(CNN) – A Democratic victory in a special election to fill the congressional seat held by former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert is a sign of things to come, according to the party. Barack Obama’s campaign says it’s a demonstration of his electoral coattails.
First-time candidate Bill Foster, a physicist, beat Republican Jim Oberweis, a money manager and head of a giant dairy. The national Republican Party spent millions on his behalf.
Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who leads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Foster’s victory demonstrated to Republican candidates that “Senator (John) McCain, who campaigned with the Republican nominee, cannot save them from defeat this November against strong Democratic challengers, even in districts that voted overwhelmingly for President Bush.”
The race had shaped up to be a presidential face-off of sorts, with McCain stumping for Oberweis and Obama backing Foster.
“You may think you have to wait until November to vote for change. But here in Illinois, you can start Saturday March 8th. That’s when you can vote to send Bill Foster to Congress,” said Obama in a campaign ad for the underdog candidate.
In a statement released by his campaign Saturday night, Obama said "The people of Illinois have sent an unmistakable message that they're tired of business-as-usual in Washington."
Republicans dispute the characterization. “The one thing 2008 has shown is that one election in one state does not prove a trend,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Karen Hanretty said Saturday. “…The one message coming out of 2008 so far is that what happens today is not a bellweather of what happens this fall.”
(CNN) – Hillary Clinton’s campaign responded Sunday to charges from rival Barack Obama that the New York senator “flip-flopped” on the issue of torture during her presidential campaign, saying she held strong positions against its use by government officials.
When President Bush vetoed a bill Saturday that would have prohibited the CIA from using harsh interrogation techniques, Obama used the occasion to criticize his Democratic presidential opponent.
"We need a Commander in Chief who has never wavered on whether or not it is acceptable for America to torture, because it is never acceptable,” said Obama. “While I have consistently opposed torture, in the course of this primary campaign Hillary Clinton has flip-flopped from her past position of tolerating torture. …
“When I am president, the American people and the world will be able to trust that I will outlaw torture, because unlike Senator Clinton I have never made an exception for torture and I never will."
Obama was making a reference to Clinton’s decision late last year to rule out any use of these techniques in interrogations, after a meting with a group of retired generals who opposed their use. Earlier, Clinton had said they might be an option if authorities suspected their use might help prevent an imminent attack – a position that was also held by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
The Clinton campaign responded with a statement that said her “strong position opposing torture” had led to her endorsement by Gen. Antonio Taguba, who wrote the official report on the military’s Abu Ghraib scandal.
The release also included an excerpt of a recent letter Senator Clinton sent to President Bush in which she said strong opposition to torture was essential.
“I believe, as do the military leaders I have consulted, that any sign of wavering on this issue by the Commander-in-Chief ‘will drop down the chain of command like a stone, and the rare exception will fast become the rule,’” she wrote.
–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
(CNN) – Democratic leaders in Michigan and Florida suggested Sunday they might be moving toward a solution that would allow them to send voting delegates to the party’s presidential nominating convention this summer.
Both states lost that privilege when they scheduled their primaries before February, despite party instructions, and the major candidates did not campaign there in advance of the contests. State and national party leaders and representatives of both remaining presidential candidates have been meeting to try to resolve the dilemma of whether – and how – to ensure representation for the delegate-rich fall swing states.
On Sunday, the idea of a mail-in primary seemed to be gaining some traction, despite concerns over the security and cost of a new vote.
On CNN’s Late Edition, Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Claire McCaskill of Missouri - surrogates for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, respectively - did not rule out the prospect. “We can't change (party) rules in the middle of this process,” McCaskill told anchor Wolf Blitzer, but added that if party leaders “come up with a fair way to redo this, whatever they decide, the Obama campaign will respect” the new process.
Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Clinton supporter, weighed in against the idea. "I would resist a re-vote for a couple of major reasons," she said on Fox News Sunday. "Number one, the re-vote that's being talked about right now would be a mail-in ballot. And we have never conducted a mail-in ballot in Florida. And in an election that is this important, an experiment like that is - now is not the time to test that."
But Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, who released a statement Friday that argued a second primary was impractical, said on ABC’s “This Week” that a mail-in vote was the only logical way to repeat the contest.