(CNN) - A few hours after Rush Limbaugh told listeners GOP leaders launching a Republican re-branding effort hated and feared Sarah Palin, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor announced that the Alaska governor had finally accepted an invitation to join the group.
On a conference call last week for the National Council for a New America, former Republican presidential candidate John McCain said he thought his running mate would probably be part of the effort as well - but there had been no immediate confirmation by her office.
The two groups of key Palin aides - those in the governor's office in Alaska, and at her Virginia-based political action committee SarahPAC - have often given very different messages on her participation in various efforts: Congressional leaders and conservative activists have both announced Palin's planned attendance at major events this year after receiving assurances from one set of advisors, only to learn later from other aides that she hadn't yet made a decision.
The governor's decision to join the NCNA's panel of experts was confirmed Monday by spokeswoman Meg Stapleton.
HERSHEY, Pennsylvania (CNN) - He has represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate for nearly three decades, but Arlen Specter now has to re-introduce himself back home.
That was the primary goal at Specter's first town-hall meeting as a Democrat on Monday, where he was still stunningly blunt about the real reason he left the GOP: Specter knew he would lose his seat as a Republican.
"Do I want to stay in the Senate, of course I do. Do you like your jobs? Sure you do," Specter quipped to an audience of some 300 at the Hershey Medical Center.
But Specter also made clear he is now on a campaign to convince voters that his abrupt party switch isn't just about him, it's about what he does for them.
"My senior position on appropriations has enabled me to bring a lot of jobs and a lot of federal funding to this state," Specter said.
(CNN) - CNN's Jeanne Moos has the inside story on the Obamas' date night in Georgetown Saturday.
(CNN) - Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told President Obama Monday not to nominate a "judicial activist" to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, according to a statement from Hatch's office.
In a telephone call, Hatch "advised the president to choose a nominee who is more in step with mainstream America and would uphold the rule of law," the statement said. "The president assured Hatch that this was his intention, that he would appoint a pragmatist, not a radical, to this important position."
The White House also said Monday President Obama telephoned two members of the Senate Judiciary Commitee and "vowed to consult regularly with Senators in both parties to ensure an orderly confirmation process that will allow Justice Souter's replacement to be confirmed by the beginning of the Court's next session."
UPDATE: Sen. Arlen Specter, the former ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also spoke with President Obama Monday about the impending Supreme Court nomination:
“The president called me around noon today to begin the consultation process on a new Supreme Court nominee," Specter said in a statement. "He asked for recommendations and I told him I would think it over and get back to him."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - First lady Michelle Obama turned her eyes to health and education during a trip Monday to a District of Columbia school.
Celebrating Cinco de Mayo one day early, she spoke about education and told the crowd to send "good thoughts" to those in Mexico who have been sickened with swine flu in recent weeks.
"At the time that we're celebrating Mexican culture and heritage, it is so important for us to think about some of the challenges that the folks in Mexico are facing right now," she told the crowd of about 200 students, faculty and guests from two public charter schools, Latin American Montessori Bilingual and Next Step.
She also highlighted the D.C. Scholars program, which grants White House internships to students from Washington-area public schools and encourages them to take advantage of their proximity to the nation's politics by engaging in public service.
Obama took several questions from the students, joking, "Make them very easy questions, because it's very nerve-wracking up here."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Pakistani forces continue to battle an advancing Taliban, the leading senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced legislation Monday tripling aid to the country.
The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, introduced by Senators John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and Dick Lugar, R-Indiana, authorizes $7.5 billion in non-military aid to Pakistan over the next five years to foster economic growth and development, and another $7.5 billion for the following five years.
The $1.5 billion per year would triple U.S. non-military aid levels, currently at $500 million per year. In the past, U.S. military aid has surpassed economic and other assistance. The legislation also would separate military from non-military aid, promising that economic aid "is no longer the poor cousin to military aid."
In a statement released Monday, the senators said they aim to build "a deeper, broader, long-term strategic engagement with the people," rather than just the leaders of Pakistan, acknowledging past U.S. aid to the country had been tied to political events, "sending mixed messages and leading most Pakistanis to question both our intentions and our staying power."
George W. Bush often has said that historians will vindicate his presidency. And since he left office, he's moving fast to give them the tools.
Longtime financial backers of the 43rd president have raised more than $100 million for a presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas that will house his official papers, sources close to Bush told TIME. Much of the money was collected in the 100 days or so since Bush left the White House, a pace much faster than that of his recent predecessors. At least so far, none of it has come from overseas, the sources said.
The Bush fundraising effort, compared to that of his predecessor, is off to a brisk start. Bill Clinton's library planners had hoped to receive pledges of $100 million within a year of the end of his presidency, but a pardons scandal delayed that achievement for another year, said Skip Rutherford, who chaired the Clinton library committee.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A book written by President Obama's mother, who died of cancer in 1995, will be published in December, Duke Press announced Monday.
The book is based on Ann Dunham's 14-year research on the metalworking industry in rural Java, an island in Indonesia. Two anthropologists are revising and editing her dissertation into a book, called "Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia."
Dunham died of cancer in 1995, but finished her dissertation for the University of Hawaii in 1992. Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama's sister, said she was "delighted" that her mother's book is being published.
"My hope is that this book will be read by those who come to love the particularities of its world and who also see the myriad potential application of its ideas and methods to other worlds," Soetoro-Ng said in a statement
WASHINGTON (CNN) - While acknowledging federal authorities are investigating the finances related to John Edwards political efforts, he and his wife say they don't believe there was any financial wrongdoing.
Investigators are focusing their inquiry on the more than $114,000 in payments from July 2006 through February 2007 by Edwards' political action committee to a production company owned by Rielle Hunter, a woman he had an affair with, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
Hunter recorded web videos of Edwards for the political action committee. The payments were listed in federal election records as related to website/internet services work.
After months of tabloid rumors, Edwards admitted last summer he and Hunter had a previous affair.
In a statement given to several news organizations, including CNN, Edwards for the first time acknowledgedthere is an ongoing federal probe but would provide no further details.
"I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly," Edwards said in the statement. "However, I know that it is the role of government to ensure that this is true. We have made available to the UnitedStates both the people and the information necessary to help get the issue resolved efficiently and in atimely manner."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama has begun reaching out to senators who will play a key role in the confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee, who the White House hopes will be seated before the court starts its next session.
The president is aware of a "fairly tight timeline" to nominate a candidate in time for the Senate to hold hearings and vote, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Monday. The next session will begin in
Obama got his first opportunity to have an impact on the nation's highest court when Justice David Souter announced Friday he will leave the bench after
The president wants to have a nominee in place and "get something done before Congress gets out of town in August," Gibbs said. That would mean the Senate would vote on the nominee shortly after the August recess ends around Labor Day, if not before, he said. He later clarified his remarks, saying that by late July "this process has to be a decent ways down the field."