- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2007

Nevada to Iowa

John Edwards‘ campaign staffers are assuring scribes on the trail that their boss is still competing in Nevada despite news yesterday that the campaign is pulling some bodies out of the early-voting state, reporter Christina Bellantoni writes at her “On the Democrats” blog at www.washingtontimes.com.

Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the former North Carolina senator, wouldn’t give an exact figure, but said a “handful” of paid staffers will be moved from Nevada — which has a Jan. 19 caucus scheduled — and into Iowa and other early states.

“We have spent more time there than any of the other candidates and will continue to fight for every vote in Nevada,” he said. “From time to time, we’re going to move people around the map.”

Though the campaign played it like it was no big deal, the news inspired a “Know when to fold ‘em” headline on the Drudge Report Web site and was part of the other campaigns’ chatter yesterday morning.

Nevada has gotten much less attention from the candidates than Iowa and New Hampshire, in part because it has never had such an early caucus. Mr. Edwards has solid support in the Silver State, where union voters make up a sizable portion of the electorate.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, will be in Nevada on tomorrow, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will also be campaigning for her there.

Both she and Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, were in Las Vegas last week for the National Association of Black Journalists convention, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has a major presence there.

Those four candidates, who lead most polls, will speak at a Brookings Institution forum Wednesday at the University of Nevada at Reno.

Varsity Mitt

Hundreds of supporters turned out to greet Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney yesterday when the former Massachusetts governor stopped by an Atlanta landmark for lunch — but didn’t eat.

The Romney campaign held a meet-and-greet event at the Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, located near the campus of Georgia Tech. “A ton of media” turned out for the event, reports Tech student (and Romney volunteer) Ruth Malhotra, but “the crowd was so big, he never did make it to the counter.”

Fresh off a straw-poll victory in Iowa, Mr. Romney demonstrated fluency in the distinctive local lingo used to describe Varsity menu items. He joked that it was nice to be in a place where “PC” doesn’t stand for political correctness. (Order a “PC” at the Varsity and you’ll get “plain chocolate” — chocolate milk, explains Robert Stacy McCain of The Washington Times, an Atlanta native who wrote about the Romney event at the Fishwrap blog at www.washingtontimes.com.)

While Mr. Romney didn’t get to enjoy the greasy splendor of the Varsity’s onion rings and fried peach pies during his Atlanta visit, he’s certainly been getting his share of Georgia green. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway reports that Mr. Romney leads all other 2008 presidential contenders (of both parties) in campaign contributions from Georgians, with $756,661 so far.

Tardy candidate

John Edwards‘ weeklong Iowa bus tour stumbled out of the starting gate Monday as dozens of voters waited outside in the heat for more than an hour for the presidential candidate to appear at his Des Moines headquarters, the Des Moines Register reports.

The former North Carolina senator often is late for campaign appearances, but the 80-minute delay was unusual, reporter Tony Leys said.

Susan McIntyre, an Edwards supporter from Des Moines, was one of several people grumbling. She pointed to the unshaded, concrete parking lot, where the sweaty crowd included numerous white-haired members of AARP, plus young children holding hand-lettered “Iowans for Edwards” signs provided by the campaign.

Miss McIntyre said Mr. Edwards is her favorite candidate, but she said this was not the first time she’d seen him be seriously tardy. “I think it’s tacky,” she said. “It isn’t right. It isn’t considerate. It isn’t Iowa.”

When Mr. Edwards finally appeared, he apologized for the delay. He said it was caused by a minor ailment his wife suffered at their Des Moines hotel. “Elizabeth ate something for breakfast this morning that didn’t agree with her,” he said. He later told reporters that it had nothing to do with the fact that his wife is taking chemotherapy medicine for cancer.

Mr. Edwards spoke to the crowd for less than eight minutes, stressing that he needs Iowans’ support. “We are the party of the people, and we are not the party of the political insiders,” he said.

Mr. Edwards plans more than 30 stops on his bus tour, which will lead up to a Democratic debate in Des Moines on Sunday.

Rumsfeld’s letter

The word “Iraq” doesn’t appear in former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld‘s resignation letter.

Neither does the word “war.”

In fact, the deadly and much-criticized conflict that eventually forced him out of office comes up only in vague references, such as “a critical time in our history” and “challenging time for our country,” in the four-paragraph, 148-word letter he wrote to President Bush a day before the Nov. 7, 2006, election.

According to a stamp on the letter, Mr. Bush’s office acknowledged receipt the next day, as voters were going to the polls. Mr. Bush announced Mr. Rumsfeld’s departure a day later, after Democrats won control of the House and Senate.

The elusive letter — which the Pentagon denied existed as recently as April — surfaced this week in response to multiple Freedom of Information Act requests by the Associated Press.

But it sheds no light on why Mr. Rumsfeld believed he should leave his post after directing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for nearly five years.

Instead, Mr. Rumsfeld, in his last paragraph, says only, “It is time to conclude my service.”

The former secretary — who took on the job at Mr. Bush’s request in early 2001 — talks more about the honor Mr. Rumsfeld felt in serving.

“It has been the highest honor of my long life to have been able to serve our country at such a critical time in our history and to have had the privilege of working so closely with the truly amazing young men and women in uniform,” Mr. Rumsfeld wrote.

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

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