Washington (CNN) - John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, can describe the state of Washington politics with a single word. And it's not a nice one.
Asked in an interview with the Financial Times to comment on "the health of American political system," Podesta responded: "Sucks."
Podesta made the remark with a chuckle, but the man who chaired President Obama's transition team expressed deep concern about the White House's ability to pass big ticket items in the current political climate.
He blamed much of the gridlock on Republicans and a newly "strengthened" conservative movement.
Washington (CNN) - He was one of the faces of John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008, but Joe Wurzelbacher - better known to the world as "Joe the Plumber" - is apparently finished with the Arizona senator.
"John McCain is no public servant," Wurzelbacher said at a campaign rally Saturday in Pennsylvania for long shot gubernatorial candidate Sam Rohrer. Later, in an interview with Pennsylvania Public Radio, he dismissed the suggestion that he owes his fame to McCain.
"I don't owe him sh*t," Wurzelbacher said. "He really screwed my life up, is how I look at it."
"McCain was trying to use me," he said. "I happened to be the face of middle Americans. It was a ploy."
Wurzelbacher said he's also done with Sarah Palin because she is backing McCain's re-election bid in Arizona.
Washington (CNN) - Sen. Evan Bayh's unexpected decision Monday not to seek re-election gives national Republicans one of their best opportunities to takeover a Democratic seat, according to independent analyses from two leading non-partisan political handicappers.
The Cook Political Report revised its rating for the Indiana contest to "Leans Republican" shortly after news of Bayh's decision broke. The race had previously been rated "Leans Democratic."
According to the Cook analysis, "While Democrats have not had the opportunity to assess their options, it is unlikely that they will be able to come up with a strong enough candidate to compete in a GOP-leaning state in the current political climate."
The Rothenberg Political Report modified its rating from a "narrow advantage" for Democrats to "toss-up," meaning the race could go either way.
"Bayh surely was the strongest candidate Indiana Democrats could have nominated – if only because of his years of proven electoral success and his $13 million campaign account – and an open seat is much more difficult for Democrats to hold in the current political environment," according to the Rothenberg analysis.
Washington (CNN) - Facing a backlash from the liberal wing of their party, Sen. Evan Bayh and other centrist Democrats are examining their re-election options and deciding to simply walk away, political analysts note.
"Because Democrats are scared, some people are saying 'it's not worth it ... there's not a place for my voice,' " said political analyst Jennifer Donahue. "It's looking like an exodus - between him and Sen. Chris Dodd and open seats that look like they could easily be Republican pickups."
But it not's just centrist Democrats feeling the heat from the edges of their party - former GOP Rep. J.D. Hayworth announced on Monday that he would take on Sen. John McCain, the Republican Party's last presidential candidate, in his home state of Arizona.
Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, announced Monday that he will not seek re-election in November. Bayh is the third Democratic senator to announce he is retiring. Dodd of Connecticut and Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota previously said they would not seek re-election.
"Congress is not operating as it should," Bayh said at a news conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, adding there's too much partisanship and "the people's business is not getting done."
Washington (CNN) - Indiana Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth signaled Monday that he's considering a bid to replace Sen. Evan Bayh, who announced he will not run for a third term.
Shortly after Bayh's press conference ended in Indianapolis, Ellsworth released a written statement saying Democrats in his southwest Indiana district are already encouraging him to jump into the statewide race.
"The next step will be taking a few days to talk to my wife and to folks in Indiana about where I can best serve our state. In the meanwhile, I will continue to travel throughout the 8th District this week listening to Hoosiers about the challenges they face and their ideas for getting our economy back on track," Ellsworth said.
A former sheriff, Ellsworth beat Republican Rep. John Hostettler in 2006. Hostettler held the seat for six terms. The district was nicknamed "the bloody eighth" because of its history of incumbents losing in bruising contests. But in 2008, Ellsworth won re-election easily with 65% of the vote.
(CNN) - The Republican Party's most recent presidential nominee has earned a primary challenge from the right on President's Day.
J.D. Hayworth, a former Arizona congressman and radio host, formally announced Monday that's he's challenging Republican John McCain for his U.S. Senate seat.
"You could say they are two John McCains. The one who campaigns like a conservative and the one who legislates like a liberal," said Hayworth at a news conference at his new campaign office in Phoenix.
Hayworth also announced Monday that another conservative candidate who was challenging McCain dropped out of the race and endorsed the former congressman. Hayworth's event kicked off what is scheduled to be a three-day, 10-stop campaign swing through the state.
Washington (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden will travel to the Middle East early next month, the vice president's office announced Monday.
During the week of March 8, Biden is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Jordan's King Abdullah, according to a release from his office.
He will "discuss the full range of bilateral and regional issues," the release stated.
(CNN) - Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, announced Monday afternoon that he will not seek a third term in the Senate - a major blow to Democrats worried about losses in the looming midterm elections.
"Congress is not operating as it should," Bayh said at a news conference in Indianapolis. There is too much partisanship and "the people's business is not getting done."
Bayh said he loves public service, but does "not love Congress" and is "not motivated by strident partisanship or ideology."
He cited the Senate's recent failure to pass a jobs bill and legislation that would have created a deficit reduction commission as evidence of what he characterized as a broken political system.
Washington (CNN) – Though it would have been next to impossible for him to garner the signatures necessary to get on the Republican primary ballot by Tuesday afternoon, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence re-iterated Monday that he has no interest in running for the Senate this year.
National Republicans courted Pence to challenge Sen. Evan Bayh last month, before it was known that the Indiana Democrat was going to retire. Former Sen. Dan Coats entered the race earlier this month, but Pence's name was mentioned again after it was learned that Bayh would not seek a third term.
"After receiving considerable encouragement to run for the United States Senate last month, Mr. Pence made a decision to seek re-election to the House of Representatives and help lead a conservative comeback in 2010 and that decision stands," Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd said. "Mr. Pence's decision was made irrespective of polls or Senator Bayh's intention to seek re-election."
Washington (CNN) - A group representing African-American farmers hopes to persuade Congress to fund a court settlement compensating them for long-standing claims of racial bias in federal farm programs.
But a rally Monday outside the U.S. Department of Agriculture took place on a federal holiday, and only about a dozen black farmers showed up for their cause.
Undeterred by the turnout as well as the fact that they had to shovel snow to create a place to deliver remarks, the group brought crates of corn and packets of seed labeled with messages they plan to deliver to Capitol Hill.
"We are here acting on a law that was enacted in 2008 by Congress," said John Boyd, founder of the National Black Farmers Association. "So this is already law and the black farmers are still waiting."