Tag Archives: Iowa Caucuses

Turnout is the name of the game in tonight’s Iowa caucuses

Democrat Bernie Sanders says he’s ready to stun the political world if his supporters turn out for today’s presidential caucuses in Iowa. Donald Trump says he doesn’t have to capture the first contest on the 2016 election calendar, but gives himself a good chance and sees a solid path ahead to the Republican nomination.

All the contenders are begging their backers to make it to the caucuses.

A snowfall forecast to start tonight appeared more likely to hinder the hopefuls in their rush out of Iowa — and to New Hampshire, with its Feb. 9 primary — than the voters.

“People are really enthusiastic and if people come out to vote, I think you’re going to look at one of the biggest political upsets in the modern history of our country,” Sanders told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Jan. 31.

The Vermont senator and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are in a tight race.

“I think I’ve been subjected … to years of scrutiny and I’m still standing,” Clinton said. On ABC’s “This Week,” she said: “I feel vetted. I feel ready. I feel strong and I think I’m the best person to be the nominee and to defeat whoever they nominate in November.”

On the GOP side, Trump said, “I don’t have to win” in Iowa, before adding that he believes he has “a good chance” of victory.

He said he was confident of taking New Hampshire and many other contests down the road. “One of the reasons that I’ll win and, I think, none of the other guys will win is because I’m going to get states that they’ll never get,” he told CBS’ “Face the Nation,” citing Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, along with strong hopes for New York and Virginia.

Republican Ted Cruz directed much of his final advertising against Marco Rubio as the senators’ feud grew even more bitter in the final days.

Texan Cruz, considered Trump’s chief rival in Iowa, took to the airwaves to challenge the conservative credentials of Rubio, the Floridian who’s running third in Iowa, according to the polls.

One ad said of Rubio: “Tax hikes. Amnesty. The Republican Obama.”

“The desperation kicks in,” Rubio said in response. “From my experience, when people start attacking you it’s because you’re doing something right.”

Iowa offers only a small contingent of the delegates who will determine the nominees, but the game of expectations counts for far more than the electoral math in the state. Campaigns worked aggressively to set those expectations in their favor (meaning, lower them) for Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond.

Rubio strategist Todd Harris said the Iowa goal is to end up behind the flamboyant Trump and the highly organized Cruz.

“There’s no question we are feeling some wind at our back,” Harris told The Associated Press. But, he added, “It’s very hard to compete with the greatest show on earth and the greatest ground game in Iowa history.”

In the last major preference poll before the caucuses, Trump had the support of 28 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers, with Cruz at 23 percent and Rubio at 15 percent. The Iowa Poll, published by The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg, also found Clinton with 45 percent support to Sanders’ 42 percent in the Democratic race. The poll was taken Tuesday to Friday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Cruz’s campaign was challenged by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate over a mailer sent to potential voters that seemed designed to look like an official notice warning recipients about “low expected voter turnout in your area.” The mailer refers to a “voting violation” and grades the recipient’s voting history and that of several neighbors, citing public records.

Pate said Cruz’s campaign “misrepresents Iowa election law.” There’s “no such thing as an election violation related to frequency of voting,” he said, and insinuating otherwise is “not in keeping in the spirit of the Iowa caucuses.”

Cruz brushed off the fuss. “I will apologize to nobody for using every tool we can to encourage Iowa voters to come out and vote,” he said.

Carson staffers quit, question his readiness for White House

Several top aides to Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson resigned yesterday, citing frustration with the influence of the retired neurosurgeon’s business manager and questioning his readiness for the White House.

Barry Bennett and Doug Watts, both seasoned political operatives, stepped down with less than five weeks before voters in Iowa begin the nominating process with the state’s Feb. 1 caucuses.

Bennett was Carson’s campaign manager. Watts was communications director. But Bennett said Carson’s longtime business manager, Armstrong Williams, is the adviser who has Carson’s ear, even though Williams does not have a formal role in the campaign.

Carson is “one of the smartest men I’ve ever worked for,” Bennett said, but added that he believes Carson has become Williams’ “script reader.”

Bennett said that made it difficult to advise Carson and raised questions in his mind about what kind of president Carson would make if elected.

“You have to surround yourself with good people,” Bennett said. “And he hasn’t demonstrated that he can do that. No one wants Armstrong Williams anywhere near the Oval Office.”

Williams replied Thursday: “Barry and I agree. I will be nowhere near the Oval Office when Dr. Carson is elected president. I will remain in my private practice.”

Williams also disputed Bennett’s characterization that his influence is inappropriate, and said the departures were more firings than resignations. “I’m sure Barry resigned because he wanted total control and he wasn’t going to have that,” Williams said.

Carson’s campaign released a statement Thursday describing staff changes as “enhancements” that “will shift the campaign into higher gear.” Along with Bennett and Watts, deputy campaign manager Lisa Coen also left.

Retired Army Major Gen. Robert Dees, who has been advising Carson on foreign policy and military affairs, will serve as campaign chairman. Ed Brookover, formerly a senior strategist, will serve as campaign manager.

“I don’t think any one person should have the candidate’s ear,” Williams said. “I think he should listen to a multitude of advisers, inside the campaign and outside the campaign.”


Retired Army Major Gen. Robert Dees, who has been advising Carson on foreign policy and military affairs, will serve as campaign chairman. Ed Brookover, formerly a senior strategist, will serve as campaign manager.

“I don’t think any one person should have the candidate’s ear,” Williams said. “I think he should listen to a multitude of advisers, inside the campaign and outside the campaign.”

In Iowa, where Carson is trying to appeal to the large number of evangelical voters who take part in the state’s leadoff caucuses, his state-based staff said the shake-up at campaign headquarters would have little or no impact on their organization.

“Whatever the issue was at the national level, it does not affect us at the Iowa level,” said Rob Taylor, a Republican state representative and Carson’s campaign chairman in the state.

The staff turmoil at the highest reaches of the Carson campaign is the latest setback for his presidential bid, which displayed significant fundraising power this summer and for a brief time was atop some preference polls.

But as quickly as Carson rose to the top of the GOP field, he began to falter. Bennett says Williams led Carson into multiple mistakes, particularly in the last two months as Carson struggled to establish foreign policy credentials amid increased voter concerns about national security.

Bennett and Watts’ decision to leave the campaign came a week after Carson told The Associated Press in an interview that he was considering a major staff shakeup, only to walk back those comments hours later, declaring that he had “full confidence” in his team.

Williams arranged for that interview without Bennett’s knowledge. Carson’s subsequent statement of support for his team was issued after discussing his initial comments with Bennett and Watts, but Bennett said Thursday that those events were evidence his place in the campaign had become untenable.

Carson “told everybody else ‘nobody wants staff changes,'” Bennett recalled. “Why the hell did you say it then? Armstrong had given him the talking points.”

The interview “was Armstrong’s calculation against us,” Bennett said. “Ben was just the script reader. It was horribly embarrassing to us, the whole campaign staff. One hundred fifty people went home for Christmas with their families wondering whether they would keep their jobs. Excellent timing.”

Bennett described Carson as “surprised” by the resignations. Williams, who says he spoke with Carson after the candidate spoke with Bennett, described Carson as “calm, confident, reassured and ready to move forward.”

“This allows Dr. Carson a fresh start,” Williams said.

Williams said he spoke with Dees, the new campaign chairman, on Thursday and described their relationship as “wonderful.”

“I’ve spoken with the good general, congratulated him,” Williams said. “We’ve been with Dr. Carson since the beginning of this operation.”

Taylor said the campaign turnover was not unexpected and that Carson is actively engaged with the decision-making. It helps that Carson’s Iowa campaign director, Ryan Rhodes, will remain in his position and perhaps take on greater responsibilities, Taylor said.

“We’ve been moving forward in Iowa the whole time,” Taylor said.


Colorado gunman: ‘No more baby parts’

“No more baby parts.”

Those were the words terrorist Robert Lewis Dear spoke to a law-enforcement official on Nov. 28 shortly after he was taken into custody for allegedly staging a long and deadly shooting attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Clinic.

The official could not elaborate about the comment and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

Afer a long, brutal standoff on a snowy afternoon during which portions of Colorado Springs were on lockdown, those words seemed to answer at least one question about the incident in which 12 citizens and police officers were shot and three, including a police officer, killed: Why?

Witnesses to the shooting have also told media sources and Planned Parenthood staff that the shooter was clearly motivated by opposition to choice.

At a vigil held at All Souls Unitarian Church on the evening of the shootings, the Rev. Nori Rost called the gunman a “domestic terrorist.” In the back of the room, someone held a sign that said: “Women’s bodies are not battlefields. Neither is our town.”

Vicki Cowart, the regional head of Planned Parenthood, drew a standing ovation when she walked to the pulpit and promised to quickly reopen the clinic. “We will adapt. We will square our shoulders and we will go on,” she said.

Cowart also said that all 15 clinic employees survived and worked hard to make sure everyone else got into safe spaces and stayed quiet.

Demonstrating the divisiveness of the issue even in friendly territory, after Cowart’s remarks, a woman in the audience stood up, objected to the vigil becoming a “political statement” and left.

The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, like virtually all of the group’s clinics, has long been the site of regular anti-abortion protests. Colorado Springs is home to a very large population of born-again Christians. The anti-gay hate group Focus on the Family is headquartered there.

A Roman Catholic priest who’s held weekly Mass in front of the clinic for 20 years, distanced himself from Dear, saying that he wasn’t part of his group. “I don’t know him from Adam,” said Rev. Bill Carmody. “I don’t recognize him at all.”

The public might learn more about Dear’s motives on Monday, when he makes his first court appearance. Officially, police have not yet presented a motive to the public, although it seemed obvious. As Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers put it, people can make “inferences from where (the shooting) took place.”

Planned Parenthood has been under increased physical and verbal attacks since July, when an undercover video released by anti-choice activists appeared to show PP personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs. It was later determined that the video had been misleadingly edited. The truth is that the group only recouped preservation and shipping charges for fetal tissue that women ending their pregnancies asked to have donated to science, which is legal. Since the controversy, however, Planned Parenthood has taken the extra step of no longer recouping costs but rather paying the associated costs on its own.

Dears’ comment about “baby parts” likely refers to the controversial video.

Fetal tissue research has been responsible for some of the greatest medical treatment achievements of the last several decades, including the development of a polio vaccine.

In the wake of the killings, David Daleiden, who heads the Center for Medical Progress, the group that released the manipulated videotapes of Planned Parenthood, said he opposed the violence.

“The Center for Medical Progress condemns the barbaric killing spree in Colorado Springs by a violent madman. We applaud the heroic efforts of law enforcement to stop the violence quickly and rescue the victims, and our thoughts and prayers are with the wounded, the lost, and their families,” Daleiden said in a statement.

No wrongdoing

Multiple investigations in red states have uncovered no wrongdoing on PP’s part in charging storage and transportation fees for fetal tissue. But that hasn’t stopped politicians, especially GOP presidential candidates, from invoking the tapes often on the campaign trail in an effort to draw the support of fundamentalist Christian voters, who likely will determine the winner of the first-in-the-nation nominating caucuses in Iowa in February.

Demonizing rhetoric about Planned Parenthood has become a sure-fire way to inspire cheers and applause at conservative Republican events.

Eager to get in on that action, Republicans in Congress, who have a 9 percent approval rating among their own party’s voters, staged a Congressional hearing on the tapes to rally conservative support. That investigation, too, found no wrongdoing.

“We demand an end to the incendiary rhetoric from anti-abortion activists and lawmakers that demonizes Planned Parenthood doctors and patients,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The smear campaign and false accusations that motivated the attack in Colorado Springs must stop.”

Following the shooting, Ted Cruz was the first GOP presidential candidate to offer condolences to the loved ones of the victims.  

At a campaign stop, Cruz responded angrily to a reporter’s question linking Dear with the anti-choice movement, according to the Texas Tribune

“It’s also been reported that (Dear) was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist,” Cruz shot back. “If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer.”

Cruz is heavily backed by some of the nation’s most extreme anti-choice activists.

Ironically, although Cruz took exception to what he called attempts by the left to use the shooting to taint all abortion foes, he and others on the right have pointed to the terrorist attacks in Paris to denounce President Obama’s plans to allow Syrian refugees to settle in the United States — despite the lack of evidence that any Syrians participated in those attacks.

In recent months, as right-wing candidates and officials have tried to make political gains off the discredited tapes, the National Abortion Federation, an association of service providers, has seen a rise in threats at clinics nationwide. In a statement to Media Matters, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue suggested that all the anti-choice rhetoric quoted recently in the media and on display at GOP presidential debates and appearances was fueling the violence.

She wrote: “Instead of treating these (attacks on clinics) as the real and present danger to innocent civilians that they are, Congress is inviting anti-abortion extremists to testify at hearings, the Department of Justice has yet to announce a full investigation, and the news media remains silent. Where is the outrage?”

Since September, there have been four attempted arsons at Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation, three of which have caused significant damage.

At least eight murders of doctors and workers at abortion clinics have occurred in the United States since 1990. Since 1977, there have been 41 bombings and 173 arsons at clinics.

In recent years, the Republican Party has made it a top legislative priority to whittle away at abortion rights in the U.S., with the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision making it legal for a woman to determine whether to have a baby.

Wisconsin, where Republicans are in control of every facet of state government, including the Supreme Court, is at the vanguard of those efforts. Gov. Scott Walker recently appointed Rebecca Bradley, a strong opponent to choice, to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, even though her career as a judge began less than four years ago, when he first appointed her to the bench.

Wisconsin has adopted among the most stringent anti-choice laws in the nation.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to review a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The law, which does not benefit women’s health due to the extreme rarity of complications and the nearby availability of other hospitals to handle any such cases if they arose, was found unconstitutional by a federal appeals court panel.

The Wisconsin case centers on a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. The groups argue that the 2013 law amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on abortion.

Only about 3 percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin involve ending pregnancies. The organization provides a variety of sexual health services for poor women, including PAP smears, STD and breast screenings, contraceptive services and prenatal care.

AP contributed to this report.

Response to the shooting from Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America

To those who go to unimaginable extremes to close our doors:

We deplore your violence.

We reject your threats.

We fight your legislation to limit reproductive rights and health care in every corner of our country.

We believe your actions and words hurt women — whether by making it impossible to seek health care or by creating a climate of disrespect and hostility that fosters extremist violence.

We demand an end to the incendiary rhetoric from anti-abortion activists and lawmakers that demonizes Planned Parenthood doctors and patients. The smear campaign and false accusations that motivated the attack in Colorado Springs must stop.

We aren’t going anywhere. Planned Parenthood has been here for nearly 100 years, and we will keep being here as long as women, men, and young people need health care with dignity.

To those who go to shocking extremes to close our doors, know this:

These doors stay open.

Click here to contribute to Planned Parenthood

See also Gunman had been charged with animal cruelty, domestic abuse

Analysis: Walker gets his moment of glory, now the race is on

“You have to be crazy to want to be president,” Gov. Scott Walker told voters last November during his re-election campaign.

But eight months after he assured Wisconsin voters, “I’m going to do the best job I can over the next four years” as governor, he formally announced his presidential bid in Waukesha on July 13. Walker delivered a red-meat speech that positions him at the right margins of the crowded GOP presidential field, which now numbers 15 — with two more announcements expected in the coming days.

Pundits said it was an extremist speech that could help him win the Iowa caucuses but could come back to haunt him later in his campaign. But Walker hopes to win by driving the far right to the polls in massive numbers, a tactic that’s served him well in Wisconsin. And he hopes to capitallize on new Republican-backed laws that make it harder for traditional Democratic constituencies to vote.

Walker’s chief talking point was that he knows “how to fight and win” at imposing ultraconservative policies on a purple state. Walker won in 2014 with 52.3 percent of the votes cast, but only 27 percent of registered voters. His policies have landed Wisconsin at or near the bottom economically, devastated education budgets and environmental protections, taken away women’s rights — and are hugely divisive and unpopular. The last time his approval rating was measured (in April), it stood at 41 percent. And that was before a bruising budget battle cost him support even among the state’s Republican leaders.

Walker is nothing if not a political shape-shifter, who changes positions so often that he sometimes appears to forget where he stands on any given day. He’s also a master of factual distortion. Among the governors whose statements are most frequently checked by Politifact, Walker leads the pack with the number of falses.

Walker rose to national fame after boldly — and without prior warning — gutting public unions after taking office in 2011. He used the move to fuel middle-class resentments, pitting workers who enjoyed union protections and bargaining powers against those who did not. He went on to eliminate all wage-protection laws and exploit the indignation of older white males toward poor people who receive public assistance.

As he was caught on videotape telling billionaire supporter Diane Hendricks, Walker’s political strategy is based on “divide and conquer.” Hendricks, who paid no income taxes in 2012, gave Wisconsin Republicans $1 million in 2014.

About 5,000 conservatives cheered his passionate, commanding 30-minute speech on July 13 at Waukesha County Expo Center. The crowd went wild when he talked about unions and jeered when he mentioned climate change, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

In an effort to show that he was boning up on foreign policy knowledge, Walker made generalized remarks about the Islamic State group that reflected what others in the Republican field have been saying.

While national media afforded Walker his moment of glory, seeds of the trouble that lies ahead for him were also present at the Waukesha County Expo Center — specifically outside Gates 1 and 2. 

There, more than 200 sign-waving protesters gathered, organized by the Democratic Party, environmental groups, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. They hoped to draw attention to their view of Walker’s record. Some wore bags over their heads labeled “Ashamed of Walker.” They lingered for three hours.

Although the size of the protest was significantly smaller than the 100,000-plus anti-Walker crowds that surrounded the Capitol for days in 2011, the rhetoric hasn’t cooled over the past four years.

Media largely ignored the event, which was designed to deliver a message that was best summed up by Democratic Party of Wisconsin chair Martha Laning.

“Scott Walker’s record in Wisconsin is one of unprecedented corruption, division, extremism and a failure to foster economic growth and opportunity,” she said in a press statement. “And now, with wages in Wisconsin stagnant, job growth that’s dead last in the Midwest and trailing most of the nation, a flagship jobs agency that’s known more for scandal than economic development and a $2.2 billion budget deficit created by his failed policies, Scott Walker wants to take that record nationwide.”

Critics hope that Walker’s scandals, gaffes, shoddy management and other failures become more widely known as he faces increasing scrutiny — and the probing eyes of opposition researchers in both parties.

Despite being extremely well funded by special interests, especially the fossil fuel interests that he’s catered to during his gubernatorial tenure, Walker will have to fight for attention in a crowded field, duck difficult questions about the state’s economy and his foreign policy knowledge and overcome the numerous scandals that have plagued his career.

As Susan Page, USA Today’s Washington bureau chief, put it, “Walker’s relative obscurity is both a big asset and his chief vulnerability.”

The next few months are going to be riveting — and frustrating — for Wisconsin liberals and independents who have watched Walker turn the state from a bastion of reform and progressivism into the Midwest’s equivalent of Mississippi.

Hillary Clinton says good-bye to State Dep’t, mulls next move

When Hillary Rodham Clinton first came to national attention in 1992, she was 44 and joining husband Bill on a high-energy bus tour, with Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” playing at stop after stop on the presidential campaign trail. 

When she left the State Department for the final time as secretary of state on Feb. 1, many of Clinton’s supporters were thinking about tomorrow – as in the winter 2016 day when New Hampshire holds its presidential primary, or the winter 2016 night of the next Iowa Caucuses, or the January 2017 day when the next president takes the oath of office.

Clinton ended her term as the nation’s top diplomat wanting some rest and relaxation, but her supporters and admirers – a sizable majority of Democrats and a surprising number of Republicans, according to recent polls – hope that R&R doesn’t lead to a retirement from politics.

LGBT rights

Serving as the 67th secretary of state, Clinton visited a record 112 countries and traveled 956,000 miles. She left the post with a favorability rating of 66 percent, but more importantly with a successful record of advocating worldwide for peace, liberty, democracy, justice and human rights.

In her farewell to employees Feb. 1, Clinton said, “Those of you who are staying, as many of you will, please know that I hope you will redouble your efforts to do all that you can to demonstrate unequivocally why diplomacy and development are right up there with defense.”

Diplomacy and development, for her, included delivery of a powerful United Nations speech for LGBT rights in December 2011 in Geneva that many compared to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. In an address unprecedented for a world leader, Clinton, said, “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” and the landscape shifted.

With the declaration came reform – an extension of employment benefits to same-sex partners and spouses of State Department employees, changes to make it easier for transgender Americans to correct their passports, passage of the first-ever UN resolution affirming the human rights of LGBT people, a push to provide foreign aid to promote LGBT rights with the Global Equality Fund.

Clinton’s star

Clinton was a woman of prominence – and minor celebrity – in 1969, when she delivered the commencement address at Wellesley College and Life magazine profiled her as a standout in the Class of ’69. She campaigned for George McGovern, worked as staff attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund, served on the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry staff during Watergate and was first lady of Arkansas from 1979-1981 and 1983-1992.

But many were not introduced to Clinton until January 1992, the night of the Super Bowl, when she and Bill, at the start of his presidential campaign, appeared on “60 Minutes” to address rumors that he had been involved in a 12-year affair with a state employee. Hillary Clinton memorably defended her husband and herself: “You know, I’m not sitting here — some little woman standin’ by my man like Tammy Wynette. I’m sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honor what he’s been through and what we’ve been through together. And you know, if that’s not enough for people, then heck, don’t vote for him.”

New Hampshire was a loss, but by Super Tuesday, the nomination seemed secure. And by January 1993, the Clintons were in the White House. There, as first lady, Hillary Clinton introduced many to the concept of universal health care – before there was Obamacare there was Hillarycare – as she campaigned for reform against an antagonistic Congress.

In 1995, Clinton went to Communist China, where she boldly, bravely declared, “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.”

In 1998, when Bill Clinton became embroiled in a public investigation over his private affairs, Hillary Clinton railed against a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Some, especially some in the Republican Party, scoffed. But leaders in the campaign for LGBT civil rights certainly understood – there was and is a vast right wing and many in it are conspiratorial.

When Bill Clinton left the White House in 2000, he remained immensely popular among Democrats. And Hillary Clinton, when she left the White House, had a favorability rating approaching 70 percent. She leveraged that popularity into a successful U.S. Senate bid in New York, winning with 55 percent of the vote in 2000 and then winning re-election with 67 percent of the vote in 2006.

When she entered the race for the 2008 presidential nomination and began her historic drive to become the nation’s first female president, she seemed to have everything, including an early win in New Hampshire. But the primary battle was neither quick nor bloodless and, in June that year, she ended her run and endorsed Barack Obama. “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it,” Clinton said. “And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.”

Now, after some 40 years in politics, will she rest on her record?

Thinking about tomorrow

As Clinton was saying her goodbyes in government, pollsters were looking at her prospects for the presidency.

Surveys have consistently shown she’s a Democratic favorite in a primary contest. But polls also show Clinton – once a divisive figure in politics but now widely popular – as a powerful candidate in a general election, including in some Republican states. 

A recent survey of voters by Public Policy Polling found that Clinton, if the election were held now, could defeat Marco Rubio or Chris Christie in Texas – and those two are currently the favorites for president among Republicans. In a race for president against Rick Perry, Texas’ governor, Clinton wins 50-42 percent in the Lone Star State.

“If Clinton is the 2016 nominee, she could conceivably expand the electoral map for Democrats in deep-red Texas,” said PPP president Dean Debnam.

Asked repeatedly as she was exiting the Obama administration about her ambitions, Clinton, who only last month retired her 2008 campaign debt, declined specifics beyond her vacation and probably a sequel to her memoir “Living History.”

She told The Associated Press, “I am making no decisions, but I would never give that advice to someone that I wouldn’t take myself,” she said. “If you believe you can make a difference, not just in politics, in public service, in advocacy around all these important issues, then you have to be prepared to accept that you are not going to get 100 percent approval.”

Romney declared winner of Iowa Caucuses

Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa Caucuses by eight – that’s eight votes, not percentage points.

The Jan. 3 contest was the first in the balloting for the Republican presidential nomination process leading up to the national convention in Tampa this summer.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney placed first in the tight race, followed by former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and then Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich ran a distant fourth, followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who had skipped the caucuses to focus on next week’s primary in New Hampshire.

With the exception of marginal candidate Fred Karger, who is gay, none of the Republican candidates have good records on LGBT issues.

But Santorum heads to New Hampshire and then South Carolina with the worst record on LGBT issues and a strong, surprise, second-place showing in Iowa.

Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT GOP group, responded to the Iowa results early Jan. 4.

“Of the candidates who participated in the Iowa caucuses, Gov. Mitt Romney was one of the best on issues affecting LGBT Americans. By contrast, Sen. Santorum rose by appealing to a uniquely socially conservative electorate,” said LCR executive director R. Clarke Cooper.

But Santorum’s appeal in Iowa probably won’t play well in New Hampshire and other states, according to Cooper.

“It is very early in what promises to be a long and drawn-out nomination process, and Log Cabin Republicans are confident that ultimately our party will select the candidate with the best chance to win the White House,” Cooper said. “Rick Santorum is not that candidate. As the nomination process moves forward, Log Cabin Republicans suggest all of the candidates reject Santorum’s politics of division and win by focusing on the issues that matter most to Americans – jobs and the economy. If using gay and lesbian Americans as a wedge can’t score enough political points to win more than 25 percent in Iowa, it certainly won’t help the Republican nominee in November.”

Betting company lists Romney as favorite in Iowa

There may be a lot of undecided voters headed to the precincts, but all bets are not off in today’s Iowa Caucuses.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the clear favorite in the polls and also with odds makers.

Paddy Power, an Irish betting company, says Romney is available at “evens” with his nearest challengers – libertarian Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum – both available at 2/1.

Further down the betting, former front-runners for the Republican nomination Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry are at 20/1 and 33/1.

Underdogs Michele Bachmann is at 50/1 and Jon Huntsman is at 100/1.

Romney also is the favorite for the GOP nomination, with odds of 2/5, followed by Paul at 7/1 and Gingrich at 8/1.

A surge in support over the past week has seen Santorum odds cut from 20/1 to 14/1, while Perry continues to slide and is now a 33/1 longshot.

The company also is offering odds on the next president – the victor in November – with Barack Obama at 
7/4, Romney at 
12/1, Gingrich at 
14/1 and Paul
 at 20/1.

The odds put 2008 Democratic primary challenger Hillary Rodham Clinton before the remaining GOP candidates at
 33/1, followed by Huntsman
at 50/1, Santorum at 
50/1, Perry 
at 80/1 and Bachman 
at 125/1.

Romney, Paul ahead in Iowa polls

Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are leading a field of seven candidates in polling in Iowa, where citizens will cast votes on Jan. 3.

Meanwhile, the AP is reporting that two Iowa pastors, fearing a split among religious right voters, suggested Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann bow out before the precinct caucusing takes place next week.

“Otherwise, like-minded people will be divided and water down their impact,” said the Rev. Cary Gordon, a Sioux City minister who asked Santorum several weeks ago to consider exiting the race but now supports the former U.S. senator.

The Rev. Albert Calloway, a retired pastor from Indianola, Iowa, asked U.S. Rep. Bachmann, R-Minn., to consider quitting.

Both pastors said they were concerned that neither Romney nor Paul are close to their causes. And Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Paul, a long-serving Texas congressman, are running neck-and-neck in the state, where the caucuses are a test of a candidate’s ability to raise cash and organize staff and volunteers.

With Newt Gingrich fading from the top tier after being targeted by a barrage of attack ads, Iowa voters are about evenly split between the more moderate Romney and the extreme libertarian views of Paul, according to the AP.

But many Republican conservatives across the country distrust Romney because of his past positions on abortion, gay marriage and health care. Paul, meanwhile, is seen as too extreme by mainstream party voters.

The Iowa caucuses likely will force some candidates to drop out of the race and shape the coming six-month string of state-by-state primary elections and caucuses leading up to the Republican National Convention in August that officially names a candidate.

New Hampshire’s primary is Jan. 10, where Romney holds a lead in polls. South Carolina’s primary is Jan. 21, followed by Florida’s primary on Jan. 31.

Source: AP

Anti-gay group attacks Ron Paul on marriage

The National Organization for Marriage is attacking presidential hopeful Ron Paul in a television ad in Iowa. The commercial says Paul is “wrong on marriage.”

Paul, who has come under fire for decades’ old newsletters that contain anti-black, anti-semitic and anti-gay statements, is rising in the polls leading up to next week’s caucuses.

The NOM add seeks to sway voters to more traditional right-wing candidates and away from the libertarian Paul.

The 38-second commercial states that “all the major presidential candidates have pledged to preserve traditional marriage,” except Ron Paul.

The commercial says he is not a conservative but rather a radical who would destroy traditional marriage.

Gingrich wants ‘religious freedom’ commission

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is promising that “on day one” in the White House he would establish a presidential commission to protect religious freedom.

Gingrich, who is courting right-wing voters as he campaigns in the Jan. 3 Iowa Caucuses, said the commission would deal with an erosion of religious freedom – the result of the First Amendment being twisted to “fit a post-modern world.”

Campaign writings on the subject reflect Gingrich’s opinion that the push for marriage equality, the battle against school bullies and the effort to preserve women’s reproductive rights threaten religious freedoms.

Gingrich, with still a long way to go in the crowded GOP nominating contest, this month released a draft of his “On Day One” executive order and contract for a 21st century America, a document his campaign said would be finalized in September, about two months before the general election.

The draft states that a presidential commission would explore both abortion and same-sex marriage, referring to women’s reproductive freedoms and marriage equality as “new ‘rights.”

The draft order states, “As litigants demand that courts and judges intervene to create new ‘rights’ out of whole cloth, such litigants and their supporters seek to limit the freedom of others to express their deeply held religious commitments to, for example, the value of every human life and to marriage as between one man and one woman.”

A presidential commission on religious freedom specifically would explore, according to Gingrich’s campaign:

• “The extent to which individuals have been harassed or threatened for exercising key civil rights to organize, to speak, to donate or to vote for marriage and to propose new protections, if needed.”

• “The extent to which the protection of religious expression and religious freedom for military chaplains and other servicemembers who support the historical, religious definition of marriage as one man and one woman may be threatened by new laws regarding conduct in the military.”

• “The impact on religious freedom of same-sex ‘marriage’ and non-discrimination laws, including the rights of individuals, businesses and religious institutions that have a conscientious objection to providing or engaging in services that support values they oppose.”

Civil rights activists said that Gingrich claims to be for the protection of First Amendment rights and religious liberties, but he’s really for a weakening of the separation of church and state.