AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) - The scene of the Clinton press corps' less than ideal filing center in the Berger Activity Center men's locker room. (Photo Credit: Sasha Johnson/CNN)
Updated 8:53 p.m. with a statement from Sen. Clinton's campaign: "These accommodations should in no way be taken as a commentary on the quality of our media coverage," said Clinton spokesman Doug Hattaway.
(CNN) – Each of the two Democratic presidential contenders said this weekend they were best-suited to handle a foreign policy crisis should the phone ring in the White House at 3 a.m. On Monday, John McCain said they were both wrong.
"I would believe that my knowledge and experience and background clearly indicates that if the phone rang at 3 a.m. in the White House, and I was the one to answer it, I would be the one most qualified to exercise the kind of judgment necessary to address a national security crisis," McCain said at a campaign stop in Phoenix.
"I've been involved in every major national security challenge for the last 20 years that has faced this country," he added. "I look forward to having that debate as to who's most qualified in the event of a national crisis and the phone ringing at 3 a.m. in the White House."
McCain's comments follow dueling campaign ads from Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that pose the scenario of a foreign crisis in the early morning hours. Clinton's ad, which launched first, argues the New York senator is more experienced to handle such a situation. Hours later, the Obama campaign launched a spot in response that says his initial opposition to the Iraq war proves he has the better judgment to deal with 3 a.m. emergencies.
- CNN's Tasha Diakides contributed to this report
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Justice Department announced Monday it has sent federal observers to four Texas counties to ensure the voting rights of citizens participating in Tuesday's presidential primary, including Spanish-speaking voters.
The Civil Rights Division, which enforces federal voting rights, said it will send monitors to Brazos, Fort Bend, Galveston and Waller counties.
"Brazos, Fort Bend and Galveston counties are obligated to provide all election information, ballots and voting assistance information in Spanish as well as in English according to the Voting Rights Act," the Justice Department said.
Past complaints had led to a 2006 federal court order in Brazos County.
Officials said they will monitor polling-place activities in Waller County to deal with unspecified issues.
Although elections are handled by state officials, voting rights of minorities falls under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, which sent nearly 1,000 observers and nearly 600 monitors to watch potential trouble spots in 24 states during the 2006 election.
- From Justice Producer Terry Frieden
BEAUMONT, Texas (CNN) - Hillary Clinton told reporters Monday she is “just getting warmed up” as she campaigned through Ohio and Texas on the eve of primaries that could determine the outcome of the Democratic race for president.
“I think I know what’s happening and I believe we’re going to do well,” she told reporters before a rally in Toldeo, Ohio. When asked how she would “measure success” from the outcome of tomorrow’s contests Clinton replied “winning, winning, winning, that’s my measure of success.”
Clinton said she would take her message on to “Pennsylvania and states ahead,” a proclamation neither she nor her aides have made much since Senator Barack Obama won 11 February contests in a row.
The New York senator remained mainly positive during her first two stops of the day, jettisoning much of the tough rhetoric from over the weekend about Obama’s lack of readiness to be commander-in-chief. Instead she referenced her “lifetime of experience” and pointed to the various endorsements she enjoys from former military officers as examples of why she is primed to occupy the Oval Office.
“They believe they would be well served if I were commander-in-chief, taking care of our sons and daughters,” she told voters in Beaumont jammed in an airport hangar. “...I know we face real threats in the world and you never know when that phone is going to ring at 3 a.m. in the White House. I believe I’m ready to answer that phone.”
When asked by a reporter what specific experience she has had that would make her ready to answer that phone call at 3 a.m., Clinton said, “let me say this - until you’re the president there is no comparison but I have been deeply involved in foreign policy decisions.”
–CNN Senior Political Producer Sasha Johnson
(CNN) - Barack Obama's campaign manager downplayed reports Monday an economic advisor discussed the Illinois senator's position on NAFTA with a Canadian official, characterizing the meeting as an "informal" discussion not under the direction of the campaign.
"This is being reported as if somehow this is an official meeting of an Obama representative and the Canadian government," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said in a conference call with reporters. "That was not the case. He was essentially doing a walking tour and was essentially having a casual conversation and the report on that conversation was not accurate. "
The meeting was first reported last week by Canadian television network CTV. The report referenced anonymous sources that said one of Obama's chief economic advisors, Austan Goolsbee, said the candidate was only talking tough on NAFTA for political reasons, and would likely not seek to change the trade agreement with Canada if he became president. Both Obama's campaign and the Canadian embassy immediately denied Goolsbee had ever made such a suggestion, and did not reveal Goolsbee had ever spoken with the Canadian government.
But the Associated Press reported Monday it had obtained a memo from a Canadian diplomat essentially confirming CTV's story and stating Goolsbee said Obama's tough talk on NAFTA was "more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans."
Goolsbee denied Monday he ever made such a suggestion, and the Canadian embassy issued a statement saying there was it had "no intention to convey, in any way, that Senator Obama and his campaign team were taking a different position in public from views expressed in private.
“The Canadian Embassy and our Consulates General regularly contact those involved in all of the Presidential campaigns and, periodically, report on these contacts to interested officials. In the recent report produced by the Consulate General in Chicago, there was no intention to convey, in any way, that Senator Obama and his campaign team were taking a different position in public from views expressed in private, including about NAFTA. We deeply regret any inference that may have been drawn to that effect.
Plouffe told reporters Monday that the Clinton campaign was pushing the story as part of their so-called "kitchen sink" strategy.
"We understand we are in the closing days of a campaign here and the Clinton Campaign is trying to make a lot of this and I think in some part, heel their own problems on their NAFTA positioning," Plouffe said. "This is part of the kitchen sink campaign the Clinton campaign telegraphed last week. They're throwing anything and everything out there to try to revive their flailing campaign."
UPDATE: Speaking with reporters Monday, Obama said he was unaware Goolsbee had met with a Canadian official.
"It turned out that the Canadian consulate in Chicago contacted one of my advisers, Austan Goolsbee, on their own initiative, invited him down to meet with him, he went down there as a courtesy," Obama said. "And at some point they started talking about trade and NAFTA, and the Canadian embassy has confirmed that he said exactly what I've been saying on the campaign trail, which is that I believe in trade, but it's important for us to have labor/environmental standards that are enforceable."
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Florida’s Republican governor, Charlie Crist, tells me he’s ready to let the Democrats hold another primary in his state if necessary to allow Florida delegates have a say at the Democratic Convention in Denver at the end of the summer. Right now, the Democratic National Committee has prohibited Florida from seating those delegates because the state moved up its primary against party rules. (The same is true for the Democrats in Michigan.)
But now, Crist says he would be ready to let the state organize another round of voting for the Democrats if that’s what they want and need. That is significant because state primaries are paid for by the taxpayers; state caucuses, which had been suggested by some Democrats as a compromise solution that would allow the state’s delegates to be seated, are paid for by the parties.
The whole question of seating the Florida and Michigan delegates, of course, would become moot if Hillary Clinton were to drop out of the race. But if she does well Tuesday in Rhode Island, Vermont, Ohio and Texas, the race will continue to Pennsylvania on April 22 and maybe even longer – perhaps all the way to the convention in Denver.
Under that scenario, both the pledged and superdelegates from Florida and Michigan could be critical.
When it comes to an election re-do, Hillary Clinton’s campaign would strongly prefer primaries as opposed to caucuses. That’s because Barack Obama has had a clear advantage when it comes to caucus results.
So in effect, Crist would be doing her campaign a huge favor by authorizing another primary in Florida. The same, by the way, would be true if Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm did the same thing in her state.
Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean would love his party’s nominating process to wrap up long before the convention. He and other party leaders fear a prolonged and bitter Democratic fight would hurt the eventual party nominee, especially because the likely Republican nominee, John McCain, would be able to spend that time rallying the Republican base.
All fascinating political scenarios - but first, let’s see what happens Tuesday.
- CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer
DALLAS TO ABILENE, Texas (CNN) - If you decide to nap on the Huckabee plane, you do so at your own peril.
Flying from Dallas to Abilene Monday morning after a rally, Sarah Huckabee - Mike Huckabee’s daughter and a senior campaign staffer - snuck up to the front of the plane where her father was sitting by the window in the first row. Having gotten up early to do the rounds of the news networks’ morning shows, Huckabee had nodded off.
Sarah quickly snapped a picture of her father “holding” a piece of paper reading “When I close my eyes, it feels like I'm on Air Force One.”
Cheers and applause erupted from the plane as the staff and traveling press achieved the weeks-long goal of photographing the former Arkansas governor in a game of “Nap Tag.”
In recent weeks, “Nap Tag” has grown from a friendly rivalry between Huckabee’s bodyman and the Fox producer into fun for the whole plane as everyone waits for the next victim to close his or her eyes for too long.
When the hapless and weary traveler is good and asleep, a group gathers and scribbles a joke on a piece of paper with a marker. Someone then holds it in front of the napper while another conspirator pops off a picture.
One staffer caught dozing changed camps while he slept, as “Obama ‘08” floated under his chin. Campaign Chairman Ed Rollins claimed “You won’t take me alive” while he slept, and Gina Norris held up the doubtful “M.H. can beat me up” in front of husband Chuck.
Most are inside jokes developed after weeks in each other’s company, others not appropriate for a family website. But after weeks of Nap Tag, only a handful haven’t been caught slumbering and often proudly declare that we won’t get them. We’ll see about that.
- CNN Political Producer Alexander Marquardt
(CNN) – A major ice storm is forecast for the northern half of Ohio as voters go to the polls to vote in a primary there that may determine Sen. Hillary Clinton’s fate and seal the GOP nomination for Sen. John McCain.
Dayton and Columbus will likely see some wintry weather but be spared the worst of the ice and sleet forecast for Toledo, Mansfield, Cleveland, Akron, and Canton.
The storm is projected to begin before polls open at 6:30 a.m. ET Tuesday morning and last much of the day, and there is a potential for widespread power outages in the region.
Heavy rain and thunderstorms are also possible in the southern part of the state, where flood watches are in effect.
Another state is expected to experience a primary day storm Tuesday: much of Vermont is likely to see winter weather Tuesday, with the heaviest snow, sleet, or ice expected in the afternoon.
After a stormy Monday in Texas, the Tuesday forecast calls for calm skies.
–CNN’s Dave Hennen and Martina Stewart
(CNN) - Hillary Clinton hit Texas and Ohio airwaves Monday with two new television spots, including one that goes after Barack Obama for not holding any oversight hearings since becoming chairman of a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee.
"Barack Obama says he has the judgment to be president, but as chairman of an oversight committee charged with the force of fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan, he was too busy running for president to hold even one hearing," an announcer says in a 30-second Texas ad called "True."
"Hillary Clinton will never be too busy to defend our national security, bringing our troops home from Iraq and pursuing Al Qaeda in Afghanistan," the announcer also says.
Clinton first criticized Obama over his chairmanship of a subcommittee on Europe at last week's MSNBC debate.
'"It has jurisdiction over NATO. NATO is critical to our mission in Afghanistan," she said then. "He's held not one substantive hearing to do oversight, to figure out what we can do to actually have a stronger presence with NATO in Afghanistan."
Obama responded that he became chairman of that committee in January 2007, just as his presidential campaign was launching.
Clinton also went up with a new 30-second ad in Ohio on Monday called "Partner," in which she highlights the state's economic downturn and says she will fight for working families.
"The wealthy and the well-connected have had a president. It's time the middle class had a president who will stand up for you," Clinton says in that ad.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
There's a growing number of voices saying Hillary Clinton should get out of the race unless she can deliver big victories tomorrow in Texas and Ohio.
Governor Bill Richardson, who hasn't endorsed anyone yet, says quote, "I just think that D-Day is Tuesday", adding that whoever has the most delegates after tomorrow should be the nominee.
Some top Democrats who have backed Barack Obama are making the same argument. Senator John Kerry says Clinton needs more than narrow victories to stay in this thing.
And Senator Dick Durbin says the delegate math makes it tough for Clinton to win the nomination. He says, "I just hope ultimately she makes an honest appraisal of her chances… I hope that her decision on her future after Tuesday is made in the interest of unity of our party."
But, Senator Dianne Feinstein says Clinton should ignore the pressure to quit the race, that she has every right to stay in it if that's what she chooses.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here