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Campaign Notebook

McCain presses on with fight to keep troops in Iraq

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Republican presidential candidate John McCain yesterday said he will not relent in his fight against Democrats in Congress who want to set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

"We will not allow the United States of America to lose this war," the Arizona senator told a packed crowd at a restaurant.

McCain led GOP efforts to defeat legislation this month that would force the withdrawal of combat troops. Doing so, he said, would mean chaos and genocide.

"If the war's lost, who won? Al Qaeda? Tell that to the 160,000 brave young Americans who are serving and sacrificing in Iraq today as we speak," he said. "It's disgraceful."

McCain's poll numbers have fallen nationally, largely due to his stances on Iraq and his embrace of the defeated immigration bill.

Answering a question from the crowd, McCain said he will not change his stance, even if it means the defeat of his campaign. "I'll take my stand on this war, my friend," he said. "I would much rather lose a campaign than a war."

Associated Press

Romney courts Latino vote
MIAMI -- Free trade is key to ending Latin American poverty, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said yesterday while courting support from the Cuban-American and growing Venezuelan-American communities.

"Trade lifts all nations that participate," Romney said when asked how he would end poverty and other conditions that have given rise to leaders such as Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, who has been a close ally of Fidel Castro.

Romney noted that the Bush administration had sought free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and Peru, but the Democratic-controlled Congress failed to approve them.

Romney, however, stopped short of endorsing a proposal by Isilio Arriaga, a member of his own National Hispanic Steering Committee, to lower subsidies on US ethanol. Such a move could help boost Brazil's production of sugar cane-based ethanol and reduce its competition.

Associated Press

A Cabinet 'preview'
HANOVER, N.H. -- Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson told union members yesterday that he would give voters a preview of his Cabinet before voters pick the next president.

"I would announce my Cabinet before the election. If I'm the nominee, I would tell you who my team would be," the New Mexico governor told a Service Employees International Union conference at Dartmouth College.

"It would have independents, Republicans, and Democrats. Don't worry, I won't overdo the Republicans," Richardson said, drawing laughter. "It would be taken from America, not from the Beltway."

Richardson's comments came as he courted union members during a three-day campaign trip to New Hampshire. Richardson, ranked third in state polls, repeated his pledges to SEIU members that he would give unions greater clout. He said he'll choose a union member as his labor secretary and a teacher for education secretary.

Associated Press

Clinton on public service
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Hillary Clinton told college Democrats yesterday she would create a national academy to train public servants.

"I'm going to be asking a new generation to serve," she said. "I think just like our military academies, we need to give a totally all-paid education to young men and women who will serve their country in a public service position."

An older woman carrying a sign that read, "She doesn't care, all she wants is the power," yelled at Clinton while the New York senator was speaking in a ballroom on the University of South Carolina campus. Students attending the College Democrats of America convention shouted the woman down and pushed her from the room. "One of the things I love about politics, you never know what the day will bring," Clinton said.

Associated Press

Call for tough leadership
DES MOINES -- Democrat Barack Obama yesterday cast himself as the leader the United States needs for it to stand up to and engage renegade nations such as North Korea.

"We need a president who'll have the strength and courage to go toe to toe with the leaders of rogue nations, because that's what it takes to protect our security," the Illinois senator told Democrats at a rally. "That's what I'll do as your next commander in chief."

Obama and Hillary Clinton have had a running argument since clashing in last week's debate over how far the United States should be willing to go in its diplomacy with countries such as Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea.

After a viewer asked the candidates if they would be willing to meet with those nations' leaders, Obama said it was a disgrace that the United States won't hold talks with them. He invoked presidents Kennedy and Reagan for their Cold War diplomacy.

Associated Press