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Conservative Kansan starts White House run

Story Highlights

• Sen. Sam Brownback announced his candidacy for president Saturday
• Kansas Republican is a self-described social conservative
• Recent announced opposition to the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq
• Will attend anti-abortion rallies in Washington Monday
By Sasha Johnson
CNN Washington Bureau
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TOPEKA, Kansas (CNN) -- On a day when the political world was consumed with Hillary Clinton, Republican Senator Sam Brownback made his official foray into an already crowded field of 2008 aspirants.

"It is with sincere humility and a determination to do good that I declare my candidacy for President of the United States," Brownback told a buoyant crowd of supporters in Topeka, Kansas, Saturday.

The two-term senator enters a Republican field already dominated by big names and money, most notably Arizona Senator John McCain, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. McCain, Giuliani and Romney have yet to make their candidacies official but are raising money through exploratory committees. (Watch Brownbeck announce his journey on the 'yellow brick road' Video)

Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, became the second member of Congress on Saturday to formally announce a run for the White House when New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton announced on her Web site that she is forming a presidential exploratory committee. (Sen. Clinton: 'I'm in')

A break from Bush on Iraq

A self-described fiscal and social conservative, Brownback made headlines recently when he broke with President George W. Bush and came out against the president's plan to send 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq and called for more diplomatic efforts.

"The United States seems to care more about a peaceful Iraq than the Iraqis do," Brownback said in a senate floor speech last week after returning from a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq. "If that is the case, it is difficult to understand why more U.S. troops would make a difference."

Brownback briefly mentioned the Iraq war in his speech which mainly revolved around faith and family issues. "We must win to redeem our troops' sacrifice. Let us resolve to have a bipartisan strategy for the war. We need unity here to win over there," he said.

Breaking with the White House on Iraq could be politically risky among the Republican base Brownback needs to court and win in order to be a successful candidate, said Chuck Hurley, a member of his exploratory committee, said.

Brownback spent a good deal of time during a trip to Iowa last week meeting with various constituencies and explaining the "reasoning" behind his position, Hurley, an Iowa supporter, said.

"As the debate unfolds, his position, if he's right will look prescient," said Hurley. Hurley concedes some "hardcore conservatives" will "initially recoil" at Brownback's stance but "among those willing to engage in an open debate, he'll be fine."

Preempted by Clinton

Brownback appeared to take the news of Senator Clinton's newly formed exploratory committee in stride acknowledging her marquis name and political star power.

"I think this is just a confirmation of something people have pretty well already mentally processed would take place," Brownback told CNN's Candy Crowley. "I think it's way too early to handicap this, this is a long road with a lot of things to go."

Despite his underdog status, many political observers caution those who are quick to write Brownback off in the 2008 cycle. "There is a path for him to be a factor in this race," said Chuck Todd, editor-in-chief of "The Hotline," a daily political publication. Todd calls Brownback "not a predictable Republican," pointing to the Kansas senator's strong anti-abortion platform, his deep religious ties to the Christian community, and his willingness to buck the conservative base and support immigration reform and efforts to combat global warming. "Brownback is trying to say 'hey you can be culturally conservative and mainstream'" at the same time, Todd said.

Brownback's strong Catholic faith could help pave the way in the early caucus state of Iowa where Christian evangelicals are a highly organized voting bloc. According to supporters Brownback has regularly returned to the state since 2004 meeting activists in small house parties across the state. In that year's presidential election almost half of Iowa Republican voters said they were either evangelical or born again Christian according to exit polls.

After his speech in Topeka, Brownback is scheduled to travel to North Carolina and then to Washington, D.C. for Monday's March for Life.


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Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, is known for his outspoken opposition to abortion rights.

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