Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg changed his party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated Tuesday, a move that will surely increase speculation he is considering an independent White House bid. (The Ticker)
Full story here
The "move stunned some veteran political operatives and angered the Republican National Committee." (New York Daily News)
"Bloomberg's aides are working intensely behind the scenes promoting the idea of the mayor's candidacy and exploring the mechanics of starting an independent campaign." (New York Times)
He "is in a position to spend more than any candidate has ever spent in a presidential campaign." (Washington Post)
"[P]olitical analysts say he could appeal to a wide swath of the country as an independent, running as a centrist not beholden to either political party." (Boston Globe)
"No one is more unhappy about Mayor Bloomberg's declaration of independence than fellow New Yorkers Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rudy Giuliani... The two front-runners for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations have the most to lose, and neither wants to see a potentially serious new rival on the horizon." (New York Post)
* Rob Portman's departure from OMB "paves the way for the Ohio Republican to mount a gubernatorial campaign in 2010 or a race for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Those were two possibilities Portman said he is seriously considering." (Cincinnati Enquirer)
* "In five days, Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal will select Wyoming's next U.S. Senator from among the former chief of staff of the late Sen. Craig Thomas, a prominent physician and state senator, and a former legislator and state Treasurer." (Casper Star-Tribune)
* "Anyone who texts "GO" to OBAMA (62262) will receive a free bumper sticker between now and June 30th." (Chicago Tribune's "The Swamp")
Also, be sure to check out the ringtones here.
* And Sopranos fans probably caught the "Johnny Sack" cameo in this.
So, is Vincent Curatola (AKA "John Sacramoni") jumping on the Hillary bandwagon? Find out in Hot Topics below!
* The president travels to Foggy Bottom for a group photo and meeting with Caribbean heads of government at the State Department at 10:35 am ET.
At 2:35 pm ET, Bush makes remarks on embryonic stem cell research in the East Room, and meets with Republican Members of the House of Representatives in the Oval Office at 3:10 pm ET.
Also on the Political Radar:
* Campaign for America's Future wraps its three-day "Take Back America 2007" conference in Washington. Today's headliners:
8 am ET – Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
8:30 am ET – Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
9:15 am ET – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
9:45 am ET – Michael Moore
* Rudy Giuliani speaks at the Embassy Suites in Des Moines at 11:30 am ET.
* NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg will take questions at a 12 pm ET presser in Manhattan.
* Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Dem frosh members hold a 2:40 pm ET news conference to respond to President Bush's stem cell veto.
* Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) gives a 3 pm ET speech to the Florida Broadcasters Association at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach, FL. He later is the featured speaker at the Orange County Republican Executive Committee Lincoln Day Dinner in Orlando at 7 pm ET.
* Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) continues his 4-day, 27-town IA bus tour with stops in Webster City, Iowa Falls, Waverly, Cedar Falls, Grundy Center and Marshalltown.
* Rep. Patrick Kennedy joins CNN's Larry King for a primetime interview on his fight for mental health reform and the car crash that sent him to rehab a year ago. LKL, 9 pm ET.
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
BUSH, OLMERT SPEAK OF SUPPORT FOR ABBAS IN OVAL OFFICE MEETING: President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday declared that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a U.S.-backed moderate who ousted the militant Islamic group Hamas from a unity government earlier this week, is the one true leader of "all the Palestinian people." Mr. Bush and Mr. Olmert, who met in the Oval Office amid a spiraling crisis in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, pledged to work to bolster Mr. Abbas' fragile Fatah government. Mr. Bush condemned Hamas, which took over the Gaza Strip last week in a bloody clash with Fatah forces that left more than 100 people dead. "First of all, we recognize the president of all the Palestinian people, and that's President Abu Mazen," Mr. Bush said, referring to Mr. Abbas by his Arabic honorific. "He was elected; he's the president." Washington Times: Bush, Olmert back Abbas
CARTER WEIGHS IN: Former President Jimmy Carter accused the U.S., Israel and the European Union on Tuesday of seeking to divide the Palestinian people by reopening aid to President Mahmoud Abbas' new government in the West Bank while denying the same to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was addressing a human rights conference in Ireland, also said the Bush administration's refusal to accept Hamas' 2006 election victory was "criminal." Carter said Hamas, besides winning a fair and democratic mandate that should have entitled it to lead the Palestinian government, had proven itself to be far more organized in its political and military showdowns with Abbas' moderate Fatah movement. AP via Yahoo! News: Carter blasts US policy on Palestinians
BUSH TO VETO STEM CELL BILL: President Bush will issue an executive order intended to encourage scientific advances in regenerative medicine, according to senior White House officials who said Mr. Bush would announce the initiative on Wednesday, just as he vetoes a measure promoting embryonic stem cell research. The embryonic stem cell measure has widespread public support, and the veto would be the second time Mr. Bush has rejected it. By pairing the veto with a new scientific initiative, the White House clearly hopes to blunt the inevitable criticism that Mr. Bush will face from researchers, advocates for patients and politicians, including many in his own party. New York Times: Bush Will Pair Veto With New Cell Initiative
PORTMAN STEPS ASIDE; BUSH TAPS NUSSLE FOR OMB: President Bush selected a veteran of the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress to become the new head of the White House budget office after current Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman announced yesterday that he was stepping down. Portman enjoyed good relationships with both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, and some Democrats said the appointment of former Iowa representative Jim Nussle, an aggressive partisan in his tenure in Congress, is another indication of Bush's intent to confront congressional Democrats over tax and spending issues in the final 18 months of his term. In making his announcement, Portman, 51, said he wanted to spend more time with his wife and three children, who have remained in suburban Cincinnati since he came to Washington 14 years ago as a lawmaker. Washington Post: Bush Names Ex-Rep. Nussle Budget Chief
WHAT'S NEXT FOR PORTMAN? Portman's departure paves the way for the Ohio Republican to mount a gubernatorial campaign in 2010 or a race for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Those were two possibilities Portman said he is seriously considering. "I'm going to look at the options ... focusing on the possibility of 2010. I also would be looking at 2012," Portman said, acknowledging that leaving the White House "will enable me to be able to do more politically." Portman already has been making the rounds. Earlier this month, he spoke at the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments in Cincinnati and also delivered the keynote speech for the Lincoln-Hayes Dinner in Bowling Green. And, Portman already has about $1.5 million in his campaign account, which has been frozen since he joined the administration two years ago. Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland's seat is up in 2010 and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, will be up for re-election in 2012. Cincinnati Enquirer: Governor Portman? Senator?
STATE DEPT. OFFICIAL APOLOGIZES FOR PASSPORT BACKLOG: Passport applications will take weeks longer than usual to process through the end of 2007 as workers struggle with a massive backlog caused by new border-security rules, the head of the government's passport office told angry senators Tuesday. State Department Consular Affairs chief Maura Harty testified that there are now nearly 3 million applications in the pipeline, and it is taking workers roughly 12 weeks to process each. By fall, she said, the department expects it will take eight weeks to get a passport. Workers won't be mailing out passports within the department's usual six-week turnaround time until at least the end of the year, she said, because "demand is at unprecedented levels." Harty apologized for a recent passport backlog that has caused countless airline passengers to have to cancel vacations, business trips and other travel because they haven't received their passports months after they applied. "I deeply regret that," she said. USA Today: Senators told to expect passport delays all year
WY GOP CHOOSES THREE POSSIBLE REPLACEMENTS FOR LATE SEN. THOMAS: Now there are three. In five days, Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal will select Wyoming's next U.S. Senator from among the former chief of staff of the late Sen. Craig Thomas, a prominent physician and state senator, and a former legislator and state Treasurer. "The three names I will put forward in a letter to Gov. Freudenthal tomorrow morning are Tom Sansonetti, John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis," Wyoming GOP Chairman Fred Parady said at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the end of the party's day-long special meeting in Casper. The party's 71-member central committee chose those three, in that order, after more than nine hours of administrative procedure, speeches, voting, question-and-answer sessions, and more voting to narrow a field of 28 candidates. Casper Star-Tribune: Gov. will choose among "deep talent"
RUNOFF AHEAD IN GA-10: Republican former state Sen. Jim Whitehead took a solid lead but failed to avoid a runoff in Tuesday's nationally watched special election to fill the vacant 10th District congressional seat. But the real race of the night turned out to be for the role of challenger in the runoff. It was too close to call early today, with Democrat James Marlow and Republican Paul Broun Jr., both from the Athens area, separated by just a handful of votes among the more than 50,000 cast. Whitehead of Evans, a former legislator and Columbia County Commission chairman, rolled up a heavy vote in his home base around Augusta. He finished with more than 40 percent of the total vote in a field that included six Republicans, three Democrats and a Libertarian. "I would have liked to win without a runoff, but with 10 people in the race, I don't think we could have done that," Whitehead said. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Whitehead to face July 17 runoff
CANDIDATES SING "LIBERAL CHORUS" AT AFSCME FORUM, "TAKE BACK AMERICA": Two powerful blocs among Democrats — organized labor and liberal activists — heard several of the party's presidential contenders pledge allegiance Thursday to a progressive agenda more sweeping than would have seemed politically palatable not long ago. The candidates' liberal chorus about the war in Iraq, gay rights, healthcare and labor issues was a testament to the Democratic left wing's growing strength since the Republican rout in the 2006 midterm election. The White House hopefuls called for broad healthcare reform. All embraced allowing gays to serve in the military, a step to the left of President Clinton's policy of "don't ask, don't tell." The rival candidates also paid homage to their party's deep antiwar sentiment by competing for the mantle of being the most strongly opposed to the war in Iraq. Los Angeles Times: Candidates fuel hopes of party liberals
RUDY CAMP DEFENDS DECISION TO QUIT IRAQ STUDY GROUP: Rudolph Giuliani's campaign Tuesday defended the ex-mayor's decision to quit the Iraq Study Group, saying Giuliani didn't want his impending presidential run to politicize the group's work, or time conflicts to limit his participation. Newsday reported Tuesday that Giuliani quit the blue-ribbon panel after failing to attend a single meeting - and delivered paid speeches and attended a political fundraiser on days when the group met. Giuliani's campaign Tuesday acknowledged his prior time commitments as a reason for quitting, without directly addressing whether he skipped the working sessions in order to deliver paid speeches. Instead, campaign officials emphasized Giuliani's concern that his presence would turn the Iraq Study Group into a "political football" when the group was supposed to provide a bipartisan, consensus view of the way ahead in Iraq. Newsday: Rudy 'didn't want to politicize' Iraq study
SC STATE TREASURER (AND GIULIANI'S FORMER SC STATE DIRECTOR) IN COCAINE BUST: State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel was indicted on federal drug charges Tuesday and was suspended from office by Gov. Mark Sanford. Ravenel, 44, and Michael L. Miller of Mount Pleasant are charged with one count each of conspiracy to possess and intent to distribute cocaine. Miller already is in state custody on charges of trafficking cocaine. Ravenel is scheduled to appear July 9 in federal court in Columbia for arraignment, U.S. Attorney Reggie Lloyd said... Ravenel also was a state director for Rudy Giuliani's 2008 the GOP presidential bid. The Giuliani campaign said Tuesday Ravenel had left the campaign. The State: Ravenel suspended in wake of cocaine charges
THOMPSON GIVES "HAWKISH LECTURE" IN LONDON: Fred Thompson, the actor and former Senator widely seen as the Republicans' best hope for keeping the White House, called for a "blockade" of Iran yesterday. The screen veteran, whose announcement as the eleventh contender for the Republican nomination is expected within days, also warned that "jihadists" were trying to bring the West to its knees. Mr Thompson starred in Die Hard 2 and The Hunt for Red October before serving as Republican Senator for Tennessee. During a visit to London, he delivered a hawkish lecture on foreign policy, singling out Iran's nuclear ambitions as a key threat to the West. He recalled how President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly threatened to "wipe Israel off the map". He said: "When the president of Iran shares his nightmare visions before cheering crowds, those are not just a fanatic's version of an empty applause line. The only safe assumption is that he means it. Telegraph: We must blockade Iran, says Republican hope
BIG ROMNEY FUNDRAISER TARGETED BY LAWSUITS ALLEGING CHILD ABUSE: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars through the fundraising efforts of a supporter targeted by several lawsuits alleging child abuse. In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, 133 plaintiffs have alleged that Robert Lichfield, co-chairman of Romney's Utah finance committee owned or operated residential boarding schools for troubled teenagers where students were "subjected to physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse." The complaint, which plaintiffs amended and resubmitted to the court last week, alleges children attending schools operated by Lichfield suffered abuses such as unsanitary living conditions; denial of adequate food; exposure to extreme temperatures; beatings; confinement in dog cages; and sexual fondling. The Hill: Lawsuits hit a Romney money man
IS JOHNNY SACK ON THE CLINTON BANDWAGON? Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has a bit of that Edie Falco thing going on, at least in the eyes of Vince Curatola, the actor best-known for playing mobster Johnny "Sack" Sacrimoni on HBO's "The Sopranos." Like Falco, who played Carmela Soprano on the popular series, Clinton "has thick hair, multiple shades of light brown and blond," Curatola said. The wife of a powerful man ... That's an interesting analogy," Curatola continued as he chatted with The Sleuth about his cameo role in Sen. Clinton's much-hyped video spoofing the ending of the Sopranos final season... But don't jump to conclusions about a Curatola endorsement any time soon. "If I see her platform leaning more and more toward a national health care plan, I would be very interested in her for president," said Curatola, who sits on the board of Hackensack University Medical Center. Asked whether Clinton was as good an actor as Falco, Curatola laughed and said, "We did multiple takes. She got warmer and better." washingtonpost.com: Johnny Sack's Campaign Cameo
EDWARDS TO RENEW EMPHASIS ON "TWO AMERICAS": John Edwards, battling signs he may be left behind by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, is seeking to reinvigorate his candidacy with a new focus on New Hampshire and a renewed emphasis on his populist "two Americas" message, advisers say. The Edwards advisers say they have concluded that voters may not perceive sharp distinctions within the Democratic field on Iraq - an issue where Edwards was in the vanguard with a starkly anti-war stance that has dominated his campaign's message. So Edwards will try to differentiate himself by stressing a message of economic fairness that could appeal to the lower-income and union voters who are essential to his success. The focus is also designed to put him in a strong position with unions as they begin their formal endorsement process in late summer. The Politico: Edwards looks to N.H. to stay alive