April 17, 2014

Governor says veterans have made “tremendous sacrifice” (audio)

Governor Branstad.

Governor Branstad.

The state’s annual Veterans Day ceremony was held today in Des Moines today. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad offered the keynote address. “Our military veterans have submitted a foundation of freedom and liberty that we continue to enjoy, and that all generations have enjoyed,” Branstad says.

Branstad, who is a veteran of the Army, says the day is one powerful reminder of the sacrifices veterans have made. “A couple of years ago my wife and I hand a chance to visit Normandy. And to see the crosses there and to think about the tremendous sacrifice that the  people made who were a part of that Normandy invasion,” Branstad says. “It’s just one of many, many, many times in our nation’s history that Iowans have accepted the call of duty and have served our country so honorably.”

Veterans-day2He says veterans of all ages share a common ideal. “The common thread among veterans is — whether they recently returned from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, or whether they served in World War Two, or Korea, or Vietnam — they have a fundamental belief in freedom and opportunity, and the opportunity to extend that to other parts of the world,” Branstad says.

Branstad wrapped up his message with this thanks to veterans. “To all of the veterans with us today, please know that we the people of Iowa, respect and appreciate the service that you have provided, and the unbelievable sacrifice that you have made, the courage that you have shown,” Branstad says.

Audio: Governor Branstad’s Veterans Day Message 7:06

Gingrich says he can “take the beating”

Newt Gingrich

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says he alone has the resume required to win the race.

“I don’t say this with any sense of pride – it worries me about this system. In all honesty,  I don’t think there’s anybody else with the range of experience, the range of background, the willingness to take the beating, that I’ve exhibited in 53 years,” Gingrich said early this afternoon.

Gingrich spoke to employees of a West Des Moines insurance company over the lunch hour. The last employee to pose a question told Gingrich she was leaning toward backing him in the Iowa Caucuses.

“I find it very formidable to think that I might win and that, with your help, we might go through eight very difficult years,” Gingrich said. “I don’t know any other way for this country to get back on track.”

Lillie Anderson

Seventy-six-year-old Lillie Anderson of Des Moines,  a part-time Guide One employee ,  asked the question. Anderson supported former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty until he dropped out of the race. She’s now a Gingrich fan, based on the way Gingrich has conducted himself in the televised debates this fall.

“Now it just seems like he’s about, ‘Oh save us!’ you know?” Anderson said of Gingrich.

Anderson told reporters she is “for sure” going to support Gingrich in the Caucuses and the indiscretions of his past aren’t an issue for her.

“I know all about his marital situation and everything. To me, that was a long time ago. If it was last week or last year, it might effect my opinion, but that was a long time ago,” Anderson said. “He’s done a lot of growing and he has proven that since then.”

During his remarks to the Guide One employees, Gingrich stressed his ability to work with Democratic President Bill Clinton and Democrats in congress when he was House Speaker, pointing to legislative achievements like welfare reform and a balanced federal budget. Gingrich also criticized the so-called “super committee” that is trying to come up with a deficit reduction plan, repeatedly calling the process stupid and dumb.

Gingrich is making a campaign stop in Jefferson late this afternoon. This evening Gingrich and his wife will be in Carroll to screen one of the movies they’ve produced.

Pollster says Social Security “misunderstood issue” among GOP candidates, elected officials

A survey of Iowa Republicans who are likely to attend the Caucuses finds overwhelming opposition to cutting Medicare or Social Security benefits.

The AARP commissioned pollster Greg Strimple to conduct the survey.

“Social Security is a misunderstood issue inside the Republican Party where the voters very much want to protect these benefits and the elected officials and leaders in Washington are ignoring that kind of sentiment,” Strimple said this morning during a telephone conference call with reporters. “And that’s going to be a potential problem for Republicans down the line.” 

The survey found 67 percent of likely Iowa Caucus-goers oppose cuts to Medicare, the government health care program for the elderly, and 64.5 percent of likely Iowa Caucus-goers oppose cuts in Social Security. The polling data also tracked presidential candidate preferences and found, for example, that while Rick Perry has called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” — about 67 percent of the Iowans who said they support Perry are opposed to cuts in Social Security.

“One of the goals of this project is to educate the candidates and the electorate about where people stand on Social Security and Medicare,” Strimple said.

A significant majority of the Iowans surveyed indicated they would prefer getting U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan as a budget-cutting move over reducing these two main government benefits for senior citizens.

“What’s most interesting about these numbers for me is if you think of the Republican Party as the party that’s pro-national defense, pro-strong military…and we asked, ‘Which would you prefer, withdrawing troops or cutting Medicare?’ by 67 to 10 (percent), people said they wanted to withdraw troops,” Strimple said. “And when we asked about, ‘Do you want to withdraw troops or cut Social Security?’ by 65 to 9 (percent), people said they wanted to withdraw troops.” 

Most of those surveyed said they were either very or somewhat conservative. Only 21 percent identified themselves as moderate — and 69 percent of all the Iowa Republicans surveyed said they are most interested in economic issues. The survey was conducted in Iowa on October 17 and 18. Iowans with a past history of voting in Republican Primaries were called and those who said they were likely to attend the Caucuses were questioned by the Idaho-based polling firm.  Similar surveys were conducted in the other early voting states of New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, with similar results.

Romney loyalists, plant workers turn out for Dubuque speech

Mitt Romney talks with people at his event in Dubuque.

Many of those in the crowd who greeted Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Dubuque today backed his 2008 campaign and plan to vote for Romney again in the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.

“It’s good to be here with you today and to say, ‘Hi,’ to some friends in Dubuque. You guys were helpful for me last time around. I expect you’re going to helpful this time as well — planning on it,” Romney said, as the crowd applauded.

Romney’s speech (find audio here) was staged on the factory floor at Giese Manufacturing in Dubuque. Scott Rowley of Dubuque has worked at the plant for 12 years and he may now Caucus for Romney.

“His speech today was very impressive. I liked pretty much everything he said,” Rowley said.”I’m part of the middle class and he really cares about us, so it means a lot.”

But many others in the crowd, like Bonnie Stephenson of Dubuque, are those 2008 supporters Romney was speaking to directly.

“I think he can do it this time,” Stephenson said after Romney’s speech.

Jim Sullivan of Dubuque worries about the nation’s escalating debt and he liked hearing Romney’s promise to “slay” the “beast” of the federal deficit.

“That’s not right to constantly pile all this on our children,” Sullivan said. “It’s got to stop.”

Sullivan and Stephenson will both be Romney voters in 2012, as they view him as the party’s best candidate.

“Our country’s in such trouble and he’s just a good businessman and I think that’s what we need is somebody that has a good business background,” Stephenson said, as Sullivan added: “And understands finance, get us out of debt. We cannot continue this debt.”

Tracey Goedkin of Dubuque is another long-time Romney supporter who was in the audience today.

“I like his philosophies and what he stands for,” Goedkin said.

She brought her daughter to see Romney, as her daughter’s class is having a “mock Caucus” soon. Romney posed for a picture with the kids.

Romney’s other campaign stop was in Davenport earlier this evening, where he spoke at Iowa American Water, an investor-owned utility.

Iowa Democrats issued a statement tonight, suggesting Romney’s appearances were like “commercial shoots” rather than traditional town hall meetings where voters get to ask questions, and the crowd merely got a chance to be “extras” in Romney’s next commercial.

Romney held a town hall meeting in Sioux City last month where he took questions from people in the audience, then he made a brief statement to reporters about the death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.  

Governor says state will work to prevent disruption of Iowa Caucuses

Governor Terry Branstad says the state is aware of the threats to disrupt the Iowa Caucuses by the group that calls itself “Anonymous.” Branstad says that would go against everything the caucuses have become.

Branstad says both parties have worked together to make the event successful and it would be “tragic if some shadowy group that won’t even announce who they are would be successful in preventing people from participating in this first real test of the presidential process.”

He says the state will work with federal and local law enforcement to ensure the caucuses are not disrupted. The group has taken credit for hacking into the F-B-I’s website and the websites of businesses, and put out a video where it advocates shutting down the caucuses. Branstad says the Iowa Caucuses are a prime example of the importance of the process to the country.

“We have a long and proud tradition in this country and in this state of open and honest elections, and we want to do all that we can to ensure that the Iowa precinct caucuses…are open and that they are accessible and that they are not disrupted by any group. Branstad says they just learned of the potential threat this weekend and have started discussions on how to deal with the situation.

“I think everybody recognizes that we need to be vigilant and take it seriously,” Branstad says. He says there has never been a threat like this before and they will do all they can to ensure that the people’s right to participate in the system.is protected. The Iowa Caucuses are scheduled for January 3rd. Branstad made his comments at his weekly meeting with reporters.

Perry quips campaign is “Operation Occupy the White House”

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.

Cain the new Romney challenger in Iowa

The Des Moines Register “Iowa Poll” released this weekend shows a new candidate has emerged as a leading challenger to Mitt Romney in Iowa. Former Godfather’s Pizza executive Herman Cain had 23 percent support in the poll. Romney had 22 percent. Ron Paul was in third place, with 12 percent.

Paul campaigned in Iowa on Saturday, speaking to the National Federation of Republican Assemblies. 

“We need to wake up and, in many ways as a country — not so much those of you in this audience,” Paul said, with a laugh, “but this country needs to wake up and quit lying to itself whether it’s on the economics or the foreign policy.”

Paul, who described the NFRA as the “constitutional wing” of the Republican Party, won the group’s straw poll.  Michele Bachmann was in fourth place in The Register’s latest Iowa Poll, a fall from the paper’s June polling which found her in a dead heat with Romney. Bachmann made a campaign swing through eastern Iowa this past weekend, making a “dire” prediction for the country if Barack Obama is elected to a second term.  

“This election is it.” Bachmann said in Oskaloosa Saturday. “I think this is it for the country. We have to get a grip.”

Rick Santorum garnered just five percent support in the Iowa Poll, but he continues to criss-cross the state in hopes of convincing Iowans to back him in the Caucuses. 

“It’s not surprising that you’ll find me here.  I’ve spent a lot of time in Iowa. By the end of this week, I will have  hit all the counties in Iowa. That’s 99, by the way,” Santorum told an audience in Des Moines on Saturday. 

Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the race with great fanfare, but after stumbling in televised debates, Perry secured just seven percent support in the newspaper’s survey.  His wife, Anita, campaigned in Iowa over the weekend. She suggested the debates are doing the candidates a disservice.  

“You know, it gives an opportunity for infighting within the party,” Anita Perry said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “It doesn’t look good for the party.”

On Tuesday, five candidates Perry, Paul, Bachmann, Santorum and Newt Gingrich — will appear at a forum in Pella. The event is hosted by the National Association of Manufacturers.