Holy cow! Bachmann’s Iowa chair now supporting Ron Paul! (AUDIO)

The biggest news of the political day in Iowa just happened. State Senator Kent Sorenson, a Republican from Indianola, has served as Michele Bachmann’s Iowa campaign chair for nearly a year.  He is no longer serving in that role.  Sorenson just announced he is backing Ron Paul now.  (I’ll be back with the audio in a moment. Here’s the AUDIO of Sorenson’s brief remarks.) “When the Republican establishment is going to be coming after Ron Paul, I thought it is my duty to come to his aid,” Sorenson said, mentioning that Paul had campaigned on his (Sorenson’s) behalf for his state senate campaign.

Sorenson, as you may recall, is the person involved in the backstoryof Bob Vander Plaats’ endorsement of Rick Santorum.  Sorenson was said to have threatened to burn BVP in effigy for failing to endorse Bachmann.  The account came from Chuck Hurley, leader of The Iowa Family Policy Center:

“…I do regret that one erstwhile friend and culture warrior has threatened to, ‘Burn Bob’s body, drag it through the streets and hang it from a bridge,’ if Bob doesn’t endorse who that person wants him to endorse,” Hurley said. “Unfortunately, this individual claims to follow the ‘good book’ which says things like, ‘Let all anger, bitterness and malice be put away from you.’”

Hurley, as you may know, endorsed Santorum, too.

Soon after Ron Paul took the stage tonight, a couple of “Occupy Wall Street” protesters started yelling in the hall.

“Freedom of speech! Ain’t it wonderful,” Paul said.  “…We’re all upset and we want a change in Washington. As a matter of fact, that’s what our purpose is.”   The protesters were escorted out.

Time/CNN numbers out: Romney 25, Paul 22, Santorum 16

The latest polling data for Iowa is out this afternoon.  Read the numbers here (top three reflected in headline above).  It’s based on sampling BEFORE Christmas Eve in Iowa.

Romney: we’re not going to kill Big Bird, but PBS will run on advertising $$

Mitt Romney used a question from someone in Clinton, Iowa, early this afternoon — a question about Iran’s threat to block the Strait of Hormuz, the major route out for Persian Gulf oil — to pivot and send a subtle message about Ron Paul’s views about a nuclear-armed Iran.

“I’m not going to tell you precisely what military actions are going to be taken under each circumstance because obviously there are a lot of factors at play, but I can tell you this…it’s unacceptable in my view for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and for those that say, ‘Well, but the Soviet Union had a nuclear weapon.’ The difference is we had mutually assured destruction and the Soviets were not suicidal. The Mullahs and the Ayatollahs are suicidal and they talk about wiping out other people on the planet.  There’s no question in my mind of the risk that fissile material would find its way into the hands of Hamas or Hezbollah or other terrorists would be enhanced enormously if Iran has a nuclear weapon and so I will pursue understanding the options we could take to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear…diplomatic options, economic options as well as military options.

“…I know there are some that think we should shrink our military and who think it’s just too big. The world isn’t safer. The world has not become safer in the past few years. It’s a more dangerous world and I want to maintain a strong military that is so superior that no one else in the world wants to test it.”

The crowd applauded. Romney spoke to a huge crowd at Homer’s Deli in Clinton. A man who identified himself as a “moderate Republican” asked Romney about cutting federal spending.

Romney’s reply stressed the message that’s being broadcast in one of his campaign ads, about the immorality of deficit spending. “I will not just slow down the rate of growth,” Romney said. “I will reduce federal spending. I’ll cut $500 billion a year by the fourth year and I’ve laid out how to do it…Stop certain programs. Stop them. Close them. Turn ’em off, even some you like…My test is: is a program so critical that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?

“…I like PBS. We subsidize PBS. Look, I’m going to stop that. I’m going to say, ‘PBS is going to have to have advertisement.’ We’re not going to kill Big Bird, but Big Bird is going to have to have advertisements, all right?”

Some in the crowd laughed and a few applauded, but there was a much larger burst of applause when Romney vowed to get rid of “ObamaCare” on “day one” of a Romney presidency.

A few moments later, a man in the crowd praised Romney for signing legislation when he was governor of Massachusetts to raise the benefits for soldiers in the Massachusetts National Guard.  “I wish he’d been given a microphone so he could describe all that,” Romney said, laughing.  

“As a former recruiter, that’s a big deal. Thank you, governor,” the man said.

Romney closed after speaking & answering questions for about 24 minutes. “I thought when I was coming to a place called Clinton I might have some difficulty. At least you’re not called Obama,” Romney said, getting laughter from the crowd. 

Romney spent a good deal of time after his remarks shaking hands, signing autographs. One man told Romney: “You’ve got Gingrich on the ropes. I hate that guy. He’s a jerk.”  Romney didn’t respond and moved on to the next (potential) voter.

Former GOP candidate for governor Steve Sukup endorses Santorum

Steve Sukup (pronounced SOOK-up) and his brother, Charles, run a family business in north central Iowa that makes grain handling equipment, notably grain bins.  Steve Sukup served in the Iowa legislature and ran for governor in 2002, losing a tight primary race to nominee Doug Gross.  (Trivia: Tim Albrecht, Governor Branstad’s press secretary, was the communications guru for the Sukup campaign in 2002.)  In 2006, Sukup endorsed Bob Vander Plaats, another contestant in that 2002 primary race, before Vander Plaats dropped out and ran as Jim Nussle’s 2006 lieutenant governor running mate.

I saw Sukup in Waterloo (a long way from his home in Clear Lake) in August, as he was in the audience to hear Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.  Sukup said at the time he thought the pair would make a good 2012 ticket for Republicans. Sukup is now thinking of another name for the top of the ticket, as you see in the news release below from Rick Santorum’s campaign.

Urbandale, IA – Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign has received the endorsement of influential Iowa businessman, conservative activist, and former legislator Steve Sukup.
Steve Sukup said: “My family has been in the manufacturing sector for decades and there is one candidate who understands the needs of businesses like my family’s.  Rick Santorum understands what it will take to rebuild the manufacturing sector, bring jobs back to areas like northern Iowa, and revitalize our economy.  I am proud to endorse Rick Santorum for President and I am excited to caucus for him this coming Tuesday.”
[Read more…]

Perry no longer favors abortion ban exceptions for rape, incest (AUDIO)

Texas Governor Rick Perry was the first of four GOP candidates to speak tonight in a forum organized by PersonhoodUSA and moderated by Steve Deace, an Iowa-based, nationally-syndicated radio host.  Perry revealed he recently had a “fairly lengthy & heartfelt” conversation with a woman who was conceived in a rape.  

“She made a statement to me that was really profound and pierced my heart…All I can tell you was God was working on my heart,” Perry said of the conversation and his conversion.

Listen to the AUDIO of his remarks on this subject during tonight’s telephone town hall meeting.

Gross: any time Bob can promote himself, he attempts to do that

Doug Gross, the 2002 Iowa GOP nominee for governor, and Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, are the guests on this weekend’s Iowa Press, which airs on IPTV @ 7:30 this evening.  Gross was first to address the controversy:

I don’t personally have the information…I’ve read the news reports associated with it and it looks troubling and troubling in the sense that Rick Santorum said that they talked about money and he raises the issue of money in return for an endorsement. Now, he said it wasn’t specifically said that way, but instead what they talked about was the need for money in order to help promote the endorsement. Whatever, it looks troubling.

“…What I think we’ve got going is Bob is very much interested in his own future candidacy, at least for some particular higher office. He’s run three times, so I think there’s a pattern here that’s developing and it appears that he wants to run again, I suspect, and anytime Bob can try to help promote himself he attempts to do that and I think what he was trying to do is get himself in a position where he could play a prominent role to help promote himself for a future candidacy.”

Scheffler was asked, by AP’s Mike Glover: “Do you find that whole episode troubling, assuming that the reports we’ve seen about it are accurate?” Scheffler’s answer:

“Well, naturally I’m concerned about what the reports might contain or not contain. Certainly Bob is free to do what he wants to do. As far as I’m concerned, on my part, I and the organization I work for decided not to endorse anybody…And of course it also is a little bit troubling the reports that some campaigns, like Michele Bachmann’s campaign, was asked to basically kind of fold in or whatever the terminology was used and quite frankly I think in a process where these candidates have spent a lot of time and a lot of money and a lot of energy, to ask a candidate to fold their efforts into another campaign is just not the way we do things here in Iowa.”

Here’s The Family Leader’s statement on this, issued yesterday, and more background. Gross was chief of staff to Terry E. Branstad a couple of decades ago and you may recall that BVP ran against TEB in a GOP primary in 2010.

ABC reports: BVP asked for $$ to work for Romney in ’08

ABC News has a report about three-time GOP candidate for governor Bob Vander Plaats who is now backing Rick Santorum and it has this bombshell: 

…ABC News has learned that Vander Plaats tried to solicit money for his endorsement during the last presidential cycle too. A former staffer for Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential bid who is currently unaffiliated with a campaign said Vander Plaats came to them seeking money for his backing if he supported the former Massachusetts governor.

“He wanted to be paid,” the former staffer said. “He was clearly looking for a paycheck. There was a conversation about him getting a title, but being a paid consultant was much more important.”

The aide said they offered him a title, but never seriously considered paying Vander Plaats. He ended up endorsing Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee over Romney.

The Family Leader & the Santorum endorsement

You can read about & listen to the announcement this past week from The Family Leader’s two leaders.  Bob Vander Plaats, TFL’s president & CEO, announced the TFL board would remain neutral, but BVP & Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa Family Policy Council (which is part of  TheFamily Leader organization), were personally endorsing Rick Santorum.

There’s been lots of talk about money in connection with this endorsement.  As Jennifer Jacobs writes in The Des Moines Register:

The situation has raised questions about whether any federal rules that prohibit coordination between a campaign and an outside group were broken.

“The simple fact that they’ve had conversations does not establish any violation of laws dealing with coordination,” Paul S. Ryan, an attorney at Campaign Legal Center, told The Des Moines Register Thursday. “But coordinating expenditures on advertising could violate federal law.”

The Family Leader issued a written statement yesterday afternoon:

[Read more…]

Gingrich “get” Paulsen compares Newt to Terry

Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, compared Newt Gingrich to Terry Branstad as Paulsen announced his endorsement of Gingrich in a statehouse news conference. Paulsen said he has noticed Branstad’s “intensity of purpose” over the last year, driven by his time out of the governorship and returning with an agenda to enact.

Paulsen said he sees the same intensity of purpose in Gingrich and, according to Paulsen, that should “frighten the political elite and the insiders” in D.C. because Gingrich has had “time to develop a plan” since he’s been out of congress.

“He is a Washington outsider,” Paulsen said, adding Gingrich would “shatter the D.C. Beltway status quo.”

A small group of Occupy Des Moines protesters jumped up and started chanting when Gingrich began speaking. They left the room, then one who stayed behind rose a couple of minutes later and tried to talk with Gingrich. who said he would “be glad to talk to you outside” after the news conference is over.

Gingrich was asked about the payroll tax extension & he offered this observation:  “I have no idea what it would be like” to negotiate with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.


Santorum reacts (audio)

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, campaigning in Pella, reacted to today’s announcement.  The transcript (and audio) below:


“We’re the candidate right now that has the momentum, that has the message that’s resonating to the people of Iowa and I think they’re probably catching that and see this as the campaign that’s going to be the conservative alternative.”