(CNN) – Republican Fred Thompson has long faced criticism he lacks motivation to be President of the United States, and the former Tennessee senator's latest comments Saturday may spark new criticism on that front.
"I'm not particularly interested in running for president," the former senator told voters at a campaign event in Burlington, Iowa when challenged by a an audience member over his desire to be commander-in-chief.
"But I think I'd make a good president," Thompson continued. "I have the background, capability, and concern to do this and I'm doing it for the right reasons."
Thompson took heat for not jumping into the White House race until September - significantly later than every other candidate - and has since been criticized for his laid-back campaign style and often-times light schedule.
But the former actor has criticized his rivals for launching their presidential bids months ahead of his, and continually touts the fact he hasn't harbored presidential ambitions his whole career.
"I am not consumed by personal ambition," Thompson also said Saturday. "I'm offering myself up."
"I'm only consumed by a few things and politics is not one of them."
But Thompson added the sacrifices he has made to run for president proves he wants the top job.
To be clean, I had to cut everything off," he said. "I was doing speaking engagements and I had a contract to do a TV show, I had a contract with ABC Radio, like I was talking about earlier, and so forth. I guess a man would have to be a total fool to do all those things and to be leaving his family which is not a joyful thing at all if he didn't want to do it."
URBANDALE, Iowa (CNN) - A group supporting Mike Huckabee that has made calls in early primary states attacking rivals Mitt Romney and John McCain is back, this time with a television ad in Iowa that goes after Romney for flip-flopping on abortion.
In the spot by Common Sense Issues, a laugh track is played over a mix of older footage of Romney in which he says he’s pro-choice, and newer clips in which he says he’s pro-life. It ends with the line, “On the most fundamental issue, shouldn’t we trust a man who’s always been consistent?”
The Huckabee camp has publicly distanced itself from Common Sense Issues, saying their negative message harms the former Arkansas governor's positive campaign. But a spokesman for the group tells CNN, “We wouldn’t be marshaling the forces and raising the money if we didn’t think it would help him.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) - John McCain and Hillary Clinton both picked up primary endorsements from New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor this weekend.
“Earlier in the campaign, when McCain was being counted out, a consultant might have urged a makeover: Lose the moral compass on torture and immigration, ditch the vision for a turnaround in Iraq,” the paper said in a Saturday editorial.
“Not a chance. John McCain held on to his principles and defended them with dignity. New Hampshire residents who vote in the Republican primary should reward that integrity with their votes.”
The Arizona senator has gotten similar nods from almost two dozen Granite State papers. Earlier this week, the Monitor took aim at his chief Republican rival in the state, Mitt Romney, giving the former Massachusetts governor a rare “anti-endorsement.” The two men are just a few points apart in most recent Granite State polls.
The Monitor’s editorial board said Hillary Clinton got their backing because her “unique combination of smarts, experience and toughness makes her the best choice to win the November election and truly get things done.”
“Clinton's ambitious to-do list for her first few weeks in office gives us confidence that her priorities are right and that she would act swiftly to make a positive difference,” the board wrote in an excerpt of its Sunday editorial posted on the paper’s Web site Saturday.
BEDFORD, New Hampshire (CNN) – In a campaign appearance Saturday, Republican John McCain dismissed the foreign policy judgment of some of his fellow White House hopefuls.
"And when I see, frankly, some of the candidates for president coming out with simplistic statements like ‘Well, we'll just go in militarily' - What?" said McCain, shaking his head.
"In case you haven't checked lately, Pakistan is a sovereign nation and they might want to talk to us before we send in the 82nd Airborne. It's the kind of statements that reflect the inexperience and lack of knowledge of what's going on," added the Arizona senator.
Days after the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the Arizona senator touted his foreign policy experience in that nation. "I know this area of the world. I've been going there for years. I know all of these people that are involved and I know the issues," said McCain.
McCain also defended Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, telling the New Hampshire audience, "When Musharraf came to power, Pakistan was a failed state. They were corrupt. There was not a real functioning government and people were happy when Musharraf came to power."
"Musharraf has done a lot of things we have wanted him to do," he said.
–CNN New Hampshire Producer Sareena Dalla
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Mitt Romney has regained his lead over Mike Huckabee in Iowa, according to a new poll released Saturday - the first Hawkeye State survey in over a month to show the former Massachusetts governor in the No. 1 spot there.
According to the American Research Group poll, Romney leads Huckabee among likely Republican caucus goers by 9 percentage points, 32 percent to 23 percent. That represents a significant gain for Romney from a similar survey last week in which he registered 21 percent - then 2 points behind Huckabee. John McCain is the only other Republican to register double digits in the new poll at 11 percent.
But other recent GOP surveys have shown Huckabee in the lead. A Quad City Times poll conducted by Research 2000 released late Friday has Huckabee at 34 percent, with Romney 7 points back at 27 percent. Fred Thompson is the only other Republican to register double-digits in that poll with 11 percent.
In what seems to be more bad news for Huckabee, the poll suggests his support is the softest of any leading Republican - only 60 percent of his supporters say they will definitely choose him on caucus night. That compares to 85 percent for Romney, and 93 percent for McCain.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton holds a narrow lead over rivals Barack Obama and John Edwards. The New Yorker registers 31 percent among likely Democratic caucus goers. Obama and Edwards are both 7 points back at 24 percent. No other Democrat is in double-digits..
Other recent polls show the Democratic race in a statistical dead heat. The Quad City Times poll found Edwards and Obama at 29 percent, with Clinton at 28 percent.
The ARG poll was conducted December 26-28 and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The Quad City Times poll was conducted December 26-27 and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - In the final weekend before Iowa voters kick off the presidential primary season, Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton each raised questions about the other's ability to beat the Republican Party's nominee next November.
"We are less likely to win an election that starts off with half the country not wanting to vote for that candidate," Obama said Saturday at an event in Madison.
"We are less likely also to win an election with somebody who had one set of positions four years ago and has almost entirely different positions four years later. We've been through that," he also said in comments that seemed to be directed at John Edwards. At a later event he said the same thing and named Edwards.
Clinton quickly responded in a media availability in Eldredge, sounding her familiar campaign theme that she has already proven her ability to withstand the "Republican attack machine," and suggesting Obama has yet to be tested.
"I have been around a while," the New York Democrat said. "I have seen a lot of elections come and go, and who ever our Democratic nominee is will be subjected to the full force and effect of the Republican attack machine."
"Unfortunately that is the barrier that you have to overcome," she added. "What you know with me, I have already overcome it. I have withstood it, and not only survived it but thrived over the last 16 years. So there is very little guess work."
– CNN's Chris Welch and Mike Roselli contributed to this report
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Republican Mitt Romney launched a new ad in New Hampshire Saturday that takes aim at presidential rival John McCain's position on immigration - the second attack ad in as many days from the Romney camp that directly targets the Arizona senator."McCain championed a bill to let every illegal immigrant stay in America permanently," the ad's narrator says. "He even voted to allow illegal immigrants to collect Social Security. Mitt Romney said 'no' to driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. 'No' to tuition breaks for illegal immigrants, and he authorized his State Police to enforce federal immigration law."
The 30-second ad follows a Romney spot launched Friday in New Hampshire that challenges McCain on his record on illegal immigration and taxes.
The McCain campaign quickly responded to that ad, launching their own spot Friday night that chronicles recent negative New Hampshire newspaper editorials about Romney. The Romney campaign immediately denounced that ad as a personal attack that neglects "substantive issues."
McCain was trailing Romney by a large margin in most polls of New Hampshire's GOP primary voters, but several recent surveys suggest he and the former Massachusetts governor are now separated by just a few points. McCain, who won the state's Republican primary in 2000, has received the endorsement of many of New Hampshire's major papers.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) - After vetoing two attempts to expand a federally-funded, state-run health insurance program for poor children, President Bush on Saturday signed legislation that extends the State Children's Health Insurance Program at its current funding levels.
The extension will provide federal funding for those enrolled through the end of March 2009, according to a statement from the White House.
Bush vetoed two attempts to expand the program: one earlier this month, and another in October. In his veto message on Dec. 12, the president said the proposed bill a "moves our country's health care system in the wrong direction."
He said the bill was "essentially identical" to the one he spiked two months earlier. This bill "has the same problems as the flawed bill I previously vetoed," he said in a statement the White House released. "I must veto this legislation, too."
Both versions of the bill would have expanded the State Children's Health Insurance Program by nearly $35 billion over five years. After his October veto, Bush had proposed adding $5 billion to the program, and said the version he vetoed would have encouraged families to leave the private insurance market for the federally-funded, state-run program.
In the last weekend before the Iowa Caucuses, Hillary Clinton greets potential supporters in Eldridge. (Photo Credit: Mike Roselli/CNN)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - 'Enough is enough,' says Mike Huckabee in a new television ad.
The Arkansas Republican is launching a 30-second spot in Iowa that seems to be a response to a slew of ads and campaign mailers criticizing his record on immigration and taxes.
"If you love negative campaigning, you got to be loving the last few days of this election," Huckabee says in the ad. But if you love our country, you got to be thinking, enough is enough.”
"My message is clear, reject their negative campaign, quit tearing each other down, and start now building up our country for our kids,” he ads.
The ad follows the release of a Mitt Romney ad earlier Friday that hits Huckabee on several issues, including spending, clemencies, and immigration.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney