A.M. Politics

— Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns has invited presidential candidates from both parties to its New York offices to raise money. CEO James Cayne said a direct appeal from candidates would "take a load off" bankers who are constantly asked for money by friends and relatives.

— The candidates have already heeded the more indirect calls to claim Wall Street cash. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was in Manhattan this week to raise money and rub elbows with celebrities, and he returns on Friday for two big fundraisers — one for wealthy donors and another, $100 a head late night event for young professionals. The second event sold out so quickly that it was moved to a much larger venue seating 2,000 people. Rival Sen. Hillary Clinton is battling Obama for every donor, in New York and elsewhere, and is in a fundraising battle like nothing he's ever seen, says one Clinton insider who told The Financial Times "the pressure is intense."

The Washington Times reports on former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's surge to the top of early polls despite not even rolling out his full campaign team. But the newspaper raises the question of whether Giuliani could crash back to Earth when good feeling subsides over his Sept. 11, 2001, heroics and his liberal social positions are more widely known. The New York Times says Giuliani's "New York-ness," not his pro-choice views, could be his biggest obstacle to winning the GOP nomination.

— New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says talk about his personal behavior with women is "mean-spirited," denying that he behaves inappropriately. New Mexico Lt. Gov. Diane Denish told The Albuquerque Journal last year that Richardson "pinches my neck. He touches my hip, my thigh, sort of the side of my leg." She said she avoids sitting or standing near the governor because of what she called his "annoying" behavior. But Richardson tells The Politico that his behavior was vetted and effectively approved by the Kerry campaign when he was considered for the vice presidential nod in 2004. In the end, Richardson was passed over in favor of John Edwards.

Newt Gingrich tells Focus on the Family head James Dobson that he's asked God for redemption, and in a radio interview airing Thursday and Friday he describes getting on his knees and seeking God's forgiveness for his moral failures. Dobson said he did not discuss the presidential election with the former House speaker and insisted that Gingrich's appearance on his program does not constitute an endorsement from the powerful Christian conservative leader.

— South Carolina congressman and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the state's most influential Democratic politician, says he probably will endorse a candidate in the primary but that he's taking his time in order to force the candidates to continue their campaigns in his state. He tells The Chicago Sun-Times that Obama's lack of history in the civil rights movement should not affect his standing among black voters, and said Bill Clinton's impact among South Carolina blacks on the campaign trail would be negligible. He also dismissed author Toni Morrison's proclamation that Clinton was the first black president as "poetry."

— Meanwhile, South Carolina Democrats raised $150,000 at a Washington, D.C., fundraiser featuring candidates Clinton and Sen. Chris Dodd. Clinton told the cheering party activists that the path to the White House runs directly through South Carolina.

— Elsewhere, the AFL-CIO has pledged not to endorse a Democratic candidate until it consults more widely with workers, urging individual unions to hold off backing a particular candidate until the fall.

— Iowa state Rep. Janet Petersen said she was thrilled last weekend to take a call from Sen. Clinton, who had heard Petersen wouldn't be able to attend a private meeting with state Democrats on Monday. The pair talked about maternal health legislation and some other political topics, despite the fact that Petersen was in labor at the time and fielded the call between birthing contractions. The Des Moines Register reports that Petersen gave birth to a healthy baby boy two hours after hanging up with Clinton and said later the incident was "definitely an Iowa legislator story."