he answered, “I respect all of the candidates in the Republican lineup. … I will not endorse anybody.”

Rendell, a prodigious fundraiser and former general chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is a political maverick who delivered most of his ambitious first-term agenda by building coalitions in a Legislature controlled by Republicans. He is in his second year of his second four-year term.

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