[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/24/art.pawlenty.ap.jpg caption="Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, rumored to be on John McCain's shortlist for the number 2 spot, said Sunday he likes his current job."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Republican and Democratic conventions are still months away, but speculation on possible vice presidential candidates is running rampant.
The V.P. subject is just too enticing for most reporters, especially as the field continues to dwindle. But when the question is raised, potential running-mates from both parties almost always answer the same way: complete denial of any interest in the position.
Sunday was no different.
Governor Tim Pawlenty, R-Minnesota, spoke about the 2008 race with John King on CNN’s Late Edition. When asked about last week's Washington Post article that had Pawlenty on the short-list for John McCain's running-mate, the governor replied, "I don’t need a day job. I have one. I’m focused on being governor."
On Fox News Sunday, Governor Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, rejected the idea that he’s interested in Barack Obama's number two post. "I do have a very important job at hand, which is governing Virginia. I want to do everything I can to help Barack win Virginia, and I think I can do that as governor."
And Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, was even more straightforward on ABC’s “This Week.” In response to Steve Forbes' comment that she is the "frontrunner" for McCain’s V.P. pick, Hutchinson said “I think that Sen. McCain has a lot of options, I think he has to look at a lot of different factors. I don’t want to be vice president."
Perhaps the most expected V.P. dismissal came from Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, who also appeared on Late Edition. For months, rumors have surfaced of Hagel joining up with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York for a potential independent ticket. To that suggestion, he responded, “Chuck Hagel is out of the mix. I’m going to continue to focus on my job in the Senate, and do what I can to influence the direction of our country over the next year.”
- CNN's Peter Lanier
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/24/art.dean.ap.jpg caption="Dean accused McCain Sunday of skirting election laws."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean accused Republican presidential front-runner John McCain of trying to skirt campaign finance laws Sunday by trying to opt out of public financing for his primary campaign.
Dean told reporters that McCain has already used the prospect of nearly $6 million in federal matching funds - which he now says he won't claim - as collateral for a January campaign loan and to obtain automatic ballot access in every state. Dean said he was filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission to block McCain from quitting the public financing system, which imposes a spending cap on candidates.
"The law is very, very clear," Dean said. "He cannot be let out of the matching fund program if he has already used the promise of matching funds for loan collateral, and it's already clear from his FEC report that he has used that promise."
FEC Chairman David Mason raised similar questions about the loan agreement in a letter to the McCain campaign last week. But the Arizona senator's campaign has said its existing request with the FEC was never part of the terms of the loan, merely the possibility of future payouts.
Dean said the issue was a test of McCain's integrity. But McCain spokesman Brian Rogers accused the Democratic chief of "breathtaking" hypocrisy, since Dean opted out of public financing for his 2004 White House bid.
Mason asked the McCain campaign last week to provide more information about the terms of the loan before his agency rules on whether or not the Arizona senator will be required to remain within the federal financing system.
But FEC, which regulates campaign financing, is currently hamstrung by vacancies - four of the commission's six seats are currently empty, and a deadlock between President Bush and the Senate has stalled nominees for those posts.
McCain, a chief advocate of campaign finance reform, sought the option of public financing last fall when his campaign was in dire need of money. He notified the FEC in early February that he was not claiming federal matching funds, which would limit his spending on the primary campaign to $54 million.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/24/art.clintonla.ap.jpg caption="Clinton spoke to the annual State of the Black Union forum Saturday ."]NEW ORLEANS (CNN) - In remarks to the annual State of the Black Union forum Saturday, Sen. Hillary Clinton strongly defended her husband's record on civil rights, and offered regrets some of the former president's comments earlier this campaign season appeared to have offended many African-Americans.
Clinton was asked about remarks her husband made while on the trail for his wife in South Carolina last month, including his reference to Jesse Jackson having won primaries in the state during the 1980s. Critics complained about the remarks, seeing it as a suggestion that Obama's success in that state would largely be based on his race.
In her answer, Clinton said many of the attendees to the forum know her husband personally and "know his heart."
"If anyone was offended by anything that was said, whether it was meant or not, whether it was misinterpreted or not, then obviously I regret that," she added. "But I believe our task is to go forward with the agenda that all of us agree upon. That is what I have done my entire life, on behalf of civil rights and women's rights and human rights."
"I believe strongly that there is a shared and common purpose that we all hold very dear, regardless of who you are supporting at this time for the Democratic nominee as president," Clinton continued. "It goes way beyond Barack and me. It goes way beyond politics. And I don't think there is any doubt that I and Bill have been part of that common purpose and that struggle our entire adult lives."
Despite the Clintons' longtime popularity in the African-American community, the New York senator has lost the black vote handily to Obama in every primary contest to date.
Clinton offered no criticism of her rival candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, in her remarks Saturday, instead stressing the importance of Democratic unity once the party's nominee is chosen.
"I am very respectful and understanding of people voting however they choose," Clinton said during a question-and-answer session at the forum. "You know there is no entitlement here. There is no guarantee. People should make up their minds on whatever basis they think is important.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/30/art.nader.gi.jpg caption="Nader said Sunday he will mount another presidential run."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Ralph Nader announced Sunday he is entering the presidential race as an Independent.
In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," the consumer advocate said great changes in U.S. history have come "through little parties that never won any national election."
"Dissent is the mother of ascent," he said. "And in that context I've decided to run for president."
Nader, who turns 74 this week, complained of the "paralysis of the government," which he said is under the control of corporate executives and lobbyists.
It marks his fourth straight White House bid - fifth if his 1992 write-in campaign is included.
Nader's entry into the race did not come as a surprise to political watchers.
On Sunday, Sen. Barack Obama criticized him. "My sense is that Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don't listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you're not substantive," Obama told reporters when asked about Nader's possible candidacy.
- CNN's Josh Levs