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Romney defends Bush on Libby

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa -- Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who as Massachusetts governor refused to pardon an Iraq war veteran's conviction, yesterday called President Bush's commutation of I. Lewis " Scooter " Libby's prison sentence "reasonable."

Defending Bush, Romney, a Republican, said at a campaign stop that "the president looked very carefully at the setting" before deciding to commute the 2 1/2-year sentence given the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney in the CIA leak case .

The prosecutor in the case "went after somebody even when he knew no crime had been committed," Romney said. "Given that fact, isn't it reasonable for a commutation of a portion of the sentence to be made?"

As governor, Romney twice rejected a pardon for Anthony Circosta, who at 13 was convicted of assault for shooting a boy in the arm with a BB gun -- a shot that didn't break the skin. Circosta worked his way through college, joined the Army National Guard, and led a platoon of 20 soldiers in Iraq's deadly Sunni triangle.

In 2005, as he was serving in Iraq, he sought a pardon so he could to fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer.

In his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Romney often proudly points out that he was the first governor in modern Massachusetts history to deny every request for a pardon or commutation during his four years in office. He says he refused pardons because he didn't want to overturn a jury.

Candidates woo Iowa
KEOKUK, Iowa -- Barack Obama promised better days to disenchanted voters, Bill Clinton debuted as Hillary Clinton's campaign sidekick, and Mitt Romney reminded people about the laundry list of Clinton pardons yesterday.

Nearly every corner of Iowa has received campaign attention this holiday week as Democrats Obama, Clinton, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and Chris Dodd, and Republicans Romney and Sam Brownback mingled with voters, held town hall meetings, and addressed crowds.

It was a family affair for some. Romney campaigned with his wife, Ann; Clinton brought her husband, the former president; and Dodd traveled with his wife and young children. Obama's wife and two daughters were to join his bus tour today.

Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico may have New Hampshire to himself through Friday. He packed his schedule with three parades and two fireworks displays in the early-primary state.

Democrats focused on the general malaise nationwide, reflected in polls indicating that voters are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the Iraq war and President Bush.

Iowa holds its caucuses Jan. 14, and getting the party's core supporters to vote depends on campaign organization and energized voters. (AP)

Clinton strategist sued
NEW YORK -- Hillary Clinton's chief strategist is being accused of illegal eavesdropping in a civil lawsuit that alleges he and his polling firm monitored the personal e-mails of a former associate who started a rival company.

Mitchell E. Markel, a former vice president at the polling firm Penn, Schoen & Berland, contends in the suit that the firm began monitoring all messages sent from his Blackberry device nearly a month after he had resigned . The suit contends that the founder of the firm, Mark Penn, who is Clinton's strategist and pollster, knew about and approved of the monitoring, which the suit said violates federal wiretapping laws.

Penn, Schoen & Berland, a world-renowned firm that has helped elect clients like former president Clinton and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, is accused of hacking into Markel's Blackberry and rigging his e-mail accounts to send carbon copies of his e-mails to an account that it allegedly had set up. (AP)