WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- Presidential candidate Sam Brownback said yesterday that he will compete in the Iowa straw poll and chided fellow Republican Mitt Romney for claiming victory in the early test of political strength.
Two other lower-tier Republican candidates, Mike Huckabee and Tom Tancredo, also announced yesterday that they would compete in the straw poll in August. They joined Brownback in challenging Romney to a series of debates before and during the event.
The flurry of announcements came after Rudolph Giuliani and John McCain bowed out of the straw poll earlier this week, rendering the traditional event all but meaningless. That left only Romney among the top-tier candidates planning to participate.
Romney called his top rivals' decision "a gift." The former Massachusetts governor, who is better financed and leads in state polls, said his fellow front-runners realized "they couldn't keep up with me in the first state in the presidential sweepstakes."
Brownback offered the most aggressive criticism of Romney, saying "there are no coronations in America and you don't declare yourself a winner before the game is played."
The Kansas senator said the better-known candidates are out of touch with the party's conservative base and that's why they're not competing in the straw poll.
The donations were from two Chicago businessmen who worked with indicted entrepreneur Antoin "Tony" Rezko, the onetime Obama friend.
Rezko has pleaded not guilty to charges that he shook down investment firms that wanted to do business with the state of Illinois. Obama last year gave charities $11,500 to clear his campaign fund of donations that had come directly from Rezko.
Obama's campaign has said it was donating to charity a $5,000 donation from Ali Ata, the former executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority who was charged last week with trying to help Rezko borrow $10 million in loans.
Obama is now donating $10,000 from Joseph Aramanda, who has overseen Rezko pizza franchises involved in the investigation, and $6,500 from Dr. Paul Ray, the chairman of the urology department division of Cook County's Stroger Hospital. Aramanda and Ray have not been charged with any crimes. (AP)
The visits to the two early primary states come as Thompson prepares for what is widely expected to be a full-fledged presidential campaign. He has formed a preliminary campaign committee and is raising money as he eyes a bid.
State officials said Thompson will visit South Carolina on June 27 for a state GOP fund-raiser and New Hampshire on June 28 for a state Senate Republican PAC fund-raiser. (AP)
"The first thing I would say would be . . . If you like what's happened in Iraq, you should vote for this guy. They'll give you four more years of it," Edwards said in New Hampshire. "If you don't like what's happened in Iraq, if you want to see a change, then you should vote for me."
He said Republicans have lost the monopoly on national security. "Do you think George Bush made you safer? All this chest-thumping?" Edwards said. "These guys are going to continue this. We need to be aggressive, but we also need to be smart. " (AP)