(CNN) - A man says part of one finger was bitten off in a confrontation that developed at a health-care rally Wednesday night in southern California.
William Rice, 65, told CNN in a telephone interview he was in Thousand Oaks, California, standing on a sidewalk across the street from a rally sponsored by the group MoveOn.Org, which supports health-care reform. Rice said an unidentified man came "running at me" yelling, "You're an idiot. You're an idiot."
A spokesman for the Ventura County Sheriff's Office told CNN Rice was a counter-demonstrator and that he and another man got into a fistfight.
Rice would not divulge to CNN his views on the proposed health-care reforms.
Rice, who would not say why he was at the location, said he did not do anything to prompt the incident and did not know the other man.
Rice said he hit the other man on the nose when he came at him. "Had I not hit him he would have hit me," Rice said, adding that his left hand ended up in the other man's mouth during the incident, and the top part of his left pinky finger was bitten off.
(CNN) – An outspoken critic of Mark Sanford is accusing the embattled South Carolina governor of orchestrating a smear campaign against Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer.
Republican State Sen. Jake Knotts wrote to fellow members of the state legislature on Wednesday accusing Sanford and his allies of spreading rumors that Bauer is gay - a claim that was reported earlier this week by a blogger who seeks to out closeted conservative politicians.
"As a former target of a false rumor started by the Sanford Camp I can tell you with absolute certainty this attack was orchestrated on behalf of Mark Sanford, either directly or indirectly, and financially subsidized by him or one of his many 'front-groups,'" Knotts wrote. The letter was first reported by "The Palmetto Scoop," a South Carolina political Web site.
Knotts, an ally of Bauer and a fierce opponent of Sanford, said there is no truth to the gay rumors that have dogged Bauer for years.
"I have known Andre since he was eight years old," Knotts told CNN. "Ain't a homosexual bone in his body. That boy is a good boy. It's a just an attempt to prevent Andre from become governor."
Bauer publicly called on Sanford to resign last week, a request that was promptly rejected by the governor. Bauer is also planning to enter the crowded race to succeed Sanford next year. If Sanford resigns or is forced from office before his term expires, Bauer would assume the governorship, a move that would allow him to run as an incumbent in 2010. Bauer said if Sanford resigns within the next month, he would bow out of the governor's race.
Bauer himself addressed the gay rumors earlier this summer, telling The State newspaper: "One word, two letters. 'No.' Let's go ahead and dispel that now."
"It's an absolute effort by Sanford's people to discredit Andre," Knotts said of the rumors. "Sanford hates Andre so bad it's pitiful."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A major player in the health care ad wars is back in the game after a recent suspension of its campaign in the wake of Sen. Ted Kennedy's death.
Conservatives for Patient's Rights will start airing "No Promises" next Tuesday as the congressional August recess ends, one day before President Obama is set to address Congress about health care.
The 30-second ad focuses on the public health insurance option, which has become a lightning rod in the debate over overhauling the nation's health care system. "Tell President Obama to drop his government-run public option plan," the end of the ad says.
Democratic proposals to make a public health insurance plan available to uninsured Americans have come under increasing attack by Republicans during the August recess. The White House is also under pressure from liberal advocacy groups to continue to push for inclusion of the public option in the final version of health care reform legislation.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Members of Congress - returning to work after a chaotic August recess - may be welcoming a return to their D.C. offices and a schedule free of visits to town halls, the district-level gatherings that have provided the stage for some of the summer's fiercest faceoffs. But their break is likely to be a short one: Next week, a flood of those town hall protesters are planning to head to the Hill.
Starting Thursday September 10, the day after President Obama delivers an address on health care reform to a joint session of Congress, thousands of opponents of his proposal are slated to swarm congressional offices. The push marks the kickoff of the annual three-day March on Washington organized by former Rep. Dick Armey's FreedomWorks organization. Given its critics' show of strength, predicts FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe, the latest Democratic health care legislation will be "dead on arrival."
The first two days of the event are slated to include workshops on fundraising, "grassroots on the ground" and Web activism. But the centerpiece of the agenda Thursday and Friday are congressional visits: Participants will be given lobbying guidance before being directed to head to the Hill for planned, and unplanned, meetings with legislators - particularly those who support, or are considering support for, President Obama's health care plan. An overwhelming number of the new attendees, and speakers at the weekend's events, are expected to come from the ranks of the Tea Party Patriots, as the group's "Tea Party Express" tour ends in the nation's capital.
Planners say they aren't looking to re-create a town hall atmosphere on Capitol Hill – but admit the prospect is likely. "There'll be some chaos, there'll be some yelling," concedes coordinator Brendan Steinhauser; some individuals visiting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might call her an "evil-monger." But FreedomWorks, which has consistently denied charges it helped organize deliberate disruptions of congressional town halls this summer, continues to claim a hands-off approach, insisting that any aggressive activity won't be directed by them, and that they will be asking participants to take a civil approach. "We do our best to guide (those headed to the Hill)," said Steinhauser Wednesday, a week before the event. "But they're individuals. There's no guarantees."
(CNN) – Nearly a year after the presidential race came to an end, it's a subject Arizona Sen. John McCain still can't avoid: Sarah Palin.
Appearing on the Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien Wednesday, the former presidential candidate was asked, as he has been several times before, whether he was shocked Palin chose to resign her post as governor of Alaska two months ago.
"Yeah I was because she didn't call me ahead of time," McCain said to laughter in the audience. "We all have families, we all have challenges, we all have issues in our lives. She did have huge legal debts because of these [ethics] charges."
Despite the at-times public bickering between aides to Palin and McCain since in the aftermath of the campaign's defeat, the Arizona senator insisted he still speaks with his former running mate "fairly often."
"We say hello. We ask about families. I wish her well," he said.
On the issue of health care, McCain indicated he may be willing to support President Obama's reform efforts, depending on what the president says in his joint address to Congress next week.
"I look forward to what he specific proposals are," said McCain. "I think the disappointment a lot of Americans display is that we are not working together more."
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(CNN) – Gearing up for the midterm elections - a cycle that generally favors the party out of power - the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released another tough new Web ad Thursday that says the current slate of Senate GOP candidates "no dream team."
The ad calls Ohio candidate Rob Portman a "Bush insider," California candidate Carly Fiorina "one of the U.S.A.'s worst CEO's," and Missouri candidate Roy Blunt a "36-year politician."
The ad also goes after Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, saying his "own party says he can't win," and New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte who "broke her pledge" to serve out her term as the state's attorney general.
"This team deserves to stay on the bench," the ad declares.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe has shown throughout her career that when it comes to voting, it's her principles and constituents that guide her, not her party.
Those principles, analysts note, are guiding her to find a compromise on health care reform currently stalemated in Congress.
Jennifer Duffy, who follows the Senate for the Cook Political Report, said Snowe's independent streak is "not new behavior for her."
"I think they [Republicans] also realize that the only reason that the state of Maine has two Republican senators at all is the fact that they are very independent-minded and they vote their state," she said, referring to Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins.
In fact, some estimates place Snowe as having voted with her party only 57 percent of the time in the current Congress.
While her moderate views are at odds with GOP opposition to several of President Obama's economic plans this year, the senator's constituents seem to agree with her.
In 2006, she won re-election with 74 percent of the vote, compared to her Democratic opponent's 21 percent. In 2000, Snowe received 69 percent of the vote.
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President Obama will try to re-gain the upper hand in the debate over health care reform by addressing a joint session of Congress next Wednesday.
The White House and the Democrats endured a brutal month of August — with rowdy town hall meetings and lots of Republican criticism. Anti-reform forces spent millions trying to defeat the legislation.
President Obama will reportedly use his speech to lay out more specifics for his plan. Specifics have been sorely missing from the president on this from the beginning, and he's come under a lot of fire for only outlining broad principles for what he wants… and leaving most of the details to Congress. Big mistake.
Republicans are already saying the president's speech will be too little, too late… they say the real problem is the substance… and that the American people aren't buying what he's trying to sell. But Democrats are hoping that a more forceful pitch from the president will help move this thing along.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) – For the fifth consecutive day, the Creigh Deeds campaign continued to hammer Republican rival Bob McDonnell's controversial master's thesis, a document that called working women detrimental to families and criticized "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators."
The campaign launched a Web site and a new radio ad on Thursday taking aim at McDonnell over the 20-year-old paper.
The radio spot - running in populous northern Virginia, home to the bulk of the state's moderate and independent voters - features a man and a woman chatting about the Virginia governor's race.
"You starting to follow this governor's race in Virginia?" a female voice asks.
"You mean Bob McDonnell and his plans to take us back to the dark ages?" a man responds.
The pair then rattle through a number of points McDonnell made in the research paper, including critical passages about contraception and a claim that child care tax credits harm families because they allow women to work. Calling the thesis McDonnell's "blueprint" for governing, the ad notes that McDonnell voted against a 2001 House bill that would have recognized equal pay for men and women.
The ad, however, makes a misleading claim: That McDonnell wrote the thesis when he was "months away" from serving in office. In reality, he wrote it two years before his first election to the House of Delegates in 1991.