(CNN) - Sen. Barack Obama kicked off a multi-day bus tour in Pennsylvania Friday with a key endorsement and lingering controversy over his former pastor's racially sensitive comments.
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey announced his support of Obama's White House bid on Friday at an event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It's an endorsement that could give the Illinois senator a boost in the crucial primary state that votes April 22.
"He started this campaign as an underdog, but he knows what it's like to be a fighter," Casey said. "I've been impressed by so much watching this campaign ... impressed by his compassion, his strength, his ideas and I think especially ... under fire."
Casey told the crowd that he called Sen. Hillary Clinton on Thursday night to inform her of the decision. "She was gracious ... and we know that she's a great senator, she's a great leader," Casey added.
Obama accepted Casey's endorsement, saying "Bob is such gracious person. I did not press him on this endorsement. There are others I press," he said.
He said Casey's endorsement "meant more to me as any endorsement I've received on the trail because I knew it was coming from the heart."
WASHINGTON (CNN)— Presidential politics often feel like one big political circus, but Friday, a group of elephants put meaning behind the term and caucused for their favorite presidential candidate.
Four elephants from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus on tour in Washington D.C. were lead by clowns in the caucus ring to different corners representing the candidates.
There was a three way tie until the last elephant uncovered a surprise fourth candidate.
After the surprise candidate was revealed, all the elephants seemed to change their stances and push for the surprise addition– turns out not all elephants are Republicans.
Watch the video to see who the surprise candidate was.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/03/28/art.obamalaw.gi.jpg caption="The University of Chicago said Friday Obama was considered a professor at the school."](CNN) - The University of Chicago said Friday Barack Obama accurately described himself as a onetime law professor at the school, despite the fact his formal title was "Senior Lecturer."
The university's statement comes after the Clinton campaign recently suggested on several occasions that the Illinois senator was embellishing his role at the school by calling himself a professor.
The campaign also sent out a press release quoting a 2004 Chicago Sun-Times column that stated of Obama's professor claim: "Several direct-mail pieces issued for Obama's primary campaign said he was a law professor at the University of Chicago. He is not. He is a senior lecturer (now on leave) at the school. In academia, there is a vast difference between the two titles. Details matter."
But in a statement, the university said its senior lecturers are considered professors.
"From 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama served as a professor in the Law School," the statement said.
"He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year. Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track," it also said.
- CNN's Alexander Mooney and Peter Hamby
(CNN) - Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told CNN Friday his party's system for choosing presidential candidates is "not a mess," despite the maze of complexities exposed by the close, bitter battle between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
He also gave his clearest indication to date that he would like the fight wrapped up before the official nominating convention in August - as well as a guide on how to end it.
He said the undecided superdelegates - party officials who can choose whom to back - should weigh in once the voters have had their say.
"I'd like the other 350 (superdelegates) to say who they're for at some point between now and the first of July so we don't have to take this into the convention," he said on "The Early Show" on CBS. He made similar remarks on ABC.
Dean told CNN he's convinced the delegates from Florida and Michigan, who are currently not being counted, will ultimately be seated at the convention.
And he told CNN that party leadership has had "extensive discussions" with the Clinton and Obama campaigns to cool down their rhetoric.
"I don't think the party is going to implode," he said when asked about that possibility.
(Udpates with Dean's comments on Superdelegates)
- CNN's Josh Levs
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/03/27/art.chrisdodd.gi.jpg caption=" Dodd wants the Democratic race to end soon."]
(CNN) - Sen. Chris Dodd said Thursday a protracted Democratic presidential race would be "devastating" to the party, and argued an agreement should be worked out after the upcoming contests in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and North Carolina.
Dodd, a former presidential candidate and current backer of Barack Obama's White House bid, told the National Journal he thinks it’s a forgone conclusion Obama will be the Democratic presidential nominee, and said he thinks it's about time party leaders bring the race to a conclusion.
"We've got five more months to go before the Democratic convention at the end of August and, candidly, we cannot go five more months with the kind of daily sniping that's going on and have a candidate emerge in that convention," said the Connecticut senator.
"Over the next couple of weeks, as we get into April, it seems to me then, that the national leadership of this party has to stand up and reach a conclusion," he added.
Pennsylvania, a state where Hillary Clinton is heavily favored, is slated to vote April 22; North Carolina and Indiana head to the polls two weeks later. It remains unclear which candidates have the edge in those states.
Dodd's comments come one day after Clinton indicated she planned to stay in the race through the remaining round of primary contests. The latest votes, South Dakota's and Montana's caucuses, fall on June 3.
"I think the elections that are yet to come deserve to be held because the people from Pennsylvania to Puerto Rico to all the others that are waiting in line deserve to be heard. And I think that's part of the good," Clinton said Wednesday. Former President Bill Clinton also reiterated that sentiment, saying Wednesday, “my family’s not big on quitting.”
But Dodd said Thursday allowing the race to continue indefinitely would be "irresponsible."
"Allowing this sort of to fester over the months of June, and July and August, I think, are irresponsible," he said. "I think you have to make a decision, and hopefully the candidates will respect it and people will rally behind a nominee that, I think, emerges from these contests over the next month."
Specifically, Dodd said leaders among the Congress, governors, and at the Democratic National Committee need to work together to forge a compromise.
"It seems to me you've got to have an issue here that transcends your favorite candidate and decide whether or not the best candidate we have to win this election, to bring our country together and to get behind that choice, instead of having this sort of drip on for the next five months. That is devastating in my view," he said."
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) — John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, launched his first general election ad Friday, portraying himself as a strong, courageous and patriotic leader.
“John McCain. The American president Americans have been waiting for,” the ad’s narrator says.
Throughout the 60 second spot, images of McCain now, and during his days in Vietnam, flash across the screen while newspaper headlines superimposed behind the video call him an image for the future, ‘a real hero,’ ‘ready on day one.’
“What must a president believe about us? About America? That she is worth protecting? That liberty is priceless? Our people are honorable? Our future prosperous, remarkable and free?,” the ad’s narrator also says.
The ad, set to run in the battleground state of New Mexico, also features footage of McCain as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
- CNN's Emily Sherman
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/POLITICS/03/27/obama.moveon/art.clinton.del.gi.jpg caption="Clinton's campaign says it had nothing to do with the donors message."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - MoveOn.org, a grassroots powerhouse that supports Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, launched a fundraising drive Thursday to counter Sen. Hillary Clinton's wealthy supporters.
Her supporters have recently argued with their checkbooks that superdelegates should vote their conscience at the Democratic National Convention in August.
MoveOn's drive sets up a face-off that illustrates the widening gap in the Democratic Party between some of its traditional financial backers, many of whom support Clinton, and a Netroots donor base that leans toward Obama.
Twenty of Clinton's major donors sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday that suggested they might rethink their support for the party's congressional efforts this cycle if Pelosi did not alter her publicly stated view that superdelegates should support the party's pledged delegate leader - a position that would be fatal to Clinton's presidential bid.
"We have been strong supporters of the DCCC," they wrote. "We therefore urge you to clarify your position on superdelegates and reflect in your comments a more open view to the optional independent actions of each of the delegates at the National Convention in August."
The DCCC - Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee - assists the party's House candidates.
A day later, MoveOn.org announced its fundraising drive to demonstrate its support for Pelosi's position
"It's the worst kind of insider politics - billionaires bullying our elected leaders into ignoring the will of the voters," wrote organizers in an e-mail to the group's members. "But when we all pool our resources, together we're stronger than the fat cats. So let's tell Nancy Pelosi that if she keeps standing up for regular Americans, thousands of us will have her back. And we can more than match whatever the CEOs and billionaires refuse to contribute."
Senior advisers to Clinton's campaign denied Thursday the campaign had anything to do with the donors' message to Pelosi.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/03/28/art.casey.gi.jpg caption=" Casey will endorse Obama Friday."](CNN) - Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey will announce his support of Barack Obama's White House bid Friday, an endorsement that could give the Illinois senator a boost in the crucial primary state that votes April 22.
The official endorsement is expected to come later Friday as Obama begins a week-long campaign-swing through the state. Several recent polls suggest Hillary Clinton appears to hold a double-digit lead there.
Casey is a first-term senator and son of a popular former governor of the state, Bob Casey, Sr. A prominent catholic, Casey's support could help Obama make inroads among catholic voters in the state - a voting bloc that has favored Clinton in most other primary contests.
In 2002, Casey lost a hard-fought gubernatorial primary contest against Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, now an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton's White House bid.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - Sen. Barack Obama says in an interview scheduled to air on TV Friday that he would have left his church if his pastor had not retired and had not acknowledged making comments that "deeply offended people."
Obama talked about the dispute as it continued to brew over some of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons and comments, which many viewed as anti-American and racist toward whites.
Bulletins from Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ in 2007 include comments - reprinted from other sources - that maintain South Africa and Israel worked on "an ethnic bomb that kills blacks and Arabs." They also quote a historian who said that "what the Zionist Jews did to the Palestinians is worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews."
The articles appeared in a church bulletin section called the "Pastor's Page," and include one that originally ran in The Los Angeles Times. That article was written by a senior official with Hamas, which the U.S. government considers a terrorist organization.
Compiled Jonathan Helman
CNN Washington Bureau
Washington Post: Democrats Knock McCain's Economic Views
Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday sharply criticized presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain's views on the housing crisis, illustrating a wide gap between the two parties on how to fix the ailing economy.
NY Times: Obama Casts Wide Blame for Financial Crisis and Proposes Homeowner Aid
Senator Barack Obama called Thursday for tighter regulation of mortgage lenders, banks and financial houses, even as he spoke of pumping $30 billion into the economy to shield homeowners and local governments from the worst effects of the collapse of the housing bubble.
USA Today: McCain To Embark On 'Biography Tour'
John McCain became a public figure as a Vietnam prisoner of war. He has been in Congress for a quarter-century and ran a well-covered presidential race in 2000. He has co-authored five books. But his campaign still wants to make sure people know who he is. The Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting begins a "biography tour" next week, visiting schools and military installations "that have played a significant role in shaping who I am today," as McCain put it in a fundraising letter.
Washington Post: Obama Rewriting Rules for Raising Campaign Money Online
Online donations help illustrate how Obama has shattered fundraising records and challenged ideas about the way presidential bids are financed. While past campaigns have relied largely on support from small circles of wealthy and well-connected patrons, Obama has received contributions from more than 1 million donors. He raised $91 million in the first two months of 2008 alone, most of it in small amounts over the Internet.