Service union delays endorsement

The Service Employees International Union has postponed its presidential endorsement until next month, underscoring divisions within the powerful labor group over front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, sentimental favorite John Edwards and latest star Barack Obama.

Each of the top-tier candidates has support within the 1.8-million member union that includes janitors, hotel workers and truck drivers. SEIU backing is one of the most important labor endorsements available, with the organization donating more than $25 million, mostly to Democratic candidates, since 1989.

Bricklayers back Hillary

The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers endorsed Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton for president Monday, saying she had the best chance to win.

“Hillary Clinton has the strength and experience to deliver the change America needs,” union president John J. Flynn said. “After years of an administration that has turned its back on working families, we need a president whose priorities are our priorities.”

Flynn said the union’s executive council voted unanimously to endorse Clinton and that the New York senator was the clear winner in a poll of members.

Follow the money

Presidential campaigns are hoarding money for a coming advertising blitz — mostly in Iowa and New Hampshire — during the final three months of the year on airwaves already saturated with candidate commercials.

The candidates are in the midst of a last-minute fundraising push, eager to have significant amounts of cash on hand by Sunday, the end of the third quarter and a milestone for measuring financial strength.

Defamation dilutes discourse

While negative political advertising has been around since the beginning of the republic, MoveOn.org seems to have cut some new ground for meanness and ratcheted up the incivility level more than a notch or two, as if it weren’t high enough already. Probably not since Lyndon Johnson’s vicious attempt to portray Barry Goldwater as a threat to nuclear sanity has there been a more controversial attack on a public official than the one implying Gen. David Petraeus has betrayed the nation.

Online ‘mashup’ draws 1 million viewers

An experimental online “mashup” — a build-your-own Democratic presidential debate — attracted more than 1 million viewers in the past 10 days, many of them young people drawn to the interactivity of the Internet.

But the most popular participant was not a candidate.

Comedian Bill Maher, who asked one of four questions posed to each of the eight candidates, attracted viewers 42 percent of the time. He quizzed the hopefuls about the Ten Commandments, marijuana legalization, the relative dangers of sugar, coal dust and terrorism, and the climate-changing impact of cows.

Independents leaning Democratic

Michael Brooks is exactly the kind of voter the Republican Party can ill afford to lose. But in a foreboding omen for 2008, it may have already done just that.

The auto parts store worker from St. Charles, Mo., says he used to be a Republican but felt abandoned and is now an independent.

“For some reason or other, they didn’t seem to be for the masses anymore,” said Brooks, 59, citing a lack of help for middle-income earners. He said he voted for George W. Bush in 2000, thinking the Republican was “more middle of the road, for the people. Obviously I was incorrect.”

Rudy panders to the gun lobby

Republican Rudy Giuliani sought to reassure the National Rifle Association of his support for a constitutional right to bear arms as rivals Fred Thompson, John McCain and Mike Huckabee contended the former New York mayor is no friend of gun owners.

In a direct appeal Friday to the powerful lobbying group, Thompson, McCain and Huckabee stressed their backing for gun rights and record of siding with the NRA. Giuliani, who once referred to the NRA as “extremists,” tried to explain his shifting views on the issue.

Dems step up attacks on Hillary

Hillary Rodham Clinton is finding herself in her rivals’ cross-hairs.

Barack Obama and John Edwards try to paint her as a candidate of the Washington establishment and beholden to special interests. Chris Dodd questioned the former first lady’s competence on health care reform. They have hinted she’s too divisive to govern effectively as president.

Hillary’s fundraiser charged with fraud

Days after top-tier Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu was arrested in a 15-year-old fraud case, he contacted the FBI and confessed to making bogus business deals in a sprawling new scheme, prosecutors said.

Hsu was charged Thursday with swindling at least $60 million from investors and using some of his profits to make illegal donations to political campaigns. Prosecutors allege Hsu had engineered a “massive” Ponzi scheme that ensnared investors across the country.

Hillary, Rudy top polls in California

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is leading among Democrats in the California presidential primary, while Rudy Giuliani is slightly ahead of his three major Republican rivals, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.

Clinton has the support of 41 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, according to the survey, which was taken over a seven-day period following the Labor Day weekend and released Thursday. Her closest rival is Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who has 23 percent. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is at 14 percent.