(CNN) - It's a whole new ballgame in the political battle for the Republican Senate nomination in Florida, according to a new poll.
A Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday morning indicates that former State House Speaker Marco Rubio leads Gov. Charlie Crist 47 percent to 44 percent in a GOP primary matchup. Rubio's 3-point advantage is within the poll's sampling error, but regardless, this is a major change from last year, when Crist led Rubio by 15 points in October, 29 points in August, and 31 points in June, according to Quinnipiac surveys.
The poll indicates that Rubio, who has the backing of many on the right, tops Crist when it comes to trust, values, and conservative credentials.
"Who would have thunk it? A former state lawmaker virtually unknown outside of his South Florida home whose challenge to an exceedingly popular sitting governor for a U.S. Senate nomination had many insiders scratching their heads. He enters the race 31 points behind and seven months later sneaks into the lead," says Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "And, the horse race numbers are not a fluke. Rubio also tops Crist on a number of other measurements from registered Republicans, who are the only folks who can vote in the primary. Rubio's grassroots campaigning among Republican activists around the state clearly has paid off."
Washington (CNN) - The Senate rejected a measure Tuesday that would have established a deficit-reduction commission empowered to come up with proposals to cut the federal government's growing budget shortfalls.
President Barack Obama had backed the proposal.
More on CNNMoney.com: Senate nixes debt commission
Washington (CNN) - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist narrowly outraised rival Marco Rubio the past three months in their battle for the Republican senate nomination. But Crist maintains a wide lead over Rubio, the former Florida House Speaker, when it comes to campaign cash on hand.
The Crist Campaign announced Tuesday morning that they raised over $2 million in contributions for the fourth quarter of 2009, with just over $7.5 million cash on hand.
"We have received phenomenal and broad support from Florida voters," said Crist Campaign Manager Eric Eikenberg in a statement.
The Rubio campaign reported that it raised $1.75 million the past three months, with approximately $2 million in the bank.
"We're on pace in meeting our goals, and I am as confident as ever that we will have the resources to deliver our message and be successful," said Rubio in a statement.
(CNN) - Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, told supporters Tuesday he will not challenge Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, in November and instead will run for re-election of his House seat.
Pence, who serves as chairman of the House Republican Conference, made the announcement in a letter that was posted to his Facebook page.
"After much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to remain in the House and to seek reelection to the 6th Congressional District in 2010," Pence wrote in the letter. "I am staying for two reasons. First because I have been given the responsibility to shape the Republican comeback as a member of the House Republican Leadership and, second, because I believe Republicans will win back the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010."
National Republicans were hoping that Pence would make the race because they saw him as the strongest candidate to challenge Bayh this year. Pence has a national following within the conservative movement and would likely have been able to raise enough money to compete with Bayh, who was first elected in 1998.
Asked by reporters about his reaction to the Pence decision, Bayh admittedly gave what he called a "non-answer."
"We have a very good relationship and I wish him well in his good service in the House of Representatives," said Bayh.
Full text of letter after the jump:
The White House has announced that two police officers who responded to the shooting at Ft. Hood will join the first lady at the president's State of the Union address Wednesday night. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)
Washington (CNN) - Two heroes from last year's shooting at Ft. Hood will be among the guests for Wednesday night's State of the Union address. A White House official confirms that Sgt. Kimberly Munley and Sgt. Mark Todd will be seated with first lady Michelle Obama for the speech in the gallery above the House Floor.
The two officers responded to the November 5 shooting in a processing center at Ft. Hood where Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan went on a rampage killing 13 people and injuring dozens of others. Sgt. Munley, a civilian police offier, is credited with stopping the shooting spree by exchanging fire with the suspect and disabling him. She was injured in the shooting. Hasan was paralyzed from the waist down in the gunfight and now faces 13 charges of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
(CNN) - It's down to the wire for President Obama.
White House aides say he's still writing what could arguably be the most important speech of his young presidency. Tuesday, Mr. Obama is working with lead speechwriter Jon Favreau and foreign policy speechwriter Ben Rhodes to craft his critical State of the Union Address.
White House spokesman Bill Burton says they've lost count of the multiple drafts which have gone into editing the address, but the tinkering continues. The White House writing team began crafting the speech back in November. The president became involved the following month, but now Mr. Obama is pouring through the pages with a fine tooth comb."There has been a lot of hard work on it in past couple of days," Burton said.
The president is writing part of it in long hand, as he did for his Nobel Peace Prize address, but most has been done on computer, aides say. As changes are still being made, Mr. Obama has not yet started practicing his delivery in the White House theater.
(CNN) - Sen. Blanche Lincoln set the Twittersphere abuzz Monday night when the Arkansas Democrat's campaign tweeted she would make an "important campaign announcement" Tuesday morning.
Several political observers took the short message as a sign that the two-term senator may be announcing her retirement instead of engaging in what is likely to be a hardly-fought re-election bid. Her campaign quickly sought to tamp down those rumors, and word leaked that she was really releasing her 2009 fundraising totals.
So how are her political finances? Well, Lincoln raised $1.3 million in the fourth quarter and has $5 million cash on hand heading into the 2010 elections.
A recent Mason-Dixon poll of Arkansas voters suggests that Lincoln is in a dead heat or slightly trailing all of her possible GOP opponents in hypothetical general election match ups.
The survey also indicates 39 percent of Arkansas voters have a favorable opinion of her, with 41 percent holding an unfavorable opinion.
Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration's decision to utilize David Plouffe as an outside adviser is a sign that after last week's election in Massachusetts, the White House is aiming to turn the tide against an angry electorate, a top Democratic strategist said.
The hiring of Plouffe, who designed Obama's presidential campaign, comes at an important time, said James Carville, a CNN political contributor and former aide to President Clinton.
"You got to look at this thing in Massachusetts, and think that's a real signal here," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "If you don't deal with it, it's going to get worse."
By the looks of it, Plouffe is trying to rally the troops who got Obama elected.
Follow Ed Hornick on Twitter: @hornickcnn
(CNN) - Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan says he's staying put rather than make a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Stupak, a 9-term congressman who represents Michigan's upper peninsula and much of the northern part of the lower peninsula, says he'll instead run for re-election.
"I believe I can best serve the people of Michigan in the U.S. Congress. My seniority and experience in Congress, where I sit on the Energy and Commerce Committee and serve as Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, afford me a significant opportunity to affect positive change," said Stupak in a statement Tuesday morning.
Stupak also spoke to the timing and costs of running for governor, saying "it is difficult for me to commit to pursuing a state-wide gubernatorial campaign at this critical time. The compressed time frame and fundraising requirements necessary to secure the Democratic nomination for governor would be very difficult for me to achieve without sacrificing some of my responsibilities in Washington, DC."