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Monday, March 12, 2007
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...

  • "A tight-lipped Sen. Chuck Hagel arrived in Omaha from Washington on Sunday afternoon and prepared to make what could be the biggest political announcement of his life." (Omaha World-Herald)

    Hagel's 11 am ET press conference "regarding his future plans" will be held at Bootstrapper Memorial Hall at the University of Nebraska in Omaha.

    From CNN's Dana Bash:

    "Your CNN crew flew to Omaha with Senator Hagel, and despite attempts to pry information from him at the ticket counter and then later deplaning, he refused to give any hint on what he'll say those 'future plans' are at his 11 am ET event.

    However, two Republican Nebraska officials tell CNN they believe he will announce a presidential exploratory committee, or some notification he is going to test the waters (see if he can raise money, see if he has appeal, etc) and make a final decision down the road.

    Also, one of those GOP Nebraska sources told CNN Sunday night that the Senator called some of his close friends and associates when he got back to Omaha.

    The source, who was briefed on one conversation, said it was clear Hagel is hoping for help explaining why he has the conservative credentials and is a strong Republican, who should be taken seriously in the race for president."

  • Former Senator (and "Law and Order" star) Fred Thompson's announcement yesterday that he would "leave the door open" to a 2008 bid set off a "cascade of Republican support."

    "Thrilled" TN Republicans described him as "Reagan-esque." (The Tennessean)

    On CNN's "Late Edition," Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) reacted to the Thompson news:

    "I think he is a solid guy. He is as qualified as anybody in the Republican side, or for that matter, probably the Democratic side to credibly throw his hat in the ring."

  • In an interview with Roll Call editors and reporters, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) laid out "unusually pragmatic expectations" about his party's shot at reclaiming the Senate in '08:

    "Could we get it back?" McConnell asked. "It would have to be a good day." (Roll Call)

  • And a Chicago Tribune headline says "Iowa's lost that cozy feeling." Why? Find out in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • President Bush spends the day in Guatemala, where this afternoon he holds a bilateral meeting and joint press avail with President Oscar Berger in Guatemala City.

    Tonight, Mr. and Mrs. Bush travel to Merida, Mexico.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • Vice President Dick Cheney and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni address a morning session of the AIPAC 2007 Policy Conference in Washington, DC.

  • Rudy Giuliani holds a 9:30 am ET presser at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in DC.

  • Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has a busy day of fundraising in CA, beginning with a breakfast in Fresno, a luncheon in San Diego, and a reception tonight in Orange County.

  • Happy birthday, Mitt! The GOP presidential candidate turns 60 today. Tonight, he holds a fundraiser at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas.

  • Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) appears on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

  • The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

    Political Hot Topics

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

    "IF THE 'SURGE' FAILS...": American military planners have begun plotting a fallback strategy for Iraq that includes a gradual withdrawal of forces and a renewed emphasis on training Iraqi fighters in case the current troop buildup fails or is derailed by Congress. Such a strategy, based in part on the U.S. experience in El Salvador in the 1980s, is still in the early planning stages and would be adjusted to fit the outcome of the current surge in troop levels, according to military officials and Pentagon consultants who spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing future plans. But a drawdown of forces would be in line with comments to Congress by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates last month that if the "surge" fails, the backup plan would include moving troops "out of harm's way." Such a plan also would be close to recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, of which Gates was a member before his appointment as Defense Department chief. Los Angeles Times: Fallback strategy for Iraq: Train locals, draw down forces

    SCHUMER CALLS FOR AG RESIGNATION: The Senate's No. 3 Democrat said Sunday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should resign because he is putting politics above the law. Sen. Charles Schumer cited the FBI's illegal snooping into people's private lives and the Justice Department's firing of federal prosecutors. Schumer, D-N.Y., said Gonzales repeatedly has shown more allegiance to President Bush than to citizens' legal rights since taking his job in early 2005. He branded Gonzales, a former White House counsel, as one of the most political attorneys general in recent history. "Attorney General Gonzales is a nice man, but he either doesn't accept or doesn't understand that he is no longer just the president's lawyer, but has a higher obligation to the rule of law and the Constitution even when the president should not want it to be so," Schumer said. AP via Yahoo! News: No. 3 Senate Dem urges Gonzales to quit

    McCONNELL'S "UNUSUALLY PRAGMATIC EXPECTATIONS": Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday he believes his party is well-positioned to maintain its current 49 seats in the upcoming 2008 elections, but he downplayed the GOP's chances for a quick return to the majority in just two years. "Could we get it back?" McConnell asked. "It would have to be a good day." In fact McConnell, speaking in a wide-ranging interview with Roll Call reporters and editors, laid out unusually pragmatic expectations for the cycle, which puts 21 GOP Senate seats in play compared with just 12 Democratic-held slots. The top Senate Republican said he's focused first and foremost on staving off potential GOP retirements, and then looking to pick off a handful of Democratic Senators in swing states, such as Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson and possibly Montana Sen. Max Baucus. Roll Call: McConnell Not Bullish on 2008

    FEBRUARY 5 2008 "AVALANCHE": The trickle of states moving their 2008 presidential primaries to Feb. 5 has turned into an avalanche, forcing all the presidential campaigns to reconsider every aspect of their nominating strategy - where to compete, how to spend money, when to start television advertising - as they gird for the prospect of a 20-state national Primary Day. In the last two weeks, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, dispatched the director of his political action committee to run his primary campaign in California, where a bill to move the primary to Feb. 5 is on the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat, announced that he had won the endorsement of Richard J. Codey, a former acting governor of New Jersey, testimony to the state's new status as it readies to shift its primary to Feb. 5 from June. New York Times: Early Primary Rush Upends '08 Campaign Plans

    HONESTY, INTEGRITY MORE IMPORTANT THAN STANCE ON ISSUES: For all the policy blueprints churned out by presidential campaigns, there is this indisputable fact: People care less about issues than they do about a candidate's character. A new Associated Press-Ipsos poll says 55 percent of those surveyed consider honesty, integrity and other values of character the most important qualities they look for in a presidential candidate. Just one-third look first to candidates' stances on issues; even fewer focus foremost on leadership traits, experience or intelligence. "Voters only look at policies as a lens into what type of person the candidate is," said Ken Mehlman, chairman of President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. That campaign based its voter targeting and messaging strategies on the character-first theory. AP via Yahoo! News: Character trumps policy for voters

    CLINTON-OBAMA "SHADOWBOXING": In the month since the presidential nominating contest got underway, [Barack] Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) have barely mentioned each other's names in public or even greeted each other in the Senate halls. But each campaign has increasingly fixated on the other, engaging in a shadowboxing match in which they intentionally cross paths but dodge to avoid each other's subtle jabs. With an intensity unusual for this stage of the campaign the two are indirectly engaging, invading each other's terrain and going to great lengths to contrast their candidacies. Washington Post: Obama, Clinton Sparring Early

    OBAMA "NOT GREATLY OFFENDED" BY AILES JOKE: Sen. Barack Obama said Sunday he was not greatly offended by the Fox News chief's word play about his name that led Nevada Democrats to cancel a presidential debate hosted with the network. Fox's Roger Ailes made a remark last week about the similarities between the Illinois senator's name and al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden. "I didn't take great offense at the joke," Obama said in an Associated Press interview while campaigning in Iowa. "I have been called worse." At a Radio & Television News Directors Association Foundation event in Washington on Thursday, Ailes said, "And it is true that Barack Obama is on the move. I don't know if it's true that President Bush called (Pakistani President Pervez) Musharraf and said, 'Why can't we catch this guy?"' according to a transcript provided by Fox. AP via Yahoo! News: Obama not riled by Fox chief's word play

    WHAT HAPPENED TO THE IA INTIMACY? The gym was filled to fire-marshal capacity, the crowd cheering wildly at times, and the candidate stuck around to shake hands, sign books and pose for pictures. By almost any measure, it was a remarkably well-staged event, particularly for so early in the campaign season. But a handful of Democrats filed out of the town hall meeting over the weekend with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) feeling strangely unfulfilled. "I didn't get to ask any questions," said Charles Winterwood, a Dubuque resident who has participated in every presidential caucus in Iowa since 1980. "There wasn't really any back-and-forth." It's not an uncommon complaint these days among the state's veteran caucusgoers, a hardy band of voters who every four years help the nation choose its presidential nominees after up-close and personal inspection. Chicago Tribune: Iowa's lost that cozy feeling

    HAGEL PLAYING IT CLOSE TO THE VEST: A tight-lipped Sen. Chuck Hagel arrived in Omaha from Washington on Sunday afternoon and prepared to make what could be the biggest political announcement of his life. Some Nebraska Republicans speculated that Hagel appeared ready to jump into the 2008 presidential contest, a decision that could shake up a GOP presidential field that already numbers 10 candidates. Hagel would grab a unique place as the GOP's leading critic of President Bush's Iraq strategy. But political operatives across the state said they continued to get mixed signals on what he would do, ranging from running for president to getting out of politics entirely. "You get different signals and anything's possible," Mark Quandahl, chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party, said Sunday. Hagel, who is known for playing things close to the vest, had managed to keep his decision confined to a small circle of family and close advisers over much of the weekend. Omaha World-Herald: Hagel hasn't tipped his '08 hand

    DOES AN ANTI-WAR REPUBLICAN HAVE A SHOT? If Sen. Chuck Hagel launches his presidential campaign on Monday, his candidacy will test whether an anti-war -- and sometimes defiantly anti-Bush -- contender has a viable constituency in the Republican Party. A bid by the Nebraska Republican would further jolt an unsettled Republican presidential field and a GOP already under siege in the wake of President Bush's unpopular troop surge plan and a steady drumbeat of other bad news for the administration. Some analysts say Hagel, who will announce his intentions in Omaha, faces an impossible task in courting the party's conservative base considering his own vociferous opposition to the war in Iraq. Given that, they say, his best course may be to run as an independent. The Politico: '08 Bid by Hagel Would Test GOP

    "CASCADE OF REPUBLICAN SUPPORT" FOR D.A. BRANCH BID: If former Tennessee senator and Hollywood actor Fred Thompson will "leave the door open" to a run for president, a lot of folks seem prepared to follow him through it. "I'm just going to wait and see what happens," Thompson told Fox News Sunday, mentioning that open door. What happened for the rest of the day was a cascade of Republican support, especially in Tennessee, and a worry among some Democrats that Thompson could be the "star" the GOP ticket is lacking. The prospect of a Thompson presidential candidacy thrilled Tennessee Republicans, who described him as "Reagan-esque." "He's the one American who could bring this country together," Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Bob Davis said Sunday. Davis was one of Thompson's top Senate aides. The Tennessean: Thompson's hint at presidential try thrills GOP in state

    LOW NAME RECOGNITION HURTS BROWNBACK: With his staunch fiscal and social conservative credentials, [Sam] Brownback is trying to establish himself as the candidate with the most trustworthy ideological record, even as he bucks other Republicans on issues like immigration and the current troop buildup in Iraq. "I think I offer a great contrast," Mr. Brownback said Saturday at another campaign stop. "The positions I've articulated to you are positions I've felt for some period of time. I've articulated and I've pushed, and I think I can get a great grass-roots mobilization behind." But he is struggling to make himself known to most voters, and to convince them that his views on the issues are more important than the name recognition enjoyed by his better-known rivals in the crowded field seeking the Republican nomination. New York Times: In Crowded G.O.P. Field, a Lesser-Known Hopes to Capitalize on the Issues

    HAYES TO WRITE CHENEY BIO: It won't be long now before you can peek inside the life of that International Man of Mystery: Vice President Dick Cheney. Yeas & Nays has learned that the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes is in the final stages of "Cheney," his biography of the powerful and shadowy veep, and the book will hit bookstores this summer. Contrary to previous press accounts, The White House did not hand-pick Hayes to pen an official biography of the vice president. But Cheney has sat down with Hayes more than a half-dozen times, for nearly 40 hours of interviews. Interviews took place in various locations, from Jackson Hole, Wyo., to the vice president's residence in Washington to Air Force Two to Cheney's residence on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Hayes has also scored two interviews with President Bush and scores of other interviews with various Bush administration officials. The Examiner: Get ready for the V.P.'s bio
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