(CNN) - Mitt Romney is lending a helping hand to Nebraska Republicans, the latest in a string of political favors as the 2008 presidential candidate surveys the 2012 landscape.
The former Massachusetts governor will be the keynote speaker Friday night at the Nebraska Republican Party's biennial Founders' Day event in Omaha.
Romney may make another run at the GOP presidential nomination next cycle, but an adviser says right now the former Massachusetts governor's concentrating on helping fellow Republicans in the next election.
"Gov. Romney is traveling the country, speaking to Republican organizations, raising money for candidates, and doing what he can to strengthen our party going into the 2010 elections," says Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom.
(CNN) - The only two medical doctors currently in the Senate, both Republicans, are using the August congressional recess to take their two-month old, twice weekly health care reform Webcast on the road across America's heartland - an itinerary that appears designed to pressure on some of their more moderate Democratic Senate colleagues from Nebraska, Arkansas, and Louisiana.
"I think we may bring a little bit more judgment and credibility to what's really going on in this debate and the problems in health care," Oklahoma Sen. and family practice physician Tom Coburn told CNN.
Along with Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, an orthopedic surgeon, Coburn launched "The Senate Doctors Show" in early July. Twice a week, the two doctors sit down and film a roughly 20-minute segment where they answer questions about health care reform submitted by the public via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and through "man-on-the-street" video interviews of Capitol Hill visitors.
This week, the two men hit the road. Wednesday, Coburn and Barrasso were in Omaha, Nebraska where they visited an intensive care unit and taped an episode of their Webcast with a live audience. Thursday, the two men split the day between a morning town hall in Bentonville, Arkansas and two afternoon events in northern Mississippi - another taping of their production with a live audience and a hospital visit. Friday, the two doctors are set to join fellow Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and three House Republicans from the state at a town hall meeting in Kenner, Louisiana. Vitter will also join Coburn and Barrasso on a tour of a New Orleans medical facility.
Three of the four states for this week's tour don't appear to be coincidental.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Liberal critics of Sen. Ben Nelson's position on health care reform sent out a new plea Tuesday asking for financial help in keeping a statewide television commercial that targets the Nebraska Democrat on the air.
For the past week, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America have run a 60 second ad on Nebraska cable in an effort to pressure Nelson to embrace President Obama's approach to health care reform. This week, the organizations moved the commercial to local broadcast stations in Nebraska and Nelson, himself, has begun airing his own 30 second commercial to explain his position on health care reform.
"Ben Nelson's new ad says nothing about the public option, and for good reason –Nelson's efforts to undermine the public option are out of step with the overwhelming majority of Americans, including many rural voters and even Republicans," Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said in an email to CNN.
"We'll keep holding Nelson accountable until he bucks his special interest contributors and supports a public health insurance option for his constituents."
WASHINGTON (CNN)- Under increasing pressure to support President Obama's approach to health care reform, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson has cut a new TV ad airing in his home state that explains his position on the issue.
Nelson, a centrist Democrat, has come under fire from liberal organizations for not standing squarely behind Obama when it comes to health care. Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee are currently running a commercial featuring a Nebraska small business owner pleading with Nelson to prevent health care reform from being delayed.
In an unusual step, Nelson has taken to the airwaves in this new 30-second statewide ad to lay out his "principles" that he says are needed to institute health care reform even though he will not face the voters until 2012.
"You've probably been hearing a lot about health care reform," Nelson says in the commercial that will run for two weeks on broadcast and cable stations. "And like too much stuff that comes out of Washington it is hard to know what's fact and what's fiction. So, I want you to hear my principles straight from me. First, any plan must keep spending under control; help our small businesses; improve care; control costs; and most of all the plan needs to work for Nebraska. I'm Ben Nelson and I approve this message because you can count on me to always put Nebraska first. Always."
A source close to Nelson tells CNN that the Nebraska senator decided to have his campaign committee pay for the ad, because there has been "a lot of misinformation, confusion and commotion about health care reform.
"Senator Nelson sees it as an opportunity to get information out there unfiltered and as a way to connect directly with constituents," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "The senator sees this as an opportunity midterm to remind Nebraskans about his independence and thoughtfulness."
(CNN) - The McCain campaign announced Sarah Palin is set to make a stop in North Carolina Tuesday night, two days after the Republican VP candidate stumped in Nebraska - two reliably red states that haven't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in at least three decades.
Palin's most recent travel schedule is the latest indication Barack Obama and the nation's ailing economy have put John McCain on the defensive, even in states where the prospect of a Democratic win was unthinkable only four years ago.
Palin's visit to North Carolina comes as most recent polls of the state show Obama and McCain essentially in a dead heat there. A CNN/Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll of North Carolina last month showed the candidates dead even, while some recent polls have even suggested a slight Democratic lead. CNN/Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation will release a new North Carolina poll Tuesday morning.
Election Center: Check out the latest state polls
Then there’s the unknown variable of an anticipated rise in turnout in the African-American community. In 2006 that voting bloc made up 26 percent of North Carolina's electorate, with 85 percent voting for Sen. John Kerry. Obama is expected to win an even higher percentage of the black vote this cycle, with a higher expected turnout as well.
"The North Carolina of today is far more diverse than the North Carolina of twenty or even ten years ago," CNN Senior Political Researcher Alan Silverleib said. "The state’s changing economy has attracted thousands of new voters willing to pull the lever for a Democratic nominee. Second, the state’s sizable African-American voting bloc is extremely energized by Obama’s candidacy. Third, the economic downturn has made Tar Heel voters — just like voters in the rest of the country — much more receptive to the Democratic message of change."
Palin's appearance in the state comes more than five months after McCain held his last public event there, delivering a speech in early May at Wake Forest on his vision for judicial appointments. The event came the same day as Indiana and North Carolina's Democratic primaries and was largely overshadowed by the still-ongoing battle between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.
McCain-Palin spokesman Ben Porritt said Monday the campaign remains confident the Republican ticket will carry the state.
"This is a state that Barack Obama has put millions of dollars into," he said. "This is an opportunity to speak to our supporters there and makes sure they turn out."
Porritt also declined to say whether McCain has any plans to visit North Carolina before Election Day.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Barack Obama swept Saturday's Democratic contests, giving him considerable momentum heading into Sunday's Maine caucuses and three primaries Tuesday.
John McCain, however, was handed a starkly different message from the GOP, as voters in Louisiana and Kansas indicated they weren't ready to support the Arizona senator. Washington, however, backed the Republican front-runner over former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, according to state party officials.
McCain's camp congratulated Huckabee on the victories but with an air of confidence, saying that Huckabee threatened only to chip away at McCain's substantial lead in the GOP race for the presidential nomination.
"The reality is that John McCain is the presumptive nominee of our party," said campaign spokesman Brian Rogers. "We'll campaign in these upcoming states as long as Gov. Huckabee is in the race, but our main focus is on uniting the Republican Party for victory in November."
Though CNN calculations estimate that Huckabee would need to snare hundreds more delegates to catch McCain, the Democrats are in a much tighter race.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat, will endorse Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for president, two Democratic sources tell CNN.
One of the sources, a Nebraska Democrat, said Nelson decided to back Obama because he “agrees with Obama’s philosophy of ending the partisan divide in Washington.”
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson endorsed Obama on Thursday.
Nelson’s fellow Nebraskan, former Sen. Bob Kerrey, previously announced his support for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination.
Nebraska Democrats hold their caucuses on February 9, a potentially important presidential contest if Democrats do not choose their nominee by February 5, otherwise known as “Super Tuesday.”
The sources said the announcement could happen as early as Saturday.
–CNN Political Editor Mark Preston
Johanns is planning a bid to replace Sen. Hagel.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – CNN has learned that Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns will be resigning from the Bush cabinet to make a run for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska.
Two Republican sources tell CNN Senior National Correspondent John King that Johanns has informed the White House he plans to resign possibly as early as today, and definitely before the week is out. Johnanns was Nebraska’s governor before stepping down in January 2005 to become Bush’s Agriculture Secretary. (Related: Agriculture secretary to resign; Senate run expected)
Earlier this month, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel announced he was retiring at the end of his term and would not run for re-election next year. Hagel is a Republican, as is Johanns.
Hagel told CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash that he spoke with Johanns yesterday and encouraged him to run for his seat. Hagel also confirmed to CNN that Johanns would be making an announcement very soon.
Among the Democrats, former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey has expressed an interest in possibly running for the open seat.