New Orleans (CNN) - In the wake of a messy spending scandal that did serious damage to his standing atop the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele offered a mea culpa at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference on Saturday.
“I’m the first here to admit I’ve made mistakes and its incumbent on me to take responsibility, shoulder that burden, make the necessary changes and move on,” Steele told a polite but half-empty ballroom at the conference, where he was the final speaker on the agenda.
“The one mistake we cannot make this November is to lose,” he said.
Steele has battled two weeks of bad headlines after it was revealed that RNC spent donor money at a sex-themed Hollywood nightclub - a controversy that exacerbated grumbling among Republicans already skeptical of Steele’s ability to raise the money needed to compete in November.
“In life you realize very quickly that you can’t please everyone, but you can certainly make them all mad at you at the same time,” Steele told the audience. “That is a lesson well learned. It is an opportunity as well. Because folks have been mad at us in the past, and we have learned from that past, and we are now ready to move on into a brighter future as leaders, as Republicans, as conservatives.”
New Orleans (CNN) - Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney defeated Texas Rep. Ron Paul by a single vote in the Southern Republican Leadership Conference’s 2012 straw poll on Saturday.
Romney did not appear at the New Orleans conference, but he received 439 votes out of the 1,806 cast by delegates at the conference, held in New Orleans. Paul earned 438 votes.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tied for third place with 18 percent of the vote.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee earned 4 percent, followed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, who both captured 3 percent. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum finished with 2 percent, while former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson came in last with 1 percent.
Conference-goers had predicted that Romney and Paul would compete for the straw poll’s top two spots, as their supporters worked hard to get like-minded delegates to the voting room.
A group called “Evangelicals for Mitt” was a visible presence at the conference, handing out copies of Romney’s new book along with pink piggy banks emblazoned with the slogan, “Elect a president who won’t break the bank.” Paul’s loyal supporters, many of them college-aged, showed up in droves on Saturday to cast ballots before attending the congressman’s speech in the afternoon.
(CNN) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, still considered among the most influential members of the Republican Party, is touting Sarah Palin's impact on the GOP and her future in the party.
"Sarah Palin is tremendously important right now, I mean for maybe 40 percent of the country, she personifies courage, clarity," Gingrich told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Both Gingrich and Palin were among the event's featured speakers.
"She's attractive, she's articulate, she has energy," Gingrich continued in the interview set to air Sunday on CNN's State of The Union. "Watch the size of her crowds…And I think whether that translates into something bigger later or whether she's just a very significant person for the rest of her life, she is a real player, nobody should underestimate her."
(CNN) - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, thought to be considering a 2012 White House bid, announced Saturday his political action committee raised $1.84 million in the six months since it was created.
According to a statement from Pawlenty's Freedom First PAC, more than $550,000 of that money came in the first quarter of 2010.
Pawlenty is pledging to use the funds to help elect conservative candidates in the 2010 midterm elections.
“We need to put freedom first again in America, and stop the out-of-control spending in Washington," he said in the statement. "The early support for our organization will help us elect candidates who can rein in Washington and renew the promise of freedom.”
Flanked by Secret Service agents and personal aide Reggie Love, Obama spotted his wife near the West Wing entrance and tried to get her attention. "Hey FLOTUS," he shouted, then added, "I was just looking for you." FLOTUS is the acronym for first lady of the United States.
As CNN photojournalist Bill Alberter videotaped the encounter, the president joked, "Stop it guys, I haven't seen my wife in a while."
(CNN) - World leaders, agencies and officials mourned the death of the Polish president, killed in a plane crash early Saturday.
President Barack Obama:
- "Today's loss is devastating to Poland, to the United States, and to the world. ... Today, there are heavy hearts across America. The United States cherishes its deep and abiding bonds with the people of Poland."
Former President George W. Bush
- "Laura and I are deeply saddened by the deaths of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria, and all those aboard their airplane. President Kaczynski was a strong defender of freedom and a friend to the United States. Laura and I have fond memories of our visits with the President and Maria. On this sad day, we send our heartfelt condolences to people of Poland, and especially to the families of all those lost in this tragic accident. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers. "
The U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley:
- "This is a horrible tragedy for Poland. We extend to the people of Poland our deepest condolences."
More reactions after the jump
"We believe the best course is to encourage job creation by private companies," the Arizona senator says. "And the way to do that is to limit intrusion by Washington and to keep taxes at a manageable level."
Full transcript of the remarks after the jump:
(CNN) - President Obama is urging Americans to take advantage of several tax credits in the stimulus bill.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president called the credits "targeted relief to help middle class families weather the storm, to jumpstart our economy, and to bring the fundamentals of the American Dream – making an honest living, earning an education, owning a home, and raising a family – back within reach for millions of Americans."
Full transcript of the remarks after the jump
Washington (CNN) - A controversial Obama administration nominee to a powerful Justice Department post announced Friday that she has withdrawn her nomination in the face of unrelenting Republican opposition.
Dawn Johnsen, an outspoken champion of abortion rights and a harsh critic of Bush administration policies on detention of terrorism suspects, was nominated twice by President Obama to lead the prestigious Office of Legal Counsel.
Johnsen has remained a top target of Republican critics for a second consecutive year and her nomination got stuck in the full Senate without a vote.
(CNN) - Polish President Lech Kaczynski was killed early Saturday along with his wife, several top military officials, and the head of the national bank when their plane crashed at a western Russian airport, officials said.
"There are no survivors," said Sergey Antufyev, the governor of Smolensk, where the plane was trying to land when it crashed.
A spokesman for Poland's Foreign Ministry, Piotr Paszkowski, said earlier that it was probable that everyone on board was killed.