Thursday, June 7, 2007

Straw-poll dropouts

Republican presidential front-runner Rudolph W. Giuliani said yesterday he won’t compete in the Iowa straw poll, and rival John McCain quickly followed suit in bypassing the early test of strength.

“We are 100 percent committed to winning the Iowa caucuses in January,” said Mike DuHaime, the former New York City mayor’s campaign manager, even as he announced the decision to skip the Aug. 11 straw poll in Ames, Iowa.

Hours later, Terry Nelson, Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, told the Associated Press that in light of Mr. Giuliani’s announcement, “it’s clear that the Ames straw poll will not be a meaningful test of the leading candidates’ organizational abilities.” Thus, he said: “We have decided to forgo our participation in the event.”

Mr. Nelson said the Arizona Republican, like Mr. Giuliani, would still compete in the state’s lead-off caucuses.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has said he will participate in the nonbinding August straw poll.

Hagel’s challenger

“The attorney general of Nebraska, Jon Bruning, stopped by our office yesterday to let us know that tomorrow he will announce he will challenge Senator [Chuck] Hagel in the Republican primary, which is in May of 2008,” the New York Sun said yesterday in an editorial.

“A poll conducted for Mr. Bruning shows him leading Mr. Hagel among likely Republican primary voters by 9 percentage points. Mr. Bruning assails Mr. Hagel for being ‘the Republican that talks like a Democrat,’ pointing to Mr. Hagel’s support for a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, as well as his discussion of impeaching President Bush. ‘He’s become arrogant and out of touch,’ Mr. Bruning said. ‘His constituent services are very poor.’

“Mr. Bruning also mentioned New York Sun editorials documenting the weakness of Mr. Hagel’s record on Israel, including a recent speech by Mr. Hagel before an Arab-American group, in which Mr. Hagel said that support for Israel shouldn’t be automatic. Mr. Bruning, 38, has been to Israel three times and is seeking backing from the pro-Israel community for his challenge to Mr. Hagel. It’ll be interesting to see how Mr. Hagel’s weakness on foreign policy plays in the American heartland when challenged by a strong candidate such as Mr. Bruning,” the newspaper said.

Unusual offers

It must be close to the end of the fundraising quarter, because two of the Democrats running for president are sending out unusual solicitations for cash.

Any donors who give to Sen. Barack Obama in the next week will have a chance to sit down with the Illinois Democrat at an “intimate dinner” of five. The campaign said four supporters — whether they contribute $5 or $500 — will be selected soon for “a new kind of fundraising dinner.”

“Our campaign is different,” campaign manager David Plouffe told Obama supporters in an e-mail yesterday, first reported on The Washington Times’ blog Fishwrap.

“Our funding comes from a movement of Americans giving whatever they can afford, even $5, and Barack wants to sit down with supporters like you,” he said, reminding voters that the campaign won’t take contributions from lobbyists or political action committees.

And candidate John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, is offering to share with donors his longtime secret family pecan-pie recipe.

The former senator turns 54 on Sunday, and his mother, Bobbie, has been sending out fundraising requests for “just $6.10 to John’s campaign before 6/10.”

“What’s a birthday celebration without dessert?” she asked, promising to send the Edwards family pecan pie recipe to donors.

Yesterday, his wife, Elizabeth, sent her own note to donors, directing them to a Web video of Edwards campaign aides Joe Trippi and Jonathan Prince trying the recipe and failing miserably.

“Trust me, it’s not as hard as they make it look,” she said.

Imported death

Michael Caldera De Latorre, also known as Ricardo De Latorre, “was twice captured trying to sneak into the United States from Mexico in 2004” and “is one of the millions of undocumented illegal aliens George W. Bush and many congressmen and Senators would like to grant amnesty,” writes blogger Bob Owens (, citing a report from WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C.

“[Monday] morning, while driving a Chevy Tahoe reported stolen in Charlotte, Latorre careened across the median of I-40 in Raleigh, and [struck] a Kia driven by George Alwyin Smith, a 54-year-old computer programmer at Duke University, before slamming into a car driven by Carolyn Hageman.

“Smith died in the wreck, and Hageman was injured. Pulled from the wreckage reeking of alcohol, De Latorre has been charged with DWI, felony death by motor vehicle, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, no operator’s license and careless and reckless driving.

“Perhaps if our federal government had done a better job securing our southern border, Latorre would still be in Mexico, and George Smith would still be alive.”

Too polite

“There was a moment in Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate that must have caused a massive sigh of disappointment among the media,” Fred Barnes writes at

“It came when former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney declined to attack Arizona Sen. John McCain on immigration. The day before, McCain had criticized Romney for failing to do something-or-other on that issue. Romney grinned, declared McCain his friend, and said, ‘I’m not going to make this a matter of personal politics.’

“Why the heck not? That was my reaction,” Mr. Barnes said. “It’s personal squabbling among the candidates that the press was looking for. It’s what Wolf Blitzer, who ably moderated the debate on CNN, was looking for. And so was I. Serious bickering, preferably by the top-tier candidates, is what makes these events interesting, fun and worth watching. Any political debate described as polite, as Tuesday’s was, is something less than exciting.”

Senate targets

The U.S. Immigration Reform Political Action Committee, which says it helped defeat Sen. Spencer Abraham, Michigan Republican, in the 2000 general election over his pro-illegal-alien voting record, announced yesterday that it will target senators for defeat again in 2008.

“The top senator we want to defeat is Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, and, if he votes for the current Senate amnesty bill, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican,” said the group’s communications director, Phil Kent.

Mr. Graham recently was booed at his party’s state convention when he expressed support for the immigration bill.

c Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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