Dobson's choice: Is it Huckabee?

A day after Mike Huckabee landed the support of American Family Association founder Donald Wildmon, it was reported that Huckabee may be close to winning the endorsement of a man with even bigger conservative Christian bona fides: James Dobson, chairman of the board of Focus on the Family.

According to The American Spectator, sources close to Dobson say he may endorse the Baptist preacher-turned-politician within the next 10 days. A Huckabee insider told the Spectator that the announcement will likely be made at an Iowa rally and be followed by an appearance by Huckabee on Dobson's radio show, heard daily by more than 200 million people worldwide. For Huckabee, who has lagged in fundraising, the source said, it could mean a multimillion-dollar boost, the Spectator reported.

In his own endorsement, Wildmon said Huckabee understands the needs of our country and how to meet them.

Wildmon founded the American Family Association in 1977 as the National Federation for Decency. The AFA's self-described mission is to promote decency in television and media. The organization has taken aim at Ellen DeGeneres and Howard Stern and has boycotted the Walt Disney Co. for extending benefits to employees' same-sex partners. It also promotes Pornography Awareness Week and has successfully lobbied to have pornography removed from federal prisons and 7-Elevens.

- Melanie Asmar

Ridge touts McCain, raps Rudy

On the day of Bernard Kerik's indictment, John McCain happened to be campaigning in New Hampshire with former secretary of homeland security Tom Ridge. Kerik, whose long relationship with rival candidate Rudy Giuliani included stints as his driver, New York police commissioner and consulting partner, was indicted today on several corruption-related charges. At one time, Giuliani endorsed Kerik as a candidate for the country's top homeland security post.

Asked to reflect on the news, McCain said he'd made up his mind about Kerik a long time ago. "I went to Iraq not long after the initial victory, and visited with (Ambassador Paul) Bremer, Gen. (Ricardo) Sanchez, and Kerik was there, at the time supposedly to help train Iraqi police," McCain said, adding that Kerik left the country a few months later. "Clearly, he contributed, his contribution to the training of police and law enforcement people in Iraq, which is ostensibly why he was there, was less than successful."

Ridge said voters should evaluate Giuliani's endorsement of Kerik on its face. "I have a view of what the job entails," Ridge said. "I will just tell you simply . . . obviously Rudy Giuliani had a judgment that Bernie Kerik fit that profile."

Mike Dennehy, McCain's senior national adviser, said the timing of Ridge's visit was coincidence.

UPDATE: The Giuliani campaign responds with a statement from Randy Mastro, who served as deputy mayor in New York: "It's no fairer to judge Rudy Giuliani on the basis of this one issue than it would be to judge John McCain on the basis of the Keating Five scandal."

- Margot Sanger-Katz
(AP photo by Jim Cole)

Iraq vet: Obama focused on al-Qaida

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democrat from Pennsylvania and the only Iraq war veteran in Congress, held a conference call with New Hampshire veterans today to stump for Barack Obama, calling him a candidate of change.

"If al-Qaida . . . has regrouped and is just as strong as they were Sept. 10, 2001, it's because we've taken our eye off the ball," Murphy said. "Obama is the most clear that we must focus on al-Qaida, not be bogged down in Iraq."

Murphy continued, "Obama pledged he will change things, and he's our best chance for change in this country."

Murphy, a first-term congressman who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, endorsed Obama in August. Yesterday, he criticized the Bush administration for opposing a 3.5 percent pay increase for U.S. troops and allowing multiple deployments. He blamed past Republican Congresses for under-funding veterans and "treating them like redheaded stepchildren."

He praised the Democratic Congress for increasing funding for veterans, approving a troop pay increase and approving funds to treat traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. He praised Obama, a member of the Senates Veteran Affairs Committee, for being instrumental in supporting veterans.

Murphy also compared Obama to John F. Kennedy, a comparison Obama's campaign has encouraged. Both men were inspirational; both were criticized for being too young and inexperienced; and both were labeled hawkish and dovish based on their stances on different foreign policy issues, Murphy said. "Kennedy, no one gave him a chance. Johnson had the money and the power. But Kennedy whooped him. The same thing is happening with Obama."

- Shira Schoenberg

GOP punishes N.H. as promised

From the AP: "The Republican Party announced today that it will punish five states for scheduling early nominating contests. New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, Michigan and Wyoming will lose half of their delegates to the national convention, said Mike Duncan, chairman of the Republican National Committee. . . . The RNC voted 121-9 to impose the penalties. Duncan, who has final say over the matter, said he will abide by the vote." Updated story here.

Problem solver: a case for Clinton

A Time magazine piece by Joe Klein offers an interesting rejoinder to the pro-Obama piece we linked to the other day. Klein quotes what he calls Hillary Clinton's "clearest statement of her own — and her husband's — philosophy that I've ever heard":

A retired dairy farmer complained about the deregulation of his industry and asked what she'd do about it. "During this campaign, you're going to hear me talk a lot about the importance of balance," she began, after acknowledging that the Bush Administration had gone too far toward deregulation in most areas. "You know, our politics can get a little imbalanced sometimes. We move off to the left or off to the right, but eventually we find our way back to the center because Americans are problem solvers. We are not ideologues. Most people are just looking for sensible, commonsense solutions."

It was classic Clinton. And having watched both Clintons for nearly 20 years now, I believe it is an honest summation of what they think they're about: "Getting stuff done," as Bill Clinton used to say. That means being flagrantly political, working the system, making the compromises necessary to get the best deal possible to enact their priorities. It is the domestic-policy equivalent of Realpolitik, and it drives partisans crazy on both sides of the political divide.

As sympathetic a treatment of Clinton as the piece is, it ends ominously. After praising Clinton's efforts "to know the issues, to become a more effective speaker on the stump, to be more personable, to loosen up a little" and "the sheer, pellucid quality of her intelligence," Klein quotes a former Democratic county chairman in Iowa who says: "I can't stand thinking about what Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are going to do to her. People are just sick of that. They love Obama. He's very inspiring. But in the end, Iowans vote on electability. I hate to say it, but my guess is they'll vote for the white guy — Edwards — this time, just like they voted for the war hero last time."

Incidentally, one of the blog posts getting buzz this morning was this one, which quotes NBC/Wall Street Journal pollster Peter Hart saying: "Hillary Clinton is really Richard Nixon, circa 1968." (A possible slogan? "Hillary's the one!") The quote sounds worse than it is: Hart sees good news as well as bad for Clinton in his new data (plus, Nixon won). Anyway, Klein also brings up Nixon, recalling that Yale professor Stephen Skowronek once lumped Bill Clinton, Nixon and Woodrow Wilson into the category of presidents who inspire "a special frenzy in [their] opponents" because they co-opt "the more accessible parts of their agendas." Klein suggests Hillary Clinton the problem-solver would do the same.

Michigan ruling echoes in N.H.

Yesterday, a Michigan court ruled it's not constitutional for that state to underwrite a primary while providing voter data to only the two major parties. Next week in Merrimack County Superior Court, plaintiffs will argue the same thing in a hearing over a law passed by the New Hampshire Legislature last year. The law allows major parties to buy what New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union lawyer Barbara Keshen termed "sensitive, private and significant" voter information, like gender, year of birth and voter history.

Keshen, who is representing the Libertarian Party in asking for an order enjoining the law's enforcement, argues that the data should be sold either to all parties on the ballot or to none. "It makes it that much more difficult for minority parties to get out their messages," Keshen said. "In our view, it dilutes the marketplace of ideas."

The Michigan ruling threw into question whether that state will be able to go ahead with a Jan. 15 primary and added uncertainty to New Hampshire's as-yet unscheduled primary date. Yesterday, Secretary of State Bill Gardner made no move, saying he's waiting for finality for Michigan.

Gardner opposed the voter data sale law last spring, and he noted that the Michigan ruling is on the "same principle" as the New Hampshire lawsuit. Luckily, the date of our primary is in no way tied to the sales.

- Lauren R. Dorgan

Biden: Get serious about Pakistan

Joe Biden, speaking at Saint Anselm College today, criticized President Bush's handling of Pakistan's constitutional crisis, faulting what he called unenlightened leadership. He said the next American president has no room for error in foreign policy and promised, if elected, to rebuild America's moral standing in the world.

Biden said the administration has supported General Pervez Musharraf with too few conditions. He also faulted Bush for taking four days to speak with Musharraf, after the general suspended the constitution Saturday, arresting thousands of lawyers, human rights activists and political opponents.

In fact, Biden said, he spoke with Musharraf before the president did. Biden said he told the general in no uncertain terms that he needed to hold elections, as scheduled, in January, step down as head of the military and restore the constitution as soon as possible. He told the group gathered at Saint Anselm's that the United States needed to increase its non-military funding of Pakistan, to build schools and lasting aid, rather than talk about invading Iran. Pakistan already has nuclear weapons, he reminded the audience, and is home to a larger population than Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea combined.

"This is a time for genuine diplomacy," he said. "That's what good presidents do."

UPDATE: The text of Biden's speech is here.

- Ethan Wilensky-Lanford

Richardson urges stem cell research

Bill Richardson came to Concord this morning to autograph copies of his new book, Leading By Example: How We Can Inspire an Energy and Security Revolution. He'd planned to talk about weaning America off oil but instead fielded questions about myriad issues. One topic, Alzheimer's disease research, is especially pertinent to Richardson, whose father, William, died of the disease 35 years ago. Before addressing the 150 people packed into Gibson's Bookstore, Richardson stopped in front of a woman wearing a "Stop Alzheimer's Now" sticker.

I'm with you," he said, accepting a sticker and affixing it to his lapel. Later, Richardson said aggressive research, including experiments involving stem cells, is the best way to stymie the disease.

"I would have a crash program on stem cell research," he said. "If we're going to deal with cancer, Alzheimer's, all these diseases that are killing us, we've got to have advanced research. We've got to put resources behind it. . . . Stem cell research is the most promising when it comes to Alzheimer's."

- Meg Heckman
(Monitor photo by Ken Williams)

The Robertson endorsement in N.H.

What will Pat Robertson's endorsement do for Rudy Giuliani in New Hampshire? Some reaction today:

"I think that people in New Hampshire, people of principle, are going to be very disappointed that one of the people that they look up to has compromised his principles," said Karen Testerman, executive director of Cornerstone Policy Research, a conservative, anti-abortion group. "I think we will have a greater apathy in the overall turnout of votes."

Darlene Pawlik, president of New Hampshire Right to Life, said, "Mr. Robertson's credibility is deservedly compromised at this point."

But some local evangelical pastors seemed to echo what Robertson said when he announced his endorsement: The war on terror is a primary concern for evangelical voters, and Giuliani's promise to appoint conservative judges is concession enough to sway many anti-abortion voters.

"No man's perfect," said the Rev. Thomas Peetz of Word of Life Christian Fellowship in Concord. "You're going to find holes in every candidate." The war on terror "is not some passing thing," he said, adding that Islamic terrorism "is changing the whole course of Western civilization as we know it."

UPDATE: Read the full story here.

- Joelle Farrell

More Michigan mayhem

A county judge in Michigan ruled today that the state's presidential primary cannot be held on Jan. 15, as scheduled by the state legislature. Meaning? One more moving part for Bill Gardner to think about before he settles on the date of the New Hampshire Primary.

The Michigan news is here. An excerpt:

Judge William Collette, in an oral ruling delivered from the bench, said the contest is unconstitutional because while the state will spend millions of dollars to conduct the election, the lists of voters who request a Republican or Democratic ballot would be given solely to the two parties. Neither the state nor any other group or individual could obtain a copy.

UPDATE: Jim Splaine is bullish about this latest news.

Does Fred Thompson doubt himself?

Does Fred Thompson really think he has a shot at being president? Toby Harnden of the Telegraph (of London) reported that Thompson revealed his self-doubt Monday during an exchange with Fox News's Carl Cameron at the New Hampshire Political Library's Politics and Eggs breakfast in Bedford. Thompson waited as Cameron tried to encourage his producers to hurry up so an interview could start.

"The next president of the United States has a schedule to keep," Cameron said.

"And so do I," Thompson deadpanned.

Was he just being modest? Read Harnden's story here. And check out the Brits' full coverage of the 2008 election here.

- Kate Davidson

Notable endorsements for Giuliani, McCain

Rudy Giuliani and John McCain each landed the endorsement of a prominent social conservative today. Each of the endorsers also happens to be a former presidential candidate.

Pat Robertson, who made a big splash in the 1988 Iowa caucuses, is backing Giuliani.

Sam Brownback, who dropped out of this year's race earlier this fall, is backing McCain.

Earlier this week Mitt Romney won the backing of Paul Weyrich, meaning all three Republican candidates can claim to have made a favorable impression with Christian conservatives.

Nothing like a good quote

"He makes me feel safe."

"He's a mean son of a bitch, and that's exactly what we need."

Safe to say a Rudy Giuliani staffer jotted these down after reading this morning's coverage.

Meanwhile Fred Thompson, whose appearance in New Hampshire didn't generate a quote to match, tries out some of his favorite lines in this ad. One in particular -- "We must remember that our rights come from God and not from government" -- is like a Rorschach test: Different people will hear very different messages. For what it's worth, you can find a similar sentiment here.

Ron Paul uses history to make history

What does the Boston Tea Party have to do with Guy Fawkes? They could both show up on a pop quiz in a history class -- and they can both inspire a Ron Paul fundraiser. Politico reports on the brains behind Monday's huge day of online donations (he's described as a 37-year-old novice from Miami Beach) and his plans for more.

Regarding Paul's big day and what it might portend, see here, here and here. For more on Ron Paul, see this treasure trove.

Change agent: a case for Obama

Andrew Sullivan (who, according to Wikipedia, has previously endorsed Bill Clinton and George W. Bush -- but neither for re-election) has written a massive pitch for Barack Obama in The Atlantic. Sullivan's premise is that we are living in "a time when America’s estrangement from the world risks tipping into dangerous imbalance, when a country at war with lethal enemies is also increasingly at war with itself, when humankind’s spiritual yearnings veer between an excess of certainty and an inability to believe anything at all, and when sectarian and racial divides seem as intractable as ever." He concludes that of all the candidates running for president, only Obama has a chance to transcend all that and bring about something better.

This section, in particular, caught my attention:

Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

Obama made a similar point when he came to the Monitor for an editorial board interview. At the end of the first audio clip here, he says: "The day I'm inaugurated, not only does the country look at itself differently, but . . . the world will look at America differently."

I was also struck by this passage comparing the merits of Obama's candidacy and Hillary Clinton's:

The paradox is that Hillary makes far more sense if you believe that times are actually pretty good. If you believe that America’s current crisis is not a deep one, if you think that pragmatism alone will be enough to navigate a world on the verge of even more religious warfare, if you believe that today’s ideological polarization is not dangerous, and that what appears dark today is an illusion fostered by the lingering trauma of the Bush presidency, then the argument for Obama is not that strong. Clinton will do.

John Edwards, at the last debate and increasingly on the campaign trail, has a punchier way of making (half) the same point: "If people want the status quo, Senator Clinton's your candidate." (You can watch him deliver the line here.)

Speaking of Edwards, his campaign is having too much fun making videos these days: One of the latest -- "Oops, our bad" -- is here. You can watch his (all-kidding-aside) new TV ad for New Hampshire voters here.