Thursday, December 29, 2011

Morning Joe Comes to Des Moines

Morning Joe in the P.M. The stars of MSNBC's hit show, "Morning Joe", will chat with Iowans about all things politics on New Year's night in downtown Des Moines. It's not until 6:30 in case you have a few too many the night before. Also, there's a pretty cool Iowa caucus exhibit you can check out while you're there. O.K., full disclosure: my station contributed to it (and special props to our award-winning photojournalist, Jeff Felton, for his efforts to the project).

Here are the details in the news release...

Scarborough, Brzezinski headline Caucus Iowa Speaker Series Sunday
“Morning Joe” hosts to appear at State Historical Building

DES MOINES – Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” will speak on New Year’s Day in Des Moines as part of the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Caucus Iowa Speakers Series.

The “Morning Joe” co-hosts will speak at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. Scarborough and Brzezinski will be joined by special guests and the audience will have an opportunity to ask questions following the talk. The event is free and open to the public, and is sponsored by DCA, the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau. Call 515-281-5111 for more information.

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” hosted by Scarborough, Brzezinski, and Willie Geist, features interviews with top newsmakers and in-depth analysis of the day’s biggest stories. TIME magazine calls the show “revolutionary” and The New York Times ranked it as the top news program of 2008.

Scarborough is a former Congressman and author of The New York Times bestseller “The Last Best Hope: Restoring Conservatism and America’s Promise,” a book that draws on the forgotten genius of conservatism to offer a road map for the movement and the country. In April 2011, he was named to the prestigious “TIME 100” list of the world’s most influential people.

Brzezinski is a co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Her memoir, “All Things At Once,” became a New York Times bestseller in January 2010.

Brzezinski's second book, “Knowing Your Value,” which examines the role of women in the workplace, was published in May 2011 and reached #1 on The New York Times Best Sellers list for business books.

Prior to joining MSNBC in January 2007, Brzezinski was an anchor of the “CBS Evening News Weekend Edition” and a CBS News correspondent who frequently contributed to “CBS Sunday Morning” and “60 Minutes.”

Don't Miss "Caucus Iowa" Exhibit
The State Historical Museum’s “Caucus Iowa” exhibit will close Jan. 8, 2012.

The exhibit opened in 2007 and outlines the Iowa caucuses’ rise to national prominence in the 1970s, explores “retail politics” in a typical coffee shop and recreates a gymnasium and living room as they would appear on caucus night.

Museum staff updated the exhibit this fall with facts and figures from the 2008 caucuses and artifacts dating back to the 1800s.

The exhibit includes interactive kiosks where visitors can answer caucus history questions and be part of a special straw poll of current candidates. It also examines the impact the media has had on transforming the caucuses into an international event.

Visit for more information.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

CNN Poll, Sorenson Bails, Bachmann Won't

Wow...what a day! I thought the CNN-Time Magazine Iowa poll was big enough. Rick Santorum's support tripled in just 3 weeks time in Iowa? Newt Gingrich lost more than half his support? Mitt Romney and Ron Paul made nice 5 point gains, too. But, wait, there's more. Much more.

Tonight, Kent Sorenson, the state senator from Indianola, endorsed Paul. No big deal, you say? Sorenson was one of Michele Bachmann's earliest and most outspoken opponents. He joined Bachmann at an event earlier today. But tonight at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, he announced he switched teams. And with just 6 days left. Wow. The Iowa Republican's Craig Robinson calls it "devastating" for Bachmann.

Then, there's this "Shotgun Wedding" proposal: Convince Santorum or Bachmann to drop out. Although, it sounds like this comes from Santorum supporters who have asked Bachmann to bail. And she says she won't do that.

Oh, and Jesse Jackson is stopping by the Occupy Iowa Caucus headquarters in downtown Des Moines Thursday night.

Santorum, Perry and Paul

Good Wednesday morning. My day started a few hours earlier than normal. I headed out to the Westside Conservative Club bi-monthly meeting at the Machine Shed in Urbandale for Rick Perry's appearance. By far, it was the biggest crowd I have seen for a speaker for the group. 200 plus people. An organizer told me Perry's campaign made calls to try to get people there and it apparently worked with the overflowing crowd. I didn't arrive until a few minutes before 7am for the 7am scheduled start. Not a smart idea. My limited view included the backs of dozens of people's heads. So I heard a lot more of what happened when Perry took the microphone, rather than saw it. Perry's warm up act didn't exactly leave the people feeling warm and fuzzy. Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio said, "Boy, I'm getting to know Iowa, the great state of Iowa. What is it? The Buckeyes?". And the crowd groaned. After prompting from someone in the audience, Arpaio continued, "The Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes." More boos and groans from the crowd. Then he added, "Well, it's 3 o'clock Phoenix time", in an apparent reference to the early time back home which caused his gaffe. Although, in case anyone be correct, Sheriff, it would have actually been about 6am Phoenix time. Des Moines is in the Central Time Zone. Phoenix is the Mountain Time Zone. Des Moines follows Daylight Saving time. Phoenix doesn't. So right now, it's one hour behind Des Moines. You know, in case you care.

Anyway, back to the business at hand...Perry made light of the goof. He said, "Well, you know how to get an Iowa crowd riled up in the 'em Buckeyes. Actually, there's probably some Cyclones in this crowd."

Perry continued with his anti-insider talk during the rest of his remarks. He said about the other candidates, "You know, I got great respect for all those folks who are on the stage with me, the ones that are so-called front runners right now. But you got to ask yourself, if we replace a Democratic insider with a Republican insider, is Washington going to change?" The crowd responded, "no."

The last time I covered a candidate at the Machine Shed, I sat down with Herman Cain for what I was told was a 15 minute conversation. We got 6 minutes, I think...enough time to hear him say he didn't have a problem with harassing women or understanding foreign policy. We did find out later, he had a bigger, more pressing problem of plummeting support that took him out the presidential race.

We're headed off to Ron Paul's event at the Iowa Speedway in Newton. It was a bit odd the campaign didn't send out a press advisory to us. Someone called instead and told us of the event. It always make us feel a bit safer about whether an event is really going to happen to read it, rather than just a phone call. Not sure why, but it just does. Nevertheless, we'll see what Newton brings us. Then we're off to Michele Bachmann's event in Indianola this afternoon. It's scheduled to start around 4:15. Bachmann events habitually start late. We'll see how she is doing on time today.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The FAMiLY Leader Endorsement

Tuesday Decision: The day has finally come. The FAMiLY Leader's CEO Bob Vander Plaats said Monday night on Steve Deace's radio show his group has decided to endorse a candidate. The group has held a series of meetings over the past month to look through the Republican presidential candidates. It has already ruled out endorsing Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul and Herman Cain. Well, Cain eliminated himself, you might say. Vander Plaats' group sent out a release Monday afternoon saying it will announce its decision Tuesday morning in Urbandale at 10:30.

I don't think Vander Plaats said anything about the candidate attending this announcement. But just for fun, I checked the Tuesday travel schedules for the remaining 4 candidates in the running:

Newt Gingrich: Has 10am event in Mt. Pleasant. Couldn't make a 10:30 in Urbandale. Nearly 145 miles away. Too far.

Michele Bachmann: Has 11am in Fayette. Couldn't make it there in time, even in her giant bus, if she's in Urbandale at 10:30. Nearly 250 miles away.

Rick Santorum: Hmmm, this looks interesting. 9am stop in Pella. 12:30 in Mt. Pleasant. But when you start to do the math, the math gets tough. If he kept his Pella event to just half an hour, he could make the hour trip to Urbandale in time for the 10:30 start. But it wouldn't be possible to do the Vander Plaats event and then drive to Mt. Pleasant in time for the 12:30 scheduled start. That trip takes nearly 2 1/2 hours.

Rick Perry: He's our last chance here. Perry has no public schedule released so far for anything in the morning before 11:45 event in Maquoketa. Hmmm. So he could do a 10:30 in Urbandale and then go on with his day. However, the distance between the two cities is about 180 miles. That's pushing 3 hours of driving. Unless, he flies, of course. Then, it might be doable. And in case you wondered, he spent Monday in New Hampshire.

So I'm going with Perry. But it's only a guess. And that's only if the candidate actually appears with Vander Plaats at the announcement.

Guess we'll know soon.

Vice-President Branstad

VP Talk: Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said former Republican Kansas Senator Bob Dole asked him Friday about his interest in serving as vice-president. The governor said Dole called him to say Dole had endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Dole also wrote a letter to Iowans this weekend explaining his endorsement (I haven't been able to find a link to it yet. I will try to add it later). But back to the VP talk...

Here's what the governor told reporters:

"He (Dole) told me he was supporting Romney. And, uh, actually, I don't think I want to say the rest of it...well...he said I should consider...he wanted to suggest me for vice-president. And I said I'm not interested. I was flattered and said, that's not something I ever even thought of."

I asked him if the conversation with Dole hinted that if Branstad endorsed Romney, then Romney would consider him for vice-president. Branstad responded, "no".

When asked how the topic came up, Branstad said, "I don't know...he's just an old friend. And I don't want to start any rumors." He continued." It's not something I've ever had an interest in. I mean, I love Iowa. And I want to stay here. I'm not contemplating going to Washington, D.C., so I'm flattered and honored that someone like Bob Dole would make that kind of suggestion." He concluded, "A lot of others would be a better choice."

Branstad said his friendship with Dole goes back decades. Branstad recalled the date, October 30th, 1978. Dole had been waiting for Branstad's plane to arrive in Sioux City where Branstad was scheduled to hold a fundraiser for his run for lieutenant governor. But Branstad's plane had problems with its landing gear and circled the airport for 2 hours and 20 minutes, according to the governor. He said it finally made a "belly landing". Everyone was o.k. But Branstad missed the entire event. He was able to attend the lieutenant governor debate in Des Moines that night.

Branstad repeated today that he will not endorse a candidate for president before the caucuses.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Des Moines Register Endorses Romney

Register for Romney: Tonight, the Des Moines Register editorial board endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination for president. The Register's endorsements over the past decade haven't brought Iowa success to the candidates, but they do give the news cycles fodder for comments on the value of the endorsements.

The Hotline's Reid Wilson looked at recent endorsements:
@HotlineReid Register's endorsement track record: Clinton and McCain '08, Edwards '04, Bradley and Bush '00.

Only Bush won out of that list. As Nick Ryan, former aide to Iowa Republican Congressman Jim Nussle and current advisor to Rick Santorum's presidential campaign, points out, the Register has now endorsed Republicans in back-to-back cycles who have failed to campaign in the state nearly as much as the rest of the field, first McCain and now Romney.

Back to the endorsement...Romney's people trumpet the endorsement tonight. I received several emails about the endorsement from the Romney campaign. Although, the emails do leave out parts of the Register's editorial, the parts that address concerns of Romney's flip-flops and nuances on issues over the years.

Here's the Romney emailed version of the editorial :

Sobriety, wisdom and judgment.

Those are qualities Mitt Romney said he looks for in a leader. Those are qualities Romney himself has demonstrated in his career in business, public service and government. Those qualities help the former Massachusetts governor stand out as the most qualified Republican candidate competing in the Iowa caucuses.

Sobriety: While other candidates have pandered to extremes with attacks on the courts and sermons on Christian values, Romney has pointedly refrained from reckless rhetoric and moralizing. He may be accused of being too cautious, but choosing words carefully is a skill essential for anyone who could be sitting in the White House and reacting to world events.

Wisdom: Romney obviously is very smart. He graduated as valedictorian at Brigham Young University and finished in the top 5 percent in his MBA class at Harvard, where he also earned a law degree. Romney also exhibits the wisdom of a man who listened and learned from his father and his mother, from his church and from his own trials and errors in life. He does not lack self confidence, but he is not afraid to admit when he has been wrong.

Judgment: Romney disagrees with Democrats on most issues, but he offers smart and well-reasoned alternatives rather than simply proposing to swing a wrecking ball in Washington. He is a serious student of public policy who examines the data before making a decision. His detailed policy paper on the economy contains 87 pages of carefully crafted positions on taxes, energy, trade and regulatory policy, complete with 127 footnotes.

Rebuilding the economy is the nation’s top priority, and Romney makes the best case among the Republicans that he could do that.

He stands out in the current field of Republican candidates. He has solid credentials in a career that includes running and starting successful businesses, turning around the 2002 Winter Olympics and working with both political parties as Massachusetts governor to pass important initiatives. He stands out especially among candidates now in the top tier: Newt Gingrich is an undisciplined partisan who would alienate, not unite, if he reverts to mean-spirited attacks on display as House speaker.

This ability to see the merits of tough issues from something other than a knee-jerk, ideological perspective suggests that Mitt Romney would be willing to bridge the political divide in Washington. Americans are desperate for the Republicans and Democrats to work together. His record of ignoring partisan labels to pass important legislation when he was governor of Massachusetts suggests he is capable to making that happen.

The actual Register endorsement also includes this:

Romney is accused of being a “flip-flopper.” He has evolved from one-time independent to moderate Republican in liberal Massachusetts to proud conservative today. He does not deny changing his position on some issues, but he will say he has made mistakes and has learned from them. Though Romney has tended to adapt some positions to different times and places, he is hardly unique. It should be possible for a politician to say, “I was wrong, and I have changed my mind.”

But more subtle distinctions apply to Romney on some major issues where he has been accused of flipping or flopping. He helped create health-care reform in Massachusetts that is strikingly similar to the much-derided “Obamacare,” for example. Yet Romney argues reasonably, though not entirely persuasively, that while all states should be free to experiment with their own reforms, it is wrong for the federal government to force a one-size-fits-all plan on the entire nation.

Romney’s tendency to carefully pick his way through the political minefields is illustrated by his carefully nuanced position on abortion over the years. He was quoted in 1994 as defending a woman’s right to choose abortion. When he ran for governor in 2002, Romney said he was personally pro-life but vowed he would not restrict or promote access to abortion. Yet he vetoed legislation legalizing the so-called morning-after pill because he saw it as easing access to abortion.

Voters will have to decide for themselves whether such subtly nuanced statements express Romney’s true beliefs or if he’s trying to have it both ways. Romney at least appreciates both sides of hard questions. “Many women considering abortions face terrible pressures, hurts, and fears; we should come to their aid with all the resourcefulness and empathy we can offer,” he wrote in a Boston Globe essay in 2005. “At the same time, the starting point should be the innocence and vulnerability of the child waiting to be born.”
With about 2 weeks left, we'll see if this endorsement helps or hurts Romney's chances to win the state's caucuses.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trump Cancels Debate

Trump Dump, Part II: Iowa Republicans may wonder how many times Donald Trump can crap on them in one cycle. Fool me once...well, you know the rest. Trump cost the party untold thousands of dollars when he bailed out as the headliner for June's Lincoln Day Dinner at the Polk County Convention Complex in Des Moines. Republican Party of Iowa Chairman has refused to disclose how much money the Donald's late cancel hurt the bank account back then. You'll recall Trump kept going back-and-forth on keeping his commitment to the dinner in the few weeks before it and then ended up backing out. That was after Trump announced he wouldn't run for president. His announcement came after NBC let it be known it would continue on paying him millions for "The Apprentice".

Now, Trump had done it. Again. Trump pulled out of the Newsmax debate in Des Moines on December 27th. He said it's because he is considering running for president. Again. This time as an Independent, which is probably a good thing since it's doubtful many Republicans are all that enamored with him following this latest development in the debate. "Debate" may not have been the best word for the event. Trump didn't cite the pitiful expected candidate attendance for the debate for his cancellation. Only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum agreed to come. The rest all said, "no", although some did it much more colorfully than that. I wonder if Gingrich and Santorum thought at all about Trump's history with Iowa Republicans when they agreed to come. Either way, the event is off. So, Thursday's candidate debate in Sioux City looks to be the final debate before the January 3rd Iowa Caucuses.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Three Weeks to Go

The Bet: Two days after the Republican presidential candidate debate in Des Moines, Democrats are still talking about Mitt Romney's extended hand Rick Perry left hanging. Democrats have kept their attention on Romney for months even as other Republicans surpassed Romney in the polls. It gives you an idea which candidate they fear most. Having said that, as they focus on Romney, Romney has switched his focus. Romney had concentrated on Perry more than any other Republican since Perry entered the race. However, with Perry's fall following disappointing debate performances, he apparently is no longer top of mind for Romney. Romney's now concentrating on the man who's passed him in Iowa and national polls: Newt Gingrich.

Here are a few releases I had today to show you what I mean:

First, from the Democratic National Committee...

The Coverage Continues: “Mitt Romney Hounded for 10k bet”

Mitt Romney hounded for $10K bet
CBS News // Stephanie Condon
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is getting hammered by both his Democratic and Republican opponents for challenging Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet on Saturday night, leaving the former Massachusetts governor on defense. Romney challenged Perry to the $10,000 bet during Saturday night's debate after the Texas governor accused Romney of once advocating for using Massachusetts' health care mandate as a national model. "This was an outrageous number to answer an outrageous charge from [Perry], and it's been proven wrong time and time again, and he keeps raising it," Romney said on Fox News Monday morning. "I said 'Okay, let's put something outrageous there'. It's like saying 'Hey, I'll bet you a million bucks X, Y, or Z.'"

DNC Puts Out Romney-Themed $10,000 Bill
TPM//Benjy Sarlin
According to a DNC spokesman, Democrats are planning on distributing this photo shopped $10,000 “Romney Reserve Note” to state parties and other allies around the country.

The DNC Introduces The $10,000 Romney Bill
Huffington Post//Sam Stein
Sensing a bit of opportunity to cast Mitt Romney as even more of a plutocrat, the Democratic National Committee is advising party officials to start deploying the below image, depicting the former governor as the face on the $10,000 bill. The hook here is Romney's way-too-casual $10,000 bet to Rick Perry during Saturday night's debate. A DNC official emails that "these are going out to state parties and allies and will be showing up in all types of iterations" included being "handed out at events and protests used online and perhaps even on merchandise." The risk (if there is one): it presents Romney as president -- after all, presidents' faces are usually the ones that end up on currency.

Mitt Romney’s $10,000 mistake
The Washington Post // Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s baffling decision to propose a $10,000 bet with Texas Gov. Rick Perry during Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate dominated the after-action analysis of the event. But did Romney simply have a bad night? Or will the $10,000 bet continue to haunt him in the final three weeks before the Iowa caucuses? That depends on who you ask. The Romney team is adamant that no harm has been done. Stuart Stevens, Romney’s lead ad maker, called the proposed bet a “very real moment” in which his candidate “back[ed] somebody down with a bluff bet.”

DNC boss: Romney $10K bet a loser
Politico//MJ Lee
The Democratic National Committee stepped up its attack on Gov. Mitt Romney’s $10,000 bet, with chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Monday calling out the Republican presidential hopeful for being “out of touch” with America’s middle class and working families. “I think the governor consistently makes clear that he remains out of touch remarkably with the middle class, with working families,” Wasserman Schultz said on Fox News, calling Romney a candidate that “continues to stand up and fight for the wealthiest most fortunate Americans.” In Saturday’s GOP presidential debate, the former Massachusetts governor drew fire from all directions after he offered a $10,000 bet to Rick Perry to challenge the Texas governor’s claim regarding a detail in Romney’s book.

DNC, Perry Go After Romney for $10,000 Bet
Real Clear Politics // Caitlin Huey-Burns
Mitt Romney is taking heat from both sides of the aisle for offering a $10,000 bet to rival Rick Perry during Saturday's Iowa GOP presidential debate. The former Massachusetts governor bet the Texas governor that he didn't advocate for a national health care plan in a previous edition of his book, "No Apology." The Democratic National Committee and Perry released Web videos slamming Romney for the bet, painting him as a candidate who is out of touch with average Americans. Soon after Romney offered Perry the wager -- which his campaign downplayed as hypothetical because he was sure he was right -- in Des Moines Saturday night, the DNC went on the offense with the Twitter hash tag "#What10kBuys." The DNC came out with a Web video the next day titled "Mitt Romney: Simply Out of Touch -- Ten Thousand Times Over," which attacks the former governor for calling a $1,500 tax cut for the middle class a Band-Aid, for joking that he is "also unemployed," and saying "corporations are people."

Mitt Romney hounded for $10K bet
CBS News // Stephanie Condon
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is getting hammered by both his Democratic and Republican opponents for challenging Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet on Saturday night, leaving the former Massachusetts governor on defense. Romney challenged Perry to the $10,000 bet during Saturday night's debate after the Texas governor accused Romney of once advocating for using Massachusetts' health care mandate as a national model. "This was an outrageous number to answer an outrageous charge from [Perry], and it's been proven wrong time and time again, and he keeps raising it," Romney said on Fox News Monday morning. "I said 'Okay, let's put something outrageous there'. It's like saying 'Hey, I'll bet you a million bucks X, Y, or Z.'"

Did Romney's $10,000 Bet Hurt His Chances With Iowa Voters?
ABC 9 KCRG, Cedar Rapids//Jillian Petrus
Political analysts say former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney made a big mistake during a GOP debate in Des Moines Saturday night. Romney was fielding attacks from Rick Perry over healthcare policy. In an effort to stop the criticism, Romney challenged Perry to a 10,000 dollar bet on Romney’s position on the individual mandate in the nation’s new health insurance law. Experts say the comment makes Romney appear disconnected with middle-class Americans, other’s suggest the candidate was just trying to make a joke to change the subject. Either way the backlash could not come at a worse time for Romney. With the caucuses less than a month away, TV9 spoke with Iowa voters to get their reaction to the remarks.

Romney’s $10,000 Bet Highlights Personal Wealth
AP//Steve Peoples
He could have bet a beer. Or maybe a steak dinner. But during a heated dispute with Rick Perry during Saturday night’s debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Mitt Romney extended his right hand and asked the Texas governor if he’d wager $10,000 to settle a dispute over his healthcare record. The rich bet instantly provided Romney’s opponents with new ammunition for their charge that he’s out of touch with middle-class America. “I’m just saying, you’re for individual mandates, my friend,” Perry said to Romney. “You’ve raised that before, Rick, and you’re simply wrong,” Romney responded, extending his hand toward Perry. “Rick, I’ll tell you what: 10,000 bucks?” Perry laughed it off: “I’m not in the betting business.”

Romney: Gingrich should return Freddie Mac money
AP//Kasie Hunt
Separately Monday, Romney further dismissed the $10,000 bet he offered Texas Gov. Rick Perry during a debate Saturday in Iowa. He called it "an outrageous number to answer an outrageous charge" — namely, Perry's claim that Romney changed language in the paperback version of his book that referred to support for a health care mandate. The bet sparked charges that Romney, a multimillionaire businessman, is out of step with the economic challenges facing ordinary people.

Mitt Romney's $10,000 bet: Will he survive it?
Christian Science Monitor//Ros Krasny
Republican Mitt Romney was back on familiar turf in New Hampshire Sunday, looking to steady his White House campaign after a potentially damaging gaffe over a wager he offered at a candidate's debate in Iowa. Speaking to reporters after a town hall meeting, Romney made light of the incident Saturday when he offered to bet Texas Governor Rick Perry $10,000 to prove that what Perry said about Romney's book about Massachusetts' controversial healthcare law was true. Perry said that in the first edition of his book that Romney wanted to impose a health insurance mandate at the federal level.

And this one is from Romney's campaign...


Fox News’ Brit Hume: “Does [Gingrich] really believe that what he did for Freddie Mac is similar to what Romney did at Bain? Probably not. But when Newt Gingrich feels threatened or upstaged, he sometimes reaches for whatever weapon comes to hand and just starts swinging. Just ask Paul Ryan.” (Fox News’ “Special Report,” 12/12/11)

Click Here To Watch

Associated Press Headline: “Study: Gingrich Tax Plan Would Worsen Deficit” (The Associated Press, 12/12/11)

· Tax Policy Center: Gingrich’s Tax Plan Would Blow A Huge Hole In The Federal Budget Deficit. “A new independent study says the tax plan by GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich would provide big tax breaks to the rich and blow a huge hole in the federal budget deficit. The analysis by the Tax Policy Center says households making more than $1 million a year would see their taxes drop by an average of 62 percent.” (Stephen Ohlemacher, “Study: Gingrich Tax Plan Would Worsen Deficit,” The Associated Press, 12/12/11)

Weekly Standard Headline: “Gingrich Hits Romney From The Left” (Weekly Standard, 12/12/11)

· Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes: “Newt Gingrich Has Adopted An Anti-Free Market Argument – A Favorite Of The Political Left – To Criticize Mitt Romney.” (Fred Barnes, “Gingrich Hits Romney From The Left,” Weekly Standard, 12/12/11)

American Spectator Headline: “Gingrich Attacks Romney From The Far Left” (American Spectator, 12/12/11)

· American Spectator’s Joseph Lawler: “Gingrich Has Basically Adopted The Language Of The Anti-Corporate Left With This Line Of Attack.” (Joseph Lawler, “Gingrich Attacks Romney From The Far Left,” American Spectator, 12/12/11)

Washington Post Headline: “Gingrich Slips: Shows His Nasty, Anti-Free Market Self” (The Washington Post, 12/12/11)

· The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin: “Gingrich Is Still His Own Worst Enemy And The Best Witness To Debunk The Canard That He’s A Tea Party, Pro-Free Market Guy.” (Jennifer Rubin, “Gingrich Slips: Shows His Nasty, Anti-Free Market Self,” The Washington Post, 12/12/11)

Huffington Post Headline: “Newt Gingrich Praised SEIU Head Andy Stern's Forward-Looking Vision” (The Huffington Post, 12/12/11)

· In One Of His Books, Gingrich Praised Former SEIU Head Andy Stern – “Who Remains A Close Adviser” To President Obama. “Yet Gingrich also worked with Andy Stern, the former leader of the Service Employees International Union … In his book … Gingrich praises the SEIU head, who remains a close adviser of the [sic] President Obama.” (Sam Stein, “Newt Gingrich Praised SEIU Head Andy Stern's Forward-Looking Vision,” The Huffington Post, 12/12/11)

Politico Headline: “Gingrich As Anonymous Attack Dog” (Politico, 12/12/11)

· Politico: Gingrich Was “Revealed As An Anonymous Source Hitting Back At A Mitt Romney Surrogate.” “There's a terrific nugget at the bottom of Trip Gabriel's piece on Newt Gingrich face his warts head-on [sic], with the candidate exhibiting some watch-what-I-say-not-what-I-do behavior, and revealed as an anonymous source hitting back at a Mitt Romney surrogate…” (Maggie Haberman, “Gingrich As Anonymous Attack Dog,” Politico, 12/12/11)

Savannah Morning News Headline: “Not A Lobbyist, Newt Gingrich Says, But It Looks Like He Was In Georgia” (Savannah Morning News, 12/11/11)

· “In 2004, The Former U.S. House Speaker Apparently Was A Lobbyist As It Was Then Spelled Out In Georgia Law, And Failed To Register As A Lobbyist, As The Law Required.” (Larry Peterson , “Not A Lobbyist, Newt Gingrich Says, But It Looks Like He Was In Georgia,” Savannah Morning News, 12/11/11)

· Politico Headline: “Lobbying, In Georgia” (Politico, 12/12/11)

Huffington Post Headline: “Michael Savage Offers Newt Gingrich One Million Dollars To Drop Out Of Race” (The Huffington Post, 12/12/11)

· Conservative Radio Host Michael Savage Offered Gingrich $1 Million To Leave The Race, Saying He Believes Gingrich Cannot Beat President Obama. “Conservative radio host Michael Savage has offered Newt Gingrich $1 million to drop out of the Republican primary race … Savage, who hosts the third-highest rated radio program in the country, outlined the reasons why he believed Gingrich was incapable of beating Obama.” (“Michael Savage Offers Newt Gingrich One Million Dollars To Drop Out Of Race,” The Huffington Post, 12/12/11)

National Review Headline: “Newt Is The Problem” (National Review, 12/12/11)

· Avik Roy: “Newt Gingrich Is One Of The Principal Abettors Of The Exploding Health-Care Entitlement State We Face Today.” (Avik Roy, “Newt Is The Problem,” National Review, 12/12/11)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Drake University Debate

Debate Post-Game: ABC counted more than 7.5 million viewers of the Republican presidential candidate debate Saturday night at Drake University in Des Moines. Perhaps, NBC's prime-time schedule could accommodate some of those?

Here are the memorables in my mind from the night:

The Defense.

The Bet.

The Name.

The Backhanded Praise.

The Charge.

And probably in that order.

The Defense: Newt Gingrich looked and listened to candidates as they answered the question about whether the country can trust a man who messes around on his wife (I mention that because he seemed to look elsewhere at other points when candidates criticized him for other reasons). Rick Perry was the only candidate to essentially say "no". Gingrich admitted mistakes and also admitted his infidelity is an issue for voters to consider. Although, obviously, he urges them to look at the fact he's changed his ways and accomplished many things in life. I'll be curious how candidates handle the "issue" now that Gingrich has had to talk about it during a debate. Move on?

The Bet: It seems like people will talk about this one for a while. Perry apparently already has a commercial ready to go about it. Will Romney's $10,000 bet come back to bite Romney in the rear, making his look like a really rich out-of-touch guy? Or will this make Perry just look desperate?

The Name: Well, Michele Bachmann needed to find a way to get her name back in the national conversation, so she invented one. Or at least someone else invented one for her: "Newt Romney". She tries to lump Gingrich and Romney together so voters think they're interchangeable and interchangeably not the solid Republican she is. Gingrich made sure to point out innaccuracies in her comments following the name. But can she get the name to stick and knock down the new combination down a few notches, giving her a much-needed boost? (By the way, coincidentally, Romney's 2008 Iowa Chairman Doug Gross used the same "Newt Romney" line on Channel 13's "Insiders". The show aired Sunday morning. But we taped it Thursday afternoon. However, unless Bachmann had our studio bugged, I doubt she got the name from Gross. And Gross maintains it was just a slip of the tongue. Fun coincidence, if nothing else.)

The Backhanded Praise: Rick Santorum is another one who needed to inject himself into the national conversation. He gave the most Iowa shoutouts, even mentioning tiny Fremont County in far southwest Iowa. It might earn some love from the state he's traveled so much. But, perhaps, his bigger moment could be coming after Bachmann. He complimented her on her consistent conservative past. But he didn't stop there. He then said Bachmann has fought and lost, while he has fought and won. The two candidates fight over some of the same social conservatives. And with Herman Cain's following up for grabs, we'll see if voters follow Santorum's comparison.

The Charge: This one's not getting nearly the attention the day after. But Ron Paul continued his assault on Gingrich for taking millions from Freddie Mac. Paul said Gingrich probably got some of taxpayers' money. Paul's brought some of the most aggressive campaign ads so far against Gingrich, and this charge continues their theme.

Defending Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich, family man: I've not heard Gingrich himself or family members use those words exactly. But there seems to be a lot more talk of a warmer, fuzzier, happy Grandpa Gingrich these days. At the official opening of his campaign headquarters in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale, he said his grandchildren critique his debates. His granddaughter told him to smile and his grandson to not talk to much. In his defense during the debate of questions of whether Americans should trust an adulterer, Gingrich talked about being a "68-year-old grandpa".

I talked with his daughter, Jackie Cushman. The campaign offered the conversation Saturday before the debate. Jackie is the child of Gingrich and his first wife, Jackie. His divorce from Jackie has become political lore but Cushman told me it's mostly folly. The story goes that Gingrich went to the hospital to see his wife, who was dying from cancer, and served her with divorce papers. Cushman said it's actually her mom who requested the divorce talk and her mom wasn't dying from cancer. She had a tumor but it turned out not to be cancerous. And most importantly, she's still alive today. Cushman didn't deny her dad's infidelity during his two broken marriages.

Cushman wants Iowans to judge her father based on everything he's done, not just his failings. Cushman told me, "I think you have to look at where he stands and what he has done over time. He is the only national candidate who on a national level has balanced the budget. He's cut spending nationally. He's cut taxes. He's reformed welfare."

Gingrich leads every Iowa poll, a stunning turnaround to some who thought he'd drop out of the race this summer when his entire paid Iowa staff quit. They questioned how much he was willing to work to win the nomination. But Gingrich's daughter said she learned to never count her dad out. She told me, "People said, oh, he's going to drop out. I was like, absolutely not! This is not a man who drops out or gives up easily. He lost twice before he ever won for Congress. He lost in '74 and 1976. And both times that he lost, the next day, we as a family got up early, went to the Ford factory at the morning shift changes, probably around 6 o'clock, shook hands and said, thank you for your help. Be back again."

Did you catch the mention of "we as a family got up early"? Probably not the last time we will hear about family as Gingrich continues toward the Iowa Caucuses.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Iowa Republican Chairman Warns of Dangers of Criticism

Elbow Room: If you're a Republican presidential candidate thinking of getting some attention by throwing some elbows tonight, be careful. Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn says too many verbal elbow jabs tonight may cause more pain for the giver than the receiver. Strawn told me before the debate, "If you spend all your time criticizing opponents and not talking about what you would do, I think there's great electoral peril for the candidates that decide to do that as their sole strategy."

Strawn added, "If you're negative, what you do is create an opportunity for another candidate and to potentially rise above the fray. So it is a delicate balance for the candidate who decides to be on the attack the entire time." "There's a huge risk-reward factor of how aggressive you want to prosecute another candidate's record. Because when I talk to a lot of regulars, they want somebody who's aspirational. They want someone who is sticking up for conservative beliefs. And they want somebody who will aggressively take the Republican case against Barack Obama in the general election."

Strawn is staying neutral in the race. Last cycle, he worked for John McCain's Iowa campaign.

Debate Night

Naughty or Nice?: Newt Gingrich has surged to the top of the polls, both in Iowa and across the country. So, what does that mean for the debate tonight at Drake University in Des Moines? Candidates are running out of time to score some points with voters with the Iowa Caucuses just 24 nights away. They have tonight and one more debate in Sioux City before the caucuses on January 3rd. Then, of course, there's whatever you want to call the event with Donald Trump at Des Moines' Hoyt Sherman Place on December 27th. But only Gingrich and Rick Santorum have RSVP'd for that one.

What to expect tonight?

Newt Gingrich--Gingrich has to stay above it all. He said again today he's not going to get into the negative attacks like rivals do. He even said he'd come after a pro-Gingrich SuperPAC if it would go negative. So Gingrich can't lose his cool and get feisty tonight (although, isn't that what some of his supporters want?)

Mitt Romney--Romney has tried to act like he isn't going hard in Iowa. He's largely stayed away while his team has quietly tried to re-connect with supporters from his first run 4 years ago, along with connecting with Independents and business-minded moderate Republicans. But Romney's adding visits and surrogate stops as he's dropped in the polls and Gingrich has soared. Romney's surrogates are coming hard after Gingrich right now, ripping on him at every chance. Does Romney need to do that, too, tonight, or risk getting elbowed out of the top 3 finishers on caucus night.

Ron Paul--I'm very curious how Paul handles Gingrich tonight. He's running really critical ads on Iowa tv's right now. Will he continue it in person? I covered Paul at Principal Financial in Des Moines earlier this week. He said nothing of Gingrich during his remarks before Principal employees. But afterwards, as he walked off, he told Radio Iowa's Kay Henderson, “Who’s that? Who is that? Oh, that guy who used to be the speaker? I have to expose him for what he’s been doing all these years. That’s all we’re doing, trying to present the facts.” So will Paul bring it tonight?

Rick Santorum--He says he's having a "boomlet" right now...with very slow progress in the polls. He's laid the groundwork for what could be his surge, or at least mini-surge, on caucus night. But so far, the polls show little evidence of that. Santorum earned an endorsement last night from Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, the first state office-holder to endorse. Schultz backed fellow Mormon, Mitt Romney, last time. Santorum has to start making a name for himself on the national stage. Tonight would offer that chance. But how does he come out hard without looking desperate? And will moderators give him much of a chance to have that opportunity?

Michele Bachmann--Bachmann bailed on an interview with our reporter today and skipped a veterans' forum. So it would seem the debate is getting her every attention. Bachmann has to find a way to do something no one has done this race...get a "re-surge". She had things going for her winning the Republican Party of Iowa's Straw Poll in Ames in August. But she has done very little retail campaigning in Iowa lately. How can she find a way to stand out tonight? Will she, too, come after Gingrich as the ultimate Washington insider? Or does she stick with her "I'm a mom" theme she uses often here, along with continuing to connect with the Evangelicals at a time social issues don't get the same play they did 4 years ago?

Rick Perry--Another tough memory loss for him after he had talked of a campaign "restart" just days ago. Perry's latest lapse during his editorial board meeting with the Des Moines Register Friday threatens to stick in people's minds, reminding them of his previous debate issues. What does he do tonight? Does he keep going after the sympathetic with his self-deprecating humor about his lapses (taking the risk he becomes politics version of the Chicago Cubs lovable loser)? Or does he have no choice but to come after Gingrich repeating his anti-Washington rhetoric, hoping Iowans haven't given up on him?

No matter who does it, though, I'd expect Gingrich to get a taste of what life is like as the front runner, don't you? The question is who wants to go after him and how much.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Blago To Head to Prison, Pujols Headed Back to St. Louis?

Land of non-Lincoln: I wanted to take a break from the presidential race for a minute and think about what's just happened in my home state, although I'm not sure I actually want to do that. Rod Blagojevich just got sentenced to 14 years in prison. Apparently, the court doesn't think favorably of a governor who tries to auction off a U.S. Senate senate. Who knew? I suppose it's hardly a surprise Illinois has another crooked politician. We all hear about the jokes of Chicago's unseemly political world. But the whole state gets blanketed in this humiliation. Blago is one of 4 Illinois governors to get nailed for breaking the law in the past half century. 4! What a disgrace. At least these crooks introduced bipartisanship into this. 3 are Democrats, 1 a Republican. And they were creative with their graft: taking money for drivers' licenses, payoffs from the horse race industry and bad loans. Oh, the home state pride that fills me so.

Speaking of my home state...Albert Pujols has a chance to prove he isn't just all about the money. If reports are true that his St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins are waging a bidding war for his services with what will end up being a crazy contract, then this story had better end with Pujols back in St. Louis. I'm not saying I think it's wise for the Cards to give him a 10-year, $220 plus million deal. I worry this could have severe ramifications down the road when Pujols is an old, broken down ballplayer and the Cards are stuck with an unseemly contract. I don't know that I would ever think a 10-year deal is wise, even for a player who's in his early 20s. But for a player like Pujols who will be 32 when the season begins? No way. Having said that, it's not my money and if teams are crazy enough to to throw it at him, then they'll have to live with the consequences. Pujols is a truly amazing ballplayer, perhaps, the greatest player since I've been alive. He is revered in St. Louis. And he does amazing things with his foundation to help children, like his son, with Down's Syndrome. But he also gets way too much positive press for a player who does what he wants on the field, constantly walking that line between confident and arrogant. I hope his reward for the fans isn't to nickel and dime the Cards into offering a few bucks more than a rival bid. I mean, after you get a $220 million dollar offer, do you really need to push for more? Ask some of the 13 million Americans out of work and see what they think.

Romney Ad Response to Gingrich Surge?

Romney Responds: Mitt Romney and his campaign have worked for months to play that expectations game: use a more national strategy and focus on other states, rather than put so much emphasis on Iowa like he did 4 years ago. That's when he spent $10 million and still lost to Mike Huckabee's low budget operation. So this time around, his camp lowers expectations on where he can finish on caucus night. However, I think some people may mis-read what Romney has done this time. He has hardly blown off the state. Sure, he's not been here as much as many politicos, including Governor Terry Branstad and his former key state operative Doug Gross, have wanted. But Romney's people have worked to re-connect with supporters from 4 years ago through phone calls, literature and social media, along with trying to forge new connections in a more traditional business setting. Romney stood with South Dakota Senator John Thune before several hundred employees of Nationwide Insurance in Des Moines a few weeks ago. Tonight, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie holds another town hall at Kum & Go's headquarters in West Des Moines. The events give Romney a chance to focus more on more moderate Republicans, Independents and business-minded voters who aren't caught up as much in the social issues, where Romney's changing positions have given him trouble with some.

Romney's hope to lower expectations has worked, perhaps too well. He finishes 2nd or 3rd in every major recent poll of Iowa: The Des Moines Register, ABC/Washington Post, CBS/New York Times and the NBC/Marist. Newt Gingrich has strong leads in every one of those polls. And as long-time Iowa Republican activist Dave Roederer told me this week, that means Gingrich's new expectation is to win Iowa. Obviously, that's a huge change from just a few weeks ago. Roederer adds, though, that we'll see if Gingrich can put together a traditional caucus organization so rapidly to take advantage of his stunning turnaround. Roederer, by the way, is uncommitted to a campaign this time around as he serves as the state's budget director. He lead John McCain's efforts here 4 years ago.

Romney is out with a new ad. See if you think it's a subtle jab at his new rival in Iowa, who happens to have two ex-wives.


Boston, MA – Romney for President today announced a new television advertisement that will be going up in Iowa and New Hampshire this week titled “Leader.” Throughout his life, Mitt Romney has been true to his family, his faith, and his country. As president, he will stay true to those same values and will never apologize for America.

To View “Leader,” Please See:

AD Facts: Script For “Leader” (TV:30)

MITT ROMNEY: “I think people understand that I’m a man of steadiness and constancy. I don’t think you’re going to find somebody who has more of those attributes than I do.

“I’ve been married to the same woman for 25 – excuse me, I’ll get in trouble – for 42 years. I’ve been in the same church my entire life. I worked at one company, Bain, for 25 years. And I left that to go off and help save the Olympic Games.

“If I’m President of the United States, I will be true to my family, to my faith, and to our country, and I will never apologize for the United States of America.

“I’m Mitt Romney, and I approve this message.”

Final Month Before Iowa Caucuses

Caucus Countdown: Less than one month left and it seems like the Republican presidential candidates have far different game-plans in the final weeks. Romney's "ad"-ding up. Bachmann's staying national. Gingrich is back on campus. Paul is, too, and more. Perry stays on tv but brings in his other half. And Santorum stays on the road.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Des Moines Register Iowa Poll

One Month: Boy, things have changed. Newt Gingrich is surging in Iowa, according to the Des Moines Register's latest Iowa Poll. Ron Paul's support is on the rise, too. And Mitt Romney's hanging in 3rd place. Of course, there is a major wild card in these numbers (with HEAVY emphasis on the "wild"). The Register's pollster talked to people before Herman Cain bailed from the race. So we need to take that into account. But here's my take on the new numbers...

I'll put my thoughts in bold, right above my previous reaction to the poll in October (which also included the candidate's Register poll numbers from June, too).

My thoughts on the numbers...then and now...

ROMNEY: 16% Uh-oh. Down 6% from October. Romney has largely counted on his support from 4 years ago in Iowa as he spent his time in other early states this time around. If these numbers hold, will he regret not trying harder in Iowa? Expect more attention from him in these final 4 weeks.

Romney June 23%, October 22%--Steady Eddie. Not losing, not gaining. Holds support from 2008. Good enough showing that we shouldn't expect him to pick up the campaigning in Iowa?

BACHMANN: 8%. Flat from October. Not very impressive for the woman who keeps stressing she was born in Iowa. Would need miracle December finish for top 3 on January 3rd caucus night. And since she went "all in" for Iowa, doesn't she need to win the state to keep going? Maybe surprise 2nd lets her survive until New Hampshire?

Bachmann 22% June, 8% October--Flamed out? Needs major momentum reversal. How does she win people back after losing them? Cue Eric Woolson, Mike Huckabee 2008's Iowa miracle worker, who has taken over her efforts in the state.

CAIN: 8%. Down a staggering 15%. Doesn't matter, though, since he dropped out. Where will 8% now go?

Cain 10% June, 23% October --Smoking hot. But...who keeps 'em burning with little Iowa campaign infrastructure? Romney already had a built-in base here. Where's Cain's?

GINGRICH: 25%. Up 18%. Wow. More than triped his support in a month. Can he get the traditional caucus organation together in time to carry this surge to a caucus night win?Gingrich 7% June, 7% October --Hanging on. Gets praise for debate (mostly outbursts about the media) but not translating into growth here yet. And will he put together a staff to get the needed caucus turnout to allow him to continue?

PAUL: 18%. Up 6%. Don't count him out. Support 2 1/2 times as he had over the summer. If he grabs some of Cain's defectors, who knows?Paul 7% June, 12% October --Mini-revolution. The Ron Paul revolution isn't storming the castle yet, but it's growing nicely. Can it grow enough for a caucus finish that will get national attention beyond Iowa?

Pawlenty 6% June... Dropped out. Endorsed Romney. Will he campaign here to help Romney?

SANTORUM; 6%. Up 1%. Growing but LONG way to go. Needs huge chunk of the 11% undecided and some mass defections from others. Has definitely put in the time to meet people. But needs a lot more people for a top finish on caucus night. Santorum 4% June, 5% October. Little Engine. He is about to complete his tour of all 99 Iowa Counties. But when will all that work show some better numbers?

PERRY: 6%. Down 1%. Spent a ton of dough blanketing the state with campaign ads. And he lost support? Ouch. Perry....not yet a candidate in June. 7% October. That's 5th in this poll if you're keeping score. Lot of work to do to make Romney sweat. Running tv ads (Paul is, too). Will reading scripted comments make up for the unscripted problems he has during debates? have the two businessmen at the top, then Paul's anti-governmentals and social conservative-favorites split the rest. Will all these candidates survive long enough to get to caucus night?

Cain Suspends Campaign

Cain Trained: I thought Herman Cain would leave the presidential race. I mean, he had to, right? But, I have to say, watching his speech in Atlanta today, I started to have my doubts. Then, he started to use verbs in the past tense. That's when you knew his campaign would be in the past tense, too. Cain blamed the media. Again. Apparently, the media made up all the allegations of sexual harassment and adultery. Apparently, the media was hell-bent on ruining his reputation. I'm curious then why Cain dropped out (or "suspended" as he officially declared, allowing him to continue to raise money to pay off any campaign debts he may have). Why let the media win? Shouldn't he have proven the media wrong by staying in the race and winning? Cain still had some supporters, not many, if you believe the polls, which show his support tanking this past month. So what happens to those supporters? He had just 8% support in the Des Moines Register's Iowa Poll that's getting released in pieces this weekend (the biggest chunk goes on-line tonight at 7pm central time). That's about a third of his support from just 5 weeks (as detailed in this very thorough story on Cain's collapse by the Register's Josh Hafner and Jennifer Jacobs this afternoon).

Bachmann, Gingrich and Perry were quick to send out statements praising Cain (none mentioned the specifics of the scandals). Romney tweeted his praise later, too. Paul now just emailed one, as well. That's everyone but Santorum as I write this.

If Gingrich, Paul and Romney have the most apparent Iowa support so far, then the rest of the field could really use any supporters Cain had left. But who's working for it? Bachmann has dramatically dropped her appearances. She seems to be doing media interviews, but not many of the retail/coffee shop/backyard chats-type appearances she made leading up to her win in August in the Republican Party of Iowa's Straw Poll. The only way we've seen Perry recently in Iowa is on tv. He's running plenty of ads but not stepping foot in the state. Santorum campaigns like no other this cycle. It's almost a rare day when he's not here. But are Cain's anti-media, anti-government bunch Santorum's crowd?

Gingrich? He's the hot candidate right now. But he is a former house speaker, who's made millions for his company working for the government since he left office. Is that attractive to Cain's people? Romney's the other businessman in the race. But would Cain's supporters go to Romney now (especially as Romney tries to be that "establishment" candidate) after they passed him over before?

So, if I had to guess...Perry or Paul's anti-government talk could win over some of Cain's supporters...? Unless, Gingrich's surge captured some of their attention?

Looks like quite a final month until the caucuses, don't you think?!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Former Iowa Governor Endorses Romney

Ray for Romney: Iowa's most prominently-elected Republicans: Governor Terry Branstad, Senator Chuck Grassley, Congressman Steve King and Congressman Tom Latham have all declined to endorse a Republican presidential candidate so far in this race. But today, Mitt Romney's campaign announced former Iowa Governor Bob Ray has endorsed his efforts. Governor Ray isn't an active as he once was in Iowa politics, of course, but you do still see him make numerous public appearances. Ray's approval will add to that "establishment" list of supporters Romney's camp has been releasing. I wonder when we will see Newt Gingrich start to release prominent supporters?

Here's the release from the campaign:


Boston, MA – Mitt Romney today announced the support of former Iowa Governor Robert Ray.

“I am truly honored to have Governor Ray’s support,” said Mitt Romney. “Not only was he a great governor but he is also a tremendous leader with a long history serving both Iowa and the country. In the coming weeks, I look forward to working with Governor Ray to bring my message of a “Simpler, Smaller, and Smarter” approach to government to all Iowans.”

Announcing his support, former Governor Ray said, “I want our next president to be someone whose character and judgment I respect and whose ideas are valid for our country. I believe Mitt Romney offers the personal qualities and vision to become a truly great president. Mitt has a strong record in business, including turning around the Winter Olympics, and leading the state of Massachusetts. Mitt Romney would represent America’s values and interests in an uncertain, challenging, and competitive world. With our future in mind, I am proud to support Governor Romney in the caucuses and hope to vote for him next November.”

Background On Governor Robert Ray:

Robert Ray Was The Governor Of Iowa From 1969 Until 1983. After leaving office, Governor Ray also served as interim Mayor of Des Moines and as interim President of Drake University. He also founded the character education program, Character Counts. Governor Ray is a U.S. Army veteran and was a delegate to the United Nations Conference on Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Waiting for Cain Decision

Cain and Still Able?: As I write this, Herman Cain is still a Republican presidential candidate. I still have no word on when he will step foot in the state again so Iowans get the chance to ask him face-to-face about the scandals of numerous charges of sexual harassment and adultery. The candidate himself and his Iowa campaign don't sound like they're sharing the same message, though, on what's happening unless I'm just completely confused. Let's catch up...Cain's latest accuser, Ginger White, said the two had a 13-year romantic affair, full of physical contact, text messages, phone calls, etc. Cain admits only to a friendship with the texts and calls and that he gave her money to help her out. Cain told the Manchester Union Leader today he still hasn't talked face-to-face with his wife. He also said he never told his wife he was giving money to another woman. He told the paper he has to talk to his wife, when he sees her in person for the first time since this latest accusation went public, on Friday. Then he will decide whether to continue on it what has already been an usual, and, at times, baffling campaign.

His Iowa office released this today:

Hi all,

Mark Block, Herman Cain’s chief of staff and chief operating officer, just left a meeting at the Iowa headquarters with all four Iowa staffers. The emphatic message is that the campaign is full steam ahead. Herman Cain is in it to win it. He always has been and that has not changed.

Feel free to contact me if you want me on video saying the same.

Lisa Lockwood
Friends of Herman Cain, Iowa Staff
Communications Director

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Iowa Cain Campaign

Cain Train: The train rolls on according to two separate statements from two people in Herman Cain's Iowa campaign, despite this latest public accusation of inappropriate behavior from the candidate. An Atlanta woman claims she had a near 14-year affair with Cain (who is married). Cain denies the affair.

Cain has all but disappeared from Iowa since the Republican Party of Iowa Straw Poll in August. He had a stop at a coffee shop in Dubuque and shot a commercial at the Machine Shed Restaurant in Urbandale two weeks ago. His campaign today could offer no insight as to when Cain would return to the state, which holds its first-in-the-nation caucuses in just 5 weeks.

Here are two statements in light of the newest allegations of Cain's improper behavior:

Cain Campaign Iowa Director, Larry Tuel

We are building a great Iowa ground game for Herman Cain, and have almost 900 pct captains in place.
Nothing that has occurred has changed our plans. Whatever reassessment is going on in the national campaign, our marching orders are to keep building our ground game in Iowa and prepare to storm the gates January 3rd.

We haven't had supporters calling today asking to have their names removed from the list of pct captains. Certainly they are looking for an explanation and we provided it to them. We are all believers in Herman Cain in this office and are looking forward to seeing this campaign through to the Iowa Caucuses.

To: Iowa Cain Supporters
From: Steve Grubbs, Iowa Cain Chairman

As you may know, a new accusation was leveled against Herman Cain yesterday. On a conference call this morning, Mr. Cain made several important points:

1) He reiterated that he had tried to help Ginger White with her problems and tried to get her on her feet financially.
2) He discussed the emotional toll these allegations had taken on his family, but emphasized that he was moving ahead with the campaign, including a foreign policy speech tonight in Michigan
3) He said the campaign was reassessing where it was similar to the reassessment that was made after the Iowa Straw poll and the Florida straw polls.

This is what I take from the call and what I believe:

1) News reports have been quick to report the allegations, but few have been fair about reporting the background of the accuser. Credit to the New York Times for including this paragraph in their story:
New York Times, 11-28-2011: "Ms. White is an unemployed single mother. Before the interview, Fox learned that she had filed a sexual harassment claim against an employer in 2001. That case was settled. The station also found a bankruptcy filing nearly 23 years ago in Kentucky, and several eviction notices in the Atlanta area over the past six years.
The station also reported that Ms. White had a former business partner who once sought a "stalking temporary protective order" against her for "repeated e-mails/texts threatening lawsuit and defamation of character." The case was dismissed, but it was followed by a libel lawsuit against Ms. White. A judge entered an order against Ms. White because she failed to respond to the lawsuit, Fox reported"
2) Both John McCain and Bill Clinton had similarly difficult times in their presidential campaigns (McCain in the summer of 2007 and Clinton during the fall of 1991) and they both weathered the storm and emerged to be their parties nominees.

3) I believe in Herman Cain and his ideas. We need to get back on message and make it to the Iowa Caucuses. My request is that you don't let anyone pick your candidate based on these allegations. We have a strong Iowa ground game and we are looking forward to making it to January 3rd with a strong team intact.

Thank you for your support and thank you for taking a long view of our sometimes challenging electoral process.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bachmann in Iowa, too

Ol' Lonely Gets Company: Apparently Michele Bachmann is also in Iowa this week, along with Newt Gingrich as I mentioned earlier today. I didn't receive anything from the Bachmann campaign mentioning an Iowa travel schedule this week. But here is a new email...

As per her Iowa campaign manager/spokesman Eric Woolson:

Mickelson program from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. tomorrow (WHO radio in Des Moines). Then she is at the University of Northern Iowa at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Waverly at 3:30 p.m. and Charles City at 6:30 p.m.

Where Are the Presidential Candidates?

Strange Land: It's 9:58am on Monday, November 28th. My limited math skills show that makes 5 weeks and a day until the Iowa Caucuses, a make or break night for several of the Republican presidential candidates (candidates, you know who you are). Yet, I only know of one candidate with travel plans for the state this week. Newt Gingrich, fresh off his endorsement from the Manchester Union-Leader (New Hampshire's Manchester. Iowa's town of the same name has the Manchester Press), speaks before the Polk County Republicans' Annual Republican Victory Dinner in Johnston Thursday night.

Michele Bachmann chose to do a book tour in the campaign's final weeks, instead of traditional campaigning. But that ended yesterday. So enjoy Iowa, Mr. Speaker. It looks like you have it all to yourself.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Endorsements: Romney Gets Former IA Speaker, Gingrich Gets Manchester Newspaper

Romney 1, Gingrich: Most politicos would agree an endorsement doesn't necessarily equal votes. But since the politicos and, probably more importantly, the media, fixate on endorsements, they do bring a lot of free air time/print space. So, you could make the argument, endorsements do ultimately lead to some votes, at least increased visibility for a candidate (something candidates like Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann would love to have right now). Either way, Newt Gingrich won over the endorsement of the Manchester Union-Leader. What does that matter? The New York Times' Nate Silver lays out a pretty thoughtful statistical analysis showing that while the paper's endorsement doesn't mean automatic victory, it does seem to correlate with double-digit improvement from the candidate's poll standing at the time of the endorsement to the final vote on primary night.

Sunday, Mitt Romney also received an endorsement. Former Iowa Speaker of the House Chris Rants wrote an op-ed in the Sioux City Journal endorsing Romney. Rants supported Romney last cycle. But he had held out on his endorsement this time until now (he did briefly head Thad McCotter's presidential efforts in Iowa).

Whose endorsement matters most? I'm not sure this is an apples to apples comparison. No doubt Gingrich gets FAR more national press out of his endorsement. Using Google News, I found 904 articles mentioning the endorsement. I found just one mentioning the Rants endorsement (not counting the Sioux City Journal, of course).

The Rants' choice was a bit of a surprise to me. I figured if he hadn't already picked Romney publicly by now, he would back someone else (I mean, besides McCotter). In 2010, Rants ran his short-lived run for governor as the "ideas guy". He had all kinds of ideas for all kinds of problems in the state. That didn't translate into poll popularity or cash either. So Rants dropped out. Gingrich seems to be the "ideas guy" in the race for president. I thought there might be a natural fit between these two ideas guy. Rants said in the op-ed piece, he did narrow his choice down to Romney and Gingrich. And he feels Romney can actually win, not just the nomination, but the White House. He didn't think Gingrich could do that. We'll see what affect Rants' words have on other Iowans who haven't yet made up their minds in this race, even if Google News doesn't pick up on it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I Am Thankful

On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful...

for a family who is healthy...
for a son who's brought more joy than I could have imagined...
for a wife and best friend who can be the same person...
for a company that lets me cover one of my passions in life...
for the support of friends...
for always having safe shelter and a good meal...
and the hope to have the humility to appreciate all that I have.

Thanks to you for reading my thoughts and for sharing yours. Together, I hope we can help keep the conversation going to hold our elected officials accountable and improve the communities in which we live.

Happy Thanksgiving and continued blessings to you and everyone close to you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Romney Returns to Iowa, Will Expand Iowa Efforts

Romney Returns: It's not often Iowans see Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney in person in 2011. In fact, I don't think Romney has come to the metro at all since the Republican Party of Iowa's Straw Poll in Ames in August. He did take trips to western and eastern Iowa. But it appears that is about to change. This morning, Romney spoke before several hundred employees at Nationwide Insurance in downtown Des Moines. It's just one step of what's been a slow buildup to Romney's Iowa campaign. Last week, the campaign, without any fanfare, opened its Iowa headquarters in an abandoned Blockbuster Video west of downtown. The campaign on Monday announced Romney would come for the Nationwide visit Wednesday morning. Then this morning, the campaign announced South Dakota Senator John Thune would join Romney and endorse him. Later this morning, we received another release that said Romney would hold a "teletown hall" with Iowans this afternoon. But now there's more.

Mary Kramer is a former state senate president and U.S. Ambassador to Barbados. She also serves as an adviser to Romney's campaign in Iowa. Kramer told me, "I think we'll see lots of activity, not only from Governor Romney, but his family members, other people who support him that Iowans will recognize and appreciate."

I asked her, "So we will see more and more of the campaign in December?" Kramer responded, "Correct. Yes, we will."

Kramer told me Iowa visits will include Romney's wife and sons (she specifically mentioned Josh) and surrogates like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Minnesota Governor (and former presidential candidate) Tim Pawlenty.

She also talked about whether it's too late for Romney to make this strong play in the state. She doesn't think so. She said it helps because Romney met so many people last cycle. Kramer said, "I think strategically Governor Romney felt he and his supporters are well-acquainted. We learn to know each other and trust each other in the last go-around. We feel comfortable with that."

But Kramer added that Romney knows he needs to expand the base. She said, "I feel it's very important for him to connect with a very broad group of people, to connect with them because his message is so important, his message about jobs." Hence the visit before insurance employees in Des Moines today.

But what about the Iowans who have grow accustomed to having that face-to-face time each cycle with their candidates? Kramer believes that handshake they had with Romney last time will carry over into this campaign. She feels Iowans are understanding people. She said, "I'm hoping Iowans understand it's important to have a winning strategy that goes, not only here, but past here. And I think we're sophisticated enough as politicians and citizens to get that strategy."

Kramer also discounted talk that Romney doesn't have the organization to do well in the caucuses (She didn't say, by the way, he would win Iowa. She wants him to win, of course, but couldn't say he actually will). She maintains the organization is here, partly because of efforts by staff and volunteers this time, and also because of the previous level of support Romney had during his last run. She also disagrees with talk of any sort of "stealth" organization in Iowa. While she acknowledges Romney himself hasn't been here nearly as much as the last cycle, the actual work of organizing has been going on for months. And she feels that will only intensify in the campaign's final five weeks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Bad Day at the Office

This could belong to any football fan of the St. Louis Rams or anyone who actually believed the Congressional "Supercommittee" would put aside politics and accomplish something for the good of the country.

And you thought your day was bad...Actually, we found this car parked in front of the Obama campaign headquarters in Des Moines during our last story there. How is it possible to pi$$ off so many birds at once? (And check out the feather stuck on the right side of the hood. You can just barely see it about a 1/3rd of the way down from the windshield in the crack) A brazen bird leaving his calling card behind?

Family Leader Narrows Endorsement List

And then there were 4...Bob Vander Plaats had told me last week that today his group, the Family Leader, could endorse a Republican presidential candidate. But apparently, it's not yet time. BVP said the board of 7 would meet Monday. A Family Leader spokeswoman confirmed the group met yesterday afternoon. We just received a release from the group. The endorsement process will resemble "Survivor" it seems. No endorsement yet. But 2 people (3 if you count Romney, who the group eliminated earlier since he skipped the Thanksgiving Family Forum event this past Saturday) got the boot. Ron Paul and Herman Cain are no longer under consideration.

Here's the release:


Pleasant Hill, IA – The FAMiLY LEADER Board of Directors is very reflective of the Iowa caucus goer and are still praying for clarity on whether or not to endorse a candidate and, if they endorse, who to endorse.

Bob Vander Plaats, President and CEO, remarked, “We had a very healthy discussion tonight regarding our leadership role in the 2012 presidential caucuses. In many ways, what the board did tonight is typical of the Iowa caucus process. They fully understand the importance of this election and the weight of their leadership. They want to make a wise decision.”

Each individual of the seven member voting Board of Directors expressed many positives of Representative Ron Paul and businessman Herman Cain. The stumbling block for the board regarding Representative Paul dealt primarily with “States’ Rights” as it pertains to the sanctity of human life and God’s design for marriage. Regarding Mr. Cain, the board cited a narrative of questions versus clarity on the key issues of life, marriage, foreign policy, and presidential readiness. The board did not give consideration to Governor Romney.

Last Saturday evening’s Thanksgiving Family Forum was designed to bring clarity and closure to the decision-making process for The FAMiLY LEADER and for many Iowa conservatives. Although the forum was monumentally successful on every level, each candidate’s superb performance has made this process most difficult. The board concluded this is a good dilemma due to having many principled conservatives in the race.

“As difficult as this first step proved to be in narrowing the field to four, the next step of final selection and recommendation to our supporters will be tougher. Congresswoman Bachmann, Speaker Gingrich, Governor Perry, and Senator Santorum all have many presidential traits that will serve our great country well.” commented Vander Plaats.

The board has committed to be prayerful, diligent, and expeditious in reaching their final conclusion. No timeline was placed on a decision.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Romney Volunteer Drives Across Country to Des Moines

Just Wilson: We meet a lot of interesting people as we cover the Iowa Caucuses. We may have found our biggest "character" yet of this cycle. Mitt Romney just opened a campaign headquarters at a vacant building in Des Moines (He has to hope his fate is better than the former tenant, Blockbuster Video, fared). A man drove up there today. He told us he drove here from Virginia but used to live in Iowa decades ago. He told us he helped out the campaigns of both George Bush 41 and Bush 43 in previous years. What's his name, you ask? Well, we asked. He said to just call him "Wilson".

So, ladies and gentlemen, meet Wilson. And check out the pipe!


Occupy Protester Apologies, May Go to Rehab

De-Occupied: A protester arrested in an Occupy Des Moines rally against banks has apologized but not for protesting. David Goodner,according to this story in the Des Moines Register, faced drug charges after his appearance at the event.

Here is his email to members of the Occupy movement:

Dear Occupy Des Moines community and supporters,

I'm writing to you all to apologize. My reckless, selfish, and
irresponsible behavior jeopardized the integrity and credibility of
the Occupy Des Moines movement and put at risk everything we have
fought so hard to achieve. My choices were inexcusable and
indefensible. I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart.

I want to make amends to my community, and in consultation with my
friends, family, spiritual advisors, and movement mentors, I have
decided to:

· Issue a public apology, which states, I take full
responsibility for my bad choices and I apologize to all of our
supporters for my poor decision-making that allowed the focus to be
taken off the real criminals on Wall Street. My mistakes are my own
and should not negatively reflect on any group or movement that I am
associated with.

· Remove myself as a public face of the organization –my
personal credibility has been damaged and for the good of the
movement, I am distancing myself from Occupy Des Moines effective
immediately. I will not attend General Assembly meetings or publicly
participate in any actions or events until after the New Year.

· Enter an Alcoholics Anonymous program under the wing of an
AA sponsor. I am voluntarily entering a drug treatment program to
evaluate whether I have a substance abuse problem and if so, what
steps are needed to remedy it.

If there are other steps or actions I need to take in order to regain
the trust and respect of my community, I will eagerly comply with

Family Leader Endorsement

Power Play: This week we could see where the social conservative group, the Family Leader, wants to put its support. President/CEO Bob Vander Plaats told me the group's 7-member board (BVP is not on the board but he said he has "influence" on it) will meet on Monday. This follows the group's Thanksgiving Family Forum at a Des Moines church Saturday before more than 2,500 people. BVP said the purpose of the meeting is to decide whether to endorse 1 of the 6 Republican presidential candidates who spoke at the group's event. The endorsement process has been more than a bit confusing. It was widely understood that to get the endorsement, a candidate had to sign the group's marriage pledge. If you recall, there's some controversy about the pledge, not the current one, but the original one. The original pledge (or at least the preamble to it) included a section critics found highly objectionable. Here it is:

"Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President."

The slavery line caused a firestorm as critics said it insinuated black children today were worse off than black slave children. BVP disagreed with critics' interpretation, although he dropped that part of the pledge. He told me, "I don't think it hurt our credibility because we got attacked by the left."

But only two candidates, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, actually signed the pledge (before BVP dropped the controversial line). However, despite what many people may have thought, BVP told me his group could still endorse someone other than the 2 candidates who signed the pledge. He told me, "The pledge is definitely part of the process. If you take a look at the pledge it says, unless you affirm the pledge. It doesn't actually say sign it...unless you affirm the pledge."

He continued, "Obviously, Bachmann and Santorum have a leg up. They signed it, a pretty good affirmation of the pledge."

An endorsement for either of those candidates would be interesting, at least if you follow the polls. Bachmann, who once led the polls following her win in the Republican Party of Iowa's Straw Poll in Ames in August, has tanked since. Santorum has remained near the bottom of the polls throughout this race. An endorsement for either could bring a much-needed boost for the candidates. Although, it's tough to know how much of a boost. The Family Leader doesn't say how many members it has. So we don't really know how many people would be willing to go out and actively push either Bachmann or Santorum to Iowans. And would this push be enough to lift one of them to a caucus night win? The January 3rd caucuses are only about a month away, after all.

The group could go in another direction altogether for its endorsement, but it would seem every other choice might not go over completely well with the base based on purity. How about Rick Perry? Remember when he said, "Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me.” Perry tried damage control later and said he supports states' rights but doesn't support same-sex marriage.

Herman Cain? Cain's struggled, in some conservatives' minds, answering the abortion question. Would he try to rid of the country of abortions or not? Some questions there.

Newt Gingrich, the man of 3 marriages...yeah, there's that.

Ron Paul? He had that awkward appearance in Pella, during the Family Leader's Presidential Lecture Series when he said he supports states' rights (in light of the state supreme court decision allowing same-sex marriages in Iowa).

So, that just leaves Mitt Romney, right? BVP's response, "It's not good for Mr. Romney." BVP said Romney would not get the endorsement. He added his group could choose to endorse no one. Of course, that would make people wonder what the purpose of the lecture series, family forum and pledge were about though.

Monday could be an interesting day for the Family leader, don't ya think?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gingrich Staffing Up in Iowa

Back Again: Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich has lured back two Iowans who quit his presidential efforts this summer. Craig Schoenfeld and Katie Koberg have joined the campaign as senior advisers. Both will help set up a statewide organizational effort in the final weeks before the January 3rd caucuses. More staff announcements should be coming, as Gingrich told me two weeks ago. Schoenfeld confirmed the moves. He previously cited concerns Gingrich wasn't spending enough time in the state when he and the entire Iowa paid staff quit Gingrich's campaign in June. But he now feels more comfortable with Gingrich's commitment to the state, along with Gingrich's rapid rise in the polls.

The two will have much work to do with so little time left before January, especially in light of the statewide infrastructure and organizations other campaigns established months ago.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cain Blames Media for Libya Question Criticism

Cain Blame: I sat down with Herman Cain briefly at the Machine Shed restaurant in Urbandale, a popular stop for political candidates over the years. Last cycle, we spent Thanksgiving with the Biden family as they waited on customers to raise money for a local charity. Cain used the restaurant as a backdrop for a new commercial he shot, partly in a back room, surrounded by Iowans, that includes him getting a refill of coffee from a restaurant waitress. Later, he made his way outside to pose next to the tractors that sit near the parking lot. But, of course, much of the focus of the day for Cain was the meandering, pause-filled response he gave the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel the day before when asked about whether he agreed with President Barack Obama's handling of Libya. In case you haven't seen the clip yet (and if you haven't, where have you been?), here it is.

Cain's staff blamed his response on fatigue. Cain, by the way, never mentioned being tired when I talked with him. Rather, he maintains the newspaper was out to make him look bad.

Here's our full interview with Cain: