Spartansburg, S.C. — U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback said Monday he is calling every Republican he can in a key county before a presidential straw poll to be held later in the week.
It's that kind of personal attention the Kansas senator hopes can take him from obscurity to the front of a crowded field for the GOP's 2008 presidential nomination.
The straw poll will be one of the first tests in Spartanburg County, which is at the center of the contest in South Carolina, one of the earliest primaries in 2008. The county will run its 92 precinct meetings Thursday as if they were a caucus. People will show up at their polling places and choose among 11 GOP candidates listed on a paper ballot, county Republican Chairman Rick Beltram said.
Brownback is working for the vote harder than most candidates by calling voters, sending them mail and spending time here. But he isn't alone. "We see five or six campaigns actively working the crowd," Beltram said.
They include U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who have made several visits to Spartanburg in the past year. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani made a trip to the area last week to talk to firefighters.
Brownback stopped by The Beacon Restaurant on Monday, to the applause of about two dozen supporters. The joint specializes in greasy burgers and fries and has become a popular spot on the campaign trail.
"How many votes do I get for eating a chili-cheeseburger?" he asked.
Brownback tried to appeal to the conservative crowd by decrying same-sex unions. "We've got to rebuild the family, not tear it down," he said.
Brownback also stopped at a Spartanburg crisis pregnancy center.
"For the life of me, I don't understand what's controversial in standing for life. And yet for some reason that's become controversial," he said.