Chicago, Illinois (CNN) - Political analysts say it might be an uphill climb for the Democrats to hold onto Barack Obama's former Senate seat in Illinois.
"Democrats right now are in disarray in Illinois," said Russ Stewart, a long-time Illinois political analyst and columnist.
Illinois voters are voting today in the first primary in this year's midterm elections.
There are competitive races in both parties in the senatorial, gubernatorial and several congressional contests. There are also contests for attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer, but precincts reported light turnout Tuesday morning. The weather wasn't helping - a couple of inches of snow was falling on the Chicago, Illinois, area Tuesday morning.
(CNN) - As he continues to mull a potential primary bid against New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. defended what appears to be his shift to the left in the four years since he ran for Senate in Tennessee.
In an appearance on Comedy Central's Colbert Report Monday, Ford specifically defended his more liberal language on the issues of abortion rights and same-sex marriage. In his 2006 Tennessee Senate bid, Ford regularly referred to himself as pro-life and said he was an opponent of allowing gays to be married.
But with respect to abortion rights, Ford maintained Monday he has always been "pro-choice" and said he used the term "pro-life" in 2006 to describe his stances on separate issues.
"When I'd walk into forums, I'd look before the audience I'd say let's tell all the people we are really the pro-life ones, we are the ones who support education, and health care, and veterans benefits," he said. "I stand by that."
Washington (CNN) - While revelers across the world prepared to ring in the new year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign committee spent the final day of 2009 chipping away at campaign debts owed to its sole remaining creditor.
According to records filed Sunday with the Federal Election Commission, Clinton's committee spent part of New Year's Eve making six payments totaling $150,000 to the Democratic polling firm of Penn and Schoen. The campaign had once owed the firm $5.4 million, but had reduced that amount to $850,500 by the time the clock struck midnight on December 31. The former presidential hopeful's campaign debt is now at its lowest level since she first launched her campaign in early 2007.
The campaign reported having $1.7 million in the bank at the start of 2010, more than double the amount needed to pay off its remaining unpaid bills.
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.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama heads to New Hampshire Tuesday, to tout his plans to create new jobs by helping small businesses.
The White House says the president will tour a local business in Manchester, New Hampshire and then hold a town hall meeting at Nashua High School North, where he'll call for $30 billion in loans for small businesses as part of his push to create jobs.
"Jobs will be our number one focus in 2010. And we're going to start where most new jobs do – with small businesses," said Obama in excerpts from comments he'll make at the town hall that were released by the White House.
"That's why today, I'm announcing a proposal to take $30 billion of the money that was repaid by Wall Street banks, and use it to create a new Small Business Lending Fund that will provide capital for community banks on Main Street. These are the small, local banks that work most closely with our small businesses – that provide them their first loan, and watch them grow through good times and bad."
Tuesday's visit will be Obama's second to New Hampshire since taking over as president a year ago. Obama held a town hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in August.
New Hampshire is considered a battleground or swing state in presidential politics.
George W. Bush narrowly won it in 2000, with John Kerry edging Bush out in 2004. Obama won the Granite State by 9 points in the 2008 election. The state is also holding contests for an open senate seat, governor, and both house seats, this November.
Independent voters are an important force in New Hampshire. According to the N.H. secretary of state's office, registered independents make up 41.7 percent of the state's electorate.
Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn
Washington (CNN) - Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will make a return trip to Michigan in May.
Palin will speak to the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan in Benton Harbor on May 13, a spokesman for the group told CNN.
The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee apparently has a special place in her heart for Michigan: when John McCain's campaign ceded the state to Barack Obama in 2008, Palin pushed back against the decision and pressed to make more visits to the state. She also launched her book tour last year in Grand Rapids.
Former President George W. Bush spoke to the same group in Benton Harbor last May, allowing reporters, but not television cameras, to cover the event. A spokesman for the economic club said plans for press coverage of Palin's speech have not been finalized.
(CNN) - Let the 2010 primaries begin.
Polls are now open in Illinois, and at stake are the Democratic and Republican nominations for President Barack Obama's old senate seat and the office held just a year ago by now ousted Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Voters in Illinois are also casting ballots in statewide contests for lt. governor, attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer. And there are competitive contests for at least 3 House seats across the state.
Polls close at 7 p.m. local time (8 p.m. ET).
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
Washington (CNN) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to unveil the Pentagon's plan for rolling back the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gay and lesbian service members on Tuesday.
During last week's State of the Union address, President Obama made clear he wanted a change.
"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are," he said, to a healthy round of partisan applause.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff sat stone-faced as the president made the announcement and have been quiet on the matter since the State of the Union speech.
(CNN) – A top aide to a California Republican gubernatorial candidate called into question a rival candidate's "mental condition" Monday, in what has become an increasingly bitter battle for the GOP nomination.
Mike Murphy, a political adviser to former EBay CEO Meg Whitman, was responding to an accusation by California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who accused Murphy of "intimidation tactics" in an effort to convince him to drop out of the race.
"[A]ll I can say is that I'm starting to worry about Commissioner's mental condition," Murphy said in a statement.
Specifically, the Poizner campaign said that Murphy contacted a senior member of Poizner's political staff to try and convince the commissioner to leave the race and focus on challenging Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2012. The Poizner campaign added that Murphy sent an e-mail after the telephone call suggesting Whitman was willing to spend tens of millions of dollars "'tearing up'" Poizner.
The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world.
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CNN: Obama's budget draws battle lines for weeks ahead
President Obama's budget plan released Monday lays out legislative priorities destined to become political battles as he navigates his second year in office.
CNNMoney: Stimulus: Secret sequel in the budget
They're not calling it Stimulus 2, but the Obama administration wants to extend the life of several Recovery Act provisions by building them into the federal budget. The president's $3.8 trillion budget for fiscal 2011, unveiled Monday, calls for giving states more money for Medicaid and infrastructure projects, as well as renewing tax breaks for workers, small businesses and municipalities issuing bonds. It also requests additional funding for Obama's educational reform initiative, Race to the Top.
Miami Herald: Florida feels heat of NASA cutback
President Barack Obama wants to make dramatic changes in how NASA functions, jettisoning plans to return to the moon, letting private companies handle human transport into lower orbit and focusing the nation's space agency on new rocket technology. But Obama's failure to extend the space shuttle program, which is expected to end by early 2011, and his decision to cancel the moon program launched by George W. Bush in 2004, means the imminent loss of at least 7,000 jobs in Florida and a sense of betrayal along the Space Coast.
Wall Street Journal: Banks Gear Up for a Battle
The showdown over the future of proprietary trading by U.S. banks is about to begin. One likely fight: defining exactly what proprietary trading is.
CNN: Gates seeks to change 'out of date' vision of military challenges
Preparing the U.S. military to fight two major conventional wars is "out of date" and does not reflect the numerous challenges U.S. military forces could face in the future, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday.
Wall Street Journal: U.S. Steps Up Missions Targeting Taliban Leaders
The U.S. military is deploying tens of thousands of fresh troops in a much-publicized strategy to woo the Afghan people through good government, economic growth and security. Yet behind the battle lines, the U.S. is quietly escalating a more forcible campaign. In recent months, small teams of Army commandos, Navy Seals and Central Intelligence Agency operatives have intensified the pace of what the military often calls "kill-capture missions"—hunting down just one or two insurgents at a time who are deemed too recalcitrant to be won over by any goodwill campaign.