Thursday, January 13, 2005

Kansan has spot on elite GOP list: "A dozen years ago Sam Brownback was orbiting Topeka as the Kansas secretary of agriculture. These days he's showing up on political radar screens for an office at a somewhat higher altitude: the presidency."

"If Brownback runs, it will be on the strength of his close ties to religious conservatives, who are riding a wave of electoral success; his ability to work with Democrats; and his association with a host of global humanitarian issues."

"The senator himself isn't saying anything about a White House run. In fact, few hopefuls are. So at this way-early stage of the game, observers are reading lots of tea leaves."

"When asked about his interest in a presidential run shortly after trouncing his Democratic opponent in November, Brownback politely demurred. 'I'm focused on Kansas and tonight,' he said. In political speak, that hardly qualified as a denial.

"Then there are those repeated trips to Iowa. That's always a clue, because that state traditionally holds the first major presidential test every four years. In addition to his quiet forays into Iowa, Brownback also has made stops in South Carolina, which holds a key early primary."

"One opportunity to raise his profile might come as a result of Brownback's new seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. If a Supreme Court vacancy opens up, followed by committee hearings on a nominee, Brownback, an outspoken opponent of abortion, could gain some national attention.

"From his perch as a chairman of Senate foreign relations subcommittees dealing with Asia and the Middle East, Brownback has been a frequent traveler to global hotspots, often before they hit the headlines.

"Long before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he was involved in political developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He sounded the alarm about genocide in Darfur long before it became general knowledge. His international experience, particularly his familiarity with the Muslim world, might provide a boost when the operating view of American foreign policy is the spread of democracy."

"Brownback has enjoyed an unusually fast rise in politics.

"Following his stint as agriculture secretary, he won a seat in the U.S. House in the GOP revolution year of 1994. In 1996, he bucked the moderate Republican political establishment and ran against Sen. Sheila Frahm, who was Gov. Bill Graves' hand-picked successor to Sen. Bob Dole. Brownback easily won the primary and defeated Democrat Jill Docking in the general election.

"Since then, he's faced only token opposition in ringing up two re-election victories."

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