Republicans To Hold Fifth Debate

Wednesday, September 5th 2007, 3:37 pm
By: News On 6

DURHAM, N.H. (AP) _ Illegal immigration and progress in the Iraq war headed the agenda for the Republican debate Wednesday pitting eight candidates who knew they likely would share the spotlight with a potential ninth _ Fred Thompson.

The actor-politician skipped the debate but tried to steal the show by airing a commercial during the debate and appearing on NBC's ``The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.'' Thompson planned to announce his candidacy at midnight on the Internet.

Planning to stand on the stage at the University of New Hampshire were the announced candidates: former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Arizona Sen. John McCain, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, California Rep. Duncan Hunter and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Since the last debate, Aug. 5 in Iowa, Romney has won the Iowa straw poll, an early indicator of strength. The victory was tempered by the decision of Giuliani and McCain not to compete, but Romney still has seen his standing improve in national surveys.

He maintains a lead in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

At the same time, Giuliani has held his advantage in national polling. McCain has sought to revive his campaign after poor fundraising, staff departures and dropping poll numbers. McCain is expected to play a pivotal role in the coming weeks with the release of a progress report on Iraq.

The GOP elephant in the debate room was Thompson, who hopes to capitalize on the volatile race with his late entry. He has fared well in polls but lackluster fundraising and a series of staff departures have dogged his campaign.

Lesser-known candidates used the debate to try to grab the spotlight.

Tancredo, a longshot running largely on his opposition to illegal immigration, held a news conference hours before the debate to denounce state lawmakers seeking to stop law enforcement officers from using taxpayer money and resources solely to apprehend suspected illegal immigrants.

The lawmakers should be thrown out of office and prosecuted for helping illegal immigrants, said the Colorado congressman.

``It's aiding and abetting,'' Tancredo said.