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Richardson Addresses Pakistani Turmoil

From NBC/NJ's Carrie Dann
DES MOINES, IOWA -- Rawalpindi, the city in Pakistan where Benazir Bhutto was assassinated yesterday, is more than 7,000 miles from Des Moines. But some Democratic and Republican candidates here are hoping that the reverberations from the death of the former Pakistani prime minister will continue to shake the snowy political ground halfway across the world in the first-in-the-nation caucuses state.

At the top of the list of candidates trying to catch the news wave is Richardson, who gave a policy address today in Des Moines about the churning turmoil in Pakistan. Richardson, the only candidate to have called for Pervez Musharraf to step down, told supporters that his Democratic rivals have "misplaced faith" in the existing government in the country, adding that America has "subsidized oppression for too long" by supporting its current president.

His campaign message? "We cannot afford another president who is a foreign policy novice," he said today. "The American people should not settle for untested leadership."

Speaking to the press after the well-attended speech, Richardson mostly tried avoided reporters' efforts to make him single his competitors out by name. But he accused his fellow Democrats of "bland" responses to yesterday's events. "What I hear from the other candidates is that they basically want to do nothing," he said.

Just how much is the crisis in Pakistan influencing the decision-making of Iowa caucus goers? Joan Price, a Richardson supporter from Ankeny, says that -- for the first time this political season -- she's been getting phone calls from friends and neighbors, who are anxious about the consequences of the assassination.

"I got about six phone calls from people last night wondering how this could affect the election," she said. "This is big news to all of us."