(CNN) - If Hillary Clinton and John McCain become their party's presidential nominees, the general election race is likely to be a love-fest.
At least according to Bill Clinton.
Campaigning in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Friday, the former president brushed aside suggestions his wife would prove to be a divisive nominee for the Democratic Party, pointing out how she has successfully worked with Republicans in the Senate - including one of the current GOP presidential candidates.
"She and John McCain are very close," Clinton said. "They always laugh that if they wound up being the nominees of their party, it would be the most civilized election in American history, and they're afraid they'd put the voters to sleep because they like and respect each other."
The comments may not be welcome by the McCain camp - which yesterday faced fire from several of its rivals for winning the backing of the New York Times - a longtime archenemy of conservatives.
Sens. McCain and Clinton last met publicly at an ABC debate earlier January, when presidential candidates of both parties shared the same stage. The two were seen exchanging pleasantries, and a Clinton side said she told the Arizona senator he’d done a “good job” staging a comeback in New Hampshire. He asked that she say hello to Bill Clinton for him.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Bill Clinton campaigned for Kerry in 2004 (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - John Kerry, the Democratic Party's 2004 nominee for president, took aim at Bill Clinton Friday, telling the National Journal the former president does "not have a license to abuse the truth."
The Massachusetts senator, who endorsed Barack Obama's White House bid earlier this month, said Clinton's criticisms of the Illinois senator have been "over the top," and suggested the former president is getting "frantic."
Targeting Clinton's recent spate of attacks on Obama, Kerry said, "I think you had an abuse of the truth, is what happened. …I mean, being an ex-president does not give you license to abuse the truth, and I think that over the last days it's been over the top.
"I think it's very unfortunate, but I think the voters can see through that," Kerry added. "When somebody's coming on strong and they are growing, people get a little frantic, and I think people have seen this sort of franticness in the air, if you will."
The former president has faced criticism for aggressively interjecting himself into the race between his wife and Obama of late. On Monday, Obama said he feels as if he is running against both Clintons, a charge the New York senator’s campaign said was borne out of frustration. The former president himself later dismissed Obama's comments, saying “I thought he was running against me.”
Campaigning in South Carolina Friday, Obama said the Clinton campaign has stepped up its attacks since his Iowa win, and joked that it's good practice for him, so "when I take on those Republicans I'll be accustomed to it."
Kerry formally endorsed Obama on January 10, saying then that Obama "isn't just going to break the mold….Together, we are going to shatter it into a million pieces."
The endorsement was seen as a blow to both John Edwards - Kerry's running mate in 2004 - and both Hillary and Bill Clinton, who had campaigned on behalf of Kerry's presidential bid.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - John McCain says he is the Democrats' worst nightmare, but Mitt Romney begs to differ.
In a new Web ad released Friday, Romney's campaign is highlighting McCain's willingness to work across the aisle, and his strong relationships with some Senate Democrats.
It also features news reports that claim he considered joining John Kerry on the Democratic ticket in 2004. The Arizona senator has denied those reports.
The ad is the latest effort from the Romney campaign to portray McCain as too willing to work with Democrats, and comes just four days before the Florida Republican Primary - a contest that shuts out independent voters, whose support has been crucial to McCain's earlier victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
On Thursday, McCain's campaign released a Web ad noting the Arizona senator's name was frequently invoked at the CNN Democratic Debate, and claimed he was the “Democrats' worst nightmare” in a general election matchup.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
CLINTON, South Carolina (CNN) - A day after slogging through several low-key, wonkish events without mentioning his wife's top Democratic rival, a more-energized Bill Clinton once again brought up identity politics on Friday.
Despite the media furor surrounding some of his recent comments, the former president avoided any of the race-based South Carolina expectations-lowering for which he has been criticized. The state's Democratic voters head to the polls tomorrow.
"While I think it would be good based on my personal life experience to have the first woman president," Clinton said in this town that shares his name, "I also understand why a lot of African-American voters think it would symbolically powerful and important to elect a brilliant, articulate, compelling vision embodied in Sen. Obama as the first African-American president."
Clinton made the remarks, unprompted, at the beginning of his speech here, also adding that Hispanics had also been excited about the prospect of Gov. Bill Richardson's candidacy.
He said voters "are entitled to have their choices respected" but concluded that Americans should choose a president based on qualifications and experience.
In Spartanburg earlier Friday, Clinton decried racial divisions in politics and said that Americans are "literally aching to live in a post-racial future."
He said Obama and his wife had called "a truce" over their recent sniping, although he did not specify which statements he was referencing.
"I was glad to see Sen. Obama and Hillary sort of call a truce the other day," he said. "They said 'Okay, we've got some differences but we can't let it become so harsh that it undermines our longing to bring this country together.' I think that's important. The country is literally almost in physical agony begging for this."
The two campaigns had tried, but failed, to come to a similar agreement last week.
- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby</p
FT. LAUDERDALE and PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) - John McCain and Mitt Romney clashed Friday over who was best-equipped to handle the nation’s economy.
At a Ft. Lauderdale media availability, McCain pointed to his Commerce Committee experience as a major economic credential.
He added: “I think everyone knows the difference between leadership and management. You can hire managers all the time, people who do the mechanics, people who implement policies, people who are good assets. Leadership is people who inspire.”
He pointed to Ronald Reagan and Gen. David Petraeus as models, and said “I know how to lead and inspire…I think I’m by far best capable of doing that.
Asked whether he was tagging Mitt Romney as a manager, he replied: “I am suggesting that Gov. Romney is touting his qualities and experience as a manager…. I am telling the American people that I am a leader.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) - When Michael Mukasey took the reins of the Justice Department, he was informed that as attorney general he could select any painting from inside the building - or one from the Smithsonian art museums - to adorn his private office, even if someone else was already displaying it.
Mukasey without hesitation chose a portrait of former Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, an FDR Democrat. He had to snatch it away from one of his top lieutenants, Solicitor General Paul Clement, who had displayed it in his front office.
"We loved it - but were only too happy to give it up," chuckled one of Clement's aides.
The large Jackson portrait, which dominates the attorney general's office, replaces a scenic painting that former Attorney General John Ashcroft had chosen from the National Art Gallery. That painting had remained in place during the tenure of Alberto Gonzales as well.
Former Attorney General Janet Reno had selected an artistic rendering of Robert F. Kennedy when she entered the Justice Department, and it remained in her office throughout her tenure.
Mukasey, a conservative, said he has long been an admirer of Jackson's writings and had displayed a painting of him in his judicial chambers in New York.
At Mukasey's confirmation hearing last October, Jackson's "three-part test" from an important Supreme Court ruling was repeatedly thrown about by senators pressing Mukasey on his views of the balance of power between the president and Congress.
During a grilling over the conflict between personal liberty and national security, Mukasey at one point in the hearing praised Jackson, who had been an attorney general for President Franklin D. Roosevelt before he was appointed to the high court in 1941.
"A great attorney general, perhaps the greatest to serve in the modern era, Robert Jackson, said that the issue between authority and liberty is not between a right and a wrong. That never presents a dilemma. The dilemma is because the conflict is between two rights, each in its own way important."
Jackson, who was the chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, was popularized when Alec Baldwin portrayed him in the 2000 TNT television film "Nuremberg."
- CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden
John McCain is getting no love from the Republican base…so says his 95-year-old mother, Roberta McCain.
She claims she's seen her son get no help whatsoever from the party base. Nonetheless, Mrs. McCain says he can go on to win the nomination, adding quote "I think holding their nose they're going to have to take him." You gotta love it.
She also had this to say: “Now I'm really popping off, but he worked like a dog to get Bush re-elected… He's backed Bush in everything except Rumsfeld. Have you heard other senators and congressmen backing Bush over eight years? Find me it, give me a name. I've not seen any public recognition of the work that he's done for the Republican Party.”
When asked about his mother's comments, McCain said that although he loves her, they disagree on some things. He joked that given his mom's age, she should get a little latitude for her candid remarks. McCain also pointed to the fact that he won more Republican votes than any other candidate in both South Carolina and New Hampshire. He says the support he got from independents should show conservatives he's the most electable candidate come the general election.
But his mother may have a point.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
(CNN) - Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida will endorse his Senate colleague John McCain for the Republican presidential nomination, the Arizona senator's press office said Friday.
Martinez is a Cuban-American who immigrated to the United States at age 15.
(CNN) - Earlier this month, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said he favored a hiatus on immigration from countries that appear on the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring nations, including North Korea, Sudan, Syria and Cuba.
But campaigning in Miami’s Little Havana on Friday, he seemed to describe a slight amendment to that position, endorsing the existing U.S. policy which allows Cuban refugees who set foot in the country to remain here.
"We have a very distinct policy when it relates to Cuba one that I think we should continue, and that is if you get a foot on dry soil you should be able to come here,” said Huckabee. “I wouldn't do anything to change that policy one iota. My policy on Cuba has been absolutely crystal clear, and we wouldn't change that."
Cuban-Americans are a major voting bloc in Tuesday’s GOP primary in Florida.
–CNN’s Eric Fiegel and Rebecca Sinderbrand
(CNN) - At a Friday campaign event, John Edwards criticized his “squabbling” Democratic opponents for bringing their brand of brass-knuckle, big-city politics to South Carolina – a state long noted for its rough-and-tumble primary season.
“Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama have brought their New York- and Chicago-style politics to South Carolina. Fighting with each other, tearing each other down,” Edwards said at a campaign stop in Greenville. “But South Carolina’s better than that, and you deserve better than that.”
Following Monday’s tough Democratic primary debate, Edwards has positioned himself as the above-the-fray candidate in his party’s presidential field, telling another Greenville audience Thursday night that he represented the “grown-up wing of the Democratic Party,” and releasing a new 30-second television and radio spot in the state Friday – titled “Grown Up” – that emphasizes the same theme.
The former senator, who is running a distant third in most recent polls in his birth state of South Carolina, is also planning to air the ad in the Super Tuesday states that head to the polls February 5. The South Carolina Democratic primary is tomorrow, January 26.
Related: Watch Jessica Yellin's one-on-one intervew with John Edwards
–CNN Producer Dugald McConnell