October 22, 2014

Campaign Countdown: Final Report

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A photo-finish for the political history books. The narrowest of margins separated the top two candidates in Iowa’s Caucuses. Mitt Romney finished ahead of Rick Santorum — by just eight votes. Romney spoke with supporters about two hours before the final results were known.

“Thank you Iowa for the great send-off you’re giving to us and the others in this campaign,” Romney said. “This is a campaign night where America wins. We’re going to change the White House and get America back on track.”

Just moments earlier, Santorum spoke with his supporters.

“This has been an incredible journey: 99 counties, 381 town hall meetings, 36 Pizza Ranches — and you’ll notice I’m not buttoning my coat for a reason,” Santorum said.

Ron Paul secured third place with 21 percent.

“I think there’s nothing to be ashamed of, everything to be satisfied (about) and be ready and raring to move on to the next stop, which is New Hampshire,” Paul said.

Newt Gingrich finished in fourth place, with 13 percent support.

“I am delighted to be here tonight and I think we are at the beginning of an extraordinarily important campaign,” Gingrich said.

But is sounds as if the end may be near for the fifth place finisher — Texas Governor Rick Perry.

“With the voter’s decision tonight in Iowa, I’ve decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight’s Caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race,” Perry said.

Iowa-native Michele Bachmann finished last among the six candidates who competed here, but she told supporters she’s going on.

“Just be prepared. The pundits and the press will again try and pick the nominee based on tonight’s results,” Bachmann said. “But there are many more chapters to be written on the path to our party’s nomination and I’d prefer to let the people of the country decide who will represent us.”

It appears turn-out surpassed the 2008 record, with about 122,000 Iowans participating in the Republican Party’s Caucuses. Anna Fish, an 18-year-old from Windsor Heights, was a first-time voter.

“I thought it was really exciting,” Fish said. “It was really cool to see everybody’s opinions and see how fired up people were to vote today and I thought Iowans did a good job in representing our country.”

Democrats held Caucuses, too. President Obama beamed in a video message. Party officials said 25,000 people turned out for the Democratic Caucuses.

Campaign Countdown: 01.03.11

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It could be a photo finish in tonight’s Iowa Caucuses, with three candidates in an apparent sprint to the finish line and the prize of that top-tier status. The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll conducted last week indicated Rick Santorum was making an 11th-hour charge into the top tier with Mitt Romney and Ron Paul — ahead of the trailing Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. Santorum stopped at a coffee shop in Polk City yesterday and responded to a recent Romney charge that Santorum’s made politics a career.

“I know one of my opponents who’s now directed his attention to me, surprisingly, has said that he has executive experience,” Santorum said. “We are not looking for a chief executive officer for this country. We’re looking for a commander-in-chief.”

Romney, meanwhile, kept stressing his CEO credentials.

“You see, when it comes to jobs in the private sector I think it helps to have had one if you plan on creating some,” Romney said, to cheers from an eastern Iowa audience, “and I have.”

Ron Paul suggested during a Des Moines rally that all the other competitors in the GOP race are “status quo” candidates.

“Spending never ceases. One administration to the next it’s always spending increases. Even today when they talk about cuts, you know they’re not talking about cuts,” Paul said. “They’re talking about tinkering around the edges and nibbling away at the proposed increases.”

Rick Perry told a crowd in Sioux City that some of Paul’s views are “dangerous”.

“When Ron Paul is further to the left on foreign policy than Barack Obama, that ought to tell you something,” Perry said.

The candidates can get in almost a full day of campaigning yet before the Caucuses start tonight at 7 p.m. Read and hear more online at RadioIowa.com, including a story about the latest prediction of Caucus turn-out.

Additional reporting in Sioux City by Woody Gottburg of KSCJ Radio

Campaign Countdown: 01.02.12

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With just hours left before the Iowa Caucuses, the intensity of one-on-one campaigning is high, with six candidates set to hold events in the state today. But the candidates and their allies have been trying to reach Iowans in their cars and homes, too, with a barrage of advertising on radio and television.

A recent Des Moines Register analysis concluded more than $10 million was spent on campaign ads — in the month of December alone. But the ad wars began in June; Michele Bachmann was among the first on the air.

Iowa State University professor Dianne Bystrom has analyzed campaign ads in the past. In reviewing this year’s set of Caucus contenders, Bystrom sees a clear difference in the Ron Paul 2012 campaign ads compared to what Paul ran here four years ago.

“He has a new ad consultant. His name is Jon Downs. he’s out of Washington, D.C. He’s actually a moderate Republican, so that’s kind of interesting,” Bystrom says. “He probably the best-produced, edgiest ads in the campaign this year.”

Bystrom notes that Ron Paul’s ads have been on the air since this summer and most have had the production values of one of those movie trailer you see in the theater about “coming attractions”.

“In addition to being edgy, they’ve really placed him, I think, at the heart of this year’s political sentiment and that’s the ultimate outsider,” Bystrom says. “You know, he has some views that are even outside the Republican Party, but his ads really place him in that context.”

About 40 percent of the ads airing in Iowa over the past two weeks have been negative, attack ads — like a Ron Paul ad that accused Newt Gingrich of serial hypocrisy, and focused on the $1.6 million consulting fee Gingrich received from Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant. Gingrich admits his campaign didn’t have a quick answer to that attack. Gingrich is low on campaign cash, so responding in kind hasn’t been an option. Gingrich has vowed to run only positive ads.

“It’ll be interesting to see whether, in fact, the people of Iowa decide that they don’t like the people who run negative ads,” Gingrich said in Atlantic Saturday, “because you could send a tremendous to the country that the era of nasty and negative 30-second campaigns is over.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry is the king when it comes to ad time in Iowa, spending more than $4 million on ads here. His latest smacks rival Rick Santorum.  Perry’s ads are reaching some voters, like Tim and Moira Crooks of Boone who went to see Perry in person on Saturday.

“We’ve seen his ads and we really enjoyed his last two debate performances and we’ve been undecided for a while because we were both Palin supporters and hoping that she was going to get in, so now we’re looking to see who we’re going to support,” Moira Crooks said. Her husband, Tim, said of Perry: “I think he has the guts to stand up and start going what’s right and we need a leader that’s going to be able to step in and say, ‘This stuff’s wrong.'”

The Des Moines Register “Iowa Poll” released this weekend showed Mitt Romney at 24 percent; Paul at 22 and Rick Santorum at 15 percent, followed by Gingrich as 12, Perry at 11 and Bachmann with 7 percent support.

Campaign Countdown: 12.30.11

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About 120,000 Iowans participated in the Caucuses back in 2008. Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn has been asked many times in the past week if turn-out for the 2012 Caucuses will match that.  This is what he told Radio Iowa: “Obviously there’s so many variables that go into it.”

Strawn cited data that shows there are more registered Republican voters in Iowa today compared to four years ago.

“If you were someone who has been motivated to register as a Republican over the last couple of years — and we’ve had 33 straight months of Republican registration gains, then chances are you are sufficiently motivated to show up on Caucus Night,” Strawn said.

Strawn also pointed to the attendance at this summer’s Iowa GOP Straw Poll in Ames as an indicator. It was the second-largest ever — and candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry did not participate in the event.

The party chairman concedes, however, that the barrage of negative campaign advertising on Iowa’s radio and television stations may be a deterrent.

“Political scientists will tell you that that has the potential to chill turn-out and turn some voters off, so I hope that’s not the case because one of the strongest arguments that I can be equipped with to keep defending Iowa as to why we should be first is Iowans showing up to vote on Caucus Night,” Strawn said. “The more Iowans that do so, on either side quite frankly, the stronger arguments the parties have when it comes to keeping Iowa first four years from now.”

Yes, Iowa Democrats are holding Caucuses on Tuesday night, but with an incumbent president, the Democratic meetings have not garnered as much attention. President Obama’s reelection campaign, however, has had eight offices operating throughout the state for months. President Obama is scheduled to connect with Caucus-goers in a live video address on Tuesday night.

Campaign Countdown: 12.29.11

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There were some bizarre twists in the Republican presidential race in Iowa Wednesday night. A key Michele Bachmann backer announced he’s now supporting another candidate and a caller on a telephone town hall meeting suggested Newt Gingrich is a polygamist.

On Wednesday afternoon state Senator Kent Sorenson stood with Michele Bachmann as she held an event in his hometown of Indianola, but last night Sorenson stood on a stage in Des Moines to announcement that he’s supporting Ron Paul now.

“Tonight’s a little tough for me. I’ve been serving as Michele Bachmann’s state chair over the last year and while Michele has fought tremendously for my conservative values, I believe we’re at a turning point in this campaign,” Sorenson says. “…When the Republican establishment is going to be coming against him over the next few days, I thought it was my duty to come to his aid.”

Bachmann spoke with reporters following her Iowa bus tour last night and she accused the Paul campaign of paying Sorenson “a large amount of money” to make the switch. A spokesman for the Ron Paul campaign denies the charge and says Sorenson is not being paid. Earlier in the evening, a caller in a tele-town hall brought up Newt Gingrich’s two divorces and current marriage to Callista.

“I’m a Bible-believing Christian,” the man said. “And Jesus very specifically states in the Bible that divorced people are really still married, which I think technically means now that you’re a polygamist and I’m wondering what you’ll do to legalize polygamy in U.S. if you’re to be elected president.”

Gingrich called that a “fairly unusual question” and told the man he would oppose any effort to legalize polygamy. Gingrich is also a recent convert to Catholicism and revealed during the call that he has had his two previous marriages annulled.

Campaign Countdown: 12.28.11

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The intensity of campaigning accelerated in Iowa Tuesday. Three Republican presidential hopefuls went after rival Ron

Paul, a candidate who is shown to be leading or near the top of recent polls here. During a CNN interview Tuesday, Newt Gingrich said Paul’s total record shows a “systemic avoidance of reality.”

“There’ll come a morning where people won’t take him as a serious person,” Gingrich told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Another candidate, Rick Santorum, criticized the Texas congressman during a campaign stop in Mason City. Santorum called Ron Paul’s views on foreign policy “scary”.

“Think about having a guy running for president who’s going to be to the left of Barack Obama on national security,” Santorum said.

Rick Perry, during a campaign stop in western Iowa, suggested Paul “would allow Iran to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth.” Michele Bachmann also campaigned in western Iowa. During a stop last night in Atlantic, Bachmann said she “took it to” Ron Paul during the last TV debate, over the issue of a nuclear Iran.

Late yesterday Mitt Romney arrived in Iowa and told a crowd in Davenport that Barack Obama is a “pessimistic president” who has failed to deliver on his campaign promises. Later last night, during a radio forum organized by PersonhoodUSA, Rick Perry revealed he no longer favors abortion-ban exceptions for cases of rape and incest.

“All I can tell you is God was working on my heart,” Perry said.

Perry said he talked with a woman who was conceived in a rape after he saw the documentary “The Gift of Life” in mid-December. That conversation, Perry said, sparked his transformation on the issue. The four candidates who were in Iowa yesterday plan to campaign here today, too, with Ron Paul arriving for a noon event in Newton.

Additional reporting by Bob Fisher of KGLO in Mason City & Ric Hanson of KJAN in Atlantic
Photo credit: Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic

Campaign Countdown: 12.27.11

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There’s just a week left until the January 3rd Caucuses. Five candidates plan to campaign in Iowa today.

Rick Santorum had Iowa all to himself Monday. He went hunting at a private lodge near Adel. Santorum says he bagged four birds and he told reporters the candidates are competing for support in the three wings of the party.

“There’s the libertarian primary, which Ron Paul’s going to win, then you’ve got the moderate primary which Gingrich and Romney are scrumming for and then you’ve got three folks who are running as strong conservatives,” Santorum said Monday afternoon, “and I think if we win that primary, we’re in pretty good shape.”

Congressman Steve King was in Santorum’s hunting party, but King still hasn’t decided if he’ll endorse a candidate before the Caucuses.

“I want my head and my heart to come together and when that happens and if that happens, I’ll jump in with both feet and I hope it’s not after the ship’s already left,” King said, a reference to the January 3rd Caucuses, “but it could be.”

It’s unclear how many out-of-staters will show up for the “Occupy the Caucus” events this week. Stephen Toothman of Des Moines, a local organizer, says there’ll be a variety of meetings throughout today in an office building a few blocks east of the capitol, with a “People’s Caucus” tonight at 7 p.m.

“People are going to speak out, what we call ‘Soapboxing’ on the issues that are important for them,” Toothman says. “…This is a chance for the 99 percent to be heard.”

A different group of Iowans had a chance to hear directly from Mitt Romney last night during a town  hall meeting conducted over the phone.

“I am going to be going across the state in a bus, so we may get a chance to see you in the neighborhood,” Romney said.

Romney gets to Iowa late this afternoon and will speak in Davenport tonight. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry are touring the state by bus today, too.