Oprah and Obama campaign in New Hampshire. Photo: Mike Roselli/CNN
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) – Tired and hoarse after a three-state campaign swing on behalf of presidential contender Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey rounded out the weekend Sunday with an evening appearance here in the Granite State.
"This is my first time in Manchester. Wow, what a beautiful place!" said the talk show host, her voice cracking. Her entrance unleashed deafening screams and frantic waves from many in the audience, along with a sustained standing ovation.
The campaign estimated a crowd of roughly 8,500 braved the chilly New Hampshire weather – roughly a third the size of the audience that attended a similar event held in South Carolina earlier in the day. Still, it was the state’s largest political rally this year.
Hillary Clinton has long dominated the Democratic presidential field here, but a Mason-Dixon poll released just hours before Oprah arrived showed the New York senator’s edge over Obama had narrowed to a statistically insignificant 3-point margin.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) – The crowd traveled here from across South Carolina to see Oprah Winfrey speak, but the biggest applause line at Sunday's rally came straight from Barack Obama's stump speech: "The name George W. Bush will not be on the ballot" next year, he said to a huge roar from the audience.
"I'm sick of politics as usual," Winfrey told the crowd of 29,000 voters and 350 credentialed journalists at Williams-Brice Stadium, after an introduction from Obama's wife Michelle. "We need politicians who know how to tell the truth. But more importantly we need politicians who know how to be the truth."
Her speech, light on policy and heavy on the Illinois senator's message of change, was similar to the remarks she gave in Iowa on Saturday. But if the balmy weather and the football stadium weren't sign enough, it was clear from their speeches that they were in a different part of the country.
Joe Biden says the Justice Department needs to appoint a Special Counsel.
(CNN)–Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, says the Justice Department needs to go further than it has, by calling for the appointment of Special Counsel to investigate the CIA's destruction of videotapes that included the interrogation of terrorism suspects.
“Under federal law, the Attorney General may appoint a Special Counsel to prosecute matters when he or she determines that an investigation by the Department itself would present a conflict of interest, or there are other extraordinary circumstances and it would be in the public interest to do so. I believe these conditions are met," the Democratic presidential hopeful said in a news release Sunday.
“This is a White House that has sanctioned and pushed for the kind of interrogation techniques captured on those video tapes," Biden said. "This is a White House that was informed of the CIA’s desire to destroy those tapes. Thus, it is possible this investigation could lead to the White House."
On Saturday, a Department of Justice official announced the Justice Department and CIA will do a preliminary inquiry into the spy agency's destruction of videotapes taken during interrogations of two al Qaeda suspects.
The announcement was made in a letter from Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein to the CIA's acting general counsel, John Rizzo. Wainstein said the purpose of the probe will be to determine "whether further investigation is warranted."
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-CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford
WASHINGTON (CNN)–Look for more red-hot scrutiny of Republican Mike Huckabee this week, the underdog turned top dog in Iowa.
A Newsweek poll shows Huckabee now has a whopping 22 point lead over Mitt Romney in Iowa - other polls don't show as big a Huckabee lead, but with a little over three weeks to go until the lead-off contest, the former governor of Arkansas is now the one to beat.
Expect Huckabee to be a target when the GOP candidates square off in the Des Moines Register debate on Wednesday.
Romney, in particular, will be trying to regain his footing in Iowa, where he once enjoyed a comfortable lead.
Thursday, it's the Democrats' turn to debate in Des Moines - with the three-way slugfest between Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards taking center stage.
Clinton and Obama refocus on the Hawkeye state after dueling weekend events in South Carolina featuring superstar surrogates: Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.
But no one is bigger than Republican Ron Paul's new campaign vehicle: A blimp - floating up the Eastern seaboard this week - headed right for the first in the nation primary state of New Hampshire.
-CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer
WASHINGTON (CNN) – New Mason-Dixon polls released Sunday show the primary picture growing more, not less, uncertain with the first presidential voting less than a month away.
No Democrat in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina has a lead safely outside the margin of error.
On the Republican side, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee appears to have a double-digit edge in Iowa, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney an 8-point margin in New Hampshire – but South Carolina remains up for grabs, with five candidates registering in double digits.
Clinton's campaign has released a new ad at a time when several polls have found the Democratic race tightening.
WASHINGTON (CNN)–Hillary Clinton's campaign is airing a 60-second ad in Iowa and New Hampshire titled "New Beginning."
The spot comes on the heels of several recent polls that have found Illinois Sen. Barack Obama leads decisively among Democratic primary voters looking for change.
Amid shots of the New York senator addressing enthusiastic crowds on the trail, Clinton repeats some familiar elements of her stump speech, including calls for universal health care and an end to No Child Left Behind requirements and the war in Iraq. She also emphasizes her experience, an area where surveys show she holds an edge over Obama.
"It takes strength and experience to bring about change," says Clinton. "I have a very clear record of 35 years fighting for children and families, fighting for working people, fighting for our future."
– CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
Oprah Winfrey campaigned with Barack Obama, and Chelsea Clinton hit the trail with her mother..
WILLIAMSBURG, Iowa (CNN) – On a day when Oprah Winfrey is taking her first leap into the world of presidential campaigning by stumping for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in Iowa, Chelsea Clinton is also marking a first. It's the first time she's been out on the trail with her mother, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, during this election cycle. And guess what? They're also in the Hawkeye State.
An attempt to compete with the star power of Winfrey? Not so, said Hillary Clinton.
Answering reporters' questions, Clinton never mentioned the queen of daytime television by name. She did, however, say a trip with her daughter—and her mother, Dorothy Rodham, who also joined them Saturday—had been in the works but that the family kept running into "conflicting schedule needs," that is, until today, coincidentally.
Reporters weren't told about the addition of Chelsea Clinton until Saturday morning.
"It worked out that it was going to be [Saturday], and I'm thrilled to have them with me," Clinton said. "I've had a great time having my mother and my daughter with me. I hope I can persuade one or both of them to come back."
But the two sat quietly while the presidential hopeful spoke.
Asked if Chelsea would be making any comments at any point in the day, Clinton hesitated but stated simply, "I don’t think so."
Reporters were also curious whether Sen. Clinton was at all nervous that Winfrey would no doubt be hogging much of the spotlight Saturday.
At an unofficial campaign stop for breakfast—where reporters with cameras formed a quasi-fortress around the family's table—Clinton chose to answer by saying, "I'm having a good time. I'm just not sure I'm going to eat all of this in front of you. That’s the only thing I'm concerned about right now!"
-CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch
Richardson said he's fine with celebrities stumping for candidates and added that he'll soon have some of his own.
LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) – As ‘Oprahbama’ fever sweeps Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Gov. Bill Richardson told reporters in Nevada on Saturday, “Of course celebrities play a role in American culture, and I don’t see any problem in trotting out people that are outside of politics that support your candidacy.”
The announcement that Oprah Winfrey would stump for Sen. Barack Obama ignited a debate over the role of celebrity endorsements in presidential politics. A South Carolina legislator who supports Sen. John Edwards called the Oprah events “publicity stunts,” perhaps unaware that celebrities have hit the trail for her candidate as well.
In Iowa, Sen. Hillary Clinton danced around a direct Oprah question but argued, “At the end of the day it’s a choice among those of us who are running. And I think that most voters understand that.”
Richardson agreed with Clinton, saying, “I think the voters should make up their minds on the qualifications of the candidates,” but admitted to CNN, “I’m going to have a few [celebrities] of my own too.”
– CNN Nevada Producer Alexander Marquardt
DES MOINES, Iowa–After 20 years covering politics, I’m a hard sell. I’ve seen every gimmick known to politicians: train trips, hang gliders, pyrotechnics and “intimate” conversations with voters in barber shops, front porches, diners and ice cream shops. Lord knows I have seen hundreds of endorsements.
But the Double “O” show, coming to an early primary state near you, was something else again. There was an “Iowa for Obama” sign on the wall, adorned with white Christmas tree lights. The obligatory banner hung in camera range just behind the podium. There were a couple of signs, but no fireworks, no hang gliders, just Oprah and Obama and thousands of their closest friends packed into a cavernous arena in downtown Des Moines.
Gayle (Oprah’s BFF) told one of the women seated next to her that Oprah was up until three in the morning writing her speech introducing Obama. She told people backstage she was nervous. I asked one of his advisers if the campaign had any input. “Nope,” he said “All the Big O.” If that’s true, Winfrey has a future. It was a great speech, and she is a gifted speaker.
The crowd was wild for Oprah. Thunderous applause. Camera flashes lit up the arena. Somebody yelled, “Oprah for Vice-President”. Obama turned around and smiled. That would be, he said “a demotion”. He spent so much time fawning over her she finally asked him to “move along.” He did which-minus the Ode to Oprah- was mostly his standard stump speech.
Afterwards, reporters were asking people in the crowd whether they came for Oprah or Obama. Face it, it’s caucus time in Iowa. They can see a politician any day of the week. This is the Oprah tour, and they understand that at Camp Obama. They welcome that at Camp Obama. She drew them in. He made his case.
Endorsements do not decide elections. I don’t think they matter much at all (I remind you of Al Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean). But as I watched Oprah embrace Obama as thousands of people went crazy, I found myself wondering how many votes a hug is worth.
–CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley
McCain discusses CIA tapes on Saturday.
NASHUA, New Hampshire (CNN)
At his last stop of a six day New Hampshire tour, Sen. John McCain criticized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for destroying interrogation videos of two Al Qaeda operatives and said the decision would further "erode" American's trust and confidence in Washington.
Calling the two operatives, "bad, bad people," the Arizona senator said the CIA's decision was against the recommendations from members of Congress and confirmed to enemies "that we engaged in interrogation techniques which are illegal."
"I welcome this inquiry and the CIA will cooperate fully," CIA Director Mike Hayden said in a statement. "I welcome it as an opportunity to address questions that have arisen over the destruction back in 2005 of videotapes."
According to reports by the New York Times, Hayden explained to employees that the tapes were destroyed to protect the identity of the interrogators.
McCain, a former prisoner of war, has vehemently opposed torture as a means of interrogation and intelligence gathering. He vowed that as President, he would "never torture another person in the custody of the United States."
–CNN New Hampshire Producer Sareena Dalla