Listen in to legislative leaders (AUDIO)

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) and Senate President Jack Kibbie (D-Emmetsburg) were joined this morning by Representative Cindy Winckler (D-Davenport) at a statehouse news conference to review the week and preview the week ahead.  Listen to DemsMarch17

About half an hour later, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) and Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) held a similar news conference.  Listen to GOPMarch17

Barbour here to tell Iowans “what a Haley Barbour is”

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour was in Iowa in mid-February.  He came back on the Ides of March (that would be March 15) to visit with a few groups and individuals in Des Moines before trekking over to Iowa’s east coast.  He’s the headliner tonight for an Iowa Republican Party fundraiser in Davenport.

Barbour explained earlier today that his primary goal in Iowa is to explain to Iowans “what a Haley Barbour is.”

Barbour was the “host” of the luncheon for the Iowa Federation of Republican Women meeting at the statehouse in Des Moines, which means he bought lunch. He joked the sandwiches, chips, cookies and Pepsi products proved he was a conservative “because lunch was so cheap.” 

After repeating the line that he’s “seriously thinking about running for president,” Barbour said Iowa would be a key state in his campaign — if there is one. “I also know from my own state that if you want to win,you need the Republican Women,” he said, to applause from the Republican Women.  “You need ’em fully involved, energized and leading the team and so that’s why I wanted to get a chance to meet some of you,”

Barbour is in full-on meetin’ and greetin’ mode, and he’s conjuring up images of southern governors of the past who’ve gone on to win the presidency to buttress his electability argument.  “I start off with hardly any Americans who really know me.  There are some political leaders, some elected officials, some reporters,  but the average American has no reason to have ever heard of Haley Barbour,” the governor said during an interview with Radio Iowa.

“Is that an advantage in a year when people like Sarah Palin are well known and people have already formed opinions?” I asked.

“I tend to look at it more like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton,” Barbour replied. “At this time and the year before each of them was elected president, nobody ever heard of them either.”

“And they both have southern accents,” I added.

Barbour smiled.  “And they were both southern governors,” he said.

Barbour will be governor of Mississippi through the end of the year, which his second term ends.  Mississippi has term limits, so he cannot seek reeleciton.  Barbour has indicated he’ll announce in April whether he plans to run for president.

Iowa House & Senate GOP leaders (AUDIO)

Listen to the news conference House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha), House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner) & Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) had this morning at the statehouse: RepubsMar10

Iowa House & Senate Democratic leaders (AUDIO)

Listen to the news conference Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs), Senate President Jack Kibbie (D-Emmetsburg) & House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Des Moines) had this morning at the statehouse: DemocratsMar10

Iowa House begins debate of labor bill (AUDIO)

Shortly after two o’clock today, the Iowa House began debating a bill that would make changes in Iowa’s labor laws.  Representative Ron Jorgensen (R-Sioux City) is the bill’s “floor manager” which means he is the point person on the bill during the debate.  Listen to his eight-minute OpeningStatement on the legislation.

The two primary functions of the bill would end public workers’ ability to negotiate over health care benefits and the layoff process.  (As you may know, if a union worker in state government gets a layoff notice, they may “bump” a less senior worker and take that worker’s job.)

Audio from Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event

Five prospective/potential/probable presidential candidates spoke this evening in Waukee, Iowa to a crowd of about 2000 who turned out for the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event.  Each man was given 10 minutes to speak to the crowd. 

Listen to former Godfather’s Pizza president & CEO HermanCain (mp3 runs 9 minutes 20 seconds) and read about his remarks.

Listen to former House Speaker NewtGingrich (mp3 runs 10 minutes 48 seconds) and read about his remarks.

Listen to former Louisiana Governor BuddyRoemer (mp3 runs 17 minutes and 7 seconds)  and read about his remarks.

Listen to former Minnesota Governor TimPawlenty (mp3 runs 13 minutes and 32 seconds ) and read about his remarks.

Listen to former Pennsylvania Senator RickSantorum(mp3 runs 20 minutes and 22 seconds) and read about his remarks.

Rick Santorum @ Iowa Faith & Family Coalition event

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is the fifth and final potential presidential candidate to speak at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event this evening in Waukee, Iowa.  (Listen to his speech)

“Steve, good to be with you, Steve.  That’s cheap,” Santorum said after he was introduced, referencing former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s faux pas  just a few seconds earlier, as Pawlenty had mistakenly called Steve Scheffler (president of the Iowa Faith & Family Coalition) Chuck rather than Steve. (Pawlenty told the crowd he knows a Chuck Scheffler from Minnesota.)

“I shouldn’t have done that,” Santorum then said, apologizing to Pawlenty. “I’ve done that a million times, so sorry.”

Santorum began his remarks by telling the crowd: “This is not just another speech to me…This is a group that means a lot to me, because this is a group that I’ve been attached to the hip from, working in the vineyards.”

America isn’t about great wealth or great power, according to Santorum. “The purpose of America is to create an opportunity for each and every person…to live as they were called to live,” he said.

As for that “truce” on social issues that another prospective presidential candidate, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, has suggested? “You can’t,” Santorum told the crowd.

Santorum joked about being referred to as an “ultra-conservative” Republican. “My kids used to think my first name was ‘Ultra,'” Santorum said, to applause and laughter from the crowd.  “…Once you fight for the moral fabric of your country, you’re labeled.”

After a brief foray into foreign policy (the Obama Administration, according to Santorum, took the side of the mullahs), Santorum returned to the domestic issue of partial birth abortion.

“I’m Ultra,” Santorum declared. “Why? Because I share your values and I fought for them.”

“…We have an opportunity in this election to frame a great moral cause.  Everyone wants to talk about the economy…It’s vitally important to create jobs…repeal ObamaCare, but what’s the mission?” Santorum asked. “…We have to paint an America…where Americans believe in themselves again.”

Santorum, in hushed tones, urged the people in the crowd to “put your citizenship cap on” and be faithful, then closed with a story about the partial birth abortion debate in the U.S. Senate that he often tells in speeches.

Speeches over at 8:34 p.m. central time.

Tim Pawlenty @ Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is the fourth candidate to speak at this evening’s Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event in Waukee, Iowa.  (Listen to his speech.)

“Well, thanks a lot, or as President Obama would say, ‘You’re welcome,'” Pawlenty began, getting a laugh. then he quickly launched into a story about LBJ and a prayer LBJ aide Bill Moyers was delivering at a White House meeting.  When LBJ complained he couldn’t hear Moyers praying, Moyers replied: “It wasn’t you I was talkin’ to.”

Pawlenty continued: “That’s a great story about remembering where we get our help from.”

Pawlenty mentioned Ronald Reagan and how the Bible Reagan used to take the oath of office in 1981 was “opened up” to II Chronicles 7:14.

“We need to know where our helps comes from. We need to be a country that turns toward God, not a country that turns away from God,” Pawlenty said. “…The constitution was designed to protect people of fatih from government, not to protect government from people of faith.”

Pawlenty stressed his pro-life stand and his opposition to gay marriage.

“We need leaders that can not just talk the talk, but walk the walk,” he said, adding it’s important to have the “compass set right.”

Pawlenty seems to be adopting a southern accent as he talks about his record as governor of Minnesota.  “It ain’t gonna be easy,” Pawlenty said as he wound down.  “…This is about plowing ahead and getting the job done.”

Pawlenty came back after the crowd applauded to apologize to Steve Scheffler, the president of the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, who he had called “Chuck” a few times.  “There’s a Chuck Scheffler in Minnesota,” he explained.

Buddy Roemer @ Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event

Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer was the third speaker at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition gathering tonight in Waukee, Iowa. (Listen to his speech.)

“Honored to be with you in Iowa with Faith & Freedom,” Roemer said, with his trademark drawl, adding: “I’ve always been a church-goin’ Methodist boy.”

He told the crowd that after “a long period as a divorced man” he had remarried.  His wife is the woman who played the piano at the church next door. “Thank you, Jesus,” Roemer said of his marriage.

Roemer described himself thusly: I’m a pro-life, traditional values man. I’m the only person thining of running for president who was elected as a congressman and as a governor.”

Roemer described his swtich from the Democratic Party to the GOP.  He said the “corrupt old-boy’s network” doomed his bid for a second term as Louisiana’s governor, saying he lost  “by a whisker.”  

“…For the last 15 years I’ve been building little banks.  Banks that come to their greatness one loan at a time…Main Street, not Wall Street.”

Roemer said America’s in trouble. “The debt is a mountain and it’s resting on the chests and hopes of my grandchildren,” Roemer said.

Roemer mentioned that if he runs, he will not accept campaign donations of more than $100.  “I always wanted to do it,” Roemer said of running for president with that $100 limit.

“…I want a president free to lead,” Roemer said.

Roemer said he would end federal subsidies for both oil and corn-based ethanol. “Ethanol takes four rows out of 10 out of every corn field…that doesn’t go to hungry people or necessary people. This is not right,” Roemer said.  “That’s how you balance a budget…We have to get rid of ‘my little deal’ and ‘your little deal’ and put together ‘our little deal.'”

Roemer said his low-budget approach could succeed and he urged the crowd to tell others this about his:   “He’s old enough to know what to do and young enough to get it done…And by golly, he’s a friendly man, too.”

A few moments later, with a hushed vote, Roemer said: “Listen to me Iowa, we’re this close to taking this country back.”

Roemer quoted Proverbs 13:11.  “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.”

Newt Gingrich @ Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was the second prospective presidential candidate to speak at this evening’s Iowa Faith & Freedom event in Waukee, Iowa. (Listen to his speech.)

“Let me be totally candid.  I just said to Herman Cain, I’m stealing as much of that as I can, but not this evening,” Gingrich said to begin.  “…Like Herman I’m a grandfather & come at this with a little more wisdom than I had a while back.”

Gingrich said it was time to start a “dialogue” about America’s future, a dialogue that “may be as central to our future as the conversations in the 1850s that led to the election of Lincoln in the 1860s.”

Gingrich focused on the courts and judges who are “so fundamentally out of touch with America.” 

“We need a political change so deep and so profound that nothing in our lifetime is comparable…to get this country back on the right track,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich said “truth” is at the center of the nation’s current political debate.  “The power comes from God to each one of you personally.  You are personally sovereign…and that is the fundamental division between most Americans,” he said.

Gingrich told the crowd balancing the budget is a moral, not political consideration.  “We should all base our fundamental principles on fundamental questions of morality,” Gingrich said.

He got his biggest burst of applause by saying it was time to get rid of the “czars” in the Obama administration.  Gingrich also got applause for a ringing defense of the State of Israel.

“I’m not yet a candidate,” Gingrich said, plugging his website. “…Every person that’s going to speak tonight is a friend of mine….It’s going to take all of us to defeat the left.”  Gingrich said his vision is to replace not just Democrats with Republicans in Washington, but Democrats with Republicans in statehouses and courthouses throughout the country.