Obama's campaign manager had some sharp words for Clinton Friday (AP Photo)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Barack Obama's campaign stepped up its effort Friday to target Hillary Clinton for delaying the release of her income tax returns, saying the New York senator has a "pattern of secrecy" and has yet to be fully vetted by the American people.
"Senator Clinton is one of the most secretive politicians in America today," Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe said in a conference call with reporters. "She has consistently refused to release her tax returns. They have said they are going to release them around [April] 15, but there is no reason why the prior six years of tax returns couldn't be released right now."
Obama's campaign has long criticized Clinton for not releasing her previous tax returns, though it stepped up its attacks earlier this week. In a conference call the morning after Obama lost three out of the four March 4 primary contests, Obama strategist David Axelrod said Clinton is the least-vetted candidate in the presidential field because of her refusal to disclose the documents.
Clinton's Communications Director Howard Wolfson released a statement shortly after the call repeating recent assurances that the New York senator will release last year's tax returns in April. He also said over 20 years of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s tax returns are already public.
Clinton did release a Senate disclosure form last May that revealed the couple’s joint income for the previous year was upwards of $12 million. But a tax return would present a more comprehensive account of the Clintons’ income, and include revenue sources that aren't required on Senate disclosure forms.
"Considering the huge amounts of money they have made in recent years, they've contributed their money to the campaign, some of those relationships financially have been with individuals who have come under quite a bit of scrutiny for possible ethics transgressions, its essential to know where the American people are getting there money from," Plouffe said Thursday.
"If Sen. Clinton is not being open and honest about her tax returns or her experience on the campaign trial, you have to wonder if she'll be open and honest with the American people as president," he added.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - Michigan Sen. Carl Levin - one of the most powerful Democratic politicians in Michigan - has weighed in against a re-vote that would allow the state’s delegation to be seated at the party’s national convention this summer.
“Senator Levin doesn’t see at this time a practical and fair way to hold a ‘do-over’ election in Michigan given the immense financial and logistical hurdles, and in any event believes that a change in course would require acceptance by both candidates,” read a statement posted on his Senate Web site Friday.
Negotiations over a new vote - involving representatives from the state and national parties and the campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama - hit a snag Thursday when the Michigan Democratic party chairman Mark Brewer said that it could cost as much as $10 million.
Levin’s statement said that unless an agreement was reached before August, the decision would fall to the Credentials Committee that certifies delegates – with their ruling subject to appeal to the full convention.
Michigan and Florida lost their voting power as a result of Democratic National Committee penalties for their decision to hold their primaries in January, despite party instructions.
The major candidates all signed an agreement that they would not campaign in either state before those votes, and most withdrew their names from Michigan’s ballot, with the exception of Hillary Clinton, who won both contests.
Levin has not backed any presidential candidate this cycle.
–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
(CNN)— The troubled economy took center stage Friday, with news of employers cutting 63,000 jobs in February alone. In the latest installment of CNN=Politics Daily, White House correspondent Elaine Quijano reports on how President Bush is reacting to the news.
It’s no surprise that appearing strong on economic policy has become a campaign trail priority. CNN’s Dana Bash explains what Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is doing to address voter concerns.
Democrats are headed full force into Saturday’s primary in Wyoming. Jessica Yellin reports from Wyoming on the latest twists and turns in that primary process.
Finally: what happens if neither Democratic candidate gets enough delegates to ensure the nomination? Special Correspondent Frank Sesno takes a look at why the party may be in for the long haul.
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–CNN’s Emily Sherman
(CNN) - Barack Obama hit back at rival Hillary Clinton's suggestions earlier Friday he wasn't serious about withdrawing from the war in Iraq, telling a Wyoming crowd he was against the war from the beginning while the New York senator "doesn’t have standing to question my position on this issue."
"Don’t be confused," Obama said at a campaign event in Casper. When Senator Clinton is not even willing to acknowledge that she voted for war. She says she voted for diplomacy despite the title that said ‘Authorization to use U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq.’"
The back-and-forth comes after former Obama advisor Samantha Power called Obama's Iraq plan a "best case scenario" in an interview with the BBC, and said the Illinois senator "will of course not rely upon some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or U.S. senator" to remove U.S. troops from Iraq.
Clinton pounced on the comments earlier Friday in a Wyoming press conference with reporters, saying "This is the latest example of promising the American people one thing on the campaign trail and telling people in other countries another."
Obama brushed aside Clinton's characterization of the comments Friday.
"Now what is true is that I want to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. And I want to make sure that our troops are protected and safe as we are withdrawing them, and I don’t want us to see Iraq collapse,” he said. “Which is why I have put out the most detailed plan in terms of making sure that we have humanitarian aid in place, and making sure that we are working with the Iraqis to negotiate diplomatically inside the country as well as the regional powers there and that we have a international commission to monitor against war crimes that might occur as we are pulling out."
Obama refused to comment on Power's resignation from his campaign Friday and the heated rhetoric from both his campaign and Hillary Clinton's after the former adviser was quoted calling Clinton a "monster."
– CNN's Alexander Mooney and Chris Welch
(CNN) - Hillary Clinton's campaign Friday seized on remarks from Barack Obama’s former adviser Samantha Power, who told a BBC program this week that Obama "will of course not rely upon some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or U.S. senator" to remove U.S. troops from Iraq.
Power resigned from the campaign on Friday after she told a Scottish newspaper that Clinton was behaving like a "monster," a comment she quickly tried to retract, according to the newspaper. The Obama campaign hastily noted that Power, a celebrated academic who joined Obama's senate office in 2005 to work on Darfur issues, was an informal adviser and not a paid staffer.
"You can't make a commitment in, whatever month we're in now, in March of 2008, about what circumstances are going be like in January 2009," Power said on Thursday's edition of the BBC show "Hardtalk," describing Obama's plan to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq in 16 months.
Power agreed with the BBC interviewer's assertion that Obama's plan was a "best case scenario." She argued that upon taking office, Obama "will rely upon an operational plan he pulls together in consultation with people that are on the ground to whom he doesn't have daily access now as a result of not being the president."
The author emphasized in the interview that Obama "will try to get us forces out as quickly and as responsibly as possible and that’s the best case estimate of what it will take."
The Clinton campaign circulated excerpts of the comments to reporters on Friday minutes after Power resigned over the "monster" comment, and Clinton herself took to the mic at a press conference in Mississippi to accuse Obama of deceiving voters.
(CNN) - This was a strong week for Hillary Clinton. It was not such a strong week for Barack Obama. Her campaign could have easily collapsed if she had lost the primaries in Texas and Ohio. He had all the political momentum going for him. Now, having won those two states plus Rhode Island, she has recaptured her mojo, even as she still remains behind him in the all-important delegate count.
Her friend and supporter, James Carville, our CNN political analyst, says that she must now win the Pennsylvania primary on April 22 and then go on to win the re-votes in Michigan and Florida – assuming they can be organized and paid for. He says that if she does win those three major states, she will get the nomination because the super delegates will flock to her. Her campaign’s argument has been that she carried the biggest states – New York, California, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Florida, etc. – and that would make her more likely to beat John McCain in a general election.
Obama’s supporters have argued that the candidate who has won the most elected or pledged delegates should get the nomination. It’s as simple as that. Even if Hillary Clinton were to run the table on those big upcoming states, he might still be slightly ahead in pledged delegates, because of the proportionate way the Democrats divide up the delegates in the states. (The Republicans, in contrast, have a winner-take-all rule in many of the states.)
Here’s the bottom line: there’s an excellent chance this contest is heading to the Democratic Convention in Denver – August 25-28. Mark your calendars.
In a Newsweek pieced called "Hillary's New Math Problem," Jonathan Alter writes how despite Clinton's three wins this week, the delegate math is working against her. He suggests Clinton needs very large margins in the 12 remaining primaries, an average of about 23 points, which is more than double the margin of her Ohio win.
If Clinton is not leading in pledged delegates come June, a lead in the popular vote might help her convince superdelegates that she is the stronger candidate. But right now, Clinton trails Obama there as well, by about 600,000 votes.
It all boils down to a pretty messy scenario for the Democrats where the nearly 800 superdelegates could be left to decide on the nominee.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
“With deep regret, I am resigning from my role as an advisor the Obama campaign effective today," Power said in a statement issued by the campaign. "Last Monday, I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor, and purpose of the Obama campaign. And I extend my deepest apologies to Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, and the remarkable team I have worked with over these long 14 months."
The Obama campaign said that the decision was Power’s, and stressed that “she was an adviser, not a paid staffer.”
"She made the decision to resign and we accepted," said communications director Robert Gibbs.
Earlier in the day, the Clinton campaign had called for Obama to end Power's association with his campaign.
Obstacles remain for re-votes in Florida and Michigan (AP Photo)
(CNN) – Elected officials, state and national party leaders and campaign advisers in Michigan and Florida are confronting major obstacles in their quest to stage new Democratic votes in those states that would allow delegations to be seated at the party’s summer convention.
Negotiations for a new Michigan caucus fell apart Thursday evening, and were to re-start Friday, according to a source close to discussions.
The plans were stymied when the chairman of the Michigan Democratic party, Mark Brewer, reported that a new vote – which would involve an estimated two million voters - would cost $10 million.
The source said the cost "is a very real challenge," since the state party, which had agreed not to use taxpayer money to fund any re-vote, is uncertain how they would cover the cost. One option under consideration was to cover expenses through a combination of fundraising, money provided by the Democratic National Committee, and funds directly from the campaigns themselves.
NEW ORLEANS (CNN) – Republican presidential candidate John McCain grew testy while talking to reporters Friday when questioned about whether he’d ever talked to Democratic Senator John Kerry about becoming his presidential running mate back in 2004.
On a campaign flight, New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller asked the Arizona senator about a story in that paper in 2004 quoted McCain as saying he had never discussed the possibility of joining the Democratic ticket that year. "Everybody knows that I had a private conversation,” McCain said, shortly. “Everybody knows that, that I had a conversation. …
"It's well known. Everybody knows it’s been well chronicled a thousand times,” said McCain, repeatedly interrupting Bumiller. “That John Kerry asked if I would consider being his running mate and I said categorically no, under no circumstances. …I don’t know what you may have read or heard of and I don’t know the circumstances. Maybe in May of ’04 I hadn’t had a conversation. I don’t know—but it is well known that I had the conversation. It’s absolutely well known by everyone. So do you have a question on another issue?”
During a town hall in Atlanta before the flight, McCain had been asked if he’d consider Kerry for his running mate. “That’s the first time I’ve ever gotten that question,” he deadpanned, adding that he respected the Massachusetts senator, and had spoken with him about that possibility in 2004, to turn him down - a statement that Bumiller later questioned him over. McCain had also told the Atlanta crowd he could not share a ticket with Kerry because “I just totally disagree with him.”
Earlier this week, 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole told CNN’s Larry King that his former Senate colleague “does have a… I guess you could say temper. But I always sort of rationalized that because the poor guy had been locked up” in a tiny cell for six years. He added that McCain “can control it. It's not a problem anymore.”
UPDATE: McCain Senior Adviser Steve Schmidt called this issue "complete and total nonsense."
"What Americans really care about are things like 63,000 jobs lost last month, and that's the kind of thing McCain is going to talk about," said Schmidt.