(CNN) - Two days before Sarah Palin steps down from office, a new national poll indicates that a majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of the outgoing Alaska governor. But the ABC News/Washington Post survey released Friday also suggests that seven out of 10 Republican voters maintain a positive opinion of last year's GOP Vice Presidential nominee.
Fifty-three percent of those questioned in the poll view Palin negatively, with four in 10 holding a positive view of her. The survey is the second this week, following a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll released Thursday, to find more than half of all Americans viewing Palin in an unfavorable light.
The ABC News/Washington Post survey suggests that there is doubt about Palin's leadership skills and her understanding of intricate issues. Fifty-seven percent say they don't think Palin understands complex issues, and 54 percent do not feel she is a strong leader. The poll finds that Americans are split on whether Palin shares their values and understands the problems most people face. A slim majority of people questioned in the poll say Palin is honest and trustworthy, with four in 10 disagreeing.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Democrats split sharply over the issue of health care reform Friday as negotiations between a committee chairman and party conservatives broke down.
A key leader of the party's conservative faction later warned the party leadership not to ram the current version of the health care bill through by circumventing the traditional legislative process.
The escalating tension within the ranks of House Democrats raised new questions about the bill's prospects.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman told reporters on Capitol Hill that he is willing to keep talking with members of the Blue Dog coalition - an influential group of fiscal conservatives - but also made clear he intends to move forward with the legislation.
Waxman, a California Democrat, indicated that he would bypass a committee vote if necessary and bring the bill directly to the House floor for a final vote.
"We're not going to let (the Blue Dogs) empower the Republicans. I don't see any other alternative," he said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Attorney General Eric Holder who made headlines when he referred to the American people as "essentially a nation of cowards" in failing to openly discuss racial issues is staying mum on the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police incident.
Holder's chief spokesman said Holder would defer to the White House for comment on the controversial issue.
"Given that the president just spoke on this, I don't think we have anything to add," said Justice Department Director of Public Affairs Matthew Miller, a senior aide to Holder.
President Obama waded into the issue again Friday, informing the White House press corps he had spoken with Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley and said he had not meant to criticize either Crowley or the city's police department. The president later also called Professor Henry Louis Gates.
Holder issued his blunt assessment of race relations in a major speech at the Justice Department on February 19, where he addressed an overflow crowd celebrating Black History Month.
"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be in too many ways essentially a nation of cowards," he said then.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In a session with journalists today, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel sounded more optimistic about health care reform than many of his fellow Democrats. In fact, he made a point of telling reporters that secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spoke with the president today, said "I wish I was this close in '94," when she unsuccessfully attempted to shepherd her bill through Congress.
That said, Emanuel clearly understands the hurdles that lie ahead-particularly with members of his own party. Yet he insisted that the committees working on legislation in the House and the Senate are not as far apart on major matters as has been portrayed. Moreover, he added the status quo is unacceptable. Any measure, he said, must be deficit-neutral, bend the health care cost curve downward, and include one of the president's favorite plans, 'MedPac', which would empower an independent executive agency to curb health care costs.
When asked whether the president needs to outline a specific plan on health care, Emanuel made it clear the president is involved, and has no intention of doing so. "We made a choice...(to offer) broad oputlines and let the legislative process work," he said. "...(When you start with a bill) every change becomes a defeat. I've done that story line." But, he added, "don't think we are waiting...we are not sitting back like the Maytag man."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Democrats continue to splinter over President Obama's proposed health care reform plan, Republicans are taking the opportunity to home in on a key argument: A good bill deserves more time and deliberation.
Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Georgia, said Friday that Obama's rush to put a bill together is "totally irresponsible."
"Most of us believe that the decision as to major reform of how Americans get their health care in this country deserves at least as much time and deliberation as it would take to select a puppy to live in the White House," he said. "It took the president six months to decide how long and which puppy he was going to have. ... To expect Congress to do something on major health care reform in six days is totally irresponsible."
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, speaking on conservative Hugh Hewitt's radio show recently, was asked about whether his party had enough votes to block health care from going forward. His answer: "I think so. I really do."
"If he is unsuccessful, which I anticipate and will predict he is, on getting a vote prior to the August recess, then I would say there's no way in the world they're going to get this done this year," he added.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama's heading back on the campaign trail next month, this time for fellow Democrat Creigh Deeds.
The White House and the Deeds campaign confirmed Friday that the president will team up with Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate on Thursday, August 6 at a fundraiser and separate public event in McLean, Virginia.
This will be Obama's second campaign event since taking over as president in January. Last week, the president teamed up with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, who faces a tough re-election battle this year, at a campaign rally in the Garden State.
On the same day Obama was stumping for Corzine, Vice President Joe Biden headlined a fundraiser in Richmond, Virignia for Deeds. The state senator is locked in what polls suggest is a dead heat with Republican candidate Bob McDonnell, the former state attorney general. Virginia's incumbent governor, Democrat Tim Kaine, is term-limited and can't run for re-election.
While both gubernatorial contests will focus on state issues and the strengths of the candidates, national Republicans would like to make both races a referendum on Obama and the Democratic Party, since both seats are currently held by Democrats.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Friday he told the police officer who arrested an African-American Harvard professor that he did not mean to malign the Cambridge Police Department when he said the department "acted stupidly."
"Because this has been ratcheting up, and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up, I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think, I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sgt. (James) Crowley specifically," Obama said. "And I could have calibrated those words differently. And I told this to Sgt. Crowley."
Obama spoke at the White House daily news briefing, an hour after police unions in Massachusetts called on him to apologize.
He did not apologize for his remark, but repeated that he believed his choice of words was unfortunate.
The president said he continues to believe, "based on what I have heard, that police overreacted," and he also believes that the professor - his friend, Henry Louis Gates Jr. - "probably overreacted as well."
"My sense is you have got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved," he said.
He also rejected the idea that he should not have gotten involved because it is a local issue.
President Obama's full statement after the jump:
The Cambridge cops want an apology from the President of the United States for saying the police "acted stupidly" in the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.
They didn't get one today – but they got something:
The president made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room today… saying he spoke with the arresting officer and that he didn't mean to malign the police department. But he stopped short of apologizing.
This was a local story that likely would have gone away in a day or two… until President Obama got involved.
Mr. Obama criticized the arrest of Gates even though he admitted he didn't know all the facts. The first black president also talked about how blacks and Hispanics are still unfairly singled out for arrest.
Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct — when police responded to a possible break-in at his home. They say Gates at first refused to display ID… and then accused the officer of racism.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Democrats split sharply over the issue of health care reform Friday as a key committee chairman said he would not negotiate further with party conservatives worried about spiraling medical costs.
"We're not going to let them empower the Republicans. I don't see any other alternative," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-California.
Waxman's comments came shortly after a representative of a group of fiscally conservative House Democrats urged congressional leaders to slow the pace of health care deliberations.
Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross, a key member of the influential Blue Dog coalition, said he remains concerned that the legislation currently being pushed through the House of Representatives does not do enough to rein in health care inflation.
"This is fundamental change that's going to effect all 300 million people in America," Ross said on CNN's "American Morning."
"Let's not rush it. Let's slow down. Let's get it right and ensure that the American people get the kind of health care that they need and deserve."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama announced a new round of education stimulus spending Friday, unveiling a $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" fund to be allocated based on academic performance.
The money in the fund will be distributed based on plans by states to address four basic areas: adoption of internationally benchmarked standards; recruiting and retaining quality teachers and principals; building data systems to measure student success; and informing teachers on how to improve their practices and turn around low-performing schools.
States will also be judged on how well they have managed stimulus money they have already received, according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
"Discretionary award applications, including for Race to the Top funds, will be available in the coming months, and will ask, among other things, to what extent has a state increased/decreased its education budget (as a percentage of revenue) and what has a state done with the dollars it has received to date," Duncan wrote in a recent letter to Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pennsylvania.