PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (CNN) - Far from putting the controversial issue of race behind him, Barack Obama has decided to address the issue head on in a speech Tuesday.
"I am going to be talking not just about Reverend Wright, but the larger issue of race in this campaign - which has ramped up over the last couple of weeks," Obama told reporters in Monaca, Pennsylvania.
Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod characterized the speech, to be delivered in Philadelphia, as "a discussion on race and politics."
"Given the events of the last few weeks, Obama felt it was time to address the issue of race and politics directly, and what it means in our country," Axelrod said.
News of the speech comes days after the Illinois senator formally denounced controversial sermons delivered by his former minister and longtime friend, Jeremiah Wright. The racially-charged remarks came under fire after being the subject of an ABC News report last week.
Axelrod described the Illinois senator as "a force for reconciliation" and said he wants the opportunity "to put this into context."
Speaking with reporters, Obama said the media is portraying Wright inaccurately.
"I think the caricature that is being painted of him is not accurate, and so part of what I will do tomorrow is to talk about how these issues are perceived from within the black church community for example which I think skews this very differently."
UPDATE: Axelrod later told CNN's Gloria Borger that the Illinois senator has "always contemplated giving a speech like this."
“He will address the broader questions of race and politics, these are complex issues that transcend Barack Obama, and are fault lines in our politics and society, and, ultimately, can be a barrier…They’re easily exploited, and hard to address," he said.
(Updated with Obama comments)
– CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux and Mike Roselli contributed to this report
(CNN) - The Florida Democratic Party said Monday it would not hold a new vote that would allow the state’s delegation to be seated at the Democratic National Convention, regardless of whether the costs for the new primary were covered by the national party or not.
In an e-mail sent to Florida Democrats, state party Chair Karen Thurman said “We researched every potential alternative process – from caucuses to county conventions to mail-in elections – but no plan could come anywhere close to being viable in Florida.”
The national party stripped Florida of its delegates last year, along with Michigan, when both states scheduled their primaries in January, in violation of DNC instructions. None of the major candidates campaigned there ahead of those votes.
Florida’s Democrats had been weighing several options for a re-vote, including a possible mail-in primary, ahead of the DNC’s June 10 deadline.
ATLANTA (CNN) - The Democratic National Committee is violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment by allowing only four states to hold caucuses or primaries before the first Tuesday in February, a Florida attorney argued Monday before a federal appeals court.
Attorney Michael Steinberg filed suit in August on behalf of Democratic Party activist Vincent Dimaio after the DNC said it would not seat Florida delegates at the national convention because the state party defied party rules and scheduled its primary for January 29.
A federal judge in Florida dismissed the lawsuit in October, but Dimaio appealed.
"You can't treat the citizens of some states differently than other states," Steinberg told reporters after the hearing. "What I tried to assert is that the DNC has the right to make rules ... but the rules have to be the same for all the states."
According to party rules, only Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire can schedule their primaries or caucuses prior to the first Tuesday in February. Steinberg argued that the 14th Amendment, which bars states from denying individuals equal protection under the law, should prohibit the DNC from creating rules that make the votes of the citizens of those four states "paramount to the rights of the voters in Florida."
Joe Sandler, attorney for the DNC, told the three-judge panel that the committee is a private entity and "is actually exercising its own constitutional right by not seating delegates."
(CNN) - A majority of Democrats would like to see Barack Obama rather than Hillary Clinton win their party's presidential nomination, according to a national poll out Monday.Fifty-two percent of registered Democrats questioned in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey say the senator from Illinois is their choice for president, with 45 percent supporting Clinton.The poll also suggests Democrats are more enthusiastic about an Obama victory (45 percent) than for a victory by the senator from New York (38 percent).Full story
WASHINGTON (CNN) - With the economy issue number one on the minds of American voters, the Democratic presidential candidates are taking the gloves off in going after President Bush and his seven-year record.
“There have been few Administrations so out of touch with the concerns and the struggles of working Americans and so beholden to the lobbyists and special interests who blocked any kind of regulatory oversight of the financial sector,” says Barack Obama.
Underlining his charge of an administration “out of touch” with the deteriorating economic situation, Obama insisted Monday the president’s policies were “so divorced from the reality facing the American people and the American economy that it would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening.”
Hillary Clinton also said Monday that the "fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush administration" was to blame for the country's current economic turmoil and market fears, telling reporters that she would have acted very differently over the past year on fiscal matters than the administration has done. "We are in a very dangerous period in the economy. We need vigilance and we need leadership..." she said.
Many Democrats point to the president’s surprise at a recent news conference when a reporter noted that a gallon of gasoline was approaching $4 a gallon.
The fallout from the ailing economy will be politically significant in both the short and long term. First, Democrats will have to decide whether Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is better suited to handle the economic challenges facing the nation. Later, in the general election, the American public will have a chance to decide whether the eventual Democratic nominee or John McCain can do a better job.
Normally, during times of economic turmoil, the party in power in the White House suffers in an election. That has Republicans deeply worried right now. They are not only concerned about the presidential election but also about losing seats in the House and Senate as well.
–CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama crisscross the country accumulating both votes and delegates, the two Democratic presidential hopefuls are discovering that the actual number of delegates needed to win the nomination, the so-called "magic number," is a constantly moving target.
What does it take to win? As of today, 4,047 delegates will vote for the nominee, according to the Democratic National Committee. That means that a candidate needs 2,024 delegate votes to win. These numbers do not include Florida and Michigan, which will be adjusted if the states hold races in compliance with DNC rules.
The new totals are the result in small changes in party membership in several states, including the home states of both candidates. The newest Illinois superdelegate, Rep. Bill Foster, pledged his support to Obama, who helped him win the seat of former House Speaker Denny Hastert.
Clinton lost a superdelegate vote in New York with the resignation of Eliot Spitzer as governor, since Gov. David Paterson is a DNC member at-large who already had a vote. Paterson previously pledged his support for the New York senator.
Other changes include the addition of newly elected Indiana Rep. Andre Carson, grandson of the late Rep. Julia Carson. He remains uncommitted. John Melcher of Montana will represent National Democratic Seniors Coordinating Council, adding one more superdelegate vote for the Big Sky State. Former DNC chairman and Clinton supporter Ken Curtis lost his vote because he moved to Florida.
CNN also updated its Iowa delegate estimate based on results from county conventions held Saturday. Obama gained seven additional delegates for a revised total of 23, while Clinton lost one delegate, dropping her Iowa delegate total to 14, according to CNN estimates. Former Senator John Edwards held on to eight delegates, down from the 14 delegates CNN originally had estimated he won at the precinct caucuses on January 3.
CNN currently estimates Obama with 1,618 votes (1,411 pledged, 207 Superdelegates) and Clinton with 1,479 (1,242 pledged, 237 Superdelegates).
Click here for a breakdown of delegates by state.
There's no doubt the 2008 campaign has been full of twists and surprises, and here's one more: Republicans are coming out in huge numbers to vote for Hillary Clinton.
That's right. About 100,000 Republicans came out to support Clinton in Ohio. 119,000 voted for her in Texas, and 38,000 in Mississippi.
The Boston Globe reports on why this is happening: Some Republicans are supporting Clinton hoping it will prolong her bitter fight for the nomination with Barack Obama. Others think Clinton would be an easier opponent for John McCain to beat in November. And still others are voting for Clinton because they want to keep her in the race to expose more information about Obama ahead of the general election.
Consider this: up until recently, Obama was getting a lot more support than Clinton was from Republicans in the primary contests. At the time, many traditional GOP voters said they liked Obama and were willing to cross party lines. But, once McCain sealed the deal with his party's nomination, things started to change.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
(CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton defended his role in his wife's presidential campaign in South Carolina, disputing claims he made race a campaign issue.
"What happened there is a total myth and a mugging," Clinton told CNN's Sean Callebs in New Orleans, Louisiana, over the weekend.
"It's been pretty well established. Charlie Rangel ... the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in unequivocal terms in South Carolina that no one in our campaign played any race card, that we had some played against us, but we didn't play any."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Hillary Clinton said in a speech Monday as president she would exercise the leadership needed to end the war in Iraq, something her rivals for the White House would not be able to accomplish.
“Senator Obama holds up his original opposition to the war on the campaign trail, but he didn't start working aggressively to end the war until he started running for president. So when he had a chance to act on his speech, he chose silence instead,” Clinton told an audience at George Washington University. “President Bush is determined to continue his failed policy in Iraq until he leaves office. And Senator McCain will gladly accept the torch and stay the course, keeping troops in Iraq for up to 100 years if necessary.”
Obama gave a speech in 2002 opposing the war in Iraq, an address he references often in his campaign stump speech. Clinton cited Obama’s repeated promise to start bringing “combat troops out in 16 months,” pointing to recent BBC interview by now-former Obama policy advisor Samantha Power in which Power said Obama “will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator.”
The Clinton campaign has highlighted those comments because of what they say is a contradiction between Obama's thetoric and action on Iraq.
“Senator Obama has said often that words matter. I strongly agree,” Clinton said. “But giving speeches alone won’t end the war and making campaign promises you might not keep certainly won’t end it. In the end the true test is not the speeches a president delivers, it’s whether the president delivers on the speeches.”At a campaign rally in Monaca, Pennsylvania Obama disagreed with Clinton’s assessment.
“I opposed this war in 2002, I opposed it in 2003, 4, 5, 6 and 7. I have been consistent in saying that we have to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. I have been clear this has been a strategic error – unlike Senator Clinton, who voted for this war and has never taken responsibility for that vote,” Obama said. FULL POST
(CNN) - Nearly three-quarters of all Americans think the economy is in a recession, according to a national poll released Monday.
Seventy-four percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey say the economy has entered a recession.
That figure is up from 66 percent who felt that way in a similar survey last month. The number stood at 61 percent in January and 46 percent in October. (Full poll results [PDF])