WASHINGTON – Breaking News
11:50:10 EST — In Iowa, John Edwards announced the support of more than 100 former Tom Vilsack backers. The ex-Iowa governor dropped out of the Democratic presidential race last month citing a lack of money, and the remaining candidates have been scrambling to pick up his staff and supporters. Edwards, who leads most polls in the early caucuses state, called the Vilsack "a powerful voice for all working Americans," saying he's "honored to have so many of his supporters join my campaign."
11:37:35 EST — Former New York Governor George Pataki, who has long considered running for president in 2008, is showing no signs of getting into the race. The Republican closed up shops in Iowa and New Hampshire, and ended his contract with New Hampshire GOP consultant Jack Heath — a former big shot at the state's largest TV station, WMUR Channel Nine. Heath would have run Pataki's media campaign in the state. But with Pataki seemingly bowing out, FOX News has learned that Heath is in talks to play the same role in former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's New Hampshire campaign.
11:07:23 EST — Mitt Romney will begin airing in South Florida on Tuesday a Spanish language radio ad featuring former Florida GOP chairman Al Cardenas. The ad plays up Romney's business and economic credentials and ties Romney's leadership skills to Sept. 11, saying he rescued the Olympics "after the attacks of 9/11." Cardenas also says Romney "understands the dynamic of Cuba," and notes that Romney will be in Miami to "address our leaders in exile" this weekend. Listen to the ad here.
10:54:48 EST — John McCain defended his immigration bill in the New Hampshire Union-Leader, writing that "our nation's porous borders and failed immigration policies are a national disgrace." McCain, who has co-sponsored the bill with liberal Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, talks tough in the op-ed, emphasizing the plan's border-security initiatives and "stiff fines" for illegal immigrants seeking to become legal while downplaying the provision for a guest worker program.
10:06:56 EST — Human Events has posted a Q&A with Romney from CPAC on Friday. Romney expressed his conservative social views on abortion and gay marriage and supported the president's plan in Iraq, but was not challenged by the conservative magazine about his previous positions on those issues.
10:04:38 EST — In a New York Times interview, Illinois Senator Barack Obama reflects on growing up, calling himself "a little Jakarta street kid" and commenting on the beauty of the call to prayer at sunset. Obama's campaign says the senator did not mean that he was a street tough, but just a typical middle class kid who often played in the street with his friends.
— New York Sen. Hillary Clinton on Tuesday will kick off a drive to enlist thousands of women in her presidential campaign, appearing at a luncheon sponsored by EMILY's list, honoring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The New York Times reports Clinton will use the event to announce a strategy to employ social networking Web sites to develop a Women's Leadership Network to promote her campaign across the country.
— Meanwhile, Clinton toured a greenhouse in Iowa and outlined a plan for energy independence in Iowa on Monday. She wooed party leaders and activists by extolling the virtues of corn-based ethanol. Iowa farmers lead the nation in producing the fuel.
— Illinois Sen. Barack Obama made his first fundraising foray to Boston on Monday, speaking to a crowd of Democratic insiders including veterans of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's and Gov. Deval Patrick's campaigns. The Boston Globe reports that Obama's regional fundraising team, headed by top Kerry fundraiser Alan Solomont, has already raked in more than $500,000 for Obama, and plans to double that amount at an April 20th event.
— Obama's campaign is distancing the candidate from Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor at Obama's Chicago area church, over Wright's supposedly Afro-centric teachings. Obama had asked Wright to deliver the invocation at his Feb. 10 presidential announcement, but disinvited the preacher saying, "You can get kind of rough in the sermons, so what we’ve decided is that it’s best for you not to be out there in public." Wright told The New York Times he understands the concern, and a campaign spokesman says that while Obama is proud of Wright, he was concerned about the negative attention his appearance could bring to the church.
— With at least 19 states holding their primary on — or thinking about moving up to the date to — Feb. 5, 2008 , the idea of a "national primary" is fast becoming a reality and the candidates are adjusting their campaign strategies accordingly. An early primary contested all across the country means that money to run TV ads and build organizations will be more important than ever and lower-tiered candidates are certain to feel the squeeze. The Boston Globe rounds up the states that have moved or are planning to move to Feb. 5 and outlines the ramifications of the move for presidential politics now and in the future.
— One candidate who has tailored his strategy to the new primary reality is Mitt Romney. The Politico reports on the former Massachusetts governor's plan for victory in 2008, including adapting to the new rules of the primary season and spending money early instead of stockpiling for a rainy day. He also plans to be more aggressive in highlighting differences between himself and his Republican opponents — contrasting his outsider role and images as a perfect family man with the consummate Washington insider John McCain and the fractious family life of Rudy Giuliani.
— Add one more conservative to the list of those unhappy with John McCain for skipping the Conservative Political Action Conference. The Politico overheard former House Speaker Newt Gingrich telling American Conservative Union president David Keene "I'm not that big a McCain fan, but that's all right," adding "I'm not going to talk about that" in his speech to the conference.
— The Draft Gore movement has officially begun. The Portsmouth Herald profiles Caleb Ewing of Hampton, N.H., who is spearheading the effort to "bring together the legions of Americans who support Al Gore and let him know how strongly people feel about the need for his candidacy in 2008."