DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - Bill Richardson called Friday for an immediate cutoff of all military aid to Pakistan that does not go directly to the fight against terrorism.
"President Bush should immediately suspend non-terrorism related military aid to Pakistan until President [Pervez] Musharraf resigns," he told a Des Moines audience. "Not one penny more until Musharraf is gone and the rule of law is restored."
On Thursday, the New Mexico governor called for Musharraf to step down – a move that was immediately criticized by a Democratic presidential rival, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden.
Richardson said Friday the risks of Musharraf remaining in place were greater than those if he lost power, because the Pakistani president had not been able to root out terrorists taking refuge inside his nation’s borders. He also accused other Democratic presidential candidates of naivete for not sharing his view.
"Like the Bush administration, they cling to a misguided notion that Musharraf can be trusted as an ally to fight terrorism or to change his despotic ways. Despite their faith, Musharraf has thumbed his nose at America again and again. How many times does the Washington conventional wisdom need to be proven tragically wrong before Washington insiders give up on it?"
Richardson, who laid out his own foreign policy credentials Friday, took aim at some of his less-seasoned rivals, arguing that "We cannot afford another president who is a foreign policy novice. We cannot afford another president who takes the easiest path rather than the right path."
The New Mexico governor is running a distance fourth or fifth in most recent polls of Iowa Democrats, registering single digit support among likely caucus goers.
–CNN's Sasha Johnson and Rebecca Sinderbrand
(CNN) - Mike Huckabee appears to have combined two hot-button issues on the Iowa campaign trail: Pakistani unrest and illegal immigration.
Thursday night, the former Arkansas governor told CNN that the crisis in Pakistan wasn’t just an international concern: “Domestically, we need to protect our borders with Pakistanis coming into the country,” he said.
Friday morning, the Republican presidential candidate elaborated on the point, telling CNN’s Dana Bash that 660 Pakistanis entered the country illegally last year, more than any other nationality other than those south of the border. When asked for the source of the statistic, Huckabee appeared unsure, telling a reporter that “those are numbers that I got today from a briefing, and I believe they are CIA and immigration numbers.” The Huckabee campaign later said the figure came from a newspaper report.
The number of illegal immigrants from Pakistan deported or apprehended was 721, according to the Department of Homeland Security. In 2005, the nation did not make the list of the top 10 sources of illegal immigrants. The previous year, they were the last country listed, but no specific numbers were given.
Illegal immigration is a top concern for GOP caucus goers in Iowa, according to most recent polls.
UPDATE: A senior Huckabee campaign official tells CNN that the figure Huckabee cited - 660 illegal Pakistanis in the US - came from a March, 2006 article in the Denver Post. CNN Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve is told by a government source that if you add up the number of Pakistanis turned away at the border and apprehended, the figure is somewhere close to 660. But it is impossible to know how many entered the country undetected.
–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand and Dana Bash
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Fred Thompson seems to be raising his expectations in Iowa, telling CNN Friday he would not be happy with a third place finish there.
"I would not be satisfied with third, quite frankly. I think we can do better than that…that's why they play the game," Thompson told CNN's John Roberts. "The pollsters and the experts were wrong in Iowa in 1980, and they were wrong in 1988, and they were wrong in 1994, and the numbers show that a large number of folks in Iowa have not made up their mind."
Most recent polls place Thompson a distant third in the Hawkeye State, behind Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. In a L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll released late Thursday, Thompson registered 10 percent among likely GOP caucus goers, compared to Huckabee's 36 percent and Romney's 28 percent.
Thompson is currently on a final campaign blitz of the state, although he recently pulled his television advertising there.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is debuting an attack ad in New Hampshire that paints rival John McCain as soft on tax cuts and illegal immigration.
The 30-second television spot echoes themes found in direct mail the campaign has been sending voters since the Arizona senator’s recent rise in the polls there.
“John McCain—an honorable man. But is he the right Republican for the future?,” says the announcer. “McCain opposes repeal of the death tax, and voted against the Bush tax cuts – twice. McCain pushed to let every illegal immigrant stay here – permanently. He even voted to allow illegals to collect social security.”
“And Mitt Romney – Mitt Romney cut taxes and spending as governor. He opposes amnesty for illegals. Mitt Romney – John McCain. There is a difference.”
McCain is currently tied with the former Massachusetts governor for the lead, or a close second, in most recent surveys of Granite State primary voters.
UPDATE: The McCain campaign responded to the spot with research material disputing each of the factual claims in the ad. “Mitt Romney’s campaign has stalled, so it’s not surprising that he’s resorted to negative attacks in a last-ditch effort to stop the bleeding,” said McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker.
–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand
Reporters swarmed McCain Thursday to hear his reaction to the news of Benazir Bhutto's assassination. (Photo Credit: AP)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider takes a look at how the tragic news out of Pakistan may affect the dynamics of the White House race.
Related video: Bhutto death fuels foreign policy talk
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - In comments to reporters after Barack Obama's first speech Thursday, his chief strategist David Axelrod seemed to link Hillary Clinton’s vote on Iraq and the death of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's former prime minister.
"Barack Obama had the judgment to oppose the war in Iraq. And he warned at the time that it would divert us from Afghanistan and Al Qaeda, and now we see the effect of that,” said Axelrod. “Al Qaeda is resurgent. They’re a powerful force now in Pakistan....There’s a suspicion they may have been involved in this. I think his judgment was good. Sen. Clinton made a different judgment. Let’s have that discussion.”Axelrod was responding to reporters' questions whether Bhutto's assassination enhances claims that Clinton's foreign policy experience may make her more fit to serve as commander-in-chief.
“I think people need to judge where these candidates were and what they’ve said and what they’ve done on these issues,” said Axelrod. “I mean, she was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, which we would submit is one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Al Qaeda who may have been players in this event today. So that’s a judgment she’ll have to defend.”
Later, Axelrod seemed to back away from his earlier statements. "I believe our policies in Iraq have had a direct impact on events in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but I would not suggest there is a straight line relationship between the events of today in Pakistan and anyone’s particular vote,” he said. “What I was pointing out was the difference in judgment at the time. Obama thought that the war would have a negative impact in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that seems relevant right now."
He also told CNN that he "certainly wasn’t suggesting Sen. Clinton was complicit. She made a bad judgment on this war, and the war helped exacerbate problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And that’s certainly something I would stand by."
Clinton spokesman Jay Carson criticized Axelrod’s remarks. “This is a time to be focused on the tragedy of the situation, its implications for the U.S. and the world, and to be concerned for the people of Pakistan and the country's stability. No one should be politicizing this situation with baseless allegations,” he said.
UPDATE: When asked about Axelrod's remarks late Thursday, Obama told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “This is one of those situations where Washington is putting a spin on it. … He in no way was suggesting Hillary Clinton was somehow directly to blame for this situation.”
The Illinois senator added that “it’s important for us to not look at this in terms of short-term political points scoring.”
–CNN’s Jessica Yellin, Gloria Borger and Candy Crowley contributed to this report
A new poll shows a narrow lead for Obama in New Hampshire (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democrat Barack Obama remains neck-and-neck with rival Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, according to a just-released L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll - the third survey in a row to show the Illinois senator tied or narrowly leading in a state the Clinton campaign hoped would serve as a firewall.
Obama leads Clinton 32 percent to 30 percent among likely Democratic voters in the new poll – a major shift from L.A. Times/Bloomberg's last survey in September when Clinton held a 19 point lead over Obama. John Edwards meanwhile is at 20 percent with the rest of the candidates in low single digits.
The poll follows the release of a Boston Globe poll late last week that also showed a 2-point lead for Obama in the Granite State, and a USA Today/ Gallup poll that found the two candidates tied.
On the Republican side, the poll shows Mitt Romney leading McCain in New Hampshire among likely Republican voters, 34 percent to 20 percent. Rudy Giuliani is close behind with 17 percent, and Mike Huckabee is at 12 percent.
The L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll of the Iowa race shows a slight Clinton lead a week before the state's caucuses. Among likely Democratic caucus goers, Clinton is at 31 percent, Edwards is at 25 percent, and Obama is at 22 percent. The rest of the candidates are in single digits.
In Iowa, Huckabee continues to lead Romney among likely Republican caucus goers, 36 percent to 28 percent. Fred Thompson stands at 10 percent - the only other candidate in double digits.
The survey was conducted December 20-26 and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4-6 percentage points.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Making news today...
Pakistan and politics on the trail
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Much of Thursday’s campaign coverage gave way to non-stop reporting on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto — but that didn’t seem to take much of the edge off the rough-and-tumble of the race.
One of Barack Obama’s senior strategists, David Axelrod, made remarks – which he later seemed to back away from - that appeared to link the former Pakistani prime minister’s death with Hillary Clinton’s vote on the Iraq war. Joe Biden took a swipe at fellow Democrat Bill Richardson for calling on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to step down. (Richardson is planning a “major speech” on the crisis today in Des Moines). John McCain said he didn’t see how Rudy Giuliani’s post-9/11 experience as mayor of New York “provides one the credentials to address national security issues.” Mitt Romney downplayed the value of McCain’s own national security expertise.
And Mike Huckabee revived the ghost of his almost-forgotten NIE misstep when he seemed to imply Pakistan was still under martial law – which hasn’t been the case for two weeks. (He later said he had known of the change.)
With the huge international news yesterday, a few recent campaign developments fell a bit under the radar. Take the ad wars: After cutting back his spending in the Boston media market that serves a slice of southern New Hampshire, Giuliani has now apparently abandoned the pricey media market entirely. It’s now looking almost certain that he and McCain – who was just crowned the new Republican favorite by Robert Novak – won’t be airing any spots in Iowa before caucus night. And they’ve now been joined on the sidelines by Fred Thompson, who is – at least for the moment – off the air in the Hawkeye State.
Meanwhile, Giuliani’s new 9/11-themed spot – which liberally uses images of New York firefighters, some of whom are actively opposing his presidential bid – would have been a sure headline-grabber any other day.
In the Democratic contest, Obama gave his big close in Iowa. Today, it’s John Edwards’ turn, in a speech that takes direct aim at some of the Illinois senator’s main campaign themes.
– CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
Compiled by Jonathan Helman & Lindsey Pope
CNN Washington Bureau
Washington Post: Clinton, Obama Seize On Killing Of Benazir Bhutto
The differing reactions of Clinton and Obama to the assassination crystallized the debate between the two just a week before Iowans will decide the first contest in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Washington Times: Slaying May Boost Giuliani, Mccain
Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sen. John McCain stand to gain the most politically from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto just days before the crucial Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, political observers said yesterday.
Washington Post: Criticism Aside, 'Fairtax' Boosts Huckabee Campaign
To former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, supporting a national retail sales tax is more than a policy proposal. It has provided much-needed muscle for his campaign, filling rallies and events with fervent supporters hoping to replace the entire income and payroll tax system.
Washington Post: Changes in Platitudes
As the Post's Anne Kornblut has chronicled, Hillary Clinton has had a knack for the slogan at least since her it-takes-a-village days. But these days it sounds as if a mad, computerized sloganator has taken over her campaign headquarters.
On the Trail:
Compiled by Lauren Kornreich
CNN Washington Bureau
* Joe Biden speaks at caucus countdown events in Adel and Decorah, Iowa, and at the Featherlite Center at Howard County Fairgrounds in Cresco. In the evening, he heads to caucus countdown events in Waverly and Waterloo, Iowa.
* Hillary Clinton attends the Story County "Picks A President" event in Story City, Iowa, and the Hamilton County "Picks A President" event at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds in Webster City, Iowa in the afternoon. Later, she speaks at the Cerro Gordo County "Picks A President" event at North Iowa Fairgrounds, in Mason City, Iowa.
* Chris Dodd attends the "Caucus for Results Kickoff Celebration" at his Iowa headquarters in Des Moines. Later, he attends "Caucus for Results Celebrations" in Clive and Council Bluffs, Iowa. He also appears on the Situation Room.
* John Edwards holds a roundtable discussion with undecided caucus goers in Independence, Iowa this morning. In the afternoon, he holds a "Countdown to Caucus" event in Dubuque, and another roundtable discussion with undecided caucus goers in Clinton, Iowa. In the evening, he holds a "Main Street Meet & Greet" in Tipton, and an "America Rising" rally in Davenport, Iowa.
* Rudy Giuliani attends an endorsement press conference at the Orange County Law Enforcement Memorial in Orlando, Florida. Later, he holds a town hall meeting and delivers remarks at The Opera House at The Fort Museum in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
* Mike Huckabee attends "Meet Mike Huckabee" events in Pella, and Ottumwa, Iowa.
* John McCain holds a “Meet and Greet” and media availability at The Ivy Bake Shoppe in West Burlington, Iowa, and a media availability at Manchester Regional Airport in Manchester, New Hampshire. Later, he holds a health care town hall forum and a Young Professional town hall, and visits his campaign headquarters, all in Manchester.
* Barack Obama speaks at “Stand for Change” events in Williamsburg, Coralville, and Clinton, Iowa. In the evening, he speaks at “Stand for Change” rallies in Davenport and Muscatine, Iowa. His wife, Michelle, makes stops in Glenwood, Missouri Valley, Avoca, and Atlantic, Iowa.
* Ron Paul holds closed events and gives interviews in Manchester, New Hampshire.
* Bill Richardson delivers a major speech on Pakistan in Des Moines. He also attends “Final Presidential Job Interviews” in Decorah, Elkader, Anamosa, and Tipton, Iowa.
* Mitt Romney holds "Strong America" bus stops in Rock Rapids, Sioux Center, Le Mars, Sergeant Bluff, Missouri Valley, and Council Bluffs, Iowa.
*Fred Thompson participates in Radio town hall event in Pella, Iowa in the morning. Later, he tours downtown Oskaloosa, Iowa and drops by the Oskaloosa Herald. He holds a “Meet Fred Thompson” event in Ottumwa, then tours downtown Fairfield, Iowa and drops by the Fairfield Daily Ledger. In the evening, he holds a "Meet Fred Thompson" event in Fort Madison, Iowa.
* The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook
* The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook