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Snapshot: Today
on the Presidential Campaign Trail

Snapshot: Today
on the Presidential Campaign Trail

Barack Obama underscores his foreign policy differences with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton ... Clinton garners endorsement from black ministers in South Carolina ... Mitt Romney suggests Rudy Giuliani liked Clinton's 1993 health care plan.

Barack Obama underscores his foreign policy differences with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton ... Clinton garners endorsement from black ministers in South Carolina, singer-actress Barbra Streisand ... Mitt Romney suggests Rudy Giuliani liked Clinton's 1993 health care plan.



Obama calls for renewed approach to diplomacy, underscores his differences with Clinton

Democrat Barack Obama, confronting claims that he's light on foreign policy, surrounded himself Tuesday in New Hampshire with heavyweights who said his differences with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton and others are just what the country needs: A new leader willing to talk with America's enemies and become a better friend to struggling nations.

Obama, closing the three-hour policy forum, said a president should be unafraid to meet with tyrants and must restore the nation's moral authority by ending torture, closing Guantanamo Bay's military prison, and helping fight global poverty and AIDS.

''Our ability to lead has been set back by our bluster and our refusal to talk to nations we don't like,'' the Illinois senator said. ''Our security and standing have suffered because of the misguided war in Iraq that should have never been authorized.''

Obama, who was elected to the Senate in 2004, never mentioned Clinton, a New York senator and the Democratic front-runner in national polls. But Obama underscored some of his main criticisms of her, recalling how he opposed from the outset a war that she voted to authorize, and repeatedly calling for greater openness in setting policy.



Clinton endorsed by S.C. ministers as rivals seek black support in early voting state

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton picked up endorsements from dozens of black ministers Tuesday in South Carolina, an early voting state where she and rival Barack Obama have been courting the critical black vote.

The clergy were drawn to the New York senator for her views on health care, jobs, and other issues, said a state representative who helped organize the endorsements. ''They felt this was the best candidate addressing their concerns,'' said state representative Harold Mitchell, a Democrat.

Nearly half of South Carolina's Democratic primary voters are black, and ministers can play a huge role in shaping the political direction of their congregations. More than 60 ministers gathered with Clinton on a stage at a hotel.

Clinton also got the endorsement of actress and singer Barbra Streisand.

Clinton's campaign released her proposal to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS, which in part focuses on fighting the spread of the illness in minority communities. Clinton would double the HIV/AIDS research budget at the National Institutes of Health to $5.2 billion annually and spend at least $50 billion within five years around the globe, according to the campaign.

In Aiken, S.C., she was asked by one man about whether gays should be able to openly serve in the military. ''I don't believe 'don't ask, don't tell' worked,'' she said of the policy instituted during her husband's administration.



Romney says Republican rival Giuliani praised Clinton's health care plan

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Florida on Tuesday said rival Rudy Giuliani ''had nothing but praise'' when then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed a universal health care plan.

Romney's campaign cited a New York Times article quoting the former New York mayor from 1994 as praising the Clinton plan for ''doing some pretty good things.'' The plan was never enacted.

''When Hillary's plan first came out, Rudy Giuliani had nothing but praise for Hillary's plan. Why the change? Why the change in attitude? When it first came out, he was all roses and petals for Hillary's plan. All full of praise. Now I'm running for president, he's decided it's not such a good idea,'' Romney said during a news conference after touring a children's hospital.



Edwards expresses support for striking writers

Democrat John Edwards voiced his support Tuesday for striking television writers, telling a boisterous rally in New York that he would work to protect the rights of union members if elected president next year.

''Stay strong, stay together,'' Edwards implored members of the Writers Guild of America, whose strike has entered its fourth week. ''It's about making sure these big corporations, these big media conglomerates don't step on your rights -- that you have a real opportunity to share in the work that you've been producing.''

The union and Hollywood studios were expected to resume negotiations in Hollywood Tuesday. Writers have been on strike since November 5 over payment for television shows streamed over the Internet, claiming they are entitled to a share of the revenue generated online.

Studios, networks, and producers, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, say it is too early to know which business model will succeed on the Web.

David Chase, the creator of the hit crime series The Sopranos, was among the union writers attending the rally in Manhattan's Washington Square Park.



Dodd eligible for public matching funds

Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd became eligible Tuesday for federal matching money to help finance a campaign that is banking on a surprise finish in Iowa.

The Federal Election Commission announced that Dodd had met the minimum requirement to receive public funds from the Presidential Public Funding Program, which is financed by taxpayers who set aside $3 for the fund in their tax returns.

Dodd is seeking to emerge as an alternative to better-financed rivals like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. As of September 30, when candidates filed their latest financial reports, Dodd had total receipts of $13.6 million. He raised $1.5 million in the third quarter, covering July-September.

The presidential fund matches the first $250 of each individual primary contribution to an eligible candidate. To accept the money, candidates must agree to an overall spending limit of about $50 million and must meet spending thresholds in individuals states as well. The limits do not include money spent on staff, fundraising and several other costs that could significantly increase the base limit.

Dodd joins Edwards as the only two Democrats to be declared eligible for matching funds so far. Obama and Clinton do not plan to accept public money, freeing them from the spending limits. Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Tom Tancredo have also been declared eligible for public funds. McCain said Monday he had not yet decided whether to participate in the program.



Richardson couples farm plan with call for civility

Democrat Bill Richardson campaigning in Iowa on Tuesday offered a farm package that would limit payments to giant operations, restrict large meatpackers, and provide incentives for alternative energy production.

Speaking at a farm near Council Bluffs, the New Mexico governor coupled his plan with a call for civility in the race for the party's presidential nomination.

''Let's keep the mud where it belongs,'' Richardson said. ''We cannot build America up by tearing each other down.''

Richardson's package, some of which he'd discussed previously, calls for a $250,000 cap on farm subsidy payments and a ban on meatpackers owning livestock, a move designed to improve competition for farmers' products.



Pressed to criticize his rivals, Biden says he's done as much or more for kids, minorities, labor

Prodded by a supporter in Iowa to be more critical of his rivals, Sen. Joe Biden said he passed the laws that Hillary Clinton used to help children, has done as much on minority issues as Barack Obama, and is more pro-labor than John Edwards.

''When John Edwards was a senator from North Carolina, he didn't walk any picket lines,'' Biden said Tuesday.

The Delaware Democrat, who trails badly in the polls in advance of the January 3 Iowa caucuses, made his comments after a supporter, J.R. Ackley, urged him to ''take on'' the three front-runners in the race.

''It's like three witches sitting around arguing about who's ugliest,'' Ackley said of Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, whom he said lacked the experience that Biden has.

''I admit I've been reluctant,'' Biden said.

He said Clinton ''has done really good work'' for 35 years helping children. ''But I was actually writing the laws and getting things changed.''

Biden called Obama a ''great guy,'' then said, ''I spent time in the projects'' and was a public defender.

As for Edwards, he said: ''I love John. John talks about how supportive of labor he is. And he is supportive of labor.... He's not as pro-labor as I am.''



''Madame President of the United States ... it's an extraordinary thought. We truly are in a momentous time, where a woman's potential has no limitations,'' Barbra Streisand in endorsing Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Adults age 55 and older constituted 31% of the voting-age population and 35% of those who voted in the 2004 presidential election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (AP)

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