(CNN) – Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, engaged in an increasingly brutal war of words, directed some of their verbal fire power this week at presumptive Republican nominee John McCain – who immediately fought back.
On Wednesday, the Obama campaign took aim at both of McCain’s major policy speeches. At a campaign event in North Carolina, Obama said the McCain’s economic address “offered not one policy, not one idea, not one bit of relief… We’ve been down this road before. It’s the road that George Bush has taken for the last eight years.”
In a statement released later Wednesday afternoon, Obama spokesman Bill Burton said “John McCain is determined to carry out four more years of George Bush's failed policies, including an open-ended war in Iraq that has cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars while making us less safe.”
Hillary Clinton has also spent the past two days tying McCain to Bush on foreign policy, telling a Pennsylvania audience that the Arizona senator’s policies represented “four more years of the same.”
The McCain campaign released a statement in response to Obama’s criticism of his economic policies, saying, “Senator Obama’s blatant mischaracterizations aren’t the new politics he’s promised America, they’re the old attack and smear tactics that Americans are tired of.”
McCain also took an indirect hit at the Democratic candidates in his foreign policy in Los Angeles, saying that withdrawal from Iraq – a position advocated by both of his potential fall opponents – would result in “horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing and possibly genocide.”
Related: Suzanne Malveaux reports on Obama's return to the campaign trail
–CNN’s Emily Sherman
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Pennsylvania isn't the only state seeing a surge in newly-minted Democrats. North Carolina, which votes on May 6, has also seen its voter rolls expanding.
Republicans and Independents in Pennsylvania are signing up in droves to vote in the April 22 Democratic primary. Last week alone, more than 29,000 Pennsylvanians registered to vote as Democrats. More than four million Pennsylvanians are now registered as Democrats – a new state record.
Almost 90,000 new voters have signed up to vote in the North Carolina Democratic primary, which is semi-closed - meaning Democrats and unaffiliated voters can participate, but not Republicans.
Since the beginning of January, the number of registered Democrats in North Carolina has grown by over 40,000 voters, bringing the total number of Democrats in the state to 2,552,674. Almost half of those registered Democrats are African-American.
The tally of unaffiliated voters grew by more than 30,000. There are now 1.2 million unaffiliated voters in the state who can participate in either party’s primary.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Sen. Barack Obama's controversial former pastor, has canceled his plans to speak at church services in Houston, Texas, this weekend in the wake of the recent uproar over portions of his past sermons.
Video clips of those sermons caused a public stir this month after being widely circulated on the Internet.
The clips in question include several racially charged statements and accusations the U.S. government has adopted policies to systematically oppress African-Americans.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senator John McCain strongly defended President Bush’s strategies in Iraq and the war on terror Wednesday, and sharply rebuked his critics - but he clearly deviated from the president’s national security policy on two major issues.
Speaking before the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles, he rejected the president’s determination to keep the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba open. He also said it was time to negotiate a new global warming treaty.
“We can’t torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured,” he said. “I believe we should close Guantanamo and work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control.”
On global warming and the international treaty that President Bush abandoned after taking office, McCain said: “There is such a thing as international good citizenship.” He added: “We need a successor to the Kyoto Treaty, a cap-and-trade system that delivers the necessary environmental impact in an economically responsible manner.”
But on Iraq, the senator remained firm to the president’s approach. “It would be an unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a great nation, if we were to walk away from the Iraqi people and consign them to the horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing, and possibly genocide that would follow a reckless, irresponsible, and premature withdrawal,” he said.
The biting criticism of his two Democratic presidential challengers was hovering over those remarks – as well as several other passages in his speech - even though he didn’t mention either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama by name.
Related: Watch Bill Schneider's analysis of McCain's foreign policy speech
It will be easier to elect a black man president than a woman.
Those are the words of former senator and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern. He's actually a Hillary Clinton supporter, but he says he feels that where this country stands today in its thinking, it's going to be harder to elect a woman. He also says, "I wish that weren't true... I'd love to see Hillary as president."
McGovern says he sometimes hears from men who don't think a woman is ready to assume the responsibilities of the top office in the land. Some worry it's "too big a job" for a woman or that she wouldn't be able to "handle those terrorists." McGovern says he rarely hears the same concerns about a black man.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
(CNN) - The college student who appeared to upset Chelsea Clinton with a question on the Monica Lewinsky scandal said Wednesday he was merely giving the former first daughter an opportunity to show how strong her mother is.
Evan Strange, a Butler University student, told CBS he is a supporter of Hillary Clinton, and meant no harm with his question about the infamous White House scandal.
"Surprisingly, I am a supporter of Hillary, I love Hillary. But when I talk to my friends, one of their constant questions to me is, 'What makes her such a strong leader?', and they always bring up that scandal," Strange said in an appearance on the CBS Early Show.
"It’s not something I asked to cause trouble, it was to show those people what makes Hillary so strong, and was an opportunity for Chelsea to show all the doubters how strong Hillary is," he added.
At an event on Butler's campus Tuesday afternoon, Strange asked if the scandal had damaged Hillary Clinton's reputation. (Watch Chelsea's reaction)
Chelsea Clinton appeared taken aback by the question, saying, "Wow, you're the first person actually that's ever asked me that question in the, I don't know maybe, 70 college campuses I've now been to, and I do not think that is any of your business."
The crowd immediately cheered loudly at Chelsea's response, but Strange said Wednesday he was surprised with the answer.
"I can see where she'd get a little defensive because of the question, and just hearing Lewinsky over and over again I can see why she'd react that way, but I would liked to have heard her say something about her record, or something like that, instead of just dismissing the question," he said.
Though she has faced the glare of public life since she was a girl, Chelsea Clinton has contended with renewed press coverage after taking on a more prominent role in her mother's campaign earlier this year.
The Monica Lewinsky scandal made a brief return to the news last week, when newly-released White House schedules indicated Hillary Clinton was likely in the White House during at least 6 reported instances of encounters between her husband and the former White House intern.
Related: Evan Strange says he was shocked by Chelsea's reponse
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - Former Barack Obama adviser Samantha Power – who resigned from his campaign earlier this month after calling Hillary Clinton a “monster” - said Tuesday night she was stunned by the “political mileage” the New York senator had gotten from her comments on the timing of any withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
"What I was saying is that you have to take into account what the generals on the ground are telling you," Power told a Columbia University audience Tuesday night, according to a report in the Huffington Post.
“Take for example that 3 a.m. phone call (a theme in a Clinton campaign ad)… She is not going to answer the phone and play a voicemail she recorded in 2007. That is crazy. She is going to judge the situation in 2009. Of course she is going to take into account what the generals have to say about the Iraq situation and what they are saying on the ground."
Earlier this month, the Clinton campaign seized on remarks made by Power – who had already left the Illinois senator’s campaign – that Obama "will of course not rely upon some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or U.S. senator" to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.
Clinton advisers said Obama's entire campaign was based on his attempts to contrast his early opposition to the Iraq war with Clinton's vote in favor of a resolution authorizing the use of force in that conflict — and fatally weakened by any suggestion that he might alter his current position.
"It turns out those attacks and speeches were just words. And if you can't trust Senator Obama's words, what's left?" said one Clinton campaign memo.
Despite her controversial exit from the campaign trail, Power seemed to suggest Tuesday night that she might be part of an Obama administration.
"Because of the kind of campaign that Senator Obama has run, it seemed appropriate for someone of my Irish temper to step aside, at least for a while,” Power told a Columbia University audience. “We will see what happens there."
–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
WASHINGTON (CNN) – One-time Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Gravel announced Wednesday he is abandoning his political party and will run for the White House as a Libertarian.
Gravel, a former senator whose presidential campaign was never taken seriously by most political observers, made the proclamation in a message posted on his Web site.
“The fact is, the Democratic Party today is no longer the party of FDR,” Gravel said. “It is a party that continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism - all of which I find anathema to my views.”
Despite his long shot bid, Gravel was successful in sharing a stage several times with the more established candidates during this election cycle. He used these nationally televised opportunities to rail against his opponents and highlight his opposition to the Iraq war. Gravel represented Alaska in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1981, and is best known for publishing the Pentagon Papers.
“I look forward to advancing my presidential candidacy within the Libertarian Party, which is considerably closer to my values, my foreign policy views and my domestic views,” Gravel said in the statement, in which he also solicited small dollar donations from supporters.
Former Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, who left the Republican Party for the Libertarian Party in 2006, embraced Gravel’s decision.
"Just as Senator Gravel believes Democrats have lost touch with the American public, I too concluded Republicans had lost their core principles, and could no longer associate myself with the GOP,” Barr said in a statement posted on the Libertarian Party’s Web site. “While coming from opposite sides of the aisle, Senator Gravel and I definitely agree on the fundamental need for systemic change in our political system, and that the only way we have of effecting that change is by supporting and working in the Libertarian Party, which is the only political party in America that consistently works in word and deed to maximize individual liberty and minimize government power.”
The Libertarian Party will choose its presidential nominee at its national convention to be held in Denver in May.
- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston
(CNN) - Sen. John McCain emphasized collaboration with democratic allies in a foreign policy speech Wednesday.
"Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed," the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said. "We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies."
McCain called on the world's democracies to form a new global pact "to advance our values and defend our shared interests" when he addressed the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles, California.
(CNN) - A sizable number of Hillary Clinton supporters may break ranks to back John McCain in November should Barack Obama capture the Democratic nomination, a new Gallup poll suggests.
According to the just-released poll, 28 percent of Clinton's supporters would back McCain should the New York senator lose her quest for the Democratic nomination.
That compares to the 19 percent of Obama supporters who say they will favor McCain should Clinton be the party’s nominee.
"[The results] suggest that some Clinton supporters are so strongly opposed to Obama (or so loyal to Clinton) that they would go so far as to vote the "other" party's candidate next November if Obama is the Democratic nominee," Frank Newport of Gallup said of the survey's findings.
Newport also noted that the poll's results are likely the result of the heated battle for the nomination, and the number of the party’s defectors to McCain is likely to decrease after Democrats choose a nominee and the focus shifts to defeating the Arizona senator.
The poll was conducted March 7-22 and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney