Obama denounced some of his minister's past sermons Friday. (AP Photo)
(CNN) - A Chicago minister who delivered a fiery sermon about Sen. Hillary Clinton having an advantage over Sen. Barack Obama in the presidential race because she is white is no longer a part of the Obama campaign.
Related video: Obama discusses the matter with CNN's Anderson Cooper
(CNN) - “It’s the economy, stupid!”
That was the motto of Bill Clinton’s successful campaign back in 1992 when he challenged the incumbent President, George H. W. Bush. Campaign strategists in his war room in Little Rock, including James Carville, Paul Begala and George Stephanopolous, focused in like laser beams on the economy. They sought to drive the point home that President Bush was simply out of touch with average Americans. That strategy clearly paid off.
Now, the Democrats will try to do the same thing to John McCain. They will make the point that the Republican candidate will merely continue the basic economic strategy of President Bush. Despite McCain’s opposition to the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, they will stress that he will follow the Bush status quo.
Those Bush tax cuts are supposed to expire in 2010, but McCain now vows to make those tax cuts permanent. He says to do otherwise would see an increase in taxes – this at a time when the nation fears recession. He has pledged not to increase taxes.
But Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and their supporters will say those Bush tax cuts are geared to help the wealthy. They will argue that the wealthy don’t need more help. They are promising to help the poor and middle class.
By all accounts, the economy has emerged as issue number one in this campaign season. And the economic issues are wide-ranging. In other words, get ready for an even more intense debate on taxes, budget deficits, pork barrel spending, interest rates, free trade, illegal immigration, health care, energy costs, and the exploding national debt. The economic ramifications are enormous.
- Wolf Blitzer
SPRINGFIELD, Pennsylvania (CNN) – Sen. John McCain charged Friday that the Senate was ignoring the will of the people when it rejected a one-year moratorium on earmarks that he had co-sponsored.
The Senate voted 71-29 against the ban late Thursday night.
“There’s only one place left in America that they don’t get it,” McCain told a town hall gathering outside Philadelphia, referring to Washington. “Pork-barrel spending is out of control and Americans want it stopped.”
He added that the result “is an interesting commentary on how the Congress and the Senate [are] disconnected from the American people.”
McCain returned to the Senate for the first time in a month to cast his ballot for an issue that is one of his central themes on the campaign trail.
Of the 29 votes in favor of the measure, six were from Democrats, including rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. McCain accused both Democrats of wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars in earmarks.
“The first thing they can do if they’re against the earmarks is ask that the money that they’ve gotten, the hundreds of millions they’ve gotten in pork-barrel projects not be spent. A lot of that money’s not spent [yet],” said McCain.
The Arizona senator prides himself on having never requested an earmark for his state.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In his first public words about the Justice Department investigation involving New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Friday that he had become aware of the case only recently, and stressed that he played no role in decisions to pursue the prostitution ring that ensnared Spitzer.
"I learned a couple of weeks ago," Mukasey said. "... I did learn of it, but it was informational, not a matter of authority."
The attorney general stressed the U.S. attorney offices report directly to the deputy attorney general, not to him.
Aides to Mukasey said earlier this week U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia in New York, where the investigation is centered, did not seek authorization from the deputy attorney general - nor in this case did he have to do so.
As the investigation culminated, Acting Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford was leaving the post, and newly confirmed Deputy Mark Filip was arriving at the Justice Department.
Mukasey emphasized that no charges have yet been brought against Spitzer.
"We have no case against Eliott Spitzer. We have a case in which people have been charged, in which it has been alleged that he was customer - number 9 is, I think, the designation. That's all we have. I underline: no case against Eliot Spitzer."
A senior Justice Department official promptly stressed that Mukasey was simply referring to the fact that no charges against Spitzer have been brought by his New York prosecutors, and his comments should not be taken to suggest that charges will or will not be brought against Spitzer.
Mukasey made his comments in response to a question from CNN's Paula Newton as he spoke to reporters at the London School of Economics, where he met with British officials to discuss international crime and counter-terrorism issues.
Related video: Watch Mukasey on Spitzer
(CNN) - Barack Obama's Chicago minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is under fresh scrutiny, after an ABC News report Thursday shed light on some of his controversial sermons.
In one delivered last December, Wright argues Hillary Clinton's road to the White House is considerably easier than Barack Obama's because of his skin color.
"Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single parent home. Barack was," Wright says in a video of the sermon posted on YouTube.
"Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary! Hillary ain't never been called a 'nigger!' Hillary has never had her people defined as a non-person," a fiery Wright also says.
Wright, who retired from his post earlier this year, also is seen saying in the video, "Who cares about what a poor black man has to face every day in a country and in a culture controlled by rich white people?"
Wright's sermon shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorism attacks is also under scrutiny, during which he said America had brought on the attacks with its own practice of terrorism.
"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," he says. "We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant. Because the stuff we have done overseas has now brought right back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."
Obama and Wright have long been close. Obama has been a member of Wright's church since his days in law school, and Obama's bestselling book, The Audacity of Hope, takes its title from one of Wright's sermons. Wright also married the Obamas and baptized their two children.
But Obama has long maintained he is at odds with some of Wright's sermons, and has likened him to an "old uncle" who sometimes will say things he doesn't agree with. He has also specifically denounced Wright's 9/11 comments.
An Obama campaign spokesman also said Thursday the Illinois senator "deplores divisive statements whether they come from his supporters, the supporters of his opponent, talk radio, or anywhere else."
UPDATE: Speaking with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Obama said, "I profoundly disagree with some of these statements."
"Here is what happens when you just cherry-pick statements from a guy who had a 40-year career as a pastor. There are times when people say things that are just wrong. But I think it's important to judge me on what I've said in the past and what I believe," he also said.
- CNN's Susan Roesgen contributed to this report
As a wise man once said, "it's getting ugly out there."
These kinds of fights leave scar tissue that can be tough to get rid of. And if the Democrats can't figure out how to patch things up in time for November, George Bush can just drop the White House keys in John McCain's mailbox. One Democratic pollster describes how they the Democrats might "take what is a golden year and turn it into dust."
So far, no sign of a cease fire. Just yesterday, the Clinton campaign suggested Pennsylvania will show that "Hillary is ready to win and that Obama really can't win the general election." Obama's campaign said these comments were "divorced from reality”, ignoring both polls and the delegate math.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Michigan, told CNN that she is continuing to work with Michigan Democratic leaders and the Clinton and Obama campaigns on a plan for another vote to ensure that all of Michigan’s 156 delegates get seated at the convention.
“We are trying to get there. It’s not a done deal yet,” Kilpatrick said in a brief interview just outside the House chamber.
Congresswoman Kilpatrick says she has participated in several conference calls with “high level campaign officials,” but has not talked directly to the candidates about the proposal to hold a new primary on June 3rd.
Rep Kilpatrick described three options that have been on the table . The first idea is a “redo” that the state will pay for. The second idea is a mail-in primary which she said “was too hard to do.” The third option, was to “have the two candidates get together” and agree to a way to apportion the delegates.
A spokeswoman for the congresswoman said Kilpatrick is working with three other Michigan Democrats – Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, Super delegate and Democratic National Committee member Debbie Dingell and United Auto Workers' President Ron Gettelfinger.
Kilpatrick said they are scheduled to talk again to the campaigns later this afternoon about the details on June 3 proposal, but added, “the DNC will make the final decision.”
Rep Kilpatrick, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, has not endorsed a candidate yet.
- CNN's Deirdre Walsh
Bush addressed the Economic club of New York Friday (Getty Images)
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - President Bush acknowledged Friday the country was facing challenges both in the housing and financial markets, but said that the strength of the underlying economy would help it maneuver through this difficult period.
Speaking before The Economic Club of New York, Bush said he was confident that the government action take so far would help get the economy back on track.
"Theses are tough times," he said.
He also called on Congress to take additional steps to help alleviate the woes resulting from the housing crisis, including reforming government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He also pushed lawmakers to modernize the Federal Housing Administration and to extend tax cuts on capital gains and set to expire in the coming years.
(CNN) - Hillary Clinton will get the endorsement of Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl at a campaign event Friday, sources close to the campaign confirmed.
The senator from New York will also get the backing of Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, the sources said.
Ravenstahl and Onorato are not superdelegates, but their endorsements add to Clinton's strong support among Democratic leaders in the state, where Clinton and Barack Obama will face their next contest on April 22.
Clinton also has the backing of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Philadelphia Mayor Mike Nutter, and the party's chairman in the state, T.J. Rooney.
Ravenstahl, 28, is the youngest mayor in Pittsburgh's history, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
(CNN) - A proposal is taking shape for Michigan Democrats to hold a new presidential primary, a Democratic source close to the negotiations says, after the national Democratic Party refused to recognize the results of their first vote two months ago.
Under the proposal, the state of Michigan would hold a new primary on June 3, and the Democratic Party would reimburse the state for the cost of running the election, ensuring the state had the cash in hand before voting began.
The Democratic National Committee refused to recognize the results of the primary Michigan held on Jan. 15 because it allowed only four states – not including Michigan – to hold primaries before Feb. 5.
Many Democratic presidential contenders had their names taken off Michigan's ballot after the DNC decision, including Sen. Barack Obama. Sen. Hillary Clinton did not remove her name from the ballot, and won 55 percent of the vote. Some 40 percent of Michigan Democrats filed ballots declaring themselves "uncommitted."
The Michigan state legislature would have to push the plan through by next Thursday
Michigan voters wanting to cast ballots in the new primary would have to identify themselves as Democrats and certify that they did not vote in the state's Republican primary in January. Michigan normally does not require party identification in primary elections.
South Dakota is also slated to hold its Democratic primary June 3.
- CNN's John Roberts