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.

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.

Romney says he and Gingrich chose “very different paths”

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney met with The Des Moines Register’s editorial page editors this afternoon. I’ll post a link to the full video on the paper’s website when I find it, but here’s the AUDIO of the direct question of Romney about rival Newt Gingrich. Romney lists Gingrich ideas like colonizing the moon in his answer, which goes on for six minutes.   Here are the highlights included in my Radio Iowa story:

…this afternoon during a meeting with The Des Moines Register editorial board, Romney was asked to outline the differences between himself and Gingrich.

“I like my ideas better, all right?” Romney said, laughing. “And on some issues he and I disagree and I like my position better than his position.”

Romney suggested voters are looking for a steady leader, and Romney cited his executive work in the business world, his work in turning around the Salt Lake City Olympics and his work as governor of Massachusetts.

“I’ve had that leadership experience. I’ve also spent my life in the private sector,” Romney said this afternoon. “Speaker Gingrich has spent his life the last — I don’t know — 30 or 40 years in Washington. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just different.”

Romney told The Register’s editors Americans like presidents who exhibit “sobriety, wisdom and judgement” and who are “trusted” by others.

“I understand how the economy works at the level of job-creators,” Romney said. “I think that’s a distinctive factor that’s important.”

Romney got rather specific, citing some of the proposals Gingrich has made which he opposes, like adjusting child labor laws so poor students can work as janitors in their schools or colonizing the moon to mine for the rare materials up there.

“He even talked about a series of mirrors that we could put in space that would light our highways at night,” Romney said. “I’ve got some better ideas for our resources, so you know we have differences on issues and ideas.”

Romney suggested he and Gingrich followed “very different paths” in life. ”I respect the speaker as a very bright and capable guy,” Romney said. “But we’re very different people.”


Romney blasts Obama’s vacation plans (audio)

During a tele-town hall this evening, GOP presidential Mitt Romney criticized President Obama’s plan to spend “17 days in Hawaii.”

AUDIO of Romney’s entire rap on the Hawaii trip. 51 sec

“I just think it’s time to have a president whose idea of ‘hands on’ does not mean getting a better grip on the golf club,” Romney said.

UPDATE:  Iowa Democrats snapped back with this:

Mitt Romney’s new campaign slogan may be “earn it,” but on the campaign trail he’s just phoning-it-in. Today, Romney held a fundraiser at his mansion in San Diego and a ‘Tele-town hall’ with voters where he phoned in an attack on the President. As Governor, Romney spent 212 days of his last year as governor outside Massachusetts. With Romney phoning-it-in so much, it’s little wonder that Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 in job creation on his watch.

Citing a Salon article, Iowa Democrats say Romney spent 212 days of his last year as governor outside of Massachusetts, visiting nearly 40 states in that year. Romney was chairman of the National Governors Association and gearing up a run for the White House.

Romney pressed about ’07 statement on immigration

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney held a tele-town hall with Iowa voters early this afternoon.  A “Richard from North Liberty, Iowa” asked the following question:

I watched the debate last night and your response to Newt Gingrich regarding illegal immigration and amnesty and then this morning on one of the national radio programs I heard a tape of you from four years ago saying you supported a path to citizenship. You know, as a rock-solid conservative what concerns me about you is you seem to change your position a lot.”

(I believe that “tape of you from four years ago” is a reference to something played on Rush Limbaugh’s Show today.  Here’s the transcript of that.)

Here is Romney’s response to Richard from North Liberty:

“I wish you could hear the whole tape. What I said is that everybody who’s here illegally should have a path to citizenship which consists of going to their home country, applying for citizenship or permanent residency just like everybody else and getting at the back of the line, so sometimes when you hear only the first part of an answer you don’t get the full picture. My view has been from the very beginning with regards to those that are here illegally that they should not have any special privilege with regards to becoming a permanent resident of the United States or a citizen of the United States merely by having come here illegally, that they should have to get in the same line with everybody else who wants to come here legally, so I would not prevent them ultimately from becoming a permanent resident, but I’m not going to let them, simply by virtue of being here illegally, get an advantage relative to those who have waited in line patiently. That’s my view. I said that last night to Speaker Gingrich. I do not favor an amnesty program of the kind that he seemed to be describing last night. I just don’t think that those that have come here illegally should be given a special pathway, a special deal that’s any different than anybody else that wants to apply to come to this country legally.”

Romney giving thanks for Thune

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is getting the backing of South Dakota Senator John Thune — someone who thought about running for president in 2012, but didn’t.  Romney is due in Des Moines a little later this morning.


Boston, MA – Mitt Romney today announced the support of South Dakota Senator John Thune. Senator Thune will serve as a Co-Chair of Mitt Romney’s National Advisory Council.

“I am honored to have Senator Thune’s support,” said Mitt Romney. “On the issues that I have been fighting for in my campaign – creating a better business environment, lessening the regulatory burden, and ending Washington’s spending addiction – Senator Thune has been a leading voice in the Senate. He will be a trusted adviser as I bring this message to voters, work to reverse President Obama’s failed policies, and reform Washington.”

Announcing his support, Senator John Thune said, “The next election will be the most important in generations. We can choose to continue on the same path with four more years of President Obama’s failed policies or we can choose a leader who has the needed experience to lead an economic recovery. Mitt Romney has shown throughout his life in the private sector, as leader of the Olympics, as governor, and in this campaign that he will not back down from difficult challenges. His plans to revitalize the private sector and restore our country’s fiscal health are drawn from his 25 year career as a conservative businessman. Washington could use these commonsense principles at such a critical time.”

Background On Senator John Thune:

Senator Thune Was Elected In 2004. He serves on the Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, Budget, Commerce, Science & Transportation, and Finance Committees. Since 2009, Senator Thune has served as Chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. Prior to his election, Thune was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. 

DNC vice chair accuses Romney of “deceit” (audio)

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, says the basis of a new Romney ad is “factually incorrect.” 

“When I see that Mitt Romney has had a clear sail to say whatever he seems to want to say — and then, by the way, reverse the position the next day — I think the free run is over for Mitt Romney…Mitt Romney’s on my mind today because he ran an attack ad against the president and once again is basing that on something that is factually wrong. The great thing about people in Iowa is that they have a lot of different political opinion, but one thing they agree on is honest and common sense…and Mitt Romney has started his campaign in Iowa with deceit and it’s about time that we called him on it.”

Rybak just spoke at a news conference staged in Obama campaign HQ in Des Moines, IA.  He opened with comments, many of which were directed at Romney. A reporter followed up by asking why he had been so focused on Romney.  This is the AUDIO of his answer, transcribed above.

Romney: deficit slaying “not an impossible dream”

Mitt Romney made this promise to a crowd in Dubuque just now: “I will slay the deficit beast.” 

Romney promised to “kill programs” and pare 10 percent of the employees in the federal workforce. “This is not an impossible dream. I’ve seen it happen in other settings,” Romney said, beginning with references to his business experience and then his four years as governor of Massachusetts.

“The experience of balancing budgets is desperately needed in Washington and I will take it there,” he said.

Romney began his remarks by saying Iowans were “helpful” last time around and he is “planning” on Iowans’ help in 2012.

Romney said if Obama’s reelected, there’ll be four more years of the “Obama Great Recession.”  Romney said the alternative would be voters saying, “Mitt is it and I’ll have won…Now that’s a scenario I’m looking forward to because I want to go to work….I want Americans once again know the future is brighter than the past.”

“Contentious” debates? Romney suggests “grilling” is part of process (AUDIO)

Mitt Romney appeared on KSCJ Radio early this morning to chat with Randy Renshaw and  Sam Clovis, a Morningside College professor who also hosts a show on KSCJ. Clovis asked the first question, about the “very contentious season of debates” in which the candidates “all seem to be looking for red meat from each other.”

Romney answered: “I think the people in our party want to make sure that the person we nominate is someone who can beat Barack Obama and can go toe-to-toe with him in debates…I think it sort of goes with the territory if you’re going to get up on that stage, running for president, you ought to expect to face some tough questions and I have and I’ve asked some tough questions as well, but we also recognize we’re all on the same team.  I think we’ve pretty much all said we feel that anyone on that stage would do a better job leading the country than President Obama and I sure feel that way.”

Renshaw followed up, asking if there had been “too much shooting inside the tent” at the debates.

“Well, I think people have been saying that since the very beginning of the country,” Romney said. “We’re pretty open about the beliefs we have and about the direction we think this country should head and I think because of the fact that President Obama, that he doesn’t know what it takes to get this economy moving once again, we know how important it is to select someone who can beat him and so we’re going to face a lot of grilling, a lot of scrutiny and you know there’ll be a lot of information and misinformation, but over time the American people sort things out pretty well and I think that’ll happen in this process.”

Audio of opening part of KSCJ interview with Mitt Romney.

Audio of last half of KSCJ interview with Mitt Romney.