Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* The House of Representatives voted 223-201 Thursday to require most U.S. troops to leave Iraq by April 1, 2008.
House GOP leaders "largely kept their party together" with "only four members breaking with their party" to vote yea... "The lack of Republican defections meant the vote failed to live up to Democratic hopes to put additional pressure on President Bush on the war." (The Hill)
"Stemming a revolt among Senate Republicans, President Bush appeared Thursday to win two more months for his 'surge' strategy in Iraq after arguing that U.S. forces had made some progress and needed time to make the country more secure." (Los Angeles Times)
* Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) begins "a critical campaign trip to New Hampshire today." At a 1 pm ET speech in Concord, McCain "will reiterate his support for the Bush administration's continuing war in Iraq while questioning the Iraqi government's commitment to ending the sectarian violence." (New Hampshire Union Leader)
CNN has learned the already-dire situation for McCain's presidential campaign has actually gotten even worse, with two sources close to the candidate saying the campaign only has a paltry $250,000 left.
The sources tell CNN that next week the McCain campaign will reveal it has about $1.75 million in unpaid debts, wiping out the $2 million in cash-on-hand the campaign currently has in the bank.
Full story on The Ticker
Meanwhile, the McCain campaign "is losing two veteran Republican strategists in Iowa." (AP) "Ed Failor Jr. and Karen Slifka quit Thursday over McCain's change in national campaign management, after agreeing last week to work for free when McCain slashed his state campaign staff." (Des Moines Register)
Also, McCain '08 FL Co-Chairman State Rep. Bob Allen "emphatically declared his innocence Thursday of charges that he offered to perform a sex act on an undercover police officer." (Orlando Sentinel)
* Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "was the clear crowd favorite at the NAACP presidential forum in Detroit on Thursday, winning thunderous applause just for walking on stage and standing ovations when he spoke." (Detroit Free Press)
* And back in his VVAW days, why did a top Nixon strategist think John Kerry would make a great REPUBLICAN candidate for office? Find out in Hot Topics below!
* The president participates in a 9:35 am ET video teleconference with Iraq provincial reconstruction team leaders, embedded provincial reconstruction team leaders, and brigade combat commanders in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.
Also on the Political Radar:
* Sen. Hillary (D-NY) and Bill Clinton head to New Hampshire to "Rally for Change" in Keene (10 am ET), Nashua (3 pm ET), and Manchester (6 pm ET).
* John Edwards holds community events in five Iowa cities: Humboldt (10:45 am ET), Algona (12:30 pm ET), Garner (2:30 pm ET), Iowa Falls (6:15 pm ET), and Webster City (8 pm ET).
* Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) attends a 12:30 pm ET IowaPolitics.com forum in Des Moines. Tonight he attends a 5:30 pm ET reception in Elkader and an 8 pm ET house party in Dubuque, IA.
* Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) attends an afternoon house party at a private residence in Las Vegas, NV.
* Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) gives a 1 pm ET policy address on Iraq and The War Against Islamic Extremism at the Courtyard Marriott in Concord, NH.
* Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) holds a 1 pm ET town hall in Reno, NV, a 3:15 pm ET BBQ in Carson City, and then it's back to Reno for another town hall at 6 pm ET.
* Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) attends a 5:30 pm ET town hall meeting with Google employees at Google HQ in Mountain View, CA.
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
BUSH APPEARS TO WIN TWO MORE MONTHS FOR "SURGE": Stemming a revolt among Senate Republicans, President Bush appeared Thursday to win two more months for his "surge" strategy in Iraq after arguing that U.S. forces had made some progress and needed time to make the country more secure. Issuing a report to Congress on the war, Bush acknowledged that Iraqi leaders had made little headway in resolving the political conflicts that have paralyzed the government and fueled sectarian violence. But he appealed to nervous Republicans to stand firm, arguing that lawmakers should not impose their judgments on the commander in chief. "I don't think Congress ought to be running the war. I think they ought to be funding the troops," Bush said at a White House news conference. Los Angeles Times: Bush quiets GOP revolt over Iraq
ONLY FOUR GOP "DEFECTIONS" IN HOUSE VOTE: House Republican leaders largely kept their party together on the issue of Iraq last night, with only four members breaking with their party to support a withdrawal of troops by April. Reps. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) and John Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.) were the only new defectors though Duncan voted against the 2002 war authorization measure. The other two GOP members to vote with Democrats were Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.) and Wayne Gilchrest (Md.), who have consistently broken with their party on Iraq this year. Ten Democrats, mostly conservatives, voted against the measure, which passed 223-201. The lack of Republican defections meant the vote failed to live up to Democratic hopes to put additional pressure on President Bush on the war. The Hill: Key vote on the Iraq war keeps House GOP united
CRITICS SAY BUSH "OVERSTATED" AL QAEDA-IRAQ CONNECTION: In rebuffing calls to bring troops home from Iraq, President Bush on Thursday employed a stark and ominous defense. "The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq," he said, "were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th, and that's why what happens in Iraq matters to the security here at home." It is an argument Mr. Bush has been making with frequency in the past few months, as the challenges to the continuation of the war have grown. On Thursday alone, he referred at least 30 times to Al Qaeda or its presence in Iraq. But his references to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and his assertions that it is the same group that attacked the United States in 2001, have greatly oversimplified the nature of the insurgency in Iraq and its relationship with the Qaeda leadership. New York Times: Bush Distorts Qaeda Links, Critics Assert
LIBBY DECISION "FAIR AND BALANCED," SAYS BUSH: President Bush acknowledged for the first time yesterday that "somebody" in his administration leaked the name of an undercover intelligence officer but declined to say whether he was disappointed in such an action and contended that it is time to move on. Asked during a news conference whether he was disappointed that his advisers revealed the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame to the news media, the president did not answer directly. But he offered perhaps his fullest discussion of a case he has generally refused to address because it was in the courts. Bush described as "fair and balanced" his decision to commute the prison term of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former aide to Vice President Cheney who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for his role in the leak of Plame's identity. Washington Post: Commuting Libby's Sentence 'Fair,' Bush Says
SUBCOMMITTEE TAKES FIRST STEP IN MIERS CONTEMPT PROCEEDINGS: A House Judiciary subcommittee on Thursday took the first step to begin contempt proceedings against Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel, who defied a subpoena to appear at a hearing on the firing of eight federal prosecutors. Representative Linda T. Sánchez, Democrat of California and chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, ruled that the assertion of executive privilege by lawyers for Ms. Miers and the White House did not excuse her from answering the committee's question. "Those claims are not legally valid," Ms. Sánchez said. "Ms. Miers is required pursuant to the subpoena to be here now." With Democrats in the majority, the committee voted 7 to 5 along party lines to uphold Ms. Sánchez's ruling, which moved the issue to the full committee. New York Times: Panel Closer to Holding Miers in Contempt
NOLA PROSITUTE SAYS VITTER WAS A "REGULAR CLIENT": Days after Senator David Vitter apologized for using an escort service in Washington, D.C., a woman who once worked as a prostitute in Louisiana said he was a regular client of hers several years ago while he was a state legislator. The woman worked under the name Wendy Cortez. Her birth name is Wendy Yow, according to her ex-husband, who asked not to be named but said he has seen her birth certificate. Yow, contacted through relatives, called The Times-Picayune Wednesday night and said Vitter was a regular customer of hers, but said the two did not have a personal romantic relationship. She claimed to have severed ties with him after she found out he was married. Yow said it was a part of her life she hoped to put behind her. New Orleans Times-Picayune: Prostitute describes Vitter affair
NIXON AIDE THOUGHT KERRY MIGHT BE A GREAT REPUBLICAN: Even as the Nixon administration was plotting in 1971 to destroy John F. Kerry, then the young, charismatic leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the president's top political strategist apparently didn't get the memo. Instead, the operative, Murray Chotiner, wrote his own note advocating that the Republican Party recruit Kerry. Kerry did go to Yale University, after all; he must be one of them, Chotiner surmised. "He is a Yale graduate and is inclined toward the 'establishment,' " Chotiner wrote in a memo to Attorney General John N. Mitchell and White House Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman. "His background could be Republican." The memo was included in about 80,000 pages of documents released Wednesday by the National Archives, which oversees the Nixon library. Washington Post: Nixon Aide Wanted GOP to Court Kerry
McCAIN TO TALK IRAQ IN NH TODAY: Beginning a critical campaign trip to New Hampshire today, Republican Sen. John McCain will reiterate his support for the Bush administration's continuing war in Iraq while questioning the Iraqi government's commitment to ending the sectarian violence. "Defeatism will not buy peace in our time," McCain will say, according to excerpts of a scheduled speech to a business luncheon provided to UnionLeader.com last night. "It will only lead to more bloodshed - and to more American casualties in the future. If we choose to lose in Iraq, our enemies will hit us harder in Afghanistan hoping to erode our political will and encourage calls in Western capitals for withdrawal and accommodation with our enemy there as well." McCain's address in Concord will echo a key speech he delivered on the Senate floor Tuesday. New Hampshire Union Leader: McCain: Iraq's leaders must do more
CAMP LOSES TWO TOP IA CONSULTANTS: Campaign aides to Republican John McCain insisted Thursday that the resignation of two top consultants in the state would not deter the Arizona senator from competing in the state's leadoff presidential nominating caucuses. McCain advisers Ed Failor Jr. and Karen Slifka quit Thursday over McCain's change in national campaign management, after agreeing last week to work for free when McCain slashed his state campaign staff in light of financial difficulties. Failor, executive vice president of Iowans for Tax Relief, and Slifka, a former top Republican National Committee staffer, said Terry Nelson's resignation Monday as McCain's national campaign manager was the main cause for their leaving. Des Moines Register: Aides say McCain safe despite exits of staffers
McCAIN '08 FL CO-CHAIRMAN PROCLAIMS INNOCENCE AFTER SEX BUST: State Rep. Bob Allen emphatically declared his innocence Thursday of charges that he offered to perform a sex act on an undercover police officer. "I am vigorously going to fight this," said Allen, R-Merritt Island. "I am not resigning my office." In a sometimes-emotional statement delivered at a news conference, Allen added, "This is an ugly and unpleasant situation that has been thrust upon me and my family." The seven-year legislator, a Florida co-chairman of U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, urged his constituents not to jump to conclusions about the Wednesday afternoon arrest. However, he did not directly address what happened. Orlando Sentinel: Allen insists he's innocent, will not quit
OBAMA "THE CLEAR CROWD FAVORITE" AT DETROIT FORUM: U.S. Sen. Barack Obama was the clear crowd favorite at the NAACP presidential forum in Detroit on Thursday, winning thunderous applause just for walking on stage and standing ovations when he spoke. But while Obama, the only African American in the field and the first black candidate in U.S. history to have the popularity and fund-raising ability to give him a serious shot at the White House, drew the loudest response of the day, it also was clear that the 3,000 delegates at the convention's closing session were eager to replace the current president. Virtually every shot taken at President George W. Bush's Republican administration - and there were dozens during the two-hour event at Cobo Center - drew cheers. U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the Cleveland Democrat from the party's far left, may have had the second loudest response of the day when he challenged his fellow candidates to endorse the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney. Detroit Free Press: Dems pledge to undo what Bush has done
EDWARDS PLANS 8-STATE TOUR "THROUGH POCKETS OF URBAN AND RURAL POVERTY": Seeking to regain his political footing, White House hopeful John Edwards is pursuing a road less traveled: a three-day, eight-state tour through pockets of urban and rural poverty. Beginning Sunday night in New Orleans and ending Wednesday in Appalachian Kentucky, the former North Carolina senator will reinvigorate an old campaign theme and test an even older notion: that talking about poor people is a politically losing proposition. The poverty rate in America has stayed fairly constant since the late 1960s. But polls show that the issue of poverty and homelessness consistently ranks low among voters' priorities. The discussion has become so fraught with moral and racial overtones that presidential contenders often find it best to say little or nothing. Los Angeles Times: John Edwards road-tests poverty theme
THOMPSON MEETS FIREFIGHTERS ON "RUDY GIULIANI'S TURF": Likely Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson hit Rudy Giuliani's turf yesterday, talking with the city firefighters-union chief who's going all out to derail the former mayor's 2008 candidacy. Thompson had breakfast with Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy and former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato hours before he met with Conservative Party leader Mike Long. The Cassidy meeting came a day after the International Association of Fire Fighters unveiled a blistering Internet video attack that accused Giuliani of making decisions as mayor that led to firefighters' deaths on 9/11. New York Post: FRED MEETS WITH RUDY'S FIRE FOES
THOMPSON NOW SAYS HE DOESN'T REMEMBER LOBBYING FOR ABORTION-RIGHTS GROUP: Fred Thompson is backing off his flat denial that he once lobbied for an abortion-rights group. He now says he doesn't remember it, but does not dispute evidence to the contrary. The climb-down could be a significant embarrassment for a prospective candidate with a plain-spoken appeal and who has courted the GOP's anti-abortion base, although Thompson and his advisers had signaled for several days that it was coming. Realizing that opponents in both parties are mining his legal career for damaging ammunition, Thompson also is engaging in a bit of preemption. The Politico: Fred Thompson backs off lobbying denial
HUNTER PRESSES ON WITH "LONGSHOT BID": Despite being the former chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, where he developed a reputation for never meeting a weapons system he didn't like, Hunter barely registers in national election polls. Over the first six months of the year, his campaign raised about $1.2 million, only slightly more than the amount Hunter spent getting reelected to Congress in 2006. Hunter has virtually no organization in Iowa, where organizing is key to caucus success. His New Hampshire team is eight volunteers, and campaign fundamentals get missed: Although Hunter is starved for media coverage, during a two-day visit here the campaign failed to tell the only reporter tracking him that the second day's itinerary had changed, sending the reporter and Hunter to cities 45 miles apart. So why is Duncan Hunter giving up one of the safest Republican House seats in the country for what can generously be called a longshot bid for the White House? Because, Hunter says, he thinks his time has come. Los Angeles Times: Duncan Hunter's toughest fight yet
BROWNBACK "MAKING SOME INROADS" WITH THE RIGHT: Republican presidential hopeful Sam Brownback is counting on his conservative credentials and a Midwest bond to lift his candidacy in Iowa. The Kansas senator is making some inroads. Although far behind in the polls and fundraising, Brownback has stuck to a well-honed strategy, waging a classic grass-roots campaign away from the glare of the media spotlight by mingling with activists in living rooms, parks and churches. He's made repeated trips from his neighboring state to campaign in Iowa, where he underscores his cultural ties. "Sam Brownback is working very hard and he's participating in the Iowa process the proper way and he seems to be having some success," said former Iowa Republican Chairman Richard Schwarm, who is backing Mitt Romney. "He is absolutely following the successful method that other candidates have used in the past." AP via Yahoo! News: Brownback quietly courting conservatives
NYC'ERS LOVE BLOOMBERG... BUT FEW THINK HE'S GOT A SHOT AT WH: New Yorkers are fans of Mayor Bloomberg, but they don't think he has much of a shot at the White House. A new poll released yesterday showed the mayor with a 66% approval rating among voters, about the same high marks he has been getting since his 2005 reelection. But 64% of respondents to the WNBC/Marist Poll said they don't think Bloomberg could win if he ran for President as an independent next year. The mayor unexpectedly dropped out of the Republican Party last month, fueling speculation that he has his eye on a White House run. The poll sampled 500 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5%. New York Daily News: N.Y.C. says we like Mike – but America won't