Washington (CNN) - Mitt Romney took another step towards an increasingly likely 2012 presidential bid Monday by naming Matt Rhoades the executive director of his political action committee, Free and Strong American PAC.
Rhoades is a Romney veteran, having served as communications director during the former Massachusetts governor's first presidential run in 2008. He was also deputy communications director for the Republican National Committee in 2006 and research director for George W. Bush's re-election campaign in 2004.
Rhoades replaces Pete Flaherty, who will now become a senior adviser to the PAC.
"Matt Rhoades has one of the sharpest political minds in the business," Romney said in a statement. "He's been a friend and an adviser for several years now and I'm pleased that he has agreed to run the day-to-day operations of my Free and Strong America PAC. He shares with me the view that 2010 is going to be a critical election year, with many races and lots of opportunities to elect Republican candidates."
Washington (CNN) – With the pivotal midterm elections just nine months away, a group of influential Republicans have launched an independent organization to help develop and promote policy ideas for GOP candidates and officeholders.
The new group, American Action, will have a kickoff event next Tuesday at the W Hotel in Washington – a jobs forum hosted by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a rising star in the Republican Party.
Modeled roughly after the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank and messaging organization, American Action was developed by Fred Malek, a top Republican donor from Virginia who maintains close ties with GOP governors throughout the country.
After the 2008 election, Malek said he felt Republicans "were increasingly being defined by folks who opposed our point of view as the 'Party of No' and defined by those folks on the far right."
Washington (CNN) - Sen. Evan Bayh is expected to announce Monday that he will not seek a third term in the Senate, a source close to the Indiana Democrat told CNN.
Bayh, a former governor, was first elected in 1998.
Washington (CNN) - With just over two weeks to go until the March 2 Republican primary in Texas, a new poll suggests that Gov. Rick Perry holds a commanding lead over his two challengers.
According to the survey, conducted by Blum and Weprin Associates for five Texas newspapers, 45 percent of likely GOP voters support Perry's bid for a third full term in Austin. Meanwhile, 29 percent are backing Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and 17 percent favor former Wharton County GOP chairwoman Debra Medina. Also working in Perry's favor: only 8 percent of likely Republican voters are undecided.
But Perry does not have the race locked up. He must surpass the 50 percent threshold to avoid a six-week runoff against the second place finisher and his lead has slipped in recent weeks with the ascendance of the conservative Medina, a latecomer to the race. But Medina's controversial suggestion last week that the U.S. government may have been involved in the September 11 attacks could cause her to bleed support in the final weeks, allowing Perry to cross the 50 percent mark.
(CNN) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that she fears Iran "is moving to a military dictatorship," and urged allies to back efforts to help change its course.
Clinton was responding to a question about whether the United States was getting ready for military action in Iran during a session broadcast by Arabic-language network Al-Jazeera.
"No, we are planning to bring the world community together," Clinton said at the town hall meeting in Doha, Qatar. She warned that the United States "will not stand by idly" while Tehran threatens neighbors and world.
Clinton reiterated her concern about Iran in a discussion with reporters later Monday.
"I think the civilian leadership is either preoccupied with its internal domestic political situation or ceding ground to the revolutionary guard, and that's a deeply concerning development," she said.
Washington (CNN) - With his "change" agenda bogged down at home, what hope is there for President Obama's international agenda?
Over the past several months, the Obama administration has faced a number of issues: costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; an economy still reeling; health care reform negotiations stalled; and a Republican political upset in Massachusetts that torpedoed the Senate Democratic supermajority.
"When American presidents get weak at home, it really does affect their ability to act abroad," said Doug Paal with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
In his first year, Obama visited 21 countries. His mantra: Engagement - even with your enemies.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she sees "a lot of positive trends."
"It's almost hard to remember how poorly much of the world viewed the United States when President Obama came into office," she added.
But the scorecard so far is mixed.
New York (CNNMoney.com) - In the past five years, the administrations of both parties have tried to reform three big-ticket items: the tax code, health care and Social Security.
The reform efforts would have helped put the federal budget on a more sustainable course.
But all have been tabled in one form or another because of partisan resistance to key ideas.
Now policymakers' work is infinitely harder as they wake up to the realization that they must deal soon with the country's long-term fiscal problems.
At stake ultimately is the United States' status as a first-class economy.
"It's going to take bold strokes to deal with this challenge. It's going to take big ideas, and it's going to take political courage because it's every hot-button issue that's out there. It is Social Security. It is Medicare. It is revenue. All of them," said Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., at a hearing last week on fiscal sustainability.
Washington (CNN) - Former Vice President Dick Cheney sidestepped a question Sunday about whether former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is qualified for the presidency.
Speaking to ABC's "This Week," Cheney was asked about the woman who ran to replace him - and whom some see as a possible future presidential candidate.
"Is she qualified to be president?" Cheney was asked.
"I haven't made a decision yet on who I'm going to support for president the next time around," Cheney responded.
"Whoever it is is going to have to prove themselves capable of being president of the United States. And those tests will come during the course of campaigns, obviously."
He added, "I think all the prospective candidates out there have got a lot of work to do if, in fact, they're going to persuade a majority of Americans that they're ready to take on the world's toughest job."
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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CNNMoney: States to Senate: Send more federal aid
States are looking to the federal government for more help balancing their budgets, but the Senate is not heeding their call. Federal aid to the states was among the top priorities in an early Senate job creation bill, as well as in a $154 billion measure passed by the House in December. But it has fallen off the list as Senate Democrats look to craft legislation that will attract bipartisan support.
CNN: House retirements pile up
If you are keeping score, eight House Democrats have now announced that they are retiring. Five other House Democrats are making bids for statewide office this year rather than run for re-election in November. That means that as of now, the Democrats will be defending 13 open seats in the midterm elections. But it's not just a problem for Democrats. Six House Republicans are retiring at the end of the year, and another 12 are making bids for state-wide office rather than run for re-election. Do the math, and you have the GOP, as of now, defending 18 vacant seats come November.
Washington Post: Republican group American Action hopes to mimic Democrats' success
Out of power at every level in Washington, Republicans have adopted a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" strategy - mimicking some of the most successful ideas put in place by Democrats over the past decade (or so) in hopes of preparing the party for the 2010 midterm election and beyond.
CNN: Insiders: White House quietly preps for possible high court spot
The White House has begun quiet preparations for the possibility of a Supreme Court vacancy in coming months, government sources tell CNN. Top officials have no specific information that a particular justice will retire after the court's session ends in late June, but they want to be ready for a variety of contingencies, those sources said.
CNN: Biden, Cheney spar via talk shows
Vice President Joe Biden and his predecessor Dick Cheney sparred Sunday over terrorism and the Iraq war, duking it out on the most prominent of platforms: the political TV talk show. In separate appearances on different programs, Cheney called the Obama administration "dead wrong" about al Qaeda and Iraq, while Biden accused Cheney of trying to "rewrite history" and downplay Obama's actions against terrorism.
New York Times: After 9/11 Trial Plan, Holder Hones Political Ear
Now Mr. Holder has switched from resisting what he had considered encroachment by White House political officials to seeking their guidance. Two weeks ago, he met with advisers there to discuss how to unite against common foes. They agreed to allow Mr. Holder, who has not appeared on a Sunday talk show since entering office, to speak out more; he agreed to let them help hone his message.
CNN: Paterson slams the press over reporting on salacious rumors
Rumors of personal and professional misconduct surrounding Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) swirled throughout the blogosphere and the New York media establishment this week to the point where the Governor himself was compelled to deny reports that he would resign. The Governor also addressed an illusory New York Times profile, for which the Governor was interviewed but has not been published as of Sunday.