GOP senators prepare poverty agenda

Four Republican senators likely to face tough campaigns in 2006 or 2008 will announce an anti-poverty agenda today stressing charitable giving, welfare-reform reauthorization and two-parent families.

Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Republican Policy Conference Chair, will lead the effort. Sens. Jim Talent (Mo.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) and Sam Brownback (Kan.) are also on board.

Santorum is among the Democrats’ top targets next year. Democrats have gone so far as to court an abortion-rights foe, state Treasurer Bob Casey, to challenge Santorum, who led the Democrat in a Quinnipiac University poll last month by five points.

Talent also could face a competitive race in Missouri, which has sent both Democrats and Republicans to the Senate in recent years. Hutchison is widely expected to run for governor in 2006. And Brownback is said to be mulling over a presidential run.

Many Republicans are sensitive to accusations that they don’t care about the less fortunate. A Senate Republican aide said: “Republicans care about the poor every bit as much as Democrats, but our approach is different.”