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"Mitt Romney and John McCain sought to enhance their stature in a field of Republican presidential contenders that Newt Gingrich derisively called "pygmies," criticizing their Democratic rivals as too liberal and ill-prepared for the nation's top job."
"Seated in a semicircle around a large television screen, six men and six women are busy at work, turning dials on large devices that look like old-fashioned TV remote controls. In the next room is another screen showing Democratic presidential candidates.
"It is the first officially sanctioned Democratic presidential debate, held Monday in Charleston, S.C., and these 12 Manchester-area Democratic voters have met at Woodbury Cottage at the Bedford Village Inn for a high-tech version of a focus group run by Presentation Testing, Inc., a New York-based company....
"John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential nominee in the last election, was the first to score a home run. When he mentioned taking power away from insurance, drug and oil companies, he shot up to an 80.
"The debate reached one of its lowest points when U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich said he though the federal government should pay reparations to the descendants of slaves. As Kucinich continued to explain his position, his numbers dropped to the 30s.
"Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a potential independent presidential candidate, is pushing for performance-based merit pay for teachers in the nation's public schools.
"Bloomberg, in prepared remarks for a speech to a National Urban League conference in St. Louis, said, 'We should be offering teachers and principals incentives not only to take the toughest assignments, and to fill special needs, but also to get the best possible results from their students....'
"Linking merit pay to student test scores is an idea that is spreading in popularity in local school districts, as well as among lawmakers who are rewriting the No Child Left Behind law, which is up for review this year.
"However, NEA members, a key Democratic constituency, have expressed concerns about merit pay, saying they worry that linking their pay to their students' test scores would be unfair to those instructing kids from disadvantaged backgrounds."
Boston Globe: Thompson gains among social conservatives
"Some of the nation's most influential social conservatives say their movement is quickly coalescing around Fred Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee, for the Republican presidential nomination, a decision that would bolster his expected campaign with money and grass-roots support."
July 25, 2007; 4:12 PM ET
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