In Bible Belt, McCain To Speak To Students About Abstinence


Friday, February 16th 2007, 9:26 pm
By: News On 6


COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ Most presidential candidates are trying to get people to say ``yes.'' Republican Sen. John McCain will be encouraging South Carolina students to say ``no.''

The Arizona lawmaker is scheduled to speak Sunday night to about 1,500 middle and high school students about abstaining from premarital sex. Abstinence and abortion loom large as issues in this first-in-the-South primary state in the heart of the Bible Belt.

``Senator McCain has a long legislative record of supporting abstinence-based initiatives in his record in the U.S. Senate,'' said Trey Walker, McCain's South Carolina campaign director. ``He thinks that abstinence is healthier and should be promoted in our society for young people.''

The event is to follow McCain's appearance at a hot dog and ice cream social.

McCain is courting Christian conservatives in his bid for the GOP nomination. Recently, Christian leader James Dobson said he wouldn't support McCain because of his opposition to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. McCain opposes gay marriage but says it should be regulated by the states.

Alexia Newman, who runs the Carolina Pregnancy Center, said her student rally is costing about $22,000. McCain isn't putting money into the event, but ``if he wants to support this rally, that'd be great,'' Newman said.

``We're excited he would want to come and endorse what we're doing,'' she said. ``It's going to be a high-energy night.''

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BOSTON (AP) _ Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is offering a different explanation for why he voted in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary than he did 13 years ago.

In an interview taped for broadcast Sunday on ABC's ``This Week,'' Romney said he voted for former Sen. Paul Tsongas, D-Mass., to support a candidate he thought might be the weakest opponent for President George H.W. Bush.

However, when Romney ran for the Senate in 1994, he gave The Boston Globe a different reason, according to the newspaper's story published on Feb. 3, 1994.

``Romney confirmed he voted for former U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas in the state's 1992 Democratic presidential primary, saying he did so because Tsongas was from Massachusetts and because he favored his ideas over those of Bill Clinton,'' the Globe reported. Romney said he was sure the GOP would renominate Bush, for whom he voted in the general election.

Romney, who ran as a moderate in his Senate campaign and his winning race for governor eight years later, has been trying to convince the GOP faithful that he is a solid conservative.

In the ABC interview, Romney said he was a registered independent before running for the Senate as a Republican. That allowed him to vote in either the Republican primary or the Democratic primary.

``When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I'd vote in the Democratic primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican,'' he said.

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ While Democratic Sen. Barack Obama has the backing of Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, rival John Edwards is getting the endorsement of the state's Democratic Party chairman.

Former state legislator C. Richard Cranwell announced his support for the former North Carolina senator two days after officials with close ties to Kaine said the governor will back Obama.

``This indicates that Virginia is in play for the presidential sweepstakes for the first time in a long time,'' Cranwell said in an Associated Press interview Friday.

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Republican Newt Gingrich has a message for all the presidential candidates: it's just plain stupid to start running this early.

The former House Speaker who might end up being a candidate derided the early entry into the presidential race by so many candidates.

``I think the current process of spending an entire year running in order to spend an entire year running in order to get sworn in January 2009 is stupid,'' Gingrich said at a National Press Club event with Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York.

``I wouldn't consider thinking about running for president prior to late September,'' said Gingrich.

The only reason to start this early, he said, was to line the pockets of the high-paid political consultants.

The man behind the 1994 ``Contract with America'' that won control of the House for the GOP said a big part of the problem was current finance laws that force candidates to spend so much of their time fundraising.

Gingrich and Schumer appeared together to promote books they had written.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Arkansas' ethics panel dismissed a complaint Friday against former Gov. Mike Huckabee over the presidential candidate's destruction of computer hard drives from his office.

By a 3-0 vote, the commission voted to dismiss the complaint filed last month against Huckabee. Jim Parsons of Bella Vista, Ark., accused Huckabee of violating the state's Freedom of Information Act by crushing the computer hard drives before he left office last month.

Graham Sloan, director of the commission, said the panel ruled that it did not have jurisdiction in the case.

``We're just not the enforcement agency with regard to the FOI,'' Sloan said.

Huckabee has defended the destruction of the drives, saying it was done to protect sensitive information such as employees' or constituents' Social Security numbers and credit card information.

Huckabee spent the remaining $13,000 in the governor's emergency fund to destroy the computer equipment before he left office Jan. 9.

Hard drives for 83 computers and four servers were destroyed, or crushed, after some information was downloaded onto backup tapes, the Department of Information Systems said.

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate Tom Vilsack says being a punch line to Jay Leno's jokes is a plus.

``When you are just below the margin of error in polls, anything anybody says about you is important,'' Vilsack said Thursday on NBC's ``Tonight Show.''

In the show's opening skit, a security guard would not allow Vilsack on the set because he did not recognize him. Leno came to Vilsack's rescue and verified that he was a presidential candidate and the show's guest.

Though Leno often poked fun at Vilsack's relative obscurity in the presidential race, the former Iowa governor argued that his appearance with Leno will help his candidacy and distinguish him from the better-known candidates.

``I think any time you get an opportunity to be in front of a national audience, especially an opportunity to show an interesting life story, it's going to help,'' Vilsack told reporters during a conference call after the show's taping.

Leno ribbed Vilsack about having a small campaign staff and asked him how he would compete with candidates such as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

``I saw your skeleton crew out there _ two guys and a Hertz rent a car. How's that work?'' Leno asked.

``Well, I'm not a rock star,'' Vilsack replied, ``I'm rock solid.''