265 Days to the 2008 Presidential Election

Even Republicans think Barack Obama is on a roll
February 14, 2008 6:23:26 AM PST
IN THE HEADLINES: Obama offers $210 billion economic plan that creates construction, environmental jobs ... Clinton puts losses behind, looking to contests in Texas and Ohio on March 4 ... McCain rallies House GOP members as he looks toward the general election ... Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign chief backs Obama's presidential bid ... Sharpton: Seating Florida, Michigan delegates would be 'grave injustice' Obama proposes $210 billion for new jobs

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) - Democrat Barack Obama said Wednesday that as president he would spend $210 billion to create jobs in construction and environmental industries, as he tried to win over economically struggling voters.

Obama's investment would be over 10 years as part of two programs. The larger is $150 billion to create 5 million so-called "green collar" jobs to develop more environmentally friendly energy sources.

Sixty-billion dollars would go to a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to rebuild highways, bridges, airports and other public projects. Obama estimated that could generate nearly 2 million jobs, many of them in the construction industry that's been hit by the housing crisis.

Obama explained that the money for his proposals will come from ending the Iraq war, cutting tax breaks for corporations, taxing carbon pollution and raising taxes on high-income earners.

Neera Tanden, Hillary Rodham Clinton's policy director, said Obama was offering ideas Clinton proposed months ago. "Voters may ask themselves that if Senator Obama cannot produce his own ideas on the campaign trail, how will he solve new problems as president?" Tanden said in a memo e-mailed to reporters.

Clinton optimistic about March 4 tests

ROBSTOWN, Texas (AP) - Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton labored to revitalize her restructured political operation Wednesday, testing a new line of criticism against presidential rival Barack Obama and voicing confidence in the face of challenging weeks ahead.

"I am in the solutions business," she told more than 4,000 supporters in a packed fairgrounds here. "My opponent is in the promises business."

A day after suffering lopsided losses in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, Clinton acknowledged Obama's victories, but offered a taunt as well.

"I want to congratulate Senator Obama on his recent victories and tell him to meet me in Texas," she told reporters in McAllen, Texas. "We're ready."

It was bravado talk for a candidate whose campaign has been staggered by defeats since the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday contests, who is behind in fundraising and who has reshuffled her campaign staff. Clinton is now looking to be competitive in the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday and then prevail in Ohio and Texas on March 4.

Following his Tuesday victories, Obama now has a 55-delegate lead over Clinton - 1,275 to 1,220, according to the latest tally by The Associated Press.

GOP lawmakers coming to grips with McCain as nominee

WASHINGTON (AP) - In John McCain, congressional Republicans are grappling with the notion of a presidential nominee most didn't expect or want.

Now, struggling under a raft of retirements that has dimmed their chances of regaining control of the House and Senate, Republicans are coming to terms with the idea of the Arizona senator at the top of their ticket in November.

McCain, the Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting, met Wednesday morning with House Republicans, a group dominated by conservatives who have been suspicious of his moderate positions on some issues and willingness to work with Democrats.

It was, as McCain said, "a spirited and good discussion."

GOP leaders, conservatives all, appeared with him afterward to declare they would rally together, acknowledging the party must unite if it hopes to match the enthusiasm generated by Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"Clearly, I've had some disagreements with Senator McCain over the years," said Republican leader John Boehner, an Ohio congressman. "But I've got to tell you, I've watched this presidential race unfold, and I've watched John McCain be a strong advocate for the principles I believe in."

Bill Clinton's ex-campaign manager backs Obama

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The man who served as national manager of former President Clinton's 1992 campaign endorsed Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday.

David Wilhelm, who led the campaign and later became chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Obama had the unique ability to encourage cooperation as a 65-percent president after the divisive years of a 51-percent majority. He was referring to the notion that Obama could govern the country with the support of a large coalition, as opposed to more polarized support for President Bush.

Wilhelm is a superdelegate who was previously uncommitted in the race. Clinton remains considerably ahead in superdelegates, who are party officials, elected officials and others who can vote however they choose at the nominating convention.

If the race for pledged delegates remains tight, superdelegates could decide the nomination.

Persuading superdelegates to back Obama will be a crucial role for Wilhelm in Obama's campaign, he said.

Sharpton: Don't seat Fla., Mich. delegates

WASHINGTON (AP) - Seating delegates from Florida and Michigan at the Democratic National Convention would be a grave injustice, the Rev. Al Sharpton said Wednesday in a break with prominent civil rights leaders.

"I firmly believe that changing the rules now, and seating delegates from Florida and Michigan at this point would not only violate the Democratic Party's rules of fairness, but also would be a grave injustice," Sharpton said in a letter to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.

Sharpton, a black activist and radio talk show host, sought the presidency in 2004.

The DNC penalized Michigan and Florida for moving their primaries to earlier dates in violation of party rules. Both states were stripped of their delegates, and the party's presidential candidates signed a pledge not to campaign in either state. Florida lost all 210 delegates, including its superdelegates; Michigan, 156.

Since then, waging a hard-fought delegate battle with Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign has pushed hard for both states' delegations to be seated. Clinton won Florida's and Michigan's primaries, but was the only candidate to appear on Michigan's ballot after the other candidates removed their names.

PEWAUKEE, Wis. (AP) - Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee on Wednesday defended his decision to suspend campaigning before Wisconsin's presidential primary so he can fly to the Cayman Islands to give a paid speech.

He said he needs to make a living, and the event has been on his schedule for months.

"I have to make a living. I do that through my writing and my speaking," Huckabee told reporters after rally supporters in this Milwaukee suburb. "There will be a few other times when I go out and make sure I can pay my mortgage payment like everybody else has to."

Huckabee said he would speak to a group of young professionals in the Cayman Islands on Saturday.

He planned to campaign across the state on Thursday and depart for the speech after a campaign breakfast Friday in Brookfield. He said he would return to Wisconsin on Sunday for more campaigning in his bid to upset Arizona Sen. John McCain in the primary on Tuesday.

McCain is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

The former Arkansas governor said he was not worried that Wisconsin voters would be offended by the trip. He said that unlike his rival for the GOP nomination, as well as both Democratic candidates - Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton - he does not receive a taxpayer-funded salary.

Huckabee collected a taxpayer-funded salary during the more than 10 years he served as governor. He left office in January 2007.

"I can't imagine anybody, except maybe one of my opponents, having a problem with it," Huckabee said. "They are so used to having the taxpayers fund their day-to-day existence."

THE DEMOCRATS

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigns in Texas. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama campaigns in Wisconsin.

THE REPUBLICANS

Arizona Sen. John McCain met with House Republicans in the District of Columbia. Mike Huckabee campaigns in Wisconsin.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"I want to congratulate Senator Obama on his recent victories and tell him to meet me in Texas." - Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking to reporters after a rally in McAllen, Texas.

STAT OF THE DAY:

Sixty-three percent of Democrats say Hillary Rodham Clinton is good looking compared with 17 percent of Republicans, with Democratic women slightly likelier to say so than men. Barack Obama is viewed as good looking by 58 percent of Democrats, 41 percent of Republicans. John McCain is seen as good looking by about a quarter of those from both parties, according to an AP-Yahoo News survey released Feb. 1.


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