By BETH FOUHY
The Associated Press
Thursday, July 5, 2007; 7:15 PM
NEW YORK -- John Edwards is reshuffling the ranks of his top staff, adding two prominent Democratic operatives as senior advisers and shifting some responsibilities from campaign manager David Bonior.
Paul Blank and Chris Kofinis, leaders of the labor-backed anti-Wal-Mart effort "Wake Up Wal-Mart," were expected to join the Edwards campaign as early as next week. Blank would take over day-to-day campaign operations. Kofinis would serve as communications director.
The deal was not yet final but was expected to be completed in the next few days, advisers said.
Blank was political director for Howard Dean's 2004 presidential effort. He is close to former Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi, who is now serving as a senior adviser to the Edwards effort.
Bonior, a former Michigan congressman, would retain the title of campaign manager but step up his role as public spokesman for the campaign. He also is expected to travel extensively with Edwards.
The changes come after a disappointing fundraising quarter for Edwards and some communications challenges, including the continued fallout over his $400 haircuts and connection to a New York-based hedge fund.
Top Edwards strategist Jonathan Prince said staff changes reflected the campaign's continued growth and should not be taken as a sign that anything was amiss.
Bonior, Prince said, remained in charge of the campaign, "but as it heats up he's going spend more and more time on the road. That means we are looking to have additional people in the office to manage the organization as it grows."
The changes were first reported by Marc Ambinder on his blog.
Edwards campaigned in Cleveland, telling a union gathering that millions of manufacturing jobs can result from collaboration between blue-collar industries and environmental projects.
"The Blue Green Alliance really can create 1 million, 2 million new manufacturing jobs to replace some of the jobs that have been lost," Edwards told about 600 political activists from the United Steelworkers of America union at a conference on reviving U.S. manufacturing.
The Blue Green Alliance was formed last year by the union and the Sierra Club to promote job creation and work on environmental initiatives including global warming and development of solar and wind power.
Edwards also pitched his plan announced Monday to try to push the minimum wage up to $9.50 an hour. President Bush recently signed a law increasing it from $5.15 to $7.25 over two years.
A fellow Democratic candidate, Sen. Joe Biden, told the group in a separate appearance that manufacturing can be revived by investing in the nation's infrastructure such as bridges and highways.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told the largest teachers' union Thursday that performance-based merit pay ought to be considered in public schools.
Teachers at the National Education Association's annual convention have expressed concerns about merit pay. That idea is gaining favor with lawmakers, including those now rewriting the No Child Left Behind law.
Teachers say they worry that linking their pay to their students' test scores would be unfair to those instructing kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. Teachers also say it is not fair to offer merit pay only to people who teach courses that are tested, such as reading and math, but not to those who teach music or art.
Obama said teachers' salaries should be increased across the board. He also said there should be fair ways of measuring teacher performance and compensating teachers accordingly.
"If you're willing to teach in a high-need subject like math or science or special education, we'll pay you even more. If you're willing to take on more responsibilities like mentoring, we'll pay you more," Obama said.
The Illinois senator said it is possible to "find new ways to increase pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them and not based on some arbitrary test score."
Obama said he would only support a merit-pay approach after consulting with teachers.
Linda Nelson, the president of the Iowa NEA chapter, said merit pay is an idea that isn't going away.
"We need to be at the table. We need to be a part of that conversation, and that's exactly what Senator Obama said," Nelson said.
With more than 3 million members, the NEA is the nation's largest teachers union.
MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) _ Hillary Rodham Clinton assured Iowans on Thursday that she is not asking them to turn back the clock in her 2008 bid, only calling for a return to the policies and values of her husband's presidency.
Speaking to more than 1,000 people at a sweltering rally in a park overlooking the Mississippi River, Clinton said she was committed to moving forward while reaching back for policies that left the nation in a better position to deal with its problems. Some critics have accused Clinton of wanting to return to the era of Bill Clinton's presidency.
"You don't go back in America," the Democratic senator from New York said. "If you're smart, you carry with you the values that have worked in the past."
After eight years in the White House and seven in the Senate, Clinton said she was the best person to lead the country. Key to her efforts would be balancing the budget, Clinton said, noting that the nation ran a surplus during her husband's two terms.
"Six and a half years ago, we had a balanced budget and a surplus in America," Clinton said. "All of that was squandered by the Bush administration."
She said soaring budget deficits have colored every policy decision facing the nation, forcing cuts to domestic programs and making it difficult to bargain with China and other countries that lend the United States billions to finance the U.S. deficit.
Clinton questioned whether the United States could seek tougher trade penalties against China when it's economically beholden to Beijing.
"How do you get tough on your banker?" she asked.
Separately, Clinton picked up the endorsement of Dick Gephardt, the former House Democratic leader who twice ran unsuccessfully for president in 1988 and 2004.
"She's got the strength and experience to deliver the kind of change America wants," Gephardt said.
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson is coming under scrutiny for using an electric utility lobbyist as on-loan staffer in the governor's office during this year's legislative session.
Attorney General Gary King said Thursday his office will review whether there were legal or ethical problems with the use of the lobbyist by the governor.
King, a Democrat, acted in response to a request by a clean energy advocate who questioned the propriety of the lobbyist working in the governor's office when Richardson was seeking approval of energy legislation that could affect utilities.
A lobbyist for Public Service Company of New Mexico, Art Hull, worked for Richardson as part of a program that is intended to give private sector officials a view of how state government work.
Hull remained on company's payroll while he worked in the governor's office and did not receive a state salary, said Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for Richardson.
Gallegos said Hull served mainly as a liaison between the governor's office and Republican legislators.
"We wanted to avoid any appearance of a conflict. So he wasn't involved in any of the negotiations on energy legislation," said Gallegos.
Ben Luce, who is leading a newly formed watchdog group called Break the Grip!, asked King to investigate Hull's work for Richardson.
AP Education Writer Nancy Zuckerbrod in Philadelphia, AP writers Mike Glover in Muscatine, Iowa, Thomas J. Sheeran in Cleveland and Barry Massey in Santa Fe, N.M., contributed to this report.