WASHINGTON (CNN) - With only a month go before Iowa voters kick off the presidential primary season, the Clinton campaign is sending its two senior-most staffers to the Hawkeye State.
Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle and deputy campaign manager Mike Henry will be shuttling back and forth between Iowa and Clinton's campaign headquarters just outside Washington, a spokesman for the New York senator tells CNN.
The news was first reported by the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder.
Henry was the author of an internal memo, later leaked to the New York Times, that suggested Clinton should skip Iowa – though campaign officials immediately insisted the idea had never been seriously considered. The campaign later overhauled its Iowa leadership structure.
Monday’s news is the latest signal the campaign views its performance in Iowa, where the race has tightened considerably in recent weeks, as crucial to winning the party's nomination.
Watch Thompson direct his fire at rivals Romney and Huckabee.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson Monday said he didn't need to apologize for his faith, despite concerns from Christian conservatives that he does not express his religious beliefs enough on the campaign trail.
"As far as faith is concerned, I have not made any secret as to where I am. I am a Christian," Thompson said, noting that, while he doesn't attend church while at home in McLean, Virgina, he did attend church with his mother when he visits Tennessee. "I have no apologies to make about my religion or my relationship to Jesus Christ or God."
In a column in USA Today Monday, David Domke, a University of Washington journalism professor, said Thompson has not done better in the polls because "he lacks a religious niche" and "Christian conservatives have not been amused or enthused" by his lack of church attendance and the few times he talks of his faith on the campaign trail.
Thompson dismissed those comments, saying "I'm OK with the Lord, and the Lord is OK with me as far as I can tell."
In the wide-ranging interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the Tennessee senator also dismissed recent surveys out of Iowa and New Hampshire that show he has slipped significantly behind the frontrunners.
“I've been running consistently second in the nation-wide polls," the Tennessee senator said. "I've been running pretty consistently close in South Carolina, so our campaign is where we need to be."
"I think a lot of people expected me to blow a lot of people away when I got in the race. I knew better than that, and of course it hasn't happened," Thompson continued.
Catch the full interview on the Situation Room at 4, 5, and 6 p.m. ET.
Norquist offered Giuliani praise Monday, words that are sure to go over well with New Hampshire voters.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - He still won’t sign the pledge – but Republican Rudy Giuliani is on the receiving end of some very kind words from a conservative activist prominent in GOP battles over taxes and spending.
Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform said this in a letter to the former New York mayor on Monday:
“In looking at the records of all the Republican candidates, yours clearly stands out. You cut the income tax, business taxes, sales taxes, property related taxes and nuisance taxes. You are the most successful tax cutter in modern New York history and, on balance, the most successful tax cutter in the Republican field today.”
In that same letter, Norquist noted a letter he had received from Giuliani, and said: “The information you put in your letter certainly more than achieves the spirit and letter of the Americans for Tax Reform National Taxpayer Protection Pledge.”
Translation: Rudy still won’t sign the pledge, yet Norquist is trying to help the mayor deal with rivals who are trying to make an issue of his refusals in New Hampshire, where GOP campaigns are historically waged first and foremost over taxes.
Giuliani and Senator John McCain have refused to sign the ATR pledge promising not to raise taxes under any circumstances, as has Congressman Duncan Hunter.
In a presidential debate in September, Giuliani defended his refusal to sign: “It's a matter of principle. I think if you're president of the United States, you take one pledge: to uphold the Constitution of the United States.”
Giuliani’s campaign released the Norquist letter. In the past few weeks the former mayor has made a significant push in New Hampshire.
– CNN Chief National Correspondent John King
McCain campaigned in New Hampshire Monday.
DURHAM, New Hampshire (CNN) – Arizona Sen. John McCain told voters at a New Hampshire town hall that he was "concerned" about China's military buildup and that a continued U.S. military presence in Asia was necessary to maintain peace in that region.
"I worry about the fact that there [are] a lot of rumors that they may be building or buying aircraft carriers,” the Republican presidential candidate said Monday in response to a question on U.S-China relations. "That's the ultimate projection of military power, weapon power."
Calling China a "world superpower," McCain emphasized the need to strengthen alliances with its Asian nations.
"There is nothing we can do about” China's growing strength, said McCain. "The question is how they enter the world stage. It bears watching, it bears concern and it argues for strong alliances with the Japanese, with South Korea with other Asian nations in the region for a continued military presence in the region," said McCain.
McCain told reporters later that diplomacy should be emphasized, but that a continued military presence would "give confidence to our allies and friends in the region" and be seen as a message of support.
– CNN New Hampshire Producer Sareena Dalla
DURHAM, New Hampshire (CNN) – Following a town hall at a Granite State business, Arizona Sen. John McCain called Mike Huckabee a "very attractive candidate" and a "very smart guy."
McCain's words come one day after a Des Moines Register poll shows the former Arkansas governor leading the Republican presidential pack in Iowa after spending most of the race as a second-tier candidate.
"I like him and I wish him well," said McCain.
The presidential hopeful then added, "I think I am more experienced and have better judgment on national security issues but I certainly congratulate him on the campaign he's run."
The Republican presidential rivals have traded compliments this primary season. Last month, Huckabee told an Iowa audience that when it came to the Arizona senator’s opposition to waterboarding – an unpopular stand with the GOP base - he “would defer to John McCain for this simple reason: John McCain has been tortured and nobody else running for president has."
"I'm not about to stand on any stage in America and act like I know more about torture than John McCain does," said Huckabee.
Will the Boston Red Sox ace help McCain with die-hard Sox fans in New Hampshire?
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Pitcher Curt Schilling will hit the campaign trail in New Hampshire this week on behalf of Republican John McCain, the Boston Red Sox ace's first foray into the 2008 presidential race.
Schilling, who will appear alongside McCain Wednesday for a "Politics & Sports Town Hall" in Manchester, is no stranger to presidential politics. In 2004, he campaigned for President Bush against hometown Democratic Sen. John Kerry.
The Boston pitcher first announced he was supporting McCain back in January, and reaffirmed his commitment to the Arizona senator last month.
"I'm not voting party line any more," Schilling told Boston radio station WEEI. "I'm voting for the guy that I know is going to be the same person four years from now that he was when elected. I need to trust somebody because I don't agree with anybody's platform front to back.... I need somebody that I can trust to do right by the country and stick to their guns."
Meanwhile, the American League East rival New York Yankees have been opening their wallets for lifelong fan Rudy Giuliani – the former New York mayor has nabbed donations from several members of the organization, including owner George Steinbrenner and third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Robert Reich had some sharp words for Clinton Monday
(CNN) – Bill Clinton's former Secretary of Labor issued a blistering criticism of the former president's wife on Monday, accusing her of "not telling the truth" on Social Security and taking marching orders from her top pollster.
Reich, who has not endorsed a candidate but has written glowingly of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in recent months, ripped Hillary Clinton for saying Sunday that Iowa voters will have a choice "between someone who talks the talk, and somebody who's walked the walk."
"I don’t get it," Reich wrote on his blog. "If there’s anyone in the race whose history shows unique courage and character, it's Barack Obama. HRC’s campaign, by contrast, is singularly lacking in conviction about anything. Her pollster, Mark Penn, has advised her to take no bold positions and continuously seek the political center, which is exactly what she’s been doing."
Reich, who calls Clinton "my old friend" in the blog post, has a long-standing relationship with the Clintons, going back to when Reich and the former President were classmates and Rhodes Scholars at Oxford in the late 1960s. He left the Clinton administration in 1997 and now teaches public policy at the University of California-Berkeley.
Bush did not have kind words for Congress Monday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – At a press conference Monday morning, President Bush told reporters that, after returning from a two-week break for Thanksgiving, Congress had just two more weeks before going another break at the end of the year.
“That’s not really a lot of time to squeeze in nearly a year’s worth of unfinished business,” said Bush.
But, Bush didn’t stop there in his criticism of Congress. Calling the pro forma sessions held by the Senate “a political maneuver designed to block my ability to make recess appointments,” Bush chided Congress for holding a series of 30-second Senate sessions held in the last two weeks. “If thirty seconds is a full day, no wonder Congress has got a lot of work to do,” the President added.
Bush said Congress should spend the next two weeks working on a bill to fund U.S. combat troops, an extension of wiretapping legislation, a revision of the alternative minimum tax, and the 11 outstanding spending bills necessary to fund the federal government’s operations.
Despite his desire to get action out of Capitol Hill, Bush made it clear that he would not tolerate what he considered unnecessary appropriations in any spending bills presented to him. “If they send me an irresponsible spending bill, I will veto it.”
Bush also told reporters Monday that as the end 2007 approaches, Congress has “little to show for it.”
Related: Senate holds quickie session to frustrate bush
Related: Senate holds another quick session
– CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
Former top-Bush aide Karl Rove is offering Barack Obama some advice.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is getting advice from an unlikely source: former top Bush aide Karl Rove.
The man behind Bush's two presidential victories took to the pages of the Financial Times Sunday to offer the candidate some unsolicited suggestions on how to beat rival Hillary Clinton.
In an open memo to Obama, Rove said the Illinois senator currently appears "weak and ineffectual," and should start sharpening his attacks on the New York Democrat.
"Stop acting like a vitamin-deficient Adlai Stevenson," Rove writes in reference to another Illinois Democrat who twice ran for president and lost. "Striking a pose of being high-minded and too pure will not work. Americans want to see you scrapping and fighting for the job, not in a mean or ugly way but in a forceful and straightforward way."
Rove also suggests Obama exploit the "real doubts" many Democrats feel about Clinton, take clear stances on the issues, and better articulate the type of change he is hoping to represent.
Finally, Rove says Obama needs to decry what he calls Clinton's complaints that she is "being picked on."
"Find a way to gently belittle her whenever she tries to use disagreements among Democrats as an excuse to complain about being picked on," Rove writes. "The toughest candidate in the field should not be able to complain when others disagree with her. This is not a coronation."
"Blow the whistle on her when she tries to become a victim," he continues. "Do it with humor and a smile and it will sting even more."
Rove's memo comes the same day a new poll out of crucial early-voting state Iowa shows Obama seems to have taken a lead over Clinton, 28 percent to 25 percent. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is a close third at 23 percent. With the poll's 4.4 percent margin of error, the race in the Hawkeye State is a statistical dead heat.
Responding to the memo, a Clinton campaign spokesperson said, "Why is Karl Rove giving Sen. Obama advice on how to win? Could it be that he thinks it will be easier for Republicans to run against the unknown gentleman from Illinois?"
Politico's Jim VandeHei said it's more likely Rove is seeking publicity and wants to have a voice as the election unfolds.
"If you're a gambler you want to be at the table, and he very much wants to be part of this debate," VandeHei said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The California Democratic Party announced Monday that it has sanctioned the Democratic Presidential Primary Debate that will air January 31 on CNN, and feature questions from Los Angeles Times and POLITICO journalists.
The debate - to be held in Los Angeles - will be the Democratic contender's final face off before voters from delegate-rich California, as well as 20-plus other states, are set to head to the polls on February 5.
“The California Democratic Party is excited that our party’s presidential debate, on the eve of the momentous Feb. 5 primaries, will be in Los Angeles, California,” said California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres. “As a native Angeleno, I am proud to join CNN, the Los Angeles Times and POLITICO in helping our presidential candidates embrace the diversity and vision that California offers all Americans.”
This is the only debate that the Democratic Party of California has officially sanctioned in the 2008 race for the White House. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer will moderate the debate.