(CNN) - With less than two weeks until election day, a new poll suggests that Michael Bloomberg holds a 16-point lead over his Democratic rival as the New York City mayor bids for a third term in office.
According to a Marist College survey released Thursday, 52 percent of likely New York City voters support Bloomberg, running as an independent, with 36 percent backing Democratic New York City Comptroller William Thompson, and 12 percent supporting other candidates, or undecided.
That 16-point lead for Bloomberg is up from a 9-point advantage in a Marist poll conducted in September. Bloomberg also held a 16-point lead in a Quinnipiac University survey conducted in late September.
The Marist poll suggests that Bloomberg is leading among Democrats, 47 percent to 49 percent. That's a switch from last month, when Thompson held a slight majority of Democrats likely to vote in the November election. The poll also indicates Bloomberg taking the Republican vote, but Thompson ahead 48 percent to 41 percent among independents.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back Thursday at former Vice President Dick Cheney's comment that President Barack Obama seems "afraid to make a decision" about his strategy in Afghanistan.
Asked by a reporter about Cheney's remark, made in a speech Wednesday, Pelosi sharply answered, "That's really not a dignified question. ... I mean Vice President Cheney's.
"The president has a very difficult decision to make. He's got to have the facts to make that. We all pray for the difficult decision he has to make. I don't think it's very constructive for the vice president to say that - he's forgotten whose administration made matters worse in Afghanistan by their neglect."
Speaking at her weekly news conference, Pelosi rejected the argument made by several Republicans that the time Obama is taking to formulate his strategy is endangering U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
"Our troops in Afghanistan are at risk because from 2001 until (the end of) the entire Bush administration we looked the other way in Afghanistan. There was never a plan," she said.
Pelosi said she supports giving Obama more time to announce a decision about troops.
"The president should not make any decision any sooner than he has the right information to do so," she said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama on Thursday signed a bill to ensure that government funding for veterans' health care avoids any gaps in the budgeting process.
The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act calls for Congress to approve funding for veterans' medical care a year in advance, Obama said. Such advanced funding will give the Department of Veterans Affairs more time for planning how to spend the money, he said.
The bill also requires the Government Accountability Office to audit the budget process to ensure that veterans' medical care is receiving sufficient funds, according to supporters.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Washington launched its biggest offensive yet against runaway Wall Street pay practices Thursday, taking aim at everyone from senior executives to high-flying traders of complex securities.
The Federal Reserve proposed a sweeping review of pay policies at 28 of the nation's largest banks as part of an effort to make sure employees are not tempted to make the kinds of bets that could put their company at risk of going under.
"The Federal Reserve is working to ensure that compensation packages appropriately tie rewards to longer-term performance and do not create undue risk for the firm or the financial system," Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a statement.
Separately, the Obama administration's "pay czar," Kenneth Feinberg, is expected to unveil sweeping pay cuts for 175 top executives at the seven biggest bailed-out companies.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Congress is set to consider a measure increasing the amount of money the federal government can loan to small businesses.
The House of Representatives will debate a bill next week increasing the ceiling on Small Business Administration loans from $2 million to $5 million. The bill, backed by President Barack Obama, also would increase the maximum size of SBA-backed microloans from $35,000 to $50,000.
On Wednesday, Obama unveiled a separate measure designed to stimulate small business growth in part by making capital cheaper for community banks.
"Small business is the engine of job creation and capital creation in our country," Pelosi told reporters Thursday. "The issue of jobs is (always) important to us."
The moves highlight a growing debate in the White House and on Capitol Hill over whether to push for a second economic stimulus package. The unemployment rate has continued to climb in recent months, and is now near 10 percent.
(CNN) - After a summer in which Dick Cheney dialed back his attacks on President Obama's national security polices, the former vice president told a conservative gathering Wednesday that the Obama administration had damaged America's relationship with key allies, dangerously wavered in Afghanistan, undermined progress in Iraq, and intentionally sabotaged the Bush administration's national security legacy.
In the hard-hitting and wide-ranging speech at Center for Security policy, Cheney targeted the new administration's decision-making process on how to proceed in Afghanistan, saying Obama has failed to give troops on the ground a clear mission or defined goals, and appeared "afraid to make a decision."
"The White House must stop dithering while America's armed forces are in danger," Cheney said. "Make no mistake, signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries."
Cheney also targeted White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who suggested to CNN's John King on "State of the Union" on Sunday that the previous administration had failed to adequately assess conditions in Afghanistan before committing troops there.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is holding the first fundraiser for his newly-formed political action committee Thursday night in Washington.
The fundraiser is actually two events: a low-dollar "Pretzel and Pints" event at a popular Capitol Hill bar, and a "Leadership Dinner" at the home of lobbyist John Milne and his wife Deb Anderson where guests are asked to raise or contribute at least $5,000.
The money will go to Pawlenty's "Freedom First" PAC, which was launched at the beginning of the month and gives the governor the ability to travel the country in support of other Republicans as he eyes a possible presidential bid in 2012.
The first event is aimed at introducing Pawlenty to young Republicans and Capitol Hill staffers - the kind of operatives who might make up the backbone of Pawlenty's staff if he seeks the White House.
"A lot of young people are really drawn to Governor Pawlenty's innovative and conservative record," Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant said. "Meeting Pawlenty over some pretzels and pints is a fun bonus."
Four Republican members of Congress from Minnesota are listed as co-hosts: Reps. Michele Bachmann, John Kline and Erik Paulsen, as well as lobbyist and former Rep. Vin Weber.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The fight over gay rights is taking center stage once again as the U.S. Senate prepares to vote as early as Thursday on groundbreaking legislation expanding the scope of federal hate-crimes law.
The measure, added to a $680 billion defense authorization bill, would make it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. The House has already passed the measure. It will go to President Barack Obama's desk if, as expected, it clears the Senate.
President George W. Bush had threatened to veto a similar measure; Obama has promised to sign it.
The bill is named for Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teenager who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The number of Americans who think the country's economy is currently in very poor shape is on the rise, according to a new national poll. But the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday also indicates that a growing number of Americans think the worst of the recession is over.
Forty-two percent of those questioned in the poll say they rate the economic conditions in the country today as very poor. That's an increase of seven points since August. That figure had been dropping steadily since the spring. According to the survey, 16 percent rate the current economic conditions as good, a drop of 5 points from August. That figure had been steadily rising since the spring.
But the poll also indicates that a third of Americans think the country's still in a downturn, a drop of 7 points from June. Half the people questioned say the economy's stabilized, an uptick of 2 points from June, with 17 percent feeling the country is starting to recover, up 5 points from June.
"Americans don't like where the economy is, but they seem to be hopeful about the direction it is headed in," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Two-thirds think the economy has stabilized or has started to recover. That doesn't mean they think it's in good shape now - but it might be in the foreseeable future."
(CNN) - A new poll of New Jersey voters suggests independent candidate Chris Daggett continues to make gains in that state's highly competitive gubernatorial race, primarily peeling support away from Republican challenger Chris Christie in campaign's final days.
Daggett, whom the Newark Star-Ledger surprisingly endorsed earlier this month, stands at 20 percent in the new survey conducted by Rutgers University, the highest level of support the former administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency has registered in any poll of the race to date.
Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine meanwhile holds a narrow lead over Christie, the state's former district attorney, 39 percent to 36 percent. But given the poll's 4 percentage point sampling error, the two are statistically tied.
"A rule of thumb among political junkies says that that the actual vote for a third-party candidate tends to be roughly half of what that candidate was getting in pre-election polls around Labor Day," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But Daggett has been gaining ground since those Labor Day polls, so he may be one of the few independents who finishes strong and has a significant impact on the final results."
If nothing else, Daggett's growing support could mean the ultimate victor wins with less than 40 percent of the vote, a reflection of how unsatisfied New Jersey voters appear to be with all three candidates.
The Rutgers survey also shows both Christie and Corzine have net negative approval ratings and voters are deeply concerned with taxes, unemployment, and corruption in the state.
The poll of 583 likely voters was conducted October 15-20.