[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/07/sanford.future/art.sanford.cnn.jpg caption="The fallout from Gov. Mark Sanford's affair caps months of decline for the second-term governor."](CNN) - It was late December 2007, and all eyes were on South Carolina.
As the state's Republican presidential primary neared, a crowded field of contenders sought the backing of their party's rising star, but Gov. Mark Sanford pledged to stay neutral in what was then a wide-open GOP race.
Fast-forward nearly 18 months later, and even Sanford's closest allies are distancing themselves from him after he admitted to an extramarital affair with a woman from Argentina.
A week ago, some observers said they thought Sanford's resignation was inevitable. But the Republican governor has made it clear that he's not going to step down, and some now say he might be able to hang onto his job.
"My hope is and continues to be that he can reconcile with his family and repair the damage done to his family and with the constituents of South Carolina and can finish out his term," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, The State newspaper reported. "That is still my belief, and that is still my hope, and I believe that is possible."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Satirist-turned-politician Al Franken was sworn in as the newest member of the U.S. Senate Tuesday, officially closing the books on one of the longest post-election recount struggles in recent American political history.
Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, became the 60th member of his party's Senate caucus. The Democrats now have a potential filibuster-proof majority in the chamber.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/06/art.alecbaldwin0706.gi.jpg caption="Alec Baldwin told Playboy Magazine that he would 'love to run against Joe Lieberman.'"]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Emmy Award winner Alec Baldwin is eyeing a post-acting career that could take him off a Hollywood soundstage into the halls of Congress.
Baldwin, who currently stars in the NBC comedy "30 Rock," told Playboy magazine that he is seriously considering running for Congress. But he acknowledged his opponents would have plenty of fodder to use against him.
"I'll put it this way," he told the magazine. "The desire is there; that's one component. The other component is opportunity."
A native New Yorker, Baldwin said he has been approached by an unnamed Democratic law firm who wanted him to run for governor of Ohio, and he has also considered moving to New Jersey or Connecticut to run for office. "I'd love to run against Joe Lieberman," Baldwin said of the Independent Democratic senator who is no favorite of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. But Baldwin dismissed the idea, saying "It's all fantasy."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/30/art.bofin0630.gi.jpg caption="President Obama's approval rating is down 13 points in Ohio, according to a new poll."](CNN) - A new poll suggests that Barack Obama's approval rating is dropping rapidly in Ohio, a crucial battleground in the race for the White House, and a state with a U.S. Senate seat and governorship up for grabs next year.
Forty-nine percent of those questioned in a Quinnpiac University survey released Tuesday say they approve of how Obama's handling his duties as president. That's down 13 points from a Quinnipiac University poll of Ohio voters conducted in May. Forty-four percent of those questioned disapprove of Obama's job as president, up 13 points from May.
The survey also indicates that by a narrow 48 percent to 46 percent margin - within the range of the survey's 2.8 percent sampling error - Ohio voters disapprove of how Obama's handing the economy. In May, 57 percent approved of how Obama was handling the economy.
"The economy in Ohio is as bad as anywhere in America. These numbers indicate that for the first time voters have decided that President Barack Obama bears sole responsibility for their problems," says Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/07/art.60ad0707.yt.jpg caption="The NRSC is out with a Web video that highlights Al Franken's arrival in the Senate."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Minnesota Senator-elect Al Franken's arrival on Capitol Hill some eight months after Election Day has set off a message battle in anticipation of the 2010 midterm elections.
"60," a new Web video released Tuesday by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, features campaign footage of Franken and invites viewers to hold Democrats responsible in 2010 now that there are 60 Democrats in the Senate.
"With 60 senators, [t]he Democrats have total control. No checks. No balances," flashes onscreen over the Franken footage.
The video suggests that Democrats have the power to push through legislation on a number of issues all with "no debate," because Franken potentially gives Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a filibuster-proof majority.
"They own everything. . . . and have no onto blame now . . . In 2010, you can hold them accountable."
The release of "60" comes a day after Franken made his first appearance on Capitol Hill since his opponent Norm Coleman conceded a razor-thin race in the wake of a ruling for Franken by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has been given the American Bar Association's highest rating for "professional qualification," a political boost less than a week before her confirmation hearings begin in the Senate.
An ABA committee that reviewed her record concluded unanimously Tuesday that she is "well qualified" to sit on the high court. The nation's largest association of attorneys has been evaluating nominees to the federal bench for five decades.
Sotomayor was last evaluated by the ABA in 1998 when she was nominated for the appeals court seat she now occupies. She was also rated "well-qualified," but the vote then was not unanimous.
Her confirmation hearings for the high court begin Monday, and Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, applauded the ABA evaluation, saying it "should eliminate the doubts of naysayers who have questioned Judge Sotomayor's disposition on the bench."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new District of Columbia law recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere took effect Tuesday.
The measure, which does not allow gay or lesbian couples to be married in
the district itself, was initially approved on May 5.
Currently four states recognize same-sex marriages - Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Iowa. Vermont and New Hampshire will soon join their company when same-sex marriages become legal later this year and early next year.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/07/art.zelaya0707.gi.jpg caption="Ousted Honduran President Zelaya will meet with the Secretary of State."]
(CNN) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet Tuesday with deposed Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya, according to the State Department.
In an interview with CNN en Español Monday night, Zelaya said he will once again try to return to his homeland after a series of meetings this week in Washington.
Zelaya failed in a attempt to return Sunday after the government of provisional President Roberto Micheletti prohibited his plane from landing.
Zelaya was expected to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for meetings with U.S. and foreign officials, including Clinton, a senior U.S. official said.
"We're very focused on the need for a dialogue to restore him and to restore the democratic order," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.
Zelaya was ousted June 28, the day that he planned to follow through with a referendum that the courts and the Honduran Congress had ruled illegal and that the military said it would not support. Lawmakers voted to strip Zelaya of his powers and named Micheletti as president.
The United Nations, Organization of American States and United States have condemned the coup, yet international pressure to date has not proved enough for Zelaya to return to power.
Updated: 11:32 a.m.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – When Al Franken is officially sworn in Tuesday as the junior senator from Minnesota, he will become the 60th Democratic member of the U.S. Senate and, in theory, give his party its first filibuster-proof majority in more than 30 years.
The last time any party had a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate was during the 95th Congress from 1977 to 1979, when Democrats held 62 seats. The Senate's filibuster rule had just changed two years earlier, when the threshold needed to invoke cloture, or to end debate, was lowered from a two-thirds majority of senators present and voting to three-fifths of the total senate membership, which translates to 60 votes of the 100-member body. At the time of the rule change in 1975, the Democratic caucus had 61 votes.
However, reaching the 60-member mark with Franken's swearing-in does not automatically guarantee Democrats the ability to end GOP-driven filibusters.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN Monday that Gov. Mark Sanford told him that he'd had a good weekend with his family. Graham also said "there is hope there" that Sanford can reconcile with his wife, and that his fellow Republican expects to finish out his term.