The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has taken center-stage in the U.S. presidential election campaign. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington on the reactions of some of the candidates.

Democrat Hillary Clinton said she had come to know Ms. Bhutto during her years as First Lady. Campaigning in Iowa, Clinton said she was profoundly saddened and outraged by Ms. Bhutto's assassination.

Clinton's chief rival for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, said he was shocked and saddened by her death, and said she was a respected and resilient advocate for democracy in Pakistan.

Another Democratic contender, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, said the U.S. should not allow violence to disrupt Pakistan's return to democracy. Richardson also called on President Bush to force Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to step down. Richardson served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration.

Republican presidential contenders were also quick to react to the Bhutto killing.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said those responsible for the assassination must be brought to justice and that her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere is a threat to freedom.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney also condemned the assassination during a campaign stop in New Hampshire.

"This points out again the extraordinary reality of global, violent, radical Jihadism," said Romney. "We do not know who is responsible for this attack, but there is no question but that the violence that we see throughout the world is violence that is not limited to Iraq and Afghanistan, but is more global in nature.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said the assassination was devastating news for the people of Pakistan.

Senator John McCain discussed the assassination during a campaign appearance in Iowa.

"If I were president of the United States, I would be on the phone right now, and I would be meeting with the National Security Council, and I would be seeing ways that we can help restore order or maintain order, whichever is the case in Pakistan," said McCain. "I know the players, I know the individuals and I know the best way to address this situation."

Some political observers believe the Bhutto killing could refocus the election debate on the dangers of terrorism, just one week before the first test of the 2008 campaign, the Iowa presidential caucuses on January 3.