WASHINGTON (CNN) - A Republican congresswoman apologized Thursday for saying that her party is looking for a "great white hope" to counteract President Obama's political agenda.
Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins told the Lawrence Journal-World that she did not intend to make a racist comment, and was simply saying that "Republicans have been suffering in recent years and we need a bright light."
"Obviously I was discussing the future of the Republican Party in response to a question about is there any hope for Republicans," Jenkins said. "I was explaining that there are some bright lights in the House, and I was unaware of any negative connotation. If I offended somebody, obviously I apologize."
Jenkins had been criticized for saying at an August 19 forum in Kansas that the GOP needs "to find the great white hope" to help the party succeed in the future.
"Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope," Jenkins said. "I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Massachusets politicians ponder whether the Senate seat of Sen. Edward Kennedy will remain vacant until there is a special election, one influential national Democrat is endorsing the idea of an interim appointment.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, likes the idea.
As Congress moves to critical falls this fall on health care, such a move would again give Democrats the crucial 60 votes in the chamber, since Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick would be expected to appoint a Democrat. The two independents in the Senate usually vote with the Democrats. Sixty is considered a supermajority because that is the number needed to cut off any filibuster.
"While it is ultimately up to the people of Massachusetts and their representatives at the State House to decide this matter, Senator Reid agrees with Senator Kennedy and Gov. Patrick that the law should be changed," Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, told CNN. "With so many important matters to be decided, the people of the Commonwealth need two Senators to represent Massachusetts until the special election."
Reid's office confirms he has discussed the issue with Governor Patrick, who has embraced the appointment idea. Current state law says the seat will remain vacant until a special election is held between 145 and 160 days after the seat became empty - with the clock starting to tick on Wednesday.
(CNN) – Former President George H.W. Bush will not attend Ted Kennedy's private funeral mass in Boston on Saturday, his spokesman Jim McGrath told CNN.
McGrath said the 41st president spoke to Kennedy's wife Vicki and his niece Caroline to let them know. Earlier reports had said that all four living presidents would attend the service.
Former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are still scheduled to attend.
Earlier: All four ex-presidents to attend Kennedy funeral
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Federal Election Commissions said Thursday that the Club for Growth - a group that advocates fiscally conservative policies - may use information in Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter's campaign finance reports in order to inform Specter's donors that the longtime senator is no longer a Republican and has switched his party affiliation to Democrat as he seeks to retain his seat in 2010.
When Specter announced his party switch in late April, he also announced that he would refund any contribution given during the current election cycle by donors who wanted their money returned.
The Club for Growth, which was once run by Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey, asked the FEC for permission to access Specter's campaign finance reports in order to identify Specter donors entitled to a refund and to inform them of their ability to seek a refund if they desire to do so.
In a decision rendered Thursday, the FEC granted the group access to Specter's FEC reports under a number of conditions, including that the group not use the Specter donor information to solicit contributions or for any commercial purpose.
Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak recently announced that he will challenge Specter for the Democratic senate nomination. The winner of that primary will face off against Toomey in the general election in 2010.
In its second quarter campaign finance report, the Specter campaign reported returning $225,000 to Republican donors.
(CNN) – Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin appears to be involved in another scheduling mishap, the fourth time in as many months organizers of an event expected an appearance from the GOP star only to discover at the last minute she would not attend.
The latest confusion involves an Alaska Family Council event Thursday night to promote a state ballot issue that would make it illegal for anyone under 18 years old to obtain an abortion without parental consent.
While the organization continues to bill Palin on its Web site as the top speaker at the kickoff for a statewide signature drive, a spokeswoman for the former governor says Palin had never agreed to participate, nor was she even asked.
"To this very moment, she has never been asked to give a speech at a public venue," Palin spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton told CNN.
Instead, Stapleton said, event organizers had invited Palin to attend a private fundraiser for the organization - but she declined the invitation because of prior out-of-state plans.
"The governor notified the group that she is out of town, but would make a donation," Stapleton said. "And she did also mention that since people have already begun signing the petition, she could sign the petition when she returns in the near future."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama's political arm will email 500,000 senior citizens Thursday afternoon to make the case that opponents of health care reform are engaging in a disinformation campaign in an effort to derail Obama's efforts to overhaul the nation's health care system.
"Special interests and insurance companies are spreading lies and trying to scare seniors into opposing health reform that will help us - just so they can protect their own profits," Connie L., who describes herself as a Florida volunteer for Organizing for America, writes in the note. "It's shameful."
Connie then goes on to tell the e-mail recipients, who identified themselves to Obama's political operation as "seniors," that "President Obama's plan for health insurance is good for seniors" and lists five major reasons to justify her claim.
Members of Congress have spent the month of August explaining their views on health care reform at constituent town hall meetings. Both supporters and opponents of Obama's approach to health care reform are targeting seniors - a very active voting bloc whose lives are intimately bound up in the outcome of the debate.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll taken earlier this month showed that 50 percent of Americans favor Obama's health care plan, while 45 percent oppose it.
OFA is housed at the Democratic National Committee
(Text of the e-mail after the jump.)
DORCHESTER, Massachusetts (CNN) – The body of Sen. Edward Kennedy was brought to his late brother John's presidential library Thursday, providing a final opportunity for countless local friends, family and constituents to say goodbye.
The senator's motorcade arrived at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library from the family's Hyannisport compound on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, after making a slow detour past several downtown Boston sites of importance to the Kennedy family.
Among other things, the motorcade crossed the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a park named for the senator's mother and one-time family matriarch. It also passed applauding crowds of onlookers at historic Faneuil Hall, where Kennedy launched his ill-fated 1980 presidential campaign, the Massachusetts State House and the home that President Kennedy lived in when he first ran for
Congress in 1946.
A bell at Faneuil Hall was rung 47 times - once for each of Kennedy's 47 years in the U.S. Senate.
(CNN) – Mark Sanford's former communications director Joel Sawyer - who resigned in July in the weeks after the South Carolina governor admitted to an extramarital affair - announced the formation of a new communications consulting firm on Thursday.
Sawyer said his firm - New Level Strategies - will offer public relations advice, message development and crisis communications consulting to companies and Republican political clients.
After Sanford mysteriously disappeared from Columbia in June, Sawyer famously told reporters that his then-boss had gone hiking on the Appalachian Trail to clear his mind after a bruising legislative session. Sanford was actually visiting his mistress in Argentina. The governor later admitted that he misled his staff, including Sawyer, about his whereabouts.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Responding to speculation that Mitt Romney might be looking at Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, a Romney spokesman said Thursday the former Massachusetts governor isn't interested.
"Governor Romney's focus right now is on helping other Republicans run for office, and that is how he will be spending his time," Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom said in an e-mail to CNN.
Romney mounted a challenge to Kennedy in 1994 but lost by 17 points. The former GOP presidential candidate referred to the race in a statement he released on Wednesday after Kennedy died.
"In 1994, I joined the long list of those who ran against Ted and came up short," Romney said. "But he was the kind of man you could like even if he was your adversary. I came to admire Ted enormously for his charm and sense of humor - qualities all the more impressive in a man who had known so much loss and sorrow."
Romney is widely believed to have his eyes set on a bigger prize than a U.S. Senate seat, and is considered likely to seek the presidency again in 2012. Another statewide run might also pose a tougher challenge for Romney than he faced when he last won office as a pro-choice candidate, in a state Barack Obama won by 25 points last November.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Kennedy family started a Twitter account Wednesday to inform followers about memorial and funeral plans for Senator Ted Kennedy.
The account - @KennedyNews - has sent out four messages thus far. Posted yesterday, the first "tweet" noted, "This is the official account of the Kennedy family and staff. Will be used for info about memorial and funeral activities. #tedkennedy."
Since his death, Ted Kennedy has been one of the leading topics of conversation on the micro-blog social networking site that prides itself for keeping tabs on the nation's conversation minute-by-minute. @KennedyNews links back to TedKennedy.org, which is operated by the Committee for a Democratic Majority.
Follow Eric Kuhn on Twitter @KuhnCNN