Politics Update

IN THE HEADLINES

McCain wants to temporarily halt federal gas tax ... Poll: Clinton ahead 6 points in Pa. one week before primary ... The trailing Democrat in the presidential race should drop out by June 3, Frank says ... Gun rights a hot topic in Pennsylvania but barely visible in Democratic presidential campaign

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McCain proposes break in gas taxes

PITTSBURGH (AP) — John McCain called Tuesday for the federal government to free people from paying gasoline taxes this summer and ensure that college students can secure loans this fall, proposals aimed at stemming the public's pain now from the troubled economy.

In the longer-term, the Republican nominee-in-waiting said he would double the tax exemption for dependent children and offer people the option of choosing a simpler tax system.

"We know from experience that no serious reform of the current tax code will come out of Congress, so now it is time to turn the decision over to the people," McCain said in an economic speech at Carnegie Mellon University a week before Pennsylvania's primaries.

To help people weather the downturn immediately, McCain urged Congress to institute a "gas-tax holiday" by suspending the 18.4 cent federal gas tax and 24.4 cent diesel tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day. He also renewed his call for the United States to stop adding to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and thus lessen to some extent the worldwide demand for oil.

Combined, he said, the two proposals would reduce gas prices, which would have a trickle-down effect, and "help to spread relief across the American economy."

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Poll: Clinton holding the line in Pa.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton is holding the line as the front-runner in the Democratic presidential race in Pennsylvania, a Quinnipiac University poll shows.

Clinton leads rival Barack Obama 50 percent to 44 percent one week before the state holds its primary.

After three weeks of shifts in Obama's favor, the percentages in this survey remained unchanged from one taken a week earlier. Support for Obama among the state's black voters surged to 86 percent, compared with 75 percent a week ago, while Clinton maintained her advantage among whites, 57 percent to Obama's 37 percent. Twenty-six percent of Clinton supporters said they would vote for presumptive Republican nominee John McCain in November if Obama is the Democratic nominee, while 19 percent of Obama's backers said they would support McCain if Clinton is the nominee.

The poll was conducted by telephone from April 9-13. It involved interviews 2,103 likely Democratic voters in Pennsylvania. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

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Frank: Trailing Democrat should drop out

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Barney Frank said the trailing Democratic presidential candidate should drop out of the race by no later than June 3 — the date of the two last Democratic primaries — even if it is the candidate he supports, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"Probably sooner," the Massachusetts congressman added in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. He suggested that the trailing candidate should drop out once it became clear that candidate had no remaining practical chance of winning the nomination.

South Dakota and Montana vote on that day. Sen. Barack Obama currently leads Clinton in both pledged delegates and in the popular vote. But neither can mathematically win a majority by that date and the final outcome will depend on superdelegates.

As a member of Congress, Frank is one of the nearly 800 elected officials and party leaders who are superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention.

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Gun rights, gun deaths divide Pa. voters

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are gingerly threading their way between two of the most politically charged numbers in Pennsylvania: the state's almost 1 million licensed hunters and Philadelphia's nearly one-a-day rate of gun murders.

Gun control arouses deep emotions here. Deadly shootings have earned the state's largest city the ominous nickname: "Killadelphia." One of the strongest antigun control groups, the National Rifle Association, has 250,000 members in Pennsylvania, more than in any other state. This month the Pennsylvania House soundly defeated a bill to require handgun owners to report the theft or loss of their guns to police.

As the state's hotly contested April 22 primary approaches, the Democratic presidential candidates have struggled to avoid alienating either side, to the point of pandering.

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THE DEMOCRATS

Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Newspaper Association of America conference in Washington. Barack Obama speaks at a conference of the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department in Washington before holding an event with veterans in Pennsylvania.

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THE REPUBLICANS

John McCain gives a speech on the economy in Pittsburgh.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"Hey, if there's any consolation for Senator Obama, I've done real well in small towns and in blue-collar communities. I've been blessed by their votes, and I'm a pretty bad bowler." — Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., speaking on NBC's "Today" show about Democrat Barack Obama's chances with working-class voters. Casey has endorsed Obama.

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STAT OF THE DAY:

Male Democratic voters' support for presidential candidate Barack Obama has dropped 7 points since February to 50 percent, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos national poll conducted last week. Rival Hillary Rodham Clinton gained 10 points among men since an AP-Ipsos poll taken in late February. She is now at 42 percent.


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