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GOP Candidates Converge On Iowa for the Straw Poll

Thompson's Candidacy May Be Winding Down

(Charlie Neibergall - AP)

On the day before the day that could end his presidential candidacy, Tommy G. Thompson, the former health and human services secretary and four-term governor of Wisconsin, was typically upbeat.

"I don't think [Mitt] Romney's going to win it easily," he said of the former Massachusetts governor. "I think his support is very, very thin. I may be wrong on that. And I think at 110 degrees or 95 degrees or whatever it's going to be tomorrow, it's going to be tough to get anybody's voters there."

Thompson has said repeatedly that he will quit the Republican race if he doesn't finish first or second in the straw poll. Many here doubt that he will meet that test.

The presidential stars have never aligned for Thompson. He is one of the longest of long shots in the 2008 campaign after passing up opportunities to run in 1996 and 2000, when he was seen as one of the most innovative and effective governors in the country.

"I should have run in '96, and I should have run in 2000," he said over coffee at the only Starbucks in downtown Des Moines. "I got talked out of it. I would have been in a stronger position in both times, because I would have been a sitting governor and just coming off huge successes in welfare and school choices."

But Thompson said he wanted to make clear that he isn't feeling sorry for himself. Today, he will straddle a Harley-Davidson and ride into Ames with a bunch of motorcycle buddies. He did the same eight years ago, then on behalf of George W. Bush. This time, he'll be looking to spring a big surprise and, he hopes, turn his attention to New Hampshire and South Carolina.

-- Dan Balz


Obama Speaks of Concerns That He's 'Not Black Enough'

Speaking before the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Las Vegas, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) directly addressed the charge that he is "not black enough."

He joked about the issue at first, poking fun at a stereotype of blacks. "I apologize for being a little bit late," he said, "but you guys keep asking if I'm black enough, so I figured I would stroll in."

But he turned serious about such questions. "We should ask ourselves why that is," he said. "It is not because of my physical appearance presumably. It's not because of my track record. . . . I think, in part, we're still locked in this notion if you appeal to white folks, there must be something wrong."

Obama also touched on foreign policy and criticized Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) by name, arguing that Clinton had signaled her agreement with a statement he made about attacking al-Qaeda in Pakistan before changing her position on the issue.

Phil Singer, a Clinton spokesman, said, "Senator Clinton will ensure that [Osama] bin Laden is killed or captured but knows there is a difference between saying that and telegraphing how we would do so in way that makes it harder to achieve that goal."

Obama was asked by the journalists if he, as the Democratic nominee, would pick Clinton as his running mate. Obama said she was "very capable" and that she would be on anyone's short list.

-- Perry Bacon Jr.

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