ABOARD THE CNN ELECTION EXPRESS IN DOWNEY, California (CNN) – At some point between right now and the time the polls around the country close tomorrow night, take a look at the faces of the candidates still in the race.
And try to imagine the four-years-later versions of those faces. Or to imagine - in case one of these candidates becomes a two-term president - the eight-years-later versions of the faces.
You know what I’m talking about: the inevitable news photographs, taken in the final months of a president’s administration, to be published side-by-side with photographs of that president on Inauguration Day. The point – always - is to show, in the starkest of visual terms, the ravages of the White House years. The paired-up photos don’t even need captions. They literally bellow out their wordless message: this is what the presidency does to a human being.
So when you look at the candidates’ faces today and tomorrow, and envision what those faces will look like in 2012 or 2016, keep in mind something that the candidates of 2008 probably haven’t stopped to consider yet:
This is as good as it gets. Today - before there is a winner in either set of primaries - is the happiest time. It may not feel like that to them, with the clouds of exhaustion that envelop them right now, with the acrimony and bitterness that, as always, have become part of the campaigns, with the nervous stomachs considering every second the cojoined questions: What will happen if I win. What will happen if I don’t.
I’m hardly a political expert, but there have been four presidents whom I’ve been lucky enough to get to know a little bit as people in the years after they left the White House. You’d think they would have almost nothing in common, except for the job. Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, the first George Bush. . . .four distinct and wildly varying personality types.
(CNN)—A record 23 states will hold primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday. Long lines, unprecedented numbers of absentee ballots, and record turnouts are likely to play a big role in determining when results are projected.
Georgia’s primary is expected to be the first definitive Super Tuesday outcome – the state’s results may be available in the 7 p.m. hour, shortly after polls close there. The outcomes of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut will likely be projected in the 8 p.m. hour, followed by New York sometime after 9 p.m. ET.
California’s polls are the last to close Tuesday - at 8 p.m. PT, 11 p.m. ET - but the results might not be clear for hours. With an expected 1 to 2 million absentee ballots, along with the nation’s largest number of registered voters, the results may not be known until Wednesday morning.
Watch CNN Super Tuesday for the latest developments in key races.
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–CNN's Emily Sherman
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Bush sent Congress Monday a $3.11 trillion budget request that projects a deeper deficit than expected over the next two years but projects a balanced federal budget by 2012.
A key Democratic senator said the spending plan "will be quickly forgotten."
In the short term, under the president's proposal, the deficit for next year is already estimated at $407 billion. The current year deficit was originally supposed to be only $162 billion, but has shot up to a projected $410 billion because of added war costs and other supplemental expenses. This formal request for Fiscal Year 2009, which begins October 1, asks for a 6 percent more in total government spending.
"The primary reason for increasing deficits in the near term is the president's economic growth package and an expected slowing of receipt growth, due to an expected reduction in corporate tax receipts from recent record highs," according to the to the budget request.
The president is asking for $515 billion in defense spending, which does not yet include most of costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (those amounts will come in supplemental requests later).
(CNN) - He and Bill Clinton spent Sunday night together watching the Super Bowl, but New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Monday he's not ready to make an endorsement in the presidential race.
"I have extremely high regard for both candidates," Richardson said on CNN's American Morning. "Last night, President Clinton and I got together to watch the Super Bowl here in New Mexico. We're two friends getting together, we enjoyed the game.
"I'm trying to decide, I have, as I said, enormous respect for both candidates," Richardson continued. "I know Sen. Clinton well. I've gotten to know Sen. Obama well. But I never felt that the endorsement of one politician towards the other makes much difference, it's how they connect with voters."
But the former presidential candidate left the door open for a possible endorsement soon, saying he was going to "focus on this in the next few days."
"I am now a free man, I can do whatever I want. I am not trying to be coy. I just want to focus on who's best for this country, who's best for America," he said.
Richardson also commented on his new appearance since exiting the campaign trail nearly a month ago.
"Since I got out of the race I've been decompressing by being a governor and growing this beard," he said. "I know it doesn't look so good, but maybe it will get better."
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– CNN Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) – Confused about how a candidate actually wins their party's nomination? CNN's Jill Dougherty breaks it down.
ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) – Gone are the town hall-style meetings filled with 200 people.
Gone are the days where simply showing up to an event meant there was a good chance that if you wanted to meet the candidate, you could.
That may have been the way it was in Iowa, but this - pardon the slang - ain't Iowa. It's now the lead-up to February 5, the 22-state mega contest known as Super Tuesday.
For Obama, it means criss-crossing the country, dropping in on cities he's never campaigned in-some of them in states he's never even been to-for what is sometimes one event per state.
But these aren't your average gatherings. Unless you consider an indoor football arena filled with what can be tens of thousands of people your "average gathering."
Today's Obama "rallies" - the term used in lieu of "town hall meetings," which, most of the time, means Obama won't take audience questions - now look more like rock concerts than anything else.
His staff has made it a goal to pack arenas that seat thousands as tight as they possibly can. People in overflow crowds have been overheard saying the campaign warned them that tickets would be granted to more people than there will be room for.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton is losing ground to Sen. Barack Obama in a national CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released on the eve of critical Super Tuesday presidential primaries and caucuses.
The two are virtually tied in Monday's survey, which shows the New York senator has lost a comfortable national lead she's held for months over Obama and other rivals.
The survey also shows Arizona Sen. John McCain as the clear Republican front-runner.
CNN's Jessica Yellin reports why Maria Shriver decided to come out for Obama. (Photo Credit: AP)
(CNN) - Mitt Romney predicted Sunday his party's conservative base will rally behind him on Super Tuesday in order to prevent John McCain from winning the Republican nomination.
"What I have to do is continue to see what's been happening the last few days, specifically that is conservatives across the country are saying, 'whoa, we have to get behind Mitt Romney,'" he said on CNN's Late Edition.
"You've got people like Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham and the list goes on and on and on - Hugh Hewitt, Lars Larson - conservative voices, both from radio and from publications, are saying, 'you know what, we've got to get behind Mitt Romney,'" he continued. "We really can't afford John McCain as the nominee of our party."
Following McCain's victory in Florida Tuesday, some prominent conservatives have expressed dismay with the prospect of the Arizona senator capturing the Republican nomination. On Wednesday, talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh said McCain's rise was the product of a 'fractured' conservative base and an "uninspiring" GOP presidential field.
"He is not the choice of conservatives, as opposed to the choice of the Republican establishment — and that distinction is key," Limbaugh said. "The Republican establishment, which has long sought to rid the party of conservative influence since Reagan, is feeling a victory today as well as our friends in the media."
Meanwhile, conservative commentator Ann Coulter said Thursday she would support Hillary Clinton over McCain.
"If you are looking at substance rather than if there is an R or a D after his name, manifestly, if he's our candidate, than Hillary is going to be our girl, because she's more conservative than he is," Coulter said. "I think she would be stronger on the war on terrorism."
But McCain also picked up support from some key conservatives this week, such as former Solicitor General Ted Olson and Georgia Sens. Johnny Isaacson and Saxby Chambliss, and on CBS Face the Nation Sunday the Arizona senator said, "I have a strong conservative record that I'm proud to run on."
NEW YORK (CNN) - The weather, oddly enough, may be the most dependable element of the primary day equation heading into Super Tuesday: so far this year, mostly-localized, turnout-dampening storms have reliably hit on Election Day – and tomorrow is looking likely to fit that pattern, with miserable winter weather predicted to reach areas of some primary states from Illinois to Alabama. Another predictable primary eve arrival: the barrage of negative campaign e-mails flooding our inboxes - this time from Barack Obama's team, slamming Hillary Clinton on everything from health care mandates to the Iraq war.
(Some other pre-vote developments were a bit more unexpected. In a stunning display of confidence, or hubris - we’ll tell you which on February 6 - the Obama campaign unloaded a chunk of its $32 million January haul on a Super Bowl ad buys last night, airing local spots in states voting February 5-12.)
Weather aside, there's just one remotely safe guess as the week begins: short of an unprecedented last-minute shift - and this year, we’re not ruling anything out - neither of the Democratic candidates is likely to emerge from tomorrow's vote with the ability to claim a decisive advantage.
Granted, some of the polls in our rearview mirrors today may not be quite as close as they appear. The narrowing margin between the two Democratic frontrunners in most California surveys would mean a lot more if Clinton didn’t have a double-digit lead among votes cast via early balloting – meaning Obama would have to boast a record-breaking turnout operation just to keep that race close.
Of course, this year it’s not about states - it’s about reaching the nomination, one district and delegate at a time. Today, Hillary Clinton is looking to nail down her advantage in the Northeast, with stops in Connecticut, Massachusetts and a national town hall hosted live from New York City. Obama is spending the day taking her on on her home turf, with stops of his own in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and a Meadowlands rally in the shadow of the Big Apple.
On the Republican side, Mitt Romney isn’t ready to concede John McCain’s inevitability just yet. The former Massachusetts governor’s recent ad buys may be in the low range (for him). And for the third week in a row, he hasn’t pulled the trigger on any hard-hitting contrast spots. But post-Florida, Romney has picked up a few high-profile base-pleasing nods as the anybody-but-McCain forces coalesce around him, with Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Rick Santorum rallying to his side. Some recent California polls show the GOP race there tightening to a virtual dead heat. And the Maine caucuses may not make for much momentum, but it looks like Romney will pull in another 18 delegates in that state – meaning he and McCain are still, technically, just about neck-and-neck in the all-important delegate count ahead of Tuesday’s contests.
– CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand