Rangel: ‘I support a Giuliani-Kerik ticket’

Never say New Yorkers don’t have sense of humor — especially when they can stick it to the other side.

A powerful New York Democrat, a mischievous gleam in his eye, is offering an early endorsement in the 2008 presidential race, where the field includes many hometown hopefuls like former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"I’m supporting Giuliani for the Republican," Rep. Charles Rangel said Monday, pausing briefly before delivering the punchline.

"Kerik, as well," he added, referring to Giuliani’s disgraced former police commissioner Bernard Kerik.

Kerik pleaded guilty earlier this year to misdemeanor charges of taking money from contractors with alleged mob ties, when he was the city’s corrections chief. He was also President Bush’s choice to head the Department of Homeland Security, but the nomination was scrapped after questions arose about his background.

Political observers say Giuliani’s relationship with Kerik could be a problem if the former mayor goes ahead with a run for president.

Rangel was speaking at event in the East Village with Giuliani’s successor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg — another name sometimes mentioned as a 2008 contender, despite his repeated protestations that he is not interested.

But Bloomberg declined to say which New Yorker he would like to win.

"I think that this country is better off with lots of choices, and I think it’s fascinating that we have, you know, between Pataki and Clinton and Giuliani, three candidates," he said, ignoring a reporter’s interruption that he should include himself on the list.

"Three potential candidates for president, and I wish them all well," Bloomberg said.


Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln on Monday described her Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas as "kinder and gentler" than her GOP colleague, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Asked to compare the two White House hopefuls, Lincoln told The Associated Press: "Kinder and gentler comes to mind, but I probably shouldn’t say that. I think he puts a different face on things than some of the Republicans in the Senate."

Lincoln joked that she is already exhausted by all the possible candidates in the Senate, among them McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan. On a more serious note, she said she was hopeful that presidential politics wouldn’t interfere with the Senate agenda in 2007.

"We’ve got to produce and our hope is that all of our caucus will be together and working hard to produce," Lincoln said. "In a presidential election with so many of our caucus members going, I think that might be kind of difficult."


Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Monday he opposes discrimination against gays and lesbians despite his ongoing battles to outlaw same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

Romney, who is preparing for a possible run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, defended a letter he wrote during his unsuccessful 1994 Senate run in which he promised a gay Republicans group he would be a stronger advocate for gays than Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Romney said there was nothing inconsistent between his position then and his vigorous opposition to gay marriage in Massachusetts now.

"I’m not in favor of discrimination of any kind, including people who have a different sexual preference than myself," he said. "At the same time I’m very committed to traditional marriage between one man and one woman and believe that marriage should be preserved in that way."


Don’t accuse Tom Vilsack of ducking questions in his quest for the presidency — even those posed by a faux newsman.

Toting a stuffed duck with a " 1 Vilsack Fan" button, Iowa’s Democratic governor gamely answered questions Monday from Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central.

In the weeks since Vilsack formally announced he was running for president, Stewart has used an animated duck to poke fun at the similarity between Vilsack’s name and "Aflac," the insurance company that uses a loud-mouthed duck as a pitchman.

Pulling the stuffed duck out of a gift bag, Stewart looked at it and smirked before squeezing it.

"Aflac," it squawked.

"So you’re not going to run away from duck-related humor?" Stewart asked.

"I’m not gonna duck the issues. That’s right," Vilsack deadpanned.


Associated Press writers Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Steve LeBlanc in Boston and Henry C. Jackson in Des Moines contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press