WASHINGTON (CNN) - The debating's now done in Iowa.
Download Thursday's The Best Political Podcast for debate coverage from the Best Political Team on TV. Candy Crowley has highlights from Thursday's Democratic debate in the Hawkeye State and Brianna Keilar reports on what four of the Democratic presidential candidates did before the debate.
CNN has a new poll on Congressional and presidential job approval. Bill Schneider explains how the public feels about Capitol Hill and the White House. Three weeks before Iowa's caucuses, Mitt Romney is conceding front runner status in the early state to rival Mike Huckabee. Dana Bash fact checks Romney's claims about Huckabee's record.
Plus, a recap of the hottest stories on the Political Ticker.
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–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
The candidates largely stayed cordial at the last debate before the Iowa caucuses.
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - No slip-ups, no knockdowns, and no knockouts. That pretty sums up the last Democratic debate in Iowa before the January 3 caucuses.
"With three weeks to go, at the last debate before the caucuses, you have never seen six such agreeable people," says CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.
The candidates, Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, former Sen. John Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, were more or less in agreement on the economic and trade issues that dominated this debate. When they disagreed, it was over which candidate could best implement the Democratic agenda.
While it was mostly a love fest, Clinton did get in the political shot of the afternoon. The senator from New York said "everybody on this stage has an idea about how to get change. Some believe you get change by demanding it. Some believe you get it by hoping for it. I believe you get it by working hard."
That was an obvious blast at her two top rivals, Obama and Edwards, who have painted Clinton as a Washington insider incapable of implementing change. Clinton argues that her knowledge of how the system works makes her best to bring about change.
"We heard the latest iteration of Clinton's message that she's a Washington insider and an agent for change. It's been a tricky argument to make," says CNN Political Reporter Jessica Yellin, adding "She seemed upbeat and confident today and for Clinton projecting that kind of optimism is as important as what she says."
The other made-for-TV moment was a question to Obama about how he could bring about change, since he has so many Clinton administration advisors in his camp. That brought laughter from Clinton, until Obama responded, "Well, Hillary, I'm looking forward to you advising me as well."
While the debate let voters know where the candidates stand on the issues, it will probably do little to alter the state of the Democratic race here in Iowa. It's still a three-way dog fight between Clinton, Obama and Edwards for the top spot in the polls.
This debate may have been a love fest, but expect the gloves to once again come off in the remaining 21 days until the Iowa caucuses kick off the presidential primary voting.
– CNN Deputy Political Editor Paul Steinhauser
A CNN focus group weighed in on the Democratic debate Thursday.
JOHNSTON, Iowa (CNN) - In interviews conducted immediately after Thursday's Des Moines Register debate, most of the 23 undecided Democratic voters surveyed said they thought former Sen. John Edwards came out on top and said he would get their vote if the election were held today.
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois placed second in a focus group conducted by CNN when asked who would get their vote, and Sen. Hillary Clinton was the third choice.
Some of the 14 women and 9 men said they were swayed by Thursday's debate:
two said they decided to support Clinton, two said they decided to back Edwards, and one said she was going to vote for Obama.
– CNN's Mary Snow and Shirley Zilberstein
An advisor to Clinton resigned Thursday over his comments on Obama.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A top advisor to Hillary Clinton has resigned his position with her campaign after suggesting rival Barack Obama's admission of drug use could hinder his chances of winning a general election matchup.
Bill Shaheen, a co-chairman of Clinton's New Hampshire campaign, said in an issued statement, "I made a mistake and in light of what happened, I have made the personal decision that I will step down as the co-chair of the Hillary for President campaign."
"This election is too important and we must all get back to electing the best qualified candidate who has the record of making change happen in this country," he added. "That candidate is Hillary Clinton.”
Reacting to the news, Obama's chief campaign strategist David Axelrod told CNN's Jessica Yellin he thinks it was a "good decision."
"I think what he did was beyond the pale," Axelrod said. "He injected something into the campaign that didn't belong. We didn't ask for him to resign. I think it was a good idea. Hopefully it will send a signal you can't do these kinds of things."
"We believe the American people can sort out these issues and we weren't lying awake at nights worrying what Bill Shaheen said," Axelrod continued. "Maybe the Clinton campaign was."
Earlier: Aide: Clinton apologizes to Obama
Americans have a bleak view of the president's job performance, according to a new CNN poll.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Americans share a bleak view of the job performances both of President Bush and of congressional Democratic leadership, according to a CNN poll released Thursday.
The president's approval rating in the poll, conducted Dec. 6 through Sunday by Opinion Research Corporation, was 32 percent, tying his all-time low rating from June.
Sixty-six percent disapproved of how Bush is handling his job, the poll found, about equal to the 65 percent early last month.
Only 15 percent said they approved "strongly" of how the president is handling his job, while nearly half, 49 percent, disapproved "strongly."
Democratic leaders in Congress enjoyed an approval rating only narrowly higher than the president's, with 39 percent of poll respondents saying they approve of what the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have done so far this year. More than half - 56 percent - disapproved, the poll found.
Still, 53 percent of those polled said Democratic leadership is "good for the country," though that is down slightly from 58 percent in January, when when Democrats took control of Congress. The poll found that more than a third - 37 percent - said a Democratic-controlled Capitol Hill is "bad" for the country.
What a year it's been. Here we are, a little more than a week to go before the Democratic-led Congress adjourns and they don't have a heck of a lot to show for themselves.
First, House Democratic leaders caved into President Bush's spending limit on a massive domestic spending bill. Although they're vowing to shift funds away from the president's priorities to theirs, it still signals a big political victory for the White House.
Next, what started out as an ambitious agenda a year ago has now been reduced to finger pointing between House and Senate Democrats.
The Washington Post reports Congressman Charlie Rangel is accusing Senate Democratic leaders of developing "Stockholm syndrome" - that they're showing sympathy to their Republican captors and giving in on all sorts of legislation.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
Giuliani is touting his immigration plan in a new ad.
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) - Rudy Giuliani debuted a new ad Thursday designed to assure primary voters in the Granite State that he will be tough on illegal immigration.
In the 30-second spot, which comes less than a month before New Hampshire voters head to the polls, Giuliani says that it is possible to "end illegal immigration." He lays out his immigration plan, which involves completing a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, providing new training for the border patrol, and creating a tamper-proof national I.D. card.
Once immigrants attain citizenship, adds Giuliani, they will have to "read English, write English, speak English and understand American civics."
Giuliani's ad launch comes a few days after a CNN/WMUR poll that puts him tied for second place with Arizona Sen. John McCain in New Hampshire, behind frontrunner Mitt Romney.
–CNN New Hampshire Producer Sareena Dalla
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - It’s been a mostly sedate debate so far, focused mainly on economic and fiscal issues, thanks to a format that doesn’t allow for much interaction between the candidates.
That didn’t stop New York Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York from getting a shot in against her main rivals.
"Well, everybody on this stage has an idea about how to get change,” said Clinton. “Some believe you get change by demanding it, some believe you get it by hoping for it. I believe you get it by working hard for change. That's what I've done my entire life.
That's what I will do as president."
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina have both characterized Clinton as a Washington insider incapable of bringing about change. Meanwhile, Clinton – who has spent more time in Washington than either man - has stumped on the theme is that you can only bring about change by knowing how the system works.
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - It’s the economy, stupid.
Call it déjà vu all over again: it’s primary season, there’s a Clinton in a tough primary fight – and the catchphrase from Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign is back.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll out this week found that the economy seems to be the number one presidential campaign issue among Democratic primary voters. So naturally, the Democratic debate here in Iowa just kicked off with an economic question.
The moderator, Des Moines Register editor Carolyn Washburn, asked “would it be a priority of your administration to balance the federal budget every year?”
That’s a far cry from Democratic presidential debates held earlier this year, when the Iraq war was usually the first issue on the agenda.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser
Former White House aide Karl Rove.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday in favor of handing out contempt citations to a former and current White House official for failing to comply with subpoenas issued in the investigation into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year.
The committee voted 11-7 to cite White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten for refusing to hand over documents related to the firings and to cite former White House adviser Karl Rove for refusing to testify and hand over internal documents.
The recommendation will move to the Senate floor for a vote.
A White House spokesman dismissed the initiative as "politics."
The move marks the first time the Senate committee has voted for a contempt of Congress citation against anyone in the investigation into the firings. The House Judiciary Committee voted in July to recommend that Congress issue contempt citations to Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Myers.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, ruled last month that Bolten and Rove must testify before the panel and produce documents related to the firings.