May 22, 2015

Huckabee a no-go to 2015 Iowa Straw Poll

Mike Huckabee campaigning in Iowa Tuesday.

Mike Huckabee campaigning in Iowa Tuesday.

Mike Huckabee has become the second prominent presidential candidate to announce he will not participate in the Iowa GOP’s Straw Poll in August, but Governor Terry Branstad discounts the idea the event may not happen.

“I expect there will a lot cadidates that will participate in that as there have been in a lot of the other events,” Branstad told reporters late this morning.

Huckabee called the Straw Poll a “non-binding and expensive” event that “will only wound and weaken the conservative candidates” who’d be forced to spend their limited campaign cash to battle it out.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced last week he will not attend the Straw Poll. Bush’s brother won the 1999 Straw Poll and his father won the first one in 1999. Huckabee finished second in the Iowa Straw Poll in 2007 and then won the Iowa Caucuses eight months later. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has also said he’ll spend his resouces elsewhere and skip the Iowa Straw Poll.

Branstad, a Republican, said it’s too early to say the Straw Poll is sinking.

“There’s a lot of candidates and each candidate will make their own decision as to what they will participate in,” Branstad told reporters.

A year and a half ago Branstad said the Straw Poll should not happen, but in January the Iowa GOP’s governing board voted unanimously to have it. Last week the party announced it would pick up the cost of party tents for each candidate that plays in the Straw Poll, but most candidates are still weighing the expense of purchasing the $30 tickets for supporters to ensure they’ll do well in the Straw Poll vote.

Rick Perry, as president, would authorize ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’

Rick Perry.

Rick Perry.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry today said, as president, it would be “inhumane” not to employ controversial “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding if a terror suspect might give up critical information that would save lives.

“I would suggest to you the president of the United States needs to be thinking about this just like you think about it as a husband and/or a father,” Perry said.

Perry spoke today in Des Moines at a forum sponsored by Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security. He was quizzed by a panel that included the chief intelligence reporter for the Associated Press.

“If we know for a fact that there are individuals that are going to kill maybe millions of Americans and there are then I would suggest to you that it would be inhumane for you not to use those techniques,” Perry said.

As the audience applauded his answer, Perry was asked: “Where do you draw the line?” and Perry answered: “Oh, I don’t know, Maybe that rectal feeding would be the line that you would draw.” The audience laughed.

Perry, who was an Air Force pilot, answered a series of questions about the military and foreign policy. For example, Perry expressed support for sending U.S. troops back into Iraq to deal with the advancing Islamic State terrorists.

“We’re air power guys, but we also realize that we cannot do this without boots on the ground, particularly to identify the targets,” Perry said.

According to Perry, it’s important to use every tool possible to combat “radical fanatacism” — and that includes unmanned aerial drones.

Perry is wrapping up a five-day-long campaign swing through Iowa. He is expected to formally announce in June that he’ll run again for president.

Huckabee undecided on 2015 Iowa Straw Poll participation

Mike Huckabee on the gun range.

Mike Huckabee on the gun range.

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee visited an indoor shooting range in suburban Des Moines this afternoon and he targeted Hillary Clinton during his remarks there.

“I would ask her why didn’t she answer the call of Chris Stevens four times when he was begging for help in Benghazi,” Huckabee said. “When an American is laying on the ground and in danger and Americans are being shot at and being threatened with death, it is the absolute duty of America to come to their aid.”

Huckabee used three different weapons at the firing range before speaking to the crowd and answering questions. Tom Hudson, the general manager of Crossroads Shooting Sports, held up the target Huckabee had been shooting at — showing the shots hit center.

“If you want somebody that you think might be on target, no pun intended here, with where we want to go with this country,” Hudson suggested, as the crowd cheered and applauded.

Huckabee told reporters after the event that he has not decided whether he’ll participate in the Iowa Republican Party’s Straw Poll this summer.

“Every campaign will have to determine how important it is to that campaign’s strategy,” Huckabee said.

Huckabee did participate in the 2007 Straw Poll during his first campaign for the White House.

“We did well. We came in second the last time and it was almost like coming in first,” Huckabee said smiling. “We’ll certainly determine whether it’s the best use of resources, but that’s the big question. You spend an enormous level of resources to participate.”

While Iowa GOP officials have decided the party will foot the bill for renting party tent space for each of the candidates and paying for all the electricity used at the Straw Poll site, campaigns will still have to consider buying the $30 tickets for their supporters, as well as providing food, beverages and entertainment to lure them to there.

Clinton reserving judgment on TPP until deal is final

Hillary Clinton at an appearance in Mason City Monday.

Hillary Clinton at an appearance in Mason City Monday.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took questions from the media today after hosting a small business forum in Cedar Falls. One of the questions is the same one posed to Republican candidates — is Iraq better off without Saddam Hussein in power? Clinton was in the U.S. Senate in 2002 and voted to authorize the war in Iraq.

“I’ve made it very clear that I made a mistake,” Clinton said. “…What we now see is a very different and very dangerous situation. The United States is doing what it can, but ultimately this has to be a struggle that the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people are determined to win for themselves. We can provide support, but they’re going to have to do it.”

Clinton had answered about a dozen questions from media outlets during the past month and reporters in Cedar Falls scrambled to quiz her on topics ranging from income inequality to the public release of emails she sent during her tenure as secretary of state. Clinton said she wants the State Department to “expedite the process” and release the emails as soon as possible.

“I want the American people to learn as much as we can about the work that I did with our diplomats and our development experts because I think it will show how hard we worked and what we did,” Clinton said.

Clinton also defended accepting memos about the security situation in Libya from a long-time Clinton confidant who reportedly was working on behalf of businesses hoping to land contracts with the new government in Libya.

“When you’re in the public eye, when you’re in an official position, I think you do have to work to make sure you’re not caught in a bubble and you only hear from a certain, small group of people,” Clinton told reporters in Cedar Falls, “and I’m going to keep talking to my old friends, whoever they are.”

Clinton talked earlier with a group of small business leaders and community bankers at a bike shop in Cedar Falls. One participant pressed her to comment on U.S. trade policy, specifically the Trans Pacific Partnership involving a dozen nations. Clinton said she wants to wait and see what’s in the final deal, but she generally favors trade pacts that improve U.S. competitiveness internationally and boost jobs and wages at home.

“Unless the American family and the American worker is strong, everything we want to see happen for our country is going to be much more difficult,” Clinton said.

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has been campaigning in Iowa today as well. During an early morning event in Cedar Falls, Huckabee criticized Clinton for evading questions from the media. Huckabee is visiting a central Iowa shooting range this afternoon.

Hillary Clinton: ‘I’m going into this race with my eyes wide open’ (AUDIO)

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stressed her connections to two presidents as she campaigned earlier this afternoon in Mason City.

“I’m going into this race with my eyes wide open about how hard it is to be the president of the United States,” Clinton said. “I have a little experience about that and I have to tell you I find it very reassuring because I have that experience to know what’s possible and how best to proceed.”

Clinton told the crowd she agreed to serve as President Obama’s first secretary of state because in America, we “close ranks after hard elections” like the one in 2008. Clinton then sent this shot at her 2016 critics.

“We can disagree and we will,” Clinton said. “We’ll have all kind of arguments, even, about the best way to do things, but we should be coming from a place of love, of loving our country and respecting one another.”

Hillary Clinton during an appearance in Mason City.

Hillary Clinton during an appearance in Mason City.

A gay married couple hosted the event at their home, for about 60 invited guests. Clinton started her remarks with a response to those who’ve criticized her for avoiding questions from the media. Clinton said she’s taking time to “talk and listen to people” — to build a “firm foundation” for her campaign.

“It really is about people-to-people connections if we’re really talking about what we want to do,” Clinton said,”but it will also give me the kind of information I need to be an even better president.”

Clinton praised President Obama for steering the economy out of the doldrums, but she said more must be done to “ignite opportunity for everybody” — not just those at the top.

“I know there are a lot of hard choices ahead of us. I wrote a book called, ‘Hard Choices’. There it is. I’ll sign that for you,” Clinton said, as someone in the crowd held up their copy. Then she returned to her message: “But I think we’re up for it. You know, I am a confident optimist.”

This is Clinton’s second trip to Iowa since she officially jumped into the race last month. Clinton will appear at another small event with invited guests in Cedar Falls tomorrow.

AUDIO of Clinton’s appearance, 33:55

(Reporting and photos in Mason City by Bob Fisher of KGLO Radio; additional reporting and editing by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)

Iowa GOP’s 2015 Lincoln Dinner features 11 presidential hopefuls

GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann.

GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann.

Nearly 1,400 Republicans gathered in a Des Moines banquet hall tonight to hear from nearly a dozen people who are likely to compete for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination.

After 11 speeches, an enthusiastic Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann told the crowd: “This is like going into Baskin Robins and not knowing which flavor to take.”

Marv Kirschner of Mason City agreed.

“I am confused about everybody,” Kirschner said, laughing. “…I don’t know who I’m going to vote for. I’m going to vote for somebody, though.”

Jim McDonald of Delhi eliminated a few from his list as he listened to tonight speech-a-thon, but he isn’t in a rush to pick a candidate.

“We’ve got a long year to go yet,” he said, laughing.

The Iowa Caucuses will be held on February 1 of next year, but former Florida Governor Jeb Bush began his speech by focusing on a different countdown.

“There are only 541 days left for the end of the age of Obama and Hillary Clinton,” Bush said, to cheers and applause.

The GOP competitors mostly kept their verbal jabs aimed at the Democrats, but Kentucky Senator Rand Paul did emphasize his stand against the bulk collection of phone data, a position he acknowledged “does separate” Republicans.

“But it’s a valid debate to have and it’s a good debate to have,” Paul said. “…Can we protect your right to privacy and still catch terrorists?”

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham chose to emphasize a point of agreement.

“What have we learned tonight? If you’re a radical Islamist, you’ve come to the wrong meeting. Nobody here likes you,” Graham said, earning laughter for that comment and many other quips during his remarks.

Rick Santorum, the winner of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses, focused much of his speech on foreign policy — and he urged Iowans to choose a nominee who’d been tested by political battles.

“Someone who has the experience to go out and lay out how we’re going to solve these problems,” Santorum said.

Retired surgeon Ben Carson seemed to argue just the opposite.

“There’s so many different ways for people to gain experience and living in the real world is one of them,” Carson said.

Businessman Donald Trump hinted he’ll make a big splash in June.

“The announcement is going to surprise a lot of people because I cannot take the political nonsense any longer,” Trump said.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry ended his remarks by recalling the trip he and his father, a World War II veteran, made to the cemetery in France that overlooks Omaha Beach.

“Looking at those thousands of graves, those white crosses, those Stars of David — interestingly every one of those face west, west to an America that they loved, west to an America that they would never go home to,” Perry said. “And the thought came to me that they’re sitting there in silent judgement, judgement of us today.”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former New York Governor George Pataki and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina also spoke tonight. Each of the 11 was given a 10-minute slot and Fiorina was the only one to go so far over her time allotment that her microphone was turned off before she concluded. The event wasn’t just speeches, though. Candidates like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker hosted after-parties one floor down from the banquet hall.

“We’ve got cheese and we’ve got ice cream. We’ve even got a Harley parked on the side there, so we’re going to have a lot of fun,” Walker said as he concluded his speech with that invitation to his hospitality room.

People lined up to get Walker’s autograph. Walker’s campaign team had a DJ playing tunes and every so often giving away “cheese heads.” It was at the Iowa GOP’s 2007 Lincoln Dinner that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee garnered early attention with an after-party that featured a Bill Clinton impersonator and Huckabee playing guitar with his band, performing “Born To Be Wild.”

Photo by John Pemble.

Jindal says ‘hypothetical games’ about foreign policy not productive

Bobby-JindalLouisiana Governor Bobby Jindal today said President George W. Bush “absolutely made the right decision” to invade Iraq.

The issue made headlines this week after former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was asked about his brother’s decision. During a taping of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program which will air at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Jindal said those kind of “hypothetical games about foreign policy” aren’t productive.

“There are a lot of these parlor games,” Jindal said. “You know we could ask: ‘Should Bill Clinton have taken out Osama bin Laden after the first World Trade Center bombing? Should Eisenhower have listened to Patton and stopped the Soviets from going into eastern Europe? Should have the country have bought Alaska for $7 million?'” Jindal says. “I am glad we bought Louisiana, by the way. I’m glad that Thomas Jefferson did that. I thought that was a very good purchase.”

According to Jindal, it is “important to remember” that at the time President Bush decided to go to war in Iraq, Saddam Hussein was a “menace to his neighbors” who had used chemical weapons on his own citizens and who was blocking United Nations weapons inspections.

“The problems we face in Iraq today I don’t think were because of President Bush’s strength, but rather have come about because of President Obama’s weakness,” Jindal said.

Jindal addressed a wide range of topics in the interview, from the controversial ‘common core” educational standards to his support of the federal death penalty for crimes like the Boston Marathon bombing.

According to Jindal, voters aren’t focusing on a candidate’s fundraising prowess, but they’re seeking “big change” in Washington and a candidate who has “big ideas.”

“This is not going to be an auction. I don’t think it’s going to be won just simply by the person who has the most money,” Jindal said. “I think voters are going to wait, take the time to kick the tires.”

Jindal is one of the 11 candidates who will speak Saturday at the Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines.