OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback said Wednesday he is ``a tortoise'' in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, starting out slowly and slowly moving up in the polls.
``It is very early in this contest,'' Brownback said following a speech before the Oklahoma House. ``It is a big crowded field.''
Brownback, a favorite of social conservatives, said he is ``getting some good traction'' as he crisscrosses the nation delivering his message in states whose 2008 primaries are considered key to the nomination.
Polls consistently place Brownback of Kansas behind top-tier candidates Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts.
Brownback emphasized both fiscal and religious conservative ideas during a 20-minute address to the state House where he promoted faith-based lifestyles and stronger families.
``The country is a faith-based experiment,'' Brownback said. ``Faith is a good thing. It's not a bad thing. We ought to celebrate it.''
He criticized legal attempts to stop religious expression like the singing of hymns at Christmas in public venues.
``Don't use legal fees as blackmail to drive people out of the public square,'' he said.
Brownback expressed support for the war in Iraq and said that as president he would veto a war spending bill passed by the U.S. House that would require President Bush to bring combat troops home from Iraq by Sept. 1, 2008. The president has also promised to veto it.
``We must win this war on terrorism,'' Brownback said, adding it is ``right and just'' to oppose militant Islamic radicals who are bent on attacking the U.S.
``The only way we lose is to pull out of the war on terrorism,'' Brownback said to applause from lawmakers in the Republican-controlled state House. He said withdrawing from Iraq will not end the threat of terrorist attacks.
``We must engage and we must be in this fight,'' he said. ``We cannot set a deadline for us pulling out.''
Brownback said the nation needs a national energy policy that concentrates on wind energy, biofuels and other alternative fuels to make the nation less dependent on foreign fossil fuel sources.
He also said he opposes a windfall profits tax on the oil industry. ``If you want less of something, tax it,'' he said.
Brownback said he wants to restrain federal spending and realign the nation's tax code by adopting an alternative flat tax. Placing four large volumes of Internal Revenue Service tax codes on the podium, Brownback said the code is unintelligible.
``It needs to be taken behind a barn and killed with a dull ax,'' he said.
He also commended the state House for adopting anti-abortion legislation that would bar state tax dollars and facilities from being used for the procedure. The measure is opposed by the Oklahoma State Medical Association, which said it interferes with a physician's ethical obligation to discuss all options of treatment with a patient.