DENVER - Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo, whose forceful opposition to illegal immigration vaulted him to national prominence, plans to announce he is abandoning his long-shot bid for the presidency, a person close to Tancredo said yesterday.

The five-term Colorado congressman planned the announcement today at a news conference in Des Moines, Iowa, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for Tancredo or his campaign.

Tancredo's campaign would say only that he would have a "major announcement" today.

Tancredo has consistently polled at the back of the nine-person GOP field. He said in October that he would not seek a sixth House term, but he hinted he would consider running for the Senate after his presidential bid.

- AP

Voting starts early in - Florida

While the political world is focused on Iowa's caucuses and how the voting there might winnow the presidential field Jan. 3, a number of Floridians have already voted - earlier than anyone else.

By some estimates, more Florida Republicans could vote by absentee ballot by year's end than the 85,000 Republicans expected for Iowa's all-important caucuses.

The votes will not be tallied until Florida's Jan. 29 primary, but people who vote by mail - or at early-voting polling locations starting Jan. 14 - are expected to account for one of three votes cast in Florida's primary.

That won't mean much for Democrats, because they are boycotting the state for setting a primary date that violates national party rules. But it could be critical in the Republican race; Florida stands to be the most important contest in a nomination battle likely to be decided a week later, Feb. 5, when nearly two dozen states vote.

- St. Petersburg Times

McCain seeks probe of calls

CONCORD, N.H. - Republican John McCain asked yesterday asked for an investigation of thousands of calls to New Hampshire voters disparaging him and supporting rival Mike Huckabee.

In a letter to the New Hampshire attorney general, McCain's campaign accused a Colorado-based nonprofit organization, Common Sense Issues, of illegally conducting "push polling," asking questions intended to influence voters while pretending to take a poll.

Common Sense Issues said New Hampshire law does not apply to presidential primaries.

"This is a headline-grabbing release," said Patrick Davis, the group's executive director.

The state law on push polling says the caller must identify the candidate he is working for or against. Common Sense Issues favors Huckabee but does not explicitly say so in the calls. Huckabee has said he has no connection with the calls and wants them to stop.

- AP

Paul to keep gift from supremacist

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has received a $500 campaign donation from a white supremacist, and the Texas congressman does not plan to return it, an aide said yesterday.

Don Black of West Palm Beach made the donation, campaign filings show. He runs a Web site called Stormfront with the motto "White Pride World Wide."

Paul spokesman Jesse Benton said Paul "stands for freedom, peace, prosperity and inalienable rights. If someone with small ideologies happens to contribute money to Ron, thinking he can influence Ron in any way, he's wasted his money."

Paul, he said, "is going to take the money and try to spread the message of freedom. And that's $500 less that this guy has to do whatever it is that he does."

- AP