(CNN) - The state of the economy was the most important issue for primary voters in Wisconsin, continuing a trend that has been a constant since campaign season began. In early exit polls, 9 out of 10 Democratic voters Tuesday – and 6 in 10 Republicans - said the economy is struggling. A majority said foreign trade took jobs away from Wisconsin.
–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
(CNN) - Tuesday morning seemed to bring the debut of yet another McCain-Obama flap – this time, Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama.
As she introduced her husband John McCain, the likely Republican nominee, at a campaign event, Cindy McCain told the crowd I “am proud of my country. I don’t know about you, if you heard those words earlier - I am very proud of my country.”
The comment seemed to be a response to a remark from Michelle Obama the day before. On Monday, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told a Wisconsin audience that “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country, because it feels like hope is making a comeback… not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change."
After Tuesday’s event, the McCains were asked if the Arizona senator’s wife had been responding to that comment. Cindy McCain did not directly answer the question, responding: “I just wanted to make the statement that I have and always will be proud of my country.”
On Monday, Obama spokesman Bill Burton released a statement in response to the controversy: “Of course Michelle is proud of her country, which is why she and Barack talk constantly about how their story wouldn't be possible in any other nation on Earth.
“What she meant is that she's really proud at this moment because for the first time in a long time, thousands of Americans who've never participated in politics before are coming out in record numbers to build a grassroots movement for change.”
UPDATE: In an interview with San Antonio radio station WOAI Tuesday, Barack Obama said his wife's comment has been taken out of context.
"Statements like this are made and people try to take it out of context and make a great big deal out of it, and that isn't at all what she meant," he said.
"What she meant was, this is the first time that she's been proud of the politics of America," he also said. "Because she's pretty cynical about the political process, and with good reason, and she's not alone. But she has seen large numbers of people get involved in the process, and she's encouraged."
- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
(CNN) - The superdelegates going to the Democratic convention in Denver at the end of the summer include all the elected Democratic governors, senators, and representatives. Right? Wrong.
Michigan’s Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, is not a superdelegate. Neither are Sen. Carl Levin or congressmen John Conyers and John Dingell. The same is the case for Florida’s Democratic senator, Bill Nelson. He won’t be a superdelegate. Neither will representatives Robert Wexler or Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
That’s because Michigan and Florida moved up their primaries into January, before the February 5 Super Tuesday schedule. That broke party rules, and as a result, the Democratic Party stripped them of their pledged and unpledged delegates. The superdelegates are unpledged - meaning they can support any candidate they want.
Thus, the 795 superdelegates at the Democratic convention do not include the 28 who would have come from Michigan and the 22 who would have come from Florida. That could change only if party leaders reconsider their decision.
There is talk of organizing caucuses in both states if the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama remains deadlocked going into May and June. Organizing full-scale primaries is much more difficult and much more expensive. Hillary Clinton hasn’t done well in caucuses so far.
At the same time, however, she and her supporters believe they can still win those big states. They did “win” the most votes during the January primaries even though none of the candidates could campaign there and Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan.
I suspect we will see caucuses in Michigan and Florida if this race remains unresolved. That is possible. The Democratic Party big shots would prefer that to a brokered convention on the floor in Denver.
–CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer
(CNN) - The campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both denying they might look to woo “pledged delegates” earned by their opponent in primary and caucus contests.
"We have not, are not, and will not pursue the pledged delegates of Barack Obama," Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson told reporters in a conference call. The Obama campaign also denied they would consider the tactic.
Over the past few weeks, the battle between the two sides over “superdelegates” – Democratic elected officials and party leaders who are free to support any candidate they wish at the party’s presidential nominating convention – has captured the headlines.
So far, “pledged delegates,” which are awarded proportionately based on election results, have not been considered in play.
Pledged delegates are typically strong supporters of the candidate they represent at the convention - although they are technically not bound to cast their vote for that candidate.
–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
FROM CNN’s Jack Cafferty:
Hillary Clinton has her eyes on the monster March 4 contests in Ohio and Texas, but today’s Wisconsin primary could prove to be a crucial race for her.
A win could reinvigorate her campaign and perhaps grab back some of the momentum that seems to be all Barack Obama’s at this point. A loss could raise some serious questions about whether she has anything left.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
(CNN) – Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is reaching out to blue-collar voters with a new ad that says she can empathize with the travails of the night shift.
“You pour coffee, fix hair, you work the night shift at the local hospital,” says the announcer in the 30-second spot, ‘Night Shift,’ over footage of workers on the job.
“You're often overworked, underpaid, and sometimes overlooked. But not by everyone. One candidate has put forth an American family agenda to make things easier for everyone who works so hard. ….”
The ad ends with a photo of Clinton working at her desk at night. “She understands. She's worked the night shift, too.”
Clinton’s campaign has noted a strong showing in Ohio’s March 4 primary is critical to her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
So has Clinton worked the night shift? Spokesman Howard Wolfson said Tuesday that "the reference is to her working late at night at her desk."
–CNN’s Rebecca Sinderbrand and Jessica Yellin
(CNN) - My first visit to the Kigali Memorial Center in Kigali, Rwanda, and within moments we were introduced to Freddy Mutanguha, the Center’s manager. Both museum and resting place, the Center estimates that approximately 250,000 souls were dumped into mass graves that remain on the property. Freddy, a well coiffed, sweet natured fellow, calmly led a small group of press through the first floor of the museum’s exhibit. We walked by large display panels with titles like “The Path to Genocide,” “The One Hundred Day Genocide,” and “The Aftermath” as Freddy explained in a very matter-of-fact way the events that led up to Rwanda’s four month killing spree.
Our tour wrapped quickly, as Freddy was only moments away from giving the same private talk to the First Lady and President Bush. But there was one more area that he wanted to show us. Our group was escorted into a large anteroom where family snapshots hung casually on thin wires, covering much of the walls inside.
As we stood rooted in awe, Freddy mentioned in a soft voice that his father’s snapshot was included in this exhibit. Turning around and without missing a beat, Freddy went on to say “and my mother, she used to be here too…. Ah, there she is…” as his voice trailed off he pointed to a gorgeous photo of a beautiful woman only inches away from her husband’s. He went on to explain that he had lost four sisters in the genocide as well, but their pictures were no longer a part of the exhibit. There are just too many to hang.
Related: Bush tours Rwanda genocide memorial
–CNN White House Producer Erika Dimmler
(CNN) - Voters in the latest battlegrounds for the Democratic presidential nomination faced very different treks to polls and caucuses Tuesday. Wisconsin voters braved single-digit temperatures and a windchill advisory while Hawaii caucus-goers expected to enjoy temperatures in the 80s.
Both groups will shape the course of the tight race between Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, while Wisconsin and Washington state voters could help Sen. John McCain finally knock his last major rival out of the Republican race.
(CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Tuesday the resignation of Cuban President Fidel Castro should "mark the end of a dark era in Cuba's history."
In a written statement, the senator from Illinois added:
"Fidel Castro's stepping down is an essential first step, but it is sadly insufficient in bringing freedom to Cuba. Cuba's future should be determined by the Cuban people and not by an anti-democratic successor regime.
"The prompt release of all prisoners of conscience wrongly jailed for standing up for the basic freedoms too long denied to the Cuban people would mark an important break with the past. It's time for these heroes to be released.
"If the Cuban leadership begins opening Cuba to meaningful democratic change, the United States must be prepared to begin taking steps to normalize relations and to ease the embargo of the last five decades. The freedom of the Cuban people is a cause that should bring the Americans together."
John McCain, R-Ariz., also issued a written reaction to the media.
"Today's resignation of Fidel Castro is nearly half a century overdue. For decades, Castro oversaw an apparatus of repression that denied liberty to the people who suffered under his dictatorship.
"Yet freedom for the Cuban people is not yet at hand, and the Castro brothers clearly intend to maintain their grip on power. That is why we must press the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally, to legalize all political parties, labor unions and free media, and to schedule internationally monitored elections.
"Cuba's transition to democracy is inevitable; it is a matter of when - not if. With the resignation of Fidel Castro, the Cuban people have an opportunity to move forward and continue pushing for the moment that they will truly be free. America can and should help hasten the sparking of freedom in Cuba. The Cuban people have waited long enough."
Democrat Hillary Clinton also welcomed the news that Castro is stepping down.
She told an economic roundtable: I just want to say a word about a development today that is very significant. Fidel Castro has decided to step down as the leader of Cuba.
"And I think this provides a great opportunity for the people of Cuba. I am hoping that the new leadership will take steps to move Cuba toward democracy - release political prisoners - lift a lot of the oppresive burdens that have prevented the Cuban people from really having the kind of future they deserve to have.
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (CNN) – Day after day, stop after stop along the campaign trail, Mike Huckabee is dogged by a single question. Why is he still in the race? Monday he admitted that it may not be the best idea for his political future but that doesn't bother him.
“Folks, the reason I’m staying in this race is because I’m working for the next generation, not the next election,” Huckabee told supporters Monday at a rally in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. “I may be killing my political career, but I know this – if we don’t start thinking in terms of solving some of America’s problems, we’re killing all of your careers.”
When pressed further on how his campaign will affect his future, Huckabee told CNN, “I think I’m helping the country’s future, I think I’m helping the party’s future. The party is not well served if it doesn’t have an honest discussion about who it is, where it’s headed. And if the party can’t handle having more than one point of few, it’s not a very strong party.”
Huckabee says his future status in the party is not his decision, nor is it a concern. “It shouldn’t be about me, it should be about the country first and the party second. Not the party first and the country second.”
He sees himself as the lone candidate talking about the issues he feels are central to the grassroots “foot soldiers” of the Republican Party – the need for human life amendment, preventing embryonic stem cell research, overhauling the tax system with the Fair Tax and stopping illegal immigration.
“I think it’s not hurting the party for me to stay in and continue the dialogue,” Huckabee told reporters Monday. “I think it hurts the party for us to act like we can’t handle any type of views other than let’s all circle the wagons around one [candidate] and call it a day.”