January 29th, 2008
06:23 AM ET
13 years ago

TICKER MORNING EDITION: Tuesday, January 29, 2008


WASHINGTON (CNN) - It’s a measure of the drama surrounding the current campaign that the State of the Union isn’t the biggest political headline of the morning: It’s primary day, and according to Rudy Giuliani, there’s only one ticket out of Florida.

The grabber, of course: this assessment comes from a candidate who hasn’t held first place in the GOP standings here since voting began.

"This is a place where we have to test ourselves," Giuliani told reporters yesterday. "The winner of Florida will win the nomination; we're going to win Florida."

So would a loss here end his White House run? "When it’s Wednesday morning, we'll make a decision," he said.

The high-stakes Republican contest is grabbing most of the attention - but early voting in Florida’s no-stakes Democratic contest is still on a pace to break turnout records. And while Barack Obama was sharing a Washington stage with three new Kennedy family backers, Hillary Clinton’s campaign revealed a pair of high-profile Florida endorsements: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and former attorney general Janet Reno.

The Florida endorsements, tonight’s Miami rally, the last-minute candidate calls for a reprieve from national party penalties on the state – denials aside, squint hard and it’s not hard to see the outlines of a non-campaign campaign. The grassroots faithful of “Florida for Hillary” see it too – they’re still busy recruiting convention delegates through noon today (“Signing up to run is simple but you have to act fast,” says their Web site. What you will find in the announcement: exclamation points! What you won’t: any hint that the state’s delegates won’t exactly find a warm welcome in Denver – or party-reserved hotel rooms, or space on the convention floor.)

As the polls get ready to open across Florida, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are already focused on contests far beyond the state.

Yesterday, the Clinton campaign announced the launch of their Super Tuesday Rapid Responders, their official 22-state media surrogate network. And the Obama team spent the day laying out a post-February 5 plan of their own: a single-minded focus on padding the delegate count. They’re counting on a full-court superdelegate press from John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, and a grassroots push to draw on isolated areas of support - chipping away at Clinton’s pledged delegate haul in states that are supposed to act as her firewall.

Still, they admit they’re stronger in some areas than others – conceding to CNN yesterday that Latinos in general, and New York in particular, are currently in Clinton’s corner. They’re not wrong: the senator has dominated polls of Democratic primary voters in her home state, and can credit Latino voters with her Nevada win.

Still, with a 22-state playing field to cover, it doesn’t exactly send a message of confidence when her campaign lays out resources for a Spanish-language radio buy in the Big Apple. Those spots will reportedly begin running today.

- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Ticker Morning Edition
January 28th, 2008
06:00 AM ET
13 years ago

TICKER MORNING EDITION: Monday, January 28, 2008


WASHINGTON (CNN) - Tonight is President Bush’s final State of the Union address - but there may be nearly as much attention paid to another Washington speech a few hours earlier and a few stops up the Red Line.

Meanwhile, as Barack Obama takes that American University stage with both Ted and Caroline Kennedy today, Hillary Clinton will hold an event back in the Massachusetts senator’s home state. Clinton had a substantial lead over Obama there in polls taken before the South Carolina vote – but the Illinois senator, fresh off his overwhelming weekend win, now sports the backing of the February 5 state’s Democratic governor and both U.S. senators, with just over a week to go until Super Tuesday.

Both the Democratic frontrunners will be on hand to vote against FISA cloture today, and stick around for SOTU this evening.

Down south, there’s just 24 hours until the presidential primary, but already nearly a million Floridians have cast their ballots in early and absentee voting – which makes late surveys there an even more uncertain results roadmap than usual.

(Of note: more than 400,000 of those votes have been cast in the Democratic primary-that-isn’t, according to the state party. That’s more than four times the total number of Democratic early and absentee ballots in the 2004 presidential primary – one sign the national party’s penalties haven’t affected the passion of the base in this key swing state.)

Recent polls also give Clinton the advantage here – but the ongoing argument over whether or not the contest will actually count for anything heading forward (whether in the real, delegate-granting sense the Clinton campaign has called for, or via some indefinable edge heading into Super Tuesday) has taken on an esoteric, angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin quality. (The answers right now are: who knows? And: it depends.)

Turning back to a contest that counts – at least halfway – the question of the day is whether Mitt Romney has successfully managed to turn the focus of the Florida GOP contest back to the economy, despite John McCain’s best efforts over the weekend. Mike Huckabee is already looking past the state to friendlier territory, spending much of the day in Tennessee.

- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Ticker Morning Edition
January 25th, 2008
06:04 AM ET
13 years ago

TICKER MORNING EDITION: Friday, January 25, 2008


WASHINGTON (CNN) - At last night’s Republican debate in Florida, Rudy Giuliani told Tim Russert he’ll mount a come-from-behind win, like the New York Giants. Unfortunately, his recent finishes have looked a lot more like the New York Knicks.

Giuliani hopes to jumpstart his candidacy in Florida - a state that is crucial to his bid for the GOP presidential nomination. He directed his criticism at the Democrats seeking their party's nomination. And he wasn't the only White House hopeful on stage in the Sunshine State who was holding back from launching a full-out assault on his GOP rivals. There were a few sharp elbows, but none of the roundhouse punches the Democrats threw Monday night. In fact, the mood on-stage was, for the most part, oddly civil for a critical primary season faceoff. Even McCain (the new national front-runner, according to recent polls) and Romney (who told a crowd just hours before the debate that “most of the guns will be aimed at me”) escaped mostly unscathed.

It was the first debate of the post-Fred Thompson era, and it’s worth noting that his exit seems have had an unexpected effect on the race. Before he dropped out, some observers thought Mike Huckabee, who draws from the same evangelical base as Thompson, would benefit. Others predicted that John McCain, a close friend of the former Tennessee senator, would get a boost.

Still, while his chief fundraiser has joined Sen. John McCain's team already, Thompson has yet to back any of his former rivals – and the candidate who’s seen the biggest Florida gains since his exit has been Mitt Romney, with a small but significant uptick in the most recent surveys.

If Thompson were to back his former colleague McCain before Tuesday’s primary vote there, it might make a difference. But with the state’s primaries closed to independents, the Arizona senator has to be hoping the latest assessment from notoriously straight-talking mom Roberta McCain is off the mark this time. (When asked by C-SPAN’s Steve Scully this week how much support her son had from the GOP base, her immediate response was: “I don't think he has any.”)

- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Ticker Morning Edition
January 24th, 2008
05:58 AM ET
13 years ago

TICKER MORNING EDITION: Thursday, January 24, 2008


WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton told a group of South Carolina voters Wednesday night that one of the perks of leaving the White House was the ability to say whatever's on his mind.

He seems to be taking full advantage of it.

His four-minute lecture to CNN’s Jessica Yellin on misplaced media priorities might have been more convincing if it hadn’t come surrounded by a day’s worth of headline-grabbing attack lines. The method to the week’s campaign trail madness is undeniable, and impressive: his wife hasn’t stumped in South Carolina since the debate, but the Clinton name hasn’t budged from the state’s front pages since she left. Today, she returns to South Carolina for a final 48-hour push.

By all rights, John McCain should be a marked man as the Florida race winds down. The primary season isn’t over if McCain loses the state – it just might be if he wins. But credit his opponents’ shrinking cash reserves, or the soothing effect of the Florida sunshine: the Arizona senator has yet to face a negative ad since the race shifted there. A few opposing campaigns are coasting on fumes, so a last-minute gut-check wouldn’t exactly be the race’s the biggest shock - but with less than a week to go until Election Day, the odds of actually landing a knockout punch grow slimmer by the hour.

Tonight, McCain watches his back as the Republican field faces off for the final time before Florida’s voters head to the polls.

All the Democrats are in South Carolina; Republicans are in Florida.

- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Ticker Morning Edition
January 23rd, 2008
06:30 AM ET
13 years ago

TICKER MORNING EDITION: Wednesday, January 23, 2008


WASHINGTON (CNN) - All the pieces were there, from base-pleasing social stands to an undeniable (and inescapable) TV presence. But somehow, Fred Thompson’s campaign whole was never the sum of its parts – with a sell-by date that passed long before Saturday’s disappointing South Carolina showing.

The remaining Republican contenders are all staking their claim to their share of Florida real estate today - though Rudy Giuliani yesterday downgraded the state he’d wagered his presidential bid on from a “must-win” to a mere “important win” (a distinction that may be raising the question in the minds of some of his donors: just when does the White House hopeful believe it’s absolutely necessary to start, you know, winning something?)

Meanwhile, John McCain’s strong showing on the former mayor’s home turf in New York polls released this week – and the Arizona senator’s trip to the Big Apple yesterday to pick up a million dollars’ worth of campaign cash - can’t help Giuliani’s frame of mind heading into that Super Tuesday contest.

On the Democratic side: Barack Obama’s tough new persona is out in full force, with the Illinois senator telling the Christian Broadcasting Network last night that the waves of below-the-radar e-mail rumors that have hounded his campaign for months are part of a “systematic political strategy,” conveniently timed according to the primary calendar.

In more socially-acceptable slash-and-burn campaign news, Hillary Clinton’s oppo team went into overdrive with yesterday’s effort. The approach: Why bet the news cycle on just one attack of the day when you can send out half a dozen, all helpfully summarized and bullet-pointed in a single e-mail?

- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Ticker Morning Edition
January 22nd, 2008
05:46 AM ET
13 years ago

TICKER MORNING EDITION: Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Bill Schneider’s take on last night’s Democratic debate:

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (CNN) - It's obvious who the Democrats think will win the Republican nomination: They’re all talking about who will run strongest against John McCain.

This is new - and it's likely the result of his South Carolina win on Saturday. Now each of his potential general election opponents is laying out their strategy to beat a Republican candidate who has repeatedly shown he appeals to independents.

At the CNN/Congressional Black Caucus Institute debate in Myrtle Beach last night, Hillary Clinton held strong on her mantra that she's a fighter who has withstood the "Republican attack machine." Barack Obama and John Edwards, on the other hand, stressed their broad appeal to voters not usually inclined to vote for a Democrat.

And Obama injected Iraq - his strongest issue - into the debate, saying he can draw a powerful contrast with John McCain on the issue. On the other hand, McCain is likely to win any debate on national security - it's his strongest issue too, and he speaks on it with a degree of authority that virtually no other politician has.

Edwards got himself back in it last night - he showcased his style and his key issues, and is clearly back in the game. He showed he continues to deserve to share a debate stage with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama; thanks to that performance, voters here in South Carolina will likely give him another look heading into Saturday’s primary vote.

The debate also showcased the remarkably different primary strategies of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. She's going for the partisans that have historically constituted the overwhelming majority of primary voters. This is clear over and over again in her language, every time she talks about "fighting Republicans."

Obama, on the other hand, talks a very different game - he repeatedly said last night he can forge consensus, and will work with Republicans.

Clinton's strategy of going for the partisans in the primaries has shown itself to be a winning one time and again. But this election season has been anything but normal - and it's possible that after eight years with one of the most partisan presidents in history, even partisan Democrats want a consensus builder.

Clinton is running as the anti-Bush, while Obama is running as the un-Bush. Which will primary voters prefer?

–CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider


Meanwhile, post-debate: What were they talking about?

Hillary Clinton and John Edwards met privately backstage following a very contentious Democratic presidential debate in this coastal city, sources with both campaigns confirm to CNN.

The meeting took place in the Edwards campaign green room.

One of the sources said the meeting happened by chance and the conversation consisted of light chatter. The source added that Clinton did jokingly take a jab at Edwards about his beating up on her during the debate. In fact, the real fireworks were between Clinton and Barack Obama.

An Edwards source noted that it was not surprising the two senators met backstage.

"That happens back there,” said the source, who said it has happened “more often” with Obama. “It’s tight quarters – we’re all on top of each other.”

The question is - with only two weeks before Super Tuesday - what else was discussed?

–CNN’s Candy Crowley and Mike Roselli

Filed under: Ticker Morning Edition
January 21st, 2008
06:44 AM ET
13 years ago

TICKER MORNING EDITION: Monday, January 21, 2008


Tonight, CNN and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute host the final Presidential Debate before the South Carolina Democratic Primary. Sen. Hillary Clinton, former Sen. John Edwards, and Sen. Barack Obama will take the stage in Myrtle Beach. Tune into CNN and http://www.CNNPolitics.com throughout the day for extensive coverage of this event, as well as the race for the Republican presidential nomination. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer will moderate with questions from CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux and Joe Johns. The Debate will air live from 8 p.m. ET to 10 p.m. ET. Democratic Debate Day

WASHINGTON (CNN) - He’s not on the ballot this cycle, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see former President Bill Clinton take the stage with the remaining Democratic presidential contenders at tonight’s CNN/Congressional Black Caucus Institute debate in South Carolina.

The former president was nearly as much of a presence leading up to Saturday’s Nevada caucuses as his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton – or any of the Democratic candidates, really. In Nevada, as in New Hampshire, President Clinton was in a fighting mood the night before the vote, taking direct aim at Sen. Barack Obama; and again, in defiance of the polls, his wife pulled out a win.

This time, Obama is calling foul. President Clinton may not be a candidate this year, Obama told ABC, but he’s starting to feel as though he’s “running against both Clintons.” Top Obama strategist David Axelrod is chiming in too, accusing the couple of a “good cop, bad cop” routine this campaign season.

There may be no method to this madness, but there’s certainly a routine developing in the Clinton-Obama feud: Public truces are made, then broken hours later; last-minute, dueling conference calls are scheduled an hour or so apart; escalating charges and counter-charges are traded, investigations called for, inboxes flooded with allegations of distortion and dirty tricks. The over-under on response time from either side, in a Sunday CNN calculation, is down to a mind-warping seven minutes.

And as shock waves from the chaotic Nevada caucuses continue to ripple through Democratic ranks, yet another unwelcome pattern seems to be repeating itself. Last week, during the dustup over Sen. Clinton’s comments on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, observers noted that her campaign stood to benefit every time race was on the table, no matter the context.

This week, Obama may have the most to gain from the emerging dynamic: African-American voters in South Carolina have been swinging his way, according to recent polls – and nothing motivates the base quite like the charges of voter suppression coming out of Nevada. Both the Clinton and Obama campaigns are accusing the other of engaging in the practice.

The brutal bloodletting of the primary season may disappear quickly after a nominee is decided. But will the battle wounds really heal completely by November?

Momentum seems to have a short shelf life this cycle, but for what it’s worth, two Republicans come out of Saturday’s vote with the wind at their backs. John McCain won the kingmaker South Carolina contest, eight years after his campaign collapsed there. And Ron Paul’s second-place showing in Nevada’s neglected GOP caucuses – and near-tie with third-place Fred Thompson in South Carolina – may, at least for the moment, silence the skeptics. (Could it be the blimp?)

The list of walking wounded out of South Carolina is longer. It includes: Mike Huckabee, who actually split the state’s evangelical vote with John McCain; Fred Thompson, whose last-stand heroics translated into an underwhelming 16 percent finish; and Rudy Giuliani, whose Florida focus reduced his Saturday showing there to an asterisk.

Somewhere in the middle: Mitt Romney, who comes out of the weekend with a delegate lead, a caucus win – and a disappointing fourth-place showing in South Carolina, despite spending as much on ads there as the rest of the Republican field combined.

- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Ticker Morning Edition
January 18th, 2008
07:12 AM ET
13 years ago

TICKER MORNING EDITION: Friday, January 18, 2008


WASHINGTON (CNN) - The presidential candidates and their surrogates took a brief break from attacking each other Thursday to beat up on the media instead.

Bill Clinton, campaigning on his wife’s behalf in California, had a testy San Francisco face-off with a reporter he barely knew. Mitt Romney tangled with a reporter – the AP’s Glen Johnson, late of the Boston Globe – he knows all too well. And John Edwards’ campaign took on the entire press corps, blasting the media for allegedly ignoring the former North Carolina senator this cycle in favor of the flashier Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama duel (and prompting a reprise of the eternal chicken-or-the-egg dilemma of trail reporting: which comes first, the poll numbers or the press coverage?)

It’s roughly an East-West divide again today – Democrats trying their luck in and around Las Vegas, Republicans stumping in South Carolina – with the exception of Mitt Romney, who may benefit from Nevada’s sizeable Mormon minority in the state’s mostly-neglected GOP caucuses this Saturday.

Meanwhile: the “Common Sense Issues” robo-call marathon on his behalf may be winding down in South Carolina, but Mike Huckabee has even more intimidating allies on his side there this week.

The former Arkansas governor seems to be running neck-and-neck with John McCain in the state as that race draws to a close, but if 12-year-old boys could vote, it wouldn’t even be close: martial arts star Chuck Norris, who has spent much of the primary season stumping for the former Arkansas governor, has been joined on the Huckabee campaign trail this week by WWE star Ric Flair.

That combination of push poll madness and high-profile muscle backing Huckabee should be enough to strike fear in the heart of any Republican rival. But none of them may be much help when it comes to battling the man who looks, at least this week, to be Huckabee’s biggest enemy: the candidate himself.

So far this week, the former governor has: said the Constitution should be amended to comply with divine mandates; created a stir when his damage control involved telling FOX he wasn’t “suggesting that we re-write the constitution to reflect tithing or Sunday school attendance”; become the first presidential candidate to sign a controversial, headline-grabbing anti-immigration pledge; and told a Southern crowd that when it came to the Stars and Bars, if outsiders “want to come tell us what to do with the flag, we'd tell them what to do with the pole.”

Those comments might play well with some of South Carolina's Republicans – but what are they going to say when he gets to L.A.? Saturday’s vote may dominate the conversation this week, but the February 5 contests loom ever larger.

- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Ticker Morning Edition
January 17th, 2008
06:57 AM ET
13 years ago

TICKER MORNING EDITION: Thursday, January 17, 2008


WASHINGTON (CNN) - When is an endorsement not quite an endorsement? When it reads anything like yesterday’s tepid backing of Obama in the conservative-leaning Las Vegas Review-Journal:

“Is Barack Obama, then, the ideal Democratic candidate for president? Hardly,” it began, calling his policy proposals “old-line, welfare-state solutions that haven't spent enough time in the microwave to appear even superficially appetizing.” And in a reprise of recent primary-season attacks on Obama’s bid, it dubbed the candidate himself “a relatively young man with relatively little of the kind of real-world experience that prepares a candidate” for major crises.

But, they concluded, “Barack Obama is, at least, likeable.” Better than the alternative, sure, but still: not a line likely to make it into his campaign ads anytime soon.

Vegas is turning into a tough town for the Illinois senator. On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton took a recent, much-used Obama line – in which he lightheartedly describes himself as a disorganized, big-picture kind of guy – and used it to question his management ability.

Meanwhile, her campaign is sending out a mailer, a holdover from New Hampshire, that attacks Obama on taxes and Social Security – a huge issue in this retiree-heavy state. So Obama found himself forced to spend time on the campaign trail Wednesday on the defensive, yet again.

This morning, the Review-Journal backed Mitt Romney in his party’s caucuses. But the real action on the Republican side is back East, where just about everyone in South Carolina’s GOP contest is spending more time talking about their opponents than they are about themselves.

John McCain is finding the South Carolina campaign trail unexpectedly chilly in more ways than one. Tuesday night, close friend Fred Thompson went on the attack. Just a day later, it seemed anti-Romney ally Mike Huckabee, a major rival for evangelical votes in South Carolina, might be ready to turn on his former comrade-in-arms.

A senior Huckabee adviser told the Christian Broadcasting Network late Wednesday that “the free pass for McCain is over. The next few days in South Carolina will be rough and tumble. Although we will continue to take the high road, I think you will see a message develop; us vs. them. …”

For their part, opponents grumble that McCain’s campaign – which recently sent out a release trumpeting the debut of its South Carolina “truth squad” – is trying to use the ghosts of 2000 to attract sympathetic coverage in what had been, at least until this week, one of the mildest primary battles in South Carolina history.

It all makes for an edgy Republican field - but at least one GOP candidate has a smile on his face as he stumps in South Carolina today: Ron Paul, whose cash-rich campaign boasted Wednesday that he had beaten Rudy Giuliani in Michigan and Fred Thompson in New Hampshire – and had, in the process, drawn 30,000 more primary votes in total than either man. Today, the Texas congressman makes the pilgrimage to Bob Jones University.

- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Ticker Morning Edition
January 16th, 2008
05:58 AM ET
13 years ago

TICKER MORNING EDITION: Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Three down and three up

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Well, that certainly cleared things up. Three major GOP contests, three winners heading into Saturday’s critical South Carolina contest. Good news for Mitt Romney – still, the biggest momentum out of Michigan may not go to the winner, but to the story of an election eve comment from third-place Mike Huckabee, still resonating as the contest moves south.

"[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God,” Huckabee told a Warren, Michigan audience Monday night, “and that's what we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards, rather than try to change God's standards."

That comment may have been music to the ears of the state’s Christian conservatives, but despite the jump in evangelical turnout, Huckabee failed to attract the same level of support he received from this voting bloc in Iowa. Evangelicals showed up – but despite a huge push by pro-Huckabee organizers, they were just as likely to support Romney as they were the former Baptist minister.

And there’s another big story out of the Republican results that has little to do with Romney: the campaign of Fred Thompson, who has largely avoided taking shots at close friend John McCain, took aim at the Michigan runner-up in an election-night press release that included attacks on Huckabee and, almost as an afterthought, Mitt Romney too.

For the Democrats, last night brought a mild face-off in Las Vegas, where the biggest drama was the last-minute legal maneuvers over Dennis Kucinich’s appearance on stage with the rest of the field.

More interesting developments came off-stage, where Barack Obama received the backing of the Las Vegas Review-Journal – not the Democratic base’s favorite read, perhaps, but the largest paper in the state.

But the biggest news for the Obama campaign last night may have come out of Michigan, where roughly 70 percent of the state’s African-American Democrats chose the “uncommitted” option over Hillary Clinton, the only major candidate to appear on the ballot – and about three-quarters said they would have cast votes for Obama if his name had appeared on the ballot.

- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Ticker Morning Edition
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