Bill Theobald
June 12, 2007
Gannett News Service

The unlikely duo of former political rivals Republican Bill Frist and Democrat Tom Daschle announced Monday what Frist called an "unprecedented" campaign to push global poverty as an issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.

The two former majority leaders, Frist from Tennessee and Daschle from South Dakota, used a high-tech revival-like atmosphere to unveil the ONE Vote '08 campaign, a spin-off of rock star Bono's international campaign to eliminate world poverty.

Frist said the goal of the grass-roots effort is to "engage millions of American people so they will in turn engage the presidential candidates."

He spoke to a crowded congregation inside the dark, sweltering Gothic-like St. Mark's Episcopal Church near the Capitol. A Ugandan children's choir attired in multicolored costumes, danced and sang at the beginning and end of the event. And ONE Vote '08 groups from early presidential caucus and primary states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina -- joined via satellite feed on four huge flat-panel televisions alongside the stage.

Frist introduced Daschle as "my partner, my colleague."

"How fitting is it that we begin this campaign in a church," Daschle said. "This is not just preaching the gospel, it's a recognition that whether we succeed or not will determine to a large extent the kind of life we as Americans will lead. Nothing is greater to national security than state stability."

Banners in the church with the phrase "Saving Lives, Securing our Future" reiterated the national security angle that organizers will press in their campaign.

Frist said 30,000 children die each day and that 20,000 of those deaths could easily be prevented through a regimen that includes vitamins, vaccinations and pills to prevent dehydration. "ONE Vote '08 is a moral initiative, it is a charitable initiative and it's in the strategic and national interest of the United State of America," Frist said.

"People do not go to war with people who save their lives," he said.

After the event, the two men stood side-by-side and downplayed their previous rivalry. In 2004, Frist as majority leader took the unprecedented step of campaigning against the leader of the rival party in Daschle's home state. Daschle lost his seat to Republican John Thune.

"I'm prepared --and I know he is -- to put aside what differences we've had in the past because we think that it is bigger than that," Daschle said.