Romney at capitol, Thompson at 7 Flags

No, folks, 7 Flags is not an amusement park.  It is an exercise club in the Des Moines suburb of Clive which has a huge, barn-like hall that’s used for concerts, Ultimate Fighting contests, and the occasional political event.  Today’s political event featured Tommy Thompson, the former governor of Wisconsin, who had his back turned away from the bank of cameras when the confetti guns were popped and the air was peppered with a shower of paper for the cameras. 

But that was over the noon hour.  Let’s get chronological and start with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney who held a news conference at the statehouse this morning at 8:45 a.m.  The House Republicans who’ve endorsed him were there, but the Senate Republicans walked in about 15 minutes late — after the news conference had started. 

Romney made very brief remarks, then answered questions. You can hear the entire news conference by clicking on the audio link at the bottom of the Radio Iowa story.  Romney’s focus of the day is on vetoes. 

"Washington is a broken place right now, dysfunctional in some respects…If you look at the spending in Washington, DC you recognize that this is a government which has not been able to get its act together…You have to reign in spending…That’s one of the reasons why I’m running….States are working.  State governments are working across the country.  Republicans and Democrats are able to find common ground to reign in excess and find solutions to tough problems, but Washington is not working the way it should," Romney said in an opening statement.

He opened it up to questions.  The first:  How do you translate fundraising prowess into a better position in the polls?  A follow-up question was about the "message" of his tally.

Romney talked about polls in the early states, where he said he’s doing well as compared to nationwide polls. "You just have to raise money to have a viable campaign….I recognize you have to do certain things to win elections. You can’t just hope that people are going to vote for you.  You have to have a team, strong leaders and an effective fundraising operation as well."

The next question was about the Iraq war spending bill and the time table.  Romney criticized Democrats for putting the withdrawal date in the bill, and outlined his view that the "interests of America are alligned with seeing a stable Iraq." The follow-up question was specifically about the president’s veto threat.

"I’m going to let the president make his own decision on the tactics he employs, but I’m going to suggest that the Democrats in Washington provide the funding necessary to support the foreign policy which is established by the president of the United States.  It is not up to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to dictate to the commanders in the field or to the commander-in-chief," Romney said.

Next question from Dan Balz of the Washington Post, asking Romney to compare/contrast his pledge to veto bills with President Bush’s record of vetoing just one bill.

"I’m not try and contrast myself with the leader of my party.  (The full quote is in my Radio Iowa story.)  Romney went on to lament the degree of partisan bickering and "rancor" in Washington.  "It’s time for the arguing to stop in Washington and for the action to actually be taken," Romney said.  "…Frankly, the decision of Nancy Pelosi to go and meet with Assad in Syria is one which I find outrageous." That was the third (and final) Pelosi reference in the 11 minute news conference, the second time Romney was critical of Pelosi’s Syrian trip.

The following question & answer were about fiscal policy — vetoes, spending caps and the like.  Another question was about who bears responsibility for the reckless spending in Washington.  Romney did not blame Bush, but did criticize the Republican-led congress for spending "too much" but then he said it wasn’t a Republican/Democrat" thing. 

The final question was tactical, about California and the big states moving forward — and questioning why Romney was spending time in small states like Iowa and New Hampshire rather than California.  Romney said" "it’s even more important to spend money in the early states" where "momentum" can be gained from a win.   He predicted there’ll be "even more attention" on the outcome of early state contests because of the front-loading.   

On to Thompson (you can sing that to the tune "On Wisconsin"):  here’s the Radio Iowa story.  The sound file at the bottom is just a minute long — about Thompson’s call for a "flat tax."  (BTW:  Steve Grubbs, Thompson’s main Iowa guy, used to work for Steve Forbes, the 1996 GOP presidential candidate who made a 17 percent "flat tax" the centerpiece of his campaign.)

About 250 people turned out — promised a sandwich and chips for lunch afterwards.  Grubbs assured the media the cheese for the sandwiches came from Wisconsin.  Patriotic band music was piped into the room, then former State Representative Bill Dix came on to say a few words. 

Former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad introduced Thompson to the crowd.   Branstad began by describing Thompson as "a long-time friend, a neighbor, a guy that I’ve fished with, a guy that I’ve ridden motorcycles with."  At this point some of the motorcyclists in the crowd — including a couple with very patriotic leather jackets — shouted and clapped.  "He happens to be a guy that was also elected governor of Wisconsin four times and I like to tease him, you know, I set the record for 16 consecutive years and he could have tied it, but he left and went to Washington for the last two years to head up the Dept of Health and Human Services, but he made a real difference there, too, in working to reform the health care system."

Branstad started reading from a prepared text, but in a few moments Branstad spun some yarns about their competitiveness when the two were governors. 

"I thought I was going to get Lands End to put an operation in Iowa, and Tommy found out about it and it didn’t happen.  They stayed in Wisconsin and they expanded there instead," Branstad said.  "I remember very vividly when he first became governor they put these great big billboards up in northern Illinois.  Now, I had served as governor four years before Governor Thompson became governor of Wisconsin, but Jim Thompson was the long-time governor of Illinois.  He’d been governor — he served 14 years as governor of Illinois.  ‘Big Jim’ Thompson.  So they put these big signs up — and a lot of Illinois people have summer homes in southern Wisconsin — these big billboards that said ‘Move your business to Wisconsin!’ signed ‘Governor Thompson.’  (People in the crowd laughed)  Well, Illinois people started calling Governor Jim Thompson’s office and saying ‘What are you trying to do, trying to move companies to Wisconsin?’  Well, he had to say, ‘That’s not me.  That’s this upstart Governor Thompson in Wisconsin.’ But this is the imagination, the ingeniuty, the enthusiasm and the committment.  Nobody has ever been a greater advocate for his state."

Branstad wrapped up, and introduced Thompson who came on stage clutching his wife’s hand — as the John Mellencamp song "Smalltown" played.  "Oh, I love it.  I love you!" Thompson declared the moment he reached the microphone. 

He introduced his family to the crowd — but moved on a bit prematurely.  His wife prompted him — and Thompson acknowledged he had forgotten to introduce son Jason to the crowd. 

There is a prepared text that the campaign handed out.  As soon as they email it, I will link it.  There was a glaring typo — the word "education" was misspelled so the paragraph on education started as follows:  "On dducation, we must hold our schools to world-class standards from Kindergarten through college."

Thompson closed his more-than-half-hour-long speech by talking about how cancer has impacted his family’s life. 

"We’ve had a lot of cancer in my family," he said.  "My mother died of ovarian cancer.  Sue Ann’s mother died from breast cancer.  Sue Ann had breast cancer while I was governor and then our youngest daughter whose name is Tommi — it was supposed to have been a boy, but it ended up as a girl and has never really forgiven me for having my name — she was diagnosed with breast cancer, just like her mother a few years earlier.  Even with her cancer in remission, Tommi and her husband Brian couldn’t conceive because of the cancer drugs she was taking but she was able to save one egg before she went in for her masectomy which she and her husband had frozen for two-and-a-half years.  Last year at this time — on Good Friday — my oldest daughter, Kelli, was a surrogate mother because Tommi could not carry the baby.  One egg, one long-shot chance and today there’s one more child in the world.  A miracle baby, but as we all know life is truly a miracle, one that must be treasured, nurtured and protected.  Now more than ever."  The crowd interrupted Thompson with applause.  "Now more than ever our nation’s bedrock culture of life is essential in a day where we see young boys and girls getting killed in our cities — murdered — and a day when we see around the world young boys and girls are being raised to brutally kill themselves by strapping bombs to themselves and then exploding them to murder hundreds of innocent lives.  Boy, do we need to value life and celebrate our culture of life." The crowd applauded again, and Thompson concluded his speech.   

The campaign chose a song from The Steve Miller Band (I’ve never heard this played at a campaign event before) to conclude the show.  Here are the lyrics to Big Old Jet Airliner (note the New England reference):

Leavin’ home, out on the road
I’ve been down before
Ridin’ along in this big ol’ jet plane
I’ve been thinkin about my home
But my love light seems so far away
And I feel like it’s all been done
Somebody’s tryin’ to make me stay
You know I’ve got to be movin’

Oh, oh big ol’ jet airliner
Don’t carry me too far away
Oh, oh big ol’ jet airliner
‘Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay

Goodbye to all my friends at home
Goodbye to people I’ve trusted
I’ve got to go out and make my way
I might get rich you know I might get busted
But my heart keeps calling me backwards
As I get on the 707
Ridin’ high I got tears in my eyes
You know you got to go through hell
Before you get to heaven

Big ol’ jet airliner
Don’t carry me too far away
Oh, oh big ol’ jet airliner
‘Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay

Touchin’ down in New England town
Feel the heat comin’ down
I’ve got to keep on keepin’ on
You know the big wheel keeps on spinnin’ around
And I’m goin’ with some hesitation
You know that I can surely see
That I don’t want to get caught up in any of that
Funky kicks goin’ down in the city

Big ol’ jet airliner
Don’t carry me too far away
Oh, oh big ol’ jet airliner
‘Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay

Oh, oh big ol’ jet airliner
Don’t carry me too far away
Oh, oh big ol’ jet airliner
‘Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay
Yeah, yeah yeah, yeah

Big ol’ jet airliner
Don’t carry me too far away
Oh, oh big ol’ jet airliner
‘Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay

Oh, oh big ol’ jet airliner
Carry me to my home
Oh, oh big ol’ jet airliner
‘Cause it’s there that I belong

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. While Romney is a nice man, if voters want a true conservative they should take a close look at Rep. Duncan Hunter. He’s right on the money on issues important to conservatives including immigration, taxes, terrorism, etc.
    Romney is a RINO as are Guiliani,McCain and other GOP contenders.