Iowa GOP Lincoln Unity Dinner — Giuliani, Romney, Cox, Huckabee

I’m sitting in the back of the banquet hall (Polk Co Convention Complex, top floor), at one of the two tables set up for reporters using laptops.  The event was to start at 4:30 p.m.  At 4:23, folks started streaming in the door — there was a reception beforehand — so Ray Hoffman, the RPI chairman, made his welcoming comments a tad bit late.

The crowd paid $75 each to eat a pork loin dinner and hear 9 candidates who want to be the next president.  California Congressman Duncan Hunter was headed here on a commercial flight.  It was cancelled.  He charted a jet.  It had "mechanical problems in the air, according to Congressman Tom Latham, so the plane turned around and Hunter did not make it to Iowa.

First on stage:  former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  He was introduced by Latham.  The crowd stood and applauded.  Here are my notes, on the fly:

"Did you have to mention that I supervised all the US Attorneys?  I’m probably going to be subpoened on Monday," Giuliani began, a joke made in reference to Latham’s introduction.

"If I look a little shocked at this gathering — I’ve never seen so many Republicans.  In NYC, we’re outnumbered…I think I’m going to run in the Iowa Caucuses just so I can meet Republicans.  It’s going to be great."  applause.

Giuliani told a story about being elected and serving as mayor, jokingly claiming to have stopped the fall of snow in the city.   

He told the crowd there are a lot of things at stake in the election, like whether we’re going to remain a growth economy.  Democrats will copy the economies of western Europe, according to Giuliani  "As if they’re doing so well," Giuliani.  And we’re not going to be on offense against terrorism anymore (if Democrats win)…"We’ve got to make sure that we elect a Republican president and a Republicn congress in 2008."

He said the best way to do that is to be a party that "is best known for what we are for, not what we are against"…That’s what our great leaders always give us….We’re for growth through lower taxes….that’s why we lower taxes…that brings about economic growth.  We’re for reducing the size of government because government can be too much of a burden on private sector.

Seque into education, says he’s for school choice, gets some applause. 

"If we don’t get elected, we’re going to have socialized medicine in this country"…They want to make our health care system like…France and Italy…I had prostate cancer…I’ve talked with people who ask for advice…says no one ever tries to get into a hosptial in another country for treatment.

We have a flawed health care system…but we still have the best health care system and we’re going to fix it without ruining it…because it’s private, because it’s competitive and because there’s a profit-motive in it. 

"If we don’t get elected, I think it’s in real jeopardy," Giuliani said of the health care system.

Discussion of "energy independence."  Russians got ahead of us in the quest for space and Eisenhauer recognized that.  Kennedy continued it, Johnson continued it and Nixon finished it and be beat them to the moon. Working together for the national good is what’s needed.

Lauded ethanol.  "Why is it that Brazil is ahead of us in ethanol?" Giuliani asked.  "We should be ahead of Brazil and we should be ahead of other countries in nuclear power..and wind and solar power."

"The theme for us is that we’re a party of growth, that we’re a party characterized by what we’re far."

"We’re at war with terrorists not because we want to be.  We’re at war with terrorists because they’re at war with us." 

He repeated his recent line about telegraphing retreat to enemies.  "Does that make any sense?" he asked.  A couple of people in the crowd said "No."

Neither party has a monopoly on virtue or vice.  "When you start thinking that, you get all confused.

Democrats don’t see the wider war on terror.  It isn’t just about Irq…there are people in other parts of this world…that are planning to come here and kill us…they’re going to succeed in doing it again if we go back on defense.

"Never again are we going to be on defense against terrorists," Giuliani said, to applause from the crowd. 

"I would like to be your president.  I hope you select me," he said, pausing.  "Please," Giuliani followed.  Then another pause. "But if you don’t…ever single one of them is better than Hillary, Senator Obama, Senator Edwards and the other long list of Democrats." (Giuliani got his loudest applause for that line)

Ended with Reagan’s 11th Commandment:  "When this primary is over, we are all going to be on the same side," Giuliani said.  "…This party has to remain together.  It’s for our good as a party."

Some stood during the applause at the conclusion of the speech. Most didn’t.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was next, again introduced by Latham, who told the crowd he was glad Romney had raised the most money among the candidates because Latham revealed his daughter is working for Romney.  "The American Dream is having your kids move out and get a job," Latham joked, quickly adding he wasn’t endorsing Romney or anybody else in the race.

Romney began with a joke he tells that has a punchline in which his wife tell him "Mitt, you aren’t in my wildest dreams."  Then, Romney invited his son, Josh, and wife, Ann, up on stage to introduce them to the crowd.  "I’m just happy to have them here this evening to remind myself and you why you run for president," Romney said, as his wife and son stood at his side."….I want to make sure that America’s children have a more prosperous and safe country." 

Wife and son exited the stage.

"I haven’t spent my life in politics.  That’s for sure.  I spent my life in the private sector just like most everybody in this room." …Almost anywhere in the private sector things get better or you go out of business…I’ve learned how to change organizations and make things better and if ever there was a time when we need change in Washington…"

The folks in Washington are "spending too much time talking and debating…In the private sector, talk is worthless…you have to get the job done." 

"America faces some huge challenges."..Number one this attack from jihadists…to cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic states…and the collapse of the United States of America. 

We face competition from India, China.  ‘We’re going to have to raise the bar," he said.

"We’re spending too much money in Washington…our health care system leaves too many behind…and look what’s happening to our culture."

"We have to turn to the source of our strength….We have a great govt but that’s not what makes America strong…respect the sanctity of human life." applause.

When America faces challenges, you turn to say how do you strengthen the American people.  Romney said the GOP operates on a philosophy of strength: military, economic, family.

Military strength:  we have made it difficult for troops.  He would have at least 100,000 more troops in US military.  He want more spent on equipment, technology & health care.  At least 4 percent GDP on military.  applause.

"I think we’re also increasingly recognizing that oil policy is about strength…We have to finally stop the rhetoric and get energy independence.  We must become energy indpeendent to maintain our strength around the world."

"We have the most robust economy in the world….we need to keep that economy strong."

He praised Bush tax cuts…wants to make ’em permanent.  Get rid of the death tax forever.

We need better schools for our kids…school choice is critical…We used to have bilingual ed in our state…We said let’s take that to the voters and said…"If you want to be successful in America, you’ve got to speak the language of America." (loud applause)

Fix immigration system..  We need to secure our border.  I want an employmjent verification sytem…fines against businesses…applause…Let me mention one more thing, if we want to strengthen the people of America, there’s one place that’s most improtant….the American home and "it concerns me enormously that one-third of our kids are born out of wedlock"…kids need moms and dads….Every child deserves a mother and a father."

"I am confient about the future of this country.  It is bright.  It is positive…I’ve seen the heart of the American people."

"I’ve met probably most of the people in this room, probably once or twice by now."

Ended with an Olympic story — the one about the flag from 9/11 being carried into Olympic stadium in Salt Lake.

Romney got more people standing to applaud at the end than Giuliani did.

Next up, John Cox, a Chicago businessman:

"I’ve been to all 99 counties.  New Hampshire’s a lot smaller.  Cook County Republican Party president like being the opposition leader to Saddam."

Mayor Daley — 50 members of administration indicted…."Democrats in Chicago don’t shake hands anymore, they just pat each other down." Laughter.

I’d like to talk about why I’m doing this crazy thing by talking about my four daughters…wife and female dog.  Two daughters go to Loras. 

He’s one of founding members of Club for Growth…people we sent to Washington didn’t keep to principles….get ’em back and we will win in 2008 if we stick to our principles. 

25 years ago, somebody came out of the west.  He wasn’t the fair haired boy of the establishment, but he said it’s the right thing to do to point out where we can improve.  He won in a landslide. 

Who am I do to this?  I’m not a governor, senator, celebrity.  I’m a businessman…I’m the descendant of legal immigrants. (applause)  I believe in the shining city on a hill. 

We only have to remember our princples. Send a message to the media, political elites in Washington.  We want principles, true fiscal discipline, smaller more efficient govt in Washington, DC. 

Next applause line:  for fair tax. 

Told the crowd he was pro-life because he’s the son of single mother, who might have aborted him if abortion had been legal when he was born.

Crowd applauded.  Some stood.

Next, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who began with essentially an advertisement for his reception afterwards.  He invited Paul Shanklin, the man who often does Bill Clinton’s voice on the Rush Limbaugh Show, to the microphone (Shanklin’s going to be at Huckabee’s reception afterwards)

Shanklin: "I, too, am a former governor of Arkansas and Mike, I was the original man for Hope…It took him 10 yaers, but he cleaned up that mess in Arkansas….and I should know, because Hillary made it…and I want you to know something…I too am an avid hunter, but not varmits and that’s why I am here tonight to reach out across the aisle to (a list of women’s names, concluding with Candy)."    ((Note, the varmit thing is a slap at Romney))

Huckbee then got back behind the mic, invited folks to hear Shanklin do more comedy at the after-party, and then Huckabee said HE will be performing with his band, Capital Offense.  He’s joked that he’s running for president because his band didn’t make it onto American Idol.  "You’ll find out," Huckabee promised those who come to listen.

I can’t imagine sitting here listening to all 9 speakers ….a scripture comes to mind….They that endurse to the end shall be saved.  "I want to thank you for your patience."

"Every single person is going to tell you that he’s a true conservative.  Now, you’ll have to sort out whether that is true."  At least it proves that in our party it still matters…and no one who isn’t a conservative will get the nomination, he said.

I am a guy that some people have said showed up a little bit late…I should have started years, months ago…but I didn’t start until just a few weeks ago.  "While I may be one fo the guys coming a little bit late…Let me tell you what I’m not late in showing up for.  I’m not late in declaring that life begins at conception and that’s one of the reasons I am a Republican…Marriage is still between a man and a woman….I’m not late in believing in the Bush tax cuts…I’m not late coming into the idea that the Second Amendment…is about protecting our basic freedoms…and protecting ourselves from a government should it ever get out of control."

"I’m not late in believing that government ought to be competant…that our education system ought to work."..I was the first male in my family to even graduate high school….to go from being the kid who met a governor…to the kid who got to become a governor.

"That’s why I love this country and I want every little kid in America to have the capacity to reach for the next rung on the ladder…."

By the way, it’s tax weekend…He told a tax joke here.

"What makes for a good president?  Frankly, to some, it’s telling pepole what they want to hear….vote for me becauwe I’m going to tell you what I truly believe.  Let me be honest, I’m probably not going to be the pick of Wall Street.  I’m doubtful…pick of K street….(want to be pick of Main Street)"…As my pastor used to tell me, if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.

"I believe a president is elected to speak for all of those who can’t speak for themselves anymore." 

HetTold three poignant stories of where he contends government has failed people.  First, the story of a black baby born in New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina who died just 9 days shy of her first birthday.  Her family had repeatedly complained to doctors about her health, but those concerns were brushed off.  "They didn’t discover the heart disease until they did her autopsy," Huckabee told a hushed crowd.  "I want to be the president who is the voice for (that girl) so that doesn’t happen in our country again," He said.

Then, he told the story of the miner who died in a recent mine accident.  Huckabee read the letter written by the dying man:   "Tell ’em I’ll see ’em on the other side.  It wasn’ t bad.  I just went to sleep.  I love you."  Huckabee told the crowd that mine had numerous safety violations.  Martin Toller (my spelling, haven’t checked) spent his life digging through the mine to give our country coal and energy — I want to speak up for him.

Finally, Huckabee told the story of the 25-year-old Marine who served in Iraq and drove 75 miles to St. Cloud to seek help from the VA because he felt suicidal.  Huckabee told the crowd the VA sent him home because they were full…The next day he got on the telephone and he called….’Sir, you’re number 26 and we only have 12 beds’ Huckabee recounted as what an operator told the soldier.  "For four days he held on and fought the toughest battle of his life and he couldn’t fight it any longer" and he cinnitted suicide.

This country asked that soldier to give his all, but when he asked our country to give what was promised to him…"he was told to wait in line like he was at a bakery" and ladies and gentleman that should never, ever happen again.  applause.

"He didn’t die because we lacked the resource.s..he died because of old fashioned greed," Huckabee said.

Our party has the capacity to fix those cracks and give our country the optimistic leaders.

"There’s some good folks walking across this stage asking to be your president….I promise if I get that position, I’ll not only remember where I came from but I’ll remember to be a voice" for (he listed his three examples)

The audience applauded.

The emcee next told the crowd they can take home the wine glasses on their tables, courtesy of the Fair Tax folks — each glass has Fair Tax written on it. 

Now, a break for the main course to be served to the crowd, and for them to eat.  I’ll be back with the last batch later.

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About O.Kay Henderson

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


  1. I think The Winner is Tommy Thompson, Gave the best speech and his jokes worked.