- - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

PORTLAND, Maine — Former Gov. John Baldacci on Wednesday became the third prominent Democrat to bow out of the high-profile race for a U.S. Senate seat that Democrats were given a shot at winning after Republican Olympia J. Snowe decided to retire.

Mr. Baldacci joined Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree and Michael H. Michaud in forgoing a race that became more complicated with the entry of independent former Gov. Angus King, widely recognized as the front-runner in a three-way race.

Mr. Baldacci said his decision was about family, saying he didn’t want to relocate because his wife has a job in Bangor and his son is a student at the University of Maine. He also said he wouldn’t want to travel back and forth between Washington and Maine as he did during eight years in the U.S. House.

“That’s really what it came down to. You can take the boy out of Maine, but you can’t take Maine out of the boy. It may be a shortcoming on my part, but it’s one that I’ve embraced,” the Bangor native told the Associated Press.

ARIZONA

State officials revisit Obama’s birth certificate

PHOENIX — Arizona officials are jumping back into a persistent, yet debunked controversy over President Obama’s birth certificate and his eligibility to hold office.

A legislative committee Wednesday endorsed a proposal that requires presidential candidates to swear that they meet the qualifications to be the nation’s chief executive. And the Arizona secretary of state is expected in the coming days to call for candidates to complete a new form asking eligibility questions, including whether they are natural-born U.S. citizens.

The widely disproved notion that the president was born abroad rather than in Hawaii, as state officials have repeatedly confirmed, comes up regularly in Arizona. In the past, political parties drafted their own certification documents that Arizona officials say didn’t consistently address the issue of qualifications.

“There has been a lot of media attention devoted to this, so we wanted to make sure there is a standardized form,” said Matthew Roberts, a spokesman for Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

ALABAMA

‘Ten Commandments’ judge a step closer to comeback

The former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who refused to move a Ten Commandments display from a courthouse is a step closer to getting his old job back.

Roy Moore received a little more than 50 percent of the vote to win the Republican nomination for his old job, according to unofficial results Wednesday. He is heavily favored to win the general election in November.

It is an improbable comeback for Mr. Moore. After being elected chief justice in 2000, he had a 5,280-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments installed in the lobby of the state judicial building in Montgomery.

A trial court for judges removed him in 2003 for the rest of his term because of his refusal to abide by a federal judge’s order to remove the display. The punishment did not prevent him from running for chief justice again.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama: Britons ‘look better’ at state dinner

When it comes to appearances at state dinners, President Obama is keeping score.

Mr. Obama was standing with first lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday night at the White House when their guests of honor, British Prime Minister David Cameron and wife Samantha, arrived for the state dinner on the South Lawn.

As Mrs. Cameron stepped out of a town car, Mr. Obama commented, “very pretty.” Then he turned to his wife and said, “They look better than us.”

Mrs. Cameron wore a sparkling, dark-blue gown with elbow-length sleeves, according to a pool reporter who attended the event. Mrs. Obama wore a sheer, teal, floor-length gown with a short train in back. The president wore a standard tuxedo.

Among the guests at the dinner were actor George Clooney, Vogue magazine editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, billionaire Warren Buffett, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, British airline mogul Richard Branson, and Chicago real estate and casino magnate Neil Bluhm.

A total of 41 guests, including Mr. Bluhm and Ms. Wintour, are “bundlers” who have each raised hundreds of thousands of dollars or more for Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign.

PATRIOTISM

Democrats agree to pull Obama-faced U.S. flag

A Florida county’s Democratic headquarters recently flew a U.S. flag featuring President Obama’s image in the blue field where the stars ought to be.

After complaints by local veterans, Lake County Democratic Party officials took down the banner, which had been flying for two months underneath a standard U.S. flag on the Tavares, Fla., building’s flagpole. Some veterans took photos of the two-banner display this week and began to spread them around.

“It’s absolutely disrespectful,” Jim Bradford, a 71-year-old veteran told Fox News. “It’s totally ridiculous. To put somebody’s picture there, to me, it’s a disgrace to do that.”

Nancy Hurlbert, chairwoman of the Lake County Democratic Party, agreed to take down the flag Tuesday, but told Fox News she thinks the complaints were based on personal animus for Mr. Obama and/or his legitimacy.

“It leads me to believe that it’s not about the flag,” she said. “Certain elements cannot accept Barack Obama as president.”

She also was coy about whether she’d fly the Obama flag again. “I won’t say no, and I won’t say yes,” she said. “We want to find out what our legal rights are.”

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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