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Monday, October 23, 2006
CNN Political Ticker AM
For the latest, breaking political news, check for updates throughout the day on the CNN Political Ticker. All politics, all the time.

Compiled by Stephen Bach
CNN Washington Bureau

Making news today...


  • "The White House is bracing for guerrilla warfare on the homefront politically if Republicans lose control of the House, the Senate or both," AP reports.

  • Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) on "Meet the Press":

    TIM RUSSERT: It's fair to say you're thinking about running for president in 2008?

    SEN. OBAMA: It's fair, yes.

    MR. RUSSERT: And so when you said to me in January, "I will not," that statement is no longer operative.

    SEN. OBAMA: The - I would say that I am still at the point where I have not made a decision to, to pursue higher office, but it is true that I have thought about it over the last several months.

    MR. RUSSERT: So, it sounds as if the door has opened a bit.

    SEN. OBAMA: A bit.

  • "I watch it all the time... and I think, 'Why would anybody go on there?'" says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) of Stephen Colbert's "Better Know a District" series.

  • And now that baseball is winding down, there's a new way to get your fantasy fix... "Fantasy Congress!" Drafts for the 110th begin soon, so check out Hot Topics below for more!

    President's Schedule:

  • President Bush photo-ops with Crew Members of the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-121), Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-115), and Space Station Expeditions 11, 12, and 13 today at 11:20 am ET, then poses with King and Queen of Sweden on the South Portico at 11:50 am ET.

  • At 1:20 pm ET, Bush visits the Urban Trust Bank in Washington. The bank was founded by BET's Robert Louis Johnson.

  • Later, Bush will tape an interview with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo.

    Also on the Political Radar today:

  • Florida Senate candidates Katherine Harris and Bill Nelson face off in their first and only televised debate tonight in Fort Lauderdale.

    =================================================================

    Political Hot Topics

    (Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)

    OBAMA OPENS THE DOOR "A BIT" ON 2008: In a decided and unequivocal shift, Sen. Barack Obama said Sunday he is seriously considering a run for the White House in 2008, affirming the stunningly rapid trajectory of a political career that saw him in the Illinois legislature just two years ago. In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," the same program where he categorically ruled out a run just last January, Obama went further than ever in discussing his Oval Office ambitions, and left clear the impression that he could well run, a move that would fundamentally reshape the contest for the Democratic nomination. Chicago Tribune: Audacity of a hopeful

    FULL TRANSCRIPT OF OBAMA'S APPEARANCE ON NBC'S "MEET THE PRESS"

    "OPTIMIST IN CHIEF" PLANS 10-DAY TRAVEL BLITZ BEFORE E-DAY: President Bush and his political strategists may be the most outwardly optimistic Republicans in Washington these days, and perhaps the only ones. They are doing their best to fend off the sense of impending doom within their party that they fear will become a self-fulfilling prophecy on Nov. 7. They are enlisting longtime allies for an all-hands-on-deck effort to change the mood for the final push to Election Day, and they are putting out the word for Republicans to keep a lid on any pessimistic talk. They are also planning a travel blitz for Mr. Bush during the final week to 10 days of the campaign. New York Times: As G.O.P. Mopes, Bush Adds the Duties of Optimist in Chief

    "BRACING FOR GUERILLA WARFARE ON THE HOMEFRONT POLITICALLY": The White House is bracing for guerrilla warfare on the homefront politically if Republicans lose control of the House, the Senate or both - and with it, the president's ability to shape and dominate the national agenda. Republicans are battling to keep control of Congress. But polls and analysts in both parties increasingly suggest Democrats will capture the House and possibly the Senate on Election Day Nov. 7. Democrats need a 15-seat pickup to regain the House and a gain of six seats to claim the Senate. Everything could change overnight for President Bush, who has governed for most of the past six years with a Republican Congress and with little support from Democrats. AP via Yahoo! News: GOP losses could spark partisan warfare

    MORE GOP-HELD SEATS BECOMING COMPETITIVE: A growing number of GOP incumbents in seats once considered "safe" - including Melissa A. Hart in Pennsylvania, Ron Lewis in Kentucky, Richard W. Pombo in Tracy, Calif., and [Gil] Gutknecht [in Minnesota] - are struggling this month against a powerful current of discontent with the nation's direction, the performance of Congress and President Bush, and the war in Iraq. Republican seats at risk have nearly tripled since January, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Then, 18 GOP seats were endangered; now, 48 are considered in play... To take back the House, which they lost in 1994, Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats - something they could do, perhaps, without capturing any of these newly competitive seats. But Democratic strategists believe that if the party can break into this second tier of Republican-leaning districts, they could greatly increase their odds of building a majority large enough to survive for longer than two years. Los Angeles Times: The battlefield widens for House GOP seats

    DEMS COULD HOLD MOST STATE CAPITALS: For the first time since 1994, Democrats are poised to surpass Republicans in the number of state capitals where one party enjoys complete political control - holding the governor's mansion and both chambers of the state legislature. Having the political upper hand in state capitals has enabled Republicans to draw congressional districts that are more favorable to their party's candidates, notably in Texas and Georgia. It has also helped the party develop strong candidates for higher office. According to the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures, 57% of members of Congress started out as state legislators. Republicans hold the governorships and both chambers of the state legislatures in 12 states; Democrats, in eight. Republicans' control is in jeopardy in three of those states: Ohio, Alaska and Indiana. Democrats face the possibility of losing dominance in only one state: Maine. Meanwhile, the party has a chance for control in eight other states: Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana and Tennessee. USA Today: Fight for control of state capitals heats up

    WILL ALLEN AND WEBB START WEARING SWEATERS? Their biographies exude machismo: James Webb, the Marine firing his M50 antitank rifles in the jungles of Vietnam, and George Allen, the tobacco-chewing cowboy who as governor once stirred GOP delegates with this line about Democrats: "Let's enjoy knocking their soft teeth down their whining throats." But Webb, the former Navy secretary, and Allen, the first-term Republican senator, are trying to soften their tough-guy personas as they appeal to the 1.9 million women who represent more than half of Virginia voters. The candidates are virtually tied among likely female voters, a recent Washington Post poll shows. Washington Post: Women's Vote Could Tip Close Contest

    FAMOUS NAME AN EXTRA CHALLENGE FOR KEAN: When Thomas H. Kean Jr. first ran for public office, in a crowded Republican primary for a House seat in 2000, he was blindsided by a campaign flier from one of his opponents that cribbed from Mr. Kean's own résumé. Drawing attention to selected items via circles and bullet points, the leaflet belittled Mr. Kean's experience, arguing that he, the fortunate son of a popular former governor, had never demonstrated any leadership skills beyond organizing a canoe trip down the length of the Danube River after graduating from Dartmouth. As Mr. Kean, now a state senator, tries again to land a job in Congress - this time to fill a Senate seat formerly held by his great-grandfather and great-great-uncle - he must still persuade skeptics that he possesses more than just a revered political name. New York Times: Out to Show He's Not Just an Old New Jersey Name

    SENATE RACE MAY BE BORING, BUT HARRIS ISN'T: Though polls suggest Florida's U.S. Senate race is all but over, tonight's first debate between the candidates will be one of the state's more intriguing political events for this reason: Katherine Harris. For the past year, the long-shot Republican congresswoman, already famous for her role in the 2000 presidential election debacle, has created so much news and controversy in her bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson that her campaign has become an object of curiosity. Miami Herald: What might Harris say?

    RNC AD CAUSES FRICTION IN TN RACE: Both the Republican candidate, Bob Corker, and the Democratic candidate, Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. complain that the national parties are slinging so much "mud" [in Tennessee] that they can barely get their points across to voters. The stakes are huge in Tennessee. Control of the U.S. Senate may hinge on the result here. Mr. Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, asked the Republican National Committee (RNC) to take down an ad that first aired Friday accusing Mr. Ford of taking money from pornographers, and said it hinted at interracial dating -- the ending shows a scantily clad, white blonde winking and saying, "Hey, Harold call me."... After viewing the ad, Mr. Ford lost his cool and confronted Mr. Corker, ambush style, just before a press conference at a Friday campaign stop at the Memphis airport. He got in Mr. Corker's face and asked him to stop talking about his family, then asked him to talk about Iraq. Washington Times: National parties roil Tennessee race

    ELLISON WOULD BE FIRST MUSLIM ELECTED TO CONGRESS: While there is no such thing as a sure thing in politics, congressional candidate Keith Ellison is a good bet to join the freshman class of 2006 in the US House of Representatives. If he does, Ellison, who is the Democratic nominee in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, will take the oath of office with his hand on the Koran and not the Bible -- the first Muslim in American history to be elected to Congress. Though he publicly downplays his faith, it helped boost Ellison past two local party heavyweights to capture the nomination. In the primary, his campaign triggered a record turnout among Minneapolis's largely Muslim Somali community. Boston Globe: Muslim could be a 1st in Congress

    "DUDE, I HEARD WAXMAN IS AVAILABLE ON WAIVERS!" Fantasy Congress, a Web site created by four students at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, made its debut three weeks ago. Through word of mouth and blog entries, it has attracted nearly 600 participants from states including Texas and Florida, from as far away as Denmark and, of course, from the Beltway. For those who have no idea how many yards Peyton Manning threw for on Sunday but can cite every legislative amendment proposed by Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, the game could be an alternative to the prevailing fantasy sports culture. New York Times: Fantasy Sports? Child's Play. Here, Politics Is the Game.

    Fantasy Congress web site

    PELOSI NOT HOT ON "BETTER KNOW A DISTRICT": Most politicians are as likely to pass up free TV face time before an election as they would be to refuse a campaign check. Then again, there's a price to be paid for looking stupid. That's what members of Congress have learned recently about "Better Know a District," a sarcastic weekly skit that is part of "The Colbert Report," a nightly half-hour on Viacom Inc.'s Comedy Central network... Many lawmakers initially played along with the segments in which [Stephen] Colbert interviews a member of the House of Representatives, with few checks and balances on his proclivity to make fools of them. But after a couple of House members stumbled badly on the show, some incumbents decided that the dumbest thing to do with Colbert's offer of free TV exposure was to take it. "I watch it all the time," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), "and I think, 'Why would anybody go on there?'" Los Angeles Times: Running for office? Better run from Colbert
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