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roundup: Edwards, Clinton, Giuliani, Romney

roundup: Edwards, Clinton, Giuliani, Romney

Presidential candidate John Edwards said Monday in Des Moines, Iowa, that it's silly to suggest that his wealth and expensive tastes have hurt his credibility as an advocate for the poor.

''Would it have been better if I had done well and didn't care?'' Edwards asked.

Edwards noted that some of the most acclaimed antipoverty advocates came from privileged backgrounds, including Franklin Roosevelt and Bobby Kennedy.

''You could see and feel the empathy they had,'' said Edwards, speaking from his home in North Carolina during an interview on Iowa Public Radio.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, has made poverty a central issue of his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and recently released a book on the subject, Ending Poverty in America. He also has formed a center for the study of poverty issues at the University of North Carolina.

His credibility on the issue has been challenged by critics who point to his 28,000-square-foot home in North Carolina and his $400 haircuts. He rejected the criticism, saying a look at history shows that personal wealth doesn't disqualify people from advocating for the poor.

''It feels a little silly to me,'' Edwards said. ''This is an issue I care deeply about.''

Edwards is the son of a mill worker who achieved wealth as a trial lawyer.

The mission of his campaign is to ensure that all Americans have a chance for such success, he said.

''It's just where my heart and my passion are,'' said Edwards, adding that his emphasis on poverty issues resonates with activists because few other candidates focus on the issue.

''The reality of poverty is a very complex thing,'' said Edwards. ''One problem compounds the next problem.''

* * * *

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has a message for rival Barack Obama: I'll fight you for Illinois.

''We are competing across the country, and I wanted to be sure that I had a chance to come here to let the people in this city and state know that I don't consider Chicago or Illinois off-limits to me,'' the New York senator told reporters on Monday in Chicago.

Clinton, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, met with black ministers in Obama's home state. She also spoke at a luncheon to a group that provides residential care for young people, and had breakfast with Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, who already has endorsed Obama, the Illinois senator.

''I appreciate the political decision he made,'' Clinton said of Daley, professing herself to be a ''great fan'' of his.

It's typical for presidential candidates to try to poach support from each other's home states, and Obama regularly steps out on Clinton's turf in New York, aggressively fund-raising and courting voters.

Clinton will be back in Chicago next week for a fund-raiser. The event was postponed because of Senate business.

* * * *

Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani's campaign message--fiscal restraint and a strong defense--was tailor-made for the audience before him in Washington, D.C., Monday.

The former New York City mayor spoke to a few hundred donors to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, during a dinner at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center. In a well-received speech lasting under an hour, Giuliani touched on familiar themes of lower taxes, smaller government, and a larger military.

He did not address social issues that have started to dog him on the campaign trail, including his support for abortion rights and gay rights.

Making light of his own performance in last week's GOP debate, Giuliani opened his remarks with a quip: ''I have this very long description of the difference between Sunni and Shiite.'' He had stumbled briefly when asked to explain the difference between the two groups in Iraq.

He also praised conservative Nicolas Sarkozy's resounding presidential election win over Segolene Royal in France. He said Sarkozy's victory ''represents a step forward for the center-right philosophy of governing,'' and he praised Sarkozy's ''strong stand on security issues'' and what he called his commitment to strengthening France's alliance with the U.S.

Then he held up a copy of a story about Sarkozy in the New York Post bearing the headline ''A French Rudy.'' ''I like that one,'' Giuliani said. ''I thought it was a good omen!''

''I understand tomorrow...they're going to have 'A French Hillary,' '' he said to laughs. ''It just might contrast our differing views on health care, for example.''

* * * *

When it comes to abortion, Mitt Romney has conceded a change of heart while trying to minimize criticism by noting that some of his rivals have also flip-flopped on issues.

On a Monday night fund-raising trip in New York, Romney offered another defense, saying he is being unduly criticized for shifting from supporting abortion rights to opposing them.

The Republican presidential contender said he wouldn't endure such questions had he moved the other way, from opposing abortion rights to favoring them.

''What I find interesting is, had I been pro-life and then changed to pro-choice, no one would ask the question,'' the former Massachusetts governor said on Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes. ''But if you go the other direction, as I have and as Ronald Reagan did and [former Illinois representative] Henry Hyde and [former president] George Herbert Walker Bush, it's like the media can't get enough of it: 'Oh, well, why did you change?' ''

During the interview Romney was asked which president he would emulate should he be elected in 2008.

''Probably my dad. I loved my dad. And he's my hero,'' Romney said.

His wife, Ann, who was sitting beside him, interrupted and said, ''Isn't he asking you to pick a president?''

Romney corrected himself and then went on to rattle off the characteristics of a number of presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. (Mike Glover, Deanna Bellandi, Liz Sidoti, Glen Johnson, AP)

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