McCain dumps his ad team

Sen. John McCain’s advertising consultants have resigned from his presidential campaign, the latest in a rash of staff shake-ups in recent weeks.

McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker on Wednesday described the departure of Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens as amicable and said the Arizona Republican “appreciates their service” but accepted their resignations when they were offered Monday night.

The gloves come off

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama tried to turn rival Hillary Rodham Clinton’s words back on her Wednesday, saying her vote to authorize the Iraq war was “irresponsible and naive.”

Clinton had used the same language a day earlier to criticize Obama for saying he would be willing to meet with leaders of nations such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran without conditions within the first year of his presidency. Clinton said renegade leaders could use such a meeting for propaganda and that envoys below the presidential level should begin diplomatic work.

Edwards returns lobbyists donations

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, who reiterated his commitment Tuesday to never accept campaign donations from special interest groups, recently returned $3,400 from lobbyists.

Edwards spokeswoman Colleen Murray said the campaign returned some money donated by a registered lobbyist last week, and money from two others was refunded Tuesday after The Associated Press inquired about the donations.

“We take every precaution possible, but sometimes people slip through, and when we find lobbyist money we refund it immediately,” said Edwards spokeswoman Colleen Murray.

Thompson reorganizing his non-campaign

Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson is shaking up his still-unofficial campaign, replacing his top aide with a former Michigan senator and a veteran Florida strategist.

The shake-up comes amid consternation inside the campaign about the active role played by Thompson’s wife, Jeri, a lawyer, media consultant and former Republican National Committee official.

“Rumors are rumors,” said Thompson spokeswoman Linda Rozett. “It is not a personal issue. It’s an organizational issue. We are strengthening the organization as we enter the next phase.”

Lots of glitz, little substance

Eight Democratic presidential bandwagons got caught in gridlock Monday night at the cluttered campaign-trail intersection of YouTube and CNN.

This first-of-its-kind video/Internet campaign debate featured ordinary people doing what real journalists usually do: Questioning the candidates. It also featured CNN journalists doing what journalists too often do: Confusing news with entertainment, and especially, confusing undebatable gotcha-journalism questions with vital policy questions that need to be fully debated and challenged if we are ever going to get our country right again.

Obama sets off a firestorm

Barack Obama’s offer to meet without precondition with leaders of renegade nations such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran touched off a war of words, with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton calling him naive and Obama linking her to President Bush’s diplomacy.

Older politicians in both parties questioned the wisdom of such a course, while Obama’s supporters characterized it as a repudiation of Bush policies of refusing to engage with certain adversaries.

This medium is the message

Democratic White House hopefuls made history Monday, parrying Internet video questions from voters soured on modern politics, in a sign of the Web’s booming role in elections.

“Wassup? asked the first questioner Zach Kempf from Provo, Utah, in a greeting heralding an unconventional two-hour 2008 campaign debate hosted by video-sharing website YouTube and broadcast by CNN from South Carolina.

Mr. Giuliani goes to Iowa

SLOAN, Iowa — He squeezed into the diner flanked by burly fellows in pinstriped suits.

When the country’s most famous city slicker came to this small farm town last week, a good portion of Sloan’s roughly 1,000 residents jammed into the corner cafe to catch a glimpse or touch his hands.

Some call Republican Rudolph Giuliani “America’s Mayor” because of that day in New York City that he always reminds folks about: Sept. 11, 2001.

All nice and polite…for now

The 2008 White House race has groundbreaking candidates, record-shattering spending and crowded debates, but so far it lacks a more common feature of recent campaigns — negative and sometimes personal attacks.

It’s still early, though.

The sprawling fields of contenders in both parties have kept a largely civil tone through the early stages of a fast-starting White House race, mostly avoiding direct confrontations and leaving the rare attacks to surrogates.

McCain has more cash than predicted

Second-quarter campaign reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show former GOP frontrunner John McCain with $3.2 million cash on hand – about $1.2 million above the $2 million that the campaign predicted would be reflected in the official report.

The final figures erase a significant talking point promoted by the campaign of long-shot candidate Ron Paul which, for the last three weeks, has argued that their candidate would have more money in the bank than McCain.

McCain, however, is not out of the financial woods. His campaign filings show $1.8 million in debt through the end of June while the Paul campaign reports zero debt. Paul has more “net worth” than McCain at this point although McCain has outraised Paul 8-1 and outspent the Texas Congressman by 10-1.