GOP wannabes keep distance from Bush

The Republican presidential candidates walked a delicate line in their latest campaign debate, seeking some distance from President Bush and an unpopular war in Iraq while offering assurances of change in a new Republican administration.

“I can tell you I’m not a carbon copy of George Bush,” former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Sunday, even as he called for a “surge of support” for troops fighting in Iraq.

Hillary booed by liberal bloggers

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton refused Saturday to forsake campaign donations from lobbyists, turning aside challenges from her two main rivals with a rare defense of the special interest industry.

“A lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans, they actually do,” Clinton said, drawing boos and hisses from liberal bloggers at the second Yearly Kos convention.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois put Clinton on the spot during a debate that featured seven of the eight major Democratic presidential candidates fielding questions from a crowd of 1,500 bloggers, most of them liberal. The gathering marked another advancement for the rising new wing of the Democratic Party, the so-called netroots.

Political blogrolling

Liberal bloggers can count the ways they are making their presence felt in the presidential race.

More than 1,500 bloggers are expected this weekend at the second YearlyKos Convention, which has about 70 sponsors, including unions and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Credentials to cover the event total about 250.

The most telling number, however, is seven — as in seven of the eight Democratic candidates were scheduled to address the convention on Saturday, including top-tier candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards.

A longshot emerges from the shadows

Ron Paul may be the political butterfly of the 2008 presidential campaign. An obscure congressman from Southeast Texas for most of his political career, Paul has metamorphosed into the favorite of those looking for a candidate outside the political mainstream.

Legions of die-hard fans formed across the country after Republican candidate debates and Internet blogs exposed his contrarian views.

Paul, 71, remains one of the longest of long shots for the GOP nomination, but that hasn’t deterred supporters from making cold calls to voters in early contest states, plastering the Internet with plaudits, and loudly challenging Paul’s White House rivals at campaign stops.

“I honestly believe that Congressman Ron Paul, as crazy as it might sound, I believe he is the father of the modern Republican Party,” said Jason Stoddard, 31, an Austin, Texas, entrepreneur who has no formal ties to Paul’s campaign but has made more than a thousand calls to Iowa voters urging their support.

Socialized medicine or freedom?

Today’s health-care debate previews the fall 2008 election, if today’s presidential front-runners win their respective party nominations.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican, are promoting reforms that contrast like midnight and high noon.

Slip-sliding away

John McCain’s slide in the presidential race shows up everywhere on the campaign trail.

His staff drastically reduced and his organization nearly broke, McCain flies commercial instead of on private jets, carries his own luggage and relies on supporters to drive him to events, including one that pulled away from a Rotary meeting last week with a flat rear tire.

It’s a far cry from the “Straight Talk Express” tour bus that once was packed with reporters, staff and hope.

John Edwards’ foot-in-mouth disease

“They want to shut me up,” says John Edwards, who apparently thinks jokes about his $400 haircuts are part of a plot to keep him quiet. I am on his side. Leave the man alone. Let his jaw keep flapping at 100 mph.

With every word the Democratic candidate for president utters, the public learns that much more about his demagogic, hypocritical phoniness. Even in a recent Creston, Iowa, tantrum about scary forces spouting trivia to drown out his seriousness, he was busily providing evidence that bunkum is his specialty.

Thoughts on a Hillary Presidency

BERLIN — I’m walking down a street in what used to be the communist part of this city, when my companion points to a couple of police officers strolling in front of an otherwise ordinary-looking doorstep. He explains to me that this is the apartment of Angela Merkel, head of the German government. (Rather charmingly, it’s next door to a shop called “The Empire of Art”).

Romney calls Bush’s war a failure

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said Friday that the country is angry over the lack of progress in the Iraq war, a stinging assessment of the Bush administration’s handling of the conflict from a Republican candidate.

Campaigning in Iowa, the former Massachusetts governor also argued that despite the nation’s frustration over the war, voters aren’t ready to replace President Bush with a Democrat.

Obama faces black resistance in SC

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama faces two major obstacles in South Carolina, the first Democratic testing ground for black support: the popularity of the Clinton name and doubts among blacks that white America is ready for a minority president.

The candidacy of the 45-year-old Obama elicits genuine excitement in a state where blacks comprise about half of the primary electorate. Yet coupled with that emotion is a strong degree of skepticism about the freshman senator’s experience and whether he can win.