(CNN) – It looks like Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's backing of President Obama stimulus package isn't hurting his approval ratings among Republican voters.
A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday finds the Republican governor received an impressive 68 percent approval rating from members of his own party - the same numbers he drew in November, before he appeared with the president at an event plugging the stimulus plan. He draws roughly the same positive ratings from Democrats and Independents: 66 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Independents approve of the job Crist is doing during his time in office.
Crist's 25 percent disapproval rating among Republican voters is sightly higher than the 20 percent of Democrats who give him negative marks.
"There may be some GOP activists who think Gov. Charlie Crist isn't conservative enough, but they aren't striking a chord around the state," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Across America, an awful lot of governors are seeing their approval ratings dip as the recession requires higher taxes and cuts in government programs, but Teflon Charlie keeps chugging along with numbers that most of his fellow governors would die for."
Fifty-eight percent of voters, a slightly lower number, believe the governor should be re-elected if he chooses to run for a second term.
The Quinnipiac University telephone poll of 1,332 Florida voters was conducted April 6-13, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
(CNN) - President Obama travels to Mexico on Thursday as the United States' neighbor to the south continues to wrestle with increasingly deadly drug wars.
Obama recently announced a crackdown on border violence and on the smuggling of cash and weapons into Mexico - a step that could mark an end to a blame game over where responsibility for the violence lies.
On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the president designated three Mexican organizations, which he says are involved in drug trafficking, to face hefty financial sanctions under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. The law, signed by President Bill Clinton in December 1999, authoritizes the president to impose penalties against foreign drug kingpins - and organizations that do business with them, according to the Treasury Department.
The president's action comes ahead of his trip to Mexico - along with attending the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago later this week - where drug violence will undoubtedly be debated. It's traditional for the new U.S. president to go north and south early on. Obama traveled to Canada in February.
Authorities on both sides of the border blame powerful drug cartels for escalating bloodshed. Analysts have said the bulk of the violence takes place along the U.S. border, particularly in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua and Tijuana - as well as on Mexico's western coast.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – It's tax deadline day, and activists are holding events nationwide protesting their federal tax burden and the government's spending policy. But are most Americans angry about the taxes they pay?
A national Gallup poll conducted last week finds that 48 percent of Americans say the amount of federal income taxes they pay is about right. That's two points higher than the forty-six percent of those questioned who felt that the taxes they pay were too high. It's also the most positive assessment on taxes that Gallup's measured in six years.
"Most of the movement in the Gallup poll came among people who make less than $75,000 a year," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "A majority of people in that category say their taxes are not too high, and they are the ones that the Obama administration has been targeting with their tax policy and their message on taxes. Maybe that message is being heard."
Conservative protesters gathering at more than 300 organized "tea party" demonstrations across the country say they are steamed at President Obama and the massive government spending that has occurred since he took over at the White House, and that Washington takes too much from their pocketbooks and wallets.
Meanwhile, Obama Wednesday touted his tax cut for 95 percent of working class Americans, courtesy of his stimulus package that Congress passed and the President signed into law. Obama also said at a White House event that he's working toward "a simpler tax code that rewards work and the pursuit of the American dream."
(CNN) - Democrats are taking aim at North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr over the Republican's recent remark that he advised his family last fall to withdraw as much money as they could from their bank accounts in reaction to the onset of the economic crisis.
"If this is Senator Burr's economic recovery plan for himself, it is no surprise he doesn't have one for the country," said Eric Schultz, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "Senator Burr, as a champion of the George Bush economy helped create this mess but will not lift a finger to get us out of it.”
According to the (Burlington, NC) Times-News, Burr told North Carolina business owners Monday the collapse of major financial institutions last fall convinced him his family's bank accounts could have been frozen.
"On Friday night, I called my wife and I said, 'Brooke, I am not coming home this weekend. I will call you on Monday. Tonight, I want you to go to the ATM machine, and I want you to draw out everything it will let you take. And I want you to tomorrow, and I want you to go Sunday,'" Burr said during a speech at a Henderson County Chamber of Commerce meeting.
"I was convinced on Friday night that if you put a plastic card in an ATM machine the last thing you were going to get was cash," said Burr.
The senator, whose approval ratings are languishing in recent state polls, faces re-election in 2010 and is among the Democrats' top targets.
Brian Walsh, the communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said, "The Democrats’ response highlights perfectly the competing views of the two parties when it comes to strengthening the economy. "
"In just the first three months of this year, Senate Democrats have voted for more spending than the previous Administration spent on Iraq, Afghanistan and Katrina recovery combined so its little wonder Americans want to keep their hard earned money away from the grips of Washington," he also said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Finger sandwiches won't be served, but there will be a lot of frustration brewing about the current tax system at "Tea Parties" being held Wednesday across the nation.
Activists are holding these events on tax day to voice their opposition to the current tax system and the federal government's spending decisions, such as bailing out the banks and the auto industry.
So, what do you think? Have President Obama and Congress taken the right steps to help the ailing economy? Have Republicans been smart to oppose his fiscal policies? Does the tax code need an overhaul?
Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.
Here are some CNN stories about the nationwide "Tax Day Tea Party":
Activists gear up for national 'Tax Day Tea Party'
GOP uses tax day to raise money
GOP encourages supporters to send virtual tea bags to top Dems
Listen: CNN Radio analyzes the politics of Tax Day
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Democratic Governors Association raised $5.3 million in the first three months of 2009, the group announced Wednesday - the largest amount of money the committee has ever collected in the first quarter of an off-year cycle.
The DGA raised $23 million in 2008. But Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, the DGA's chairman, upped the ante for the next round of campaigns, calling the upcoming gubernatorial races in 2009 and 2010 "once-in-a-generation elections."
While 36 governorships are up for grabs in the 2010 midterms, two governorships are at stake this November: in Virginia (an open seat) and in New Jersey (where incumbent governor Jon Corzine will have the ability to spend millions from his own pockets to defeat his Republican challenger).
That means the DGA's cash could be especially useful for the eventual Democratic nominee in Virginia, who will emerge on June 9 after what is shaping up to be a long and costly three-way primary battle. The winner will face the Republican candidate, Bob McDonnell, who has no primary challenger and has so far avoided spending a significant chuck of his war chest.
(Updated after the jump with Republican response)
(CNN) - One of the women in charge of the Obama administration's efforts to change the nation's health care system said adding a plan offered by the government is preferable to a mostly-private insurance system, and told reporters a lot work is going on behind the scenes to help achieve the President's goal of passing a comprehensive plan this year.
"We're making a lot of progress," Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office for Health Reform, told a roomful of about 60 journalists Wednesday.
DeParle, on the job for about a month, holds one of the two key administration positions that former Senator Tom Daschle was slated to fill as health care czar before he pilled out of consideration because of tax issues.
She has spent much of her time trying to build consensus among the many and diverse parties key to achieving such a massive overhaul: she has met with 40 members of Congress, sat down with a wide variety of interest groups in an effort to help build consensus, and traveled the country attending regional forums examining the nation's health care system.
Whether a final health care bill includes a new health insurance plan offered by the government in some form is one of the thorniest issues.
(CNN) - It's official. Former Rep. Pat Toomey is challenging Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter for his Senate seat, again.
Toomey formally announced his 2010 Senate bid Wednesday, the second time he will challenge the incumbent Pennsylvania senator after running an unsuccessful primary campaign against him in 2004.
"I'm running against Arlen Specter in the Republican primary because we need a new direction and positive solutions," Toomey says on his campaign website, ToomeyForSenate.com.
Toomey announced Monday he would begin taking steps to challenge Specter, but formally announced his candidacy Wednesday. Specter had already begun releasing campaign ads targeting his opponent before the former congressman made his announcement official.
Toomey's replacement at the head of the limited-government, anti-tax Club for Growth is former Rep. Chris Chocola. The new president announced Wednesday the group was making its first two Senate endorsements of the 2010 cycle, backing incumbent Republicans Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn.
(CNN) – Right-wing extremist groups may be using the recession and the election of the nation's first African-American president to recruit members, a Department of Homeland Security report contends.
The Department of Homeland Security says membership in extremists groups like this may be increasing.
Though the nine-page report said it has "no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence," it said real-estate foreclosures, unemployment and tight credit "could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past."
The report, prepared in coordination with the FBI and published April 7, was distributed to federal, state and local law enforcement officials under the title "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment."
It compares the current climate the 1990s, "when right-wing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs, and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers."
It cites proposed restrictions on weapons as likely to increase membership in extremist groups and expresses concern the groups might try to recruit veterans.
(CNN) – Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's career as a politician appears to be over, but a new career in the world of reality television could just be beginning.
The impeached former governor has inked a deal to appear on an NBC celebrity-themed reality show, assuming a federal judge allows him to travel as his criminal charges remain pending, the network said in a statement.
The upcoming show, called I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, pits 10 celebrities in a Costa Rican village for a month while they battle each other in competitions and put their survival skills to the test. The show will air nightly and viewers will have the final say on which celebrities have to go home early.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the financially-strained Blagojevich stands to make $80,000 a week for his appearance on the show. Blagojevich's attorney will soon make a formal request that the former governor be allowed to travel outside of the country for the gig, the Tribune also reported.
An ill-fated earlier iteration of the show ran on ABC six years ago, when the celebrity cast included Melissa Rivers, Bruce Jenner, and Tyson Beckford. Chris Judd, the onetime husband of Jennifer Lopez, won the competition that year. The show drew little attention then and was not renewed.
Blagojevich, who was impeached and removed from office earlier this year, pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges Tuesday. A federal grand jury indicted him this month on 16 felony counts, including racketeering, conspiracy, wire fraud and making false statements to investigators.i