Jim Neal, the Democratic dark horse challenging North Carolina Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, has disclosed he is gay -- making him one of the nation's few openly homosexual candidates for a statewide office.
Neal, 50, a Chapel Hill investment banker, discussed his sexual orientation during an online interview with a liberal blog, NCBlue over the weekend. He said his family, friends and business associates already know.
"It's no secret," Neal said in an interview Monday. "Why would you not talk about the color of your eyes?"
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.