CORALVILLE, Iowa, (CNN) - In his stump speech assault on entrenched corporate interests and health care companies Saturday, former Sen. John Edwards invoked the recent and controversial death of Nataline Sarkisyan.
Sarkisyan is the 17-year-old girl who died Thursday night at UCLA Medical Center, shortly after her health insurance company reportedly reversed its decision not to pay for a liver transplant.
– CNN's Carey Bodenheimer
WASHINGTON (CNN) - It's almost Christmas, but you wouldn't know it from the pace the presidential hopefuls are keeping up on the campaign trail.
In Friday's The Best Political Podcast, we take an extended look at Mike Huckabee's views on foreign policy. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice handed the former Arkansas Governor a big lump of coal Friday when she responded to Huckabee's recent criticism of the Bush administration. Dana Bash also has been following Huckabee out on the trail and files a report on his approach to the country's most significant foreign policy issues.
Buying presents isn't the only thing about which some people in Iowa and New Hampshire have been proscratinating. Bill Schneider reports on undecided voters in the two key early primary states.
Just in time for the holiday, some members of Congress have made gifts of your tax dollars to their respective districts in the form of earmarks in the latest spending bill. But, President Bush may play Scrooge and order federal agencies not to act on at least some of the Congressional goodies included in the bill. Brian Todd reports on the battle between the White House and Capitol Hill over earmarks.
Finally, in our weekly gift to you, we look at the most memorable moments from the campaign trail in this week's Trail Mix - a treat you can only get from CNN in The Best Political Podcast.
Click here to subscribe to The Best Political Podcast
–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
Romney has focused recent Granite State attacks on McCain.
NORTH CONWAY, New Hampshire (CNN) – Mitt Romney told a crowd in notoriously tax-averse New Hampshire Saturday that rival John McCain had "failed Reagan 101" by not supporting President Bush's tax cuts, the latest in a series of new attacks on his Republican rival’s fiscal conservatism.
"He voted against the Bush tax cuts – twice … That’s failing Reagan 101," said the former Massachusetts governor. "Reagan taught almost all of us in the Republican party that lowering taxes would grow the economy, and was good for the economy, and good for individuals. I believe the Republicans are going to nominate a tax cutter to become President."
Romney’s campaign also sent reporters a press release Saturday titled ‘Straight Talk Detour,’ which compared the Arizona senator’s statements on the Bush tax cuts to those of Democratic Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts.
The McCain camp immediately shot back. "From his claims of being a 'lifelong hunter' to receiving the NRA's endorsement to marching with Martin Luther King, Jr., it's clear that Mitt Romney has trouble with the truth,” former New Hampshire Rep. Chuck Douglas, McCain’s New Hampshire vice chairman, said in a statement.
Richardson: Clinton is trying to "duck and weave."
AMES, Iowa (CNN) – Bill Richardson is now the latest Democratic presidential candidate to accuse Hillary Clinton of drastically changing her position on Iraq this week. “She’s flip-flopped so many times, I don’t know what her position is. It changes almost every day,” Richardson told CNN Friday.
Richardson, who is running a distant fifth among Democrats in Iowa in most polls - with the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses less than two weeks away - has stepped up his attacks on the rest of the presidential field in recent days.
Clinton has long maintained that even after most U.S. troops have been pulled out of Iraq, some troops would have to remain there - and that they could be there for several years.
But at a town hall event in Elkader, Iowa on Wednesday, Clinton told a crowd she had consulted with military advisors on Iraq and that “I think we can bring nearly everybody home, certainly within a year if we keep at it and do it very steadily.”
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards has characterized those comments as a policy shift. On Friday, Richardson agreed, saying that Clinton was trying to "outflank" him. "I’ve got an ad that says ‘are you going to get all the troops out by 2013?’” And so she’s trying to duck and weave.”
“I do know she wants to keep troops beyond one year,” said Richardson, “and I want her to explain her position.”
The Clinton camp disagrees with that assessment, and has responded to the criticism by saying the New York senator has always maintained a need for “small residual force” to remain in Iraq after most U.S. troops have left, and called for a slow but steady pace of withdrawal.
– CNN's Alexander Marquardt and Rebecca Sinderbrand
Giuliani was released from the hospital Thursday
(CNN) Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani saw his personal physician again Friday before returning to a campaign schedule that included an evening fundraiser.
"Every test was normal," campaign communications director Katie Levinson told CNN in an email exchange. "Enough," was her response when a CNN reporter asked her to characterize those tests.
She did respond "no" when asked if Giuliani's treatment included any prescription drugs.
"I feel great. I feel terrific,” Giuliani told reporters as he headed into that fundraiser in Rochester, New York.
He is scheduled to campaign Saturday and Sunday in New Hampshire.
Asked in the early evening whether Giuliani had gone to the doctor or to any medical appointments Friday, a campaign aide in New York declined to answer. At one point, when asked whether the campaign would detail any medical tests the mayor had received, the aide joked to a CNN reporter "put away your black helicopter."
Later, in response to questions from CNN, Levinson, who was traveling with the candidate, said: "He went to see his primary care physician this afternoon around 2 p.m. for a follow up. He got there at 8 pm or so last night and it sounds like it they just wrapped up today..."
The "last night" reference was regarding a Thursday night appointment in New York after Giuliani was released from an overnight hospital stay in St. Louis.
He was hospitalized after experiencing what the campaign described as flu like symptoms including a severe headache and discomfort. Giuliani's doctor in New York recommended his plane return to St. Louis and that the Mayor receive medical attention.
– CNN Chief National Correspondent John King
WASHINGTON (CNN) – White House hopefuls and independent groups backing their candidacies are now spending an eye-popping $1.9 million a day on network television advertising, less than two weeks before Iowa holds the first presidential nominating contest of the 2008 presidential race.
This is an all time record, as is the $83 million total that has been spent in 2007 alone on ads related to the presidential race, according to the analysis by TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, CNN’s consultant on campaign television advertising spending. Comparatively, $45 million was spent at this same date in 2003, by the Democratic candidates vying to challenge President Bush.
“Presidential campaigns continue to get longer and more expensive,” said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of CMAG. “Advertising is the amplifier for politics.”
Most of these commercials are airing in Iowa at all times of the day. A comprehensive review of airtime in Iowa on December 18 shows that 1093 campaign ads aired, which equals more than nine solid hours of commercials in a 24-hour time span.
Obama said he has more support from Bill Clinton's foreign policy officials than Hillary Clinton does.
WASHINGTON, Iowa (CNN) – Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Friday that it "should raise some pretty interesting questions" that, according to him, more of former president Bill Clinton's foreign policy advisers are supporting Obama than Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
"Why is the national security adviser of Bill Clinton, the Secretary of the Navy of Bill Clinton, the Assistant Secretary of State for Bill Clinton—why are they all supporting me?" Obama asked rhetorically.
"They apparently believe that my vision of foreign policy is better suited for the 21st century."
Obama was responding to an audience question that pointed out the support he's received from the former Clinton officials.
The Clinton campaign was quick to respond, saying it's "false" to claim that more of President Clinton's foreign policy officials support Obama than Clinton.
In a statement, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said, "Sen. Obama is attacking Sen. Clinton by making demonstrably false claims about his foreign policy credentials that only raise more questions about his own lack of experience."
Edwards has been calling on his Democratic rivals to back a minimum wage boost.
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) – John Edwards told CNN Friday he was happy Hillary Clinton had proposed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 – a move that followed public prodding from him to adopt the idea.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing. I’ve been talking about this for a long time, challenging the other candidates to agree to follow, and agree to do this,” said the former North Carolina senator. “And Sen. Clinton here, towards the end of the campaign, has taken action. It’s just great.”
The issue of poverty has been central to Edwards’ campaign, and the last few days on the trail have featured verbal sparring between him and Clinton over who was more committed to addressing it.
Shortly after a CNN interview Thursday in which Edwards again asked Clinton and the other Democratic candidates to support a raise in the minimum wage to $9.50, the New York senator released a statement saying she had introduced legislation the night before doing just that.
Was it a response to his challenge? “I don’t know, but I’m glad she did it,” said Edwards.
– CNN Political Producer Alexander Marquardt
Mitt Romney hit John McCain on tax cuts Friday.
ROCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took aim at rival John McCain Friday for not supporting President Bush's tax cuts.
"One of my friends is Sen. McCain, he voted against the Bush tax cuts," Romney told the crowd at a Granite State campaign event. "I think the Bush tax cuts were a great thing for our country. I support them and want to make them permanent."
Later, a questioner asked Romney if that attack had been hypocritical, since the former Massachusetts governor had not endorsed the tax cuts when they were introduced in 2003.
Romney responded that as a governor, he had not spent time dwelling on federal issues. "You see, I wasn't a U.S. senator, I didn't have to vote on this, didn't get a choice to. I was running my state," he said.
"But Sen. McCain was a senator, he had to vote, he had to decide: am I in favor of pursuing these tax cuts or not? And he voted against the tax cuts twice. That's a very different position," said Romney. He added that he would both preserve current tax cuts, and look to add to them.
Romney, whose campaign is counting on a strong showing in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, still leads McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in recent Granite State polls, although that margin has shrunk slightly in recent surveys.
This week, the Arizona senator nabbed the backing of Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman – a nod that may help sway some of New Hampshire’s critical independent voters – as well as endorsements from several major area papers, with just over two weeks to go until the state’s voters head to the polls.
–CNN New Hampshire Producer Sareena Dalla