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Republicans rapped for their no-shows

September 27, 2007 |  3:55 pm

It was everywhere to be found today: scorn heaped upon the quartet of leading GOP presidential contenders who stiffed a debate focused on issues of concern to minority communities.

Critics --- who included several fellow Republicans --- vented in news stories in the LA Times, the NY Times, and the Baltimore Sun.

Tavis Smiley, the moderator for tonight's forum at historically black Morgan State University in Maryland, held forth in an op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer; columnist Scott Maxwell did the same in the Orlando Sentinel.

And the Newark Star-Ledger expressed its chagrin in an editorial (which also took a shot at the Democrats for declining to debate on Fox News Network earlier this year).

So just where were the candidates who went missing from the debate?

Two were a continent away, in California.

Rudy Giuliani began his day in Santa Monica, where he accepted ...

the endorsement of former Gov. Pete Wilson (The Times' Scott Martelle has a story on this website now and in Friday's print edition). Giuliani then had a campaign stop in Santa Barbara and a fundraiser in Lancaster (Sunday, after all, marks the end of the third-quarter reporting period).

Mitt Romney spent the morning greeting folks at an IHOP in Sacramento (ah, the joys of the trail...) and then headed down the coast to San Diego County for a fundraiser at Rancho Santa Fe.

John McCain spoke on foreign policy and defense issues in New York, while also taking time to shake the money tree. And Fred Thompson devoted himself solely to the chase for cash, hitting up friends and allies at three stops in his home state of Tennessee.

Chances are all four were too busy --- or, more likely, disinclined --- to check out the negative press about their decisions to stay away from Morgan State.

One of those who will be there, Sam Brownback, may well be tempted to drop a name. On Friday, he gets some campaign help from the niece of the preeminent figure in the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King.

The relative, Alveda King, travels from Atlanta to help Brownback's long-shot cause in Iowa. King, as she delineates on her website, considers "the life of the unborn" to be "perhaps the most compelling issue" facing the nation; Brownback is best known politically for his staunch anti-abortion views.

-- Don Frederick

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