DES MOINES, Iowa — Four days before Iowa kicks off the voting for presidential nominees, leading candidates took a break from the campaign trail to attend Sunday morning services — on TV.
Most of them appeared on talk shows to pitch their experience, slam close rivals, and reach out not just to the Iowans who vote Thursday, but to viewers in other states who will be voting in the weeks to come. Two candidates also canceled or cut back planned visits to Iowa churches Sunday morning.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, announced that he was appearing on NBC and canceled a scheduled appearance at an 11 a.m. service at the Cornerstone Family Church.
On TV, the ordained Baptist preacher worked to assure Americans that he wouldn't impose his deep Christian faith on the country even as it would guide his policies.
"The best way to look at it is how I served as a governor," Huckabee said. "I didn't ever propose a bill that we would remove the capitol dome of Arkansas and replace it with a steeple. You know, we didn't do tent revivals on the grounds of the capitol."
At the same time Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., arrived 25 minutes late for an 11 a.m. service at the Corinthian Baptist church in Des Moines, forcing the largely African-American congregation to repeat its fellowship service so she'd get a chance to shake hands with everyone.
She then gave a truncated, 5-minute version of her stump speech and left.
The reason for her late arrival and early departure was unexplained; her appearance Sunday on ABC had been taped the day before.
Clinton told ABC that she'd always talk to husband Bill Clinton in a crisis, but she wouldn't let him in National Security Council meetings or include him in teleconferences dealing with events such as last week's assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
"That wouldn't be appropriate," she said. "He will not have a formal official role. But just as presidents rely on wives, husbands, fathers, friends of long years, he will be my close confidant and adviser, as I was with him. "
Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, a Republican, used his appearance on Fox to explain earlier comments about how much he does, or doesn't, ache for the job of president.
He said it was "journalistic malpractice" when the news media reported his comments the day before to Iowans that he's not consumed by personal ambition.
"I'm only consumed by very, very few things and politics is not one of them. The welfare of my country and my kids and grandkids are one of them," he told people in Burlington, Iowa on Saturday.
"But if people really want in their president a Super Type A personality, someone who has gotten up every morning and gone to bed every night thinking about for years how they could achieve the presidency of the United States...I ain't that."
Sunday he stressed that "I am consumed with the notion of what's going to happen to my kids, my grandkids and my country, and that's why I was running for president."
Another candidate stressed his long experience in foreign affairs, hoping voters will give that greater consideration in the wake of Bhutto's assassination.
"They are pausing and saying, this is a serious and dangerous world. Who do we want sitting in that chair in the Oval Office when the unexpected happens?" Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said on CNN. "Voters out here want to know that they are going to nominate someone who has years of experience of dealing with these matters, as I have over a quarter of a century."
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani campaigned Sunday in New Hampshire and also used Bhutto's death to highlight his tough stance on terrorism,
Speaking at a town hall meeting in Plymouth, Giuliani emphasized what has been the cornerstone of his campaign: advocating a pro-active U.S. approach to confronting terrorism in the post-September 11, 2001 world.
"We have to remain on offense and we have to recognize the threats against us," Giuliani said, adding that he'd increase the size of the nation's military and bolster the Department of Homeland Security.
Giuliani was one of a handful of GOP candidates who passed through the Granite State over the weekend. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wrapped up a weekend bus tour throughout the state Sunday and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., attended house parties and dropped by restaurants to woo voters.
With the nation's first primary rapidly approaching on Jan. 8, many New Hampshire voters say they still don't know who they'll vote for. Patricia Robin, 60, a Plymouth resident and transplanted New Yorker, attended Giuliani's town hall meeting Sunday. She said she's trying to decide between Giuliani and McCain.
"I honestly think McCain is more honest and has less skeletons in his closet," Robin said. "I really like Giuliani, I like him as a person, but I think there are too many skeletons in his closet - his family stuff, personal stuff - and I think once the real campaign starts, stuff is going to fly."
(Thomma and Stearns reported from Iowa, Douglas from New Hampshire.)