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Pure Horserace: McCain Vs. Romney Goes On

Sparring between Republicans Mitt Romney and John McCain has become more pitched in recent weeks, particularly over immigration, but today McCain's campaign went on the offensive on another issue dear to Republican primary voters — abortion.

According to the Associated Press, McCain's campaign is circulating a video of a May 2005 press conference that took place after Romney, then governor of Massachusetts, vetoed a stem cell research bill. Asked about his state's abortion laws, he said, "I have indicated that as governor, I am absolutely committed to my promise to maintain the status quo with regards to laws relating to abortion and choice, and so far I've been able to successfully do that."

The statement came well after the 2004 meeting with a stem cell researcher that Romney says set him on the path to opposing abortion. Of course, it also came on the day he vetoed the stem cell bill, something abortion opponents would certainly cheer.

The Romney campaign wasted no time in responding, with spokesman Kevin Madden sending out an e-mail titled "When Faltering Campaigns Attack!" The e-mail claims Romney's 2005 remarks were taken out of context and said circulating the video was "a last ditch attempt to maintain relevance" by McCain.

"Governor Romney consistently maintained, in an effort to protect the sanctity of life, that he would fight attempts to weaken the state's existing abortion laws," Madden said in a statement. "Maintaining existing laws in a state like Massachusetts was an important fight in and of itself." The campaign added, "the McCain campaign's motives are obviously borne of desperation. Their actions are both sad and unfortunate."

This latest salvo by McCain comes as Romney's poll numbers have risen in Iowa and New Hampshire and as McCain has taken a more aggressive approach to the campaign. Both men hope to become the conservative alternative to Rudy Giuliani, who leads some polls despite being to the left of the Republican base on most social issues.

Tensions between the McCain and Romney campaigns first surfaced publicly in last month's South Carolina debate and have been simmering just under the surface since. While McCain tries to rally conservative support by reminding voters about issues he's consistently been "right" on, he's also changing the subject from his support of the immigration reform which appears to be languishing in the Senate. Meanwhile, Romney has risen in the polls and conservatives thus far seem to be at least giving him the benefit of the doubt for his conversions on issues like abortion.

Waiting in the wings is Fred Thompson, who could benefit from a McCain-Romney spat should it escalate any further. — David Miller

Tried And True: In business, the old saying goes, you've got to spend money to make money. In politics, you've got to spend it to make gains in the polls more often than not. Mitt Romney, whose success in business is as much a part of his presidential campaign as his political experience, certainly does seem to be getting a bang for his buck.

According to the New York Times, Romney has already spent nearly $4 million on TV ads – and we're still six months away from the Iowa caucuses. Romney has been running ads in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as on national cable stations like the Fox News Channel for a couple months now, and that strategy looks to be paying off.

On the rise in polls in those two crucial early states, a new CNN/WMUR poll shows him leading the GOP field by eight points. The poll has Romney with 28 percent of likely Republican primary voters while Rudy Giuliani and John McCain trail with 20 percent each. Now, some observers might want to credit the recent GOP debate in New Hampshire for Romney's move (he rose from 17 percent in the same poll in April). It's more likely that Romney's heavy ad spending during this traditionally quiet time has increased his familiarity with voters in the Granite State, especially since we've seen similar movement for him in Iowa.

No discussion of polls at this point in time should be had without the mandatory caveats. It's early, folks, even for this accelerated cycle. As evidence of how much this picture can change consider this finding from the CNN/WMUR poll: Just six percent of New Hampshire adults who say they will vote in the primary say they have definitely decided who they will vote for while 57 percent said they have "no idea." — Vaughn Ververs

Full Speed Ahead: In case you missed it, the Chicago Tribune has put together a must read look at Barack Obama's internal deliberations that took him from a freshman U.S. senator to presidential candidate.

The most intriguing aspect of the report: Obama and his strategists were eyeing a possible White House run in 2012 or 2016 about sixteen months ago. But changing attitudes about the war in Iraq, a best-selling book and continued public interest in him combined with other factors that led to what the paper calls "an audacious, caution-be-damned run for the presidency in 2008." — Vaughn Ververs

But What If… Politicians hate answering hypothetical questions, but pollsters love asking them. CBS News' director of surveys Kathy Frankovic looks at polls' obsession with "What if?" questions in the latest installment of Poll Positions. Not only are people often asked about a decision they'll make months from now, but they're also asked to judge general election matchups that may never happen. In fact, Kathy says, sometimes surveys ask about candidates who aren't on the ballot, and that's after voters have already left the polling place. To learn more about the alternate realities pollsters create, read Kathy's column.

Editor's Note: Pure Horserace is a daily update of political news as interpreted by the political observers at Click here to sign up for the e-mail version.
By David Miller and Vaughn Ververs

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