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Edwards goes for gold with 'True Blue'

Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential hopeful, stood on a cooler as he spoke at a private home yesterday in Florence, S.C. Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential hopeful, stood on a cooler as he spoke at a private home yesterday in Florence, S.C. (Mary Ann Chastain/Associated Press)

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards yesterday kicked off his "True Blue Majority" campaign aimed at showing the country that he has the best chance of defeating the Republican candidate in the 2008 general election - even in the red GOP-friendly states.

Yesterday, elected leaders and labor leaders in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin held events and conference calls to discuss their reasons for supporting Edwards. "We need a leader who can compete anywhere in America and win," Roy Barnes, former governor of Georgia, said in a statement provided by the Edwards campaign.

Today, Democratic legislative supporters from red and battleground states plan a conference call to discuss how Edwards's name on the top of the ticket will benefit state and local Democratic candidates.

The campaign also released an analysis from pollster Harrison Hickman: Edwards, he said, is the only Democrat with a significant lead against Republican Rudy Giuliani, and his average margin of victory is identical to or greater than rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama against other Republican candidates in hypothetical races. Edwards also does better in the key battleground states of Iowa, Missouri, and Ohio, Hickman said.

Also yesterday, Edwards picked up the backing of the 90,000-member Massachusetts chapter of the Service Employees International Union, the 11th SEIU affiliate endorsement he has secured this week, representing more than 1 million working families. SEIU declined to make a national endorsement because no candidate had enough support, so the state chapters have made individual endorsements.

JENN ABELSON

In N.H., waiting for a date
Amid speculation about a first-ever December primary for New Hampshire, the man who holds all the cards, Secretary of State William M. Gardner, said yesterday that it was possible, but that a January date remains his preference.

Gardner said a lot depends on the dates picked by the parties in Michigan, where the primary is tentatively set for Jan. 15. Iowa Republicans set their primary for Jan. 3, and New Hampshire state law calls for at least seven days before its primary and at least seven days between its primary and the next similar election.

He said he plans to wait until after Nov. 2 - the last day for candidates to file for the New Hampshire primary - to pick a date. But he also said he probably would decide before Nov. 14, the last day Michigan could move. That means all eyes will be on Gardner during that time.

"There are so many twists and turns in this process, I just sort of want to stand still a little bit," Gardner said.

The more he stands still, though, the harder it is for the candidates to plan for primary season. All the campaigns (not to mention political journalists) are eager to get a firm New Hampshire date so they can move on with their lives.

SCOTT HELMAN

Bush family loyalties split
TALLAHASSEE - Political loyalties are split in Jeb Bush's family.

Jeb Bush Jr., the youngest son of the former Florida governor, volunteered to help Rudy Giuliani's campaign reach Florida's young professionals.

His older brother, George P. Bush, has been supporting rival Republican Fred Thompson.

"We have a family divide now," Jeb Bush Jr., said yesterday. "We have some debates, but it’s always friendly. He's been with Thompson now for a while. Fred Thompson is a great man as well."

Their father left office in January after two terms. He hasn't publicly endorsed a candidate, though he did urge several people close to him, including his lieutenant governor, Toni Jennings, to talk with Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, before deciding whom to support.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Romney calls UN a failure
PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. - Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney yesterday called the United Nations a failure and said he would support a new coalition of the free nations of the world.

The former Massachusetts governor said the UN Human Rights Council has repeatedly condemned Israel while taking no action against nations with repressive regimes. "The United Nations has been an extraordinary failure of late," Romney said in response to a question at a pancake house.

Romney also said he would support a new "coalition of the free nations of the world and bring those nations together so that we can act together."

"We should develop some of our own - if you will - forums and alliances or groups that have the ability to actually watch out for the world and do what’s right," he said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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