The impact of YouPolitics

It started with a singer lampooning all the candidates, eliciting some winces. There was an animated cartoon that looked like Dick Cheney. A gay ex-general bared his soul. There were people with props and questioners with passion. There was humor, drama and poignancy. It was great!

For two hours this past Wednesday CNN and YouTube joined forces to bring the eight Republican white men in suits vying to be president together for a debate that was actually worth watching!

The fireworks! The digs! The mocking aspersions flying around the auditorium!

Did Bill sell out Hillary on Iraq?

Ex-president Bill Clinton’s latest campaign trail appearance for his wife Hillary’s Democratic White House bid threw an unwelcome spotlight Wednesday back on her vote to authorize the Iraq war.

Clinton said in the key state of Iowa Tuesday he had been against the Iraq war “from the beginning” in comments which appeared more robust than his public statements before the 2003 invasion.

Hillary Clinton’s top Democratic rival Senator Barack Obama, who spoke out against the war before the invasion, said he didn’t recall hearing such talk from the former president in 2003.

Fight night with the GOP

Welcome to fight night.

With the final round of a yearlong campaign approaching, the Republican presidential race grew remarkably bitter as the top contenders jockeyed for the upper hand — and sought it by tearing down one another.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Republican candidates’ favorite target in a debate just a month ago, no longer was their preferred punching bag.

“It’s now become personal. It doesn’t look like any of these guys like each other,” said Scott Reed, campaign manager for Republican Bob Dole’s 1996 bid.

Republicans get testy with each other

Republican presidential rivals Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney scornfully debated immigration in a provocative, no-holds-barred CNN/YouTube debate just over a month before the first votes are cast.

Giuliani, the front-runner in national polls, accused Romney Wednesday of employing illegal immigrants at his home and running a “sanctuary mansion.” The testy personal exchange came after Romney said Giuliani had retained New York’s status as a sanctuary city while he was mayor.

Big business steps up political giving

Big business is shoveling more money than ever into U.S. political campaigns, with Wall Street donations way up, a watchdog group said on Tuesday.

The securities and investment industry — which includes brokerages, hedge funds and private equity firms — registered the sharpest increase in giving since 2004 among all industry sectors studied by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Hillary haters take center stage

Prowling the Internet, spilling venom on blogs and dominating the airwaves on conservative talk radio, “Hillary haters” are back and out in force as 2008 presidential nominating contests loom.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is sparking the same waves of vitriol in the conservative echo chamber that burst forth during her husband Bill Clinton’s eight years in the White House.

Just 37 days before the leadoff Iowa caucuses, Clinton remains a lightning rod, targeted again by enemies who hounded her as first lady but adored by supporters backing her potentially historic campaign.

Can Oprah save Obama?

Call it the “O Factor.” Oprah Winfrey picks a “favorite book” or a “favorite thing,” and poof, it’s a best seller.

And now Winfrey’s “favorite senator,” Barack Obama, hopes the O Factor will work for him, too, as the talk-show host and media icon prepares to campaign for the presidential candidate in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Fact-checking Mitt Romney

As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney issued no pardons, limited lobbying by would-be judges and sought to create a judicial nominating process based solely on merit.

Despite his best efforts, the Republican presidential hopeful finds himself enmeshed in just the kind of “law and order” controversy he had hoped to avoid. A judge he appointed in 2006 freed a convicted killer who is now charged with murdering a newlywed couple last week.

Huckabee’s glossed-over record

Mike Huckabee’s presidential rivals are pointing to chinks in his record as Arkansas’ governor — from ethics complaints to tax increases to illegal immigration and his support for releasing a rapist who was later convicted of killing a Missouri woman.

The Republican presidential candidate has plenty to champion from his 10 1/2 years as governor — including school improvements and health insurance for the children of the working poor. But his record has rough edges, and Huckabee has a habit of playing fast and loose with it.

Immigration: A defining issue?

One of the trickiest tightropes being walked by the 2008 US presidential candidates, all of them descended from immigrants, is how to tackle illegal immigration as they bid for the White House.

Democrats are forced into a delicate dance around the thorny issue, scrambling to court the booming Hispanic-American population without irking party moderates, analysts said.