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WashingtonPost.com - Former Wis. Governor Enters Race for Nomination

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WashingtonPost.com - Former Wis. Governor Enters Race for Nomination

By Michael D. Shear

Former Wisconsin governor Tommy G. Thompson (R) announced yesterday that he is running for president and is betting that he will best the Republican field's well-financed front-runners in Iowa, the neighboring state where he has been campaigning nonstop for months.

Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Thompson said he is confident he will win in January's Iowa caucus, where the first votes of the 2008 campaign will be cast, despite polls that show he remains in the low single digits.

"I've been in Iowa every single week since the first week in December," he told host George Stephanopoulos. "I've been visiting individuals and groups and talking to people every single week, and I've been into over 30 counties, one-third of the counties, and over 100 communities, and it's really looking good."

Thompson served as secretary of health and human services under President Bush after four terms in the governor's mansion. But he said yesterday that his presidency would differ "tremendously" from Bush's if he wins the White House.

Thompson said he would have a "completely different" strategy in Iraq, promising to remove all U.S. troops if Iraq asks the United States to leave.

"If the government duly elected . . . says, 'We want the American troops, the American government out,' we should leave," Thompson said.

But he said he would have voted against the Democratic-led effort in Congress to establish a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, saying that to set a timeline would "really just target to the enemies that we are not there for the long haul, we're not there to defend our troops."

By making his candidacy official, Thompson joins a crowded field of about a dozen Republican presidential hopefuls. Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani lead the Republican pack in most of the early national polls.

In the latest Gallup poll, Thompson had the support of 2 percent of likely Republican voters, less than the 12 percent, third-place showing for "Law & Order" star Fred Thompson, who has said he is considering a presidential bid.

Tommy Thompson is also likely to be far behind in fundraising. McCain, Giuliani and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney are expected to announce soon that they have raised millions of dollars in the first quarter of the year. Thompson is not expected to have raised much money for his campaign.

But he said yesterday that he offers Republican voters the only "reliable conservative" in the race. He said he is the only candidate who has put together federal and state budgets.

"Oh, they're all wonderful people," Thompson said of his GOP adversaries. "I didn't say that they weren't. I just said that I am the reliable conservative. My record shows that."

He also showcased one of the principal themes of his campaign -- that he is a Washington outsider -- by criticizing Congress for out-of-control spending under Republican rule.

"People feel the Republicans lost their way in Washington," he said. "They believe that they're trying to spend as much money as the Democrats. And I tell people, you know, if you're going to elect a spender, you might as well elect the professionals, the Democrats, instead of the amateurs, the Republicans, and that is what's taking place."


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