Saturday, February 2, 2008

McCain upbeat on Super Tuesday

By Steve Holland

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Presidential candidate John McCain urged skeptical conservatives on Friday to rally behind him and said he might clinch the Republican nomination in crucial "Super Tuesday" coast-to-coast voting.

"We would like to have everybody on board. We'd like to have a totally united party," he said.

Buoyed by a string of high-profile endorsements, including one from the Los Angeles Times, the Arizona senator sounded like a front-runner in talking to reporters, rejecting criticism of his conservative credentials from rival Mitt Romney and declaring Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton too inexperienced to be president.

Tuesday is the biggest day on the U.S. electoral calendar for choosing Republican and Democratic candidates for the November presidential election, with contests in 24 different states in all parts of the country.

Asked if the Republican race would effectively be over on Tuesday, McCain said he had asked for divine intervention.

"From what we see in the polls, I think that there's a very good chance that it'll be over on Tuesday. But I think there's still a lot of undecided voters. But I'm hoping. ... The sooner we can get that done, the sooner I can go to work on uniting the party," he said.

Speaking later to the Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner in a Chicago suburb, McCain sounded more confident: "I think we may be able to wrap it up next Tuesday."

His main rival, Romney, said he wouldn't hazard any predictions since he'd been so wrong in the past. "I really thought it would be over early in January," he said, declining to say what his strategy would be after February 5.

Romney was planning to campaign in Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia and West Virginia in the coming days, skipping the major states of New York and New Jersey.

Democratic candidate Barack Obama also won the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times, and also picked up the backing of the liberal grass-roots organization and the California chapter of the Service Employees International Union.

The two groups, which together claim nearly 4 million members, could give the Illinois senator organizational muscle as he seeks to close the gap with his better-known rival Hillary Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady.

Polls show Clinton leading Obama, who would be the first black president, in California, New York, New Jersey and many other states that will be up for grabs on Super Tuesday.

Clinton, speaking at San Diego State University, continued to hit Obama on universal health care, saying it was the biggest difference between the two Democratic candidates. "I believe with all my heart it is a moral right that people have quality affordable health care," she said.

Later, she invited supporters in the heart of Silicon Valley to bring their cell phones to weekend events to rally other Californians to vote for her.

"We're going to call a million Californians over this weekend," she said in San Jose.

Her campaign said heavy early voting by mail ballot -- one of their strategies to lock in support -- was a good sign in their efforts to win the nation's most populous state.


One day after a cordial debate during which the two largely directed their attacks at McCain, both Clinton and Obama seized on new data showing a drop in U.S. employment to tout their stimulus plans and take a swipe at President George W. Bush.

"Today's report that our economy actually lost jobs in January confirms my view that we are sliding into a second Bush recession," Clinton said.

McCain said the worsening economic picture proved a $150 billion stimulus plan cleared by the House of Representatives should be approved quickly, and that Congress should make the tax cuts passed by Congress in 2001 and 2003 permanent rather than letting them expire as scheduled in 2010.

McCain had voted against those tax cuts at the time, angering conservatives. Romney said on Friday that vote by McCain was "more out of the Democratic playbook than ours."

Obama criticized McCain's stance at an event in Albuquerque.

"There was a time when Sen. McCain courageously defied the fiscal madness of massive tax cuts for the wealthy in the midst of a costly war," Obama said. "But that was before he started running for the Republican nomination and fell in line."

McCain took aim at Obama and Clinton, saying their positions in favor of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq showed their inexperience on national security matters.

(Additional reporting by Claudia Parsons in Denver and Adam Tanner in California; Editing by Doina Chaicu)

(For more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at

© Reuters 2008 All rights reserved

McCain upbeat on Super Tuesday
Sat, 02 Feb 2008 08:20:45 GMT

Clinton adviser links Obama To Nazis?


NEW YORK (AP) — Advisers to Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton Friday complained vehemently about an Obama campaign mailer that criticizes Clinton's health plan, with one adviser likening the mailer to "Nazis marching through Skokie, Illinois."

Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson disavowed the analogy leveled by Len Nichols, a health policy expert at the New America Foundation who has consulted with Clinton and other candidates on their proposals.

But the remark still reflected the emotional dispute over how best to achieve universal health care, a key concern of many Democratic primary voters.

The Obama mailer, which the Clinton campaign traced to mailboxes in North Dakota and Alaska, shows a young couple sitting at a table, appearing to puzzle over a stack of bills.

"Hillary's plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it," the headline reads.

On a conference call with reporters, Clinton advisers complained the image and the message closely resembled the $100 million "Harry and Louise" TV ad campaign waged by the insurance industry in 1994 to kill the former first lady's effort to reshape the health care system. In those ads, a middle class couple sat at a table worrying about the Clinton plan's complexities and wondering if they might lose the right to choose their own doctors.

Clinton campaign policy director Neera Tanden said the mailer falsely suggests that the New York senator's plan wouldn't bring down costs. She noted that Clinton would offer tax subsidies to help pay for insurance and would seek other cost controls before enforcing a mandate to buy coverage.

Obama, Tanden said, "betrays the cause of universal health care. For a potential Democratic nominee to be attacking universal care is quite stunning."

Nichols of the New America Foundation went farther.

"I am personally outraged at the picture used in this mailing," Nichols, a supporter of the so-called universal mandate said. "It is as outrageous as having Nazis march through Skokie,

In late 1970s, the American Nazi party won a court battle over the right to march through the predominantly Jewish Chicago suburb of Skokie, home to many Holocaust survivors. Despite their victory, the white supremacists decided to hold their demonstration in a Chicago park instead.

While both Clinton and Obama have outlined detailed plans to make health care more affordable and accessible, Clinton would require everyone to carry insurance while Obama would make enrollment voluntary. The two have clashed repeatedly over the matter, with Obama saying people cannot be required to buy insurance if they can't afford it, and Clinton saying universal enrollment is the only way to bring down insurance costs.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton responded by pointing to comments by Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, a longtime champion of universal health care who endorsed Obama earlier this week.

"It's the passion of my life, universal comprehensive health care, and I wouldn't support Barack Obama unless I was absolutely convinced that he was for universal comprehensive health care as well," Kennedy said in a television interview. "I've tried for 38 years to get the universal comprehensive health care. I've supported 12 different proposals to try to get there. Elect Barack Obama and we will get there."

Clinton adviser links Obama mailer to Nazi march
CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Fri, 01 Feb 2008 21:00:16 GMT

Romney’s Super Tuesday strategy takes shape

 Romney’s Super Tuesday strategy is taking shape.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CNN) – Mitt Romney’s Super Tuesday strategy became a little clearer Friday when reporters traveling with the former Massachusetts governor were told where they would be going before he heads home to Boston on Tuesday to cast his vote in his home state’s presidential primary.

The campaign had kept their plans under wraps, not even telling the press where they would be buying advertising time, other than in California. On Friday, Romney alluded to a schedule in flux, saying they would focus on states where they are strong and could land a large number of delegates.

Romney is taking a brief break from the trail Saturday in Salt Lake City, Utah to attend the funeral of Gordon Hinckley, the former president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

From Utah, Romney plans to make campaign stops in Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Tennessee, Georgia, and West Virginia before winding up in Boston on February 5.

After leaving California Friday morning, Romney flew to Denver, Colorado for a well-attended rally at a Ford dealership, telling the crowd, “I have a Ford Mustang, it’s one cool car.”

Romney declined to make a prediction on what sort of Super Tuesday showing he’d need to stay in the race. “I can't possibly forecast at this stage what the kind of numbers I'll have coming out of Tuesday will be,” he said.

“There are a number of states we think we can pick up. There are other states we think are real long shots, there a number of states where I'm competitive. And we're going to be fighting in a lot of states.”

Romney is crisscrossing the country with some familiar campaign trail themes: his own economy-oriented pitch, and attacks on Republican rival John McCain for his relative lack of fiscal experience, his votes against President Bush’s tax cuts and drilling for oil on federal land in Alaska, and his record of partnering with prominent Senate Democrats on what Romney describes as liberal-leaning pieces of legislation.

“I believe his positions on a number of key Republican issues are not in line with the mainstream of our party,” Romney told reporters in Denver.

While Romney jumps from state to state, wife Ann and an army of sons have fanned out to the far reaches of the country – Mrs. Romney to North Dakota, sons Josh, Tagg and Matt to Alaska, Maine and Montana. “At this stage, I expect to keep on battling and get the nomination,” said Romney, “and I'm not going to forecast anything other than success.”

— CNN Political Producer Alexander Marquardt

Romney’s Super Tuesday strategy takes shape
Sat, 02 Feb 2008 02:20:21 GMT

Turning the other cheek: why Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are playing best friends

 Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the the Democratic presidential debate

A week which began with Barack Obama icily turning his back on Hillary Clinton is ending with the two Democratic presidential candidates wreathed in smiles and apparent mutual admiration, even whispering into each other's ears.

The contrast between their appearances at Monday's State of the Union address in Washington and Thursday's TV debate in Los Angeles reflects a growing awareness of the damage caused by the intense, often personal, acrimony of recent weeks.

They are heading helter-skelter - almost neck-and-neck - into Tuesday's elections across 22 states for their party's nomination. But, in the midst of a pulsating campaign crackling with the historic potential to elect the first black or woman President, some Democrats are waking up to the prospect that neither of them will win.

The emergence of John McCain as the likely Republican nominee has cast a cloud of doubt over the assumption that after eight years of President Bush, America will choose a Democrat to succeed him in November. The most recent polls suggest that the mercurial Mr McCain, who appeals to many independent voters, would beat either Mrs Clinton or Mr Obama.

Democratic strategists have noted that in Florida this week Mr McCain secured strong backing from Latinos - an important component of the electorate which other Republican candidates alienate with hardline stances against illegal immigration.

Critics say that his liberal positions on such issues make him a figure of suspicion for many conservatives. But a senior Democratic party figure said yesterday: “The Republicans always fall into line behind their candidate in the end. The trouble is, we don't.”

Some party officials already fear a reprise of the 1988 election when the Republicans destroyed Michael Dukakis's presidential bid with charges that were first levelled against him by Al Gore, a rival for the Democratic nomination. In Thursday's debate in Hollywood, Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama sought to paper over the divisions between them.

“I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign,” said Mr Obama. “I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after this campaign is over.” Mrs Clinton expressed similar sentiments, saying: “The differences between Barack and I pale in comparison to the differences that we have with the Republicans.”

On Monday night after Mr Bush's State of the Union speech, however, Mr Obama had been accused of snubbing Mrs Clinton. He was seen staring coldly at her and then turning away as she reached out to shake the hand of Edward Kennedy, who was seated next him after delivering a prize endorsement a few hours earlier.

The Clinton campaign may have succeeded in dragging Mr Obama into a political fist fight during the South Carolina primary, only to find the tactic had backfired. Faced with evidence that her poll lead was evaporating, she has sought the high moral ground.

Bill Clinton, accused of using racially-charged language against Mr Obama last week, has been reined in, with recent speeches barely mentioning his wife's rival. Mrs Clinton has even adopted some of Mr Obama's language, saying that she would focus her campaign on “lifting people up”.

Her aides, seeking to capitalise on the controversy over his snub, circulated dossiers detailing “personal negative attacks”. One told Mr Obama to “practise what he once preached”.

The animosity reflects a deeper gulf over the way to win the presidency. The Clintons are believed to resent a bid to stop their restoration to the White House by a politician with just three years' Senate experience.

Aides privately compare Mr Obama to Jimmy Carter, who was elected on a similar “revival of hope” message after Watergate and Vietnam but proved to be a weak President. There is little effort to conceal contempt for his promise of transcending the political and cultural divisions of America, which they believe would swiftly reappear even if Mr Obama survived the

“Republican attack machine” in a general election.

Mr Obama has argued that such a “politics-as-usual” view engenders only despair and disillusionment. This week he dismissed Mrs Clinton as a divisive figure from the past. His supporters point out that the vituperative nature of this campaign has reminded many voters, as well as Democrats from Mr Kennedy downwards, what they disliked about the Clintons - and their relationship with the truth.

On Thursday night disagreements were confined to policy differences as the candidates sparred gently over Iraq, health care and legal rights for immigrants. But, even as they spoke, their campaigns were still pouring out e-mails and leaflets attacking each other's record and judgment.

Indeed, the public display of affection in Hollywood may have had less to do with concerns about Democratic unity than the looming contests next week which are so finely balanced that neither dare risk another row. For the moment.


Turning the other cheek: why Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are playing best friends
Sat, 02 Feb 2008 00:00:58 GMT

Friday, February 1, 2008

Republicans fight over who is more conservative

Ok. This just seemed a little silly.

Everybody hates when candidates act like this, but the reason they do it is because it works.

If you want to know their level of conservatism then look at their views on the issues and decide for yourself

Electability seen as key to McCain's rising support


By Tim Gaynor

PHOENIX (Reuters) - John McCain has vaulted from long shot to the front-runner to win the Republican nomination for U.S. president. The reason? Voter confidence he can beat the eventual Democratic candidate in November's election, according to interviews with some of his supporters.

McCain defeated close rival Mitt Romney comfortably in a hard-fought nomination vote in Florida this week, giving him crucial momentum going into the big round of votes on "Super Tuesday."

Twenty-four states are holding nominating contests for one or both parties on February 5 to pick their candidate for the November election.

Allies and voters said that key to the Arizona senator's success has been convincing supporters that he has the greatest chance of winning in November and handing Republicans another term in the White House when two-term President George W. Bush steps down.

Voters said McCain, who is a fiscal and social conservative but who has crossed swords with his own party over issues such as immigration reform, was the Republican's best bet for winning over independents and even some Democrats.

Those votes could be crucial to a Republican win in the general election.

"There's no ifs, ands or buts, the election will be decided by independents, and he has the greatest chance of winning their votes," said Todd Hutcheson, an Orlando real estate dealer and one-time Rudy Giuliani supporter, who voted for McCain in Florida.

McCain's ability to draw support from beyond his party was seen on the campaign trail across Florida, where he was joined at one packed rally by Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, a former Democrat who was re-elected in 2006 as an independent after losing the Democratic primary to an anti-Iraq war candidate.

"I'm not going to let party labels stand between me and doing what I think is best for America," Lieberman told Reuters as he left the rally in Lady Lake, Florida, on Sunday.


The race to win the Republican nomination is very far from over -- with McCain, Romney, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul battling across the country next Tuesday -- and McCain faces formidable obstacles in any race for the White House.

He is hawkish in his support for an unpopular war in Iraq, calling withdrawal "surrender," a stance that is likely a turn-off for a number of independent voters and otherwise dissident Democrats weary of the nearly 5-year-old conflict.

But some of his other stances, while giving him appeal outside the Republican core, make him unpopular in his own party. McCain, who has been a U.S. senator for more than 20 years, was beaten in 2000 for the Republican presidential nomination in a bitter battle with Bush.

McCain faces strong opposition from Republican conservatives who dislike his opposition to bedrock Republican positions, such as opposing Bush's tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, sponsoring campaign finance reform and supporting an overhaul of immigration laws.

Conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh rail against him on widely syndicated shows, and former Republican House of Representatives leader Tom DeLay, for one, has said he would not vote for McCain in a general election.

But some prominent Republicans within the McCain camp believe that they will come into line if the senator continues to gain momentum on Super Tuesday.

"Electability is a very big issue," supporter John Lehman, a former secretary of the Navy, told Reuters last week.

"A huge majority of Republicans want to win, and they would rather have victory than total litmus test purity," he added.

On polling day in Florida, McCain was confident of his ability to win over that support in the months ahead.

"Oh, they'll rally behind me," he said. "Most Republicans respect the process, most Republicans say 'he's the nominee of our party ... I'm going to get behind our candidate to make sure a Democrat doesn't come in.' It's a fairly natural evolution."

(Editing by Frances Kerry and Eric Beech)

© Reuters 2008 All rights reserved

Electability seen as key to McCain's rising support
Fri, 01 Feb 2008 13:17:45 GMT

More CNN debates on the horizon

LOS ANGELES (CNN) – CNN announced Thursday that it will partner with the Ohio Democratic Party and the Ohio Republican Party for back-to-back presidential debates at the end of February.

With the race for each party nomination likely to extend beyond the February 5 Super Tuesday contests, it’s increasingly possible the critical battleground state of Ohio – which holds its presidential primary March 4, along with three other states — could very well determine the 2008 Democratic and Republican nominees.

"Ohio will once again decide who wins the White House,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern. “The Ohio Democratic debate is important because it will allow the next President of the United States to address the issues most important to Ohioans."

Republican Party Deputy Chairman Kevin DeWine also highlighted the state’s potential kingmaker status. "No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio,” said DeWine. “It's a critical battleground state in November that could play a deciding role on March 4. We're proud to partner with CNN on this debate in advance of what could be a decisive primary election in the Buckeye State."

The Democratic debate will take place Wednesday, February 27, while the Republican debate will follow on Thursday, February 28. The network said further details will be released soon.

More CNN debates on the horizon
CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Fri, 01 Feb 2008 03:10:48 GMT