Iowa... Where Presidents Begin

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click on each candidate to see today's news stories (caricatures by Linda Eddy)


Friday, Feb. 22, 2008


Early voting in Texas on track to break records

Early voting in Texas is on track to break records, especially among Democrats. After only two days of early voting, according to data from the Texas Secretary of State, early voting totals after only two days are two-thirds the total after two weeks of early voting in 2004.

Superdelegates asked to stall choice

Democratic officials backing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton are urging uncommitted superdelegates to wait until after the Texas and Ohio primaries, on March 4, before deciding who they will support at the presidential nominating convention in August.

"I've told all of my friends that I hope they will wait because battleground states like Ohio will be absolutely critical to our success in November," said former Democratic National Committee Chairman Steve Grossman, who is asking his fellow superdelegates to line up behind Mrs. Clinton.

GOP operative: Rove sought to smear Alabama governor

A Republican operative in Alabama says Karl Rove asked her to try to prove the state’s Democratic governor was unfaithful to his wife in an effort to thwart the highly successful politician’s re-election.

Rove’s attempt to smear Don Siegelman was part of a Republican campaign to ruin him that finally succeeded in imprisoning him, says the operative, Jill Simpson.

Simpson speaks to Scott Pelley in her first television interview, to be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.


Clinton-Obama debate coverage:


Obama, Clinton spar over Cuba, health care senior political editor Vaughn Ververs:

"Anyone looking for a knock-down, drag-out debate in Texas tonight was instead treated to a gentle waltz that only increased Obama's edge over Clinton," Ververs said. "The New York Senator did nothing to stop Obama's momentum and, in fact, allowed him to upstage her on both substance and style. Time is growing short for Clinton to regain her footing. This debate just kept those seconds rapidly moving forward. And the time is all on Obama's side."

Clinton and Obama debate leadership

"Well, I believe I am ready, and I am prepared. And I will leave that for voters to decide," she said, before returning the focus to an earlier question about healthcare.

When Ramos asked his question again, Clinton mentioned her experiences as first lady and in the Senate, and said they had made her "prepared and ready on Day One" to be president. She did not mention Obama.

Obama, for his part, retorted, "I wouldn't be running if I didn't think I was prepared to be commander in chief."

The debate illustrated a central argument in the Democratic campaign: Which stands the better chance of success -- Clinton's more combative approach or Obama's more conciliatory demeanor?

NY senator's rhetoric fails to shift the balance

Barack Obama last night was wonky and detailed enough to set heads nodding in Capitol committee rooms, but delivered probably the most effectively boring debate performance in recent presidential politics.

... But while Clinton did nothing to hurt her chances, she failed to deliver any such game-changing moment. And Obama did not provide one with any serious gaffes....



Debate takes on contentious air for Dems

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama veered from collegial to clenched and combative in a debate on Thursday, with Mrs. Clinton turning especially aggressive as she all but accused Mr. Obama of plagiarism and derided his political message as “change you can Xerox.”

Mr. Obama, buoyed by 11 straight victories in the most recent nominating contests, sought to maintain a positive tone throughout, though at one point he accused Mrs. Clinton of suggesting that his supporters were “delusional” or “being duped” by his themes of hope and unity.

see also: Clinton: Obama 'change you can Xerox'

Hillary holds back, Obama coasts

Clinton took some shots at Obama, but she also passed up opportunities, reflecting an uncertainty about the direction she should take her candidacy. Obama looked like he was trying to run out the clock.

The contrasting performances underscore the shifting dynamics of the presidential campaign.

Obama is simply trying to maintain his momentum. Clinton is struggling to revive her candidacy as she heads into Texas and Ohio – two key contests that could give her campaign new life or potentially end it.

But defying conventional wisdom, Clinton adhered more closely to touting her own record than launching broadsides at Obama. The nastiest it got was when Clinton tried out a canned attack that appeared to backfire.

“You know, lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox,” Clinton said to a smattering of boos.

“Come on,” Obama said, his eyes fixed on the paper in front of him.

“The notion that I had plagiarized from somebody who was one of my national co-chairs, who gave me the line and suggested that I use it, I think, is silly,” Obama said. “This is where we start getting into silly season, in politics, and I think people start getting discouraged about it.”

Politico's Roger Simon:

...what we got was two lovey-dovey candidates who formed a mutual admiration society for an hour until the CNN moderators got sick of it and sicced the two on each other.

The issue the two Democrats were invited to attack each other on was whether Barack Obama was a plagiarist. Obama denied it, saying that he had been given permission to use a supporter’s words without credit.

That gave Clinton the opportunity to deliver the killer line of the evening.

“If your candidacy is going to be about words, they should be your own words,” Clinton said. “Lifting whole passages is not change you can believe in; it’s change you can Xerox.”

Hillary's warm and fuzzy debate moment:

"No matter what happens in this contest, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama."





Mike Huckabee... today's headlines with excerpts

Huckabee: A deadlocked convention is my goal

Huckabee said his ‘brokered convention’ strategy is predicated on a victory in Texas, the country’s largest Republican state.

“We think Texas is an important state,” Huckabee told me.  “We know how important it is to win Texas.”

Huckabee says with an upset win in Texas, and a win in the Ohio Republican primary the same day, Huckabee could deny front runner John McCain the nomination in the primaries.

“If we win Texas, I think it changes the dynamics of this race.  It could well go all the way to the convention.  If the convention delegates pick the president, chances are they would pick the most conservative.  I would be the one they would end up picking, if that’s the criteria.”

Huckabee says Texas crucial to keeping bid alive

"It all happens here in Texas, quite frankly," the former Arkansas governor said during a news conference in front of the Alamo, the site of Texas' most legendary battle defeat.

"It's not Republican and not American to cut off the race and this election" before Texas, the nation's largest GOP-leaning state, hold its March 4 primary, he said. Huckabee said he plans to spend considerable time in the state before the election.


Enthusiastic crowd cheers Huckabee in Houston

... enthusiastic supporters chanted "We like Mike" Thursday morning as Republican long-shot presidential candidate Mike Huckabee brought his campaign to Houston.

"Your vote on March 4 is not going to be wasted if it's a vote for me," Huckabee told the cheering crowd. "If we win Texas, everything changes."

... Political pundits nationwide are saying John McCain has the GOP nomination wrapped up, but Huckabee is telling Texans they might be able to turn the tide in favor of his conservative candidacy, in which he has stumped for building a Mexican border wall to keep out illegal immigrants and replacing the income tax with a national sales tax.

"Here's a man who's not willing to compromise," said Houstonian Rachel Williams, a coordinator for a major chain pharmacy store. "He's got guts in today's political society, where he stands up and says 'Nope, this is the way it should be, regardless of what the regular politicians say.' That's what I love about him."

Dana Milbank: A man, a mission

What Sam Houston was to warfare, Mike Huckabee is to the photo op. In Iowa, he won the envy of his rivals when he invited the cameras to join him on a hunting trip. He went jogging for the cameras (to show his fitness) and played the electric bass guitar on Leno (to show his hipness). On Thursday, it was time to demonstrate his stick-to-itiveness -- and there's no better place for that than the Alamo, which just happens to be in Texas, one of the next big primary states.



Searching for the lost Huckabee tapes...

The tapes date from the 1980s, when Huckabee was a young Arkansas pastor intent on making a name for himself. At the tiny Immanuel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, and the slightly less tiny Beech Street First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Huckabee broadcast sermons and other programs over his own TV station. If anyone ever missed a Sunday, no problem. Huckabee taped every homily and gave them out, free, at the church office.

Now, the Huckabee tapes have become the 2008 campaign's version of the Pentagon Papers, or the Lost Ark. Even as his campaign drifts to its end, the mystery remains. The Huckabee campaign won't give them up, and his former parishioners, ever loyal, won't budge...




John McCain... today's headlines with excerpts

McCain told he must take public money

A bank loan that Senator John McCain took out late last year to keep his campaign for the Republican nomination afloat financially is now complicating his desire to withdraw from the public financing program for his primary bid.

The Federal Election Commission, in a letter that it released Thursday, said that Mr. McCain cannot withdraw from the public financing system until he answers questions about the terms of a $4 million line of credit that was secured, in part, by the promise of federal matching funds.

see also: FEC warns McCain on campaign spending

McCain turns tables on NY Times

... many swallowed past misgivings about McCain to rally to his defense, on the apparent theory that anyone under assault by the most powerful institution in the mainstream media could not be all bad.
“For conservatives, the New York Times is shorthand for everything they distrust,” said John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College and former Republican operative.

It was a vivid illustration of the power of the longstanding anti-media grievance among conservatives.

Rush, right rally to McCain

Rush Limbaugh, who has been critical of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), embraced him Thursday now that they have a common enemy: The New York Times.

Limbaugh and other conservative commentators rushed to defend McCain on Thursday against a potentially damaging article in The New York Times, embracing a maverick they have often attacked.

"You're surprised that Page Six-type gossip is on the front page of The New York Times?" Limbaugh asked as he began his radio show. "Where have you been? How in the world can anybody be surprised?"

Limbaugh said earlier in an e-mail to Politico that the Times article about McCain’s relationship with a female lobbyist was a clear case of "the drive-by media ... trying to take him out."

Laura Ingraham, another influential conservative radio host, asserted that the Times waited until McCain was on the brink of the Republican presidential nomination and now is seeking to "contaminate" him with an article that she calls "absurd" and "ridiculous.", the website of the Christian Broadcasting Network, calls an attack by the Times "a conservative badge of honor."

Ex-McCain aide says he's still loyal

John Weaver, McCain's former chief strategist and a longtime confidant, confirmed to the New York Times and Washington Post that he had met with Iseman in 1999 and told her to stop bragging about her influence with McCain and the Senate Commerce Committee. He also said he had done so after "a discussion among campaign leadership" about her. Weaver’s information formed the underpinnings of stories in both papers about McCain aides being worried that Iseman could become a political liability.

In other words, Weaver, an apparent McCain loyalist, had provided the critical, on-the-record foundation for stories denigrating the senator.

This is not the first time Weaver finds himself in the middle of an uproar. A brooding, volatile, longtime top strategist who serves as a favorite inside source for political reporters, Weaver had a high-profile falling-out with Karl Rove in the late 1980s and a well-publicized reunion with him a decade and a half later. In 2002, Weaver left the Republican Party, worked for Democratic candidates, and then returned to McCain’s side shortly afterward.

Even after quitting the McCain campaign last summer in a staff shake-up, Weaver still maintains close ties to remaining staffers, he told Politico on Thursday, though his role remains minor.



Ron Paul... today's headlines with excerpts

WSJ: Long shots could pay high price for prez run

Reps. Ron Paul (R., Texas) and Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) now face a common problem: primary challenges built largely around the notion that their long-shot presidential bids and celebrity status have put them out of touch with voters back home. For both, the showdown will be March 4, when Texas and Ohio hold primaries.




Hillary Clinton... today's headlines with excerpts

Hillary denies defeat looming for her campaign

Hillary Clinton Friday denied she was contemplating defeat for her White House bid, after she paid a wistful tribute to Barack Obama which some observers saw as an admission of possible failure.

Reeling from her Democratic rival's 11 straight wins in nominating contests, Clinton fought back against the perception that her performance Thursday in a high-stakes debate in Austin, Texas, had a valedictory tone.

"I intend to win, obviously. I'm working very hard, and Ohio and Texas are critical states," the New York Senator said in an interview with ABC News, referring to two do-or-die nominating contests on March 4

Poll: Hillary with narrow lead in Ohio

Hillary Rodham Clinton, 50 percent

Barack Obama, 43 percent.

Clinton works to hold Ohio lead as Obama attacks on trade, jobs

Ohio was supposed to be Hillary Clinton's firewall. She's backed by the governor, former Senator John Glenn and the state's first black elected congresswoman. And her focus on health care and jobs is tailor-made for the economically distressed Rust Belt state.

Instead, Barack Obama has cut into all her strengths heading into the March 4 Democratic primary, as he did in the last 11 presidential-nominating contests, and Clinton is fighting for her political life...


Poll: Hillary lead in Pennsylvania slips

Clinton's lead has slipped to 12 percentage points from 20 in January, according to the latest Franklin & Marshall College poll. She now leads Obama by 44 percent to 32 percent ahead of the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

Kudlow: It is over

Allow me a dose of hardened market realism concerning Barack Obama's landslide victory in Wisconsin. The race is over. Hillary Clinton is over. Her electability is over.

Bill Clinton's political invincibility is over. The Clinton Restoration is over. It's over.

Mr. Obama got to the far left faster than Hillary did. He out-organized her, out-fund-raised her, out-speechified her, out-hustled her, outdressed her, and out-presidentialed her. He outbid Hillary for votes, one promised government check at a time. His 17-point margin of victory in Wisconsin was incredible. It says he can't be stopped...




Consultant spending saps Clinton campaign $$$

Hillary Clinton started the year flush with cash, but by the beginning of this month, she'd blazed through most of it — spending $11 million on ads, $3.8 million on messaging guru Mark Penn and $1,300 at Dunkin' Donuts, to name just a few expenditures — leaving her campaign woefully unprepared for an extended battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.

About $15 million — or more than half of the New York senator’s January spending — went to a cadre of high-priced consultants...

Clinton campaign spending worries supporters

Hillary Clinton’s latest campaign finance report, published Wednesday night, appeared even to her most stalwart supporters and donors to be a road map of her political and management failings. Several of them, echoing political analysts, expressed concerns that Mrs. Clinton’s spending priorities amounted to costly errors in judgment that have hamstrung her competitiveness against Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

“We didn’t raise all of this money to keep paying consultants who have pursued basically the wrong strategy for a year now,” said a prominent New York donor. “So much about her campaign needs to change — but it may be too late.”




Barack Obama... today's headlines with excerpts

Obama dances with Grammy winning Texas swing band

Obama wins Democrats abroad primary

Barack Obama won the Democrats Abroad global primary in results announced Thursday, giving him 11 straight victories in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Illinois senator won the primary in which Democrats living in more than 30 countries voted by Internet, mail and in person.





Obama's spending plan (WashingtonTimes editorial)

Bear with us even though the costs aren't hidden in these details. To finance

(1) his 10-year, $150 billion program to "establish a green energy sector,"

(2) his 10-year, $60 billion "National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank,"

(3) his nearly universal health care plan (whose annual price tag he low-balls at $50 to $65 billion) and

(4) a host of refundable tax credits ranging from $4,000 per year for college students to a tripling of the Earned Income Tax Credit for minimum-wage workers,

Mr. Obama plans to

(1) end the war in Iraq,

(2) permit the Bush tax cuts to expire for households earning more than $250,000 and

(3) "change our tax code," which "has been rigged by lobbyists with page after page of loopholes that benefit big corporations and the wealthiest few."

... Mr. Obama's anti-war and class-warfare rhetoric borders on the demagogic.

Obama compares Hillary to Swift Boaters

The Barack Obama campaign has sent out a fundraising e-mail that equates a new pro-Hillary Clinton group with the Swift Boat Veteran for Truth that opposed John Kerry’s presidential candidacy in 2004.

As Newsmax reported on Wednesday, Democratic insiders have set up a new independent 527 organization called the American Leadership Project to help Hillary beat Obama in Ohio — and possibly Texas and Pennsylvania as well.

The e-mail from Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, states: “The so-called ‘American Leadership Project’ will take unlimited contributions from individuals and is organized the same way as the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

see also: Obama lawyer: Pro-Clinton group violating law

Obama picks up 104 Illinois delegates

After three weeks of counting votes and crunching numbers, the results of Illinois' presidential primary are finally clear: Barack Obama picked up 104 delegates to Hillary Clinton's 49...

Obama once visited 60's 'terrorists'

In 1995, State Senator Alice Palmer introduced her chosen successor, Barack Obama, to a few of the district’s influential liberals at the home of two well known figures on the local left: William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

While Ayers and Dohrn may be thought of in Hyde Park as local activists, they’re better known nationally as two of the most notorious – and unrepentant — figures from the violent fringe of the 1960s anti-war movement...







tracking the Larry Sinclair/Obama limo-cocaine-sex story -- as the mainstream media steadfastly refuses to report it:

click for timeline






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