WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who almost always refuses to speak on the campaign trail about his son serving in the military, got a rousing reception Wednesday when he told a private gathering of House Republican congressman that his son Jimmy - whose Marine unit had been deployed to Iraq - had arrived home from safely.
PEWAUKEE, Wisconsin (CNN) – Mike Huckabee will interrupt a campaign swing through Wisconsin for two days on Friday to travel to the Cayman Islands as the keynote speaker at the Young Caymanian Leadership Awards, a speech he will be paid for.
Huckabee defended his decision go on the trip as he fights for the Republican nomination, pointing out that he is the only candidate without a steady paycheck. "I think people of America who understand that you've got to work for a living and pay your bills recognize that that's exactly what I ought to be doing," Huckabee told CNN. "I can't imagine anybody, except maybe one of my opponents, having a problem with it. But they're so used to having the taxpayers fund their day-to-day existence plus all the perks that go with that."
As soon as reporters broached the subject, Huckabee bristled. "I'm the only person who doesn't get paid by the taxpayers to campaign," he said testily. "Sen. Obama, Sen. Clinton, Sen. McCain, they campaign every day and I'm paying for their campaigns. I'm paying because I'm a taxpayer, and I have to pay for their Senate salaries even if they are not on duty."
Since leaving office in January 2007, the former Arkansas governor has made his money from book sales and speaking engagements. The campaign says he averaged about two speeches per month leading up to the Fall and that this one has been scheduled for months. The last speech he was paid for was in late December but Huckabee donated the $10,000 he received from it to his church in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Around the same time, The Politico reported that Huckabee commands up to $25,000 for an appearance.
Huckabee has long been a critic of offshore banking – the industry that besides tourism the Cayman Islands is best known for – saying that it is a major drain in the U.S. economy. Asked if he would address the issue while in the Caymans, Huckabee shot back, "Let's get something straight. I'm not going to be taking money and parking it in the Cayman Islands, I'm going get enough money to come back and pay about 40% in taxes on what I earned. There's a big difference."
He seemed to be joking when he then added, "I may go down there and visit one of the post office boxes where some of the other candidates have their money and maybe one of those banks and see what it looks like down there. But I'm going to make a speech, that's it. That's what I do."
Huckabee also linked the sizeable sum going to the IRS to his opponents. "I'm paying taxes, they're taking the taxes that I'm going to pay coming back and they'll be able to live off it. I think that's a pretty good deal for them and a pretty lousy one for me."
This will be the second time Huckabee has spoken at the event. The campaign will resume its schedule on Sunday night with a rally in Wisconsin ahead of the state's primary on Tuesday.
(CNN) - He hinted at a similar sentiment earlier this week on CNN, but James Carville – a supporter of Hillary Clinton’s White House run - was decidedly more blunt Wednesday on the impact a loss in Texas or Ohio would have on her presidential bid.
"Make no mistake," Bill Clinton's former chief strategist told the Orlando Sentinel. "If she loses either Texas or Ohio, this thing is done."
The Clinton campaign has increasingly placed importance on those two March 4 primaries following eight straight losses for the New York Democrat since Super Tuesday. On Tuesday night, she was swept in the so called Potomac primary, losing to Obama in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
In a conference call with reporters earlier Wednesday, Clinton campaign aides noted 60 percent of the remaining delegates are in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania - all states where polls show the New York senator is leading Obama. But delegates in those states will not be awarded on a winner-take-all basis, and Clinton staffers said Wednesday that their expectation was that the two candidates would be within 25 delegates of each other following the March 4 contests.
Obama campaign aides said Wednesday they believe it is nearly impossible for Clinton to catch up to Obama in the delegate count under the current guidelines, even if she wins all three contests.
Speaking on CNN's The Situation Room earlier this week, Carville struck a similar note.
"The truth is that Sen. Clinton has to win Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania," he said. "If she wins those three, she's probably the nominee. If she loses one of those three, then Sen. Obama is probably going to be the nominee. That's a fact."
"We have a lot of debates left to go," Carville continued. "This has been a very close contest. Democrats want to hear from both of them. I've seen the Clintons counted out before. I would be very reluctant to count the Clintons out."
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN)– President Bush urged Congress Wednesday to follow the Senate's lead and pass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
In the latest installment of CNN=Politics Daily, Elaine Quijano gives an overview of the president's plan, which he says will help stop the threat of terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile, after a bruising Potomac primary finish for Hillary Clinton, she works to get a clean start in the next set of critical primaries taking place in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux reports on Clinton's progress from Texas.
Barack Obama is using his momentum and new lead in delegates to help propel him to the Democratic nomination. Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley reports from the campaign trail in Wisconsin.
Finally, John McCain sharpened his criticism of potential general election rival Barack Obama Wednesday. CNN's Dana Bash highlights the latest efforts from McCain to secure the GOP base's support, as well as Mike Huckabee's unexpected stop in the Cayman Islands.
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-CNN's Emily Sherman
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (CNN) - Some people prefer coffee. Others, Red Bull.
Hillary Clinton, apparently, runs on hot peppers.
"I eat a lot of hot peppers," Clinton told a crowd in San Antonio. "They keep me healthy. They keep me going. And they remind me of South Texas."
Clinton was reminiscing about her time spent working for the DNC in the 1970s, when she signed up to register Hispanic voters in Texas.
"I lived in San Antonio for three months," she said. "I lived in San Antonio for three months. It's where I became addicted to Mexican food and mango ice cream."
- CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In the world of politics, be careful what you wish for.
The politicians in Florida and Michigan thought that by moving up their primaries before Super Tuesday, they would exert greater influence on the nomination of their respective party’s presidential candidates. The Republican National Committee stripped those states of half of their delegates. The Democrats stripped those states of all of their delegates.
John McCain has a huge advantage right now in the Republican delegate count. That explains why there isn’t much buzz about what the Republicans did.
But it’s a very different story on the Democratic side.
Hillary Clinton “won” the Florida and Michigan contests even though she and her rivals promised not to campaign in those states. They didn’t. She did show up in Florida on the night of the primary to claim victory. She had a huge rally there.
The only names on the Democratic ballot in Michigan were those of Clinton and Dennis Kucinich. Barack Obama’s name was nowhere to be found there, though his name was on the Florida ballot. And with the candidates not allowed to campaign in either state, it wasn’t really much of an election - though Florida and Michigan Democrats certainly showed up in good faith to vote.
Now there are lots of background discussions and efforts underway to determine whether the millions of Democratic voters in those two states will actually be disenfranchised at the Democratic Convention in Denver at the end of August. That’s because the party’s nomination could come down to a floor vote.
If Clinton and Obama remain competitive after the March 4 contests in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island, and the other remaining contests, including Pennsylvania's April vote, then it could come down to a brokered convention. Will the Florida and Michigan delegates be seated? There could be a huge and historic credentials fight, the first since 1972 when Democrats finally nominated George McGovern.
Here’s the irony: By moving up their contests, the Florida and Michigan Democrats wound up with exactly what they feared would happen to them if they waited until Super Tuesday. They became marginalized. Had they held their contests as originally scheduled, it potentially would have been very different. Let’s see if the problem can be fixed.
–CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer
Barack Obama says he has a "new American majority", and judging by the results of the Potomac Primaries, it looks like he's onto something.
Obama topped Hillary Clinton in all three races yesterday, winning by a margin of almost 2-to-1 in Maryland and Virginia and 3-to-1 in the District of Columbia.
What's significant is not just that Obama won, it's how he did it – pulling away many of the voters who make up Clinton's political base. Obama did well as usual among young voters, independents and African-Americans.
But, that wasn't all. He beat Clinton among voters 65 and older, blue collar workers and women. In Virginia, he won the white vote along with every income, education and religious group. He even won a majority of Latino support there.
This all leaves Hillary Clinton in a pretty tough position. Obama's wide margins in the races over the last week mean that Clinton not only needs to win in Ohio and Texas on March 4th, but she needs to answer back with a couple landslides of her own.
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MCALLEN, Texas (CNN) - Hillary Clinton on Wednesday denied her campaign is in trouble after three more bruising losses, telling reporters that this phase of the campaign is "exciting" and that "everyone knew" Barack Obama was favored in the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. primaries.
"My husband lost Maryland when he was running in the primaries," she said. "So we go on." Bill Clinton did win Virginia and the District of Columbia during the 1992 primary season.
A Clinton campaign memo sent to reporters Wednesday included lists of the states lost by three past Democratic presidential nominees - Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale – as evidence a string of losses often proves meaningless in deciding the party’s nomination.
"This is a long and winding road," Clinton said, "and we're all picking up delegates as we go. The key is to end up with 2,025 delegates. 2,025. That's our objective and I feel good about what we're going to be doing in the states."
The New York senator pointed to the March 4 contests here in Texas and in Ohio - as well as upcoming votes in Wisconsin, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania - as places where she would be competitive against Obama.
For several weeks, her campaign has been trying to focus attention on the states that vote that day, largely dismissing the results of February’s contests.
"I want to congratulate senator Obama on his recent victories and tell him to meet me in Texas. We're ready," said Clinton.
On an afternoon conference call, Clinton staffer Guy Cecil also highlighted March 4, telling reporters that the campaign would be within 25 delegates of Obama after that date.
(CNN) - Hillary Clinton is taking aim at Barack Obama in a new Wisconsin television ad for not agreeing to participate in a debate there.
"Both Democratic candidates have been invited to a televised Wisconsin debate," an announcer says in the new 30 second spot. "Hillary Clinton has said yes. Barack Obama hasn't. Maybe he'd prefer to give speeches than have to answer questions."
"Like why Hillary Clinton has the only health care plan that covers every American, and the only economic plan that freezes foreclosures," the announcer continues. "Wisconsin deserves to hear both candidates debate the issues that matter. And that's...not debatable."
The ad is Clinton's latest attempt to put Obama on the defensive over his refusal to debate the New York senator more than twice between Super Tuesday and the crucial March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas. Clinton, who has been widely praised for her debate performances this campaign season, had proposed one debate a week after Super Tuesday.
The Obama campaign later agreed to two debates - one in Ohio at the end of the month, and a CNN/Univision debate in Austin, Texas next week.
The ad is also a sign the Clinton campaign is still aiming for a strong showing in Wisconsin next Tuesday, despite the fact it is devoting much of its resources to the Ohio and Texas primaries a week later.
Responding to the ad, Obama senioir adviser David Axelrod said, "We've debated 18 times, we're going to debate two more, but we've got other business to do here in terms of meeting voters face to face."
- CNN's Alexander Mooney and Chris Welch
(CNN) - The archbishop of San Antonio, Jose Gomez, released a statement Wednesday criticizing the decision of a Catholic university there to invite Hillary Clinton to address students, saying that she and other candidates in the race held positions on abortion and other issues that were incompatible with Church teachings.
Clinton is scheduled to speak at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio Wednesday evening. Gomez said he was surprised to learn of the planned event.
"It is not my intention to tell people for whom to vote," said Gomez. "However, I encourage Catholics to understand the teachings of the Church on the broad spectrum of public issues that are of great concern today.
"I urge the faculty and the ministry staff at St. Mary's University to continue to carry out their responsibility to educate their students in their political duty in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church."
Clinton has been counting on a strong showing in Texas, which votes March 4.
Both Hispanics and Catholics have been major voting blocs for Clinton this cycle. In most of the contests to date, the New York senator has won a decisive majority of both groups.
In a 2005 Time magazine profile of Gomez - one of the most prominent Latino Catholics in the region - his former boss, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, emphasized his clout with both church and state. Gomez, Chaput said, is someone who "gets listened to in the state of Texas."
–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand