Compiled by Alex Mooney
CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today…
* A just released CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll of registered Republicans has former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on top nationally (29 percent), followed by former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson (22 percent), Arizona Sen. John McCain (16 percent), and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (12 percent). The rest of the field stands at 3 percent or lower.
* "Six Democratic presidential candidates broke new ground Thursday night by participating in a televised forum devoted to gay issues." (New York Times)
Clinton and Obama "were sharply questioned on why they do not support same-sex marriage, while the two joined the other candidates in backing civil unions and the end of the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy on gays in the military." (Washington Post)
The "most tense" moment of the night involved New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. "Asked whether he believes people are born gay or whether it is a choice: 'It's a choice,' he said." (Los Angeles Times)
* The Ames straw poll is only a day away and "most GOP contenders are still treating [it] as a critical test of strength." (Quad City Times) Though, "the event has all the markings of a historic mismatch." (Washington Post)
"Mitt Romney and Sam Brownback have informed the Iowa GOP that they'll each be bringing over 100 buses to the Ames Straw Poll Saturday." "Tommy Thompson is bringing the third most, about 75" (Politico)
Huckabee has no busses, but he "does have a message." (Politico)
Tommy Thompson on how the straw poll result will affect his campaign: "I've said all along that if I don't come in first or second, I'll drop out of the race." (Bloomberg)
* As for when the real elections will be held, "Iowa political leaders said Thursday they were prepared to hold the state's presidential caucuses in December if necessary." (Des Moines Register)
* Meanwhile, "New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary will be no later than the second week of January - more than two weeks earlier than in 2004." (New Hampshire Union Leader)
* And who really coined the now infamous phrase "Axis of Evil"? Check it out in Political Hot Topics below.
The President's Schedule
The president is vacationing in Kennebunkport, Maine and has no public events.
Also on the Political Radar
* "A day ahead of the Ames Straw Poll, the DNC is launching a new website dedicated to [its] favorite Republican: None of the Above." (Release)
* Illinois Sen. Barack Obama heads to Las Vegas to address the National Association of Black Journalists forum at 3:30 p.m. ET. (Clinton addressed the group yesterday.) He then is slated to hold a town hall in Las Vegas at 6:30 p.m. ET.
* Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards also spends the day in Las Vegas, slated to hold a town hall at Laborers International Union Local 872 at 7:45 p.m. ET.
* New York Sen. Hillary Clinton tours the New Academy of Sciences Building and delivers remarks in San Francisco at 5:30 p.m. ET.
* Arizona Sen. John McCain spends the day in New Hampshire. On his schedule: attends a business leaders breakfast in Portsmouth at 9 a.m. ET; attends a meet and greet in Rochester at 2 p.m. ET; holds a town hall at 6:30 p.m. ET in Wolfeboro; holds a media availability in Wolfeboro at 8 p.m. ET.
* Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani meets with residents in Colorado Springs, Colorado at 12:45 p.m. ET.
* Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a busy day planned in Iowa: Holds a 9 a.m. ET "Ask Mitt Anything" event in Ogden; a 10:45 a.m. ET "Ask Mitt Anything" event in Nevada, Iowa; takes a turn as the "Celebrity Chef" at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines at 1:20 p.m. ET; makes an appearance at the Des Moines Registers Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair at 3:25 p.m. ET; a 7 p.m. ET pres-straw poll rally at his Ames headquarters.
* Delaware Sen. Joe Biden speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute's Annual Policy and Issues Conference in Tunica, Mississippi at 1:30 p.m. ET.
* Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd spends the day in New Hampshire. On his schedule: a 3 p.m. ET visit to Martha's Exchange in Nashua; a 4:45 p.m. ET meet and greet in Manchester; a 7 p.m. ET appearance at the New Hampshire Fisher Cates baseball game in Manchester.
* It’s a packed day at the Iowa State Fair for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: an 11:40 a.m. ET appearance at the Des Moines Register's political soapbox at the Iowa State Fair; an appearance on WHO Radio's "The Big Show" at 12:30 p.m. ET; a visit to the American Association of Retired Persons Forum at the Iowa State Fair at 2:10 p.m. ET; a visit to popular fair sites beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.
* Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback is also making a strong push before the straw poll. On his schedule: a 11:45 a.m. visit to Field of Dreams in Dyersville; a 7 p.m. ET rally at his headquarters in West Des Moines; a 9:30 p.m. ET rally at his Ames headquarters.
* Tommy Thompson hits the AARP forum at the Iowa State Fair at 3:30 p.m. ET. He then makes a stop at the Des Moines Register's soapbox forum a 4 p.m. ET; and holds a 8 p.m. ET rally in Ames.
Political Hot Topics
(Today’s top political stories from news organizations across the country)
Dems voice support for gay rights: Six Democratic presidential candidates broke new ground Thursday night by participating in a televised forum devoted to gay issues. All voiced strong support for equal rights and government benefits for gay Americans, though the three leading candidates said they opposed same-sex marriage. With the candidates generally agreeing on the major issues at hand, the organizers of the forum chose to dig deeper into their personal attitudes and experiences. In particular they grilled former Senator John Edwards, who has expressed religious concerns about same-sex marriage and who, according to a former consultant of his, once said about gays, “I’m not comfortable around those people.” New York Times: Democrats Voice Support of Gay Rights in TV Forum
Clinton, Obama sharply questioned at forum: At the first-ever televised presidential forum devoted to gay rights issues, the Democratic front-runners, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), were sharply questioned on why they do not support same-sex marriage, while the two joined the other candidates in backing civil unions and the end of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military. Obama said it is less important to focus on the semantics of the word "marriage" than to focus on equal rights, and Clinton - responding to a comment by singer Melissa Etheridge that gays were "thrown under the bus" during Bill Clinton's administration - said "I am a leader now" on gay rights. Washington Post: Democratic Candidates Address Gay Rights Issues
Richardson stumbles at gay forum: Underscoring the importance of gays and lesbians in Democratic politics, most of the party's presidential hopefuls gathered in Los Angeles on Thursday night for a televised forum on gay-rights issues. One candidate, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, got caught up in the most tense moment of the evening when he was asked whether he believes people are born gay or whether it is a choice. "It's a choice," he said. Los Angeles Times: Democrats quizzed at LA gay-rights forum
Straw poll mismatch: As thousands of Republican activists prepare to descend on Ames, Iowa, tomorrow for the straw poll meant to gauge support for the GOP's presidential contenders, the event has all the markings of a historic mismatch. One candidate, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, has assembled an unrivaled operation for the event: a statewide corps of 60 "super-volunteers," who have been paid between $500 and $1,000 per month to talk him up; a fleet of buses; more than $2 million in television ads in Iowa; a sleek direct-mail campaign; and a consultant who has been paid nearly $200,000 to direct Romney's straw poll production, which will include barbecue billed as the best in the state. Washington Post: Romney's Cash Beckons Iowans To Straw Poll
Is straw poll make or break? Republican presidential hopefuls converging on Ames for Saturday’s GOP straw poll are being egged on by the event’s history for boosting and breaking aspirations. In past years, the massive event — part state fair, part political convention — has cemented the confidence of front-runners, lifted the fortunes of upstarts and dashed the hopes of also-rans several months before Iowa’s actual caucuses. And although there are questions about the real significance of the 2007 straw poll, most GOP contenders are still treating the Ames gathering as a critical test of strength. Quad City Times: Few admit straw poll is a 'make-or-break' event
Romney's conservatism targeted: Mitt Romney is undergoing the stiffest test yet of his effort to win over conservatives wary of his ideological credentials. In the days leading up to the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames on Saturday, Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has come under a furious assault from some of his rivals and the powerful network of abortion opponents in this state. He has been pummeled in videos on YouTube, in automated telephone calls, in daily barrages of e-mail to lists of Republican caucus voters and on the airwaves of the state’s conservative talk radio network. New York Times: Romney Pushed on Conservative Credentials
Huckabee looking for traction: Mike Huckabee does not have buses. Huckabee needs to get people to the straw poll in Ames this Saturday and even if he had the money for buses — which he doesn’t — there are no buses left to rent. Everything that moves in Iowa — buses, vans, tractors, combines, horses, mules, and hogs large enough to be saddled — have all been snapped up by the other campaigns. Politico: Mike Huckabee's political ministry
Stakes high for second-tier candidates at straw poll: Iowa Republicans start winnowing the field of presidential contenders at an informal straw poll in Ames tomorrow, a day of reckoning that has dashed the ambitions of many would-be presidents in its 28-year history. "I've said all along that if I don't come in first or second, I'll drop out of the race," said Tommy Thompson, a former governor of Wisconsin and Bush administration Cabinet official. Bloomberg: Brownback, Huckabee May Find Iowa Straw Poll a `Peasant-Maker'
Buses head to Ames: Campaign aides for Mitt Romney and Sam Brownback have informed the Iowa GOP that they'll each be bringing over 100 buses to the Ames Straw Poll Saturday. An Iowa Republican said that Romney was bringing about 125 onto the campus of Iowa State University and Brownback just over 100. Tommy Thompson is bringing the third most, about 75. All told, state party officials are planning on the arrival of 375 buses. Politico: Romney, Brownback to both bring more than 100 buses to Ames
Christmas caucus a possibility: Iowa political leaders said Thursday said they were prepared to hold the state's presidential caucuses in December if necessary, in light of South Carolina Republicans' decision to move the South's first primary into January. Leading candidates for president in both major parties pledged to compete in the caucuses, even if they're scheduled before the December holiday season. Des Moines Register: December caucuses a possibility
Romney runs campaign like business: Like millions of bargain hunters, Mitt Romney and his son Josh went on eBay earlier this year, not in search of someone else's trash, but their own political treasure. They found it in Phoenix, and the Republican presidential contender made the winning bid on a recreational vehicle. Driven north by his son, and shrink-wrapped in $10,000 worth of Romney campaign graphics, the Iowa-made Itasca Sunstar became the "Mitt Mobile. Josh Romney ended up touring all 99 Iowa counties in the RV this summer, a 3,500-mile trek symbolic of his father's workmanlike approach to winning not only Saturday's Iowa straw poll but, more importantly, the Iowa caucuses. AP: Romney adapts business plan to politics
New Hampshire Primary no later than January 12: New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation Presidential primary will be no later than the second week of January - more than two weeks earlier than in 2004 - courtesy of the South Carolina Republican Party. Katon Dawson, the outspoken chairman of the South Carolina GOP, stood in the Executive Council chambers of the State House yesterday with Secretary of State William Gardner, New Hampshire primary protection law sponsor Rep. James Splaine, D-Portsmouth, state GOP chief Fergus Cullen and other elected officials to announce that his party's state-financed primary will be held on Saturday, Jan. 19. New Hampshire Union Leader: NH primary won't be later than Jan. 12
Early calendar won't change strategy, McCain says: Republican presidential hopeful John McCain said Thursday that his campaign strategy won't change if the first votes in the 2008 presidential election are cast in 2007. Reacting to South Carolina's announcement of its Jan. 19 GOP primary date, McCain said he doesn't agree with the accelerated pace of the nominating calendar, but supports New Hampshire's tradition of holding the first primary. AP: McCain: Primary scramble won't affect his campaign
Bush cracking down on immigration: The Bush administration plans to announce numerous steps on Friday to secure the border with Mexico, speed the expulsion of illegal immigrants and step up enforcement of immigration laws, administration officials say. The effort stems, in part, from White House frustration with the failure of Congress to approve President Bush’s proposals to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws and grant legal status to most of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. In debate on that legislation, many Republicans said Mr. Bush should first enforce existing laws more aggressively. New York Times: Bush Plans Immigration Crackdown
McCain embracing town-hall meetings: Arizona Sen. John McCain flew to New Hampshire yesterday looking to rebound from a recent bout of bad press about his campaign by focusing on one of his greater strengths - town hall meetings, according to Cyrstal Benton, a campaign spokeswoman. Last night he stood at the center of 250 potential voters in a community hall answering questions on topics from protecting eminent domain at the federal level to what he called a mishandling of the war in Iraq. New Hampshire Union Leader: McCain tries to rally support
For Stevens, like father like son: Ben Stevens is often said by Alaskans to be the spitting image of his father, Senator Ted Stevens. They have the same broad forehead, wide-set eyes and compact physique. They share the same rough-hewn personality, seemingly always spoiling for a fight. Now, father and son share a new, unwelcome distinction. Both are under investigation by the Justice Department over their ties to an Alaska businessman who has confessed to bribing public officials. New York Times: Like Father, Like Son, Even When They Are Under Suspicion
Sheehan announces Congress bid: A tearful Cindy Sheehan cited her son, killed in Iraq, as her inspiration as she announced her candidacy Thursday for the U.S. House against Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Sheehan last month said she intended to run against Pelosi, the House speaker, if the San Francisco congresswoman didn't move to impeach President Bush by July 23. Sheehan said Thursday that Pelosi had "protected the status quo" of the corporate elite and had lost touch with people in her district, most of whom, she asserted, want American troops out of Iraq. AP: Sheehan announces House candidacy
Who really coined 'Axis of Evil': An infamous phrase’s origins come into question in article One of President Bush’s most famous phrases is “axis of evil,” which he used to describe Iraq, Iran and North Korea during his 2002 State of the Union address. The phrase has long been credited to Michael Gerson, who was Bush’s chief speechwriter from 2001 to ’06. But in the September issue of The Atlantic magazine, on newsstands Aug. 21, former Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully says not so fast. Scully’s 8,500-word-plus cover story for the magazine is a brutal tell-all account of former colleague Gerson (to wit: “In reality, Mike’s conduct is just the most familiar and depressing of Washington stories — a history of self-seeking and media manipulation that is only more distasteful for being cast in such lofty terms.” Ouch.), and he pulls back the curtain on how the “axis of evil” phrase came to be. Yeas and Nays: Axis of Evil