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    Barack Obama took a big step on Thursday toward becoming the first black U.S. president as his campaign for change caught fire in Iowa and swept him past Hillary Clinton in the opening Democratic nominating contest.

  • Iowa map

    Here are three things to watch for when Iowans vote tonight: 1) Mobilization: if Democratic turnout is huge, that's a sign that Barack Obama has succeeded in pulling out enough independent voters to win. It would also show the energy and enthusiasm that Democrats hope will give them an edge in the general election.

  • John McCain

    The longer the Republican presidential race goes on, the crazier it gets. John McCain suddenly has a mild breeze at his back--because Mike Huckabee has undercut Mitt Romney in Iowa, because of his lingering support at the scene of his 2000 New Hampshire triumph, because Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman has endorsed him, and because the Boston Globe has provided its seal of approval as well.

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    I can't help noticing the dramatic difference between the political and government parts of my beat these days--complete gridlock in Washington and turbulent action on the 2008 campaign trail. In the capital, Democrats and Republicans are fighting over literally everything--the budget, energy legislation, a fix for the out of control Alternative Minimum Tax.

  • Don Imus

    Don Imus came back on air this morning--the big news is that he was repeatedly apologetic for his inappropriate remark about the Rutgers women's basketball team. And his being contrite means advertisers will be a lot more comfortable supporting his show. Another sign that Imus doesn't want to look racist, his new cast includes two black comedians.

  • Before the campaign is done, the TV ads will run the full range from nutty to nasty and tens of millions of Americans will battleground states will see them. But for now, candidate commercials are largely confined to Iowa and New Hampshire television screens. And they are having an impact.

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    You know it's going to be a good debate when...the leading candidates start to accuse one another of lying BEFORE the debate. That's precisely what's happened in advance of tonight's Republican debate on CNN, featuring questions submitted via YouTube.

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    GOP debate results: Winner #1: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. He displayed his trademark humor but also some grit, facing down Mitt Romney in defending his record on immigration. Huckabee is head and shoulders above the rest of the Republican field in communications skills, as he manages to convey a combination of conservative principles.

  • Republican Candidates

    Republican presidential rivals Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney scornfully debated immigration Wednesday in a provocative, no-holds-barred debate.

  • Ron Paul

    My take on the results of the debate: Fattest Pitch Down the Center of the Plate: Ron Paul's comment about the absence of "imminent" threats against the U.S. -- which Rudy Giuliani knocked over the fence by asking where Paul was on 9/11.

  • Up to the minute blog of the CNBC/MSNBC/WSJ GOP Presidential Debate in Dearborn, Michigan.

  • There are lots of big issues that will be explored in greater depth than before in tomorrow's CNBC/MSNBC/Wall Street Journal debate on the economy. The economy has gotten only brief and scattered mention in debates so far; Iraq has gotten most of the attention.

  • I've seen a lot of opinion polling, but my jaw dropped when I saw this result from our special NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll of Republicans in advance of next week's presidential candidate debate sponsored by CNBC, MSNBC and the WSJ.

  • Presidential Candidate, John McCain

    The Arizona senator was counted out earlier this year after public discontent with Iraq and immigration reform knocked him off his front-runner's perch. When I'd see him in Washington, McCain himself would acknowledge the damage. But don't count him out yet.

  • Newt Gingrich

    Here are notes of interest from the political front. The first one on Newt Gingrich is from a breakfast meeting I attended this week with other journalists. The former Speaker sees a bleak Republican outlook but keeps a potential 2008 candidacy alive.

  • Public discontent with the Iraq war has slightly eased, increasing President Bush’s political maneuvering room at a critical point in debates over war costs and troop levels. Those shifts in public opinion remain modest. Yet only one in four Americans say troops should leave now regardless of conditions on the ground...