DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) – Most polls indicate that Democrats are more energized than Republicans about the 2008 election and their current crop of White House hopefuls. And if the crowds outside the debate site here at the Maytag Auditorium in suburban Des Moines are any indication, those polls are correct.
An unofficial count shows that there are far more supporters of the various Democratic candidates outside in the snow today than there were for their
Republican counterparts yesterday. And they seem to be much more vocal.
That’s the show outside as the last Democratic presidential debate in Iowa before the January 3 caucuses gets underway inside.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser
Obama brushed off a Clinton advisers comments about his drug use Thursday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton personally apologized Thursday to rival Barack Obama for an adviser's comment that Republicans will likely make an issue of Obama's past drug use, a Clinton aide tells CNN's Candy Crowley.
In an exclusive interview with Obama earlier Thursday, the Illinois Democrat brushed aside the comments.
"I just think people are feeling a little worried about the polls," Obama told CNN’s Ted Barrett before a Senate vote on Capitol Hill.
On Wednesday Bill Shaheen, a chairman of the New York senator’s campaign in New Hampshire, told a Washington Post reporter the Republicans will likely exploit Obama's past admission of drug use should the Illinois senator win the party's nomination, and may even suggest Obama once dealt drugs.
– CNN's Ted Barrett, Candy Crowley, and Alexander Mooney
A Clinton advisor has apologized for suggesting Republicans will seize on Obama's admission of drug use.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A top advisor to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign apologized late Wednesday night for suggesting Republicans will likely seize on rival Barack Obama's admission of drug use should the Illinois senator win the Democratic nomination.
"I deeply regret the comments I made today and they were not authorized by the campaign in any way," Bill Shaheen, the New Hampshire chairman of Clinton's campaign, said in a statement.
Shaheen, the husband of former New Hampshire governor Jeanne Shaheen, caused an uproar Wednesday afternoon when he told a Washington Post reporter he thinks Obama's chances of winning a general election matchup are seriously hindered by the fact he has admitted to using marijuana and cocaine.
"The Republicans are not going to give up without a fight … and one of the things they're certainly going to jump on is his drug use," he said. "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?' There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."
The comments were immediately called "desperate" by Obama's campaign spokesman David Plouffe.
“Sen. Clinton’s campaign is recycling old news that Barack Obama has been candid about in a book he wrote years ago, and he’s talked about the lessons he’s learned from these mistakes with young people all across the country," said Plouffe.
Meanwhile, Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer said the campaign did not authorize or condone the remarks.
"Sen. Clinton is out every day talking about the issues that matter to the American people," he said.
The latest back-and-forth between the two campaigns on the issue of Obama's electability came the same day a new CNN/WMUR poll showed the two candidates statistically locked in a dead heat in New Hampshire. Clinton stands at 31 percent, with Obama just 1 percentage point behind – a statistical tie, given the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
The House page program came under scrutiny after the Mark Foley scandal last year.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The inspector-general of the House of Representatives will investigate recent allegations of sexual misconduct among congressional pages, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the chamber announced.
Two pages - usually high school juniors who serve Congress as messengers - have been dismissed for allegedly having oral sex in public areas of their Capitol Hill dormitory.
"It wasn't kissing and hugging - let me put it that way," said Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Florida, last week. "It did go beyond that. There were not only a young male and female involved, but there were also observers and other page participants who were, let's say, enablers."
Biden, Obama, Dodd, (above) and Clinton all headed back to Capitol Hill Thursday morning - on separate planes.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The presidential race in Iowa is in its final stretch, but four Democratic candidates plan on leaving the Hawkeye State Thursday morning to attend 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 procedural vote on an energy bill, aides to the senators tell CNN’s Jessica Yellin.
While the candidates are being diverted from the campaign trail, these are can’t miss votes for the presidential candidates. One deals with commodity payments to farmers - a big issue in Iowa - and the other calls for capping carbon emissions on automobiles - a popular proposal with the Democratic base.
But in a bit of irony, after presumably voting to lower carbon emissions, each of the candidates are chartering their own plane back to Iowa to make a Democratic debate at 2 p.m. ET.
Why aren't the candidates sharing planes? Two campaigns tell CNN there was talk of ride-sharing, but it didn't work out in the end. Meanwhile, one campaign says they were turned down by another campaign when the proposition was raised. And another campaign said there were concerns that ride-sharing would possibly break new Senate ethics rules.
Most likely though, the candidates want a little private time to prepare for the upcoming debate.
– CNN's Jessica Yellin and Alexander Mooney
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has endorsed Mitt Romney.
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) – Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will be endorsed by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, CNN has learned.
"In his campaign for the presidency, Mitt Romney has outlined the clearest vision to move our country forward,” Heineman says in a statement provided to CNN by the Romney campaign.
Nebraska borders the first caucus state of Iowa, and several western Iowa cities and towns critical for Republicans fall into the Omaha, Nebraska media market.
"Governor Heineman understands that our party is strong when we stand for a strong defense, strong economy and strong families,” Romney says in the statement given to CNN.
“Through conservative principles, Governor Heineman is making Nebraska a better place to live, work and raise a family. I look forward to working with him as we advance our strategy for a stronger America."
Heineman was elected governor just two years ago. Romney’s campaign is highlighting the fact that he has already passed “the largest tax relief package in the history of the state.”
Romney was once the clear frontrunner in Iowa, but several statewide polls show that he is now trailing rival Mike Huckabee.
– CNN Correspondent Dana Bash
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) – Here's a quick look at what's making news in South Carolina politics this morning:
The Los Angeles Times writes up Edith Childs, the "Fired up!" woman behind Barack Obama's favorite campaign anecdote. (Childs also claims Obama fudges a few facts about the now famous story.)
Former South Carolina Democratic party chairman Joe Erwin endorsed Obama for president on Wednesday, saying he plans to work "aggressively" for the campaign.
The Democratic candidates may be in Iowa, but would you settle for a celebrated author instead?
Samantha Power, a Pulitzer-prize winning author and senior foreign policy adviser to Obama, will campaign for the senator in Columbia, Myrtle Beach and Charleston on Thursday.
The Clinton campaign announced that Victoria Rowell, the daytime actress and best-selling author of "The Women Who Raised Me," will campaign across the state Thursday, Friday and Saturday. (She also campaigned in the state in August.) Find an event here.
– CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby
A Clinton advisor said Wednesday Republicans may challenge Obama on his past drug use.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A high-ranking advisor to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign said Wednesday that rival Barack Obama's public admission that he has used cocaine and marijuana could seriously hinder the Illinois senator’s chances of winning a general election matchup.
The comments were immediately called "desperate" by Obama's campaign. Meanwhile, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said "the comments were not authorized or condoned by the campaign in any way."
Speaking to a Washington Post reporter in Dover, New Hampshire, Bill Shaheen - a co-chairman of the New York senator's campaign in the Granite State - said he expects Republicans will "jump on" Obama's remarks should he become the nominee.
"The Republicans are not going to give up without a fight ... and one of the things they're certainly going to jump on is his drug use," Shaheen said. "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'"
"There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome," he added.
Obama spokesman David Plouffe said Wednesday afternoon that Shaheen’s comments were "an increasingly desperate effort to slow [Clinton's] slide in the polls."
"Sen. Clinton’s campaign is recycling old news that Barack Obama has been candid about in a book he wrote years ago, and he’s talked about the lessons he’s learned from these mistakes with young people all across the country," said Plouffe.
In addition to saying the campaign did not approve of the remarks, Clinton's spokesman added, "Sen. Clinton is out every day talking about the issues that matter to the American people."
In Obama's 1995 book Dreams of My Father - a book that was little read at the time, but recently reprinted - the future presidential candidate writes he was once headed in the direction of a "junkie" and a "pothead."
Referring to his emotional struggles as a young man, Obama writes, "Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though."
UPDATE: Shaheen issued the following statement Wednesday night: "I deeply regret the comments I made today and they were not authorized by the campaign in any way."
For the latest, breaking political news, check for updates throughout the day at http://www.CNNPolitics.com. All Politics, all the time.
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