Bagging the suckers

In the words of the patron saint of political consultants, there’s a sucker born every minute. In California it’ll cost you a couple of million to reach the suckers. But the consultants aren’t complaining.

For evidence, consider the likely initiative menu for next year’s three — count ‘em, three — elections. There’s the initiative, almost certain to make the February presidential primary ballot, that would replace the existing legislative term limits — six years in the Assembly, eight in the Senate — with a system limiting any legislator to a total of 12 years.

Among GOP, only Ron Paul opposes war

Republican presidential contenders voiced support for the Iraq war Wednesday night despite a warning from anti-war candidate Ron Paul that they risk dragging the party down to defeat in 2008.

“Even if we lose elections, we should not lose our honor,” shot back former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, “and that is more important than the Republican Party.”

Huckabee was in the majority, Paul very much in the minority on a University of New Hampshire debate stage when it came to the war. The politically unpopular conflict has emerged as the dominant issue of the 2008 race for the White House.

Union endorses Edwards

The New York City-based Transport Workers Union of America endorsed John Edwards on Thursday, saying the former North Carolina senator was the most electable of the Democratic presidential candidates.

Edwards was to be in New York City to accept the endorsement.

In a statement, he said the Transport Workers “keep the city moving and help keep New Yorkers safe.”

“As president I’ll fight for them every day, so we can honor their hard work and make our infrastructure safe and secure,” Edwards said.

Thompson joins the GOP race

Fred Thompson officially entered a wide-open Republican presidential race Thursday, vowing to invigorate a dispirited GOP and promising to thwart another Clinton from capturing the presidency.

The former Tennessee senator harkened to the GOP glory days of 1994 when he and other Republicans seized control of Congress and established an equal counterpoint to Democrat Bill Clinton in the White House. Now an official candidate for the Republican nomination, Thompson promised to return the party to better times.

Republicans debate; Fred announces

Eight Republicans argued over the Iraq war and immigration before a crowd of 3,600 New Hampshire voters. Missing in action: actor-politician Fred Thompson, who skipped the debate in favor of announcing his candidacy in the more comfortable setting of late-night TV.

With delight, they zinged him for ducking the debate, their fifth.

“Maybe Senator Thompson will be known as the no-show for the presidential debates,” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said.

“Maybe we’re up past his bedtime,” joked Arizona Sen. John McCain. (At 65, Thompson is actually six years younger).

It’s showtime on the campaign trail

After months of grand rhetoric, endless fundraising and heavy campaigning, the 2008 presidential race kicks into even higher gear this week at the start of a four-month sprint to the first votes.

A crowded pack of Republican candidates gains a new contender, former senator and Hollywood actor Fred Thompson, as a hard-charging Democratic field hunts for ways to bring down the front-runner, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.

Hillary claims she’s the one for change

Seeking to dispel rivals’ claims that she can’t bring needed change to Washington, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton told supporters Sunday that her years in public life and willingness to seek common ground would produce real results as president.

“I know some people think you have to choose between change and experience. With me, you don’t have to choose,” she said at a rally here.

Clinton unveiled a new campaign speech in New Hampshire, as the Labor Day weekend signaled the start of a final four-month sprint before voting begins.

Edwards would require health exams

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said on Sunday that his universal health care proposal would require that Americans go to the doctor for preventive care.

“It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care,” he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of the Cedar County Courthouse. “If you are going to be in the system, you can’t choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK.”

Romney breaks laws on campaign trips

The motorcade of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney exceeded speed limits and went through stop lights Friday as local law officers escorted him, blue lights flashing, to campaign events in two South Carolina counties.

Traffic pulled over for Romney’s caravan as Saluda County Sheriff Jason Booth, a Romney supporter, led the candidate’s motor home and staff cars with his blue lights running from the Aiken County line through Saluda County to the Newberry city limits, according to an Associated Press reporter following the candidate.

Passion drives Ron Paul supporters

Passengers on a plane leaving New York could see three words in 4-foot block letters painted on an East Village rooftop terrace as they ascended: GOOGLE RON PAUL. The entreaty to search the Internet for news of the Republican congressman from rural Texas is one of the more visible signs of enthusiasm from a do-it-yourself base of Web fans. Their support doesn’t show up in public opinion polls, but it’s unmatched among presidential candidates in its passion.