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Inside Politics

- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2007

Headed for Iowa

Republican Fred Thompson, the all-but-certain 2008 presidential candidate, will make his initial foray into Iowa next week, meeting with lawmakers and checking out an Iowa State Fair tradition — a cow carved from butter.

Mr. Thompson, an actor and former Republican senator from Tennessee, will spend Aug. 17 in the state, aide Andrew Dorr said yesterday. His visit will come less than a week after Saturday's Republican presidential straw poll in Ames, an event that could prompt some candidates to drop out of the race.

Mr. Dorr said Mr. Thompson will meet privately with a handful of Republican state legislators, talk with reporters and see the sights at the Iowa State Fair.

Mr. Thompson is expected to join the field of Republican candidates, but the date of his announcement has been repeatedly pushed back and is now expected in September, the Associated Press reports. He has spent little time organizing in Iowa and has only a skeleton staff, though polls have shown him running relatively strong compared to candidates who have devoted enormous time and energy to the caucus campaign.

"Is it too late? No. Is it very late? Yeah, it's going to be very difficult to crawl out of the organizational deficit he is in," said Chuck Laudner, executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa.

Going nuclear

Democratic Sen.Hillary Rodham Clinton, who chastised rival Sen. Barack Obama for ruling out the use of nuclear weapons in the war on terror, did just that when asked about Iran a year ago, the Associated Press reports.

"I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table," she said in April 2006.

Her views expressed while she was gearing up for a presidential run stand in conflict with her comments this month regarding Mr. Obama, who faced heavy criticism from leaders of both parties, including Mrs. Clinton, after saying it would be "a profound mistake" to deploy nuclear weapons in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table," he said.

Mrs. Clinton, who has tried to cast her rival as too inexperienced for the job of commander in chief, said of Mr. Obama's stance on Pakistan: "I don't believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons."

But that's exactly what she did in an interview with Bloomberg Television in April 2006, the wire service said. The New York senator, a member of the Armed Services Committee, was asked about reports that the Bush administration was considering military intervention — possibly even a nuclear strike — to prevent Iran from escalating its nuclear program.

"I have said publicly no option should be off the table, but I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table," Mrs. Clinton said. "This administration has been very willing to talk about using nuclear weapons in a way we haven't seen since the dawn of a nuclear age. I think that's a terrible mistake."

Not a monolith

Democrats hold an edge with Hispanics in national elections, but Hispanics' growing tendency to register as independents and split their vote between parties is buoying Republican prospects for 2008, the Associated Press reports.

Younger and college-educated Hispanics in particular offer fertile ground for the Republican Party, new data show. And while no one suggests Republicans have become the party of choice for the nation's fastest-growing minority, Democrats have been gradually losing ground.

"The Democrats began in the 1980s to slowly lose Latino registration," said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute, a San Antonio-based research group that studies Hispanic issues. "It's drip, drip, drip."

President Bush claimed 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, a record for a Republican presidential candidate.

Although Hispanics tend to vote Democratic, the percentage of Hispanics who call themselves Democrats has declined in the past decade, even as the overall number of Hispanic voters climbed.

Millionth supporter

One million people like Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and she wants you to know it, reporter Christina Bellantoni writes in her "On the Democrats" blog at www.washingtontimes.com.

"What's the power of a million? It's the power to run a winning campaign; it's the power to restart the 21st century; it's the power to make history," Mrs. Clinton's campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle wrote in an e-mail yesterday morning.

Mrs. Clinton's millionth supporter, computer programmer Ron Wood of Douglasville, Ga., will join the former first lady on the campaign trail, Miss Doyle says.

"We're not going to stop here. We're going to keep working to change America for the better," she says. "We're in this together, and you and I know that Hillary is ready to lead America out of the mess created by the Bush administration. But she can only do it with you at her side."

The message also links to a video of what staffers have been calling Mrs. Clinton's "money line" in Tuesday's AFL-CIO debate: "For 15 years, I have stood up against the right-wing machine, and I've come out stronger. So if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl!"

Spellings' letter

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings sent a letter yesterday urging colleges and lenders of student loans to voluntarily reform some of their practices now, before new federal government regulations become finalized next year.

The federal regulations, which won't take effect until July, aim to prevent conflicts of interest, kickback schemes and other questionable practices between lending companies and schools. These practices came to light in a nationwide student-loan scandal earlier this year that put the Education Department in the hot seat.

In her letter, Mrs. Spellings said she wants schools and lenders to willingly make those changes. "I urge you to act now to assure students and parents that we have their best interests at heart," she wrote.

Mrs. Spellings yesterday outlined some of the actions her agency is taking, including an investigation of 900 colleges and universities that have 80 percent of their student loan volume with a single lender.

Obama's ad

Democratic Sen.Barack Obama has a new ad running on Iowa television stations portraying himself as the candidate who can unite Americans.

The ad, "What if," intersperses shots of Mr. Obama speaking to applauding crowds with pictures of him working as a community organizer and lawmaker.

"What if there was hope instead of fear?" an announcer says. "Unity instead of division? What if we had a president who believes that we are one nation?"

Mr. Obama has been spending about $160,000 a week to run ads in Iowa, the Associated Press reports.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce @washingtontimes.com.