Five presidential hopefuls spoke to about a thousand Iowa Republicans tonight in Des Moines at an Iowa GOP fundraiser. Rick Perry suggested he and the other candidates were embarking on “Operation Occupy the White House.”
“No one can argue the president didn’t inherit a bad economy,” Perry said. “But no one can argue that he ain’t made it worse either — 14 million Americans now without work.”
Ron Paul suggested the economy’s problems started before Obama took office, and go far deeper.
“Guess what? The wealthy got bailed out with TARP funds and Federal Reserve funds. The middle class lost their jobs and they lost their houses,” Paul said. “What we’re witnessing today is the failure of a system. This is the end of an era.”
Michele Bachmann decried the nation’s debt problem.
“This week is an historic first,” Bachmann said. “We are tripping the wire, it looks like, right at $15 trillion — breath-taking, stunning.”
Rick Santorum warned Republicans they can’t focus exclusively on economic issues.
“America is not just about taxes and spending,” Santorum said. “It’s not just about the size of government…We cannot have a strong economy without strong families and strong moral committments of the people who live and work in that economy.”
Newt Gingrich, the evening’s closer, promised a unique campaign strategy if he is the party’s nominee.
“The White House will be my scheduler, and wherever the president appears, I will appear four hours later,” Gingrich said, to applause from the crowd.
Neither Mitt Romney nor Herman Cain, the two candidates who have been leading recent public opinion polls in Iowa, were here for the event, though both candidates had supporters in the room. Larry Morris of West Des Moines likes Cain’s business approach.
“He’s unafraid, speaks his mind. I typically think that he probably doesn’t have the political savvy, but he’s gaining that very rapidly,” Morris said of Cain. “These allegations this week have probably been beneficial to help his candidacy, making him stronger.”
Three members of the Simpson College Republicans visited Cain’s campaign table, too. Matt Comer likes Santorum, but believes Cain has the “best chance” to win the January 3rd Caucuses. ”He’s got name recognition and money,” Comer said.
Shelby Edwards, another Simpson student, has heard “a little bit” about the sexual harassment allegations against Cain, but might wind up supporting Cain in the Caucuses, “just because most of my family is (supporting Cain),” Edwards says. “I hear the Herman Cain side of it.”
Kathy Potts, Linn County chairman for Rick Perry’s campaign, said she’s surprised people are still captivated by Cain. * [cap4Nov4] :06 :floor with him.”
“I really think the biggest problem he’s going to have is his debate with Newt Gingrich,” Potts said. “I think Newt’s going to wipe the floor with him.”
Gingrich and Cain are set to debate in Houston, Texas Saturday night – a 90-minute forum which will be moderated by Iowa Congressman Steve King. Mitt Romney wasn’t in Iowa last night either, but his son, Josh, made an appearance.
“We want to do well and compete here and I know we’re making an effort across the entire country, not just the early primary states,” Josh Romney said. “But Iowa’s obviously playing a big role and we want to campaign hard here.”
Josh Romney found a used RV on eBay in 2007 and the Romney campaign used the vehicle to ferry the candidate, his family and staff. Josh Romney, by the way, visited every one of Iowa’s 99 counties in 2007.