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Monday, May 28, 2007
CNN Political Ticker AM
Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau

Making news today...


  • In "the first public and formal meeting between U.S. and Iranian representatives since the United States cut off diplomatic relations 27 years ago," "U.S. diplomats and their Iranian counterparts met at the residence of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Monday for talks about Iraq's security."

    Full story on CNN.com

  • Yesterday on CNN's Late Edition, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) acknowledged that his vote in favor of an Iraq war funding bill may come with a political price in his party's primaries.

    BIDEN: "I know what the right political vote was, but some things just aren't worth it, Wolf. I'm not running for president to get the nomination by any cost."

    Full story on The Ticker

  • "Aides acknowledge privately that [Former IA Gov. Tom] Vilsack's work for the [Hillary Clinton] campaign has the look of a rehearsal for the role of running mate." (Des Moines Register)

  • "If there ever was a major sporting event tailor-made for Sen. John McCain, Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race at Lowe's Motor Speedway [in Concord, NC] was it." (Arizona Republic)

  • And "I'm a Red Sox fan," NM Gov. Bill Richardson told Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" yesterday.

    But remember when he told AP his dream job was playing center field for the YANKEES? What's going on here?

    Find out in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • The president and Mrs. Bush visit Arlington National Cemetery this morning and will participate in a Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at 10:55 am ET.

    At 11:15 am ET, Bush makes remarks at the Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Day Commemoration.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • The House and Senate are not is session this week.

  • Happy birthday, Rudy Giuliani. America's Mayor turns 63 today.

  • Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) holds a 9 am ET town hall at a senior center in Littleton, NH. He later attends a 1 pm ET campaign rally at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.

    Tonight, Obama attends a Memorial Day reception with veterans at Golden Leaf Banquet Hall in Davenport, IA. Program begins 8:30 pm ET.

  • Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) attends a 9:45 am ET Memorial Day breakfast with war veterans at AMVETS Post 49 in Cedar Falls, IA, and will march in the Waterloo Memorial Day parade at 11:30 am ET.

    Biden later attends house parties in Maquoketa (2 pm ET), Dubuque (5 pm ET), and Indianola (8 pm ET).

  • Mitt Romney attends a 10:30 am ET veterans reception and memorial service at a veterans home in Tilton, NH. At 2 pm ET, Romney holds a veterans roundtable at the Alton (NH) American Legion, and later holds a 3:30 pm ET meet and greet at the Wolfeboro Inn in Wolfeboro, NH.

    =================================================================
    Political Hot Topics

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

    U.S. WILL LIKELY DRAW DOWN SURGE IN SEPTEMBER, SAYS SESSIONS: Sen. Jeff Sessions, a prominent conservative and supporter of the war in Iraq, yesterday said lawmakers "have to be realistic" about the surge of U.S. forces in Iraq and most likely will begin withdrawing those new forces after September. Mr. Sessions, Alabama Republican, told CBS' "Face the Nation" yesterday that "by September, when General Petraeus is to make a report, I think most of the people in Congress believe, unless something extraordinary occurs, that we should be on a move to draw those surge numbers down." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, made a similar statement last week. "The handwriting is on the wall," he said. "We are headed in a different direction, in the fall, in Iraq. And the president is going to be the one to lead the way." Washington Times: GOP senator predicts troop decrease in fall

    SHRUM SAYS KERRY WEIGHED '04 IMPLICATIONS IN '02 IRAQ VOTE: Senator John F. Kerry voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2002 after weighing the political ramifications and being told by his future campaign manager that he would never be elected president in 2004 unless he sided with President Bush on the issue, according to a forthcoming book by Kerry's former strategist. The book by veteran Democratic Party strategist Robert Shrum, titled "No Excuses," paints a portrait of an often-dysfunctional Kerry presidential campaign in which senior strategists clashed with each other. It also quotes e-mails from Kerry's former campaign manager that are highly critical of the behavior of Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry... Shrum, who was brought into the campaign to help provide Kerry with a strategic overview, provides a vivid description about the events leading up to Kerry's decision to vote for the war. Boston Globe: Kerry said to weigh politics in 2002 vote

    "BROKEN BUREAUCRACY" AT IMMIGRATION AGENCY: Last June, U.S. immigration officials were presented a plan that supporters said could help slash waiting times for green cards from nearly three years to three months and save 1 million applicants more than a third of the 45 hours they could expect to spend in government lines. It would also save about $350 million. The response? No thanks. Leaders of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services rejected key changes because ending huge immigration backlogs nationwide would rob the agency of application and renewal fees that cover 20 percent of its $1.8 billion budget, according to the plan's author, agency ombudsman Prakash Khatri. Washington Post: Immigration Agency Mired In Inefficiency

    IMMIGRATION BILL OPPONENTS READY TO NEGOTIATE: Leading Republican senators on both sides of the immigration debate said Sunday that they would work together to modify the bipartisan legislation being considered in the Senate. Initially, some conservative Republicans condemned what has been dubbed the "grand bargain" on immigration that emerged this month. The legislation would increase border security and workplace enforcement of immigration laws, long favored by Republicans, in exchange for delivering on the Democrats' promise to offer legal status to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants and to create guest worker programs. The compromise, backed by President Bush, won support from conservative Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) but was criticized by another GOP conservative from a border state, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. Los Angeles Times: Changes to immigration bill possible

    BUSH'S "MICROTARGETING GURU" LEAVES WH: As the Bush administration inches closer to its concluding months, more top aides are headed out to the private sector. Sara M. Taylor, the White House political director and microtargeting guru who has been with George W. Bush from the outset of his first presidential campaign, is the latest staff member to leave the president's employ. Taylor, 32, was one of the first people put on the payroll of the Bush campaign, trekking through snowy Washington to interview with Karl Rove and Bush, who was then governor of Texas. Taylor worked on the 2000 campaign, and later became a political aide in the White House. In 2004, she worked on Bush's reelection campaign, where she helped refine the emerging political art of microtargeting. Washington Post: Another Top Bush Aide Makes an Exit

    THE MAN MAKING LIFE "DISTINCTLY UNCOMFORTABLE" FOR BUSH WHITE HOUSE: Henry Waxman's critics say he is a "Bush-bashing" attack dog obsessed with a partisan vendetta. His admirers say he is a dogged investigator making up for years of neglect during the six years a Republican-controlled Congress exercised little oversight of a Republican-controlled executive branch. Whatever his motivations, the 17-term Democratic congressman from Los Angeles has been making life distinctly uncomfortable for the Bush White House. Since he became chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in January, Waxman, 67, has been probing some of the more contentious issues surrounding the administration, including prewar intelligence on Iraq, corruption in postwar reconstruction, White House contacts with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, allegations that administration officials used political party e-mail accounts to conduct government business, and the misinformation surrounding the friendly fire death in Afghanistan of former NFL star Pat Tillman. San Francisco Chronicle: Thorn in the side of GOP says he's just doing his job

    GREENWICH, CT, RESIDENTS "ARE BEING WOOED MORE THAN EVER": Senator John McCain made his pitch to this gilded shoreline suburb back in April. Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts came on May 7, followed one night later by former President Bill Clinton on behalf of his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Last weekend, it was back-to-back appearances by Senator Barack Obama, topped off on Sunday with a visit from Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor. With the mansions along its winding back roads now awash in hedge fund money, Greenwich has joined New York, Los Angeles and Silicon Valley as must stops on the presidential fund-raising tour, with prominent locals now boasting of candidate scuff marks on their basketball courts, Secret Service T-shirts in their closets and framed pictures of their children with the candidates on their mantels. For a town that has wealth and corporate clout to spare, the fund-raisers fill a void: access to a potential White House resident. New York Times: Wealthy Enclave Offers Windfall for Candidates

    WOOING, AND WHIPPING, THE "SUPERDELEGATES": It's more than half a year - and a few snowstorms - until the first votes in Iowa, yet Democratic presidential hopefuls have already captured some of the delegates critical to winning the nomination. Not just any delegates - "superdelegates," the party's top echelon of elected officials who can back a candidate at any time no matter what the calendar, caucus-goer or primary voter says. Candidates have been pursuing endorsements from Democratic governors and members of Congress, knowing these individuals will have a direct say in choosing the party's nominee. The 235 Democratic House members and nonvoting representatives, 49 senators, the District of Columbia's two "shadow senators" and 28 governors total 314 - about 14 percent of the 2,182 delegates a candidate will need to secure the party's presidential nomination at next year's national convention in Denver. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, the Democratic front-runners, have established sophisticated "whip" operations to woo undecided colleagues. AP via Yahoo! News: Democratic hopefuls woo superdelegates

    OBAMA TAKES THE FAMILY TO THE GRANITE STATE: Selling himself in a politically independent section of the state, Sen. Barack Obama attracted more than 1,000 people here Sunday as he campaigned across this state's often-overlooked northern section. Dressed in khakis, with shirt sleeves rolled up, the Democratic presidential candidate played up to the standing-room-only audience, many of whom have ties to the recreation industry that is central to the Mt. Washington Valley. "We're scouting out spots for some summer travel and then in the fall," he joked. "We may dump the kids, and just Michelle and I have a little romantic weekend sometime, with TV cameras and Secret Service following us. It will be a little intimate affair." While popular with tourists and those who own second homes, New Hampshire's North Country does not see as many presidential candidates as the southern half, where most live and will vote in what is traditionally the nation's first primary. Chicago Tribune: Obama brings campaign to New Hampshire

    MICHELLE, THE SHOW-STEALER: Illinois Sen. Barack Obama handed his jacket to wife Michelle at one point during a steamy rally Sunday in a school gym, but it was clear she's more than a coat-holder for the Democratic presidential candidate. When someone in the audience asked Michelle Obama why voters should vote for her husband, she walked confidently onto the stage, took the microphone and smoothly answered. "He's a man who has put his values before his profit," she said. "He's not running for president because he wants to be president. That's sort of the irony in it. He's running for president because he believes we can do better as a country." The line brought a standing ovation. "I think maybe we should stop there," Barack Obama said. But he took another question: How would Michelle Obama serve as first lady? Returning to the stage and the microphone, she was a little less reverent. "You may sit down," she told her husband. Roars of laughter from the crowd. AP via Yahoo! News: Obama's wife no mere coat holder

    WITH "COMBATIVE, POPULIST TONE," EDWARDS ELBOWS HIS WAY INTO TIER 1: For more than two years, Edwards has been methodically building his campaign around an issue long shunned by leading Democratic candidates: the plight of the poor and working class. He has backed up his public appearances with unusually detailed proposals to provide universal healthcare, raise taxes on the rich and eliminate poverty over the next 30 years. "This is a huge moral issue facing the country," Edwards said in a telephone interview as he headed into a Memorial Day weekend campaign swing through Iowa. "I don't see in polls that it is a driving issue [for voters], but it is for me." In adopting poverty and low-wage work as his themes, Edwards has struck a far more combative, populist tone than in his 2004 presidential campaign. And that has helped him elbow into the top tier of a field dominated by better-financed candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) - and has even boosted him to a lead in polls in the key early-voting state of Iowa. Los Angeles Times: John Edwards' populism is a risky bet

    CLINTON-VILSACK '08? Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack has assumed a role in Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign unlike any of the New York Democrat's other national advisers. He campaigns for her in Iowa and other key states, spends hours each week on the phone with donors and elected officials and has helped forge policy ideas Clinton presents on the campaign trail. In this way, Vilsack has made the quick and seemingly effortless transition from a one-time Clinton rival for the 2008 nomination to a go-to player in her campaign. Aides acknowledge privately that Vilsack's work for the campaign has the look of a rehearsal for the role of running mate, should Clinton win the nomination. Des Moines Register: Vilsack becomes key player in Clinton campaign

    "HE DOESN'T SEEM TO HAVE THE CAMPAIGN GENE": Rudy Giuliani's White House campaign has been going retro - getting tangled in issues that haunted his first-ever political run, for City Hall, in 1989, political observers say. Politicians try to learn from past missteps, but Giuliani has been reliving some of his - from his stumbles over the abortion issue to controversies about his business clientele. "He's maximized the discussion of [his vulnerable points], and that's not smart," said GOP consultant Nelson Warfield, the spokesman for Giuliani's 1989 Republican primary rival, Ronald Lauder. "There's something missing when it comes to the discipline required to stay on his message. He doesn't seem to have the campaign gene." New York Post: RUDY'S DEJA VU FEELING

    McCAIN "FITS RIGHT IN" AT NASCAR RACE: If there ever was a major sporting event tailor-made for Sen. John McCain, Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race here at Lowe's Motor Speedway was it. The U.S. Army's Golden Knights parachute team descended onto the track. An over-the-top mock military maneuver included soldiers, helicopters and even an operating howitzer. A 1,500-soldier contingent from North Carolina's Fort Bragg paraded. F-22 fighters soared overhead. And that was just the pre-race show. McCain, a former prisoner of war from Arizona whose bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination relies heavily on his military and robust foreign-policy stances, fit right in at the Memorial Day weekend spectacle. Clad in a Coca-Cola hat and red race shirt, McCain served as the race's honorary starter. Arizona Republic: McCain enters realm of NASCAR dads

    IF HE CAN UNITE RED SOX AND YANKEES FANS...: Democratic candidate Bill Richardson wants to have it all. "I'm a Red Sox fan," said the New Mexico governor, who was born in Pasadena, Calif., but spent his early childhood in Mexico City. Richardson attended a boarding school in Concord, Mass., where he pitched on the baseball team. He graduated from Tufts University in 1971 with a master's degree in international affairs. He also pitched a season in the Cape Cod summer league. He follows baseball closely to this day. Earlier this year, Richardson said that if he were not running for president, his dream job would be playing for the Yankees. Yesterday, on NBC's "Meet the Press," he explained: "I've always been a Red Sox fan. But I said if I weren't running for president, I would like to be No. 7 -- Mickey Mantle -- playing center field for the New York Yankees. "My favorite team has always been the Red Sox," he said, then added, "I'm also a Yankees fan... This is the thing about me. I can bring people together." AP via Boston Globe: Contender Richardson wants to have it all
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