Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's "clear flirtation with a White House run kept alive a frenzy of speculation on the what-ifs of a prospective third-party bid." (Los Angeles Times)
"It was clear that New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was enjoying himself yesterday as he toyed with the press corps there, taking 20 minutes of questions about the city's 311 telephone information system at a news conference just a day after he bolted the Republican Party, but offering not a clue about his intentions." (Washington Post)
"The mayor, who can't run for a third term, is enjoying a bonanza of publicity..." (USA Today)
"READ MY LIPS; 'I'm not a candidate' (WINK) 'Country will have options' (WINK)" (New York Post front page)
Rudy Giuliani "insisted there would be no hard feelings if Bloomberg one day stands between him and the White House, even though it was Giuliani's backing of the billionaire businessman and political neophyte that helped launched Bloomberg's career as mayor." (Newsday)
"IT'S GONNA GET UGLY! Why Bloomy and Rudy's showdown ain't politics... it's personal" (New York Daily News front page)
* "Ralph Nader says he is seriously considering running for president in 2008 because he foresees another Tweedledum-Tweedledee election that offers little real choice to voters." (The Politico)
* "Bubba's back." (AP)
* Fred Thompson "has hired a finance director for the Northeast and Midwestern regions, turbo-charging his money machine for a full-on bid for the White House." (The Hill)
* And Michael Moore invited 900 health care lobbyists to a special advanced screening of his new film, SiCKO, yesterday at Union Station. So, how many actually showed? Find out in Hot Topics below!
* The president participates in a 2:05 pm ET tour of Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, AL, where he'll speak about energy initiatives at 2:40 pm ET.
President Bush later makes remarks at a Friends of Jeff Sessions Senate Committee Reception at 6:05 pm ET in Mobile, AL.
Also on the Political Radar:
* Seersucker Thursday.
* House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at a 10 am ET joint meeting of the U.S. Congress and Russia's Duma. From the House Committee on Foreign Affairs:
"Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will address legislators from Russia and the United States this Thursday in the first-ever open meeting between the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on International Affairs of the Duma, the legislature of the Russian Federation." http://www.internationalrelations.house.gov/press_display.asp?id=372
* Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty testifies at a 12 pm ET House Judiciary Committee Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee hearing on "The Continuing Investigation into the U.S. Attorneys Controversy and Related Matters".
* Bill Richardson appears at an AFL-CIO town hall in Phoenix, AZ, at 2 pm ET.
* Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) wraps his 4-day, 27-town IA bus tour with stops in Tama/Toledo, Vinton, Cedar Rapids, Marengo, Grinnell, Newton and Ames.
* Rudy Giuliani addresses supporters at La Carreta Restaurant in Hialeah, FL, at 3:30 pm ET.
* John Edwards participates in The Cooper Union Dialogue Series at 6 pm ET in New York City.
* Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) attends a 6:30 pm ET fundraiser in St. Paul, MN.
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
SECOND VETO FOR STEM CELL LEGISLATION: President Bush on Wednesday issued his second veto of a measure lifting his restrictions on human embryonic stem cell experiments. The move effectively pushed the contentious scientific and ethical debate surrounding the research into the 2008 presidential campaign. "Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical," Mr. Bush said in a brief ceremony in the East Room of the White House. He called the United States "a nation founded on the principle that all human life is sacred." At the same time, Mr. Bush issued an executive order intended to encourage scientists to pursue other forms of stem cell research that he does not deem unethical. But that research is already going on, and the plan provides no new money. New York Times: Bush Vetoes Measure on Stem Cell Research
ENERGY BILL DELAYS NEW DEBATE ON IMMIGRATION: Infighting within the Senate Democratic Caucus has stalled work on the chamber's energy bill, forcing Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to delay resumption of the immigration debate until the beginning of next week, Reid said Wednesday. At press time Reid and other Democratic leaders were working to bring an end to a fight between backers of more stringent automotive efficiency rules and Michigan Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, who are seeking to reduce those levels. But with progress in the mediation slow, Reid was forced to push back several key votes until next week. In addition to a vote on a motion to proceed to immigration, Reid also was expected to delay a vote to take up legislation that would change the way workers vote on whether to form a union. Roll Call: Immigration Bill Postponed
SOME NOLA NEIGHBORHOODS REMAIN VULNERABLE TO FLOODING: Many parts of New Orleans struck hardest by Hurricane Katrina remain vulnerable to flooding despite nearly two years of attempts to protect them, a study published Wednesday by the Army Corps of Engineers found. The assessment, laid out online in a series of neighborhood maps, is the first time the corps has identified in detail the areas that still face substantial danger from flooding. It shows a 100-year storm today would likely bury most of Gentilly and the Lower 9th Ward — two of the neighborhoods that suffered most after Katrina — under more than 8 feet of water. A 100-year storm is one whose severity has a 1% chance of being met or exceeded in any year. Even in those neighborhoods, the corps' assessment suggests the areas vulnerable to severe flooding are smaller than they were before Katrina because of upgrades to New Orleans' levees. USA Today: Army Corps maps neighborhoods' flood risks online
SOME HEALTH CARE LOBBYISTS SHOW UP FOR "SiCKO": About a dozen healthcare lobbyists answered filmmaker Michael Moore's challenge and turned out for an advanced screening yesterday of his critical take on the American healthcare system. Moore ran newspaper advertisements this week, including one that appeared in The Hill, listing the names of about 900 lobbyists registered for healthcare clients and invited anyone on the list to a free showing of his film, "SiCKO." Moore welcomed the lobbyists to the screening, but made clear that he believes their clients are responsible for the problems of the healthcare system. The Hill: Small percentage of invited lobbyists show up for Moore 'SiCKO' screening
SUPER DUPER LAND OF LINCOLN: Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday added Illinois to the list of states that are accelerating the selection of presidential candidates next year by signing a measure moving the state's primary to Feb. 5 from its traditional mid-March date. "Illinois is the fifth-largest state in the country," Blagojevich said in a statement. "The people who live here deserve to play a bigger role in deciding who the presidential candidates will be." Illinois' primary date change was orchestrated by the state's Democratic leadership. Ostensibly aimed at giving the state's voters more say in selecting delegates, supporters acknowledged it largely was done to boost home-state U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Chicago Tribune: Illinois joins crush on Super Duper Tuesday
BLOOMBERG CAMP "LAID THE GROUNDWORK" FOR INDIE BID: The announcement by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York that he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent was made after nearly two years in which his aides had laid the groundwork for a potential independent run for president. They collected technical data on the requirements to put Mr. Bloomberg on the ballot in 50 states either as a third party or an independent candidate. Mr. Bloomberg went to Washington for a round of meetings with opinion leaders and traveled the country giving political speeches, including two this week in California. And Mr. Bloomberg told associates that he was closely studying the 1992 presidential campaign of H. Ross Perot, the wealthy Texan and friend who drew 19 percent of the vote as an independent, to figure out how much a race in 2008 would cost. New York Times: For 2 Years, Bloomberg Aides Prepared for Bid
NO HARD FEELINGS, MIKE: Rudolph Giuliani said Wednesday that it's fine with him if Mayor Michael Bloomberg decides to jump into the race for president as a third-party contender - but the ex-mayor criticized his City Hall successor for quitting the Republican party to clear the way. Giuliani insisted there would be no hard feelings if Bloomberg one day stands between him and the White House, even though it was Giuliani's backing of the billionaire businessman and political neophyte that helped launched Bloomberg's career as mayor. "Because I endorsed somebody, he doesn't owe anything to me. I don't owe anything to him," Giuliani told reporters here. "I have nothing bad to say about Mike except - except - I am disappointed that he left the Republican Party." Newsday: Rudy: No hard feelings if Mike runs
JOINING ISG "A MISTAKE," SAYS RUDY: Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday it was a mistake for him to join the Iraq Study Group, on which he lasted just two months and failed to show for any official meetings. The former New York mayor has tried to tamp down criticism in recent days after Newsday reported that Giuliani was a no-show for two of the group's meetings and instead attended paid public appearances. "I thought it would work, but then after a month or two I realized the idea that I was possibly going to run for president would be inconsistent with that," Giuliani said during a campaign stop in Iowa. Giuliani said the main reason he quit was that it "didn't seem that I would really be able to keep the thing focused on a bipartisan, nonpolitical resolution." AP via Yahoo! News: Giuliani: Joining Iraq group a mistake
NADER "SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING" '08 BID: Ralph Nader says he is seriously considering running for president in 2008 because he foresees another Tweedledum-Tweedledee election that offers little real choice to voters. "You know the two parties are still converging - they don't even debate the military budget anymore," Nader said in a 30-minute interview. "I really think there needs to be more competition from outside the two parties." Even the possible entry of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg into the race as an independent might not dissuade Nader. "He is interesting (but) unpredictable," Nader said of Bloomberg. "I really like the stand he took against smoking, but he goes along with corporate welfare in New York and tax-funded stadiums. So he is unfinished in that way." The Politico: Nader ponders another 'spoiler' campaign
THOMPSON "TURBO-CHARGING" FUNDRAISING OPERATION: Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) has hired a finance director for the Northeast and Midwestern regions, turbo-charging his money machine for a full-on bid for the White House. The Hill has learned that Sarah Newman, now at the Washington lobbying firm of Cassidy and Associates, has been hired by Thompson's campaign as one of its top regional finance directors. Newman would not comment when contacted by The Hill. Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo said by e-mail that the campaign is still very much in exploratory mode, but has no announcements to make yet. The Hill: Thompson money machine shifts gear and picks up pace
DISCIPLINE, LOYALTY, AND LEGENDARY SECRECY IN "HILLARYLAND": OF Once seen as a tight little sorority, today the group - happily self-described as "Hillaryland"– is at the center of a front-running presidential campaign. Never have so many women operated at such a high level in one campaign, working with a discipline and a loyalty and a legendary secrecy rarely seen at this level of American politics. Older and tougher, they have formed a closely knit Praetorian Guard around Clinton that plots strategy, develops message and clamps down on leaks. But their extraordinary protectiveness also contributes to an ongoing perception of insularity around the candidate and the campaign. Washington Post: Gatekeepers of Hillaryland
HILLARY BOOED AT TAKE BACK AMERICA, BUT NOT AS MUCH AS LAST YEAR: It wasn't the derisive reception she got a year ago, but Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton still endured a gust of boos Wednesday when explaining her position on the Iraq war before an audience of liberal activists eager for a quick end to the conflict. Speaking at a forum of Democratic presidential candidates, the New York senator was largely applauded as she denounced the Bush administration for its opposition to stem cell research, inaction during Hurricane Katrina and the practice of wiretapping phone calls without warrants. "Our Constitution is being shredded," she said in a morning appearance at the Take Back America conference, sponsored by the nonprofit Campaign for America's Future. Trouble came when she turned to Iraq. A year ago, the group had heckled Clinton when she said she did not want to set timetables for withdrawing American forces from Iraq. This time, her stance seemed more in step with her listeners, though not sufficiently antiwar for some. Los Angeles Times: Clinton greeted by fewer boos on Iraq war
RETURN OF BUBBA: Bubba's back. Bill Clinton used to be a stealth presence in his wife's presidential campaign, raising money and schmoozing supporters largely out of the public eye. This week, the former president stepped into the spotlight, from his humorous turn in a new Web video to the announcement that he will join Hillary Rodham Clinton on high-profile campaign visits to Iowa and New Hampshire. Aides say Bill Clinton has long planned to campaign publicly for his wife, and Hillary Clinton often promises audiences they'll see a lot more of him. Mindful of his charisma and tendency to hog the attention, the campaign has played the Bill card carefully — keeping him in the shadows while giving Hillary Clinton time to establish herself independently. They followed a similar pattern in 2000 when she first ran for the Senate in New York. AP via Yahoo! News: Bill Clinton takes bigger campaign role
ROMNEY RAISES $1 MILLION ON McCAIN'S TURF: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has topped $1 million in contributions in Arizona, the home state of presidential rival John McCain, Romney campaign officials said Wednesday. Sen. McCain's campaign spokesman Danny Diaz dismissed the announcement by the Romney campaign, saying McCain has raised more than twice that amount in Arizona. "We've also done well raising money in Massachusetts," Diaz said. "Senator McCain has been elected and re-elected in Arizona time and time again." Romney is expected to add another $175,000 after speaking to 250 supporters at a fundraiser Wednesday night in Gilbert, a rapidly growing town east of Phoenix. AP via Yahoo! News: Romney tops $1 million in Arizona
TARGETING ROMNEY'S FAITH: Over the past year, staff or volunteers from at least three opposing campaigns have, at times subtly and at times not, spread negative information about Mormons in an apparent effort to damage [Mitt] Romney's bid for the presidency... [W]hile the impact of the anti-Mormon messages is difficult to measure, the number of incidents suggests that Romney's religion will remain a tempting target for political opponents seeking a competitive edge. The most recent example came to light earlier this week when the Washington Post reported that Emma Nemecek, an Iowa field operative for Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, had recently forwarded an e-mail to Iowa Republicans containing a number of criticisms of Mormonism, including a charge that it is not a Christian faith. Boston Globe: Rival camps take aim at Romney's religion
NEW BIO REVEALS THE "CALCULATING POLITICIAN" IN OBAMA: A soon-to-be-released biography about Sen. Barack Obama portrays the Democratic presidential candidate as a far more calculating politician than his most ardent supporters might imagine. One such calculation was his much-heralded 2002 speech in Chicago about the impending Iraq war, according to "Obama: From Promise to Power," a nearly 400-page book by Tribune reporter David Mendell to be released in August. Obama gave the speech not just because of a desire to speak out about the impending invasion, Mendell asserts, but also to curry favor with a potential political patron, Bettylu Saltzman, a stalwart among Chicago's liberal elite, and to also try to win over his future top political adviser, David Axelrod, who was close to Saltzman. Chicago Tribune: Obama bio cites hidden '02 agenda
SF MAYOR FENDS OFF COCAINE ALLEGATIONS FROM "CITY HALL ARCHENEMY": Mayor Gavin Newsom categorically denied ever using cocaine Wednesday and blasted Supervisor Chris Daly for raising the allegation during a packed Board of Supervisors meeting a day earlier, saying his City Hall archenemy had brought San Francisco politics to a new low. Newsom, who earlier this year entered rehab for a drinking problem, angrily responded to reporters' questions about whether he has ever used the drug, saying, "Absolutely not." "I am associated with something that I don't do, never have, not even in the realm of reason should someone even accuse me of this," Newsom said. San Francisco Chronicle: CITY HALL UPROAR AT COCAINE CLAIM