NEW YORK (CNN) - Conservative talk radio host Armstrong Williams has never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. In fact, he says he has never even thought about the opposition. But this year – as Williams told me on today’s American Morning - things might be different. At the very least, he is thinking about the opposition. A lot. “You cannot help but look at and realize,” he told me, “that if Senator Obama wins, it’ll be the first time that someone would occupy the White House other than white men of America.”
For many Americans, that’s a heady thought – one that could be transformational in so many ways. Yet at the same time, Williams insists, Obama’s race is not a factor in his seesawing political emotions. “There’s no way I could vote for a candidate because of his race”, Williams said, “because it would contradict everything I’ve ever written and said in the past about racial politics. But, I’m open”.
So can we believe that race isn’t a factor in this rock-ribbed Republican’s potential conversion, particularly since Williams says about Obama’s policies “there’s not much I can embrace now”? Let’s consider former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts’ thoughts on the matter. Watts is one of a number of “Obamacons” – conservatives, including many African-Americans, who are giving the Senator a good, hard look. Obamacons believe he may be the best-equipped to take on poverty and urban policy, issues that are as important to them as low taxes and constructionist judges. Williams told me today “It would be foolish of me to say you cannot look at his candidacy and realize there’s something here that not only America but the world is ecstatic about.”
Obamacons believe he may be good for what ails the nation and the world.
As enticing as it might seem, the Obama medicine would be tough for Republicans to swallow. Pundits joke that the Senator’s policies make Ted Kennedy look like a conservative. Could they really set aside his views on taxes and abortion? Could they ignore the type of judges he would appoint to the Supreme Court? At this point, Williams isn’t sure. He hopes Obama might make enough progress on issues like capital gains and partial birth abortion to make him comfortable, but so far, there’s no suggestion of that. But William’s 82 year-old mother is committed. “She’s determined, and she’s voting for him,” he told me. “She never thought she would live to see the day that she would see the progress of America where we could show people that we’ve moved beyond this silly issue of race.” And for Obamacons, that may be the deciding factor.
Watch Sen. Obama's announcement Thursday that he will not accept public financing for the general election campaign.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Barack Obama has decided not to accept public financing for his campaign, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee told supporters Thursday.
In an e-mail message, Obama said his decision means that his campaign will forego over $80 million in public funds.
In exchange for taking public funds, candidates usually agree to a cap on the amount of money they can spend on their campaigns.
"It's not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections," Obama wrote. "But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system."
Obama has repeatedly broken campaign fundraising records during the Democratic primary season. Since January of 2007, has raised over $272 million.
Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, raised less than half of that, roughly $100 million, over the same period.
(CNN) - Before the Ohio primary in March, the battle between Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton morphed into a fierce debate over free trade – a clash that seemed to hinge on which candidate could appear more anti-NAFTA.
Now, in an interview with Fortune magazine, Obama appears to backing off his tough talk on trade.
"Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified," Obama told Fortune.
Obama has consistently described him himself a free-trader at heart, but the heightened rhetoric on NAFTA put forth by both he and Clinton opened the Democrats up to accusations of political pandering from Republicans and editorial boards.
In February, Obama said during a presidential debate in Cleveland that job losses brought about by NAFTA were "devastating on the community." He told the Associated Press that same month that "I don't think NAFTA has been good for America, and I never have."
Fortune asked Obama if his trade rhetoric was "overheated and amplified."
"Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don't exempt myself," Obama responded.
(CNN) - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will be in the spotlight Thursday evening when John McCain makes two campaign stops in Minneapolis and St. Paul, but Pawlenty - often floated as a possible running mate for McCain - continues to deny that he is being considered for a vice presidential nod.
On Tuesday's edition of "The Situation Room," Wolf Blitzer asked Pawlenty if the McCain campaign had begun to "vet" him.
"They have not," Pawlenty said. "I haven't been asked. I don't expect to be asked. But you're always kind to inquire about that, Wolf."
Pawlenty was again asked about being on the ticket Wednesday by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune, but he again dismissed the speculation.
"I'm honored to have my name mentioned,” Pawlenty answered. "The fact is, I haven't been asked, and I don't expect to be asked."
According the newspaper, Pawlenty was asked point blank if he has had any discussions with the McCain campaign.
The governor issued a straightforward response: "None."
(CNN) - Barack Obama will become the first major party presidential nominee to refuse general election public financing in the program’s history, since it first went into effect in the 1976 presidential election as part of a package of post-Watergate campaign finance reforms
Candidates who participate in the program receive a grant from the federal government (approximately $85 million per major party nominee) from which the candidate’s entire general election campaign must be financed. Participating candidates may not raise or spend money outside of this public funding grant.
In February 2007, Obama asked the Federal Election Commission whether federal rules allowed presidential candidates to begin raising money for the general election and then later return that money should the candidate decide later to participate in the general election public financing program. The FEC ruled unanimously in March 2007 that presidential candidates could essentially change their minds and accept general election public financing - provided that they return any money raised for the general election while following certain guidelines. Obama’s actions were seen as a desire on his part to preserve the public financing option, while still enabling him to protectively raise general election money.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is planning to beef up the team surrounding his wife Michelle Obama, to give her the kind of professional campaign veterans experienced in rapid response to negative attacks – the kind of staff that is usually only seen around an actual candidate, according to a senior aide.
The move is meant to address concerns within the campaign that Michelle Obama will be the target of significant attacks from conservatives this year. Their pre-emptive response is a team that one aide says is unprecedented in presidential politics. According to multiple aides, this team will work with Mrs. Obama to modify her stump speech - in part to include more stories from the voters she met during the primary season - in a bid to counter criticism by some conservatives that she is out of touch.
Former Kerry campaign Communications Director Stephanie Cutter has already been tapped as Mrs. Obama’s chief of staff, and additional staff will be hired in the coming weeks.
Aides say they expect Mrs. Obama to make occasional campaign stops over the next several weeks - including roundtables with military wives, and a womens’ event next week – before hitting the trail full time around July 4.
Compiled by Mary Grace Lucas
CNN Washington Bureau
CNN: Politicians flock to Russert funeral
Tom Brokaw lifted a bottle of Rolling Rock beer in tribute to fallen colleague Tim Russert, part of a day of tributes that brought the nation's top journalists and politicians and even Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain together.
WSJ: McCain Appears to Trail In Trio of Battleground States; Polls Show Obama Has Lead in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania
New polling shows Barack Obama leading in key states, even though he hasn't gotten a significant bump in national polling since securing the Democratic nomination.
New York Sun: Obama Eyes a Running Mate Who Confers With McCain
When the advisers tapped by Senator Obama to find a vice president met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, one name that leaked out was that of a former NATO commander, General James Jones.
San Francisco Gate: McCain's support among GOP women shows cracks
The challenges facing Sen. Barack Obama as he tries to woo supporters of former rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton could pale in comparison with Sen. John McCain's troubles with female voters – if the voices of a growing number of prominent Republican women are any indication.
CNNMoney.com: Obama: NAFTA not so bad after all
The Democratic nominee, in an interview with Fortune, says he wants free trade "to work for all people."
Compiled by Mary Grace Lucas, CNN Washington Bureau
* Sen. John McCain visits flooded areas in Columbus Junction, IA. He then moves on to a town hall meeting at Landmark Center in St. Paul, MN.
* Sen. Barack Obama meets with the Congressional Black Caucus at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.