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Making news today:
Brutal GOP campaign takes a breather
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Maybe it was the midday start time. Maybe it was the holiday season. But Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate lacked the brutal street-fighting tone that has characterized their previous meetings, as well as the past few days on the trail in Iowa.
With the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses roughly three weeks away, it was the moderator, and not the candidates who came under fire at this last Republican debate. Fred Thompson rebelled against debate guidelines laid out by Des Moines Register Editor Carolyn Washburn – his campaign even kept up the assault after the debate.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, who has been a top target in most of the recent GOP debates, didn’t rate a single mention – that distinction went to the nation’s tax system, as each of the candidates pledged to slash taxes and government spending.
The man on stage who provided the biggest fireworks was perennial candidate Alan Keyes. The former ambassador and three-time presidential contender tangled with Washburn, injecting himself into exchange after exchange.
In fact, much of the GOP debate seemed to belong to second-tier candidates like Duncan Hunter, Tancredo, Paul and Keyes. That scenario won’t play out Thursday - underdogs Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel have not been included in the Democratic debate. Full Story
In other news:
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will be endorsed by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, CNN’s Dana Bash has learned. Full Story
And while the presidential race in Iowa is in its final stretch, four Democratic candidates plan on leaving the Hawkeye state Thursday morning to tend to their day jobs. Sens. Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, and Barack Obama, all plan to make the trip back to Capitol Hill for a Senate farm bill vote and a cloture vote on an energy bill, aides to the senators tell CNN’s Jessica Yellin. Full Story
– CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
Now you can take the Best Political Team with you anytime, anywhere. Subscribe to the “Best Political Podcast” for extensive coverage of the 2008 election. Best Political Podcast
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
Compiled by Lindsey Pope
CNN Washington Bureau
New York Times: Final Debate Before Iowa Caucuses Shows Uncertainty at Top of Republican Field
The last Republican presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses, a sleepy affair, was nearly over on Wednesday when one of the less-known candidates, Representative Tom Tancredo, decided to mount an attack on one of the leading candidates.
Washington Post: In a Lifeless Debate, Vows of a Spirited Sprint
Despite barely engaging each other in a final, lackluster Republican debate here, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee vowed Wednesday to wage a spirited fight in a presidential contest that has become a test of social conservative passions vs. the power of money and organization.
Des Moines Register: Basu: Does Huckabee Sound Too Liberal To Rally GOP?
Wednesday’s GOP debate clarified a few things, such as why Huckabee is leading in Iowa; forced an awkward question — what’s going on with Alan Keyes?; and showed why Republicans have generally failed to galvanize around one candidate.
NY Sun: McCain Touts Bloomberg on Education
Senator McCain is cozying up to Mayor Bloomberg at the expense of Mayor Giuliani as the Republican presidential primaries draw near, using a question at yesterday's debate here to tout the current administration's efforts to reform an educational system that he said had been "clearly broken."
LA Times: Controversy Dwarfs GOP Debate
Mike Huckabee apologized to Mitt Romney on Wednesday for raising questions about the Mormon faith, again pushing religion to the fore of an increasingly bitter fight for the Republican presidential nomination.
Boston Globe: New Dynamics Of Race Reinforced, But No Big Winner
When Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado looked down the lineup of fellow Republican presidential candidates and said he had a question for the governor "because you're leading the pack now," former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney straightened up as if readying himself for a punch.
Boston Globe: Obama Closes In On Clinton In N.H. Polls
With less than a month to go until the New Hampshire primary, two new polls yesterday showed that Hillary Clinton's once-daunting lead has evaporated, putting her into a dead heat with Barack Obama.
New Hampshire Union-Leader: John DiStaso's Granite Status: No firewall in NH for Hillary
REPORTS of New Hampshire as a firewall for Hillary Clinton have apparently been greatly exaggerated.
Des Moines Register: Why Kucinich Isn't In The Democratic Debate
Six Democratic candidates for president will take the stage at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Des Moines Register’s second presidential debate.
Wall Street Journal: Looking for Lessons in 2006 Election Data
With 11 months to go before the 2008 election, the Election Assistance Commission issued its final report on the 2006 election, and it contains some curious nuggets.
New York Times: Clinton Aide Sees Problem for Obama
A top adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that Senator Barack Obama’s admission of illegal drug use as a young man could threaten his electability and be seized on by Republicans if he won the Democratic presidential nomination.
Washington Post: In Iowa, a Scrambling Lesson for Clinton
When senior advisers to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton awakened to the fact that they faced a serious problem in Iowa, they knew they needed a summit. For the divided staff, the question was where.
Boston Globe: Bill Can't Win It For Hillary
VOTERS WILL never elect Bill Clinton's wife as president of the United States. They may yet elect Hillary Clinton – if she makes the case.
New York Times’ The Caucus: Clinton May End Relationship With Burkle Firm
Former President Bill Clinton is in negotiations to sever his relationship with the Yucaipa Funds, a privately held California investment firm headed by Ronald W. Burkle, according to two people familiar with the discussions.
Washington Post: A Family Duty
John McCain's life has always been framed by his legendary Navy forebears - the father and grandfather who were illustrious admirals; the tough, passionate men whose code and calling McCain was preordained to share. He is a product of almost 80 years of family service, which included his 5 1/2 years of torture and deprivation in North Vietnamese prison camps.
Politico: HRC Troubles May Pose Problem For Giuliani
You know the type: He doesn't like her, he picks on her, but in the end — he needs her. If recent polls are any guide, the guy in that particular stormy and symbiotic relationship is Rudy Giuliani, and the object of his complicated emotions is none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Chicago Tribune’s The Swamp: First Oprah, Next Gayle King
In Dubuque, Iowa, Barack Obama will participate in a "Women for Obama" event that will be streamed live on the Web. Gayle King, a close friend of Oprah Winfrey's and one of her employees, will moderate the town-hall-style gathering.
Boston Globe: Obama Slams Employee Mishap, Again
The Obama campaign's response to reports Tuesday that he had stated in a decade-old questionnaire his unequivocal opposition to the existence of guns – a different position than he states today – was to blame it on a wayward employee.
USA Today: Edwards Banks On Veteran Caucusgoers To Pull Off Iowa
Democrat John Edwards is not a celebrity, he hasn't written a best seller and he won't be smashing any glass ceilings for women or minorities.
LA Times: Putting Words In Obama's Mouth
It's not unusual to hear average folks being mentioned by presidential hopefuls on the hustings. But few have found themselves quite so celebrated as Edith Childs, the star of one of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's favorite campaign anecdotes.
Roll Call Opinion: Is Mike Huckabee the None of the Above Candidate?
A slew of new polls have confirmed that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s Iowa surge has catapulted him to the lead in the GOP caucuses. He shows movement in other state and national polling as well, though not in New Hampshire.
DC Examiner: Bill Subs for Hill at NJ Fundraiser
It's not often that Bill Clinton is relegated to the role of substitute, but the former president filled in Wednesday night at a million-dollar fundraiser his presidential candidate wife missed because of bad weather.
New York Times: Immigration, and Its Politics, Shake Rural Iowa
Along the main thoroughfare of this small meatpacking town, the transformation of a single shop, once known as the Ken-A-Bob restaurant, tells the story of the town itself.
The Daily Telegraph: Ron Paul Leads Republicans Online
The 2008 presidential campaign with the biggest on-line presence is led by 72-year-old congressman in a crumpled suit who confesses he has no internet strategy but just stumbled on “a wonderful secret weapon”.
NY Daily News: Rudy Giuliani on Awkward Moments List
What happens when you're running for president and your kids don't support you? You get a spot on Time magazine's Top 10 Awkward Moments of 2007 list.
Washington Post: Misreading the Iran Report By Henry Kissinger
The extraordinary spectacle of the president's national security adviser obliged to defend the president's Iran policy against a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) raises two core issues: How are we now to judge the nuclear threat posed by Iran? How are we to judge the intelligence community's relationship with the White House and the rest of the government?
Roll Call: Poll: Landrieu’s Race Near Even
In the Republican Party’s one real shot at knocking off an incumbent Senate Democrat, Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy is running almost even with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), according to a new poll conducted exclusively for Roll Call.
Washington Post: Democrats Blaming Each Other For Failures
When Democrats took control of Congress in January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) pledged to jointly push an ambitious agenda to counter 12 years of Republican control.
The Hill: Boehner, Pelosi Seek IG Action On Page Program
House leaders have directed the House Inspector General to investigate misconduct and allegations of mismanagement of the congressional page program, according to a joint statement Wednesday night.
NY Daily News: Subpoenas for Al Sharpton's Aides
Teams of federal agents swooped down on up to 10 close associates of the Rev. Al Sharpton Wednesday, demanding the flamboyant clergyman's financial records since 2001.
Boston Globe: Gonzales is lawyer of the year, says ABA Journal
Negative news coverage might have cost Alberto Gonzales his job as attorney general, but it won him a dubious honor yesterday from a magazine published by the American Bar Association: Lawyer of the Year.
On the Trail:
Compiled by Lauren Kornreich and Katy Byron
CNN Washington Bureau
* The Democratic presidential candidates participate in a debate sponsored by the Des Moines Register and Iowa Public Television in Johnston, Iowa
* Mitt Romney holds a "Strategy for a Stronger America: Strengthening America's Economy" event in Muscatine, Iowa. Later, he attends the grand opening of his Bettendorf campaign office.
* Ron Paul meets with Republican supporters at Eagles Hall in Fallon, Nevada.
* Hillary Clinton attends a rally at the Shenandoah Fire Department in Shenandoah, Iowa.
* Chris Dodd attends a campaign event at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. Later, he goes to a chili dinner and fundraiser in Story City.
* John Edwards holds a community meeting in Indianola, Iowa.
* John McCain holds town hall meetings in Sioux City and Davenport, Iowa.
* Barack Obama kicks off a tour through Iowa with a town hall meeting at Grand River Center in Dubuque. Later, he holds another town hall at Ohnward Fine Arts Center in Maquoketa.
* Joe Biden addresses a Polk County Democrats meeting in Des Moines, Iowa.
* The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook
* The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook