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An Attack Over Ads

Sunday, December 23, 2007

OBAMA AIMS AT EDWARDS

An Attack Over Ads

WINTERSET, Iowa -- As John Edwards and Barack Obama battled this weekend over economic concerns, addressing what has emerged as the biggest issue of the race in Iowa, they also squabbled over the role in the Democratic campaign of independent advocacy groups attempting to influence the race.

The organizations are called 527 groups because of the section of the tax code that governs their activities. One such group, Alliance for a New America, which is being advised in part by 2004 Edwards campaign manager Nick Baldick, has been running ads on Edwards's behalf throughout Iowa, and on Saturday, Obama blasted his rival for not calling for the ads to be taken down.

"John said yesterday he didn't believe in these 527s," Obama said. "We found out today there's a group buying three-quarters of a million dollars worth of television, and the individual running the group used to be John Edwards's campaign manager."

Edwards said he had not known about the ad buy until learning of it through news reports, and he added: "Let me be clear: I am asking this group and others not to run the ads. I would encourage all the 527s to stay out the political process."

Obama aides said their candidate hit Edwards on this point because it showed an inconsistency. But in the final days of the Iowa campaign, the two camps are competing for many of the same voters -- namely, those who are not backing Hillary Clinton.

On the economy, Edwards called for an initial investment of $25 billion devoted to putting more federal funds toward Medicaid and offering laid-off workers more weeks of unemployment insurance. He said he would consider a $75 billion program that would include tax cuts for low- and middle-income people.

"Our economy is slowing under the weight of stagnant wages, a major housing crisis and a spike in energy costs," Edwards said in a statement. "And now, leading economists are saying there's a substantial risk we could enter a recession."

Obama spent the day criticizing international free-trade agreements, an issue that Edwards was the first to focus on in the race. Obama debuted an ad in Iowa called "Enough" in which he says, "We've got to stop giving tax breaks to companies that are moving overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in Iowa."

-- Perry Bacon Jr.

'A TERRIBLE HEADACHE'

New Tests for Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani checked into a hospital last week because of a "very, very bad headache" that has prompted him to seek new tests to make sure his cancer has not returned, he said yesterday in a television interview that will air today on ABC's "This Week."

Giuliani had previously described "flulike" symptoms as forcing him to turn his campaign plane around and return to St. Louis last week. He checked into Barnes-Jewish Hospital and left the next day, saying the tests had checked out "100 percent" normal.

"It was a terrible headache; I mean all day -- it got worse all day," Giuliani said. "It got really bad at night, when I was speaking to a crowd and did a press conference with Senator [Kit] Bond. Got on the plane. I imagine what happened is the pressure of the takeoff made the headache worse than I've ever had."

The former New York mayor said he made the decision to turn the plane around after about six or seven minutes in the air. He said that he considers himself cured of prostate cancer but that he is waiting for tests just to make sure there has been no recurrence. When those tests come back, he promised, his doctor will issue a statement.

Giuliani said he is not taking medication other than an aspirin each day on the recommendation of his doctor. He was back on the campaign trail in New Hampshire yesterday.

"I'm back on the trail, ready to go, hale and hearty, feeling great and, you know, actually reassured by the fact that I had so many different tests and they all came back 100 percent," he said.

-- Michael D. Shear

ANTI-ENDORSEMENT

Romney Called 'Phony'

CONCORD, N.H. -- Delivering the journalistic equivalent of a giant lump of coal three days before Christmas, the Concord Monitor editorial board has leveled an extraordinary broadside against Mitt Romney, declaring in an editorial to be published in Sunday's paper that the former Massachusetts governor "must be stopped" in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination.

The Monitor has not yet endorsed in either party's primary. Instead, it chose Sunday to issue an unusual anti-endorsement dripping with scorn, under the headline "Romney Should Not Be the Next President."

The piece begins: "If you were building a Republican presidential candidate from a kit, imagine what pieces you might use: an athletic build, ramrod posture, Reaganesque hair, a charismatic speaking style and a crisp dark suit. You'd add a beautiful wife and family, a wildly successful business career and just enough executive government experience. You'd pour in some old GOP bromides -- spending cuts and lower taxes -- plus some new positions for 2008: anti-immigrant rhetoric and a focus on faith.

"Add it all up and you get Mitt Romney, a disquieting figure who sure looks like the next president and most surely must be stopped."

The editorial goes on to call Romney "a phony."

The Monitor editorial board leans left, and the paper is often viewed as a liberal counterweight to the conservative Union Leader of Manchester. But with its anti-Romney assault, the paper finds itself on the same page as the Union Leader, which endorsed John McCain for the Republican nomination and has followed that up with harsh editorial critiques of Romney.

Romney's rough handling by the New Hampshire press is coming as he sees his months-long steady lead in early-state polls shrinking with the resurgence of McCain in New Hampshire and the rise of Mike Huckabee in Iowa.

Romney spokesman Kevin Madden responded to the Monitor editorial by saying that the newspaper's "editorial board is regarded as a liberal one on many issues, so it is not surprising that they would criticize Governor Romney for his conservative views and platform."

-- Alec MacGillis

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