WASHINGTON (CNN) - Hillary Clinton has reclaimed the lead from Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential race for the first time since early February, a new national poll out Thursday suggests.
In the latest Gallup daily tracking poll, Clinton holds a 7 point lead over the Illinois senator, 49 to 42 percent. That lead is outside the poll’s statistical margin of error of 3 points - the widest gap between the two candidates in weeks.
Clinton's last lead was in a Gallup poll taken just after the round Super Tuesday contests, and the two candidates have been statistically tied since. But Obama has held a numerical lead over Clinton for most of that time, and started to decline in the tracking poll late last week - a sign the uproar over his former pastor's sermon's may be taking its toll.
The latest tracking poll was conducted March 14-18, almost entirely before Obama gave a widely praised speech on his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and race relations in America.
But according to Gallup's Jeff Jones, "the initial indications are that the speech has not halted Clinton's gaining momentum as she led by a similar margin in Tuesday night's polling as compared to Monday night's polling."
A new Gallup poll also showed apparent Republican presidential nominee John McCain leading both Democrats, a sign Clinton and Obama's continued back-and-forth is benefiting the Arizona senator. McCain holds a 4 point lead over Obama (47-43 percent) and 3 point lead over Clinton (48-45 percent). That poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - A senior adviser to the Obama campaign said Thursday that newly-released White House records reveal that Hillary Clinton had misled voters on what her position on NAFTA had been when she was First Lady, and said the incident raises serious questions about how she would “treat the truth” as president.
The New York senator “owes an apology to the people of this country," said Obama adviser David Axelrod, on a Thursday conference call with reporters.
“This is a question of political character,” he said, adding that voters “have to wonder if this was one of the reasons she was reluctant to get these records out there on a timely basis.”
The Obama campaign has used the release of Clinton’s White House schedules Wednesday – which showed her attending NAFTA strategy meetings in advance of its approval by Congress – to suggest that Clinton had not been telling the truth to voters, and that she was a “vocal supporter of NAFTA.”
The trade agreement became a major issue in the closing days of the Ohio campaign, as the Clinton campaign highlighted a Canadian news report that an Obama adviser had privately assured officials from that country that the Illinois senator’s rhetoric did not match his intended policy on that issue if he were to be elected president, and contrasted that with what they said was Clinton’s own consistent position against NAFTA. Clinton won the March 4 Ohio primary.
The Clinton campaign sent a release to reporters Thursday highlighting what they said were myths surrounding Clinton’s position on NAFTA. Shortly after the Obama conference call, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer sent reporters a statement that sought to re-direct attention back to the Canadian report, adding that “The fact is that independent accounts make clear that Senator Clinton did not support NAFTA and that she is the candidate Americans can trust to fix it.”
There are differing accounts of Clinton’s position on the issue when she was First Lady. The records released yesterday indicate that she attended several NAFTA strategy sessions in 1993.
UPDATE: CNN's Peter Hamby reports that when asked whether she should have handled the issue differently in light of schedules that showed she supported NAFTA, Clinton told a group of reporters Thursday afternoon that "I don’t think that’s what you can infer" from the release of the schedules.
"I have spoken consistently against NAFTA and the way its been implemented," she said, again pointing to reports on alleged conversations between Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee and the Canadian government.
–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
WASHINGTON (CNN) - U.S. Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-New York, will announce Thursday that he will retire at the end of his term in November, two senior Republican aides said.
Reynolds, who won his last election by a small margin, will be the 29th Republican to retire from the House of Representatives this term, setting up potential gains for Democrats.
"With today's announcement, five of six elected Republican leaders from the 2006 cycle have retired or quit," said Doug Thornell, press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a statement.
Obama's March Madness bracket, provided by the Obama campaign.
(CNN) - When running for president, every decision is a political one - even March Madness picks.
According to the Obama campaign, the Illinois senator's final four picks include North Carolina, Kansas, Pittsburgh, and UCLA.
Political observers will immediately note two of the four teams are from states which hold crucial primary contests in the coming weeks - Pennsylvania on April 22, and North Carolina just two weeks later.
As for the final game, Obama is betting North Carolina defeats UCLA, a pick that's sure to go over well with undecided voters in the Tar Heel State. But in an interview with the Charlotte Observer, the Illinois senator suggested he's not basing his bracket on political calculations.
"Well, I have to say, [North Carolina forward Tyler] Hansbrough's looking tough," Obama said. "That's a big boy, there. So I've got to fill it out, I've got to do a little bracketology before I make a final decision."
Obama isn’t the only presidential candidate willing to make his picks public this year. John McCain’s presidential campaign Web site now includes a section where you can fill out your brackets for the NCAA tournament and compare them to his. The campaign is expected to post the senator's choices later Thursday.
UPDATE: McCain is also predicting North Carolina will finish first, beating Connecticut – a No. 4 seed – in the final game. Kansas and Memphis round out his final four.
In some first round upsets, McCain has picked Georgia over Xavier and Villanova over Clemson. McCain’s picks were posted on his Web site Thursday afternoon.
McCain’s tournament picks were more conservative last year, when he had all No. 1 seeds making it to the final four.
- CNN's Mike Roselli , Alex Mooney and Kristi Keck
(CNN) - Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen is proposing a superdelegate “primary” to settle the Democratic presidential race before the party's convention in August.
Neither Sens. Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton are likely to win the 2,024 delegates needed to capture the presidential nomination outright when primary voting ends in early June, making it likely that the superdelegates – party and elected officials who have the right to vote at the national convention – will likely decide which candidate will become the Democratic nominee.
Obama currently leads Clinton in the delegate count 1,621 to 1,479, CNN estimates.
In a proposal first made public in the New York Times Wednesday, Bredesen - who has not backed either candidate - suggested that superdelegates meet for two days in June to vote in order to bring an earlier end to the race and begin the process of uniting the party.
"It seems to me if we have a nominee come Labor Day with a very deeply divided party and morally exhausted party, I think we have a problem,” Bredesen told CNN. “We've got to resolve this in some way before the end of August.”
Other superdelegates have floated similar proposals, but the idea has received mixed reviews, Democratic National Committee officials told the Associated Press.
But Bredesen said it's critical that the party begin the process of rallying behind a nominee because the Republicans have already settled on their candidate, Sen. John McCain.
In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Obama said Bredesen's proposal was an "interesting" one that "would probably be the best way to insure that at least there's a couple of months before the convention" for the party to unite.
DNC Chairman Howard Dean has not endorsed Bredesen's superdelegate plan, proposed in Wednesday's New York Times, and so far it has not gained much traction. But clearly, Obama is trying to breathe a little life into it.
But on a conference call with reporters, Clinton senior adviser Harold Ickes said the idea was a good one that will "never happen."
–CNN.com Senior Political Producer Scott Anderson
KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) - Vice President Dick Cheney arrived Thursday in the Afghan capital, praising ties with the Afghan government and the efforts of the NATO-led coalition in confronting the Taliban.
Cheney met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and afterward they delivered remarks and answered questions before reporters.
The visit to Afghanistan - which a U.S. Embassy source says will be "very brief" - is Cheney's latest stop in his trip overseas, which began Sunday. He visited Iraq earlier this week.
Compiled by Jonathan Helman
CNN Washington Bureau
NY Times: Clinton Facing Narrower Path to Nomination
Winning the Democratic presidential nomination has seemed something of a long shot for Hillary Rodham Clinton since February, but that shot now seems to have grown a little longer.
LA Times: Obama Says Iraq War Has Hurt U.S. Security
Presidential hopeful Barack Obama traveled Wednesday to a community college near Ft. Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne Division and the Army Special Operations Command, to argue that the Iraq war had opened a "security gap" for the United States.
Washington Times: Voters, McCain Differ On Quick Economic Fix
As the economy sours, voters are increasingly demanding immediate government relief — a boost for Democrats who propose just that sort of quick fix, but a problem for Republican Sen. John McCain, whose focus has been on longer-term solutions such as tax and spending cuts and free trade.
Washington Post: Clinton Presses Obama on Efforts For Revotes in Florida and Michigan
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) shifted her schedule to make a last-minute visit in Detroit, Michigan Wednesday, demanding that the state's Democratic Party hold another primary vote or count the results of the earlier disqualified balloting, and she challenged Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to live up to his claim that he cares about making sure people's votes count.
Compiled by Jonathan Helman, CNN Washington Bureau
*Hillary Clinton is in Indiana. She attends an event with Senator Evan Bayh in Terre Haute, a town hall meeting in Anderson, and a rally in Evansville.
*John McCain is in London.
*Barack Obama gives a speech on Iraq and the economy in Charleston, West Virginia and attends a town hall meeting in Beckley, West Virginia.