Washington (CNN) - He's a Senate hopeful who's the father of an "American Idol" judge. And he wants to replicate the success of a senator who's the father of a former "American Idol" contestant.
Will former Rep. Joe DioGuardi, R-New York, be able to do what Senator Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, recently did: carry a historically Democratic state as a Republican? Not to mention that Brown's daughter, Ayla, was a finalist on Fox's "American Idol" – and DioGuardi's daughter, Kara, currently appears on the show.
Today, Joe DioGuardi announced he's running for Senate for New York. In a statement, the certified public accountant says, "America has rightly rejected Congress's spend more, tax more, borrow more philosophy."
He adds, "Washington doesn't seem to listen for long. As a New York Senator, I would stand up for the commonsense economic and fiscal policies that would bring jobs to New York and put America back on the right track."
DioGuardi's announcement marks a return to politics after serving two terms in the House of Representatives in the late 1980s.
His daughter, "Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi, tells CNN she's "excited."
(CNN) - Mitt Romney has stayed out of several hot Republican primaries this year, but he's wading into a high profile one in South Carolina.
Romney endorsed state Rep. Nikki Haley's bid for governor on Tuesday, calling her "a person of character and as the spokesperson for a new generation of leadership for South Carolina."
Haley, a protege and ideological ally of the fiscally conservative Gov. Mark Sanford, is cashing in a chip from the last presidential race: she supported the former Massachusetts governor when he ran for the White House in 2008.
Romney will campaign for Haley in the Palmetto State on April 1 - a visit that will give him a chance to greet supporters in a key primary state as he plots a second presidential bid.
By backing Haley, Romney is also breaking with the consulting firm that managed his unsuccessful South Carolina campaign in 2008. That team is now running Barrett's race.
Haley, an Indian-American state legislator from conservative Lexington County, trails her GOP opponents in the polls and has struggled to boost her profile statewide. But she has attracted the support of national small government activists hungry for fresh faces in the Republican party.
Haley is fighting for the GOP nomination against Attorney General Henry McMaster, Lieutenant Gov. Andre Bauer and Rep. Gresham Barrett - all of whom can also boast support from national Republican figures. Sen. John McCain has raised money for McMaster, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has endorsed Bauer and former Sen. Rick Santorum has campaigned for Barrett.
The leading candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination are state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex and state Sen. Vincent Sheheen.
Just when you think you've seen it all in Washington... along comes something like this:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may try to pass the controversial health care reform bill without making members vote on it. Unbelievable.
Pelosi says she might use a procedural tactic where the House will vote on the package of fixes to the Senate bill... and then that vote would signify that lawmakers "deem" the health care bill to be passed.
Politically speaking, this is beyond sleazy. It's meant to protect Democrats – especially those up for re-election in November – from having to make a tough vote. Pelosi says of this process, "I like it... because people don't have to vote on the Senate bill." In Nancy Pelosi's world, accountability is a dirty word.
The Senate bill, of course, contains many provisions that are unpopular among some House Democrats – including language on abortion funding and taxes on high-cost insurance plans.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion, click here
Washington (CNN) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday dismissed the view that relations between the United States and Israel is in crisis after a row between the two countries over settlements.
"Oh I don't buy that," Clinton told reporters at the State Department. "We have an absolute commitment to Israel's security. We have a close, unshakable bond between the United States and Israel and between the American and Israeli people."
An Israeli official earlier confirmed to CNN that Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, had told his fellow Israeli diplomats that relations between the two countries were "in a crisis."
Clinton said the U.S. had expressed its "dismay and disappointment" after Israel's announcement that it was allowing construction of 1,600 settler housing units in East Jerusalem.
Washington (CNN) - Senior Obama campaign official Steve Hildebrand is eyeing a Democratic primary challenge to South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a decision he said hinges largely on whether she votes against health care reform later this week.
Hildebrand, deputy national campaign manager for Obama's presidential campaign, told CNN in an exclusive interview that he has been frustrated with Herseth Sandlin's voting record for some time, especially her decision to oppose the House health care reform bill in November. The House is expected to vote again on the issue later this week and a Herseth Sandlin spokesperson has said she plans to vote no again.
"I want to see how she votes on health care," Hildebrand said. "If the vote is very, very close and we lose it or come close to losing it, I will take a serious look at challenging her."
"She is on the wrong side of history," he added.
A Herseth Sandlin spokesman declined to comment on the potential primary challenge.
Hildebrand said he has not spoken to the White House about a potential run, nor has he reached out to Sen. Tim Johnson, D-South Dakota, or former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota. Hildebrand, a close political advisor to Johnson and Daschle, said if he decides to run he will have a "conversation with them."
(CNN) - Another political organization is readying to flood the television airwaves this week as House members get set to take a final vote on the health care reform bill.
Citizens United, the conservative political advocacy group that recently won a landmark Supreme Court ruling rolling back campaign finance regulation, announced Tuesday it is planning a $600,000 media campaign targeting vulnerable Democratic members of Congress who initially voted for the health care bill in 2009.
In targeted television commercials and a planned 1.3 million phone-call drive, the group aims to encourage constituents in the selected districts to flood their representatives' offices with expressions of opposition to the measure.
"These Representatives voted yes on ObamaCare last year," said David Bossie, president of Citizens United. "Before they cast their vote this week, they should take care to listen to what their constituents have to say."
(CNN) - Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado faces his first test Tuesday in his bid for a full term in office, when state Democrats and Republicans hold precinct caucuses.
Party members are expected to gather to pick their favorite candidates in this year's top races, including senator and governor. While the caucuses are open to all registered party members, they usually attract political insiders and junkies. And while nominations will be decided by the state's August primaries, a strong showing in the caucuses could give some candidates a boost.
Bennet was plucked out of political obscurity last year, when Gov. Bill Ritter named him to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, who stepped down to serve as Interior Secretary in the Obama Administration. To reach November's general election, Bennet first needs to successfully fend off a Democratic primary challenge from former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.
Bennet leads Romanoff in the battle for campaign cash, thanks in part to a fundraiser appearance in Colorado last month by President Obama. Romanoff has criticized Bennet for raising out-of-state money.
Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn
Washington (CNN) – House Republican leaders have cut a new television commercial that they vow to run against Democrats who vote in favor of health care reform.
The ad will run during the NCAA "March Madness" basketball tournament in congressional districts of Democrats who do not reject the bill, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain tells CNN.
GOP leaders unveiled the commercial Tuesday as part of its "GOP Code Red" campaign that is focused on the upcoming health care vote.
"Any Democrat who votes for a government takeover of health care will be held accountable for rubber-stamping this corrupt bill and for being part of a corrupt process to ram it down the throats of the American people," Spain said.
Washington (CNN) - Can the House of Representatives pass a health care bill without actually voting on it?
That question - bizarre to most casual political observers - took center stage Tuesday as top House Democrats struggled to find enough support to push President Barack Obama's top legislative priority over the finish line.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote later this week on the roughly $875 billion bill passed by the Senate in December. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, needs a bare majority of 216 votes from her 253-member caucus to pass the measure. No Republicans are expected to back it.
Pelosi's problem: A lot of House Democrats don't like the Senate bill. Among other things, some House members have expressed concern that the Senate bill does not include an adequate level of subsidies to help middle- and lower-income families purchase coverage. They also object to the Senate's proposed tax on high-end insurance plans.
Pelosi's solution: Have the House pass the Senate bill, but then immediately follow up with another vote in both chambers of Congress on a package of changes designed in part to make the overall legislation more acceptable to House Democrats.
Now, however, Pelosi may also try to help unhappy House Democrats by allowing them to avoid a direct up or down vote on the Senate bill. The speaker may call for a vote on a rule that would simply "deem" the Senate bill to be passed. The House would then proceed to a separate vote on the more popular changes to the Senate bill.
House GOP leaders will try to block the procedure, a House GOP aide told CNN Tuesday morning. They will try to force a vote on a resolution requiring the Senate health care bill to be brought to an actual up or down vote, the aide said.
Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called the maneuver Pelosi's "scheme and deem" plan Tuesday morning. He said the maneuver was "jaw-dropping in its audacity."
(CNN) - Prominent conservative commentator and RedState.com editor Erick Erickson will join CNN as a political contributor, appearing primarily on CNN's new show John King, USA¸ the network announced Tuesday.
Erickson, a self described "obsessive news junkie" who grew up in Dubai and rural Louisiana, will also provide perspective and commentary on other programs across the network.
"Joining CNN is like coming home, and being in Atlanta makes the decision right for me and my family," Erickson said in a statement.
Under Erickson's leadership, RedState.com has become the preeminent right of center community online. Prior to leading RedState.com, Erickson practiced law for six years and managed a number of political campaigns, and he currently serves as a member of the Macon, Georgia, city council. He studied political science and history and earned a bachelor's degree at Mercer University in Macon. Erickson also earned his law degree from Mercer's Walter F. George School of Law.
"Erick's a perfect fit for John King, USA, because not only is he an agenda-setter whose words are closely watched in Washington, but as a person who still lives in small-town America, Erick is in touch with the very people John hopes to reach," said Sam Feist, CNN political director and vice president of Washington-based programming. "With Erick's exceptional knowledge of politics, as well as his role as a conservative opinion leader, he will add an important voice to CNN's ideologically diverse group of political contributors."