WASHINGTON (CNN) - With the Christmas holiday over, the field of White House contenders is back on the campaign trail with roughly a week to go until Iowa's January 3 caucuses.
In the latest Best Political Podcast, Mary Snow reports on former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's efforts to keep his campaign on track in New Hampshire in the face of recent criticism from two Granite State newspapers.
Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider takes a look at two wild card candidates who could potentially derail each party's front-runners in the first two early primary states.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee took a break from shaking hands and kissing babies to go hunting in Iowa Wednesday. Dana Bash was there for the excursion and reports on Huckabee's hunt for votes in the Hawkeye State.
Finally, CNN Contributor Bill Bennett, Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger, and CNN Correspondent Jessica Yellin discuss the Democratic race in Iowa.
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–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (CNN) - John McCain, who returned to Iowa on Wednesday for a series of campaign stops in advance of next week's caucuses, was quick to tell reporters that his campaign has a "very, very long way to go" in the state.
The Arizona senator said he was pleased to pick up endorsements from the Des Moines Register and Quad City Times, but that he wasn’t "enough of a strategist" to talk about how the Iowa caucuses will affect the rest of the presidential race.
"I know it's very, very difficult, but we continue to work," McCain said of his Iowa chances. "I think it always has significance, but honestly it's how the media to a large degree portrays winners and losers and expectations and comeback kids and all that. So I would ask you: How am I doing?"
McCain, who spoke to reporters before a small town hall meeting, said he thought the immigration issue, and his lack of support for ethanol subsidies, had dragged him down in Iowa polls.
When asked about the recent attacks on his campaign by Republican rival Mitt Romney, McCain responded: “I think I appreciate all the attention and … I just have to quote from the Concord Monitor and the Union-Leader. It's not unexpected. We're doing fine and I view it as a sign of the success we're having in New Hampshire."
McCain, who has received several major newspaper endorsements in the Granite State, is tied for the lead with Romney, or a close second, in most recent polls of GOP primary voters there.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign released a statement Wednesday from his personal physician giving him a clean bill of health.
"It is my medical opinion that Rudy Giuliani is in very good health," said Dr. Valentin Fuster of the Mount Sinai Medical Center, who described himself as the Republican presidential hopeful's personal physician for the past seven years.
The former New York City mayor was admitted to a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, one week ago after he complained of a severe headache. Following an overnight stay, he cut back on his campaign schedule for the next few days.
Fuster said that Giuliani was given a CT-MRI of the brain, ultrasound of the carotid arteries, and a spinal fluid evaluation while he was in the hospital in St. Louis. The doctor also said that he had given the former mayor a transesophageal echocardiogram, a special test that uses sound waves to take pictures of the heart.
All of the tests were purely precautionary, and the results were all normal, according to Fuster. He added that the former New York City mayor was not prescribed any medication.
He added that Giuliani's PSA levels in a routine test given within the past month were negligible or undetectable, and routine laboratory tests were normal. High PSA levels could have been an indication of prostate cancer, which the former mayor suffered from several years ago.
CNN requested an interview with Fuster, but the Giuliani campaign declined and said that was all the doctor would have to say at this time.
Paul is up with a new ad in New Hampshire.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Ron Paul launched a new ad in Iowa and New Hampshire Wednesday that highlights the Texas congressman's biography.
"Answering our country’s call, Ron Paul became a flight surgeon in the Air Force," the narrator states in the 30-second spot, titled 'Defender of Freedom.' "As a doctor, Ron Paul delivered over 4,000 babies and is a leading defender of life. In Congress, Ron Paul never voted to raise taxes, never voted for an unbalanced budget, never voted to restrict gun rights or raise congressional pay."
The ad comes a week before Iowa holds its first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, and roughly two weeks before New Hampshire voters head to the polls for the first primary of the 2008 campaign. The Texas congressman - whose libertarian message seems well-tailored for the Granite State – is registering single-digit support in most recent polls of GOP primary voters.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Clinton is back on the trail in Iowa.
MT. PLEASANT, Iowa (CNN) – With eight days left until the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton is reminding people it's "time to pick a president." Heck, it's even included in the title of her last big swing through Iowa.
Kicking off the "Big Challenges, Real Solutions–Time to Pick a President" tour, Clinton told an audience she needs their help, adding that Iowans have an "awesome responsibility" to caucus on January 3.
"The entire country and even the world will be watching," Clinton said. "I want you to ask yourself 'who will be the best president?' Who, if something happened that none of us can predict now, would be there able to respond and act on behalf of our country immediately?"
Clinton urged people to show their support at the first-in-the-nation caucuses, saying they have a duty to be there "for people who can't be there."
"You're there for every Iowan serving our country in Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere in the world who can't get home to go caucus. You're there for everybody who has to work at night."
"This responsibility is one that connects you to literally thousands and even millions of people that you'll never know," Clinton continued.
"They won't know you, but you'll be there for them. You'll be there making the decision that will begin us moving toward the most important election that we've had in a very long time."
Clinton then told the crowd that if they choose her as the Democratic nominee, she'll "wage a winning campaign" against a Republican counterpart.
She was introduced at the event by her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and was also accompanied by daughter Chelsea. It's the first time all three Clintons have campaigned on the same stage in Iowa this election season.
-CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch
Clinton is out with a new ad Wednesday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democrat Hillary Clinton is set to launch a new ad in Iowa and New Hampshire Thursday in what seems to be the New York senator's closing argument, with only eight days left until the first wave of voters weigh in at the polls.
The 30-second spot, "Stakes", isn't narrated. Instead, the ad features still photographs set to dramatic music while text scrolls across the screen.
"A nation at war… Troubles at home…America at a crossroads…Demands a leader…With a Steady Hand," the ad's text says in part.
The new spot comes one day after Clinton launched her final tour of the Hawkeye State - a blitz the campaign is calling, "Big Challenges, Real Solutions – Time To Pick A President.”
The Democratic race in Iowa has been too close to call in most recent polls, with three candidates – Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards – in a dead heat for first place, although one survey released over the holidays seemed to show Clinton breaking away from her presidential rivals.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Clinton and Bush are statistically tied as the nation's most admired man.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Looks like all of Bill Clinton's time on the campaign trail this year for his wife Hillary may be paying off in the polls for more than one member of the family.
Sitting presidents usually top Gallup's list of the country's most admired man, and this year is no exception: President Bush leads, as the choice of 10 percent of those polled. But in this survey, he's in a statistical tie with former President Bill Clinton, at 8 percent. In the last survey, there was an 8-point margin of separation, with Bush leading 13 to 5 percent, and a 17-point difference in a 2004 poll. (Full poll results [PDF])
Former Vice President Al Gore, who won several high-profile awards in 2007 for his work to raise awareness about climate change, also shot up in the poll - now in third place with 6 percent - 5 percentage points higher than last year.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama nudges out the Rev. Billy Graham and Nelson Mandela for fourth place with 5 percent. Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani also make the list - all at 1 percent.
Hillary Clinton tops Gallup's most admired woman list, with 18 percent. But popular talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who has campaigned for Obama, Clinton's chief rival, is statistically tied with the New York Democrat at 16 percent. Both have gained in this year's poll: Clinton was at 13 percent in 2006 while Winfrey was at 9 percent.
The poll surveyed 1,011 Americans December 14-16, and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
McCain is up with a new ad in South Carolina.
(CNN) - Republican John McCain’s campaign announced Wednesday it was debuting a new 30-second ad in South Carolina.
"One man sacrificed for his country,” says the announcer in the new spot, "Never Surrender," over footage of McCain as a military officer and prisoner of war, and later images of the Arizona senator walking with President Reagan.
"One man opposed a flawed strategy in Iraq. One man had the courage to call for change. One man didn't play politics with the truth. One man stands up to the special interests. … One man does what's right, not what's easy. John McCain."
McCain himself speaks briefly in the ad, telling a crowd to "Stand up. We're Americans, we're Americans and we'll never surrender, they will."
McCain is among several Republican candidates vying for third place, behind Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, in most recent polls of South Carolina Republicans. The Palmetto State’s GOP primary will be held January 19.
–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand
Edwards is up with a new ad in New Hampshire.
(CNN) - Democrat John Edwards, who is spending the day campaigning in New Hampshire, is also debuting a 30-second ad there Wednesday.
“What will our next president do with the enormous power that comes with the office?,” Edwards asks in the spot, titled “Power.”
“I’ll restore America’s moral authority in the world. Confront people who exploit their power for personal advantage. Stand up for poor people whose voices are ignored, just like I’ve done all my life. Be honest about the challenges we face and the choices we have. Keep the promises I’ve made. Work every day to restore the American dream. Because I know that the power that comes with the presidency comes from you.”
The former North Carolina senator is running a distant third among Granite State Democrats, behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, in most recent polls. New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary is less than two weeks away.
Both the Clinton and Obama camps are highlighting defecting supporters.
(CNN) - The Clinton campaign announced Wednesday that a labor steering committee member for Barack Obama was now backing Hillary Clinton in Iowa, the latest skirmish in a battle between the two Democratic rivals over supporters who have decided to switch sides.
In a statement released by the Clinton campaign, Bob McFadden of Muscatine County said he made the jump because “Hillary Clinton won’t just talk the talk – she cares about the issues important to all of us and will work to change the direction of our country.”
The two candidates have been highlighting turncoat supporters for the past few weeks. The Obama campaign had a hit two weeks ago with a much-viewed Web video of Susan Klopfer, a former Clinton volunteer in Iowa who switched her allegiance to the Illinois senator. Shortly afterwards, the Clinton campaign released its own Web video featuring several Iowa Democrats who’d supported other candidates, including Obama, but were now behind the New York senator.
The Democratic race in Iowa has been too close to call in most recent polls, with three candidates – Clinton, Obama, and John Edwards – in a dead heat for first place, although one survey released over the holidays seemed to show Clinton breaking away from her presidential rivals.
UPDATE: Just a few hours after the Clinton campaign's announcement, the Obama campaign announced that Kent Sovern, who was named Iowa co-chair of the Clinton campaign’s Veterans Committee last week, was now an Obama supporter.
“I believe Sen. Obama has the judgment and courage to stand up for America’s veterans and find a responsible way to get our combat troops out of Iraq,” said Sovern, in a statement released by the campaign. “We can trust him to tell us the truth on the tough issues – even when it’s not convenient.”
–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand