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Politics Today: Sanford Saga Continues

Politics Today is CBSNews.com's inside look at the key stories driving the day in Politics, written by CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

**Gov. Sanford's mistress speaks out; Sanford says he's staying put...

**Supreme Court expected to rule on Sotomayor-related case today...

**President Obama meets with Colombian President Uribe...

**On Wednesday, Mr. Obama will hold an online "town hall" meeting on health care reform...

GOV. MARK SANFORD: "South Carolina's wandering governor didn't give away her name when he confessed to having an affair with an Argentine woman, but Maria Belen Chapur has finally stepped forward," reports the Associated Press' Eduardo Gallardo.

(AP Photo/C5N TV)
"After evading hordes of local and foreign journalists who besieged her apartment building for five days amid rumors it was her, Chapur issued a brief statement Sunday confirming a relationship with Gov. Mark Sanford — although she didn't use the word 'affair.'

"In fact, the 41-year-old mother of two children didn't directly mention the governor in the statement sent to C5n, a local all-news cable television channel. She mainly criticized the leaking of e-mail correspondence taken without permission from her Hotmail account that described the relationship with Sanford. Chapur made clear the statement was her final comment and she has no intention of talking about her private life."

Meantime, "South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford says he's not quitting — even though he considered it — despite intense scrutiny and criticism over his admitted affair with a woman from Argentina," reports the Associated Press' Tamara Lush. ...

(AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
"Sanford was scheduled to chair a state budget board Monday, which would be his second public meeting as governor after a state cabinet gathering Friday that drew live national television coverage and where he apologized to fellow state leaders. In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Sanford said Sunday thought about stepping down and away from the public eye to rebuild his life. That was until close spiritual and political associates urged him to instead fight to restore people's trust and finish out the 18 months left in his term. 'Resigning would be the easiest thing to do,' he said. ... 'Part of walking humbly is you've got to listen to your critics out there,' the 49-year-old Sanford said. 'And all of us will have critics, and the higher you go, I suppose, the more critics you have.'"

In South Carolina, "Some Republican state lawmakers are privately saying they want Republican Gov. Mark Sanford to step down — of his own volition — this week," reports The State's Gina Smith.

"Meanwhile, Sanford has spent portions of the last few days phoning key lawmakers and Republican Party activists, apologizing for his affair with an Argentinian woman that left him out of touch with his staff and other state leaders for the better part of a week. On another note, a source close to Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said Sunday that Bauer has approached members of the Senate to discuss the possibility that, if Sanford resigns, Bauer would only serve the remainder of the governor's term, focusing on job creation, and would not run for governor in 2010 as Bauer had originally intended."

"In the should-he-stay-or-should-he-go drama now playing out in South Carolina over Gov. Mark Sanford, there is one group of people that is fervently, if quietly, hoping that he will stay," writes Politico's Jonathan Martin.

"Their motivation is not loyalty to their adulterous governor. It is dismay over what would happen if Sanford bows to pressure and steps down: Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer would step up. That would give Bauer – like Sanford, a Republican – an advantage in what was already shaping up as a brutally competitive GOP primary to replace the term-limited incumbent in 2010."

The New York Times' Shaila Dewan and Jim Rutenberg add, "'There are so many competing interests at work now, 24-7 — whether it's the people who want the governor to stay, or people who want him to go,' said Katon Dawson, a former chairman of the state Republican Party. 'It's as rough as I've ever seen it — it's mean, the long knives come out at night.' …

(AP)
"Mr. Bauer's camp appears to have been orchestrating pressure for a resignation. 'André Bauer is my client; I've been working this since Monday,' wrote Chris LaCivita, a political consultant on Mr. Bauer's team, in an e-mail message to another Republican political operative that was provided to The New York Times by an opponent of Mr. Bauer. 'I need to get this guy (Sanford) out,' he wrote, referring to the governor. But Mr. LaCivita stumbled into the mare's nest of South Carolina politics, apparently unaware that he was sending the message to an ally of Mr. McMaster, who has declined to call for the governor's resignation and said that any investigation of the governor should be free of political motivations. 'On this, I can't help you,' the recipient, Curt Anderson, a national political consultant, responded. 'Henry McMaster has been a friend of mine for almost 20 years.'"

Washington Post's Philip Rucker, "In S.C., Governor's Wife Is 'the Hero in This Story"

Associated Press' Douglass K. Daniel, "Republicans eyed for 2012 weigh Sanford fallout"

SOTOMAYOR / NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTERS CASE: On Justice David Souter's last day on the Supreme Court, the Court is expected to release a decision today on the case of the New Haven, Conn. firefighters who claim they were denied promotions because of racial reasons.

5065717"The decision will get extra attention because [Sonia] Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's nominee to replace Souter, sat on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New York that ruled against the white firefighters last year," reports Bloomberg News' Kristen Jensen and Jane Mills.

"Her position in the Ricci case essentially supports racial preferences embodied in affirmative action plans, said Michael Dorf, a professor at Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York.

"'It will be front and center for Republicans who want to oppose her,' said Dorf, who has written books on constitutional law and follows the high court closely. 'That is the one real arrow they have in their quiver, and I would be surprised if they didn't shoot it over and over again.' Senate Republicans such as John Cornyn of Texas and Susan Collins of Maine have expressed concern about the 2nd Circuit court ruling, though opposing Sotomayor, 55, the first Hispanic nominee to the high court, may prove treacherous."

"A high court decision is anticipated this morning in Ricci v. DeStefano, which experts say could change how municipalities across the country treat race in employment," adds the New Haven Register's William Kaempffer.

(AP)
"Twenty New Haven firefighters — 19 white and one Hispanic — sued Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and other city officials in 2004 after the city threw out the results of two promotional exams. The city maintains it threw out the exams because blacks performed disproportionately poorly, and none scored well enough to be promoted to the vacancies at the time.

"City attorneys have said that if the tests were certified, African-American firefighters could have sued the city because the results had a disparate impact on them, in possible violation of civil rights laws. The so-called New Haven 20 argued the city violated their right to equal treatment, saying they were denied promotion because they were white. The legal arguments, in essence, put the two fundamental tenets of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at war. 'The entire nation is watching,' Scot X. Esdaile, president of the state NAACP, said recently in describing the importance of the case from a civil rights perspective."

**FOR MORE on today's ruling, catch "Washington Unplugged", live at 12:30 p.m. ET on CBSNews.com. Moderator John Dickerson will discuss the Ricci case with CBS News Supreme Court Correspondent Wyatt Andrews, Matthew Colangelo from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Center for Individual Rights' Michael Rosman.

(AP)
PRESIDENT OBAMA TODAY: The president meets with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (who's at right in photo on the left) a time when the Obama administration is questioning that country's record on human rights, reports the Washington Post's Juan Forero.

"In a White House ceremony in January, President George W. Bush awarded Colombian President Álvaro Uribe the Presidential Medal of Freedom and praised him for his "immense personal courage and strength of character" for taking on his country's fight against Marxist guerrillas. On Monday, Uribe again arrives at the White House. But this time he will encounter an administration pushing to expand its alliances in Latin America and increasingly worried about Colombia's dismal human rights record, Colombia experts say.

"Obama administration officials declined interview requests to discuss policy toward Colombia, a country that has received nearly $6 billion in mostly military aid since Uribe took office in 2002. But four people who have met with policymakers in the Obama administration say the United States is concerned about the wiretapping and surveillance of Uribe's critics by an intelligence agency controlled by the presidency and reports that as many as 1,700 civilians have been killed by Colombian army units in what a preliminary United Nations investigation characterized as 'cold-blooded, premeditated murder.'"

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
HEALTH CARE REFORM: From WhiteHouse.gov: "[T]he White House is taking another step to connect with people outside of Washington and answer some of the most common questions you have. In the coming days, we're going to focus on your questions about health care, with President Obama and some of his top health care advisors providing answers. On Wednesday, the President will hold another online town hall to answer more of your questions. This online town hall will be a little different than the last one. This time around, we are engaging online networks outside of WhiteHouse.gov, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter."

"President Obama's top political adviser declined yesterday to rule out the possibility that the White House would agree to a tax hike on health insurance plans that would hit middle-income Americans," writes the Washington Post's Michael D. Shear.

"Speaking on ABC's "This Week," David Axelrod declined to repeat Obama's 'firm pledge' during the campaign that families making under $250,000 would not see 'any form of tax increase, not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.' Instead, Axelrod said the president has no interest in 'drawing lines in the sand' on the issue of how to pay for the costly health reform plan making its way through Congress.

"'One of the problems we've had in this town is that people draw lines in the sand and they stop talking to each other. And you don't get anything done,' Axelrod said. 'That's not the way the president approaches this.'"

5078652"When U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd needed help winning support for landmark legislation granting employees unpaid time off to care for a new baby or a sick relative, he turned to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy," writes the Hartford Courant's Daniela Altimari. …

"These days, it is Kennedy, sidelined by brain cancer, who is turning to Dodd: He has tapped the Connecticut Democrat as his surrogate on health care reform — what he calls 'the cause of my life.' 'Sen. Kennedy views this as his legacy,' said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, who knows both men well. 'Who do you entrust those kinds of things to but the people you feel the closest to?' ...

"These days, Dodd said, he speaks to Kennedy constantly and travels to Cape Cod to visit him about every other week. (Kennedy's staff declined a request for an interview.) 'I was with him last Sunday, I spent an hour with him in Hyannis,' Dodd said Friday. They talked business for a while, but Kennedy was also interested in the latest Washington gossip."

ALSO TODAY: At 1:15 p.m. ET, the president makes remarks on energy at the White House.

At 4:25 p.m. ET, the president holds an event in the East Room recognizing the achievements of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. Tonight, he attends an event with members of his presidential campaign's national finance team.

First Lady Michelle Obama visits the Unity Health Care Upper Cardoza Community Health Center in Washington, D.C., where she'll deliver remarks and visit privately with patients and caregivers.

IRAN

Associated Press' Philip Elliot, "Obama officials: talks with Iran still possible"

Reuters' Fredrik Dahl and Parisa Hafezi, "Partial recount in Iran, reformers want annulment"

CLIMATE BILL

Bloomberg News' Lorraine Woellert and Simon Lomax, "Climate Plan Faces Challenge After Narrow U.S. House Victory"

Associated Press' Liz Sidoti, "Obama scores major victory on climate"

NY Times' John M. Broder, "Obama Opposes Trade Sanctions in Climate Bill"

LA Times' Jim Tankersley, "Obama champions energy bill but not its tariffs"

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid and Greg Hitt, "Democrats Present Hurdles for Obama": " The friction is emerging despite the fact that Democrats hold the White House and overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate. But Mr. Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are pressing an unusually ambitious agenda, and most of the Democrats' recent gains came from capturing seats in conservative areas, whose representatives are less likely to go along with his more far-reaching plans. The question is whether the self-identified centrist Democrats will end up thwarting Mr. Obama's key priorities, or mainly act as an influence in scaling them back."

FUTURE RACES

The Hill's Aaron Blake, "Northeastern 2010 GOP picture taking shape"

2009 NJ Governor: Associated Press' Angela Delli Sant, "Candidates have month to pick running mates"

2009 VA Governor: Washington Post's Rosalind S. Helderman, "For GOP, Taxes Retain Potency"

2010 CT Senate: CQ Politics' Emily Cadei, "Schiff Polling for Potential Senate Run Against Dodd in Connecticut"

2010 NY Senate: Elmira Star Gazette's Brian Tumulty, "4 Democrats line up to challenge Gillibrand"

2010 OH Senate: Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, "Portman the Insider: Will Mr. Washington Go To Washington?"

2012 Presidential: Politico's Jonathan Martin, "Mitt Romney's team awaits 2012"

ETC.

Time Magazine's Amy Sullivan, "The Obamas Find a Church Home – Away from Home"

NY Daily News' Rush and Malloy, "Aide's tale of John Edwards sex tape"

Tampa Tribune, "TV pitchman Billy Mays found dead in Tampa home"

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