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Pure Horserace: Traveling With Thompson

CBS News reporter John Bentley has been traveling with the latest entrant in the Republican race and files this report from the road:

Fred Thompson called out his Democrat counterparts Monday, urging them to give back any money they've received from, after that organization ran an ad in The New York Times under the banner "General Petraeus or betray us?"

"This outfit in large part funds the Democratic party," he said. "I call upon the Democratic party, and all those Democratic contenders for the White House, to disavow this libel against this brave American."

It is the most animated the former senator has been on the campaign trail, rallying a crowd of about 250 people at Doc's Barbeque in Columbia, S.C. Thompson said the situation in Iraq is improving and that Petraeus is a good man.

It was his second stop of the day in South Carolina, after starting his southern swing Monday morning by hosting a town hall meeting in Greenville. The crowd appeared livelier than those in Iowa and New Hampshire, and gave Thompson two standing ovations -- once when arguing that Americans are "shedding more blood than all the other nations of the world combined" to protect the cause of liberty, and one at the end of his speech.

Thompson was accompanied by his wife, Jeri. Though reports before Thompson launched his bid indicated tension over her role in the campaign, the crowd of approximately 350 people didn't seem to care, and managed to coax her on stage after an audience member's suggestion.

But Thompson also faced a more serious question about religion. Thompson mentioned that he grew up attending the Church of Christ, but later added that he doesn't attend services on a regular basis. A woman in the audience asked him about the role of religion in his life, and he answered that he is "uncomfortable" talking about it, but that he was "right with God and the people I love." -- John Bentley, Columbia, S.C.

Pledge Already Broken? Over Labor Day weekend, the top three Democratic candidates for president all agreed to not campaign in Michigan, Florida, or any other state that violated Democratic National Committee rules by scheduling a primary or caucus before Feb. 5, 2008 -- a privilege given only to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

But where was Hillary Clinton yesterday? As the Sioux City Journal reports, she was in Florida, holding six events. It's worth noting that the DNC hasn't actually enacted any penalties against Florida yet -- on Aug. 25, the state's Democrats were given 30 days to find an alternative to the Jan. 29 primary ordered by state law. However, a resolution to that conflict seems unlikely, which leads to the argument that Clinton is violating the spirit, if not the letter of the pledge, by campaigning in the Sunshine State.

Other loopholes exist as well. For example, the pledge prohibits campaigning, but not fundraising. Yet some events completely blur the distinction between the two. Barack Obama, for example, has held many events that require only a $5 donation to attend. But technically, that's a fundraiser, and would thus fall outside the pledge's language.

Mincing words like this can have its pitfalls. Only in Iowa (or New Hampshire) would a paper write about a candidate's visit to a far-away state, because residents there are highly protective of their status as early-voting states. Visiting Florida, especially after promising not to, could rub a lot of Iowans the wrong way.

But if Iowa has its first-in-the-nation status for, as Bill Richardson recently said, "reasons related to the Lord," Clinton may have been the victim of some divine retribution. As the Miami Herald reports, Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, who hosted one of Clinton's Monday fundraisers, responded to a routine Florida GOP press release with an obscenity-laden tirade, using words Clinton would certainly not want to be associated with. One censored highlight: "I'm a businessman. I'm a Democrat. Why shouldn't I raise money at my house? I will get on the horse, and I will beat the s--- out of them." And that's one of the cleaner selections.

But will the wrath of Iowans and foul-mouthed donors be enough to keep Clinton and others away once the pledge kicks in? We'll find out at the end of this month. -- David Miller

Romney Distances Himself: Earlier today linked to a Washington Post report about an anti-Fred Thompson Web site that was connected to one of Mitt Romney's top advisers in South Carolina. Now, The Associated Press reports, Romney is quickly distancing himself from the now-defunct site.

The site,, was created by Wesley Donehue, a business associate of Warren Tompkins, Romney's top operative in the Palmetto State. But a Romney spokesman says the candidate had nothing to do with the Web site's creation.

"We made it clear that we did not approve of the site and asked for immediate action to make sure it was again in no way affiliated with the campaign," Kevin Madden said. "The person responsible is not an employee of ours, but we took immediate action to make sure it was clear the site was not affiliated with the campaign." -- David Miller

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 John Bentley and David Miller

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