(CNN) - John McCain’s campaign is using reports of a new multi-million dollar group targeting his candidacy to raise money for the Arizona senator’s own presidential bid.
In an e-mail sent to supporters of the presumptive Republican nominee Thursday, Campaign Manager Rick Davis said George Soros and “his group of billionaire left-wing Democrats” were planning to spend $40 million dollars on a national television campaign targeting McCain.
“Folks, that is why we need your help and we need it now. We need to be able to answer whatever smear campaigns the liberal left throws at us. Please help as we combat this base demagoguery with a donation of $50, $100, $250 or even $1000 today,” wrote Davis.
Political consultant and Clinton supporter Paul Begala – one of the organizers of Progressive Media USA, whose existence was revealed in a Politico report hours earlier – said that attacks on McCain would be part of the agenda for the well-financed group, though not its sole mission.
"I am not saying we won't talk about John McCain - but the primary purpose is issues, it's progressive coordination, and it’s going to last long past any particular election cycle," said Begala.
Begala is a contributing political analyst for CNN.
Progressive Media USA is supported by Soros and some of the other Democratic benefactors who had backed the Campaign to Defend America, which launched an anti-McCain spot – “McSame” – last month. It will be headed by David Brock, author of the book “Free Ride: John McCain and the Media.”
LAFAYETTE, Indiana (CNN) – Democrat Barack Obama told an Indiana audience Thursday afternoon that he doesn't like hearing the sound of his own voice as much as some people might think.
After first mentioning that there was a time when presidential rival Hillary Clinton was "really hammering away" at him by saying he was more of a talker than a doer, the Illinois senator said, "She's not doing it as much now. I guess because it wasn't working."
But, said Obama, it's "not just because I like hearing myself talk."
"I promise you, after 15 months (on the trail so far) I would be happy to take a vow of silence and not say a word. I'd be happy just to sit in an office somewhere and solve all kinds of problems without ever having to give a speech."
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (CNN) – Hillary Clinton used her trademark laugh Thursday to deflect a question about the $800,000 her husband earned in 2005 giving speeches for a Bogota-based group that supports the Colombia free trade agreement - the same trade deal she currently opposes.
Asked by CNN if those earnings represented a conflict of interest given that she has dipped into her family's pocketbook to pay campaign bills, Clinton threw up her hands and laughed loudly for several seconds.
BROOKLYN, New York (CNN) – Introducing John McCain before his economic speech and roundtable in Brooklyn on Thursday afternoon, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the Arizona senator for showing him the ropes when he ran for mayor in 2001 - and credited his victory to the presumptive Republican nominee.
“I got elected because of you,” Bloomberg told McCain. “So if the people of New York are happy, they should say thank you to you.”
The mayor joked that his “good friend” burned ribs on the barbecue during a visit to McCain’s ranch in Arizona, though, “I will say it’s relatively small to be called a ranch.”
The Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Independent mayor showered McCain with compliments. “No matter what your political affiliation or your views are, [McCain] really deserves to have the term hero attached to his name,” said Bloomberg, calling the senator “nothing if not forthright.”
Bloomberg did make it known what he expected of McCain: “the measure I think we ought to apply in judging candidates is are they candid? Do they offer concrete solutions to our most difficult problems? And that’s what we’ll be looking for today.”
Without pointing to any one candidate, Bloomberg argued, “we need strong leadership, we needed it after 9/11 and I think we need it even more today than ever before.”
(CNN)— Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Thursday he feared his party's nominee facing Mitt Romney in the general election more than any other candidate.
“Frankly, Mitt Romney was the candidate I feared the most in the general because he’s got plenty of money, he’s wealthy,” Dean told reporters at a committee briefing. “He’s very articulate and he willing to say practically anything, and Republican voters want discipline.”
When asked if he'd fear a McCain-Romney ticket, Dean said the former Massachussetts governor was the best candidate the Republicans were probably “ever going to get.”
Romney dropped out of the presidential race last February saying that if he continued his campaign it would "forestall the launch of a national campaign…making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win." His departure from the race essentially secured John McCain’s place as the presumptive Republican nominee.
Dean also characterized McCain, as a “weak candidate,” one who is very out of touch with “21st century Americans” on issues like the economy, Iraq War, and health care. He added that McCain has no plans to get out of Iraq or solve the mortgage crisis.
(UPDATED with RNC response after the jump)
GARY, Indiana (CNN) - Barack Obama had strong words for Republican John McCain's economic speech Thursday, saying the Arizona senator's plan to assist homeowners doesn't include "any real answers" to the housing crisis.
Speaking to an audience in Gary, Indiana, Obama said, "I'm glad he finally offered a plan. Better late than never."
"Don't expect it to actually help struggling families," he continued. "Because Senator McCain's solution to the housing crisis seems like a lot like George Bush's solution to the housing crisis, which is to sit by and hope it passes by while families are facing foreclosure and watching their home values decline."
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds was quick to respond.
(CNN) - By now, everyone knows about the long-standing tensions between Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis. Saddam Hussein and his fellow Sunnis ruled over the Shiites with an iron grip even though the Shiites represent about 60 percent of Iraq’s population. The Sunnis compose only 20 percent of the population, while the Kurds, who are clustered largely in the northern part of the country, represent the remaining 20 percent or so.
With the removal of Saddam Hussein, the Shiites have come to dominate Iraq, including the government. To a certain degree, there has been plenty of payback.
Many Sunnis resisted that domination. Some went into exile. Others were in the forefront in the insurgency against the U.S. military and the Iraqi government.
That was especially true in the al-Anbar province which became a hotbed of violence. The Iraqi Sunni insurgents killed a lot of Americans.
But that began to change about a year ago when the U.S. counter-insurgency strategy was implemented by General David Petraeus. Part of the strategy was to put the al-Anbar Sunnis on the U.S. government’s payroll. That worked. More than 90,000 so-called “Sons of Iraq” began to cooperate with the U.S. military.
All of which is good background in understanding this exchange on Wednesday between Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey and General Petraeus - an exchange that mentioned something I had said in The Situation Room on Tuesday.
Congressman Smith referred to this comment I had made: “A lot of people fear that as quickly as these guys switched from being enemies, insurgents, terrorists killing Americans, killing Iraqi troops, and now being on the payroll, in effect, of the U.S. government, they could flip right back very quickly if they weren’t on the payroll of the U.S. government.”
(CNN) - Sen. Hillary Clinton's lead over Sen. Barack Obama in the crucial primary state of Pennsylvania has dwindled to 4 points, a CNN average of recent polls calculated Thursday shows.
The New York senator now holds a 4 point advantage over her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, 46 to 42 percent. Twelve percent of likely Democratic voters there remain unsure.
Recent CNN "poll of polls" suggest the race in Pennsylvania is tightening before the state's April 22 primary. A poll of polls calculated two days ago showed Clinton with a 6 point lead in Pennsylvania, and a poll of polls last Friday showed her on top by 11 points.
“Obama is outspending Clinton by better than two to one on television ads in Pennsylvania,” said Alan Silverleib, CNN’s senior political researcher. “Combine that with Clinton’s recent misstatement over her 1996 trip to Bosnia and the escalating chorus of voices calling on her to withdraw from the race, and you get a much tighter contest.”
Thursday's poll of polls included recent surveys from Time Magazine, American Research Group, and Quinnipiac University.
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
To Americans who want to end the war in Iraq, a Democratic president is the only answer. Or is it? Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both promising to withdraw U.S. military forces from Iraq if either is elected. If McCain wins, forget about it. He says we might be in Iraq a hundred years.
The thing is it might turn out to be easier for McCain to keep us in Iraq than for Clinton or Obama to get us out. This George Bush abomination is now in its sixth year. And the quicksand just gets deeper.
Iraq is no closer now to being a true functioning democracy capable of providing for its own security than it was five years ago. And the outlook for meaningful progress is awful. Both General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker describe the country as being in a fragile state and warn that security gains could vanish if troops leave too soon. See Basra without the British.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
(CNN) - John McCain said Thursday he would not attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics unless China changes some of its human rights practices.
"I believe President Bush should evaluate his participation in the ceremonies surrounding the Olympics and, based on Chinese actions, decide whether it is appropriate to attend," he said in the statement. "If Chinese policies and practices do not change, I would not attend the opening ceremonies. It does no service to the Chinese government, and certainly no service to the people of China, for the United States and other democracies to pretend that the suppression of rights in China does not concern us. It does, will and must concern us."
(Full statement after the jump)