(CNN) - In just 24 hours, the three-way Republican Senate primary in California has descended into a squabble over bloated budgets, "demon sheep" and now ... mutton.
The latest jab comes courtesy of Tom Campbell - the brainy budget wizard and former Republican congressman doing battle with Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore for the GOP nomination. On Thursday, Campbell finally hit back at Fiorina for her campaign's bizarre new Web video accusing Campbell of being a fiscal liberal - an ominous three minute clip depicting gathering storm clouds and evil-looking livestock.
The video instantly became the subject of Internet mockery when it was posted on Wednesday.
Earlier: DeVore campaign slams Fiorina video
"Carly Fiorina's campaign is in full Mutton Meltdown mode, with an increasingly bizarre fixation on farm animals," Campbell spokesman Jamie Fisfis said in a statement Thursday. "She's admitted missing a decade's worth of opportunities to vote for budget reform, but instead of offering solutions, all she has for voters are dogs, cats and demon-sheep."
Fisfis said that "contrary to Carly Fiorina's insulting portrayal of fiscal conservatives as sheep, these are in fact involved people who engage the issues and ask tough questions. And unlike Carly Fiorina, they have fought alongside Tom Campbell on the front lines of spending reform and supported these reforms with their votes."
UPDATE: The Fiorina campaign argues that the "demon sheep" buzz is only drawing more attention to their message - that Campbell can't be trusted when it comes to taxes and spending.
A protester displays a version of the Betsy Ross American flag during a Tea Party movement rally in Washington last September. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
(CNN) - What's being billed as the first national Tea Party convention opens its doors Thursday night amid widespread interest and some controversy.
Organizers hope the three-day event will help strengthen the year-old anti-big-government movement. On its Web site, organizer Tea Party Nation says the event is "aimed at bringing the Tea Party Movement leaders together from around the nation for the purpose of networking and supporting the movement's multiple organizations' principal goals."
But there has been pushback against the convention and its organizers from both outsiders and some in the movement because of Tea Party Nation's for-profit status and because the price of entry attendees have paid for access to the workshops and seminars being held through Saturday.
Red State blogger Erick Erickson wrote that while he has good things to say about some groups within the Tea Party, "this national tea party convention smells scammy."
Washington (CNN) - Moments after swearing in Sen. Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, whose presence in the Senate means Democrats no longer have their 60-vote filibuster-proof supermajority, Vice President Joe Biden told reporters he thinks filibusters have been abused in recent years and that the Senate should consider reforms.
"It's a useful tool, it is legitimate. But from my perspective, having served here, elected to the Senate seven times, I've never seen a time when it's become standard operating procedure," Biden said. "You want to get anything done, you have to have a supermajority.
Biden noted that filibusters are not called for in the Constitution and the threshold was changed once before – from 67 votes to 60 votes – when it was "recognized as increasingly difficult" to get bills passed.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama called Thursday for high-level talks with Republicans to work out a compromise on health care legislation, then putting the resulting bill to a vote in Congress.
"If Congress decides we're not going to do it, even after all the facts are laid out, after all the options are clear, then the American people can make a judgment as to whether this Congress has done the right thing for them or not," Obama said. "That's how democracy works."
Obama's comments were the first clear signal from the White House or Democrats in Congress on how they would proceed on a top legislative priority after losing their 60-seat super-majority in the Senate.
Republican Scott Brown was sworn in as the new U.S. senator from Massachusetts earlier Thursday, leaving the Democrats one vote shy of being able to overcome GOP filibusters of health care reform and other major initiatives.
Asked at a party fund-raising event about the Democratic strategy for health care reform going forward, Obama said Democratic leaders in the House and Senate were working out differences in the separate health care bills passed by each chamber last year.
Once that was finished, Obama said, the next step would be "to call on our Republican friends to present their ideas."
Brown's new Senate colleagues applauded after the ceremony on the floor of the Senate chamber conducted by Vice President Joe Biden, in his capacity as president of the Senate. Democratic Sen. John Kerry, also of Massachusetts, and Brown's wife, Gail Huff, accompanied Brown into the chamber.
At a news conference after the ceremony, Brown thanked Massachusetts voters who gave him a surprise victory in the January 19 special election in a state that had not elected a Republican senator since 1972.
"I can't promise I'll be right in every vote I make. I'm sure I'll make mistakes from time to time," Brown said. "But I will try to learn and grow and do the very best job I can on a day-to-day basis."
Updated: 6:20 p.m.
(CNN) – California's three-way Republican Senate primary is heating up after the Carly Fiorina's campaign released a controversial Web video targeting rival Tom Campbell.
In the video, Fiorina takes issue with Campbell's views on tax and budgetary issues during his tenure in public service. Campbell has previously served as a U.S. Congressman, a California state Senator, as California's Finance Director and as a member of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Council of Economic Advisors.
Entitled "FCINO," the online video seeks to portray Campbell as a "Fiscal Conservative In Name Only." In an effort to paint Campbell as a proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing when it comes to fiscal conservatism, the more than 3-minute video contains multiple images of real sheep. The Web video ends with images of a man crawling around on all fours in a sheep's costume that has red glowing eyes.
The video has been dubbed "demon sheep" by many political observers who have panned the video. In conjunction with the release of the video, the Fiorina campaign also rolled out www.fcino.com on Wednesday.
The campaign of Fiorina's other rival, Chuck DeVore, is wasting no time slamming the Fiorina camp for its latest online effort.
Washington (CNN) - The Republican National Committee has hired a veteran GOP operative to fill its communications director slot, a position that has been vacant for months amid a slew a public missteps by Chairman Michael Steele.
Doug Heye, who worked for Steele's 2006 Senate campaign and often appears on television as a political analyst, will now advise RNC chairman Michael Steele on communications strategy. A North Carolina native, Heye also directed communications for Sen. Richard Burr's campaign.
Unlike Steele, who has angered establishment party figures during his brief tenure as GOP chief, Heye is a well-liked figure on Capitol Hill.
"I'm proud to have Doug Heye join our team," Steele said in a statement. "His experience in campaigns and the halls of Congress brings a unique skill set to our communications operation.
Steele also promoted press secretary Katie Wright to deputy communications director.
Heye will be filling a job left vacant by former RNC communications director Trevor Francis, who left the committee in November along with his deputy Todd Irons. National press secretary Gail Gitcho left her job last week to join Sen. Scott Brown's office.
Washington (CNN) – White House press secretary Robert Gibbs pushed back Thursday against claims made by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri, that the Obama administration mishandled critical security information in the case of Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab.
"I am deeply disturbed with the official handling of vital national security information regarding the recent cooperation by the Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab," Bond wrote in a letter sent Thursday to President Obama.
Bond, the senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in his letter that he was briefed Monday about Abdulmutallab's cooperation with authorities.
Bond wrote that within 24 hours of the FBI briefing Congress, the White House had informed reporters of Abdulmutallab's cooperation, a move Bond charged that "has no doubt been helpful to his terrorist cohorts around the world."
During Thursday's White House briefing, Gibbs said no classified information was disseminated to reporters. "Having read the letter, no briefing was done here or anywhere in this administration where classified information is used in a place it shouldn't be."
Gibbs went a step further, calling on Bond to apologize, "He owes an apology to professionals in the law enforcement community and those that work in this building."
Bond fired back in a statement to CNN. "After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I'm supposed to apologize?" Bond said.
Washington (CNN) - The conservative Club for Growth is hitting back at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for criticizing the small government group during an appearance in Utah for Republican Sen. Bob Bennett. The Club is actively working to defeat Bennett, who is seeking re-election in November.
Several Republicans are challenging Bennett from his right flank as he seeks a fourth term, largely because of his vote in favor of the Wall Street bailout in 2008. While the Club has said they will oppose Bennett, they haven't said which candidate they will support instead.
But Bennett has the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee - which as a rule supports Republican incumbents - and on Wednesday Gingrich showed up in Salt Lake City to lend a hand.
"I wish the Club for Growth would spend as much time and energy to defeat liberal Democrats as they do dividing Republicans," Gingrich told a crowd at Bennett's formal campaign launch, according to the Deseret News. "I try to defeat liberal Democrats. I don't spend much time trying to defeat Republicans."
That prompted the influential conservative group to take a shot at Gingrich for backing "ultra-liberal" Dede Scozzafava in last year's special election in New York's 23rd district. The moderate Scozzafava quit the race after being harangued by conservative activists who supported Doug Hoffman. Democrat Bill Owens eventually won the race.
"Newt has proven time and again that he will support any Republican, regardless of policies and principles," said Club president Chris Chocola in a statement. "That's his right, but the Club for Growth PAC puts principles over party,"
"Newt was wrong about New York-23, and he's wrong about Utah," Chocola continued. "And pretty soon, Bennett will wish Newt never gave him the kiss of Dede."
(CNN) - Lawmakers in many states are trying to make it illegal to mandate that everyone buy health insurance - one of the key parts of the Democrats' health care reform efforts in Washington.
In Kansas, lawmakers filed a resolution this week that aims to alter the state constitution to do so. State Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, a co-sponsor of the legislation says, "States have a duty to protect their citizens' liberty." Could these proposed amendments affect health care reform in the nation's capital?
Fact Check: Can state governments overrule federal regulations on health care?
(Get the facts and the bottom line after the jump)