(CNN) - President Obama's vacation may have provided a much needed recharge as he jumps back into thorny issues this week.
Coming off a 10-day trip to Martha's Vineyard, Obama turns his attention to the economy and Iraq.
The economy is the No. 1 issue for voters, polls show, and as the midterm elections near, it's becoming increasingly clear that what the administration dubbed the "summer of recovery" has not yet met the public's expectations.
(CNN) - One day before vote counting resumes in Alaska's Republican Senate primary, election officials say more than 25,000 ballots remain uncounted.
According to unofficial results from last Tuesday's primary, Sen. Lisa Murkowski trails attorney Joe Miller by 1,668 votes, in what could turn out to be the biggest upset so far this cycle. Absentee ballots had 10 days domestically and 15 days internationally to arrive through the mail as long as they were postmarked August 24th, the day of the primary.
Officials at the Alaska Division of Elections tell CNN that as of Sunday 15,720 absentee ballots have been returned. Absentee ballots continue to arrive by mail. Also waiting to be counted are 663 early votes, ballots which were cast in pre-primary day voting. Add to that 9,117 "questioned" ballots, which may or may not be counted. Some may be disqualified by a panel of election officials for irregularities. Most of these votes are expected to be cast in the Republican primary, but some may be intended for the Democratic contest.
Election officials say they will determine Monday how many votes will be included in Tuesday's initial count.
(Updated at 12:15 p.m. with additional information)
Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Iraq on Monday to participate in a ceremony marking the end of the U.S. combat mission there, according to the White House.
He was greeted in Baghdad by U.S. Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, outgoing U.S. commander Gen. Ray Odierno and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
While in the country, Biden will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi and other political leaders "to discuss the latest developments in Iraq and to urge Iraqi leaders to conclude negotiations on the formation of a new government," the White House said in a written statement.
The United States' official combat mission in Iraq is scheduled to conclude on Tuesday. Roughly 50,000 troops, however, will remain in the country until the end of 2011. Their mission will be to will train, assist and advise the Iraqis.
Washington (CNN) - Why is Michael Steele going to Guam two months before election day?
The trip, announced Monday by Guam Governor Felix Camacho, has some members of the Republican National Committee scratching their heads - and it's a sign to critics that the chairman is more concerned about his own political fortunes than he is about re-taking majorities in Congress this November.
That's because members from the Island Territories - the Northern Mariana Islands, The Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa - gave Steele their decisive bloc of votes in January 2009, when he won the chairmanship on the sixth and final ballot in a tight race.
If the chairman is serious about running again, a likely prospect if his rousing address at the RNC summer meeting earlier this month was any indication, he will once again be counting on the same support from the islands, which do not have voting representation in Washington.
(CNN) – John Bolton, the controversial former United Nations Ambassador under President George W. Bush, is suggesting he may consider a run for the presidency in an effort to highlight national security issues.
In an interview with the conservative website The Daily Caller published Monday, Bolton – who himself has never sought federal office and is not considered to be among the long list of Republicans considering a 2012 bid – wouldn't explicitly rule out a presidential run.
"In the sense that I want to make sure that not only in the Republican Party, but in the body politic as a whole, people are aware of threats that remain to the United States," he said when asked if he would consider a run. "You know, as somebody who writes Op-Eds and appears on the television, I appreciate as well as anybody that… there is a limit to what that accomplishes. Whereas, some governor from some state in the middle of the country announces for president they get enormous coverage even if their views are utterly uninformed on major issues."
(CNN) - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist appeared to backtrack from statements he made regarding same-sex marriage during a CNN interview Sunday, saying in a statement that he does not support a Constitutional ban on the practice.
The comments appear at odds with what the Florida Senate candidate told CNN's Ed Henry on State of the Union, during which he expressed continued support for a ban on same-sex marriage.
"I feel the same way, yes, because I feel that marriage is a sacred institution, if you will. But I do believe in tolerance. I'm a live and let live kind of guy, and while I feel that way about marriage, I think if partners want to have the opportunity to live together, I don't have a problem with that," said Crist when asked about his stance against same-sex marriage when he ran for governor four years ago.
"When it comes to marriage, I think it is a sacred institution. I believe it is between a man and woman, but partners living together, I don't have a problem with," added Crist, the former Republican-turned-Independent who is leading the three-way Senate race in most recent polls and is counting on significant support from Democratic and independent voters to eek out a victory.
In a statement released later Sunday, Crist said he in fact is against a Constitutional ban on same sex marriage and was instead only offering his support for a state ban on the practice.
"I was not discussing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage, which I do not support, but rather reaffirming my position regarding Florida's constitutional ban that I articulated while running for governor," he said in the statement.
Full transcript with Henry and Crist from Sunday, after the jump:
Washington (CNN) - Early voting begins Monday in the District of Columbia, 15 days before the crucial primaries.
The start of early voting comes one day after a new Washington Post poll indicates Mayor Adrian Fenty trails his Democratic challenger, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray, by double digits. Since Democrats dominate elections in the city, the winner of the Democratic primary will be considered the overwhelming favorite in the November general election.
According to the survey, Gray leads Fenty 49 to 36 percent among registered Democratic voters. But his lead swells to 53 to 36 percent among those likely to cast ballots in the Democratic primary.
The poll indicates that most Democrats polled give the mayor credit for his accomplishments during his term in office and say he brought needed change to the city. But voters are split on whether Fenty, who's running for a second term, is willing to listen to different points of view and whether he understands the problems of people like them. And by a 13-point margin, a plurality say the mayor's not honest and trustworthy.
(CNN) - Conservative commentator Glenn Beck says his revival-style rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday was about restoring America's honor and returning the country to the values on which it was founded.
Tens of thousands of people showed up for the event, which also featured former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Beck insists the rally was nonpolitical, but the event, which took place on the 47th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, and in the same place, was not without controversy.
The five things you missed:
(CNN) - President Obama dismissed on Sunday the results of recent polls that show a significant portion of the population have doubts about his citizenship and believe he is a Muslim.
In an interview with NBC's Brian Williams on Sunday, Obama said "the facts are the facts, right?" But said "there is a mechanism, a network of misinformation that in a new media era can get churned out there constantly."
"I can't spend all my time with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead," the president added.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released August 4th showed more than a quarter of the public have doubts about Obama's citizenship, with 11 percent saying Obama was definitely not born in the United States and another 16 percent saying the president was probably not born in the country.
(CNN) - Two days after Sarah Palin fired up a large crowd at Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally in Washington, a newly released survey suggests a clear majority of Americans don't think the former vice presidential nominee has the right credentials to be president.
According to the new survey from Vanity Fair and CBS News' 60 Minutes, only 1 in 4 of all adults thinks Palin is qualified to be commander-in-chief while 60 percent say she is not.
By a narrow 47-40 percent margin however, Republicans do feel Palin has the right stuff to be president. But self identified conservatives – constituting the segment of the GOP largely thought to most favor the former Alaska governor – are essentially split 41-40 percent on her abilities to govern the country.