Obama, Edwards seize lobbyist issue
LE MARS, Iowa – Barack Obama and John Edwards separately castigated Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton for defending lobbyists and portrayed her as the consummate Washington insider with special interest ties.
“If you don’t think lobbyists have too much influence in Washington, then I believe you’ve probably been in Washington too long,” Obama said Monday. Added Edwards: “Democratic candidates, and for that matter all candidates, should just say we’re not taking these peoples’ money anymore because it’s the way to take their power away from them, and it’s the way to bring about the change that this country needs.”
Among Republican hopefuls, John McCain promised to protect individual property rights, Rudy Giuliani sidestepped a question about his daughter’s apparent enthusiasm for Obama and Sam Brownback squared off with Mitt Romney over the sanctity of life.
Unencumbered now that Congress is on a monthlong break, presidential candidates from both parties descended on the leadoff contest state of Iowa, where they tested themes, rolled out proposals and maneuvered for support.
The sharpest elbows Monday came from Obama, the Illinois senator, and Edwards, the former North Carolina senator. They seized on Clinton’s remarks at a weekend candidate forum in Chicago to argue she was not the candidate of change but rather a Washington creature who would maintain the status quo.
On Saturday, the New York senator drew boos and hisses from bloggers when, unlike Edwards and Obama, she refused to forsake campaign donations from the special interest industry. Instead, she said: “A lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans, they actually do.”
Neither Edwards nor Obama accepts money directly from federal lobbyists, but both take contributions from people who work at firms with lobbying operations.
Responding to the criticism, Clinton’s campaign circulated a memo arguing that opponents were threatened by polls showing her gaining ground. Said chief strategist Mark Penn: “She is the candidate of experience and change, a combination no other candidate can match.”
Among Republicans, Brownback and Romney continued to tangle on abortion as they sought the backing of influential social conservatives days ahead of an Iowa test vote.
The Kansas senator derided Romney’s opposition to expanded federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research as “a pro-choice position” in a radio interview and, later, posted a YouTube video assailing the former Massachusetts governor as “conveniently pro-life.”
“This is the key moral issue of our day and we don’t need people equivocating on it or rediscovering things,” Brownback says in the video.
Romney told ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “Sam Brownback is a sweet guy, but he’s obviously in a pretty desperate situation at this point. I am pro-life.”
In Clear Lake, Iowa, Giuliani refused to discuss the political preferences of his 17-year-old daughter, Caroline. Until Monday morning, her Facebook profile showed she belonged to Obama’s Facebook group “Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack).” She left the group after the online magazine Slate inquired.
“My daughter I love very much,” Giuliani told reporters before declining to comment.
A spokeswoman for Caroline Giuliani said she had added herself to the Facebook list as an expression of interest and not as an indication of support for a candidate.
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