From NBC's Elizabeth Wilner
Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, who succeeded Bob Dole in 1996, has filed papers with the FEC to form a presidential exploratory committee. Brownback said in a written satement, "There is a real need in our country to rebuild the family and renew our culture and there is a need for genuine conservatism and real compassion in the national discussion... I hope to raise the level of discussion about issues of life at home and abroad; renewed fiscal restraint, tax reform, and economic growth; and a vigorous yet compassionate and consistent foreign policy."
Brownback isn't well-known outside of Kansas and it's not clear that he can raise the substantial sum of money a competitive presidential bid will require. But some social conservatives may see him as their only reliably like-minded candidate in a GOP field whose frontrunners have imperfect conservative credentials, and he has invested a considerable amount of time in Iowa. Per his announcement, Brownback will travel to 10 states over the next month, including a stop in Cedar Rapids, IA tomorrow.
Speaking of those frontrunners, McCain is opening a campaign office in Iowa today. The move has extra significance given that he opted to skip the state when he ran for president in 2000, in part because his opposition to ethanol subsidies would've been a stumbling block. He has tempered that opposition this year, including on a recent airing of NBC's Meet the Press.