China goes back on its words

Like a commenter said, should anyone be surprised about this? China has decided to reverse its pledge to offer complete media freedom, and will censor the Internet used by foreign media during the Olympics.

Sorry, Sun Weide, your so-called "sufficient access to the Internet for reporters" is not sufficient. China had pledged to offer complete media freedom and China has an obligation to keep its words. China has gone back on its own words on an international stage. China has slapped itself in its own face.

China prohibits reporters from accessing sites regarding "Falungong spiritual movement". What is China so afraid of Falungong for? Falungong is just a type of exercise while promoting truth, compassion and tolerance. Like Tai Chi or Judo, Falungong has its philosophy that comes with the territory. It is beyond the free world why China has been convinced that Falungong will create a "movement" that will overturn the corrupted Chinese government. Is Falungong promoting everything that China government is not? Why the paranoia?

The spokesman said that there were other unspecified sites unavailable to journalists. Let me guess, those sites couldn't have anything to do with the themes of "Free Tibet" or 1989 Chinese government massacring students, could they?

China completely disgusts the free world. This Olympic Game has been way over China's head. While China is boasting this August 8, 2008 (8.8.8) Olympics as its demonstration of its powerfulness to the world, the world sees a 666 instead. You heard me. China is nothing but a nasty BEAST for its notorious human rights record. China government has blood on its hands from almost every family in China. It is a shame that China seems to be the only member in the international society that does not understand how horrific China's human rights record is. China will not get away if it's using this opportunity to crack down on Tibet. Free world, don't let it happen in front of our eyes again like in 1989!

This is the report:

China will censor the Internet used by foreign media during the Olympics, an organising committee official confirmed Wednesday, reversing a pledge to offer complete media freedom at the games.

"During the Olympic Games we will provide sufficient access to the Internet for reporters," said Sun Weide, spokesman for the organising committee.

He confirmed, however, that journalists would not be able to access information or websites connected to the Falungong spiritual movement which is banned in China.

Other sites were also unavailable to journalists, he said, without specifying which ones.

Copyright AFP 2008, AFP stories and photos shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium

China Censors Writers

After launching tens of thousands of netizens to flood the blogs on Tibet issue all over the world to assert that Tibet was, is and will always be China's, Beijing exercised censorship on their own columnist who called out the government to "allow more media freedom in covering the Tibet riots and to review its policy on Tibet" by firing a renowned Chinese columnist Zhang Ping.

I am reminded of all these angry netizens who cried foul about the news reports from CNN, BBC, and Fox News. Weren't they glad that there was actually someone, a Chinese with conscience, that they could fire? This renowned Chinese columnist Zhang Ping, I suspect, is not alone with such opinions that China should allow more media freedom and review its Tibet policy, among the Han Chinese, who mostly do not have the access like Zhang Ping's to voice such opinions.

It is ironic that those who accuse western media of being biased are doing exactly what they are denouncing: silencing the opposition by calling Zhang Ping a traitor and firing him. Those netizens' real agenda is to stop the western media from reporting the facts that they don't want the world to know. It is not the truth that the netizens care about. What frustrates the Chinese Communist Party hacks is the resistence of their propoganda, from conscientious reporters and columnists, like their very own Zhang Ping.


BEIJING (Reuters) - A renowned Chinese columnist has lost his job at a magazine over commentaries on unrest in Tibet which did not conform with the official line, a watchdog group and a source with knowledge of the dismissal said on Tuesday.

Zhang Ping, who writes under the pen name Chang Ping, was sacked as deputy chief editor of the Southern Metropolis Weekly magazine, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said.

The group said in an e-mail Zhang's departure was "because of his editorials about Tibet", including the controversial piece "How to find the truth about Lhasa?"
"We deplore this unfair removal of a well-known member of the liberal press," the statement said.

Zhang declined to comment when reached by telephone. The source, requesting anonymity, confirmed the sacking but declined to provide further details.

Violent anti-Chinese riots broke out in Tibet and Tibetan-populated areas in neighboring provinces in March, with mobs killing about 20 non-Tibetan civilians, the Chinese government says. The Tibetan government-in-exile puts the figure at more than 200, most victims of a subsequent crackdown.

The crackdown led to protests by exiled Tibetans around the world and a troubled international leg of the Olympic torch relay for the Beijing Games in August.

Zhang's articles were published mainly in his magazine's sister newspaper, the Southern Metropolis Daily, and called on the government to allow more media freedom in covering the Tibet riots and to review its policy on Tibet.

The commentaries drew an angry backlash from a large number of Internet users, who accused Zhang of being a traitor and downplaying the violence by Tibetans as well as the perceived anti-China bias of Western media.

(Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Clinton Wins PA


Dems Fight On, Clinton Wins PA Primary
Despite Delegate Lead, Obama Can't Seem to Lock Up Democratic Nomination
By JENNIFER PARKER
April 22, 2008

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has won the Pennsylvania primary vote as expected, claiming victory in a Philadelphia speech.

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., addresses supporters after winning the Pennsylvania primary in Philadelphia, Tuesday, April 22, 2008.
(Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)"Some people counted me out and said to drop out but the American people don't quit, and they deserve a president who doesn't quit, either," Clinton told supporters at a victory rally after walking out to Tom Petty's song "I Won't Back Down." (More...)

June notes: Is she wearing the same outfit as the one she wore in the ABC debate?

Another Slap in China's Face


Japan says no to Chinese torch guards

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will not allow the squad of Chinese flame guards to intervene with the Beijing Olympic torch's progress when it arrives in a Japanese city this month, the national police head was quoted as saying on Friday.


"We should not violate the principle that the Japanese police will firmly maintain security," Kyodo news agency quoted Shinya Izumi, head of the National Public Safety Commission, as saying.


...

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said Australia, not China, would be the one to provide security for the flame when it comes to his country. (More...)



This unprecedented "flame protection squad" consisting of some 70 members of China's People's Armed Police, is described as "a phalanx of large and physically fit Chinese men in blue-and-white track suits...trotting besides the torch along its ambitious global torch route and turned off the flame several times in Paris earlier this week".


So this is the way China answers to the global protests toward its poor human rights record and its violent crackdown on Tibet. Money has been poured into this Chinese Olympic propaganda but the world is not fooled. Japan and Australia have stood up to China's ridiculous scheme of "flame protection squad". This is the start of a global movement in accord against China's violation of human rights: the violent crackdown on Tibet, the brutal persecution of Fa lung Gong members, and the bloody slaughter of students on the Tienanmen Square. China government has blood all over their hands and the world is demanding China to stop!

Bravery and Elegance

"So well planned. So well thought out." - CBS News

"A stunningly bold protest for the world to see." - CBS News

"Tremendous amount of skill. Obviously it's a dangerous operation." - Golden Gate Bridge Manager

"Oh, this is unbelievable! I just can't believe this!" - Tourist from Indiana

"We are in solidarity with the Tibetan people." - Laurel Sutherlin, one of the three heroes

Thank you, Laurel Sutherlin, Duane Martinez, and Hannah Strange. We are with you. We are with the Tibetan people. China is at odds with the rest of the world for its oppression of the peaceful Tibetan people for nearly 60 years. Time to come clean, China!

Click picture to see the CBS video

Salute Protester Heroes


(Click the above to see the 2 CNN videos back to back. Awesome!)

(Video: Work destroyed. Heroes Arrested. The message is out!)



Thank you! Golden Gate Bridge Three Heroes! You have brought the attention to the entire world!

The heart-wrenching daily reports on Tibetans' risking their lives to have their voice heard.

The condemnation from all over the world on China's crackdown on Tibet.

The dilemma why the Chinese People's Liberation Army has used weapons on the peaceful Tibetans since 1950.

The ardent protests against China's crackdown on Tibet in every major city in the world.

The Chinese Communist Party's hacks rear their ugly heads and flood blogs with half-truth and outright lies.

But the truth can not be silenced.

The Western world continues trying, in all earnest, to show China that human rights need to be respected and Tibetans are entitled to their opinions. Passionate bloggers all over the world rigorously debate with the CCP hacks and only find that they are not sincere, not logical, and they do not hesitate resorting to name calling.

These are the typical hacks' rhetorics:
-Tibet was, is and always will be China's.
-Why is US invading Iraq?
-Tibet is China's internal affair, mind your own business at home.
-How about the US Civil war? You didn't allow division, did you?
-How about US invaded American Indians?
-Tibetans are well treated with financial and educational opportunity better than the Han Chinese.
-Tibetans are taking vacations on the beach.
-Tibetans steal.

Conclusion of their excuses: How dare the Tibetans! How dare the Western world! How dare anyone think differently from the China stinky oligarchy!

It comes down to this moment of the heroes climbing on the Golden Gate Bridge to raise banners drawing attention to China's crackdown on Tibet.

My tears of awe, respect, joy and admiration burst out for these heroes. Thank you heroes for risking your lives to carry out such a beautiful, well-planned action. From the design of the banner sizes and materials, the calculation of the wind speed, the physical training of climbing on the Golden Bridge Cables, the timing, and the well-articulated interview you gave to the reporter. You have done such a wonderful job. Your brave action goes down in history as credit for the eventual Tibetan freedom. You will be forever celebrated as the Golden Gate Bridge Three. You shocked China. You awed the world. Thank you. You are beautiful.


About the Golden Gate Bridge Three heroes:
"The three who ascended the cables are all experienced mountain climbers."
"Ginger Cassady, spokeswoman for the group, identified the climbers as Duane Martinez and Laurel Sutherlin, both men of Sausalito, and Hannah Strange, from Oakland. She said the protest, which began about 10 a.m., was timed so it didn't disrupt the morning commute."

Posted by June

Pugnacious McCain

GOP Senators Reassess Views About McCain
His Old Foes Still Wary Of His Pugnacious Style
By Paul KaneWashington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 4, 2008; A01

John McCain once testified under oath that a Senate colleague inappropriately used tobacco corporation donations to sway votes on legislation. He cursed out another colleague in front of 20 senators and staff members, questioning the senator's grip on immigration legislation. And, on the Senate floor, McCain (R-Ariz.) accused another colleague of "egregious behavior" for helping a defense contractor in a move he said resembled "corporate scandals." (more...)

Chelsea Stumps for Mom

Chelsea Clinton On The Campaign Trail: Former First Daughter Stumps For Mom, Deflects Date Offers

'You're not voting for the Clintons. You're voting for my mother,' candidate's daughter emphasizes.
By Garth Bardsley with Shawn Adler

As the daughter of a former president, Chelsea Clinton has long been in the public spotlight. Now campaigning to become the daughter of a future president, the 27-year-old Stanford graduate is finally ready for her close-up. (more...)

35 Years of Experience?


Clinton's '35 years of change' omits most of her career
By Matt Stearns McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — To hear Hillary Clinton talk, she's spent her entire career putting her Yale Law School degree to work for the common good.

She routinely tells voters that she's "been working to bring positive change to people's lives for 35 years." She told a voter in New Hampshire: "I've spent so much of my life in the nonprofit sector." Speaking in South Carolina, Bill Clinton said his wife "could have taken a job with a firm ... Instead she went to work with Marian Wright Edelman at the Children's Defense Fund." (more...)

McCain: Super Tue Decides


McCain: Super Tuesday may end the GOP race
February 2, 2008

McCain told reporters Super Tuesday might end the Republican race.

(CNN) – Republican John McCain said Friday that Super Tuesday could mark the finish line of his party’s presidential race this year.

“Do I think the race will be over on Tuesday? Not often do I ask for divine intercession, but I have asked for that. Yes,” he told reporters on a campaign flight to Chicago. Republicans in 21 states will weigh in on Super Tuesday, February 5.

“From what we see in the polls, there is a very good chance it could be over on Tuesday,” said the Arizona senator, adding: “The sooner we get that done, the sooner I can go to work on uniting the party." (more...)

Billion Dollar President

Race to become $1bn president
By Ben White in New York
Published: February 1 2008 19:50


The US presidential candidates are heading towards the $1bn mark in campaign fundraising, shattering records as Wall Street and corporate America pump cash into a race that started ­early and has produced at least eight viable candidates.

The highly competitive field has forced corporate interests to generously spread their contributions to ensure continued good standing with potential future presidents.

Obama on McCain

Blogger notes: Since Bill Clinton predicted that Hillary and John McCain, if both got nominated, would have too civilized campaigns, maybe there is more to watch if Obama is on the ticket instead of Hillary...

Obama Says He'd Be Better Against McCain
Feb 1, 8:02 PM (ET)
By NEDRA PICKLER

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Democratic Sen. Barack Obama sees one of the best arguments for his presidential candidacy in the rise of Republican Sen. John McCain. McCain has become Obama's favorite punching bag, an easier mark in front of partisan audiences than the rival Obama will have to beat first to get to the general election - Hillary Rodham Clinton. (more...)

Oprah for Obama


February 1, 2008, 4:10 pm
Oprah’s Back
By Jeff Zeleny

ALBUQUERQUE – Oprah is on the way.
On Sunday, Oprah Winfrey is returning to the presidential campaign trail to headline a California event for Senator Barack Obama. The Obama campaign has yet to announce details, but people familiar with the event say the television talk show magnate will join Michelle Obama at a campaign rally in the Los Angeles area. (more...)

Obama: Raised $32M in Jan.

Obama Raises $32 Million in January

By JIM KUHNHENN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama raised $32 million in the single month of January, matching his best three-month period last year, aides said Thursday.

The money positions Obama for the sweeping Feb. 5 primary contests, when 22 states will be in play for the Democratic nomination. Aides also announced that with their money they can now advertise in states beyond the Super Tuesday contest next week.

Guthrie endorses Paul

ELECTION 2008
Arlo Guthrie endorses Ron Paul
Huckabee has Norris, McCain has Stallone
Posted: January 31, 20081:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2008 WorldNetDaily.com

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has been endorsed by martial arts champion and movie star Chuck Norris; rival John McCain has the support of "Rocky" star Sylvestor Stallone. Now Ron Paul has announced the endorsement of Arlo Guthrie. (More...)

Bill: Fighting Global Warming

Bill: "We Just Have to Slow Down Our Economy" to Fight Global Warming
January 31, 2008


Former President Bill Clinton was in Denver, Colorado, stumping for his wife yesterday.

In a long, and interesting speech, he characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: "We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren." (More...)

Romney Plans Major Ads

Romney Plans Major Ad Buys in California, Other Super Tuesday States
by FOXNews.com
Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mitt Romney plans to buy TV ads in California and other Super Tuesday states, contradicting earlier reports that he was avoiding a costly campaign on Feb. 5, when 21 states hold Republican primaries and caucuses. (More...)

Obama: Most Liberal 2007

Obama: Most Liberal Senator In 2007
By Brian Friel, Richard E. Cohen and Kirk Victor,

National Journal© National Journal Group Inc.

Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was the most liberal senator in 2007, according to National Journal's 27th annual vote ratings. (More...)

TX Governor Endorses McCain

Gov. Perry Endorses John McCain
Jan 31, 2008 12:17 PM PST

Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday announced his endorsement of presidential candidate John McCain.

Perry said he is backing McCain, because he is the candidate who would do the most for and win the war on terror.

"Two words: Hilary Clinton; that kinda gets everybody focused on what the alternative is," Perry said. "How would that make you feel if you were to see her as president? Where do you think the nation would be?" asked KXAN Austin News' Michelle Valles."Hilary Clinton as a president? I guess 'to hell in a hand basket' probably would not be a good quote, but that's the first thing that came to mind," Perry replied.

Perry spoke by telephone earlier in the day with McCain and said he expects the Arizona senator to visit Texas soon to see what the state has done to try to combat crime along the border.

The governor would not expand on his political aspirations after his term ends.
Perry announced his endorsement of Rudy Giuliani in October. Giuliani bowed out early Wednesday evening, throwing his support to John McCain.
Texas' primary is March 4, well after the huge slate of Feb. 5 primaries that could decide the nomination.
.

Obama: Clinton Divisive


Obama Calls Clinton Divisive Figure
By NEDRA PICKLER and MIKE GLOVER

DENVER (AP) - Democratic Sen. Barack Obama said Wednesday a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidency would be a step back to the past, turning her husband's image of a bridge to the future against her. The former first lady decried the tenor of his comments in an interview with The Associated Press. (More...)

Clinton, Obama make peace

Clinton, Obama make peace but spar over war
By Ellen Wulfhorst and Jeff Mason

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton struck a cordial tone in their first one-on-one presidential debate on Thursday, directing their attacks at Republican front-runner John McCain while disagreeing on who could best lead U.S. troops out of Iraq.

The two Democratic White House contenders dropped the angry and confrontational approach of their last debate in South Carolina, adopting a friendly tone and saying their similarities were greater than their differences.

"I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign; I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after this campaign is over," said Obama, a 46-year-old Illinois senator who would be the first black U.S. president.

Clinton, a 60-year-old New York senator who would be the first woman U.S. president, said the Republican White House contenders were offering "more of the same."

"Just by looking at us, you can tell we aren't more of the same," she said at the debate at Los Angeles' Kodak Theatre. "We will change our country."

The meeting was the final debate ahead of Tuesday's Democratic nominating contests in 22 states, the biggest single day of voting in U.S. presidential nominating history. Clinton and Obama are in a tight battle for the right to represent Democrats in November's presidential election.

They split the first four significant nominating contests, with Obama winning Iowa and South Carolina and Clinton winning New Hampshire and Nevada.

Both candidates leveled criticism at the 71-year-old McCain, citing his comment U.S. troops could remain in Iraq for 100 years and his support for extending President George W. Bush's tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 after voting against them at the time.

"Somewhere along the line, the (McCain) Straight-Talk Express lost some wheels and now he is in favor of extending Bush tax cuts that went to some of the wealthiest Americans who don't need them and we're not even asking for them," Obama said.
Clinton, asked about the prospect of another term in the White House for a Clinton after eight years of her husband and 12 years of a member of the Bush family, took aim at both Bushes.

'CLEAN UP AFTER BUSH'

"It did take a Clinton to clean after the first Bush and I think it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush," she said.

It was the first debate since last week's fierce South Carolina showdown, which featured harsh personal attacks between the two senators that sparked a week of bitter accusations by Obama, Clinton and Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton.

But they eased off the attacks after Obama's South Carolina win and clearly decided it was better to stay positive in Thursday's debate.

Obama, an early opponent of the Iraq war, questioned her 2002 Senate vote to authorize the war in Iraq. He assailed Clinton who has frequently said she had the experience to lead from "day one" in the White House.

"Part of the argument that I'm making in this campaign is that it is important to be right on day one," he said.

Both candidates pointed to health care as one of their biggest policy differences. Clinton's plan requires all Americans to have coverage, and she criticized Obama's plan because it could leave up to 15 million people uninsured.

"You have to bite this bullet, you have to say 'Yes, we will try to get to universal health care'," she said.

Obama said anyone who wanted health care could get it under his plan, which would focus on bringing down costs.

Obama and Clinton also disagreed on whether illegal immigrants should have the right to driver's licenses, with Clinton opposing the idea. But Obama noted Clinton's difficulty in forming a position after a debate in October when she dodged the issue several times.

"Sen. Clinton gave a number of different answers over the course of six weeks on this issue, and that did appear political," Obama said.

The debate was their first since Obama crushed Clinton and John Edwards in a South Carolina landslide on Saturday, driving Edwards from the race. Both Clinton and Obama praised Edwards in their opening statements.

Earlier on Thursday, popular California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed Republican presidential candidate John McCain, giving the Arizona senator a boost in his drive to gain his party's nomination for the White House.

"He is a great American hero and an extraordinary leader. This is why I am endorsing him to be our next president of the United States," the actor-turned-politician said.

California is the largest prize among the states that hold nominating contests on "Super Tuesday." McCain, the Republican front-runner, already leads state polls over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Obama reported he raised $32 million in the month of January alone, matching his biggest three-month fundraising haul of the year and helping him pay for new ads in a half-dozen states that hold contests after "Super Tuesday."

(Writing by John Whitesides; editing by Howard Goller)

Obama vs Clinton at Kodak



It's fitting that tonight's Democratic presidential debate will be held at Los Angeles' Kodak Theatre, home of the Oscars and one of Hollywood's most hallowed monuments to the stars.
Star power rocks on the campaign trail these days, with an unprecedented number of actors, entertainers and sports figures stumping for candidates

And it's not only the phalanx of celebrities attempting to influence the primary races; it's also what they're doing. In years past, most stars have been content to endorse and bankroll candidates and make high-profile appearances. But this year, with the race still open and 22 states up for grabs on Super Tuesday next week, celebrities have been working in key states earlier, in greater numbers and more extensively than ever.

Ron Howard, Quincy Jones, Ted Danson and wife Mary Steenburgen, America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn and sport legends Magic Johnson and Billie Jean King have stumped for Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama's celebrity campaigners include Scarlett Johansson, Chris Tucker, Kerry Washington and singer Usher.

Before bowing out of the race Wednesday, John Edwards had Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, James Denton and others stumping for him, and singers Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and John Mellencamp performing.

"At this stage of the game, celebrity and politics are fusing in a way that hasn't happened before — and the exposure and media play is remarkable," says veteran entertainment industry watcher Jeffrey Ressner of Politico.com. "In the past, many celebrities waited until there was a two-person race. Now, they're working hard and getting their hands dirty if they have strong feelings for a candidate."

Says talk-show host and Clinton supporter Star Jones, "People are stepping out of their comfort zone. They know they may take a (public relations) hit. But people are really vested in this presidential campaign. People are (angry) at the way this country has been run. Everyone wants change."

Do stars matter?

Of course, even an army of stars is no guarantee of success. With his star-studded campaign trail help, Edwards still couldn't generate enough heat to remain a contender. And numerous studies and public opinion polls have pointed to the marginal impact a celebrity endorsement brings.

Yet in a 24/7 media-saturated environment where style often supersedes substance, Hollywood buzz has been key for some candidates. Winfrey's appearances for Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina drew thousands of onlookers at campaign stops, helping validate his campaign. Action icon Chuck Norris kick-started Mike Huckabee's campaign, from his first TV ad to stops in early primary states.

"Chuck Norris has been a tremendous asset," Huckabee says. "He's a big hit on the campaign trail. In fact, there've been many times when Chuck's fans have flooded into events to see him — which is OK with me, since it gives me exposure to a whole new group of potential voters."

Huckabee's eclectic entourage has since been joined by professional wrestler Ric Flair.

John McCain has had veteran character actor Wilford Brimley at his side. Mitt Romney has had Olympic speed skating champion Dan Jansen introduce him at events. While Romney spokesman Kevin Madden says celebrity endorsements have limited value, star power "does give you an extra news cycle or two."

Star power is especially bright for Democrats, who've lost five of the past seven presidential elections. Campaign rallies aside, celebs have worked phone banks, canvassed door to door, shaken hands at local diners, attended union gatherings and hit countless small towns and communities to spur support.

"They have been very generous with their time and resources, and I'm grateful for the help they have provided this campaign," Clinton said hours after winning Tuesday's Florida primary. "They understand that this election is too important to sit on the sidelines."

Fresh off Tuesday's Florida primary win, Clinton staffers are plotting how best to deploy celebrities in preparation for Super Tuesday. Aside from the current cast, "we've got a lot of new people coming," says spokesman Jin Chon.

Celebs aren't naive enough to think they sway voters. "No one should give more credence to (celebrity) opinions than anyone else," says Designing Women star Jean Smart, who was an Edwards backer. "I'm no Oprah. But if I can get people to come out, even if it's just out of curiosity, that's fine."

But "they help to draw crowds," Edwards said in an interview last week. "That's the most important thing they do: bring attention."

Republican Rudy Giuliani, who also withdrew from the race on Wednesday, had actor Jon Voight accompanying him. "This election is the most important of my lifetime," the actor and lifelong Democrat recently said.

Observers cite Winfrey's early praise and fundraising efforts for Obama for bringing fellow celebrities to primary races.

"It's the Oprah factor," says public relations and crisis management strategist Robbie Vorhaus. "It hasn't been that long since celebrities might have felt their careers were in jeopardy if they made a political stance. Now they're realizing the fate of the world, in many respects, is in the balance. The fact that Oprah went out and got behind a candidate opened the door for celebrities and other people of influence to stump for candidates."

Images at risk

Some celebrities, such as Obama-supporter George Clooney, have stated that some campaign work might do more harm than good, because Hollywood's left-leaning image doesn't always play well in middle America.

There's also the risk to an actor's own career. Desperate Housewives' Denton, a long-time Republican who canvassed door to door for Edwards in New Hampshire, toured colleges in Iowa and stumped in Nevada and South Carolina, has already felt some backlash.

"I've gotten a surprising amount of mail from unhappy fans, some real conservatives who say that they're disappointed in you and will never watch your show again," he says. "It's been eye-opening."

There's also the risk of a TMZ-type moment. At a fundraiser at his Texas ranch this month, Norris told reporters that Huckabee rival McCain, who's 72, was too old for the presidency. McCain later responded that he'd send his 95-year-old mother to "wash Chuck's mouth out with soap."

"This is the problem you can run into," says Boston University professor Alan Schroeder, author of Presidential Debates: 40 Years of High Risk TV. "Celebrities don't edit themselves."

Interviewed last week on cable channel MSNBC, Norris, 67, admitted he'd made a mistake and said he had apologized to McCain. "I don't go in as a celebrity," Norris told USA TODAY. "I'm just a concerned citizen. I'm concerned about the future of our country."

Conversely, twentysomething celebrities such as Johansson and Ferrara could draw young voters who've been largely absent from presidential races. "Celebrities are rarely a key in someone's voting decision, but one of their biggest values is attracting new voters to at least listen to a candidate or attend an event," says David Burstein, founder of advocacy group 18 in '08. "Bringing new voters into the process, engaging young people any way they can be engaged, these are good things for democracy."

Looking for a winner

Early celebrity support focusing on a potential winner is somewhat of a departure from recent elections. "With a lot of celebrities, it's been more a case of who they identify with instead of who they think can actually be elected," notes Schroeder.

Electability was a common theme among many of Edwards' star supporters, who believe voters will ultimately reject Clinton as too polarizing to win a presidential race and Obama's African-American ethnicity and youth as too great to overcome, at least for 2008.

"You have to think beyond the caucuses and the primaries to the general election," Smart says. Sarandon, who initially supported Obama and donated to his campaign before switching to Edwards, said in an interview last week, "Edwards is the only authentic electable candidate" among Democrats.

But Edwards' withdrawal demonstrates that the question of electability ultimately rests in the electorate, not in endorsements. "At the end of the day, a celebrity will get you noticed, but you still have to deliver a compelling message that resonates with voters," Vorhaus says. "And that message has to resonate with more people than your competition."

Contributing: David Jackson

Ex-President and Big Donor


January 31, 2008
An Ex-President, a Mining Deal and a Big Donor
By JO BECKER and DON VAN NATTA Jr.

Late on Sept. 6, 2005, a private plane carrying the Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra touched down in Almaty, a ruggedly picturesque city in southeast Kazakhstan. Several hundred miles to the west a fortune awaited: highly coveted deposits of uranium that could fuel nuclear reactors around the world. And Mr. Giustra was in hot pursuit of an exclusive deal to tap them.

Unlike more established competitors, Mr. Giustra was a newcomer to uranium mining in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic. But what his fledgling company lacked in experience, it made up for in connections. Accompanying Mr. Giustra on his luxuriously appointed MD-87 jet that day was a former president of the United States, Bill Clinton.

Upon landing on the first stop of a three-country philanthropic tour, the two men were whisked off to share a sumptuous midnight banquet with Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, whose 19-year stranglehold on the country has all but quashed political dissent.

Mr. Nazarbayev walked away from the table with a propaganda coup, after Mr. Clinton expressed enthusiastic support for the Kazakh leader’s bid to head an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy. Mr. Clinton’s public declaration undercut both American foreign policy and sharp criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, Mr. Clinton’s wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Within two days, corporate records show that Mr. Giustra also came up a winner when his company signed preliminary agreements giving it the right to buy into three uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium agency, Kazatomprom.

The monster deal stunned the mining industry, turning an unknown shell company into one of the world’s largest uranium producers in a transaction ultimately worth tens of millions of dollars to Mr. Giustra, analysts said.

Just months after the Kazakh pact was finalized, Mr. Clinton’s charitable foundation received its own windfall: a $31.3 million donation from Mr. Giustra that had remained a secret until he acknowledged it last month. The gift, combined with Mr. Giustra’s more recent and public pledge to give the William J. Clinton Foundation an additional $100 million, secured Mr. Giustra a place in Mr. Clinton’s inner circle, an exclusive club of wealthy entrepreneurs in which friendship with the former president has its privileges.

Mr. Giustra was invited to accompany the former president to Almaty just as the financier was trying to seal a deal he had been negotiating for months.

In separate written responses, both men said Mr. Giustra traveled with Mr. Clinton to Kazakhstan, India and China to see first-hand the philanthropic work done by his foundation.

A spokesman for Mr. Clinton said the former president knew that Mr. Giustra had mining interests in Kazakhstan but was unaware of “any particular efforts” and did nothing to help. Mr. Giustra said he was there as an “observer only” and there was “no discussion” of the deal with Mr. Nazarbayev or Mr. Clinton.

But Moukhtar Dzhakishev, president of Kazatomprom, said in an interview that Mr. Giustra did discuss it, directly with the Kazakh president, and that his friendship with Mr. Clinton “of course made an impression.” Mr. Dzhakishev added that Kazatomprom chose to form a partnership with Mr. Giustra’s company based solely on the merits of its offer.

After The Times told Mr. Giustra that others said he had discussed the deal with Mr. Nazarbayev, Mr. Giustra responded that he “may well have mentioned my general interest in the Kazakhstan mining business to him, but I did not discuss the ongoing” efforts.

As Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign has intensified, Mr. Clinton has begun severing financial ties with Ronald W. Burkle, the supermarket magnate, and Vinod Gupta, the chairman of InfoUSA, to avoid any conflicts of interest. Those two men have harnessed the former president’s clout to expand their businesses while making the Clintons rich through partnership and consulting arrangements.

Mr. Clinton has vowed to continue raising money for his foundation if Mrs. Clinton is elected president, maintaining his connections with a wide network of philanthropic partners.

Mr. Giustra said that while his friendship with the former president “may have elevated my profile in the news media, it has not directly affected any of my business transactions.”

Mining colleagues and analysts agree it has not hurt. Neil MacDonald, the chief executive of a Canadian merchant bank that specializes in mining deals, said Mr. Giustra’s financial success was partly due to a “fantastic network” crowned by Mr. Clinton. “That’s a very solid relationship for him,” Mr. MacDonald said. “I’m sure it’s very much a two-way relationship because that’s the way Frank operates.”

Foreseeing Opportunities

Mr. Giustra made his fortune in mining ventures as a broker on the Vancouver Stock Exchange, raising billions of dollars and developing a loyal following of investors. Just as the mining sector collapsed, Mr. Giustra, a lifelong film buff, founded the Lion’s Gate Entertainment Corporation in 1997. But he sold the studio in 2003 and returned to mining.

Mr. Giustra foresaw a bull market in gold and began investing in mines in Argentina, Australia and Mexico. He turned a $20 million shell company into a powerhouse that, after a $2.4 billion merger with Goldcorp Inc., became Canada’s second-largest gold company.

With a net worth estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Mr. Giustra began looking for ways to put his wealth to good use. Meeting Mr. Clinton, and learning about the work his foundation was doing on issues like AIDS treatment in poor countries, “changed my life,” Mr. Giustra told The Vancouver Sun.

The two men were introduced in June 2005 at a fund-raiser for tsunami victims at Mr. Giustra’s Vancouver home and hit it off right away. They share a love of history, geopolitics and music — Mr. Giustra plays the trumpet to Mr. Clinton’s saxophone. Soon the dapper Canadian was a regular at Mr. Clinton’s side, as they flew around the world aboard Mr. Giustra’s plane.
Philanthropy may have become his passion, but Mr. Giustra, now 50, was still hunting for ways to make money.

Exploding demand for energy had helped revitalize the nuclear power industry, and uranium, the raw material for reactor fuel, was about to become a hot commodity. In late 2004, Mr. Giustra began talking to investors, and put together a company that would eventually be called UrAsia Energy Ltd.

Kazakhstan, which has about one-fifth of the world’s uranium reserves, was the place to be. But with plenty of suitors, Kazatomprom could be picky about its partners.

“Everyone was asking Kazatomprom to the dance,” said Fadi Shadid, a senior stock analyst covering the uranium industry for Friedman Billings Ramsey, an investment bank. “A second-tier junior player like UrAsia — you’d need all the help you could get.”

The Cameco Corporation, the world’s largest uranium producer, was already a partner of Kazatomprom. But when Cameco expressed interest in the properties Mr. Giustra was already eying, the government’s response was lukewarm. “The signals we were getting was, you’ve got your hands full,” said Gerald W. Grandey, Cameco president.

For Cameco, it took five years to “build the right connections” in Kazakhstan, Mr. Grandey said. UrAsia did not have that luxury. Profitability depended on striking before the price of uranium soared.

“Timing was everything,” said Sergey Kurzin, a Russian-born businessman whose London-based company was brought into the deal by UrAsia because of his connections in Kazakhstan. Even with those connections, Mr. Kurzin said, it took four months to arrange a meeting with Kazatomprom.

In August 2005, records show, the company sent an engineering consultant to Kazakhstan to assess the uranium properties. Less than four weeks later, Mr. Giustra arrived with Mr. Clinton.
Mr. Dzhakishev, the Kazatomprom chief, said an aide to Mr. Nazarbayev informed him that Mr. Giustra talked with Mr. Nazarbayev about the deal during the visit. “And when our president asked Giustra, ‘What do you do?’ he said, ‘I’m trying to do business with Kazatomprom,’ ” Mr. Dzhakishev said. He added that Mr. Nazarbayev replied, “Very good, go to it.”

Mr. Clinton’s Kazakhstan visit, the only one of his post-presidency, appears to have been arranged hastily. The United States Embassy got last-minute notice that the president would be making “a private visit,” said a State Department official, who said he was not authorized to speak on the record.

The publicly stated reason for the visit was to announce a Clinton Foundation agreement that enabled the government to buy discounted AIDS drugs. But during a news conference, Mr. Clinton wandered into delicate territory by commending Mr. Nazarbayev for “opening up the social and political life of your country.”

In a statement Kazakhstan would highlight in news releases, Mr. Clinton declared that he hoped it would achieve a top objective: leading the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which would confer legitimacy on Mr. Nazarbayev’s government.

“I think it’s time for that to happen, it’s an important step, and I’m glad you’re willing to undertake it,” Mr. Clinton said.

A Speedy Process

Mr. Clinton’s praise was odd, given that the United States did not support Mr. Nazarbayev’s bid. (Late last year, Kazakhstan finally won the chance to lead the security organization for one year, despite concerns raised by the Bush administration.) Moreover, Mr. Clinton’s wife, who sits on a Congressional commission with oversight of such matters, had also voiced skepticism.

Eleven months before Mr. Clinton’s statement, Mrs. Clinton co-signed a commission letter to the State Department that sounded “alarm bells” about the prospect that Kazakhstan might head the group. The letter stated that Kazakhstan’s bid “would not be acceptable,” citing “serious corruption,” canceled elections and government control of the news media.

In a written statement to The Times, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman said the former president saw “no contradiction” between his statements in Kazakhstan and the position of Mrs. Clinton, who said through a spokeswoman, “Senator Clinton’s position on Kazakhstan remains unchanged.”

Noting that the former president also met with opposition leaders in Almaty, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman said he was only “seeking to suggest that a commitment to political openness and to fair elections would reflect well on Kazakhstan’s efforts to chair the O.S.C.E.”

But Robert Herman, who worked for the State Department in the Clinton administration and is now at Freedom House, a human rights group, said the former president’s statement amounted to an endorsement of Kazakhstan’s readiness to lead the group, a position he called “patently absurd.”

“He was either going off his brief or he was sadly mistaken,” Mr. Herman said. “There was nothing in the record to suggest that they really wanted to move forward on democratic reform.”
Indeed, in December 2005, Mr. Nazarbayev won another election, which the security organization itself said was marred by an “atmosphere of intimidation” and “ballot-box stuffing.”
After Mr. Nazarbayev won with 91 percent of the vote, Mr. Clinton sent his congratulations. “Recognizing that your work has received an excellent grade is one of the most important rewards in life,” Mr. Clinton wrote in a letter released by the Kazakh embassy. Last September, just weeks after Kazakhstan held an election that once again failed to meet international standards, Mr. Clinton honored Mr. Nazarbayev by inviting him to his annual philanthropic conference.

Within 48 hours of Mr. Clinton’s departure from Almaty on Sept. 7, Mr. Giustra got his deal. UrAsia signed two memorandums of understanding that paved the way for the company to become partners with Kazatomprom in three mines.

The cost to UrAsia was more than $450 million, money the company did not have in hand and had only weeks to come up with. The transaction was finalized in November, after UrAsia raised the money through the largest initial public offering in the history of Canada’s Venture Exchange.

Mr. Giustra challenged the notion that UrAsia needed to court Kazatomprom’s favor to seal the deal, contending that the government agency’s approval was not required.

But Mr. Dzhakishev, analysts and Mr. Kurzin, one of Mr. Giustra’s own investors, said that approval was necessary. Mr. Dzhakishev, who said that the deal was almost done when Mr. Clinton arrived, said that Kazatomprom was impressed with the sum Mr. Giustra was willing to pay and his record of attracting investors. He said Mr. Nazarbayev himself ultimately signed off on the transaction.

Longtime market watchers were confounded. Kazatomprom’s choice of UrAsia was a “mystery,” said Gene Clark, the chief executive of Trade Tech, a uranium industry newsletter.

“UrAsia was able to jump-start the whole process somehow,” Mr. Clark said. The company became a “major uranium producer when it didn’t even exist before.”

A Profitable Sale

Records show that Mr. Giustra donated the $31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation in the months that followed in 2006, but neither he nor a spokesman for Mr. Clinton would say exactly when.

In September 2006, Mr. Giustra co-produced a gala 60th birthday for Mr. Clinton that featured stars like Jon Bon Jovi and raised about $21 million for the Clinton Foundation.

In February 2007, a company called Uranium One agreed to pay $3.1 billion to acquire UrAsia. Mr. Giustra, a director and major shareholder in UrAsia, would be paid $7.05 per share for a company that just two years earlier was trading at 10 cents per share.

That same month, Mr. Dzhakishev, the Kazatomprom chief, said he traveled to Chappaqua, N.Y., to meet with Mr. Clinton at his home. Mr. Dzhakishev said Mr. Giustra arranged the three-hour meeting. Mr. Dzhakishev said he wanted to discuss Kazakhstan’s intention — not publicly known at the time — to buy a 10 percent stake in Westinghouse, a United States supplier of nuclear technology.

Nearly a year earlier, Mr. Clinton had advised Dubai on how to handle the political furor after one of that nation’s companies attempted to take over several American ports. Mrs. Clinton was among those on Capitol Hill who raised the national security concerns that helped kill the deal.

Mr. Dzhakishev said he was worried the proposed Westinghouse investment could face similar objections. Mr. Clinton told him that he would not lobby for him, but Mr. Dzhakishev came away pleased by the chance to promote his nation’s proposal to a former president.

Mr. Clinton “said this was very important for America,” said Mr. Dzhakishev, who added that Mr. Giustra was present at Mr. Clinton’s home.

Both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Giustra at first denied that any such meeting occurred. Mr. Giustra also denied ever arranging for Kazakh officials to meet with Mr. Clinton. Wednesday, after The Times told them that others said a meeting, in Mr. Clinton’s home, had in fact taken place, both men acknowledged it.

“You are correct that I asked the president to meet with the head of Kazatomprom,” Mr. Giustra said. “Mr. Dzhakishev asked me in February 2007 to set up a meeting with former President Clinton to discuss the future of the nuclear energy industry.” Mr. Giustra said the meeting “escaped my memory until you raised it.”

Wednesday, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman, Ben Yarrow, issued what he called a “correction,” saying: “Today, Mr. Giustra told our office that in February 2007, he brought Mr. Dzhakishev from Kazatomprom to meet with President Clinton to discuss the future of nuclear energy.”

Mr. Yarrow said his earlier denial was based on the former president’s records, which he said “show a Feb. 27 meeting with Mr. Giustra; no other attendees are listed.”

Mr. Dzhakishev said he had a vivid memory of his Chappaqua visit, and a souvenir to prove it: a photograph of himself with the former president.

“I hung up the photograph of us and people ask me if I met with Clinton and I say, Yes, I met with Clinton,” he said, smiling proudly.

David L. Stern and Margot Williams contributed reporting.

Edwards Exits


Blogger notes:

Sorry to see Senator Edwards go. Thanks Senator Edwards for a nice and clean campaign. I appreciate his statesmanship. I also appreciate what he said to people who struggle, "We will never forget you. We will fight for you. We will stand up for you."

Edwards Exits Presidential Race
Jan 30, 4:54 PM (ET)
By NEDRA PICKLER and BECKY BOHRER

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Democrat John Edwards bowed out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday, saying it was time to step aside "so that history can blaze its path" in a campaign now left to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

"With our convictions and a little backbone we will take back the White House in November," said Edwards, ending his second campaign in the same hurricane-ravaged city where he began it more than a year ago.

Edwards said Clinton and Obama had both pledged that "they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency."

"This is the cause of my life and I now have their commitment to engage in this cause," he said before a small group of supporters. He was joined by his wife Elizabeth and his three children, Cate, Emma Claire and Jack.

It was the second time Edwards sought the Democratic presidential nomination. Four years ago he was the vice presidential running mate on a ticket headed by John Kerry.

Four years later, he waged a spirited, underfunded race on a populist note, pledging to represent the powerless against the corporate interests.

He finished second in the Iowa caucuses that led off the campaign, but he was quickly overshadowed - a white man in a race against the former first lady and a 46-year-old black man, each bent on making history.

Edwards said that on his way to making his campaign-ending statement, he drove by a highway underpass where several homeless people live. He stopped to talk, he said, and as he was leaving, one of them asked him never to forget them and their plight.

"Well I say to her and I say to all those who are struggling in this country, we will never forget you. We will fight for you. We will stand up for you," he said, pledging to continue his campaign-long effort to end what he frequently said was "two Americas," one for the powerful, the other for the rest.

The former North Carolina senator did not immediately endorse either Clinton, seeking to become the first female president, or Obama, the strongest black candidate in history.

Both of them praised Edwards - and immediately began courting his supporters.

"Particularly during this campaign he has made poverty a centerpiece of his candidacy and it needs to be on top of the list of American priorities. ... I want to wish John and Elizabeth well and thank him for running a great campaign that was really important for millions of Americans,"

Clinton told reporters in Arkansas. John Edwards ended his campaign today in the same way he started it - by standing with the people who are too often left behind and nearly always left out of our national debate," Clinton said.

Obama, too, praised Edwards and his wife. At a rally in Denver, he said the couple has "always believed deeply that two Americas can become one, and that our country can rally around this common purpose," Obama said. "So while his campaign may have ended, this cause lives on for all of us who still believe that we can achieve that dream of one America."

Edwards, trudging through mud toward a Habitat for Humanity House he was to help work on, told reporters he would meet again with Clinton and Obama before deciding whether to make an endorsement. He set no timetable for deciding whether to endorse either candidate.

The impact of Edwards' decision will be felt in one week's time, when Democrats hold primaries and caucuses across 22 states, with 1,681 delegates at stake.

Four in 10 Edwards supporters said their second choice in the race is Clinton, while a quarter prefer Obama, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo poll conducted late this month.

Edwards amassed 56 national convention delegates, most of whom will be free to support either Obama or Clinton.

As expected, Edwards said he was suspending his campaign rather than ending it, but aides said that was simply legal terminology so that he can continue to receive federal matching funds for his campaign donations.

In suspending his campaign - instead of terminating it - Edwards keeps all 26 delegates he won in the Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina contests. After he officially exits, 10 of those delegates will be dispersed to the other candidates, with Obama getting six and Clinton getting four. Under party rules, Edwards will maintain a say in naming the other 16 delegates.

Edwards had also collected endorsements from 30 superdelegates - mainly party and elected officials who automatically attend the convention and can support whomever they choose. Three superdelegates had already switched from Edwards to Obama before Edwards suspended his campaign.

In the overall race for the nomination, Clinton has 249 delegates and Obama has 181. A total of 2,025 delegates are needed to secure the Democratic nomination.

Edwards waged a spirited top-tier campaign against the two better-funded rivals, even as he dealt with the stunning blow of his wife's recurring cancer diagnosis. In a dramatic news conference last March, the couple announced that the breast cancer that she thought she had beaten had returned, but they would continue the campaign.

Their decision sparked a debate about family duty and public service. But Elizabeth Edwards remained a forceful advocate for her husband, and she was often surrounded at campaign events by well-wishers and emotional survivors cheering her on.

Elizabeth Edwards said she informed her son Jack about the announcement Wednesday morning.

"You don't tell a 7-year-old any time earlier than absolutely necessary. So I told him this morning what was happening. And he said 'So, Dad's going to be home tomorrow and the day after and the day after,'" she said, laughing. "So there are some people who are very excited about this decision."

The campaign ended as it began 13 months ago - with the candidate pitching in to rebuild lives in a city still ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Edwards embraced New Orleans as a glaring symbol of what he described as a Washington that didn't hear the cries of the downtrodden.

Edwards burst out of the starting gate with a flurry of progressive policy ideas - he was the first to offer a plan for universal health care, the first to call on Congress to pull funding for the war, and he led the charge that lobbyists have too much power in Washington and need to be reigned in.

The ideas were all bold and new for Edwards personally as well, making him a different candidate than the moderate Southerner who ran in 2004 while still in his first Senate term. But the themes were eventually adopted by other Democratic presidential candidates - and even a Republican, Mitt Romney, echoed the call for an end to special interest politics in Washington.
Edwards' last primary was in his home state of South Carolina last week. He finished a poor third, wining only his home county, his victory in the 2004 race a distant memory.
---
Associated Press Writers Mike Baker in North Carolina and Mike Glover in Arkansas contributed to this report. Nedra Pickler reported from Denver.

Romney Accuses McCain


Romney Accuses McCain of 'Dirty Tricks'

Jan 31 12:04 AM US/Eastern
By LIZ SIDOTIAssociated Press Writer

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) - Republican Mitt Romney accused John McCain of using dirty tricks by suggesting the former Massachusetts governor wanted a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, in a spirited debate Wednesday night that underscored the intensity of their presidential rivalry.

Coming 24 hours after McCain defeated him in Florida, Romney vented his frustrations over the Arizona senator's claims from last weekend.

"I have never, ever supported a specific timetable" for withdrawing troops, Romney said.

McCain's accusation on the eve of Tuesday's primary, he said, "sort of falls into the dirty tricks that I think Ronald Reagan would have found reprehensible."

The debate was held in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., six days before more than 20 states hold primaries or caucuses that could determine who succeeds President Bush as the party's standard-bearer.

McCain stuck to his guns, saying, "of course he said he wanted a timetable" for a withdrawal. McCain had made the allegation in Florida as he tried to shift the debate from the ailing economy, a stronger issue for Romney, a former venture capitalist and businessman.

Last April, Romney said U.S. and Iraqi leaders "have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about" in private.

In Wednesday's debate, Romney said he was not calling for a specific withdrawal date. "It's simply wrong, and the senator knows it," he said. "I will not pull our troops out until we have brought success in Iraq."

For 90 minutes, Romney and McCain sharply challenged each other's conservative credentials and ability to lead the country. But they generally remained civil, and each called the other "a fine man."

Romney tried to portray McCain, who performs well among political independents, as out of the conservative mainstream as the contest moves toward a cluster of states where only registered Republicans can vote. He said the Arizona senator twice voted against President Bush's tax cuts and pushed campaign finance reforms that restricted fundraising and spending. The Republican establishment embraced the tax cuts and opposed the new campaign law, which many saw as helpful to Democrats.

"Those views are outside the view of mainstream Republican thought," Romney said. He made similar arguments in Florida, but lost to McCain by 5 percentage points.

McCain disputed the claims. "I'm proud of my conservative record," he said.

In a counterpunch, he said Romney left Massachusetts with high taxes and a large debt. "His job creation was the third worst in the country," McCain said, a claim Romney rejected.

The debate allowed McCain and Romney to focus on one another after Florida voters left no doubt that they are the party's two viable contenders. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani left the race earlier Wednesday and endorsed McCain.

During the debate, The Associated Press reported that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would endorse McCain on Thursday. Schwarzenegger was in the audience, as was Nancy Reagan, widow of the former president.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas also participated in the debate televised by CNN, but largely watched as the two front-runners, who were seated next to each other, trade barbs. Huckabee protested, "this isn't a two-man race."

"If you want to talk conservative credentials, let me get in on that," said Huckabee, who has won no contest since the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus.

Paul reiterated his criticisms of the Iraq war and U.S. monetary policies.

McCain tried to deflect questions on illegal immigration, a sore point with many Republicans who resented his push for a Senate bill, ultimately unsuccessful, that would have granted a path to legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants now in the country.

Asked if he would vote for his bill now, McCain replied, "it won't" come to a vote "because people want the borders secured first." He said he supports new efforts to prevent illegal crossings.

California is one of several states voting on Tuesday that has a large immigrant population.

Romney said McCain opposed Bush's first-term tax cuts because they were tilted largely toward the rich. But Romney defended the cuts, saying, "I believe in getting rates down. I think that builds our economy."

McCain said he opposes tax cuts that are not coupled with spending restraints. Republicans lost congressional seats in 2006 less because of the Iraq war than because of out-of-control spending that alienated conservatives, McCain said.

Schwarzenegger for McCain

Gov. Schwarzenegger to Endorse McCain
Jan 30, 9:20 PM (ET)
By LIZ SIDOTI and MICHAEL R. BLOOD

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will endorse John McCain on Thursday, giving a certain boost to the Republican presidential front-runner six days before California's high-prize primary.

The two will appear at a news conference after touring a Los Angeles-based solar energy company and the governor will make his endorsement official, his senior aides confirmed Wednesday.

Schwarzenegger's endorsement is yet another setback for Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who saw Florida slip from his grasp Tuesday after McCain rolled up the support of that state's two top elected Republicans, Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez.

His strategy in tatters, Romney plans to offer himself as the conservative alternative to McCain as he pushes ahead in hopes of winning enough delegates to topple the Arizona senator when 21 states vote in the Republican contest on Tuesday.

Schwarzenegger's move comes as McCain plows ahead toward the nomination, the only Republican candidate to have won three hotly contested primaries since voting began earlier this month.

"Governor Schwarzenegger is an exceptional governor and we are honored that he has decided to endorse Senator McCain, and look forward to the event tomorrow," said Steve Schmidt, a senior McCain adviser who managed Schwarzenegger's 2006 campaign.

The four-term senator is running strongly ahead of his competitors in California, which offers a whopping 170 delegates to the Republican nominating convention. Candidates secure three delegates for each of the state's 53 congressional districts they win in the primary, in which only Republicans can vote.

The ultimate effect of Schwarzenegger's endorsement is unclear. The celebrity governor and former actor is universally known in the state, and his political network certainly will be helpful to McCain, who has virtually no organized effort in California after his candidacy nearly collapsed. The actor-turned-governor also is a prolific fundraiser.

But Schwarzenegger has a strained relationship with some conservatives in his own party and McCain, himself, is fighting to convince GOP rank-and-file that he's committed to conservative values. Schwarzenegger's nod could exacerbate concerns about McCain among the party establishment.

Schwarzenegger also is taking heat from state Republicans who argue he's been too willing to bend to the wishes of the Democratic-controlled Legislature. At the same time, California faces a $14.5 billion budget deficit over the next year-and-half, and the governor has rankled the state's powerful education lobby with his proposal to cut spending by 10 percent from state agencies to deal with the financial crisis.

McCain and Schwarzenegger have been friends for years, and the two share a bond over their work on global warming issues as well as their similar independent streaks. Aides say Schwarzenegger long has respected McCain's push to eliminate wasteful spending in Washington, protect the environment and fix a broken immigration system.

The governor offered high praise of McCain throughout the campaign, calling him a "great senator" and "very good friend," and the two appeared together at the Port of Los Angeles last year. "We share common philosophy and goals for this country," McCain said at the time.

But Schwarzenegger always has stopped short of endorsing McCain, given that another friend, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, also was in the race.

Earlier this month, Schwarzenegger told reporters he would not make an endorsement in the GOP primary, saying then: "It doesn't help me, and it doesn't help the state of California." But senior advisers say Giuliani's departure from the race Wednesday changed the dynamics of the decision for Schwarzenegger, and he decided to go ahead with the endorsement as it was clear that Giuliani's candidacy was over.

Giuliani Backs McCain

Giuliani Prepares to Exit, Back McCain
Jan 29, 10:40 PM (ET)

By DEVLIN BARRETT

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Rudy Giuliani, who bet his presidential hopes on Florida only to come in third, prepared to quit the race Tuesday and endorse his friendliest rival, John McCain.

The former New York mayor stopped short of announcing he was stepping down, but delivered a valedictory speech that was more farewell than fight-on.

Giuliani finished a distant third to winner McCain and second-place finisher Mitt Romney. Republican officials said Giuliani would endorse McCain on Wednesday in California. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the public announcement.

"The responsibility of leadership doesn't end with a single campaign, it goes on and you continue to fight for it," Giuliani said, as supporters with tight smiles crowded behind him. "We ran a campaign that was uplifting."

Asked directly if he was dropping out of the race, Giuliani said only: "I'm going to California."
Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to debate in Simi Valley Wednesday night.

Tuesday's result was a remarkable collapse for Giuliani. Last year, he occupied the top of national polls and seemed destined to turn conventional wisdom on end by running as a moderate Republican who supported abortion rights, gay rights and gun control.

"Elections are about fighting for a cause larger than ourselves," he said at one point, echoing one of McCain's most popular refrains.

The results seriously decimated Giuliani's unconventional strategy, which relied heavily on Florida to launch him into the coast-to-coast Feb. 5 nominating contests.

He largely bypassed the early voting states, figuring that the early states would produce multiple winners and no front-runner.

But Florida proved to be less than hospitable. The state's top two Republicans - Sen. Mel Martinez and Gov. Charlie Crist - endorsed McCain. And Giuliani, who once led in state polls, saw his support swiftly erode.

After seven contests, Giuliani had just one delegate and four sixth-place finishes. His third-place showing in Florida was his best. He finished fourth in New Hampshire.

Giuliani's bid for the nomination was based on his leadership. The only question was how many voters would follow.

His stalwart performance as New York mayor in the tense days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks earned him national magazine covers, international accolades and widespread praise. Yet, Giuliani was always a Republican anomaly - a moderate-to-liberal New Yorker who backed abortion rights, gay rights and gun control in a party dominated by Southern conservatives.

And even though several of his rivals were divorced and remarried, none had the dissolution of their second marriage and trysts with current wife Judith Nathan attract as much attention.

In the early days of the presidential campaign, Giuliani's mayoral record and familiar name propelled him to the lead in the polls, but voters admitted they had lots to learn about him and his positions on the issues.

Florida: Economy Shadow

Economy Casts Heavy Shadow Over Florida Primary
GOP Electorate Moves Further Right: Conservatives Account for Six in Ten

By PEYTON CRAIGHILL and BRIAN HARTMAN
Jan. 29, 2007 —

The number of conservatives voting in today's Florida Republican primary ticked up again this election cycle, and most of them showed up at the polls this year with the economy on their minds.

If these preliminary exit poll results hold, the GOP electorate will have moved further right since 1992, when about half described themselves as conservative. This year, conservatives accounted for six in 10 voters. Fewer than half of voters -- about four in 10 -- consider themselves evangelicals.

The economy is by far the top issue -- just about half said so in these preliminary results. That's double the next highest priorities, terrorism and illegal immigration. Though more than six in 10 expressed positive feelings about President Bush, about as many said the nation's economy is not going well.

Slightly more Republicans were looking for a candidate who shared their values, as opposed to one who has the right experience. But more than half said the candidates' positions on the issues was more important than their personal qualities.

GOP voters are overwhelmingly white -- more than in eight in 10 of them. More than half the voters are male, slightly higher than in the last two Florida primaries. Hispanics account for about one in 10 voters; just over half of them are Cuban, about what they've been in the past.
More than half said illegal immigrants should be offered citizenship or given temporary worker status. Somewhat fewer, around four in 10, said they should be deported.

But this race may not be captivating seniors as much as in the past. They appear to be turning out in a slightly smaller proportion to the rest of the vote when compared with 2000, when they were about four in 10.

Just over a quarter of the voters were veterans.

Change Sought By Florida Democrats

On the Democratic side, about half of all Democratic voters identified themselves as political liberals, up from past Florida primaries.

As in previous primaries, delivering change was the top quality sought by Florida Democrats, according to these preliminary results. Just under half said it mattered most to their vote, about double those who said they were looking for experience.

If preliminary results hold, women will have made up slightly more of the Democratic vote than in 2004, and black voters will have made up slightly less.

Democrats are even more downbeat on the economy than Republicans, with more than nine in 10 saying the economy is not going well. And more than half ranked the economy as the issue that most determined their vote. A quarter named the war in Iraq, and somewhat fewer said health care.

Most Democrats also expressed displeasure at the tenor of the campaign so far, with three-quarters saying at least one of the candidates had launched unfair attacks. But whoever wins, they believe he country is ready for either a woman or a black president.

ABC News' Richard Morin and Patrick Moynihan contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

Romney, McCain Showdown

McCain, Romney Set for Florida Showdown
By LIZ SIDOTI

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney spent a week hammering each other on the economy and national security heading into the Florida presidential primary that could solidify one man as the party's front-runner.

All that was left to do Tuesday was urge people to vote.

Critical phone calls, negative radio ads, and bitter, personal exchanges marked the final hours before the primary. The contest offers the winner the state's 57 delegates to GOP nominating convention and serves as a gateway to the 20-plus states with nominating contests on Feb. 5.

Recent polls show McCain, the Arizona senator, and Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, in a dead heat; both hope a Florida win will provide a burst of energy heading into the virtual national primary a week later.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who has lost six straight contests, is seeking a win to remain a viable candidate. But he is far behind in the polls, and a poor showing could force him to abandon his bid. Also lagging is Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who hasn't won since the Iowa caucuses nearly a month ago and hardly competed in Florida.

The contest is so tight that just about any factor could tip the balance.
More so than his rival, Romney has a get-out-the-vote effort as well as early and absentee voting programs. He's spent considerable time and money in the state in the past year. The recent focus on the economy works in his favor; he's been pushing his private-sector credentials and arguing that he's the most capable to turn the country away from the brink of recession.

Conversely, McCain is backed by Florida's top two Republican elected officials, Sen. Mel Martinez and Gov. Charlie Crist, and has endorsements from a slew of Florida newspapers. The former Vietnam prisoner of war also has universal name recognition, as well as ownership of an issue important to the large number of veterans and active military in the state - national security.

McCain is expected to do well in areas with a strong military presence - Pensacola, Jacksonville, Tampa. He's also hoping for a strong turnout in Miami, with its heavy Cuban-American population, and Orlando, a melting pot. Romney is fighting for the southwest part of the state around Fort Myers and Sarasota; it's much like the Midwest, where he was raised. Another likely stronghold, Palm Beach and Broward County, home to many Northeastern transplants.

Up for grabs is the corridor along Interstate 4 between Tampa and Daytona Beach, a swing area that has seen much growth and is home to roughly two-thirds of the Republican primary vote.

Expect Florida Record Turnout

Florida primary turnout may set record
BY GARY FINEOUT

Nearly one million Floridians have already cast early and absentee ballots in the state's primary, a sign that moving up the date of the presidential primary will likely yield a record turnout on Tuesday.

The last time there was a contested presidential primary on both the Republican and Democratic sides, only about 19 percent of Florida voters, or 1.34 million, cast ballots. But numbers assembled by the political parties show that more than 988,000 people had voted by Sunday.

And thousands more voted Sunday afternoon in the seven Florida counties, including Miami-Dade and Broward, that were still conducting early voting. Lines at some early voting sites in South Florida snaked around buildings and stretched out onto sidewalks.

The boost in voters, a stark contrast from the 2000 presidential primary, coincides with the decision by the Florida Legislature to move up the primary date from March to Jan. 29 as well as highly competitive races in both parties.

''I think the Legislature's decision to move Florida's primary earlier in the process has been vindicated by the overwhelming voter participation that we have already seen,'' said Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican and sponsor of the bill to change the primary date. "Florida is finally relevant in the presidential nominating process and voters are responding to that newfound relevance.''

Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Lester Sola said that, between early voting and absentee ballots, turnout has already matched the entire 2000 primary turnout. Nearly 10,000 people voted on Sunday afternoon and he said that points to plenty of voters showing up on Tuesday.

"We're expecting a busy day,'' Sola said.

There are 10.2 million registered voters in Florida. Of those who had already voted by Sunday, nearly 474,000 are registered Republicans and 405,000 are Democrats. An additional 109,000 voters -- who are either registered with other parties or are independents -- have also voted on the property-tax amendment on the ballot.

PUSHING FOR VOTES

The Republican edge isn't surprising, given that GOP candidates have descended on the state with bus trips, television ads and coast-to-coast campaigning. But the Democratic turnout has been boosted by an absentee-ballot effort by the Florida Democratic Party and by unions supporting Hillary Clinton that sent mailers to members urging that they vote.

The Democratic National Committee stripped Florida of its 210 delegates for moving up the primary date, but that hasn't sapped voter enthusiasm.

In Miami Beach, Patricia Jungman, 49, and her 21-year-old son, Andrew, both showed up on Sunday to vote in the Democratic primary. Patricia voted for Clinton. Andrew said he supports Barack Obama but cast his vote for John Edwards to "keep him in the race.''

''The more options we have, the more they'll compete,'' he said. "When it's only Barack and Hillary, they're going at it. It's like a slugfest. Then you have Edwards in the back keeping peace.''

At Southwest Regional Library in Pembroke Pines, a line snaked from inside the sprawling building onto the parking lot midafternoon. Mitt Romney yard signs dotted the grass and droves of voters spent long minutes looking for parking in the crowded lot.

The scene at the Davie/Cooper City Branch Library was less intense, but voters who work weekdays came out to beat Tuesday's crush. Voters and sign holders parked on the grass.

SWITCH BACK TO PAPER

This year's election will not only go down in the history books for its record turnout -- it will also mark the last time touchscreen voting machines will be used by most voters in a major statewide election. This fall, only disabled voters will be using touchscreen machines.

Fourteen counties -- including Miami-Dade and Broward -- will use the ATM-style machines on Tuesday, then switch to optical-scan machines that use paper ballots.

Later this year, the state will take possession of nearly 28,000 touchscreen machines -- including nearly 10,000 now used in Broward and Miami-Dade.

While problems with touchscreen machines were reported earlier this month in South Carolina, Florida election supervisors reported only minor problems.

Secretary of State Kurt Browning said there wasn't enough time to have counties switch from touchscreen machines to optical scan in time for Tuesday's primary, but added he remained confident that Florida's election should go smoothly.

Miami Herald staff writers Rich Bard, Natalie P. McNeal and Jonnelle Marte contributed to this report.