Dems vie for rural vote

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was midway through his speech inside a crowded firehouse here last week when audience member Eunice McCarty nudged the man sitting next to her.

He was a Republican, and McCarty wanted him to know he had just been caught at a Democratic presidential candidate’s event.

The man didn’t applaud much, but at least he paid attention, she said.

“After all the things, they may be willing to listen at least,” she figured.

In this far-flung, northwestern corner of Iowa, it’s “almost kind of scary” to be anything but a Republican, she said.

Kowtowing for the religious right

After a weekend of auditioning would-be presidents, Christian conservatives are still seeking consensus on who should get the part.

“A lot of people feel less than satisfied; there’s no news in that,” former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said midway through the weekend gathering of the Family Research Council. “Of the major candidates, the big four, I don’t know if anyone has hit the mark yet.”

Don’t look for the union label

Democrats and unions may go together like politics and corruption, sin and scandal, baseball and hot dogs but many union power players are taking a wait and see attitude towards the crowded field of Democratic candidates for President.

The Democratic wannabes have done everything but genuflect in front of big labor bosses in the pre-primary season but few endorsements have come out of their begging, whining and pleading.

So far the response from most unions has been the old version of “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

No Drudge grudge in Clinton camp

Internet gossip monger Matt Drudge may have little use or regard for the truth but he remains a power player in political circles — so much in fact that even the campaign of Hillary Clinton may be using his web site to leak stories and gain an edge on the competition.

This comes as a surprise to some observers who remember the large role Drudge played in outing the Monica Lewinsky scandal during Bill Clinton’s scandal-scarred Presidency.

Like him or not, Drudge is a player in a political world where the Internet’s influence grows with each election cycle.

Clash of the schoolyard bullies

Sunday’s GOP Presidential candidate debate was more of a free-for-all than a discussion of the issues as participants attacked each other, Hillary Clinton, and anything Democratic.

Then they argued among themselves over who is, or is not, a real conservative.

With the rabid right wing of the Republican Party threatening to bolt and back an as-yet unnamed third party candidate, the GOP Presidential wannabes behaved like a group of schoolyard bullies, each trying to claim they were tougher than the others.

It came off as childish, immature, and foolish.

Chasing the conservative base

Republican rivals Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney and John McCain sought on Friday to become the favorite of anxious social conservatives, each suggesting he offered the best chance of thwarting abortion rights supporter Rudy Giuliani.

“This is not the time to turn our back on the progress we’ve made on the issues that matter most,” McCain, the Arizona senator, told a receptive gathering of “values voters.” “I have a record that can be trusted.”

The earth becomes a viable campaign issue

In American politics, we’re used to hearing Republicans use the language of faith. And we’re used to hearing Democrats talk tough on protecting the environment.

But this year, we’re starting to notice candidates from both sides mixing the two, perhaps hoping that breaking that language barrier can win them cross-over support.

Tough times for bible-thumpers

Religious and cultural conservatives, a political force skeptical of the leading Republican presidential candidates, are caught in a tug of war between pragmatism and ideology.

“My head and my heart are fighting with each other,” said Phil Burress, an Ohioan who has lobbied hard for federal and state bans on gay marriage.

The vexing choices facing these voters:

_Rudy Giuliani, a thrice-married New Yorker who differs with them on abortion, gays and guns but who polls show offers a strong chance to beat a Democrat next fall.

Spending within their means

If Americans really cared about the annual deficit or the $9 trillion national debt, they would choose Hillary Rodham Clinton or Ron Paul to be the next president. They’re among few candidates for the White House whose campaign spending is well within their means.

GOP hopes voter anger is non-partisan

Republican strategists hope a volatile electorate will save the party from congressional losses in 2008 that appear possible due to a string of setbacks.

Democrats hold clear edges in raising money, limiting retirements and deflecting public anger.

In the latest sign, the party’s House campaign committee said Wednesday it has about $25 million to spend on targeted races next year; its Republican counterpart is in debt.

Facing such news, the GOP’s top House strategist summoned reporters to his campaign headquarters to put the best possible light on matters.