Politics & Government

A wrapup of this week's key events on the campaign trail

WASHINGTON — Highlights from the campaign trail this week:

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES SPLIT

Televangelist Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani this week. That surprised people, since Giuliani supports abortion rights, gay rights and has been married three times. But Robertson said that Giuliani's record as New York mayor makes him the best candidate for president.

Not all social conservative leaders agree. Paul Weyrich, who helped make Christian conservatives a political force 30 years ago, endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — even though Romney once backed abortion rights and gay rights, though he no longer does, and is a Mormon, which some conservatives regard as a cult.

Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, as pure a social conservative as anyone in Congress, endorsed fellow senator John McCain this week.

What it all means: Social conservatives aren't coalescing behind any single candidate. Also, the endorsements should be seen for what they are — symbolic blessings that pack little real influence. Some 800,000 people watch Robertson's "700 Club" every day, but there's no evidence that they vote on his instruction.

CLINTON NOT ELECTABLE?

That's what opponents of Hillary Clinton say, but Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland disagrees. He endorsed her on Friday. Since Ohio's a swing state that could decide the election — as it did in 2004 — this endorsement from the state's premier pol might actually mean something.

RON PAUL HAULS IN A PILE

Nobody thinks Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has a chance — except for the growing legion of voters rallying behind his libertarian convictions, such as abolishing the IRS and ending America's military empire abroad. Paul racked up $3.75 million in online contributions on Monday alone. Nobody's ever done that before.

Why Monday? Nov. 5 was Guy Fawkes Day, marking the day in 1605 when British Catholics tried to blow up the Palace at Westminster to start a revolution. Paul spokesman Jesse Benton denied Paul wants to blow up anything — except conventional Washington wisdom, such as that Paul can't win.

OBAMA PITCHES POLICY TO WOMEN, WORKERS

Democrat Barack Obama wants to win over some of the women leaning toward Clinton and hoped that proposing $26 billion in benefits as part of his "American Dream" platform would help. He'd expand the Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, among other rights, to cover workers at businesses as small as 25 employees. He calls for a $4,000 annual college tuition tax credit and a 50 percent match on the first $1,000 per year of retirement savings for families earning up to $75,000. Obama also would mandate that businesses automatically enroll workers in Individual Retirement Accounts or company retirement savings plans.

GIULIANI FINDS KERIK'S BRIGHT SIDE

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani tried this week to get ahead of a potentially damaging story: the federal indictment of Bernard Kerik, Giuliani's former police commissioner, business partner and protege. Kerik was indicted Thursday for tax fraud, conspiracy and false statements. Giuliani took responsibility in Tuesday media interviews for not properly vetting Kerik, but added that Kerik's accomplishments shouldn't be overlooked. He told the Associated Press: "There were mistakes made with Bernie Kerik," but asked, "What's the ultimate result for the people of New York City?... (A) 74 percent reduction in shootings, a 60 percent reduction in crime, a correction program that went from being one of the worst in the country to one that was on '60 Minutes' as one of the best in the country. Sure there were issues," Giuliani added, "but if I have the same degree of success and failure as president of the United States, this country will be in great shape."

CLINTON WANTS CARS TO GET 55 MPG BY 2030

Clinton laid out a climate change plan Monday, with the headline-grabbing goal of raising fuel-economy standards to 55 mpg by 2030. She also called for reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. No word on whether Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore will endorse Clinton, although she consulted him on this plan. They were rivals for influence inside the Clinton White House.

FAVORITE SON?

Hardly. The latest Quinnipiac University Poll found that 70 percent of the folks in Connecticut, Sen. Christopher Dodd's home state, want him to drop out of the presidential race. Only 21 percent want him in.

THOMPSON SHIFTS INTO THIRD GEAR

Tired of the lazy label, Republican Fred Thompson raced through a busy week. He started by accepting the resignation of Phil Martin, a friend and fundraiser who'd made his plane available to Thompson, after The Washington Post reported that Martin had been convicted on drug charges a quarter-century ago. Turns out he also had ignored taxes on his businesses, ABC reported. Then Thompson aired his first TV ad, in Iowa, and campaigned in New Hampshire and South Carolina. He spun off to Tennessee to attend the Country Music Association Awards and court musician donors. And on Friday he detailed his plan for making Social Security solvent. It involves cutting future benefits and adding a voluntary personal investment account to make up the difference.

HUCKABEE MOVING UP IN IOWA

Romney remains far ahead among Republicans in Iowa, but former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is suddenly No. 2. New Zogby poll: Romney 31 percent, Huckabee 15 percent, Giuliani 11 percent, Thompson 10 percent, McCain 8 percent, Paul 4 percent and Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado 3 percent. Some 16 percent weren't sure. Iowa votes on Jan. 3, less than two months away. The poll was taken Nov. 6-7; error margin was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

NEW POLL FLASHES WARNING ABOUT CLINTON

Americans rate Clinton highly for knowledge and experience, but pluralities turn thumbs down on her for honesty, likability and sharing their issue positions. In a head-to-head match-up against Republican national front-runner Giuliani, she's in a virtual tie — 46 percent for her, 45 percent for him. Those are the headlines from a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of 1509 adults taken Nov. 1-5. Error margin: plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

REPUBLICAN FOR ROMNEY — AND THAT'S NEWS?

It is when the Republican's from Massachusetts, where Romney was the GOP governor not long ago. Former GOP Gov. Paul Cellucci, for example, backs Giuliani. Of the state's five Republican state senators, three back Giuliani, two Romney. So it was kind of a big deal Friday when Jim Ogonowski, a Republican who narrowly lost a special election to Congress last month, endorsed Romney. Familiarity breeds what?

NEXT WEEK: Candidates scatter. Obama does "Meet the Press" solo on Sunday. Romney focuses on fundraising, especially in California. Giuliani visits Iowa and Florida. Clinton's in Iowa Monday.

(William Douglas, Steven Thomma, Margaret Talev and David Lightman contributed.)

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