WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chip Saltsman will travel the country next week to meet with high-ranking Republicans as he considers a bid to be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee.
But don’t look for him running through any major airports. Instead, Saltsman will pilot his own plane – a Piper Arrow – which will allow him to touch down in small airports and avoid the inconveniences of commercial flying.
“I am looking forward to sitting down, face-to-face with as many members of the committee over the next couple of weeks and talk about the future of the party and how we can put together a winning formula for 2010,” said Saltsman, who gained acclaim for his role as Mike Huckabee’s campaign manager in the 2008 race for the GOP presidential nomination.
Saltsman, a businessman based in Nashville, has strong ties to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and is also known for his fundraising ability.
Two other Republicans have already officially declared their candidacies for the race for GOP chair: Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.
Sen. John Sununu, a rising star in the GOP who was defeated in his re-election race last week, has not ruled out a possible bid to lead the committee.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - It’s the first big battle for the future of the Republican Party.
Early next year, party leaders will gather to elect the next chairman of the Republican National Committee, which the GOP’s principal campaign and fund-raising organization.
Current chairman Mike Duncan, whose term is drawing to a close, has been non-committal regarding a run for re-election. "I don't know. My job is to continue this election,” Duncan told CNN Friday, when asked about the possibility of another term at the helm of the RNC. “We have the runoff in Georgia, we have the recount going in Minnesota, we have two elections that haven't been held yet in Louisiana. My first responsibility is to do my day job. After that I will make a decision.”
Asked about criticism of the GOP after its loss of the White House and seats in both chambers of Congress in last week's election, Duncan said that "the Republican Party has not lost its way," adding that "we have a deep bench in the Republican Party, and we have a lot of people who are interest in being RNC Chairman."
Among those who've formally thrown their hats into the ring are former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele and Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis.
(full list of candidates after the jump)
WASHINGTON (CNN) – In the best tradition of the CIA spymaster he once was, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is still holding his cards close on whether he has had any discussions with President-elect Obama about remaining at his post in the new administration.
Speaking tersely to CNN in a Pentagon hallway Friday, Gates said, "Nice try," when asked if he or his staff had spoken to the president-elect or his staff.
He said he had "nothing to add" to a statement he made earlier this week in which he told reporters, "I have nothing new to say on that subject."
But Gates' non-answers are a change from earlier in the year, when the idea seemed more remote.
"The circumstances under which I would do that are inconceivable to me," Gates craftily replied in an April 2008 Pentagon news briefing.
(CNN) – Hillary Clinton refused to speculate on whether she will be a member of Barack Obama's administration Friday.
"I'm very happy there is so much press attention and interest in transit," Clinton said to laughs during a speech in Albany on the subject. "In the off chance that you're not here for this important issue and are here for some other reason, let me just say that I'm not going to speculate or address anything about the president-elect's incoming administration."
(CNN) – With the election over, 1960s radical William Ayers emerged Friday for an interview to promote an updated version of his memoir, saying that the Republicans’ attempt to tie him to President-elect Barack Obama was a “dishonest narrative” with the intent of “demonizing” Ayers.
Ayers was interviewed on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America,’ telling anchor Chris Cuomo that he doesn't know Obama any better than “thousands of other Chicagoans” and that “a secret link” between the two men is a “myth.”
Cuomo asked Ayers about describing his relationship with Obama as 'family friends' in the afterward of his book, a relationship he defined Friday as "professional."
“I’m talking there about that fact that I became an issue unwittingly and unwillingly in the campaign and I decided that I didn’t want to answer any of it at that moment because it was such a profoundly dishonest narrative," said Ayers. "I’m describing there how the blogosphere characterized the relationship. I would say, really, that we knew each other in a professional way, again, on the same level as, say, thousands of other people.”
The anti-Vietnam War activist who bombed the Pentagon, Capitol and New York City police headquarters became a household name in the waning weeks of the campaign with Sarah Palin accusing Obama of “palling around with terrorists” and John McCain arguing that the Illinois senator should be pressed further on his relationship with the “unrepentant terrorist.”
RNC Chairman Mike Duncan appeared on American Morning Friday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The man steering the Republican Party says he's concerned that Democrats may try to unfairly influence the Senate contest in Minnesota, which is headed towards a recount, and the Senate battle in Georgia, which is headed towards a runoff.
In a fundraising letter to supporters, Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan charged that "the Obama-Biden Democrats and their liberal special interest allies are trying to steal these election victories from Republicans. They are pouring all their available resources into these campaigns. The Obama Campaign has tens of millions of dollars leftover that they are sure to dump into the Democrat challengers’ campaign coffers."
Duncan then made a pitch for donations, saying that "victory in these vital contests depends on our GOP candidates having the necessary resources for the recounts and runoffs they are facing, starting immediately."
Duncan was questioned by CNN American Morning anchor John Roberts Friday morning about his fundraising letter charges, especially the Minnesota race where the incumbent freshman Senator Norm Coleman is just 206 votes ahead of his Democratic challenger, Al Franken. “We have got to make sure there's not a thumb on the scale,” said Duncan. “We have to got to make sure that we have our people in the rooms making sure that it's a straight count. And that's what we're doing. We have deployed people up there (in Minnesota). We need resources to be able to do that. That recount is very close."
ABOARD THE CNN EXPRESS
Doug, Eric, and Vickie Stanton in Millennium Park (Josh Rubin/CNN)
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN)– Mixed messages:
“I've always thought that Chicago is the number-one city in the world,” said Doug Stanton, 66, visiting from South Carolina.
“This should make even more people want to come and take a look,” said his wife, Vickie, 64.
“I was here in the mid-1990s, and Chicago felt like it was in a slump,” said their son, Eric, 36. “It feels different now. I think that this probably has something to do with it.”
The “this” he was talking about was the election of Barack Obama, of Chicago, to the presidency. After months of rolling through different cities just about every day, our bus is now lingering in one place: Millennium Park, in downtown Chicago. We're here for the transition, because Obama, most of the time, is here.
Which is the message the world is receiving: Chicago, home of Obama, is now the political home of all things powerful and urgent.
There is another message this week, though, being heard more quietly even as visitors to Chicago talk about the high spirits of these pre-inauguration days.
“As the president-elect himself announced last Friday. . .,” the tinny, distant voice said through the telephone receiver.
MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (CNN) – South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint on Friday became one of the first high-profile Republicans to publicly criticize John McCain following his electoral defeat, blaming the Arizona senator for betraying conservative principles in his quest for the White House.
The conservative senator, speaking to a group of GOP officials gathered in Myrtle Beach at a conference on the future of the Republican Party, described how the party had strayed from its own "brand," which, according to DeMint, should represent freedom, religious-based values and limited government.
"We have to be honest, and there's a lot of blame to go around, but I have to mention George Bush, and I have to mention Ted Stevens, and I'm afraid I even have to mention John McCain," he said.
DeMint offered a long list of complaints about McCain's record in the Senate and on the campaign trail.
"McCain, who is proponent of campaign finance reform that weakened party organizations and basically put George Soros in the driver's seat," DeMint said. "His proposal for amnesty for illegals. His support of global warming, cap-and-trade programs that will put another burden on our economy. And of course, his embrace of the bailout right before the election was probably the nail in our coffin this last election. And he has been an opponent of drilling in ANWR, at a time when energy is so important. It really didn't fit the label, but he was our package."
Bush and Stevens, he said, had corrupted the party brand by expanding the size of government and engaging in wasteful government spending. Had Republicans not strayed from their core beliefs in recent years, DeMint argued, the election results might have been different.
(CNN) - Barack Obama and John McCain will meet in Chicago next week, the Obama-Biden transition team announced Friday.
"On Monday, President-elect Barack Obama and Senator John McCain will meet in Chicago at transition headquarters,” said transition spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter.
“It's well known that they share an important belief that Americans want and deserve a more effective and efficient government, and will discuss ways to work together to make that a reality. They will be joined in the meeting by Senator Lindsey Graham and Congressman Rahm Emanuel."
The two men spoke by phone Election Night, but have not met in person since the Al Smith dinner in New York on October 16.
(CNN) - Rep. Richard Renzi of Arizona has been reindicted on 43 criminal counts by a federal grand jury in Arizona, adding racketeering and tax allegations to previous charges, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
The superseding indictment stems from a land deal that allegedly netted Renzi more than $700,000 in exchange for supporting legislation. It comes as Renzi, a Republican, prepares to leave office and face a criminal trial.
He announced he would not seek re-election after he was indicted last February.
Three other defendants also were named in the new indictment.