WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton are on top in a new poll of Florida voters.
Among Florida Democrats, 34 percent of those polled support Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York for the Democratic presidential nomination. The senator from New York is far ahead of her rivals in the new survey by Quinnipiac University. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, is in second place at 16 percent. Al Gore is in third place even though the former vice president keeps insisting that he’s not interested in running for president. Former Sen. John Edwards is close behind in fourth place.
On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani is the clear favorite. 31 percent of Republicans surveyed support the former New York mayor for their party’s presidential nomination.
The big surprise in this poll is who’s in second place at 14 percent - Fred Thompson. The former senator from Tennessee last week took his first formal steps towards a run for the White House. Thompson is followed by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, with 10 percent. The remaining Republicans are all in single digits.
The Sunshine State is becoming more of a player in the presidential primaries. The state just moved up its primary to January 29, 2008.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted from May 24 to June 4 and telephone surveys of 1,174 registered voters. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 2.9 percentage
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser
A McCain backer in South Carolina resigned Thursday over the presidential hopeful's immigration stance.
ATLANTA (CNN) – A county chairman for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in South Carolina has quit over the Arizona Republican's support of the immigration bill.
“There is a very wide gulf between what I believe as a conservative South Carolina Republican and what Senator McCain is pushing for with this bill. It is an extremely weighty matter,” David Nix, McCain’s Aiken County chairman, told CNN
In a brief resignation letter to the campaign, Nix said McCain “can’t read the pulse of the American citizens” on immigration.
Nix also told CNN he joined the McCain campaign because of a long friendship with State Attorney General Henry McMaster, McCain’s state co-chairman.
"I was hopeful Senator McCain might bring some leadership to the race early on, I hope he would be able to keep his nose clean, but I’m afraid he’s not been able to do that," Nix said.
He said the immigration issue was behind his final decision to drop his support, but added McCain had “a couple of bumps since I got on board....when the spotlight gets on him, he just starts to lose his focus. He loses his cool and composure.”
Nix said he has not yet decided who to back in the primary, but noted that he is “waiting to see what Fred Thompson does. I like him on the surface.”
For now, Nix said, he is going to “step back” before making any decisions.
McCain's campaign responded to the resignation by releasing a statement from McMaster in support of the Arizona Republican.
“Most people understand it's never possible to agree with any leader on every single issue," McMaster said. "John McCain has 80 county chairs and co-chairs in South Carolina - plus hundreds of other endorsements from Republican elected officials and party activists all across South Carolina, more than any other presidential candidate.
“Those of us on John McCain's team admire him for his courage, his honesty and his willingness to take a stand," he added. "He is clearly the best prepared to lead our nation in the war against global terror."
– CNN's Steve Brusk
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The House of Representatives on Thursday voted to roll back President Bush's 2001 restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research, but by a margin short of the two-thirds needed to override a promised veto.
The House vote would allow researchers to obtain stem cells from embryos created for in vitro fertilization that would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics. Thursday's 247-176 vote sends the bill to the White House, where Bush has said he would veto it.
Current federal policy, which Bush put in place in 2001, bars the use of federal funding for work that would destroy a human embryo. The president used one of only two vetoes of his administration to date to kill a similar bill in 2006, and he announced after the vote that he will veto the measure that passed Thursday.
"I am disappointed the leadership of Congress recycled an old bill that would simply overturn our country's carefully balanced policy on embryonic stem cell research," he said. "If this bill were to become law, American taxpayers would for the first time in our history be compelled to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos. Crossing that line would be a grave mistake."
Reid told reporters Thursday the immigration bill may be "over with."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, threatened to pull the long-sought immigration bill off the floor if a key procedural motion to limit debate on the bill – which is to be voted on Thursday night - is defeated.
"The bill’s over with. The bill's gone. I mean what else can I do?" he asked reporters. "Should we spend more time on this so we don't get to debate gas prices, so we don’t have to chance to vote on whether or not Alberto Gonzales should stay on as attorney general?"
Reid's warning may have been part political tactic. He’s sending a message to Republican senators, who early Thursday voted as a group to defeat a similar motion to limit debate, that Thursday night’s vote might be their last chance to keep alive the immigration bill, components of which have polled favorably, that is President Bush’s top domestic priority.
Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, the number two Republican, held out hope a deal could be reached before Thursday night’s vote that would allow for a handful more amendments to satisfy Republicans but also let Reid know the debate will end soon and allow the Senate to move onto other matters.
But Lott said Reid hurt his cause with Republicans by scheduling the Gonzales no-confidence issue for the first vote after immigration. Lott complained the Gonzales legislation, “is irrelevant, non-binding and will do nothing but drive us into a pit of nastiness out here. What is the rush?”
– CNN's Dana Bash and Ted Barrett
Bush and Putin met at the G8 summit Thursday.
ROSTOCK, Germany (CNN) - At a much-anticipated one-on-one meeting with President Bush at the G-8 Summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to "de-escalate the tensions" between the two nations by offering a concrete proposal to end their heated standoff over U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, according to White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.
"We think it was a positive development," Hadley said after the meeting.
Hadley told reporters Putin proposed the radar for the U.S. missile defense system be based in Azerbaijan, a former Soviet Republic located between Eastern Europe and Western Asia and to the south of Russia. Azerbaijan as an old Soviet-built radar system that is still operational and Putin would like to use this radar to detect threats and then send signals to U.S. interceptor missiles based elsewhere.
This would be an alternative to the U.S. proposal to base the radar in the Czech Republic, which Putin has balked at strongly, threatening on the eve of the summit to aim nuclear weapons at Europe if the U.S. did not drop the proposal.
HEILIGENDAMM, Germany (CNN) - U.S. President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Thursday to cooperate on missile-defense systems, cooling tensions between the men at the G8 Summit in Germany.
They made the announcement after a one-on-one private meeting at the Heiligendamm resort.
"It's much better to work together than to create tensions," Bush said.
Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* "A fragile compromise that would legalize millions of unlawful immigrants risks coming unraveled after the Senate voted early Thursday to place a five-year limit on a program meant to provide U.S. employers with 200,000 temporary foreign workers annually." (AP)
"Sources indicated early Thursday morning that the already delicately crafted deal was on life support heading into today's expected vote to close off debate." (Roll Call)
* "The fate of convicted former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has thrown a twist into the race for the Republican presidential nomination, forcing candidates to make an awkward choice between loyalty to a party stalwart and the GOP's long-held reverence for the rule of law." (Los Angeles Times)
Rudy Giuliani's remark that the Libby sentence was "grossly excessive" at Tuesday's CNN/WMUR/Union Leader debate "prompted skepticism from some legal and political scholars, who said it was at odds with Mr. Giuliani's record as an aggressive prosecutor and a tough-on-crime mayor." (New York Sun)
* "The future of the Ames Republican straw poll was cast into doubt Wednesday after first Rudy Giuliani and then John McCain decided to skip the high-profile summer warm-up to Iowa's leadoff presidential nominating caucuses."
Mitt Romney "has enjoyed an organizational edge in Iowa," and Romney IA chairman Doug Gross characterized the Giuliani/McCain decision "as a victory for the campaign." (Des Moines Register)
* And Bill Richardson is no varmint hunter. The NM Gov has bagged an oryx. A what? Find out in Hot Topics below!
* President Bush spends the day in Heiligendamm, Germany, for the G8 summit.
Also on the Political Radar:
* The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a 9:30 am ET confirmation hearing on Lt. General Douglas Lute to be assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan.
* Bill Richardson participates in the SEIU Walk a Day in My Shoes Program at 10:30 am ET. Richardson "will join an employee of the Clark County Department of Family Services for office visits, meeting with local families and a tour of the Child Haven facility." (Release)
* Rudy Giuliani addresses the Police Officers Association of Michigan at 11:45 am in Grand Rapids, MI. He later speaks to the International Association of Airport & Seaport Police at 8 pm ET in DC.
* Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is a witness at a 2 pm ET Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the prevention of deceptive practices and voter intimidation in federal elections.
* Mitt Romney speaks to the Board of Directors of the National Association of Home Builders at 4 pm ET at the Washington Hilton.
* Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) addresses the New York Police Department Honor Legion's 97th Annual Award Dinner at 7:30 pm ET.
* Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice speaks at the Economic Club of New York's Centennial Celebration Dinner.
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
BUSH, PUTIN TO MEET ON "SIDELINES" OF G8: President Bush said he hoped to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that a Europe-based U.S. missile defense system is not an issue either side should "be hyperventilating about." Bush and Putin are seeing each other here for the first time since they clashed over U.S. plans for a missile shield flared into Cold War-style rhetoric. With U.S.-Russia relations at their lowest point in decades, Putin and Bush will sit down Thursday on the sidelines of a summit of the world's eight major industrialized democracies being held at this seaside resort. The United State says the shield targets a potential Iranian nuclear weapon, not Russian ones. Russia retorts that's an "insufficient" explanation. Putin has warned that a new shield could require Russia to retarget missiles toward Europe or take other buildup measures. AP via Yahoo! News: Will Bush-Putin meeting be tense?
VP "MORE CLOSELY INVOLVED THAN PREVIOUSLY KNOWN" IN WIRETAPS DEBATE: Vice President Cheney told Justice Department officials that he disagreed with their objections to a secret surveillance program during a high-level White House meeting in March 2004, a former senior Justice official told senators yesterday. The meeting came one day before White House officials tried to get approval for the same program from then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who lay recovering from surgery in a hospital, according to former deputy attorney general James B. Comey. Comey's disclosures, made in response to written questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, indicate that Cheney and his aides were more closely involved than previously known in a fierce internal battle over the legality of the warrantless surveillance program. Washington Post: Official: Cheney Urged Wiretaps
CHOICE FOR WAR CZAR SAYS "HE HAD BEEN SKEPTICAL" ABOUT SURGE: Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, picked by President Bush as his White House war adviser, said Wednesday he had been skeptical of Bush's decision to send thousands more U.S. troops into Iraq. In a written response to questions by the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lute confirmed news reports that he had voiced doubts during a White House-led policy review that led to Bush's Jan. 10 announcement that 21,500 more combat troops would go to Baghdad and Anbar province. The buildup was hotly contested in Congress, including among several Republicans who favored greater pressure on Iraqi security forces to take over combat. "During the review, I registered concerns that a military 'surge' would likely have only temporary and localized effects unless it were accompanied by counterpart 'surges' by the Iraqi government and the other, nonmilitary agencies of the U.S. government," Lute wrote in a document obtained by The Associated Press. AP via Yahoo! News: Bush war adviser was skeptical on Iraq
IMMIGRATION DEAL "ON LIFE SUPPORT": In what many view as a near deal-killer to the Senate's massive immigration reform bill, Senators cleared a controversial amendment late Wednesday night to sunset guest worker provisions in the measure. Sources indicated early Thursday morning that the already delicately crafted deal was on life support heading into today's expected vote to close off debate. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), passed the chamber 49-48. It would place a five-year limit on the immigration bill's provision to allow 200,000 temporary workers per year. If Senators fail to invoke cloture to move toward final passage today, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) must decided whether to pull the measure from the floor - which he has previously said he would - or give it more time. Roll Call: Guest Worker Amendment Puts Immigration Bill in Peril
BUSH "SURPRISED" ABOUT ANGRY REACTION TO GA IMMIGRATION REMARKS: President Bush did not intend to single out his conservative supporters for criticism in a speech on immigration reform last week and was "surprised" that his remarks angered Republicans, White House spokesman Tony Snow said yesterday. "He was surprised by the reaction," Mr. Snow said of Mr. Bush's speech in Glynco, Ga., last week. "The speech in Georgia was, 'We've got a serious problem, and we need to fix it.' It was not in any way designed to be pointed at Republicans." But conservative opponents of a Senate immigration bill supported by Mr. Bush reacted furiously to the president's suggestion that they are resorting to scare tactics by using the word "amnesty" in referring to the measure that would allow millions of illegal aliens to remain in the United States. Washington Times: White House surprised at GOP anger over speech
OBAMA, GRAHAM GO AT IT OVER IMMIGRATION AMENDMENT: Presidential politics and partisan resentments reached a boil in the Senate Wednesday night, as a heated exchange between Sens. Barack Obama and Lindsey Graham erupted on the chamber floor and continued in a nearby corridor. Senators had been debating a contentious immigration overhaul for hours when Obama — the Illinois Democrat running for president — introduced an amendment that would end a key provision after five years rather than 14. His target was a proposed point system that would make it easier for would-be immigrants to obtain visas based on their education levels or work skills rather than on having close relatives already living in the United States... The amendment infuriated Graham, a South Carolina Republican with close ties to another presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Pacing the Senate floor and waving Obama's amendment, Graham loudly accused Obama of undermining a delicate agreement whose advocates have shown political courage. AP via Yahoo! News: Obama, Graham trade barbs in Senate
FBI ASKS STEVENS TO PRESERVE DOCS FOR AK CORRUPTION PROBE: Sen. Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, disclosed in an interview that the FBI asked him to preserve records as part of a widening investigation into Alaskan political corruption that has touched his son and ensnared one of his closest political confidants and financial backers. Stevens, who is famous for bringing home federal earmarks for Alaska when he was Appropriations Committee chairman, was not previously known to be linked to the Justice Department's probe, which has uncovered evidence that more than $400,000 worth of bribes were given to state lawmakers in exchange for favorable energy legislation. Investigators have used secret recording equipment, seized documents and cooperating witnesses to secure the indictments of four current and former state lawmakers, including the former state House speaker, shaking the core of Alaska's Republican Party. Washington Post: Sen. Stevens Told to Keep Records for Graft Probe
SCANDALS OPEN "KEY VACANCIES" ON "PRIZED COMMITTEES": Indictments and corruption scandals can mean one member of Congress's demise but become another's bounty, with key vacancies created on prized committees when ethics probes force lawmakers to step aside. Take Rep. William J. Jefferson (D), the New Orleans lawmaker indicted Monday in a sprawling 16-count accusation of illegal global dealmaking. Already pushed off a key panel last June - the Ways and Means Committee, with international trade oversight - Jefferson was forced to resign Tuesday from the one assignment he had left, on the less glamorous Small Business Committee. In addition, Jefferson's hope of obtaining a seat on the Homeland Security Committee, which had been approved by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) but never brought to a floor vote, went up in indictment smoke as well. This has created a just-beneath-the-radar jockeying among Democrats to grab a spot on the Homeland Security panel, which is just a few years old but has assumed a high profile after Hurricane Katrina and amid the fight against terrorism. Washington Post: Opportunity in a Lawmaker's Fall
GIULIANI TO LAY OUT HEALTH PLAN: Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, moving his presidential campaign beyond its signature issue of national security, is preparing to lay out a health-care plan that would mark a significant change in how health insurance is paid for in the U.S. Mr. Giuliani, currently leading opinion polls for the 2008 Republican nomination, wants to move tens of millions of people from employer-based health insurance to the individual market as a way of giving people more coverage choices. It is an idea he alluded to in Tuesday's Republican debate in Manchester, N.H., and later expanded on in an interview. Wall Street Journal: Giuliani Health Proposal Seeks Individual Coverage
BRACEWELL & GIULIANI'S STEM CELL LOBBYING ANGERS CONSERVATIVES: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani LLP, has lobbied Congress on stem cell research for Johns Hopkins Institutions, according to its public filing. This has drawn fire from social conservatives because Johns Hopkins's stance on stem cell research appears to conflict with Giuliani's stated position. "We believe Giuliani's firm may be lobbying in favor of H.R. 2560, a bill that would allow the creation and destruction of human embryos for research purposes," said Joseph Cella, president of Fidelis America, a conservative Catholic organization, who yesterday raised concerns over the lobbying records. "It is important for the public to know if Giuliani's firm is lobbying for this, or any other policies, that would promote embryo-destructive research. The Hill: Lobbying by Rudy's firm draws fire
TOUCH DECISION ON LIBBY FOR GOP FIELD: The fate of convicted former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has thrown a twist into the race for the Republican presidential nomination, forcing candidates to make an awkward choice between loyalty to a party stalwart and the GOP's long-held reverence for the rule of law. The issue erupted during Tuesday night's GOP debate in New Hampshire, hours after Libby was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for his role in the CIA leak case — reflecting an intensifying debate in Republican circles over whether President Bush should pardon Libby before he would have to report to prison. Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, unleashing a fiery soliloquy, called Libby's sentence an "excessive punishment" and said U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton's order "argues more in favor of a pardon." Pressure also is coming from likely candidate Fred D. Thompson, a former Tennessee senator who said in a TV appearance that if he were president, he would "absolutely" pardon Libby because the former aide was the victim of a "gross injustice." Thompson sits on the advisory board of Libby's defense fund. Los Angeles Times: Libby pardon poses quandary for GOP hopefuls
LIBBY PARDON COMMENTS "A DEPARTURE" FOR TOUGH PROSECUTOR GIULIANI: Mayor Giuliani's strong criticism of a federal judge's 30-month prison sentence for I. Lewis Libby Jr. signals a departure for the Republican presidential hopeful and former prosecutor, who had previously shied away from speculating about the case. In response to a question at the GOP debate Tuesday night, Mr. Giuliani called the punishment "grossly excessive," a position that aligns him with many conservatives but prompted skepticism from some legal and political scholars, who said it was at odds with Mr. Giuliani's record as an aggressive prosecutor and a tough-on-crime mayor. "I think the sentence was way out of line," Mr. Giuliani said when asked if a presidential pardon would be appropriate for Libby. New York Sun: Giuliani's Libby Comments Signal New Attitude
MASTERS OF THE "THE ARCANE PRESIDENTIAL ART" OF THE IOWA CAUCUSES: [Hillary Clinton's] campaign repeated at every turn that it was serious about Iowa, pointing out that she had been spending a lot of time in the state. But on Tuesday, it offered the ultimate sign of its intentions: It promoted Teresa Vilmain. Vilmain, 48, has been a near-legend among caucus operatives since she ran Michael S. Dukakis's Iowa campaign two decades ago at the age of 28. She was raised on Iowa politics, watching as her mother held Democratic caucuses in their Cedar Falls home. With her long skirts and her long hair pulled atop her head, she could be mistaken for an English professor. But she strides into rooms as if tilted against a gale, speaks in the staccato delivery of a ward boss, and never ends a meeting without "action items" for everyone present. Washington Post: They Know How to Caucus
TOP GOP CONTENDERS TO SKIP IA STRAW POLL: The future of the Ames Republican straw poll was cast into doubt Wednesday after first Rudy Giuliani and then John McCain decided to skip the high-profile summer warm-up to Iowa's leadoff presidential nominating caucuses. The former New York mayor's morning announcement that he planned to bypass the early test of strength prompted McCain, an Arizona senator, to abandon his plans for the Aug. 11 event. "In light of today's news, it is clear that the Ames straw poll will not be a meaningful test of the leading candidates' organizational abilities," McCain's national campaign manager Terry Nelson said in a statement. "So we have decided to forgo our participation in the event." Campaign aides to Giuliani and McCain, who have led the field in national GOP surveys, said they intended to compete for the January caucuses. Des Moines Register: Giuliani, McCain ditch Republican straw poll
TEAM OBAMA IS A FUNDRAISING "LEGEND": Only a few months ago, political operatives were speculating whether Sen. Barack Obama could come close to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's daunting fundraising machine. Now Team Obama is the legend, and the question is whether the junior senator from New York can keep up. Obama raised a surprising $25 million in the first three months of this year - only $1 million short of Clinton's haul, which was more than triple the record for that period in a presidential campaign. But was that Obama's personal best? Could the senator from Illinois exceed that in the fundraising period that closes June 30? Will he surpass the $29 million that then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush raised in the second quarter of 1999, during his first presidential election cycle? The Politico: Obama's quests for 'eye-popping' cash
GINGRICH PLAYS ODDS MAKER FOR '08 BID: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gives himself 4-to-1 odds against running for president, an assessment that conflicts with his recent pronouncements about seeking the Republican nomination. Last month, Gingrich said "it is a great possibility" that he would pursue the presidency. But he told The Associated Press this week he would give it "4-to-1 odds" against, saying he enjoys being a pundit and book author. Gingrich outlined his decision-making process to the AP: After holding national Internet-based workshops on Sept. 27 and 29, he will decide whether to form an exploratory committee on Sept. 30. If he does form a committee, he will decide whether to run by Nov. 6, about one year from Election Day 2008. His comments came during a book signing for "Paper Kills: Transforming Health and Healthcare with Information Technology," which was published by Gingrich's health care think tank. AP via Yahoo! News: Gingrich: 4-1 odds against GOP bid
FRED THOMPSON THE LOBBYIST: When Fred Thompson was investigating alleged campaign-finance abuses as chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs committee in 1997, one of his targets was Harold Ickes — a top aide and fundraiser for President Clinton. Over the past three years, though, the former Republican senator and the Democratic powerbroker were on the same side of a big legislative battle. Both were part of a team of lobbyists for Equitas Ltd., a British reinsurance company set up to handle billions of dollars in claims by asbestos victims, lobbying records show. That unlikely pairing offers an insight into Thompson, 64, who declared his interest last week in running for president. Although the folksy-sounding Tennessean recently told USA TODAY that he would run an outsider, just as he did while campaigning as a "country lawyer" in a red pickup during his 1994 U.S. Senate race, his résumé is that of a longtime Washington operative who has crossed ideological lines to represent corporate and foreign clients. Before he was elected to the Senate, Thompson spent nearly two decades in Washington as a lawyer-lobbyist, representing such entities as Westinghouse, the deposed leader of Haiti, the Teamsters Union pension fund and the Tennessee Savings and Loan Association, according to Senate records and published accounts. USA Today: Past as lobbyist may play into future as candidate
RICHARDSON THE HUNTER: Bill Richardson – governor, presidential candidate, hunter – is a good shot, and he has the prey to prove it. "I would call myself a recreational hunter. I am not an avid hunter or an expert hunter," Richardson said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. The New Mexico governor says hunting is just a hobby and he's still a novice since he took it up in earnest only about four years ago, when he became governor of New Mexico. Fellow hunters praise his skills. Richardson has bagged traditional game – such as elk and turkey – and stalked the exotic. He shot an oryx, a long-horned antelope native to Africa, during a guided outing in 2005 on a New Mexico ranch owned by media mogul Ted Turner. He owns a 12-gauge Browning over-and-under shotgun, which he's used for hunting birds, including quail and dove. Richardson also owns a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol, which is not for hunting, but he has a state permit to carry it concealed. He's borrowed rifles to hunt big game such as elk, deer and the oryx. AP via Yahoo! News: Richardson adept as recreational hunter