Presidential races

Presidential races

Herman Cain apologizes to Muslims

Republican presidential candidate and businessman Herman Cain met with Muslim leaders Wednesday in Sterling, Va. and apologized for past comments that he would not appoint any Muslims to his Cabinet should he win the presidency.

While I stand by my opposition to the interference of Shariah law into the American legal system, I remain humble and contrite for any statements I have made that might have caused offense to Muslim-Americans and their friends, Cain said in a statement after the meeting. I am truly sorry for any comments that may have betrayed my commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it. Muslims, like all Americans, have the right to practice their faith freely and peacefully.

Cain had taken criticism for remarks that Muslims seek to impose Sharia law on Americans. He said in March that he would not appoint any Muslims to his administration, slightly walked back that statement a few weeks later, but shortly afterward said he would only appoint Muslims who renounced Sharia law — and he did not know of any Muslims who would do so.

The candidate is popular with some in the Tea Party movement but has been unable to break into the first tier of the field, and consistently sits in the low single digits in polls. Some within his campaign have long worried his statements on Muslims were a distraction.

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DNC chief promises push for Hispanic votes in conference call

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) promised in a Friday conference call that the Obama campaign would focus on Latinos, a rapidly growing population, in its reelection campaign.

The call was to promote the DNC's first ad of the election cycle, a Spanish-language television ad running in media markets that reach the swing states of Florida, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Virginia.

"This ad buy and the fact that it’s the first one of the campaign season ... sends a very strong signal of just how high a priority this community is to this administration and this president," said Wasserman Schultz. "We know that the Hispanic community has grown across this country and our commitment is to reach voters in every nook and cranny in this country. "

The ad comes on the heels of a series of Spanish-language ads Republican-affiliated Crossroads GPS began airing in many of the same markets this Monday. It touts Obama's economic priorities and attacks Republicans for wanting to "end the Medicare guarantee," a reference to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)'s plan to change Medicare's payment system. 

Noticeably absent in the ad is any reference to immigration reform: The issue was put on the back burner early in the Obama administration, although the president pushed hard in late 2010 to try to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants who moved to the U.S. as children.

The Hispanic population of the U.S. has doubled in the past 20 years, and some of its fastest growth took place in swing states Florida and Virginia. Hispanics broke 2-to-1 for Obama in 2008, but their population has been hit harder than many others by the economic recession, and Republicans hope to make inroads with them this election. 

Numerous polls have shown that immigration is a less important issue to Hispanic voters than the economy, healthcare and education.

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Poll: Perry would start strong as GOP contender

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is just two percentage points behind Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican nomination and the field is wide open, according to a CNN/ORC International Poll released Friday.

Romney continues to hold his lead over the field but wins the support of just 16 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning independents surveyed in the poll. Perry, who has not yet officially decided to run, is backed by 14 percent.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, neither of whom is in the race, polled at 13 percent, while Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) polled at 12, indicating that the race is still fluid — and that Romney and Bachmann, currently the two front-runners, have a tenuous grip on that position.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) polled at 8 percent and businessman Herman Cain received 6 percent. Other candidates who have spent much time on the campaign trail fared poorly: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman each polled at less than 5 percent.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International from July 18-20, with 455 Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for questions regarding the GOP presidential nomination horserace.

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Both parties launch Spanish-language ads in Southwest states

The Republican and Democratic national committees both announced new Spanish-language ads this week targeting Hispanic voters in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada.

The early ads focusing on the presidential election in battleground states with a high Latino population indicate the importance the Hispanic vote will have in 2012.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Friday announced a new Spanish-language ad that will run on TV in several metropolitan areas in the Southwestern states, as well as in Florida and Washington, D.C.

The DNC ad, titled "En quien confiar," emphasizes "the president’s commitment to the Hispanic community" through healthcare and education initiatives, as well as the Recovery Act.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) announced on Wednesday the release of a Spanish-language radio ad running in the Southwestern states. The ad aims to highlight “failed economic leadership” by President Obama.

“The RNC is ready to take the fight to the states where President Obama’s economic policies are stifling job creation and putting recovery on hold,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.

Priebus's Democratic counterpart, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), fired back in a press release announcing the DNC's ad buy. "The administration’s record is clear," she said. "The Republican Party is offering no new solutions to the American people — they simply want to double down on the failed policies that brought our economy to the brink of a depression and hurt millions of American families, including far too many Latinos."

Obama and the Democrats have traditionally taken a large percentage of the Hispanic vote, Obama sweeping the Latino vote by a 2-1 margin in 2008. GOP strategists have warned that with the rising number of Hispanics in the U.S., unless Republicans shift their appeal, Democrats will carry their support at the polls.

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Poll: Perry would start as serious contender

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) would start out as a serious contender should he jump into the 2012 presidential race, a new poll found.

According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, if Perry decided to jump into the presidential race, he would be the top choice of 11 percent of Republican voters, behind only former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and ahead of other candidates already in the race, including Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R).

Thirty percent of voters said Romney would be their first choice if they had to vote in the GOP presidential primary today. Sixteen percent selected Bachmann.

Perry has said he's considering jumping into the presidential race, encouraging longstanding speculation that he would make a run. On Monday, he said he was going through a "steady process of making a decision" about jumping in.

If he does decide to get into the race, he's indicated that he's only interested in being president and won't settle for vice president.

“You kinda [ask the question]: Vice president [or] governor of Texas — that kinda answers itself,” Perry said Tuesday, laughing in response to a question about whether he would accept the No. 2 spot on the ticket.

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Poll: Romney leads Obama in Michigan

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads President Obama in Michigan, according to a new poll.

Romney, whose father was governor of the Wolverine State, leads Obama in a head-to-head matchup by 46 percent to 42 percent, within the survey's four-point margin of error.

Michigan is likely a must-win for Obama. He took 57 percent of the vote there in the 2008 presidential race after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) gave up on the state and pulled out resources a month before the election. But a brutal local economy has hurt Obama with Independents: in the poll, he trails Romney 42 percent to 31 percent with that key group.

Another worrying trend for the president: Detroit, the anchor of any Democratic coalition in the state, has continued to hemorrhage people, losing a quarter of its population since 2000. The state's African-American population has also dropped significantly.

The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted from July 9 to July 11 by the Lansing-based EPIC/MRA.

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Gallup pollster: GOP field wide open, Obama's numbers cemented

The Republican primary field is wide open and President Obama's job-approval numbers have cemented slightly below 50 percent, and are unlikely to move barring a major event, according to Gallup Poll Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport.

Obama "has a strong coalition of certain types of voters ... he's in the mid-forties and that just doesn't move that much," said Newport at a Tuesday breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. "I don't necessarily anticipate that the [electoral] coalitions that have developed are going to shift."

The pollster predicted that unless a major event shifted the public's focus on jobs and the economy, Obama's poll numbers were unlikely to shift much, and that the electoral coalitions the president and Republicans have relied upon would remain intact. Newport speculated that at that point, the presidential election would come down more to turning out the party base than wooing independents.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains the front-runner for the Republican nomination. With the exception of the 2008 presidential campaign, the early front-runner for the GOP almost always becomes the nominee, according to Gallup's polling. But Newport said that Romney was far from guaranteed to win.

"We have a less dominant front-runner now than we've ever had at any point in the Republican field," he said

Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) rise has been reflected in Gallup's polling: she succeeded in raising her name identification among likely Republican primary voters from around 50 percent up to more than three-quarters of voters, rivaling that of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and approaching the numbers held by Republicans like Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Gallup has developed a new polling technique this year to separate out how much voters like candidates from how many know who those candidates are. Based on these numbers, Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have very high positive name recognition, as does businessman Herman Cain. But Cain has failed to broaden his audience in the same way Bachmann has.

Perry, who is considering a run, has lower name recognition but is very well-liked by those who do know him. According to Newport, Perry's backers are much more strongly behind him than Romney's are.

On the other hand, Newport said that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman have "laid a total egg" in trying to reach out to primary voters. Neither has managed to raise his name recognition much, and those who know the candidates aren't enthusiastic about them, according to Newport.

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