MADISON, Wisconsin (CNN) - President Barack Obama took his education reform campaign on the road Wednesday, highlighting a new $4.35 billion grant program designed to encourage higher standards and stronger teacher recruitment, among other things.
The "Race to the Top" fund is one of the largest federal investments in school reform in U.S. history, Obama said. It is being financed with money made available through the economic stimulus plan enacted in February.
"We're putting over $4 billion on the table ... but we're not just handing it out to states because they want it," Obama told an audience at a Wisconsin public charter school.
"If you're committed to real change in the way you educate your kids, if you're willing to hold yourselves more accountable and if you develop a strong plan to improve the quality of education in your state, then we'll offer you a big grant to help make that plan a reality."
The president outlined four key reform measures that will be used to help determine a state's eligibility for grant money.
(CNN) - Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are set to appear at Radio City Music Hall in February - though if history is any guide, the matchup is likely to produce few fireworks.
The famous New York City venue announced Wednesday the two former presidents will share the same stage February 25, nine months after the ex-presidents shared a similar stage in Toronto, Canada.
A ticket to what Radio City is calling "the hottest political ticket in history" will cost anywhere form $60 to $1,250. Though $1,250 may seem on steep side for the 90 minute event, a VIP ticket includes a pre-show reception with the two former presidents along with the evening's yet-to-be-announced moderator. Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres will also be served and each guest will have a chance to pose with the former commanders-in-chief.
The two were largely chummy during the last joint appearance at the Toronto event in May. At one point, former President Bush joked that his mother, Barbara Bush, told him Clinton "was like a son to her" because of all the time he was spending with Bush's father.
"So brother, it's good to see you," Bush said then.
During that event, at which tickets cost an eye-popping $2,500, Clinton also showered praise on the former president on a host of issues.
"What he did on the AIDS drugs and the diversity in the cabinet … he deserves a lot of credit," he said.
The New York event is likely to be a lucrative one for both former presidents - each usually charge well over $100,000 in appearance fees. But Radio City isn't officially disclosing how much the former president's are being compensated.
Matt McKenna, a spokesman for former President Clinton, made clear the New York event will not be a heated debate.
"Just a moderated conversation...no fireworks," he said.
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(CNN) - Supporters of Maine's same-sex marriage law, which voters narrowly repealed, gathered Wednesday to concede the vote but not the issue.
"It seems in the end that Mainers are not ready to treat these families fairly," Betsy Smith told a crowd of No on 1/Protect Maine Equality supporters in Portland, Maine. Two women amid the crowd clutched each other as one cried.
"Having the protection of the law, as well as the respect and dignity that comes only with marriage, is a journey on which we will continue," Smith said.
With 87 percent of the vote counted early Wednesday, the same-sex marriage law was rejected 53 percent to 47 percent, according to the Bangor Daily News Web site.
On Tuesday night, the campaign manager of Stand for Marriage Maine, Frank Schubert, announced that the referendum to repeal the law had passed.
Washington (CNN) - House Democratic leaders have put the finishing touches on their health care bill, setting the stage for bringing the measure to the full chamber as soon as Friday.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the chamber's second-ranking Democrat, said Wednesday the bill would probably come to a final vote on Saturday.
A 42-page manager's amendment posted Tuesday night made mostly technical changes in the nearly 2,000-page health care bill compiled from three Democratic proposals passed by three House committees.
By making the changes public on Tuesday, the House Democratic leaders could open debate on the bill on Friday or Saturday, while fulfilling their pledge to allow 72 hours of review before bringing the measure to the full chamber.
Meanwhile, House Republicans have offered their first version of a health care bill that compiles a series of individual proposals repeatedly pushed in recent months by the chamber's GOP leaders.
– CNN's Dana Bash, Lisa Desjardins, Deirdre Walsh and Ted Barrett contributed to this story.
Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET with Fiorina's remarks
(CNN) - Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina finally made it official Wednesday: She's running for Senate in California.
The first woman to lead a Fortune 500 company made the announcement at an event in conservative Orange County, pledging her focus will be on "economic recovery and fiscal accountability."
"The decisions made in Washington impact every family and every business, of any size, in America. Throughout my career I've brought people together and solved problems and that is what I plan to do in government-set aside ego and partisanship and work to develop solutions to our problems," she told supporters.
"I will not settle for a jobless recovery and we must start the important work of getting our financial house back in order," Fiorina added. "Washington must show discipline to cut spending and create policies that encourage and empower businesses and put people back to work."
Fiorina, considered to be a moderate Republican with little history on social issues, will face off against conservative California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore for the GOP nomination. In a friendly statement Wednesday, DeVore said he looks forward "to engaging [her] on the issues Californians care about."
A recent Field poll suggested both Fiorina and DeVore polled at about 20 percent, with 60 percent of Republican voters undecided.
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RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) - Assessing the national political landscape on the morning after his party lost two closely-watched gubernatorial elections, Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine said Wednesday that voters shouldn't draw too many conclusions from the two Republican victories as they look ahead to the 2010 midterms.
"There isn't really any historical connection between off-cycle elections in New Jersey and Virginia and next year's midterm elections," Kaine said during a press conference at the State Capitol complex in Richmond, where he serves as Virginia governor.
Kaine said he had several conversations with the White House about the races since last night, but he has not spoken directly with the president.
The governor suggested that both races hinged on local rather than national issues and that the president "was not really a factor" in either contest. While a majority of voters in both states said the president did not influence their choice for governor, exit polls indicated that national issues like the economy and health care weighed heavily on voters' minds.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dismissed Democratic electoral defeats in New Jersey and Virginia as "two very local elections" that say nothing about President Barack Obama's standing with the American people right now.
"It's hard to pick national trends out of local elections," Gibbs told reporters at a Wednesday briefing just hours after incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine was knocked out despite Obama's two appearances in New Jersey on Sunday. Obama also had campaigned for Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia, who lost as well.
Gibbs noted that exit polls showed the number two issue in New Jersey was local property taxes, and claimed that and other data shows the gubernatorial races were decided on local issues "that did not involve the president."
But Gibbs was eager to tout Democrat Bill Owens' victory in the hotly contested House special election to represent New York's 23rd Congressional District. The press secretary noted that GOP officials "purged" the Republican candidate in the race to make way for Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – CNN projects Democrat Bill Owens wins in New York's 23rd congressional district, defeating Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - CNN projects Independent candidate Michael Bloomberg will be elected to a third term as New York City mayor.
(CNN) - Sarah Palin says she's gearing up for her highly anticipated book tour later this month, writing on Facebook Tuesday she is "very, very excited to travel the country as she promotes her forthcoming memoir, "Going Rogue: An American Life."
The former Alaska governor hinted she'd likely sit down with a string of friendly faces during the tour that begins in two weeks, a list of conservative television hosts that include Fox's Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck. She also wants to appear with Fox host Greta Van Susteren.
Palin added she'll likely appear on the radio programs of conservative talkers Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Dennis Miller, and Laura Ingraham, and Tammy Bruce.
The former Republican vice presidential nominee already has a high-profile sit down on The Oprah Winfrey Show November 16 - the day before her memoir is released.
The Alaska Republican said she also wants to sit down with legendary interviewer Barbara Walters during the tour.
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