Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* New Mexico GOP Sen. Pete Domenici called for a change of policy in Iraq Thursday, making him the third veteran Republican to break ranks with President Bush over the issue in the last two weeks.
"The six-term lawmaker, party loyalist and former staunch war supporter represents one of the most significant GOP losses to date." (Washington Post)
"The expressions of doubt from a loyal White House ally, however, will probably further undermine the Bush administration's ability to continue the current strategy much beyond this summer." (Los Angeles Times)
* "John McCain's staff has been pared to a skeleton crew in Iowa in light of the financial difficulty" the campaign reported this week. "The changes leave in place seven McCain aides in Iowa... No previous caucus winner has cut his staff so deeply and gone on to win." (Des Moines Register)
* "John Edwards is reshuffling the ranks of his top staff, adding two prominent Democratic operatives as senior advisers and shifting some responsibilities from campaign manager David Bonior." (AP)
* Former MO Rep. Dick Gephardt's endorsement of Hillary Clinton "could bolster Clinton's credentials with organized labor, but Gephardt, a self-described 'has-been politician,' isn't expecting to swing many votes." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Also, the "'has-been' line might have caused a wince or two in Clinton's camp, which for the past few days has been fending off rival Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's effort to depict Clinton and former President Bill Clinton as part of the past." (New York Daily News)
* And it was a detail of the Al Gore III story that caught many an eye and "rippled through talk radio and the blogosphere Thursday": 100 MPH in a Prius? Check out the reaction in Hot Topics below!
* Happy birthday, Mr. President. George W. Bush turns 61 today. Bush departs at 9:15 am ET to spend the weekend at Camp David.
Also on the Political Radar:
* The House and Senate are not in session this week.
* Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) gets a boost from singer Paul Simon, who will perform at two of the senator's campaign events in Iowa today: 12:15 pm ET in Fort Dodge's City Square Park, and 6:30 pm ET at West High School in Sioux City.
* Mike Huckabee doesn’t need a grammy winner of his own in the Granite State. He performs with his band, Capitol Offense, at a 6 pm ET house party in Dover, NH. The band has also booked two gigs tomorrow in Nashua and Concord.
* Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) addresses the United Steelworkers of America at 9 am ET in Cleveland, OH.
At 1 pm ET, Clinton speaks at the Essence Music Festival's Empowerment Seminar at the New Orleans Convention Center.
* Bill Richardson speaks at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum at 8 am ET. At 10 am ET, he meets with voters at a public library in Candia, NH.
* Rudy Giuliani visits local residents at Pan American Pancake & Omelet in Myrtle Beach, SC, at 9:40 am ET. At 12:30 pm ET, Giuliani holds a town hall meeting at the Marriott Savannah Riverfront in Savannah, GA. Later this afternoon, Giuliani announces his Beaufort County (SC) leadership at a 5 pm ET event in Bluffton, SC.
* Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) greets customers at the Red Arrow diner in Manchester, NH, at 1:30 pm ET. He later attends a 3 pm ET house party in Durham, and helps kick off Jim Webber's campaign for NH state representative at a 5 pm ET event in Kensington.
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
DOMENICI CALLS FOR CHANGE IN IRAQ STRATEGY: Saying he has been swayed by New Mexicans who have lost family members in Iraq and by the failures of the Iraqi government, U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici on July 5 called for a change in strategy that could lead to a drawdown in American forces beginning next March. Domenici, an Albuquerque Republican who has been a staunch supporter of President Bush's war policy, stopped short of calling for an end to the current American policy of increased troops and stepped-up security efforts. But he said conditions are continuing to deteriorate in Iraq and acknowledged that his stance is at odds with the president's. Albuquerque Tribune: Sen. Pete Domenici changes position on Iraq war
WH KNOCKS CLINTON "CHUTZPAH" ON LIBBY DECISION: The White House responded angrily yesterday to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's statement that President Bush was acting "above the law" in commuting the prison sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, accusing her of hypocrisy because of the pardons issued by her husband on the last day of his presidency. Yesterday's tough exchange unfolded after Sen. Clinton called in to a morning radio talk show in Iowa to say again that Bush's decision on Monday to wipe away the 30-month prison sentence leveled against the former aide to Vice President Cheney was "clearly an effort to protect the White House" by a White House that holds itself "above the law." The White House quickly fired back, with Bush spokesman Tony Snow pointedly recalling the flurry of controversial clemency actions taken by Bill Clinton in the closing hours of his presidency in 2001. "I don't know what Arkansan is for chutzpah, but this is a gigantic case of it," Snow said. Washington Post: Clintons Accused Of Hypocrisy by The White House
SD STATE REP ANNOUNCES BID TO CHALLENGE JOHNSON: State lawmaker Joel Dykstra filed candidacy forms for U.S. Senate this week, spurring the question, "Who's next?" Dykstra, a Republican from Canton, is the first to file candidacy papers in South Dakota. He said the announcement reflects the challenges that await him as he attempts to unseat incumbent Sen. Tim Johnson. "We've got further to go as a challenger," Dykstra said. Dykstra is in his third term in the state House of Representatives. The Democratic party called Dykstra a "fringe candidate," who is "not fit for the United States Senate." Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Dykstra announces bid for U.S. Senate
GOP CANDIDATES WORRY ABOUT "BURN RATES": As the Democratic presidential field enjoys an unprecedented surge in campaign donations, Republicans are already wringing their hands over “burn rates.” John McCain's campaign admitted it had reason to worry this week when it reported raising just over $11 million in the second quarter. The problem: McCain’s monthly burn rate was averaging $3.6 million, which meant he was bringing in only enough money to pay in-house expenses. Burn rates are the operating costs that campaigns incur, such as salaries, taxes, office expenses, fundraising costs and consultant retainers. Money raised on top of those costs can be spent on advertising and voter turnout. But when fundraising falls below burn rate, a campaign could go under unless drastic measures are taken. The Politico: Burn, baby, burn: GOP contenders' worry
"APPROACHES ARE VERY DIFFERENT," BUT EVERYONE'S TALKING HEALTH CARE: There is no better measure of the power of the health care issue than this: Sixteen months before Election Day, presidential candidates in both parties are promising to overhaul the system and cover more — if not all — of the 44.8 million people without insurance. Their approaches are very different, reflecting longstanding divisions between the parties on the role of government versus the private market in addressing the affordability and availability of health insurance. Republicans, by and large, promise to expand coverage by using a variety of tax incentives to empower consumers to buy it themselves, from private insurers. New York Times: 2008 Candidates Vow to Overhaul U.S. Health Care
"UNDERDOGS" SPEND MORE TIME ON THE GROUND IN GRANITE STATE: Some of the current presidential candidates, notably the underdogs and the less well-financed like Chris Dodd and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, still do the diner and fire hall circuit. But there's a feeling throughout the nation's first primary state that times are very different in this 2008 cycle. Most of the candidates touch down in New Hampshire for an occasional big, media-friendly event and then closet themselves to raise money or jump on a plane and head elsewhere. Hartford Courant: Primary Tactics
DODD HOPING FOR A BIG STUMBLE AT THE FRONT OF THE PACK: Dodd, 63, is running for president in a 2008 Democratic field crowded with heavy hitters who have used up most of the oxygen in the race so far, leaving him as something of an afterthought. Skimming the bottom of most of the polls, ranking near the end of the list of Democratic fundraisers, Dodd is pinning his presidential dreams on the possibility that either the front-runner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), will stumble or that the next two leaders, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and former senator John Edwards (N.C.), will fail to live up to expectations in early-primary states. Washington Post: Dodd Pins Hopes on Early-Vote Miracles
SKEPTICISM IN NOLA ABOUT "PARADE OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES": Like religious pilgrims performing the Stations of the Cross, the presidential candidates keep coming to New Orleans to visit the Lower 9th Ward, the Industrial Canal levee, the 17th Street Canal and all the other crippled landmarks of the unprecedented disaster that befell this city when Hurricane Katrina struck nearly two years ago... On Thursday night, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made a return visit to the city—his fourth since the hurricane—for a speech at the refurbished Louisiana Superdome, the scene of some of the most wretched suffering visited upon tens of thousands of New Orleans residents who waited for days to be rescued after four-fifths of the city was flooded... But palpable throughout the crowd, and across the rest of this city still slowly struggling back to its feet, was a growing sense of skepticism about the parade of presidential candidates from both parties who fly into New Orleans for a few carefully scripted appearances and then quickly depart, leaving little behind. Chicago Tribune: New Orleans wary of this parade
SOME CHANGES AT THE TOP FOR EDWARDS CAMP: John Edwards is reshuffling the ranks of his top staff, adding two prominent Democratic operatives as senior advisers and shifting some responsibilities from campaign manager David Bonior. Paul Blank and Chris Kofinis, leaders of the labor-backed anti-Wal-Mart effort "Wake Up Wal-Mart," were expected to join the Edwards campaign as early as next week. Blank would take over day-to-day campaign operations. Kofinis would serve as communications director. The deal was not yet final but was expected to be completed in the next few days, advisers said. Blank was political director for Howard Dean's 2004 presidential effort. He is close to former Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi, who is now serving as a senior adviser to the Edwards effort. Bonior, a former Michigan congressman, would retain the title of campaign manager but step up his role as public spokesman for the campaign. He also is expected to travel extensively with Edwards. AP via Yahoo! News: Edwards adds staff, reshuffles roles
JUST 7 ON GROUND FOR McCAIN CAMP IN IA: At least 10 McCain staffers working directly on the campaign for the leadoff nominating caucuses have been laid off or have turned down the chance to keep their jobs at lower pay, Republican sources in Iowa confirmed Thursday. The changes leave in place seven McCain aides in Iowa. The candidate has been slipping in Iowa and national polls after ranking near the top in both earlier this year. Senior McCain advisers said that roughly half of the campaign's 16-member Iowa staff had been "impacted by the restructuring," although the list of names confirmed by The Des Moines Register as no longer with the campaign accounted for a slightly larger proportion of the senator's Iowa shop. McCain spokesman Danny Diaz said the senator remains committed to competing in Iowa. No previous caucus winner has cut his staff so deeply and gone on to win. Des Moines Register: Low on cash, McCain slashes staff in Iowa to 7
GEPHARDT ENDORSEMENT "COULD BOLSTER" CLINTON'S LABOR CREDENTIALS: Former Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt endorsed on Thursday the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. The move could bolster Clinton's credentials with organized labor, but Gephardt, a self-described "has-been politician," isn't expecting to swing many votes. "I have no illusions about being any big factor. I am just doing what I think is the right thing to do," Gephardt said in a conference call. Gephardt, the former House minority leader, was a two-time candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton "will be ready to lead from Day One — that's the most important thing we need in our next president," he said. "She has the strength, the experience, the intelligence that uniquely qualifies her to be president at a very critical moment in our history." St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Gephardt endorses Clinton for president
"HAS BEEN" LINE CALLED A GAFFE: Way to motivate the voters, Dick! Former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt threw his support behind Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential aspirations yesterday, but ultramodestly downplayed the weight of his endorsement. "I'm a has-been politician, so I don't know that I can do anything more than bring my own vote, but maybe I can get my family to vote the right way," quipped Gephardt, a two-time presidential candidate who represented St. Louis in Congress for 28 years. The "has-been" line might have caused a wince or two in Clinton's camp, which for the past few days has been fending off rival Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's effort to depict Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former President Bill Clinton as part of the past. New York Daily News: Gep's gaffe: I'm a has-been for Hil
JUST HAVING BLOOMBERG "IN THE PICTURE" MAY BE A PROBLEM FOR RUDY: As the political world waits to see whether Bloomberg's switch last month from Republican to independent means that he and his vast fortune will enter the 2008 presidential race, one result of his dalliance with running is already becoming clear: Simply having him in the picture calls into question some of the assumptions underlying Giuliani's appeal. Giuliani is selling himself as a strong leader who achieved the impossible in bringing an ungovernable New York under control, even if it required some bruising confrontations along the way. But Bloomberg, his admirers say, has shown that the city of 8 million can be run successfully in a far more understated fashion - that a mayor can reduce crime without cultivating a sheriff's swagger and antagonizing minorities, protect against terrorism without overly fixating on security, and tackle deeply rooted urban problems without getting into public spats with top appointees. Washington Post: With Bloomberg on Stage, Harsher Light on Giuliani
WILL BLOOMBERG BE "THE FIRST JEWISH PRESIDENT?" Michael Bloomberg isn't known here as the Jewish mayor. In fact, his religion is a non-issue in a city that had its first Jewish chief executive, Abe Beame, three decades ago. The New York Jewish community is so large and active that even non-Jewish mayors take counsel from rabbis. So when Bloomberg won the 2001 mayoral race, Jews saw no significant advantage in having one of their own in City Hall. But if the billionaire businessman decides to run for the White House, his faith will become much more than an afterthought: He would be on a path toward being elected the first Jewish president of the United States. AP via Yahoo! News: Bloomberg: US's first Jewish president?
100+ MPH IN A PRIUS? As yet another tale of celebrity spawn gone wild, the arrest Wednesday of Albert Gore III — son of the former vice president — on suspicion of drug possession was routine except for one rather mind-blowing detail: Gore was clocked in a blue Toyota Prius hybrid traveling on the southbound 5 Freeway in Orange County in excess of 100 mph. "One hundred and five, actually," said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino. "I think it's slightly downhill there." The former vice president Thursday declared his love for his son, said Albert III was receiving treatment and added that the family was "going to leave it as a private matter." Which was just as well. The Prius, not Gore, was the news. Gore's cruel caning of Toyota's greener-than-thou hybrid — powered by a small four-cylinder engine and electric motor that together produce about 110 horsepower — rippled through talk radio and the blogosphere Thursday. Many were simply amazed. "How in the world do you get a Toyota Prius to go 100 mph without a cliff to go over?" asked Rush Limbaugh. Los Angeles Times: Who says the Prius can't get out of its own way?
BRUNO REACTS TO POST REPORT... WANTS NY GOV INVESTIGATED: Furious state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno yesterday accused Gov. Spitzer of ordering the State Police to track him for "political espionage" – and called for special grand juries to investigate the governor's possible "criminal liability." Bruno, reacting to yesterday's bombshell report in The Post disclosing that Spitzer had targeted Bruno for an unprecedented State Police surveillance program, also announced that he was "activating" the Senate Investigations Committee to look into whether Spitzer abused the powers of his office. A source said the committee may soon subpoena "internal e-mails and other documents" from the governor's office dealing with the circumstances under which the State Police were instructed to keep records of Bruno's travels. New York Post: OPENING GATES OF 'EL'