WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has called a story raising questions about the accounting of his security expenses while he was mayor of New York a "hit job."
Late Wednesday, Politico.com reported city records show Giuliani billed New York City government offices for at least $34,000 in security and travel costs on trips to the Hamptons in his last year in office, with charges spread around departments under his control.
In its report, which Giuliani says might have been fueled by opposition research, Politico said it obtained the records through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. CNN was also able to obtain the same records.
"I thought the way the story was presented was like a hit job," Giuliani told CNN after the CNN/YouTube debate Wednesday night.
"Coming two hours before this debate, I kind of got the idea that it was not a legitimate story."
Paul is apparently spending serious money on direct mail in South Carolina.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) – Ron Paul and his grassroots supporters may dominate the Internet, but in South Carolina, the Texas congressman is pretty close to dominating the snail mail game as well.
Well-funded former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has dropped at least seven mail pieces as counted by CNN, seems to have sent out more direct mail than any other candidate in this early primary state. But in recent weeks the Paul campaign has sent out at least five very large, very polished pieces of mail to potential GOP primary voters.
One of them is a 12-page mailer, already released in New Hampshire, that folds out to be nearly three feet long.
All of the South Carolina mailings go straight for the jugular on issues important to the Republican base: abortion, illegal immigration, social security, and fiscal responsibility. (Paul's mail also delves into the libertarian's favorite topic – defending the Constitution.)
His abortion mailer features a large photo of a smiling baby and reads: "Dr. Ron Paul is more than pro-life. He is the essence of all that it stands for." The illegal immigration brochure pledges "to end immigration nonsense" and fight "amnesty." His economy mailer touts his record fighting "the tax and spend crowd" in Washington.
But the detailed, fold-out mailings seem to carefully avoid the one position that truly puts him at odds with his Republican rivals: his repeated calls to immediately remove U.S. combat forces from Iraq.
The 12-page Paul mailer promises "protection and peace without nation building" but avoids any reference to Iraq, hinting that the campaign—at least in paid media—may be reluctant to bring up the congressman’s stance on Iraq in a state where support for the war remains relatively strong.
– CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby
Clinton won a big union endorsement Thursday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton was endorsed by the Amalgamated Transit Union Thursday.
The ATU represents 180,000 bus drivers, light rail operators, maintenance workers and other transit employees in 46 states.
In a written statement, the ATU said it would work to educate its members about the New York senator's campaign and "mobilize its U.S. members and their families in the early primary states in support of her nomination."
– CNN Political Assignment Editor Katy Byron
Giuliani criticizes the leading Democrats in a new TV ad.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In a new television ad touting his record as New York City mayor, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani takes a swipe at Democratic candidates, saying they're sure to raise taxes once they reach the Oval Office.
"I know that reducing taxes produces more revenues. Democrats don't know that," Giuliani says in the ad, titled "Promise", which begins airing in New Hampshire and Boston television markets Thursday. He said Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards have promised to raise taxes.
"The only thing I can tell you in addition to that is they'll raise taxes even more than they promise," says Giuliani.
– CNN Political Assignment Editor Katy Byron
(CNN) – In this video clip, watch CNN’s John Roberts interview former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Huckabee supporter Chuck Norris. The martial arts expert explained how he came to support the Republican presidential candidate. “Mike is a guy who means what he says and says what he means,” Norris told Roberts. “That’s why I jumped on the campaign trail with him.”
Huckabee brushed aside attacks against him by rival Mitt Romney telling Roberts “I’m going to let him say whatever he wants.” “I’m running for president. I’m not running against these other guys.”
Despite Huckabee’s good-natured outlook on his opponent’s jabs, Norris suggested Huckabee can take the rough-and-tumble of presidential politics. “We did some martial arts together and this guy’s tough,” said Norris. “He hung in there with me,” he added.
Huckabee also spoke with Roberts about his views on illegal immigration and his thoughts on the YouTube debate format.
Related video: Huckabee impresses Norris
–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
WASHINGTON (CNN) – As the debate banter went back and forth between Republican presidential contenders in Wednesday night’s CNN/YouTube debate, 24 undecided Republican voters had a unique opportunity to express their views on the candidates in real time. In each of these video clips, a line graph displays the voters’ reaction. The yellow line represents the 12 women in the group and the blue represents the 12 men.
Watch the reactions:
– CNN's Martina Stewart and Emily Sherman
Leroy Brooks from Houston, Texas asked the candidates what they thought the Confederate flag represents.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney both criticized the Confederate flag during the CNN/YouTube debate on Wednesday.
The flag happens to be hoisted on the Statehouse grounds in the early primary state of South Carolina, where both candidates are leading in polls.
The candidates were asked by YouTube user Leroy Brooks from Houston, Texas if "this flag right here represents the symbol of racism, a symbol of political ideology, a symbol of Southern heritage - or, is it something completely different?"
"I know that everybody who hangs the flag up in their room like that is not racist," said Thompson, who has played up his southern roots while campaigning in South Carolina. "I also know that for a great many Americans it's a symbol of racism."
Thompson added that, "as far as a public place is concerned, I am glad that people have made the decision not to display it as a prominent flag, symbolic of something, at a state capitol."
But the Confederate flag in South Carolina's state capital is in a very public place - located on the Statehouse grounds along Gervais Street in Columbia, next to the Confederate Soldier Monument.
Hyde died early Thursday morning.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Congressman Henry Hyde, a Republican from Illinois, died early Thursday morning. He was 83.
Hyde's death was confirmed by a spokesman in the office of Republican leader John Boehner.
He had been ill for some time and had open heart surgery in July. In his final years in office, he was wheelchair bound and frail.
The environmental activist is endorsing Clinton's presidential bid.
(CNN) - At different points during the presidential race, both Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards have alternately drawn comparisons to Robert F. Kennedy.
Kennedy's relative youth and optimism, as well his crusade against poverty and opposition to the war in Vietnam, all made for fitting comparisons to those two Democrats.
But one of Kennedy's sons, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., is today endorsing Sen. Hillary Clinton - who happens to hold the same elected office once occupied by his father.
"I watched proudly as Hillary won over New Yorkers across the state in her race for the Senate seat my father once held," Kennedy said in a statement. "Since then, she's been reelected in a landslide victory and proven that she is ready to lead this nation from her first day in office. Hillary will inspire the real change America needs."
He added that Clinton had the "strength and experience" to end the war in Iraq and address the impact of global warming.
Kennedy, an attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and president of Waterkeeper Alliance, is perhaps best known for his environmental activism.
Kennedy stirred controversy last year with a lengthy Rolling Stone article suggesting that the 2004 election was stolen in Ohio, claiming that "the president of the United States was selected not by the uncontested will of the people, but under a cloud of dirty tricks."
UPDATE: Kennedy’s decision to campaign for Clinton in the Hawkeye State may dredge up some inconvenient reminders of comments he’s made on earlier visits, the New York Times points out. Five years ago, according to reports at the time in the Des Moines Register and the New York Post, the environmental activist told an Iowa audience that “large-scale hog producers are a greater threat to the United States and U.S. democracy than Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network.”
– CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee would be happy to see Sen. Hillary Clinton go into space.
(CNN) - Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee outlined one special plan he'd consider for NASA's exploration of space.
"Maybe Hillary can be on the first rocket to Mars," he said, referring to the Democratic presidential frontrunner.
The Republican presidential candidate responded to a question asking if more money would be put into space exploration. His witty response about Clinton generated cheers from the St. Petersburg audience and followed his description of the earthly benefits of NASA's programs.
"Whether it's the medical technologies that saved many of our lives and the lives of our families, it's the direct result from the space program," he said. "We need to put more money into space and technology exploration."
The question, posed by Steve Nielson of Denver, Colorado, asked if the candidates would commit to sending Americans to Mars by the year 2020.
Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado disagreed with Huckabee's promise and would not commit to sending anyone to Mars because, "We can't afford some things, and going to Mars is one of them."
– CNN's Adam P. Levy