Politics

Optimism, chaos & confusion

The Iowa Straw Poll has left the Republican presidential contest as crowded and chaotic as the carnival-like crowd scene outside the building where the votes were cast.

As expected, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the most votes in Saturday’s symbolic test of campaign organizing strength in this first-in-the-nation caucus state.

But in the more critical expectations game, there were so many other declarations of victory that the GOP field is likely to stay as muddled as ever.

War on terror a defining issue

The fate of President George W. Bush’s global “war on terror” is on the line, as the 2008 White House race heats up and Democratic and Republican hopefuls feud over how to keep Americans safe.

Republicans endorse Bush’s approach, warning of the stark menace of Islamic fundamentalism, and agree with the president’s view that Iraq is a central front of the struggle.

Adopting Bush’s 2004 election playbook, they also accuse Democrats of failing to even comprehend the mortal threat from terrorism.

Hillary’s negatives worry Democrats

Looking past the presidential nomination fight, Democratic leaders quietly fret that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at the top of their 2008 ticket could hurt candidates at the bottom.

They say the former first lady may be too polarizing for much of the country. She could jeopardize the party’s standing with independent voters and give Republicans who otherwise might stay home on Election Day a reason to vote, they worry.

Tommy Thompson drops out

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson said Sunday he is dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination after finishing sixth in an Iowa straw poll.

“I have no regrets about running,” he said in a statement released Sunday evening by his campaign.

“I felt my record as Governor of Wisconsin and Secretary of Health and Human Services gave me the experience I needed to serve as president, but I respect the decision of the voters. I am leaving the campaign trail today, but I will not leave the challenges of improving health care and welfare in America.”

Romney wins Iowa straw poll

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won an easy and expected victory in a high-profile Iowa Republican Party Straw Poll on Saturday, claiming nearly twice as many votes as his nearest rival.

Romney had been expected to win the test because he spent millions of dollars and months of effort on an event that was skipped by two of his major rivals.

Romney scored 4,516 votes, or 31.5 percent, to outpace former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who had 2,587 votes, or 18.1 percent. Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback was third with 2,192 votes, 15.3 percent.

Rudy: Open mouth, insert foot

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy: You just can’t stop opening your mouth and inserting your foot — all the way up to your butt.

Presidential wannabe Rudy Giuliani’s claim that he had spend as much time at Ground Zero in the after math of the 9/11 terrorist attacks as first responders left jaws dropping and tongues wagging.

Had, people wondered, the presumed GOP frontrunner lost it? Was he inhaling?

No, Giuliani was just doing what Giuliani does best — overstating the facts.

In other words: Lying.

Wasn’t the first time the former New York Mayor has been caught in a lie. Won’t be the last.

A gay time was not had by all

Democratic presidential contenders faced pointed questions on gay marriage and the basis for sexual orientation in a forum that forced candidates to confront politically touchy issues that have vexed a nation.

Former Sen. John Edwards found himself discussing whether he is comfortable around gay people — he said he is. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson appeared to struggle with a question about why people become gay or lesbian. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ended up defending the record of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, on gay rights.

Labor says ‘none of the above’ for now

The biggest U.S. labor federation said on Wednesday it was too divided to make an endorsement in the 2008 Democratic presidential race, but freed its member unions to back any of the contenders.

The executive council of the AFL-CIO, an umbrella group representing 55 national labor unions, said it could not reach the required two-thirds consensus needed to throw its grass roots and financial muscle behind an individual candidate.

When all else fails, try anger

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is taking a page from Bill Clinton’s playbook and building on it. He feels your pain — and your anger.

The upbeat Mr. Sunshine and Southern moderate of the 2004 presidential race has turned into the populist pursuing support from the party’s liberal wing in hopes of overcoming leading rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Edwards has given voice to voters’ frustrations over an unending Iraq war, rising health care costs and disenchantment with Washington.

Chasing the gender vote

Women are flocking to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Democratic presidential candidacy and men are doing the same for Republican Fred Thompson. Yet for all that support, both candidates are showing early vulnerabilities wooing voters of the opposite sex.