Obama is taking heat from China.
(CNN) – Angry Chinese officials are taking aim at Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama over his statement that he would “stop the import of all toys from China.”
The Illinois senator’s remarks, which came at an Iowa campaign stop Wednesday, were “unobjective, unreasonable and unfair,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters at a Thursday briefing. “Imagine if the quality of American products was not 100 percent up to standard. Could we take that as a reason to totally ban U.S. products?”
Members of Congress have demanded stricter enforcement of U.S. imports of Chinese goods over the past year following several recalls of potentially dangerous products, including toys tainted with lead. But Obama’s comments are the harshest to date from a major presidential candidate.
This is not the first time Obama has drawn criticism from foreign officials. Shortly after the senator officially entered the presidential race, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard slammed him over his opposition to the war in Iraq, and his calls to withdraw U.S. troops by spring 2008.
“I think that will just encourage those who want to completely destabilize and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and a victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for an Obama victory,” Howard said in an Australian television interview.
Obama immediately responded that he was flattered that one of President Bush’s closest allies "started attacking me the day after I announced - I take that as a compliment."
His campaign has not yet responded to the latest foreign attack.
-- CNN’s Emily Sherman
Rice had some sharp words for Mike Huckabee Friday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters Friday that Mike Huckabee’s recent comments criticizing some aspects of Bush administration foreign policy were “ludicrous.”
“The idea that somehow this is a ‘go it alone’ policy is just simply ludicrous. And one would only have to be not observing the facts, let me say that, to say that this is now a ‘go it alone foreign policy,” said Rice.
In an article in the January/February issue of Foreign Affairs, released last week, the Republican presidential candidate characterized the Bush administration’s foreign policy as an “arrogant, bunker mentality.”
Many of Huckabee's GOP presidential rivals have attacked him for that description. Mitt Romney, who now trails Huckabee in the key early-voting state of Iowa, has kept up a steady stream of criticism over the Foreign Affairs piece – at a campaign event Wednesday, he again said the former Arkansas governor had made a "significant error in insulting the president."
President Bush himself declined to comment on Huckabee’s piece when asked about it during a press conference yesterday.
UPDATE: Speaking to CNN's John King Friday, Huckabee said he has "great respect" for Rice, but questioned whether she had read the article.
"I'm not sure if she's actually read the article, or maybe she's reacting to the headlines, because I think some of the people who have spoken about it when asked have admitted they have not actually read the article and what I was specifically referencing."
"I wasn't criticizing the president, who I'm very fond and think has handled the overall situation of protecting America quite well," Huckabee continued. "I've been very complimentary of him, particularly the surge, but if we are so unable to point out policy differences and how things would change under a new administration, then maybe we shouldn't run for president, we'll just keep the current one in office."
Earlier: Huckabee: 'I don't have anything to apologize for'
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The top Democratic and Republican presidential contenders will be invited to appear in nationally televised debates in California less than one week before "Super Tuesday," CNN, The Los Angeles Times, and Politico announced Friday.
The California debates, which will be broadcast on CNN, will take place in a delegate rich state that both Republican and Democratic White House hopefuls are mining for votes and campaign cash.
It will be the final time the candidates appear together on the same stage before February 5 when 23 states hold presidential nominating contests.
Republicans will appear at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley on January 30. Former first lady Nancy Reagan has personally informed candidates that they will be invited if they are frontrunners.
The California Democratic Party has sanctioned the Democratic debate, which will take place January 31 in Los Angeles. CNN, the Los Angeles Times, and Politico are organizing these historic events.
The three media organizations said candidates will be invited if they place in one of the top four spots in an early voting state, and receive at least 5 percent in either a California survey conducted by the organizers or any one of 10 nationally identified media sponsored polls in January.
Organizers will determine Democratic eligibility based upon the Democratic National Committee's early calendar schedule that includes Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. For Republicans, the list of possible contests includes: Iowa, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina, and Florida.
In addition to a CNN/Los Angeles Times/Politico survey of California voters, the media organizations said other polls they will use to determine eligibility include: CNN, Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg, The New York Times, CBS, USA Today/Gallup, NBC/Wall Street Journal, FOX/Opinion Dynamics, Washington Post/ABC, TIME, or Newsweek.
With just two weeks to go, a very large number of Democratic caucus goers in Iowa say they haven't decided who's going to get their vote.
The debate has been largely about "experience"– which is what Senator Hillary Clinton argues she has on her side– versus "change" which is what Senator Barack Obama promises to bring to Washington.
Also very much in the mix is John Edwards, who vows to do battle with the large corporations that have a stranglehold on the federal government. In fact recent polls in Iowa show Senator Edwards trailing Clinton and Obama by just a couple of percentage points, putting the three of them in a virtual dead-heat.
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Romney is playing up his ties to Michigan.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Mitt Romney – who was born in Michigan, and whose father served as governor there - is playing up his connection to the state in a new ad.
"And for me, Michigan is personal," says Romney in the 30-second spot, released Friday. "It's inexcusable that Michigan is undergoing a one-state recession. High levels of unemployment, industry is shrinking here, jobs are going away."
Michigan, set to hold its primary on January 15, is the first state to vote after New Hampshire. But the Republican winner will only be awarded half the state's delegates, since national Republican leadership has penalized the state party for holding the primary before February 5. The Democratic Party was even harder on Michigan for the primary move-up, forbidding its presidential field from even campaigning in the state.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Listen to the Friday's Race to '08 audio podcast.
(CNN) - The Race to '08 continues even as the rest of the country turns its attention to friends, family, and food over the upcoming holidays.
In Friday's audio podcast, CNN's Chris Chandler and Dick Uliano discuss Rudy Giuliani's recent hospital stay, the accolades former President Bill Clinton is lavishing on his wife while stumping for her on the campaign trail, and the early date of the Iowa caucuses - just two days after start of the new year.
– CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
A new poll shows the New Hampshire primary race is extremely volatile.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are locked in a dead heat in New Hampshire, according to a new poll released Friday, setting up what’s likely to be an all-out sprint in the final 18 days before the Granite State’s primary.
Clinton and Obama each draw support from 32 percent of the state’s likely Democratic voters in the new USA Today/Gallup poll. John Edwards is a distant third with 18 percent, while Bill Richardson comes in fourth with 8 percent.
Meanwhile, the poll shows a tightening race on the Republican side as well, with Mitt Romney's once double-digit lead narrowing to 7 points over a resurgent John McCain, 34 percent to 27 percent.
Rudy Giuliani - who last week decided to pull advertising from the expensive Boston-area media market that reaches the southern portion of New Hampshire - comes in a distant third at 11 percent, a statistically tie with Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul, who each stand at 9 percent in the survey.
But the poll shows over 40 percent of voters in each party say they may change their minds over the next three weeks, an indication the standings in New Hampshire remain extremely volatile and may be affected by the results in the Iowa caucuses five days earlier.
In further evidence the New Hampshire race is still thoroughly unpredictable less than three weeks out, other polls out of the state this week have shown significantly different margins separating the top candidates in both parties.
In a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Wednesday, Clinton held a 12- point lead over Obama, and Romney was 12 points ahead of McCain. And in an American Research Group poll out Thursday, Clinton is 14 points ahead of Obama, while Romney and McCain are tied.
DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNN) - Areas of dense fog hovering over most of Iowa forced Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to cancel his first two stops of the day Friday.
Obama was scheduled to land in eastern Iowa - near the site of his first event of a three-day swing through the state - but his plane was re-routed to Chicago due to dense fog at a higher elevation, according to a campaign spokeswoman.
His first two stops are now off the schedule, as Obama's motorcade will be on the road for the four-hour drive from Chicago to Washington, Iowa - site of what was originally set to be his last stop of the day. Now, it will also be his first.
A crowd of a few hundred potential supporters - as well as the traveling press corps - had already gathered at his first event when organizers announced that Obama would be unable to make it.
–CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch
Watch Sen. Biden's entire Situation Room interview.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Joseph Biden’s appearance on CNN’s The Situation Room took a personal turn when Suzanne Malveaux asked the Democratic presidential candidate how he weathered the loss of his wife and young daughter in a 1972 car accident.
“The way I got through it – I have an incredible family,” Biden told Malveaux. “Everyone was there to help me. They were there constantly,” added Biden explaining how his sister, brother, mother and other relatives rallied around him to help him raise his two young sons who survived the car accident, but were badly injured.
“Tragedies like that either make you stronger or make you weaker,” said Biden. “And what it’s taught me is, I can handle anything.”
In his autobiography “Promises to Keep,” released earlier this year, Biden reflected on the tragedy. “I began to understand how despair led people to just cash it in; how suicide wasn’t just an option but a rational option,” wrote Biden.
–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
McCain personally paid Flanagan a visit earlier this year.
(CNN) – Erin Flanagan is still undecided.
Hardly news, right?
But there's more. Last week, we told you about this independent New Hampshire voter and her anguish over her vote - and the second anniversary of her brother's death in Iraq.
John McCain came to her house a while back for dinner, and made a strong impression.
But she was still undecided - and considering, as we reported last week, Barack Obama as well.
Her dilemma: she liked Obama and McCain for their promises to work across the aisle, but couldn’t decide which is right when it comes to the course of future Iraq policy.
Well, the Obama camp saw our report and requested a meeting - and it happened Wednesday night, at a campaign event in Manchester. (Watch: Soldier's sister torn)
"He was very kind... greeted me with a gentle handshake and a sympathetic hug," Erin told us in an email exchange. She says Obama asked about her brother, and " discussed his respect and admiration of the troops."
Erin described the Illinois senator as friendly and "very sincere."
But: "I'm still undecided."
Earlier: Brother's death in Iraq to color sister's vote
– CNN Chief National Correspondent John King