Washington (CNN) - Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, one the Republican Party's favorite new faces, has cancelled his Saturday appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
McDonnell is in Washington Friday for events with the National Governors Association and Republican Governors Association, and will still attend a Georgetown fundraiser for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's political action committee, but he is returning to Richmond tonight to work on budget matters, according to a McDonnell spokesman.
McDonnell will return to Washington on Sunday to attend the NGA dinner at the White House with President Obama. His office said he would try to stop by CPAC Friday if time permitted.
He was originally slated to address the CPAC audience on Saturday afternoon, after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Washington (CNN) - Former Attorney General John Ashcroft warned conservatives against overconfidence Friday during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
"I think I overheard someone whispering the reason why Ashcroft was brought to the conference. You see, Ashcroft is the only person ever to lose his Senate seat to a deceased opponent. And he is here to keep the conservatives from getting overconfident too early for the 2010 elections." Ashcroft joked. "Let me say to you don't get overconfident too early."
In 2000, Ashcroft, then a senator from Missouri, lost his re-election race to deceased Gov. Mel Carnahan, who had passed away in a plane crash a month before Election Day.
During his speech to the friendly audience, the former attorney general also echoed a refrain that has become a CPAC rallying cry.
"Keep working hard too long and we will celebrate the victory – not just a victory for conservatives or not just a victory for Republicans, but a victory for the United States of America and for freedom at the end of this year," Ashcroft encouraged the crowd. "Keep the intensity up and keep the energy up."
Ashcroft also earned applause with a not-so-subtle dig at the Obama administration's counterterrorism policies.
(CNN) – Rep. Michele Bachmann blasted President Obama's economic policies Friday and declared he is leading America into a state of "decline" during her 30-minute speech before conservative activists.
"I want to discuss a topic that's been on my heart a lot lately…decline in America," the Minnesota Republican told the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "The concept that has been coming to me over the last few weeks is that the joy of being an American is that we get to choose…our destiny, whether it's decline or it's greatness."
Citing conservative writer Charles Krauthammer, Bachmann said the president has indicted "America for arrogance, decisiveness, divisiveness toward Europe, for maltreatment toward natives, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantanamo Bay, for unilateralism, and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world."
"I think we are all going to need a self-esteem course or two after that litany and we can't blame anyone for feeling despondent in the midst of all that," Bachmann quipped. "Decline happens, even to a great nation."
Henderson, Nevada (CNN) - President Barack Obama took his economic recovery agenda on the road Friday, unveiling a new housing assistance program at a boisterous town hall forum.
The campaign-style event also served as a rally for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who is facing an extremely tough re-election battle this year.
Reid "is a fighter," Obama declared in a packed high school gym. He "has never stopped fighting ... for middle class families."
The president "has a superb mind," Reid said, returning the favor. "I say no president, not even the great Franklin Roosevelt, had the problems this man has."
Obama, who carried historically Republican-leaning Nevada in 2008, also was scheduled to appear with Reid later Friday at an event with the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.
Obama used his trip to Nevada, which has been hit hard by home foreclosures, to lay out a $1.5 billion program to help borrowers in the five states most affected by the housing crisis.
The initiative calls for pumping money into state housing agencies in California, Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Michigan to fund programs to prevent foreclosure for people who are unemployed or who owe more than their homes are worth.
Also, the agencies would be able to assist homeowners having trouble securing loan modifications because of second liens, as well as promote affordable housing opportunities.
The initiative will be funded with money from the TARP bank bailout.
Washington (CNN) - Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth of Indiana announced Friday that he's decided to make a bid for the seat now held by retiring Sen. Evan Bayh, a fellow Democrat. The two-term congressman confirmed reports of his decision during a listening tour stop in Evansville, Indiana.
"After many conversations with Hoosiers this week, and with the love and support of my family, I have decided to run for the U.S. Senate," Ellsworth said in a statement.
Bayh delivered a major blow Monday to the Democratic Party, when he announced that he would not run for a third term this November.
Ellsworth, first elected in 2006, represents Indiana's eighth congressional district, which is located in the southwest part of the state. The former county sheriff won 61 percent of the vote in his first election, and grabbed 65 percent in his 2008 re-election. Ellsworth, 51, is telegenic and has a moderate voting record that will help him in a swing state like Indiana.
"The best years of my life are the more than two decades I spent in the local Sheriff's department," said Ellsworth in his statement. "Sheriff is a job that comes down to protecting families from harm, helping folks solve their problems or resolve their disputes, and just being willing to put your fellow citizens' best interests ahead of your own. When I look at the U.S. Senate these days, I sure think they could use more folks with those same qualities. And that's something I hope I could bring to the U.S. Senate – an independent voice to help Indiana through these tough economic times, and get things done for everyday folks who are really struggling."
Washington (CNN) – Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his wife are meeting with conservative bloggers Friday night for happy hour.
The meeting is sponsored by the Freedom First PAC, the governor's political action committee, a spokesman tells CNN.
Pawlenty, who spoke Friday morning before the Conservative Political Action Conference, is making an effort to meet with as many bloggers as possible. After his speech, the governor stopped by the blogging room and did interviews with several of the bloggers.
"While at CPAC the governor wants to meet as many leading conservatives," Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant said. "That includes a lot of leading voices online."
Washington (CNN) – Indiana Rep. Mike Pence made no apologies Friday for trying to stop President Obama's agenda in Congress, telling conservative activists he proudly wears the "Party of No" label that Democrats have tried to pin on Republicans.
"Some folks like to call us the 'Party of No,' Pence said during his speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference. "Well, I say 'No' is way underrated here in Washington, D.C. Sometimes 'No' is just what this town needs to hear."
Pence, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, used the address to this influential bloc of GOP base voters to further promote his conservative credentials and sharply criticize the president and the congressional Democratic majority.
(CNN) - U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, has been diagnosed with stomach cancer, his office said in a statement Friday.
Lautenberg, 86, is not up for re-election until 2014.
"After several days of hospitalization and testing, Sen. Lautenberg's doctors have diagnosed that he has a B-cell lymphoma of the stomach," the statement said. "This is a curable tumor, and will require treatment over the next few months."
Dr. James Holland of New York City's Mount Sinai Medical Center, who is treating Lautenberg, said that he expects "a full and complete recovery" from the cancer.
Lautenberg, Holland said, will receive chemotherapy treatments administered roughly every three weeks.
"We anticipate that he will receive between six and eight treatments, and in between treatments, the senator is expected to be back at work in the Senate," he said.
Lautenberg, a New Jersey political veteran, was first elected to the Senate in 1982. He retired in 2000, but ran again in 2002 after Sen. Bob Torricelli, who was tainted by scandal, suddenly withdrew from a re-election bid.
Washington (CNN) – Seven in 10 Americans believe that Iran currently has nuclear weapons, according to a new national poll.
Friday's release of the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey comes just hours after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the Islamic republic isn't seeking and doesn't believe in pursuing nuclear weapons. Khamenei was responding to a draft United Nations report that said that Iran may be working to develop a nuclear weapon.
The poll indicates that 71 percent of the public says Iran has nuclear weapons, with just over one in four disagreeing. More than six in ten think the U.S. should take economic and diplomatic efforts to get Iran to shut down their nuclear program, with only a quarter calling for immediate military action.
Full results (pdf)
"But if economic and diplomatic efforts fail, support for military action rises to 59 percent, with only 39 percent opposing military action under those circumstances," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
TOPICS: Terrorism, Iran