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Some States Want Earlier Democratic Primaries, Caucuses in 2008

Almost a dozen states sought to make their case to Democrats on Thursday to join Iowa and New Hampshire in holding early primaries or caucuses in 2008.

The Democratic National Committee's rules and bylaws panel heard pitches from the District of Columbia and 10 states that have applied to move up their contests to select the presidential nominee. Nebraska also applied but did not make a presentation.

The states emphasized their location; their ethnic, racial or economic diversity; their embrace of door-to-door politics; and their affordable media markets.

Democrats agreed last month to a plan that would shake up their presidential selection process by placing racially diverse states early in the voting.

Under the plan, the Iowa caucuses in January would remain the first contest. Then would come an additional caucus or caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire primary, traditionally the site of the first presidential primary. One or two more primaries would be added before the calendar was opened to all states in early February.

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina, West Virginia and Hawaii have applied for early status. A decision is expected later this year.

Arizona had Gov. Janet Napolitano lay out that state's arguments on speaker phone. "Retail politics is still the practice here and it's a state where the media markets are not outrageously expensive for a candidate that wants to get on the air," she said.

South Carolina put together a PowerPoint presentation moderated in person by Rep. Jim Clyburn. "If you prove your mettle in South Carolina, you will be successful in the United States of America," the congressman said.

Nevada passed out a glossy, 42-page color brochure and showed a video featuring Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid as well as other leaders and images of the state. "The future of the Democratic party is in the West," said Reid, D-Nev.

Some of the states applied to host either a caucus or a primary, regardless of the type of contest they held in 2004.

Michigan, instrumental in the push for earlier states, was one of those willing to be flexible in order to gain an early spot.

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Democrats believe they can turn a Republican political strength — homeland security — into a vulnerability.

They are testing that theory with a television ad that accuses the Bush administration and the president's GOP supporters of disregarding port security.

Americans United, a group with close ties to congressional Democrats, is spending at least $500,000 to run the ad, starting Thursday, on cable news channels and during NBC's "Meet the Press," which airs Sundays.

The 30-second ad shows a longshoreman involved in port security in Long Beach, Calif., talking about the thousands of containers that move through U.S. ports each day.

"After 9-11, I thought President Bush and his backers would get serious about security. But four years later, terrorists can still put a dirty bomb in one of those," the longshoreman says.

Democrats have been emboldened to challenge the GOP on homeland security after a controversy over a Dubai-owned company's attempted takeover of major operations at some major U.S. ports. The company backed out of the deal after lawmakers from both parties protested.

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The anti-incumbent mood of the public is as high as it has been since the midterm elections of 1994.

A majority of people in this country say they do not want to see most members of Congress re-elected this November, and almost three in 10 say that about their own representative to Congress, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

The public desire for voting out incumbents — both incumbents generally and their own representative — is as high in Pew polling as it was a dozen years ago when voter anger helped the GOP take over Congress.

Fifty-three percent said they do not want most members of Congress re-elected, the poll found. In October 1994, 56 percent felt that way.

Also, 28 percent said they want to see their own representative defeated in the midterm elections, compared with 29 percent in October 1994.

The survey of 1,501 adults was taken April 7-16 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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Both the Democratic and Republican House campaign committees raised just over $9 million in March.

The Democratic committee handling House campaigns raised $14.6 million in the first quarter of the year and reported Thursday it has $23 million in the bank. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has raised $57 million since the beginning of 2005, committee officials said late Thursday.

Their Republican counterparts still have a financial edge — with $24.5 million cash on hand after the first quarter. The National Republican Congressional Committee raised $9.2 million in the month of March, spokesman Carl Forti said.