From NBC's Andrew Merten and Lauren Appelbaum
Brownback and Huckabee were the only Republicans to participate in Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG Presidential Cancer Forum in Cedar Rapids, IA this morning. Both drew from personal experience with the disease. Brownback told of his father's and own cancer experiences and how they made each of them stronger. "It changed me, moved my purpose into glorifying God and serving others." Huckabee told of his wife's successful struggle with spinal cancer and that his father died from melanoma. He also made his struggle with obesity a central facet of his call for greater public health, saying his doctor told him, "If I didn't make a lifestyle change, I was entering my last decade of life."
Brownback promised to not only to raise the budget for cancer research but to set a clear objective: "ending deaths by cancer in 10 years."
"Look, if John F. Kennedy, if President Kennedy says I'm going to double the NASA budget, because I think we ought to try to go to the moon, does that stir the American public?" Brownback asked. "Or is it him saying we're going to the moon, and then that drove an increase in the NASA budget -- it's the objective that drives the money."
But co-moderator Chris Matthews came out swinging, pressuring Brownback to say from where the money would come and accused the senator of pandering to the crowd. Matthews also asked Brownback about Clinton's remark from yesterday that President Bush is waging a war on science. "I absolutely disagree," Brownback replied. "I guess that's based upon that there's this difference between faith and reason."
VIDEO: Sam Brownback is challenged about health care spending gimmicks by MSNBC Chris Matthews.
After Brownback, Huckabee's message of greater awareness of public health was warmly received by both moderators and the audience. Huckabee touted the importance of education in nutrition and exercise and lamented the amount of chemicals that can be found in supermarket aisles, saying, "You'd be better throwing the food away and eating the package, because at least you'd get some fiber out of the cardboard." He went on to liken unhealthy eating to "pouring mud into the tank of a car."
One of the more surprising moments in the forum was Huckabee agreeing that he would approve federal legislation banning smoking in all public places if elected president -- something Clinton was even reluctant to say yesterday, during her turn. Huckabee broadened his call to all public places -- something he oversaw as Governor of Arkansas -- instead of just bars and restaurants, saying, "It's workplace safety issue," adding, "We shouldn't allow people to pour the toxic, noxious fumes of a cigarette into a place where people have to work." Brownback did not explicitly say he would support a ban.