John King, USA

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September 13th, 2010
09:07 PM ET

Plouffe slams Gingrich's line of attack

(CNN) – The architect of President Obama's 2008 presidential campaign Monday sharply criticized remarks made by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich over the weekend that President Obama follows a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview.

"Two words that come to mind are 'sad' and 'reprehensible,'" David Plouffe told CNN's John King on John King USA.

"It makes me think . he's probably pretty sure he's going to run for president," Plouffe added, suggesting Gingrich may have been trying to appease the most conservative elements of the Republican Party.

Gingrich has recently made a number of trips to earlier primary states, fueling speculation that a 2012 bid for the Republican presidential nomination is on his mind.

The former House speaker made the comments in an interview with the National Review that was published over the weekend on their website.

"This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president," he said, adding later "I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating – none of which was true. In the Alinksy tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve...He was authentically dishonest."

"What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?" he also said. "That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."

Gingrich said he was basing his comments on a recent column in Forbes Magazine by Dinesh D'Souza that concludes the president's worldview was significantly shaped by that of his Kenyan-born father.

Plouffe said Gingrich is "clearly a very intelligent person" who he sensed, while in Congress, acted based on principle. But his comments, Plouffe added, "are really not the Newt Gingrich I think a lot of us remembered."

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August 11th, 2010
06:15 PM ET

Buck: Republicans are also to blame for 'mess' in Washington

Editor's Note: Watch John King USA at 7 p.m. on CNN.

(CNN) – The Republican nominee for Senate in Colorado said Wednesday that Republican frustration with both parties in Washington politics is driving grassroots victories over establishment candidates in GOP primaries around the country.

"I think Republicans realize that Republicans are every bit as much to blame for the mess that we are in in D.C. as the Democrats," Ken Buck told CNN's John King in an interview set to air at 7 p.m. on John King USA. "And we can't send this kind of Republican to Washington, D.C. to fix this mess."

Buck said he doesn't think the Republican Party has a national leader at the moment, and he expects the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee to be selected through "a wonderful process" whereby one contender emerges from a large pool of candidates-much like he has.

"I think we're going to see a number of people get into the race," Buck said. "We'll see who has the stamina, who has the financing, who has […] the grasp of the issues to attract voters."

Buck received national attention last month after a video surfaced online that showed him complaining about Tea Party members who'd asked him about President Obama's birth certificate. On Wednesday, Buck said it was "frustrating to try to deal with those folks."

"I certainly wasn't making a disparaging remark about Tea Partiers generally, but, rather, about a few birthers who were trying to disrupt meetings," Buck said.

Buck, who has made fiscal responsibility a cornerstone of his campaign, said changes need to be made now to keep Social Security afloat.

"We certainly need to raise the retirement age," Buck told King. "I've told my 19-year-old and my 22-year-old that they're not going to be getting retirement benefits at age 62."

"We've got to make sure that our younger workers understand that as life expectancy increases, the retirement date for benefits increases, also," Buck added.

On Tuesday, Buck defeated former Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton in an at-times nasty primary battle. He is running against Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet, who was appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2009.

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August 10th, 2010
11:22 PM ET

War of words between Sestak and Toomey continues

(CNN) – The heated Senate race between Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey raged in two interviews Tuesday as each candidate blamed the other for the ongoing economic downturn.

The race is locked in a dead heat. A Quinnipiac University poll of Pennsylvania voters conducted last month indicated that race was tied at 43 percent, with 12 percent undecided.

Speaking to CNN's John King, Sestak accused Toomey, a former six-term congressman, of advocating for policies that crippled the U.S. economy.

" … When I came to Congress my first year is when the recession began I was also a damage control officer. Those six months after President Bush left the White House, we lost three million jobs because of the policies he and Congressman Toomey – my opponent – had pursued."

But Toomey argued that tax cuts drive the economy.

"Here's the problem liberal Democrats like my opponent Joe Sestak don't understand – that when you cut taxes you can generate strong economic growth and when you raise them you can really damage economic prospects," Toomey said.

"If we raise taxes now as Joe Sestak advocates – and frankly he's already voted for a number of tax increases – if we have another big one now I'm concerned that it could have a really devastating impact on an already very weak economy."

Toomey was referring to the Bush tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire in January. Democrats want to let the cuts lapse for the top 2 percent of income earners – individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families making more than $250,000.

Republicans call it a tax hike; Democrats say the country cannot afford the cuts and argue that the tax cuts contributed to the sharp economic downturn that began near the end of Bush's second term.

Toomey also said he found it "amusing" that former President Bill Clinton was in Pennsylvania Tuesday to campaign for Sestak.

"I have to say I think it's kind of amusing that Joe Sestak doesn't want to be associated with President Obama and Nancy Pelosi – the people whose agenda he's actually voting for and he wants to hearken back to Bill Clinton, who by the way the big accomplishment under the Clinton administration came when Republicans were in control of Congress," Toomey said.

"So if Joe is a big fan of those policies I think the obvious solution is to elect Pat Toomey and other Republicans to congress so that President Obama can have a Republican congress to work with," Toomey added.

Sestak said it was Clinton's economic policies that paved the way for a bustling economy in the late '90s and early 2000s.

"At the end of the day, Pennsylvanians have a lot of common sense and why President Clinton is surely reminding them about a way to approach an economy which created 22 million jobs, and this president today has actually helped caulk the holes of the damage that Congressman Toomey did as he voted for George Bush."

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