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Campaign Notebook

Romney scales down plans for Iowa straw poll

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney spoke to potential supporters yesterday in Forest City, Iowa. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney spoke to potential supporters yesterday in Forest City, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

ALGONA, Iowa -- Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said yesterday he has scaled back plans for a straw poll in Iowa next month that two chief rivals are bypassing.

He said he hopes to do well, but "we're not trying to overshoot dramatically." That means reducing the budget for the straw poll Aug. 11 in Ames and the number of supporters his campaign plans to bus in to the event.

In June, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Senator John McCain bowed out of the decades-old nonbinding contest. Romney has put great resources into preparing for the event, which now shapes up as a contest involving several lesser-known contenders.

"I think initially we planned to bring in a very large number of folks from across the state for the straw poll," Romney told reporters. "We've cut back on our target from that standpoint to a level where we think we can win, but we're not trying to overwhelm anybody."

The straw poll is a dress rehearsal that allows GOP candidates to measure their organizational strength months before the Iowa caucuses in January, a one-day contest that requires a strong get-out-the-vote operation.

Republican-only straw polls have been held in every competitive presidential cycle since 1979. No candidate has skipped the event and won Iowa the following January.

Obama courts labor unions

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Democrat Barack Obama is telling union activists he would walk a picket line as president if organized labor helps elect him in 2008.

The Illinois senator also criticized President Bush's policies toward working people.

"We are facing a Washington that has thrown open its doors to the most anti union, anti worker forces we've seen in generations," Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery last night. "What we need to make real today is the idea that in this country we value the labor of every American."

Obama was scheduled to speak to Iowa's largest union representing more than 20,000 state workers.

Four other Democratic presidential candidates have courted activists at the annual convention of Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Like his rivals, the Illinois senator challenged Bush's labor policies and said he was committed to union causes.

"I stood on the picket line and marched with workers at the Congress Hotel in Chicago last week," Obama said.

"I had marched with them four years earlier and I told them when I left that if they were still fighting four years from now, I'd be back on that picket line as president of the United States." (AP)

Colo. Dems move caucus

DENVER -- Colorado Democrats voted yesterday to move up their presidential caucuses to February, a month earlier than planned, in hopes of gaining sway with presidential candidates.

The state's Democratic Party head, Pat Waak, said the move would win attention for Colorado's nine electoral votes, which candidates might otherwise choose to ignore.

"I've been told by presidential candidates that they aren't coming to states that are not in the early window. They don't have the resources," Waak told delegates to the party's central committee.

Most other states in the Rocky Mountain West decided to move up their caucuses or primaries after a plan to put together a Western primary fell apart, Waak said. Democrats in Colorado have been growing in strength in recent elections. They also have high hopes for their role as host to their party's national convention next year in Denver.

"We feel that the pathway to the presidency is through the West," Elbra Wedgeworth, president of the Denver host committee for the Democratic convention, told state delegates. (AP)