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Starting Gate: GOP Faces Craig Conundrum

(AP)
Senator Larry Craig may not do well in pressure situations but he's certainly learned the art of stubbornness. When arrested for allegedly soliciting sex from a police office in a Minneapolis airport bathroom, Craig pleaded guilty because, he said, of the pressure he felt to keep the incident quiet. When the incident became public last month and instantly became a national punchline, Craig announced that he "intended" to resign at the end of September. Now that his legal challenge to the guilty plea has been turned down by a judge, Craig insists he will stay through the end of his term.

Yesterday's rebuff of Craig's bid to have his guilty plea reversed had been seen as the trigger for his resignation. But it may have gained him the extra time he needs to fight on, as he alluded to in his post-ruling statement. If his plea would have been revoked and reversed, Craig would then be exposed to a trial that would rehash the entire incident. Now, he can continue to "explore" his "additional legal options" while his fellow Republicans are put into a position of ratcheting up the pressure with public ethics hearings or letting Craig continue on.

A resignation is what GOP leaders sought to put the incident behind them. Now that it appears unlikely, they'll have to calculate the potential further damage that may be incurred by the spectacle of going after one of their own. Perhaps Craig decided to call the bluff. In many ways, the damage has been done. The bathroom humor, pardon the pun, would remain whether Craig does or not. Do Republicans want to keep the story on front-pages with public hearings?


Wearing The Flag: CBSNews.com's David Miller looks at the latest flag flap: On Thursday the AP noted that Barack Obama doesn't wear the American flag lapel pin that became a must-have accessory in Washington after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. According to the report, Obama told KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa that he prefers to express his patriotism through his ideas rather than through a pin.

Is Obama taking a risky stand? Maybe not so much. The flag pin doesn't seem to be a required accessory on the campaign trail for candidates like Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Mitt Romney and John McCain. None of them were seen sporting the stars and stripes at the last debates they attended, and photos of other recent public appearances show bare lapels as well, although reports suggest they do at times and all are surrounded by American flags at many of their speeches.

The lone exception when it comes to wearing the symbol among the top-tier candidates is the Republican front-runner, Rudy Giuliani. Whether in a suit or a tuxedo, Giuliani doesn't seem to go out in public without the lapel pin -- apparently, America's flag is a popular choice with America's Mayor.

Obama's Iowa Surprise? CBSNews.com's Brian Montopoli yesterday looked at the hurdles Barack Obama has to overcome in Iowa if he's going to get his "hidden vote" out to the caucuses next January. The AP today reports that Obama has a three-pronged strategy to win in Iowa: "Keep Clinton's support down"; "Keep Edwards from surging ahead"; "Continue building Obama's support among both traditional and
nontraditional voters." Or, better stated: Get more people to show up than anyone else.

Around The Track

  • The New York Times revisits the radio show Rudy Giuliani hosted as mayor and comes up with some comments we're likely to hear repeated by his primary foes, like this one on the NRA and assault weapons: "By definition these are attack weapons. They are used for offense. It really is absolutely astounding that the N.R.A. continues to have influence in areas in which they make no sense at all."
  • Mitt Romney is up with a new 60-second radio ad in New Hampshire touting his pledge not to raise taxes: "I'm proud to be the only major candidate for president to sign the tax pledge. The others have not."
  • California Republican activist Lew Uhler tells the AP that he's looking into reviving the idea of a ballot initiative that would split the state's electoral votes by congressional district: "We are talking to prospective contributors. We are talking to lawyers for purposes of making sure we follow all of the campaign-finance reporting rules. We're getting some serious interest, but I can't go to the bank with what I've got yet."
  • Congressional members from Iowa and New Hampshire have fired off a letter to House leaders asking them to keep Congress out of their primary – and caucus – business. From the letter: "This system has allowed presidential candidates to focus grass-roots campaigning in our states and helps ensure that the nominees are able to relate to Americans on a personal level and not solely through costly 30-second television commercials."
  • It's never a good sign when your arraignment on charges of disorderly conduct turns into a campaign speech.