WASHINGTON (CNN) - Just four days after professing ignorance about the special election in New York's 23rd congressional district, Tim Pawlenty changed course Monday and decided to endorse Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman instead of the Republican in the race.
Pawlenty's move follows decisions by other prominent national conservatives - including Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson, Dick Armey and Rick Santorum - to line up against the GOP candidate, Dede Scozzafava. They and other activists on the right have accused Scozzafava of being too liberal for the GOP, and are throwing resources and support to Hoffman.
The Minnesota governor, who is courting conservatives as he mulls a possible 2012 presidential bid, made his endorsement in an e-mail to the blog RedState.
"We cannot send more politicians to Washington who wear the Republican jersey on the campaign trail, but then vote like Democrats in Congress on issues like card check and taxes," Pawlenty said in the statement. "After reviewing the candidates' positions, I'm endorsing Doug Hoffman in New York's special election. Doug understands the federal government needs to quit spending so much, will vote against tax increases, and protect key values like the right to vote in private in union elections."
Last Thursday, after a fundraiser in Washington, Pawlenty told reporters he wasn't following the race and declined to make an endorsement.
"You know I haven't been following that, I haven't studied the race at all," he said at the time. "It's not that I would or wouldn't, I just don't know anything about it. I haven't taken the time to study their positions, their records, so I haven't taken a position on it."
Scozzafava and Hoffman are on the ballot along with Democrat Bill Owens. Election Day is November 3.
UPDATE: A Pawlenty aide reports that the governor's recently-created "Freedom First" political action committee will donate $2,400 to the Hoffman campaign, the maximum contribution allowed. The gift marks the PAC's first donation since it was formed earlier this month.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will announce Monday his plans for the Senate health care bill on Monday afternoon, and multiple Democratic sources tell CNN he will discuss his decision to move forward with a bill that includes a public option, but with a provision allowing states to opt out.
CNN first reported Sunday that Reid was poised to finalize a Senate health care bill as soon as Monday and send it to the Congressional Budget Office so it could begin to determine the bill's cost.
Reid hopes his proposal will appeal to liberal senators who have been insisting on a public option as well as to conservatives who are wary of a government-run plan but could persuaded to support one if states have the authority to opt out.
Several Democratic sources tell CNN that Reid does not yet have firm commitments from 60 senators for this idea, which he would likely need even for a vote to begin Senate debate.
For that reason, multiple Senate Democratic sources concede this strategy is risky. But a Reid aide told CNN Sunday that the Senate Majority Leader is cautiously optimistic, based on a series of conversations with Democratic senators, that he will ultimately find the votes.
An administration official went so far as calling Reid's move "dangerous," but quickly followed by saying Reid knows his caucus better than anyone, and will therefore have the support of the White House.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Citing a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, House Majority Whip James Clyburn said Monday that the Senate Majority Leader should use a budgetary maneuver to pass health care reform with a government-run insurance option if Democrats do not have the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster.
According to the survey released last week, 61 percent of Americans favor a public health insurance option that would compete with private plans. Support for the public option rose six point since an earlier poll in August.
"I can't imagine that 60 percent of the United States Senate will deny 61 percent of the American people the opportunity to get what they say they want," Clyburn said Monday in an interview on CNN's Newsroom. "So I would say to Senator [Harry] Reid that 60 ought not be the crucial number. Fifty ought to be the crucial number."
(CNN) - With eight days left until voters go to the polls, a new survey suggests that New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has opened up a 9 point lead over his Republican challenger, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.
Most polls in New Jersey over the past month have indicated that the race between Corzine and Christie was tied or within the margin of error, with Independent candidate Chris Daggett polling in the low double digits.
But according to a Suffolk University poll released Monday, 42 percent of likely Garden State voters back Corzine, while 33 percent support Christie and 7 percent back Daggett. Fourteen percent of those questioned said they are undecided.
"That 14 percent figure is high compared to other recent New Jersey polls, which have shown the undecideds closer to six or seven percent," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That may account for some of the difference between the Suffolk poll and others. If Christie voters are hiding in the undecided category, that may mean a closer race than the poll indicates."
The poll also suggests that regardless of how whom they support, nearly six in ten voters believe Corzine will win - double the amount of people who think Christie will come out on top.
The Suffolk University of Massachusetts poll was conducted October 22-25, with 400 likely New Jersey voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Christie Vilsack, the wife of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, announced Monday that she will not challenge Republican Charles Grassley for his Senate seat in 2010.
"I am flattered and humbled by the requests from Democrats, Independents and even some Republicans to consider running," Vilsack said in a statement released Monday. "My careful consideration of the opportunity to represent Iowa in the Senate was done with great respect for those who came to me and the office itself."
Vilsack also said that she will continue to be active in Democratic politics in Iowa "and across the state in issues that affect the quality of life for all Iowans."
"While I will not be a candidate for office in 2010, never doubt I am committed to a life of service and to Iowa," she added.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has taken considerable heat from conservative activists for endorsing Republican Dede Scozzafava over Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in next month's special congressional election in New York.
But Gingrich is defending his approach to re-building the Republican Party. It begins, he said, by accommodating those who might disagree with you.
"Both parties have to recognize, you can create a center-right majority in America, which we did with Reagan in '80 and we did it again with the 'Contract with America' in '94," Gingrich said in an interview with CNN Radio. "You can't have a purely right-wing majority; you can't have a purely left-wing majority."
The former speaker claimed that Democrats are doing their part to help the GOP by promoting a liberal ideology. "Today, the Democrats are moving toward a secular-socialist model that is guaranteed minority in America," he said.
And he was cautiously optimistic about the 2010 midterm elections.
"Next year, I think we could win [governorships in] Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, the Senate seat in Illinois. In Ohio, we could win both the governorship and the Senate seat," Gingrich said. He also predicted losses for three prominent Democratic incumbents: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
(CNN) - The White House and Congressional Democrats are feeling the heat from liberal Democrats, who are demanding that a federally-funded insurance program be a key component of health care reform.
An Obama administration official took to the official White House blog late Sunday evening to emphasize the president's preference for a public option and to silence any suggestions otherwise.
The White House Blog
The Public Option: Rumor Check
Posted by Dan Pfeiffer on October 25, 2009 at 08:56 PM EDT
A rumor is making the rounds that the White House and Senator Reid are pursuing different strategies on the public option. Those rumors are absolutely false.
In his September 9th address to Congress, President Obama made clear that he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition. That continues to be the President's position.
Senator Reid and his leadership team are now working to get the most effective bill possible approved by the Senate. President Obama completely supports their efforts and has full confidence they will succeed and continue the unprecedented progress that is being made in both the House and Senate.
Dan Pfeiffer is Deputy Communications Director
The White House blog posting did little to mollify Adam Green, cofounder of the liberal political advocacy organization Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Green's group is advocating for the public option and has targeted individual lawmakers with television ads in their home states urging them to support it.
"Expressing a preference for the public option is not the same as fighting for the public option," Green wrote on the blog openleft.com . "Telling Harry Reid 'good luck with that' is not the same as the president saying, 'I am there helping Reid fight for those final votes.'"
Follow Mark Preston Twitter: @prestoncnn
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has ramped up his national profile over the past year, he has focused primarily on domestic issues when criticizing the Obama administration.
But the Republican took aim Monday at President Obama's international posture, questioning whether the president's foreign policy agenda is making the country less safe.
"History proves that it is weakness, not strength, that tempts our enemies," Pawlenty said in an interview with the conservative Web site Newsmax. "And he is projecting potential weakness, and enemies may see that and their respect may be reduced as a result of that, or worse."
Pawlenty launched a political action committee earlier this month called "Freedom First" that allows him to travel the country in support of Republican candidates. Though he fashioned himself as a pragmatic Republican with working class appeal during his two terms as governor, Pawlenty has struck an increasingly partisan tone since announcing in June that he would not seek another term. That has led many political observers to speculate that he's positioning himself for a run for the White House in 2012.
In the interview, Pawlenty also accused the president of being "extremely partisan in his approaches," particularly with his health care reform agenda.
(CNN) - A new survey suggests that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, vying for a third term in office, holds an 18-point lead over his Democratic rival, with just eight days to go before voters there head to the polls.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday morning, 53 percent of likely New York City voters support Bloomberg, running as an independent, with 35 percent backing the Democratic candidate, New York City Comptroller William Thompson. Ten percent of those questioned are undecided, and 3 percent support Conservative Party candidate Stephen Christopher.
Bloomberg held a 16-point advantage in a Quinnpiac survey conducted in late September. Bloomberg also held a 16-point lead in a Marist College poll that was released last week.
The Quinnipiac survey suggests that Bloomberg is leading overwhelming among Republicans, has a 36-point advantage among independents, and is splitting the Democratic vote with Thompson. The poll indicates a racial divide, with white voters backing Bloomberg by a 2-to-1 margin, African-Americans supporting Thompson in roughly the same proportion, and Hispanics backing Bloomberg by 14 points.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A one-time aide to former President George W. Bush took aim Sunday at recent comments by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that questioned the Bush administration's conduct of the war in Afghanistan.
Last Sunday on CNN's State of the Union, Emanuel strongly suggested that the current scenario in Afghanistan – with a contentious election last month casting a cloud over an already difficult security situation – was the result of missteps on the part of the previous administration.
"It's clear that basically we had a war [in Afghanistan] for eight years that was going on, that's adrift," Emanuel told CNN's John King, "that we're beginning at scratch, just at the starting point, after eight years – and that there's not an [Afghan] security force, an [Afghan] army, and the types of services that are important for the Afghans to become a true partner."
"There's a set of questions that have to have answers that have never been asked," Emanuel also said last Sunday.
Responding to Emanuel, former Bush counselor Ed Gillespie said Sunday on State of the Union that Obama's Chief of Staff "was either uninformed or willfully misleading in what he said."
Gillepsie told King that the Bush administration conducted its own thorough review of the Afghanistan war but did not disclose it publicly at the request of the incoming Obama administration.
"[Emanuel] knows full well – I suspect – that there was a proposal given and a review given that took into account the Afghan national army, the politics over there, the policing, the international framework," Gillespie said Sunday.