WASHINGTON (CNN) - In this video clip, former Sen. George Allen of Virginia speaks with CNN’S Wolf Blitzer about Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson.
Allen, a co-chairman of Thompson’s presidential campaign, discusses Thompson’s performance during Wednesday’s CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate and a Thompson ad targeting GOP rivals Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney that the Thompson campaign submitted to CNN for the YouTube debate.
Allen, whose 2006 Senate re-election bid was undone by his "macaca" video moment distributed via YouTube, tells Blitzer he thinks the Internet’s impact on politics is good for American democracy. “The more that people are informed and have access to information and ideas, the better,” says Allen, likening the Internet to the printing press. Allen also talks with Blitzer about whether he will ever run for political office again. Watch Allen’s Situation Room interview.
–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
(CNN) - Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider filed this report from St. Petersburg, Florida. Schneider takes a look at how the Democratic presidential primary may play out since Democratic presidential candidates have pledged not to campaign in the Sunshine State because of a violation of the Democratic National Committee's rules for setting primary dates.
Related: Clinton leads in the Sunshine State
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee visited The Situation Room to talk about his surging presidential campaign and Wednesday's CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate.
(CNN) - As the country watched Wednesday night's CNN/YouTube Republican debate, CNN had a group of 24 undecided GOP voters react to the debate in real-time through devices called "peoplemeters." In this report, Dana Bash takes a look at how key moments from the debate were received by the undecided voters.
Related video: Gauging Thompson on abortion
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Sen. Fred Thompson said ad was a favor to rivals.
LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) - During the CNN/YouTube debate on Wednesday, former Sen. Fred Thompson made waves by becoming the first Republican candidate to air a negative attack ad in the 2008 race.
Each candidate was asked to produce a 30-second YouTube-style ad to air during the debate, but unlike his opponents’, Thompson’s didn’t feature himself. Instead, it went after Mitt Romney for changing his views on abortion and Mike Huckabee for his tax policy while governor of Arkansas.
Asked why he felt the need to make a negative ad, Thompson replied, “It’s interesting to me that it’s considered to be a negative ad when you play somebody else’s words.” He added, “The point is that time and time again with regards to Mayor Giuliani and Gov. Romney and Gov. Huckabee, their positions today are different than positions that they’ve had throughout their political careers.”
Thompson argued that by drawing a contrast between past and present, he was helping the public come to a decision about the candidates, “I thought that I was doing [the candidates] a favor letting the audience see their own words, not something that I said about them.”
Immediately following the airing of the clip, Romney responded, as he has many times on the campaign trail, that he was wrong on abortion. Since the debate, Huckabee has asserted that the clip of him was taken out of context.
- CNN Nevada Producer Alexander Marquardt
Sen. Hagel did not mince words with his assessment of the Bush administration Wednesday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Chuck Hagel, a leading Republican lawmaker who has come out against the Iraq war, had some harsh words for the Bush White House Wednesday, calling it "one of the most arrogant" administrations he's ever seen.
"I would rate this one the lowest in capacity, in capability, in policy, in consensus - almost every area, I would give it the lowest grade," Hagel said during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Hagel supported the 2002 congressional resolution that authorized the invasion of Iraq the following year, but earlier this year he called Bush's plan to send thousands of additional U.S. troops to Iraq "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."
The two-term Nebraska senator flirted with a presidential bid last spring, but ultimately announced in September he has no plans to seek the White House and intends to leave the Senate when his term ends in 2009.
Speaking Wednesday, Hagel said the administration "squandered" opportunities following the attacks on 9/11.
"I think of this administration, what they could have done after 9/11, what was within their grasp," he said. "Every poll in the world showed 90 percent of the world for us. Iran had some of the first spontaneous demonstrations on the streets of Tehran supporting America."
"There's where they have failed the country," Hagel continued. "They've squandered the time and the opportunity that they had, and the next president is going to take four years to not only dig out from under that."
Despite Hagel’s insistence he has no plans to run for president, speculation persists that he and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg may pair up for a third-party Independent bid. The two even reportedly had dinner Wednesday night.
"Bloomberg's got the money - I think it'd be Bloomberg-Hagel," the senator joked when asked about the speculation.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Mitt Romney is facing criticism from the Log Cabin Republicans Thursday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is once again facing fire from a gay Republican group, which announced Thursday it will launch a radio ad in New Hampshire questioning the presidential hopeful’s fiscal conservative credentials.
The 60-second ad from the Log Cabin Republicans focuses on Romney’s record on taxes, claiming that as governor he promised to balance the Massachusetts budget without raising taxes, but reneged on that pledge – a move they say had an impact on some New Hampshire residents who work in the Bay State. They said the ad will run in the Manchester and Portsmouth-Dover-Rochester radio markets.
“Mitt-Flops,” states the narrator.
“Sounds like something you'd wear to the beach, but they could cost you…. Romney even refused to support the Bush tax cuts. Now? He’s seen the light on tax cuts. Do you believe this conversion?” The spot ends with a clip of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, and the tagline: “Mitt Romney – just another Massachusetts flip-flopper.”
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CNN) - Fresh from the previous night’s CNN/YouTube debate, Sen. John McCain spoke with reporters about the experience Thursday morning. He said he was pleased with the reviews but joked that he encourages his staff to only show him the good ones.
He discussed the primary calendar, saying about the current system, “it’s crazy, it’s way too compressed and we’ve got to sit down and fix it,” adding the threat of congressional action if the parties can’t agree on improvements. The Arizona senator stressed the need for a longer primary season to give candidates more scrutiny before the parties’ conventions.
McCain also focused on his continued disagreement with fellow presidential candidate Mitt Romney about the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique. The senator strongly opposes the practice, which he defines as torture and contrary to the Geneva Conventions.
- CNN’s Wes Little
Clinton leads in a new poll out of Florida.
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CNN) - It appears that a majority of Florida Democrats want Hillary Clinton to be their party’s presidential nominee.
Fifty-one percent of likely Democratic Florida primary voters support the New York senator in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll out Thursday.
That’s 30 points ahead of her nearest rival in the Sunshine State, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.
“Hillary Clinton has a big lead in Florida, but there is evidence that the race may change dramatically in the Sunshine State after Iowa and New Hampshire have their say,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “If the election were held today, Clinton would get support from 51% of Democratic likely voters, to 21% for Obama and 11% for Edwards.”
The Iowa caucuses, which kick off the presidential primary voting, will be held on January 3, five weeks from today. Florida will hold its primary on January 29. The state moved up its primary date to become more of a player in the presidential primary process, but it did so without permission from the national Democratic and Republican parties.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Nearly 5 million viewers tuned in to watch the CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate Wednesday night, making it the highest rated primary debate in cable news history.
A total of 4.9 million viewers watched the Republican candidates square off – 4.4 million on CNN and 500,000 on CNN Headline News, which simulcast the debate.
CNN’s Democratic presidential debate at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas two weeks ago is the second highest-rated debate in history, with 4 million total viewers.
With five weeks to go before the first wave of voters weigh in at the polls, the historic television audiences seem to indicate a growing interest in what have shaped up to be wide-open primary contests in both parties.