GOP hopeful Ron Paul on NBC's Meet The Press Sunday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Texas Rep. Ron Paul refused to rule out a third party bid Sunday if he fails to win the Republican Party presidential nomination.
When Tim Russert of NBC’s 'Meet the Press' asked the Texas congressman if he’d consider an independent bid, he replied: "I have no intention of doing that."
When pressed by Russert to state unequivocally that he would not, Paul demurred. "I deserve one weasel wiggle now and then, Tim!"
Paul lost to Phil Gramm in the 1984 Texas Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Four years later, he ran for president as the Libertarian Party nominee.
The Republican presidential contender - who has an intensely loyal national following - is pulling in record fundraising sums, prompting speculation that he may continue his White House bid even if he does not fare well among Republican primary voters.
Paul is currently averaging single-digit showings in most recent surveys of GOP voters nationally and in early-voting states.
During the Sunday interview, Paul criticized the Civil Rights Act, pointing out that Barry Goldwater opposed it. But he would not say he whether would vote against the legislation today. "I get more support from black people than any other Republican candidate, according to some statistics," he added.
Paul also contended that the Civil War had been unnecessary because the United States would have gotten rid of slavery eventually.
Obama, who is not Muslim, has been trying to clear up voter misconceptions.
PLEASANTVILLE, Iowa (CNN) -– Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was asked about his "Muslim background" by a potential voter at a coffee shop Saturday, and used the encounter as an opportunity to try to put to rest stories that he said had been "misreported."
Obama joined a group of four women in a booth to eat some pumpkin pie and sip a cup of tea. One of the women asked him how his "Muslim background" would affect his decisions as president.
"This is something that keeps on being misreported, so I’m glad you asked me," Obama, who is Christian, said.
He told them his father had lived in a Muslim-dominated village in Kenya, but “didn’t practice Islam."
"Truth is, he wasn’t very religious,” said Obama. “He met my mother. My mother was a Christian from Kansas, and they married, and then divorced. I was raised by my mother. So I’ve always been a Christian."
He also touched on the fact that he lived in the Muslim country of Indonesia for four years of his childhood.
"I didn’t practice [Islam]," Obama continued, but added that being in that area had given him "insight into how these folks think."
Just before being pulled away from the table by a staffer, Obama told the women he had been a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ for the past 15 years.
–CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch
(CNN) - With the first votes of the 2008 campaign cycle just days away, several papers in the key early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire weighed in with their presidential picks Sunday.
In the Hawkeye State, Hillary Clinton won the backing of the Quad City Times – which, among other factors affecting their decision, cited the fact that she “very publicly stood up for her own marriage.”
John McCain got the paper's nod in the Republican race, under the headline: "Time for a real hero."
Both McCain and Clinton were endorsed last weekend by the Des Moines Register, the state’s largest paper.
McCain’s Republican rival Mitt Romney was endorsed by Iowa’s Sioux City Journal, which praised his “ability to reach across partisan divides …. In terms of leadership qualities, he possesses ‘it,’” said the paper, “and the importance of ‘it’ should not be diminished.”
And Clinton’s Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, won the Journal’s backing. The paper said he was “equipped to bring a fractured people together.”
Obama was also endorsed by New Hampshire’s Nashua Telegraph. “There's plenty of experience in Washington,” said the paper. “What's lacking is authenticity, transparency and courtesy. … Obama can provide that leadership, and deserves the support of New Hampshire Democrats.”
The paper will announce its Republican pick next Sunday.
(CNN) - Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama is calling for a ban on toys with more than a trace amount of lead, continuing a back-and-forth with Chinese officials outraged over his comments earlier this week that seemed to suggest he supported an import ban on all toys made in that country.
“Over 400,000 children in the United States are currently suffering from lead poisoning from a variety of sources, including toys," his campaign said Sunday in a prepared statement. "Over 80 percent of the toys in this country come from China."
The campaign added that, in response to “reports that millions of Chinese-made toys were being recalled because of lead paint,” the Illinois senator had “directly pressured toy manufacturers and Bush administration officials to do a better job protecting American children from the threat of imported toys, especially those manufactured in China.”
“When I criticized China’s product safety standards recently, an official at China’s foreign ministry said I was being ‘unobjective, unreasonable, and unfair,’” Obama said in the same statement. “Now, don’t get me wrong: as president, I’ll work with China to keep harmful toys off our shelves. But I’ll also immediately take steps to ensure that all toys are independently tested before they reach our stores, and I’ll significantly increase penalties on companies that break the rules.”
Earlier this week, Obama said at a campaign event that he would “stop the import of all toys from China,” prompting an angry response from Chinese officials.
“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?” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters at a Thursday briefing.
Obama’s campaign said Sunday that as president, he would also double funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, expand its regulatory powers, and increase fines for companies that fail to disclose known safety hazards with products they produce.
– CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama continued his attacks on rival John Edwards for alleged ties to 527 groups airing ads on his behalf. Obama said his opponent's inability to get the ads pulled might point to his potential ineffectiveness to enact his reform agenda as president.
"My attitude is if you can't get your former campaign manager and political director to do what you'd like, then it’s going to be hard to get the insurance companies and drug companies to do what you want," Obama told reporters during a stop at a suburban Des Moines diner, adding that he hopes Edwards "takes this seriously."
After similar comments from the Illinois senator Saturday, Edwards said he would call on the group Alliance for a New America to stop running the ads, but that he had no authority to force them to take the spots off the air. His 2004 campaign manager is now a part of Alliance for a New America.
"This is somebody who worked for John Edwards for the last who knows how many years, who is a good friend and colleague of Edwards who's now running a 527 that is running ads on behalf of John Edwards,” said Obama Sunday. “If you're telling me that he has no influence over him, that’s just not true."
Obama was also asked if it is a candidate's duty to control the actions of 527 groups - independent organizations that can raise unlimited funds for ads as long as they do not directly advocate that individual's election.
"I think you do have some influence," Obama said, adding that it's "important for us to be consistent in our views." Obama said he would make a similar request of any 527 groups that ran ads on his behalf, "just to be consistent."
MILFORD, New Hampshire (CNN) - The snowbanks line the roads, dotted with signs of the season.
Rudy. Hillary. Romney. McCain. Mark Klein.
He is one of the quadrennial fringe candidates, spending time and money campaigning and, like so many before him, approaching voters and reporters saying "I could pull off a big surprise here."
He approaches a CNN correspondent in Milford on Sunday near the site of a Mitt Romney event.
Klein described himself as a retired psychiatrist from Oakland CA.
"It was either buy a new Mercedes or run for president, so I am running for president," Klein said as he handed over a campaign brochure.
"This country is going down the tubes you know. We need an adult in the White House. And the country could use a national shrink."
–CNN Chief National Correspondent John King
(CNN) – It’s endorsement season, and nearly every day brings at least one of the major presidential candidates a fresh nod from an Iowa or New Hampshire newspaper.
But this weekend brought New Hampshire Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney an unpleasant twist on that campaign season staple: the anti-endorsement.
The Concord Monitor printed an editorial Sunday in which it called the Massachusetts governor “a disquieting figure who sure looks like the next president and most surely must be stopped.”
Romney had earlier sat with the paper’s editorial board. “When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state's first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney,” they wrote Sunday. “If a candidate is a phony, we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we'll know it.
“Mitt Romney is such a candidate. New Hampshire Republicans and independents must vote no.”
UPDATE: Romney spokesman Kevin Madden responded to the paper's editorial: "The Monitor's editorial board is regarded as a liberal one on many issues, so it is not surprising that they would criticize Gov. Romney for his conservative views and platform," he said in a statement.
"Governor Romney has taken firm positions that are at odds with the board's support for drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, their position against school choice and their advocacy for taking 'Under God' out of the Pledge of Allegiance. The governor happens to disagree with the editorial board on all those issues."
--CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
(CNN) - With just over two weeks to go until New Hampshire’s voters head to the polls, the state’s Republican and Democratic presidential races both appear to lack clear frontrunners, according to a new survey released by the Boston Globe Sunday.
On the Republican side, John McCain, who trailed GOP leader Mitt Romney by 15 points in last month’s Globe poll, is within 3 points of the former Massachusetts governor in the latest poll – a statistically insignificant margin. The Arizona senator has moved from third to second place since last month’s survey.
Romney has the support of 28 percent of likely Republican primary voters surveyed, McCain has 25 percent, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has 14 percent, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has 10 percent.
Among Democrats, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama appears to have erased a 14-point deficit in last month's Globe poll, and now finds himself in a statistical dead heat with the former frontrunner, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.
In the Globe's latest survey of likely Democratic primary voters, Obama registered 30 percent support to Clinton's 28 percent. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards had 14 percent support in the poll, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had 7 percent.
Around 40 percent of likely voters in both parties said they had yet to make up their minds.
The poll was based on a survey of 400 Democratic and 404 Republican likely primary voters conducted December 16 – 20. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
The Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary is scheduled for January 8, just five days after the Iowa caucuses.
–CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford
Rudy Giuliani speaks to reporters Saturday after returning to the campaign trail following an illness.
(CNN) – As he returned to the campaign trail this weekend, Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani was still facing questions about his brief hospital stay several days ago, but assured reporters he was fine.
"I've had all these tests taken the other day. They all came out 100 percent," Giuliani told CNN on Saturday.
"I'm in very good health. I had a very bad headache, that's what precipitated it, and they checked out everything."
The former New York City mayor - who has cut back on his originally scheduled campaign events this weekend - was admitted to a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, on Wednesday.
Doctors put the former mayor through a battery of tests during his overnight hospital stay. His campaign has so far not revealed what conditions those tests were intended to rule out.
After hours of silence from Giuliani's campaign staff, a spokeswoman told reporters at dawn Thursday that the tests found "nothing was alarming" - but would not elaborate on what the results were.
The simmering Obama-Edwards feud over 527's boiled over on Saturday.
OSKALOOSA, Iowa (CNN) — Barack Obama took aim at Democratic rival John Edwards at an Iowa campaign event Saturday, unleashing his harshest criticism yet of the former North Carolina senator for not using his influence to end the actions of third-party groups that support his presidential campaign in Iowa.
"John said yesterday he didn't believe in these 527s. You can't say yesterday you don't believe in it, and today three-quarters of a million dollars is being spent for you,” said Obama. “You can't just talk the talk. Everybody talks change, but how did they act when it was not convenient, when it's hard?"
This week, the Obama campaign has tried to draw attention to what it describes as Edwards’ links to several 527 groups - independent organizations that can raise unlimited funds for ads that can create an environment favorable to their candidate of choice, as long as they do not directly advocate that individual's election.
Its loudest complaints have been about the Alliance for a New America, a Service Employees International Union-linked group which is advertising in support of John Edwards. "The individual who's running the group used to be John Edwards' campaign manager," Obama said Saturday. Nick Baldick, Edwards' 2004 campaign manager, is now part of Alliance for a New America.
The group’s ads praising Edwards are already running on Iowa radio, and Obama said today that it had purchased $750,000 in television time as well. Later, the Illinois senator told reporters that if Edwards wanted to get the ads off the air, he “has such a good relationship with the person who runs it, I suspect that he should be able to get it done.”