Brownback embraces conservative positions, tries to fill niche
Republican presidential hopeful Sam Brownback of Kansas shakes hands during a luncheon in Manchester, N.H., Monday, March 19, 2007.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Sam Brownback (R)
Senator, KS
Born: 09/12/1956
Birthplace: Parker, KS
Home: Topeka, KS
Religion: Catholic
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MANCHESTER, N.H. - U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback introduced himself to state voters Monday as a "full-scale conservative" and made no apologies for his hardline stances against taxes, abortion and gay marriage.

The Kansas Republican, making his first trip to the earliest primary state since announcing his presidential ambitions, told conservative activists at a luncheon he's "pro-life, whole life," saying candidates can't fight for fetus' rights and then abandon them after they are born.

"I believe the child in the womb should be protected, and that we should also protect the person that's in poverty, and the child that's in Darfur, and working with prisoners so they don't have so much recidivism and always back in the system," Brownback said.

Brownback, a Roman Catholic popular among religious conservatives nationally, is hoping to find his niche in a Republican field that has been criticized by some as too moderate. During her visit to the Statehouse last month, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly called the top-polling candidates _ former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney _ unacceptable.

But in New Hampshire, where fiscal issues often trump social ones, Brownback's conservative social views are unlikely to help him much.

"Evangelicals really haven't caught on in New England. In part, the state's so old," said Alan Wolfe, a political science professor who directs the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. "It really is a way of thinking and a way of being religious in exurban areas and new housing developments. It's really a Sunbelt phenomenon. It just doesn't play well in the cold parts of the country."

Brownback instead sought to emphasize his fiscal conservatism and his support for a flat federal income tax, with no deductions or credits. He said taxpayers could choose to stay in the current system or shift to the new one.

"This (tax code) should be taken behind the barn and killed with a dull ax," he said.

He did not specify a flat tax rate and has not proposed legislation in the Senate.

Brownback also highlighted his work against genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, his work against HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa, and his proposal to divide Iraq into three ethnic regions.

Brownback lags in state polls and name recognition, but dismissed questions about whether he'd be able to raise enough money to stay in the race until the primary.

"I'm the tortoise in this race. I don't like how it starts, but I like how it ends," he said.

The conservative activists, including pastors and homeschooling parents, seemed open to his candidacy.

"He needs to spend time here. He has the message. He just needs to spread it," said Paul Berube of Nashua. "It's great to hear that conservative message."