(CNN) - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is the keynote speaker Friday night at a major conservative conference. If that sounds familiar, there's a good reason.
Pawlenty's announcement earlier this year that he would not run next year for a third term as governor was a tip off that he was considering a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Since then, Pawlenty has been very visible, speaking out against the Obama administration and appearing at a number of major Republican and conservative events. He also became vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and has campaigned for the GOP gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia, the two states that hold gubernatorial elections this November.
The visibility continues Friday night, when Pawlenty gives the keynote address at Western Conservative Political Action Conference (WCPAC).
(CNN) - As New Jersey's three gubernatorial candidates get set to debate for the second time Friday night, a new poll suggests the race is a dead heat heading into the final stretch.
According to a New York Times survey of likely voters, Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine holds a 3 point lead over Republican Chris Christie, 40 percent to 37 percent. Corzine's slim lead is within the poll's 4 percentage point sampling error, suggesting the race is statistically tied. The survey also shows independent candidate Chris Daggett continues to garner double digit support with 14 percent.
But 30 percent of voters in the poll who named a candidate said they may change their mind before Election Day, a clear sign neither Corzine nor Christie has made the final sale with three weeks left until voters head to the polls.
The Times survey, which included 987 adults between October 11-14, has similar findings to a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week that had the race at 40-41 percent in favor of Christie.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the Democrat who chairs one of the Senate committees tasked with developing health care legislation, promised Friday that a health care bill will be on President Obama's desk before Christmas and will include a so-called "public option."
"I believe we are in an irrevocable position," Harkin said on a conference call organized by the health care reform group Families USA. "The momentum is there. We will not get stopped by the obstructionists. We will have the votes."
Harkin became chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee after the former chairman, the late Ted Kennedy, passed away in September. His committee has already passed a more liberal version of the health care bill that includes a public option - legislation that will have to be merged with the bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee earlier this week before the Senate can vote on final legislation. Democrats need sixty votes to end debate before a vote can held.
Pointing to a Thursday meeting of Senate Democrats in which most members of the caucus expressed support for a government-run insurance plan, Harkin said only five members of his party are holding up progress toward a such a plan.
(CNN) - President Barack Obama will be at Texas A&M University to attend a community service forum Friday hosted by one of his Republican predecessors, former President George H.W. Bush.
The two leaders will meet at Bush's presidential library to celebrate almost two decades of work from the Points of Light Institute, which was
founded with Bush's encouragement in 1990 to "encourage and empower the spirit of service," according to the group's Web site.
The Institute takes its name from Bush's 1989 inaugural address, where he referenced "a thousand points of light ... all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the nation, doing good."
Obama latched onto the theme during last year's presidential campaign. He signed a measure in April designed to strengthen national community service efforts by boosting federal funding for thousands of volunteers in fields ranging from clean energy to health care and education.
(CNN) - Members of the Blagojevich family are becoming pros at reality television.
First, Patti Blagojevich, wife of ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, appeared on NBC's "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" this past summer, lasting 23 days in the Costa Rican jungle before being voted off.
Now the disgraced former governor himself - who had reportedly been the original choice for the Survivor-like show - appears likely to be a cast member of this season's "Celebrity Apprentice."
People Magazine reports Blagojevich has been spotted on the New York City set, along with Sharon Osbourne, ex-baseball star Darryl Straweberry, celebrity chef Curtis Stone, and comedian Sinbad. Singer Cyndi Lauper and Bret Michaels are also rumored to be a part of this year's cast.
NBC is not confirming the official cast list.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that she is "very optimistic" a decent health care reform package will be enacted. She refused, however, to offer any opinion regarding the specifics of what should go into such a package.
"I have a different role now" than she did when she took the lead in attempting to craft a health care plan during her husband's administration, she told CNN's Jill Dougherty "I'm going to cheer from the sidelines."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that former President George W. Bush's administration was "unrealistic" in its dealings with the war in Afghanistan.
Clinton told CNN the Bush administration was unrealistic both in terms of the number of U.S. soldiers it committed to the conflict and in its
relationship with certain Afghan political leaders.
The war was "under resourced" since its start in 2001, she said, and she indicated the Bush administration's attention was improperly shifted to Iraq.
(CNN) - President Barack Obama says he's determined to fight for his agenda and to outlast his critics.
"Some of our opponents think they are going to wear us down," the president said at a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee Thursday night in San Francisco. "I'm not tired, I'm refreshed."
"We are not going to stop until we get health care done, until we've got an energy bill that we're proud of," said Obama. "They're going to get tired; we're not going to get tired - we're going to keep on going."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who's district covers most of San Francisco, introduced Obama. The president made light of the verbal attacks Pelosi endures, not only from Republicans but also at times from fellow Democrats.
"Every day, every day she is subjected to constant criticism and griping, and then there's the other party," said Obama.
But the president also said the Speaker can handle such criticism, saying, "Nancy Pelosi is tough, I want everybody to know that."
A Democratic source says the fundraiser was expected to raise around $3 million. Obama headlines another DNC fundraiser next week in New York City.
- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's campaign debt from her failed 2008 presidential bid has fallen below the $1 million-mark for the first time since she launched her candidacy almost three years ago, according to documents filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.
Clinton's campaign reported having $2 million in the bank as of September 30, more than enough to pay off the $995,500 it carried in unpaid bills.
The sole remaining creditor is the political consulting firm Penn, Schoen & Berland, which at the start of the year had been owed $5.4 million. The campaign paid the firm over $500,000 on September 30, the last day of the 3rd quarter reporting period.
Clinton's debt reached its peak in June 2008 shortly after the former New York senator suspended her campaign. At that point, her presidential committee owed $12 million to almost 500 creditors and $13.2 million to the candidate herself, who dipped into her personal funds to help finance her campaign. Campaign finance laws forced Clinton to forgive the amount she loaned her committee because she was not able to repay the funds by the required deadline.
The campaign raised only $9,300 in contributions from July through September but generated an additional $172,000 from both bank interest and from the rental of its campaign mailing lists to other organizations.
A federal law known as the "Hatch Act" prohibits Secretary Clinton and other federal government employees from personally soliciting or accepting political contributions. The law does allow others to raise funds on Clinton's behalf, without her direct involvement.
(CNN) - How much are the words "You Lie" worth when directed at President Barack Obama on national television?
Well over $4 million collectively, newly filed campaign finance reports show.
According to the new Federal Elections Commission disclosure forms, South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson raised $2.7 through September 30 of this year, nearly all of it coming after the infamous outburst during Obama's September 9 prime-time address to Congress, Wilson's campaign told CNN.
Rob Miller, Wilson's likely Democratic opponent in next year's congressional election, has collected close to $1.7 million through September 30, 95 percent of which came after the "You Lie" incident, according to Miller's campaign. Wilson beat Miller by eight points in last year's election.
The combined $4.4 million cash haul has transformed what was once a low profile congressional race into what appears will be the most expensive campaign for a House seat in South Carolina history.
- CNN's Peter Hamby, Robert Yoon, and Alexander Mooney contributed to this report