Democratic Colorado Sen. Mark Udall faces a potentially tough reelection fight. A conservative group apologized Wednesday for an advertisement using a grim-faced photo of Udall taken after the July 2012 shootings in Aurora, Colo.

Conservative group apologizes for post-Aurora photo in campaign ad

The oeuvre of political advertising — and let’s, for a moment, let that affectation slide by — includes a number of reliable standbys.

There is the homey and heart-warming family montage, intended to humanize a candidate; the employment of a female voiceover, to try to make a harsh attack ad seem less so; the use of grainy, black-and-white footage, often unspooled in slow motion, to make an adversary appear more sinister.

Then, of course, there is the unflattering photo, meant, presumably, to appeal to voters on a more subliminal level, when appeals to reason —He’ll open the prison gates and let criminals loose! She’ll slash programs and leave grandma starving to death in the dark! — fail to work.

On Wednesday, the conservative group Americans for Prosperity was forced to apologize and retract a TV ad in Colorado that used a photograph of a grim-faced Democratic Sen. Mark Udall standing alongside a tense President Obama. It’s a common...

Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas may not be in as much trouble in his reelection bid as Washington analysts have speculated.

New Senate polls offer three lessons and some hope for Democrats

WASHINGTON — Three lessons jump out from the latest round of polling on key U.S. Senate races.

First, just as Democrats have been saying, their endangered incumbent in Arkansas, Sen. Mark Pryor, is doing better than analysts in Washington had believed.

By 47% to 38%, registered voters in Arkansas approved of Pryor’s work in office, with only 14% unable or unwilling to give an opinion, according to a new poll by the New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation. By 46% to 36%, Pryor led his Republican opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton, a former Army captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and has been a rising conservative star since winning a seat in the House in 2012.

Pryor runs significantly ahead of his party’s candidate for governor, the poll found, bolstering the Democratic argument that his personal standing and family name (his father, David Pryor, served as governor and senator) can resist the state’s trend toward the GOP.

Strategists in both parties would...


U.S. spy chief bans employees from talking to journalists

WASHINGTON — A new policy bars employees of U.S. spy agencies from providing reporters with "intelligence information," even if it is unclassified, without first getting official permission.

Employees who violate the directive, which was issued on March 20 by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, face disciplinary action or firing.

Critics said the order adds to a climate in which intelligence agency employees face greater risk in trying to help the public understand what the government is doing.

The order results from congressional demands to plug intelligence leaks after media outlets in 2012 revealed the Stuxnet cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, and a secret informant who had provided intelligence on the Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen.

The directive was made public Monday by Steven Aftergood, who runs the nonpartisan Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy.

Shawn Turner, spokesman for the director of national...

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch children participate in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

Obama's approval rating improves as healthcare drag eases

WASHINGTON -- President Obama’s job approval ratings have improved, if only slightly, from a low point during the winter, a trend that potentially could help embattled Democrats in key Senate races this fall.

The size of the change varies from poll to poll, but they tell the same overall story: Obama’s ratings took a slide in the fall as the public saw his website flounder. More recently, with the website fixed and the news about the president’s healthcare law focusing on millions of people enrolling, his approval numbers have recovered.

That improvement could matter because how voters feel about the president has an effect on how they vote on members of the president’s party. This fall, control of the Senate will be up for grabs, and during the winter, Obama’s slide in the polls was one factor in an improvement of Republican chances.

George W. Bush provides the example Obama hopes to avoid. Bush’s approvalbegan to plummet after...

The Easter Bunny greets children during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House.

First lady emphasizes fun and fitness at annual Easter Egg Roll

WASHINGTON -- Instead of chocolate and candy baskets, the horde of children who gathered Monday on the South Lawn for the White House’s Easter Egg Roll got an Eggtivity Zone and a Yoga Garden.

To mark the 136th annual Easter event, First Lady Michelle Obama threw in some exercise stations and healthy eating tips along with the traditional fun and games, which included egg-rolling races and storytelling.

Speaking from the Truman balcony alongside President Obama and the Easter Bunny, the First Lady said this year’s theme, “Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape,” was an “issue that is near and dear to my heart.”

“We want our kids to be the healthiest and the strongest they can be, so they can do well in school and live up to all of their God-given potential,” she said.

Donning flowery dresses, petticoats and sweater vests, toddlers and children visiting from all 50 states and the District of Columbia were largely oblivious to the celebrities...

Neil Eggleston, left, then a lawyer for Enron's board of directors, speaks with Dr. Herbert Winokur, Jr., center, and John Duncan, both former members of the board.

Obama names Washington veteran Neil Eggleston as White House counsel

WASHINGTON -- President Obama is turning to Neil Eggleston, a veteran of the Whitewater and Iran-Contra confrontations between Capitol Hill and the White House, to help guide his administration through what could be stormy years ahead with Congress.

Obama on Monday named Eggleston, a Washington lawyer who specializes in representing high-profile public figures in government investigations, as the next White House counsel. He replaces Kathryn Ruemmler, who has been seeking to vacate the White House hot seat for months.

If Republicans take control of the Senate and keep the House in November elections, Eggleston’s past experiences as associate White House counsel for President Clinton during the Whitewater congressional hearings and deputy chief counsel of the House Iran-Contra Committee could put him in good stead.

Another key task facing the new White House lawyer is drawing up a list of potential nominees to fill the Supreme Court seat held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There...

President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton walk out of the White House in June 1997.
Documents released Friday offer a peek at the sometimes-combative Clinton White House years.

For Hillary Rodham Clinton, archives evoke fiery White House years

Hillary Rodham Clinton has been basking in the glow of good news for months.

Poll after poll shows her towering over the 2016 Republican field. She has been warmly received at her paid speeches (with the exception of that flying shoe). She has a glossy new cover for her June 10 memoir. And her daughter told the world Thursday that the former first lady, senator and secretary of State will become a grandmother this fall.

So the latest batch of archived documents from the Clinton White House -- while not particularly newsworthy -- were a rather bracing reminder that the very mellow former first lady has emerged in her current happy state after many years in a White House that often took on the tone of war zone.

Mark that down as one reason why Clinton might not want to go racing back.

Friday’s release of some 7,000 documents that were sealed under the Presidential Records Act did not uncover much new ground about Clinton’s role as first lady. (The papers, part of a collection...

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) calls for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline at a news conference in March on Capitol Hill.

Obama administration delays decision on Keystone XL pipeline

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration has delayed a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, perhaps until after November’s midterm election.

A further delay in the evaluation of the pipeline, which already has lasted more than five years, is necessary because of a Nebraska state court decision in February that invalidated part of the project’s route, the State Department said in a statement.

Shortly after the court ruling, administration officials had said the Nebraska case would not have an impact on their deliberations. But in the new statement, the State Department said federal agencies could not evaluate the pipeline’s impact until the “uncertainty created by the ongoing litigation” is resolved.

That could take awhile. Nebraska officials have appealed the case to the state Supreme Court but have said they do not expect a ruling until late this year at the earliest.

In the meantime, the latest delay could get President Obama off a...

Ed Siskel, the deputy White House counsel, is leaving to go into private practice.

Crisis manager leaves White House counsel's office

WASHINGTON – From Solyndra to Benghazi to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, Ed Siskel has been the bespectacled, behind-the-scenes lawyer with the forensic assignment – figure out exactly what went wrong so the White House can fix it, explain it and make sure it does not happen again.

After three years in the Office of White House Counsel, one as its deputy, the Chicago-area native has left the job of damage prevention and control to others, and moved on to private practice with a firm in the nation’s capital.

His departure comes as the head of the office, Kathy Ruemmler, is also preparing to leave. The White House is expected to name her replacement soon.

However the new office takes shape, one top advisor to President Obama says he hopes the White House can retain the “Midwestern sensibility” that Siskel brought.

“Ed is somebody who just stays calm, no matter if he’s in the middle of a crazy document request or it’s just a quiet...

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) has the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in his primary race for the Senate.

Establishment bites back: Chamber fights tea party in Senate races

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce jumped into two key Senate races this week -- another clear signal that the GOP establishment will try to stop tea party candidates from winning primaries as Republicans try to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats.

The chamber announced its support Thursday for Jack Kingston, the Republican congressman who is trying to emerge from a packed field of hard-right contenders in next month's Georgia primary for an open seat.

Republicans have openly worried that a tea party-aligned candidate could be too extreme for most of the voters in the state. Demographics there are tilting toward blue, giving the likely Democratic nominee, Michelle Nunn, a potential shot at the seat. Nunn posted a  strong first-quarter fundraising haul this week.

"Now more than ever we need conservative leaders with a demonstrated record," Rob Engstrom, the chamber's national political director, said in making the announcement.

Earlier this week, the chamber dived into...


Chelsea Clinton announces she is pregnant

Hillary Clinton has made no secret of her desire to be a grandmother and that wish has finally come true -- with Chelsea Clinton announcing at a Clinton Foundation event Thursday that she and her husband are expecting a baby this year.

"Marc and I are very excited that we have our first child arriving later this year," Chelsea Clinton said to cheers before an audience of young women at the Lower Eastside Girls Club in New York City on Thursday afternoon. “And I certainly feel all the better, whether it's a girl or a boy, that she or he will grow up in a world full of so many strong, young female leaders. So thank you for inspiring me and inspiring future generations, including the one that we'll be lucky enough to welcome into our family later this year.”

Chelsea Clinton made the announcement while seated next to her mother at an event for the Clinton Foundation initiative known as No Ceilings, which is focused on helping young girls and women succeed. Moderator America...