Romney reacts to reports Gaddafi is dead

“I think it’s about time. Gaddafi — terrible tyrant that killed his own people and murdered Americans and others in the tragedy at Lockerbie. The world is a better place with Gaddafi gone,” GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said moments ago in answer to a reporter’s question. 

Audio: 18 sec

Romney on Obama: “The emperor has no clothes.”

During a speech to a crowd at Morningside College in Sioux City this morning, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggested President Obama should quit “campaigning” and “blaming” and go back to work in Washington.  In addition, Romney said he likes “capitalism and free enterprise” but Romney seemed to stake a cautionary note on the issue of regulatory reform.

“We have the president right now campaigning, I think he’s in — where is it? — North Carolina today and he’s campaigning for his stimulus.  Someone needs to tell him the stimulus is dead, gone, disappeared, invisible.  The emperor has no clothes,” Romney said. “That bill of his, the stimulus bill, was turned down by the Democrats.  His own leaders in the Democratic Party in the Senate have said, ‘No, that bill isn’t going forward.’ I don’t know what he’s campaigning about. What he needs to do is stop campaigning and stop blaming and go back to Washington and sit down with Democrats and Republicans and work on legislation that will get America working again.”

The crowd applauded.

“Leadership is hard,” Romney continued. “Reaching across the aisle with people who disagree with you on issues and finding common ground — that’s tough.  He hasn’t been able to do those things.  He likes campaigning, so that’s what he’s doing, but we didn’t elect him to campaign. We elected him to lead and we need that leadership.”

Romney, who told the crowd he likes capitalism and free enterprise, had this advice about over-zealous regulatory reform efforts.: “By the way, as Republicans we’ve got to make sure that we don’t pretend like we just want to get rid of all regulation.  You need regulation to make free markets work, but the regulation needs to be modern and up-to-date, streamlined and the regulators need to be encouraging the private sector, not trying to kill it and right now, our regulatory burden is killing jobs in America and this president has added more regulation, I think by a factor of four times, than the prior president on an annual basis.”

Romney spoke for about 10 minutes, then opened it up for questions from the crowd.  A post on that later.

Romney’s people say he won’t be “boots on the ground” soon

State Representative Jeff Kaufmann just told me Mitt Romney would appear at a Kaufmann fundraiser here in eastern Iowa three weeks from now. Dave Kochel, an Iowa-based spokesman for the Romney campaign, saw the post and emailed the following: “We haven’t accepted an invitation to appear for Representative Kaufmann.”

Romney’s boots on the ground in Iowa soon

Just ran into a state legislator, Representative Jeff Kaufmann of Wilton, who told me GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be speaking at a Kaufmann fundraiser here in eastern Iowa in three weeks.  (UPDATE:  Romney people say invitation to appear not accepted.) Rick Perry will be speaking at a Kaufmann fundraiser next week.  Kaufmann used to be a senior policy advisor for the Gingrich campaign, but that association ended.  Kaufmann’s son had been a player in the Pawlenty campaign and Pawlenty spoke at a Kaufmann fundraiser before the 2010 election, as did Rick Santorum. Kaufmann is the speaker pro tem of the Iowa House and raises money for himself as well as other GOP candidates for the Iowa House.

Perry is due to speak in Tiffin, Iowa, in about an hour.  I’m on the scene and will blog it.  The crowd is eating BBQ right now.  Don’t know if it, the BBQ, will pass Perry’s standards.

Oh, and Michele Bachmann’s back in Iowa next week, capping her swing with what her campaign billed as a “Bachmann Takes It to Perry Rally” in Perry, Iowa on Saturday.

Perry calls RomneyCare “socialism”

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has gone one step more in his criticism of the health care reform plan Mitt Romney signed into law when he was governor of Massachusetts.

Perry spoke early this afternoon at the Iowa Credit Union League’s annual meeting and this is what he said:

“The model for socialized medicine has been tried before…whether it was in western Europe or in Massachusetts…The problem with state-sponsored health care is that you cannot contain it just within the borders of your state. When that plan took effect, it also increased Medicare/Medicaid costs.”

Perry also said Romney’s health care law, which last night he referred to as RomneyCare, had “killed” 18,000 jobs according to a Beacon Hill Institute study.

Think about what ObamaCare would do if it’s implemented all across this country. It must be repealted.”

There was no applause to this declaration from the crowd (although earlier the crowd had applauded when Perry said he wanted to repeal ObamaCare).

Perry also took aim at what he called the  “spending” package President Obama unveiled earlier this month.  Perry made this observation about the first two stimulus packages:

“You’ve got to ask yourself:  How’d that work for us? Not very well.”

The crowd sat silently and did not respond.

Perry also repeated his, “I wasn’t born with four aces in my hand,” line, a dig at rival Romney’s background of privilege.

Perry spoke for about 15 minutes and answered questions from the credit union leaders in the crowd.

Perry hears “four aces” & raises with “RomneyCare”

Rick Perry ripped into Mitt Romney several times this evening during a speech in Jefferson, Iowa.  Perry’s first mention of Romney was caught by those in the crowd who’d seen or heard about Monday’s debate and knew about Romney’s “four aces” line.  Perry told the crowd:

“As the son of tenant farmers, I can promise you I wasn’t born with four aces in my hand,” Perry said.  Some in the crowd started to laugh. Perry continued: “But like many of you the American dream was available to us because this country that we live in is not a class society. This country is based on hard-work and vision and anyone who does that can achieve anything that they desire.”

In case the crowd didn’t know that was a reference to Romney, Perry made it clear a few minutes later:

“Governor Romney the other night, he said that about, you know, he said, well, it’s pretty easy to be governor when you get four aces in your hand and you think you’re good at poker,” Perry said. “You know, there’s some folks back in Texas that were a little offended by that. We worked hard in Texas. We put good, hard, practical principles into play.”

Toward the end of his speech, Perry poked even harder, suggesting Romney doesn’t provide a stark enough contrast with President Obama.  Perry suggested “RomneyCare” was an albatross, although he didn’t use the word albatross.  This is how Perry said it:

“Government-mandated, government-run health care — it is part of what he put in place as the governor of Massachusetts…I think it’s very important that we put someone as our nominee that does not blur the lines between President Obama and the Republican Party.”

Listen & read more about it here.

Pawlenty endorses Romney

Former Massachusetts Governor Tim Pawlenty dropped out of the Republican presidential race on August 14.  Not quite a month later, he has endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Bachmann draws “strong mark of demarcation” with Perry, Romney (audio)

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann spoke with Radio Iowa by phone this afternoon, with Social Security the main topic of conversation. Without naming competitor Rick Perry (although I did in the questions), Bachmann said federal policymakers have to “keep faith” with current Social Security beneficiaries.  “That’s wrong for any candidate to make senior citizens believe that they should be nervous about something they have come to count on. We need not do that, but I think at the same time we also outline our positive solutions,” Bachmann said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”

AUDIO: Bachmann’s 9.9.11 Radio Iowa interview (runs 6 1/2 min)

Now, to the details of our conversation. I began by directly asking Bachmann if she thinks Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and whether she would favor having states run Social Security.

“Let me say first of all I voted against the bill that the president put forward last December that took $111 billion of revenues away from the Social Security Trust Fund this year. That’s the lowering of the payroll tax,” Bachmann said. “We didn’t see one shred of evidence that that created any jobs. Unfortunately what it did was it not only depleted money into the Social Security Trust Fund, it forced the Social Security Trust Fund to dip into the general treasury, which there isn’t any money there. There’s only moths and feathers in the general treasury which meant we had to either borrow that money or else print money to be able to pay for the Social Security checks. That put senior citizens at risk.

“What I think about Social Security is that the United States made a decision 80 years ago about retirement for senior citizens. I do believe that Social Security is in trouble going forward. It needs to be reformed and modified so that we can keep the promise that’s been made to senior citizens.  We can’t ask anyone that’s on Social Security right now to change their benefits. We just can’t because people have made their plans. They’ve made their live’s decisions in such a way depending upon what they expected was to be an earned income for the remainder of their life.

“But we also know that going forward Social Security has some very big challenges that need to be addressed and I am willing and able to be able to be up to that challenge to deal with the reforms that need to be made to make Social Security solid. But I do think, again, that the decision has been made. We have Social Security and we need to work within that system.”

So what sort of reforms would she support?

“Well of course that’s an issue that will take quite a bit of time and it won’t take just one person because this an 80-year-growing problem and this is one that will require a bipartisan solution, Republicans and Democrats coming together. It was Republicans and Democrats who both voted to create Social Security and they’ll have to come together to make it solvent,” Bachmann said. “I know we can. We have very smart people in this country who have to deal with pensions all the time. I’m a former federal tax lawyer. I’ve had to deal with the issue of ERISA law and this is something we can bring good people together to make this solvent, actuaries or other people who know how to make this happen and we can. We have to keep the faith with senior citizens, but we also can’t deny the future upcoming generations of young people their right to have a chance, too.  We can do this. I have no doubt. We can figure this out, but we need to make sure we keep our promises.”

Bachmann was on Iowa Press late this spring when Paul Ryan was getting flack for his Medicare proposal.  At that time, Bachmann said it should be called the “55-and-under plan” because “messaging” was important.  My direction question to her was this: “Do you think your party needs to be equally careful in its messaging on Social Security? Using phrases like ‘monstrous lie’ — do you think that is good messaging?”

“I think that it is not good when President Obama, for instance, made the comment — recklessly, in my opinion — that seniors may not get their Social Security checks in August when we were dealing with the debt ceiling debate,” Bachmann said. “That was irresponsible for the president to do that. He created a great deal of fear. In fact, I was in Dexter, Iowa with senior citizens and I was told by them that there were those that had cancelled some of their bills. They had cancelled services into their home like the internet and cable and other services because they thought the president was telling them they weren’t going to get a Social Security check.

“That’s wrong for any candidate to make senior citizens believe that they should be nervous about something they have come to count on. We need not do that. But I think at the same time we also outline our positive solutions. That’s what I’m trying to do and I’m looking forward to doing that, one of which will be to oppose the president’s plan last evening and that was to once again take money, revenues out of the Social Security Trust Fund with his proposal last evening. I think that knowing that we are adding even more Baby Boomers into the Social Security system, we can’t add more people who are going to be pulling on the system without putting revenues in it, so we have to get our house in order.”

My last question was about the retooling of the Bachmann campaign in Iowa.  I told her I’ve talked with a few people who voted for her at the Straw Poll, but are now supporters of Rick Perry.  “How do you deal with the changed atmosphere here in Iowa and what sort of steps will you take to deal with the new reality of the new competition?”

“Well, there’s always changes when you have new candidates come in. This certainly happened in Iowa the last go around. Fred Thompson came into the race very late. He came in number one, in that he had about 31 percent support. Rudy Giuliani came into the race very late. He also had a very high level of support. People thought that Fred Thompson was going to be the Republican nominee. People thought Rudy Giuliani would be the Republican nominee, but that isn’t who our nominee was.

“I have a very strong level of support in Iowa. I’m very grateful to Iowans for that level of support. People I believe, again, know me and trust me. I will be back again in Iowa this weekend and we have been contacting our supporters across the state and we’ve been holding the line with people who not only are saying that they’re supportive, we’re bringing many, many new people in as well because I have a very strong pro-growth policy,” Bachmann said, then she added the most pointed comments of the interview. “And I’ve demonstrated something that the other candidates haven’t — that’s a level of consistency as a conservative.  I never supported the government take-over of health care, but the other two leading candidates have. I did not support the stimulus bill, but we have the other two leading candidates, or at least one that has, and I did not support the bail-out and we have other leading candidates who have, so there is a strong mark of demarcation between us and I think people will find that out in the debates.”

Bachmann plans to be in Ames tomorrow, attending a tailgate party outside the stadium where Iowa and Iowa State will play a football game. “I have something in common with the Iowa State Cyclones. I’ve won in Ames and so have the Cyclones,” Bachmann joked as she rang off, a reference to her Iowa Straw Poll victory in Ames back on August 13, “so I look forward to being there with all my friends.”

Round 2: Gingrich v. media, Santorum v Bachmann, Pawlenty v RomneyCare

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was the central character in the opening of round two of tonight’s debate in Ames.  Gingrich rapped Chris Wallace of FOX News, accusing him of asking “gotcha questions” and followed that a bit later by referencing “Mickey Mouse games” in the media. It’s a media Gingrich alleged pays too little interest to “the ideas that distinguish us from Barack Obama” and too much attention to campaign minutia.

It also bears mentioning in this context of confrontation-with-the-media that Romney, in round one of the debate, also hit back Bret Baier of FOX News with, “I’m not going to eat Barack Obama’s dog food,” when pressed to say whether he — Romney — would have vetoed the debt ceiling deal congress passed earlier this month.

It was also in this round that Santorum criticized Bachmann for a sort of all-or-nothing strategy on legislating and governing.  “You need people who are good at leadership, not showmanship,” Santorum said.

Pawlenty near the end of this round was given another swing at the “RomneyCare” question he was asked in the last debate.

“I don’t want to miss that chance again, Chris,” Pawlenty said, saying “RomneyCare” was a “fair label.” Pawlenty also poked at some other points of Romney’s record as governor, saying, “we’re going to have to show contrast, not similarities” with President Obama.

Romney was allowed to jump in at this point. “I think I liked Tim’s answer at the last debate better,” Romney quipped.  He offered his 10th amendment defense.

Bachmann was then asked whether she believes states have the authority to require people to buy health insurance.  “Government is without authority to compel a person to purchase a product or service,” Bachmann said.

Paul, when he was asked to weigh in, said both parties have developed a medical system that is “based on corporatism.”

Santorum jumped in, arguing there are limits to states rights, such as when states try to allow polygamy.

Romney has an “I paid for this microphone” moment (audio)

Two presidential candidates were on the state fairgrounds this morning.  Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman did a walk-by at the butter cow exhibit.  Former Masschusetts Governor Mitt Romney spoke at The Des Moines Register’s Soap Box on the fairgrounds. Listen & read about Romney confronting hecklersAUDIO: Romney at State Fair Soapbox

Below is my live blog of the event. 

At 10 o’clock activity on the fairgrounds halted as a woman sang The National Anthem over the loudspeakers.  The crowd of fair-goers stopped; men took off their hats; and many sang along.  A burst of applause followed.

A huge crowd gathered at Soap Box, almost as large as the crowd that gathered for John McCain’s visit to the Soap Box in August of 2008.  Romney arrived shortly after 10:30 a.m. and began by calling the Soap Box host, The Des Moines Register,  “one of the great papers in America,”

Romney recognized a couple of familiar faces in the crowd. “It’s good to have so many friends here,” Romney said. “…This is a challenging time….Right now most people are concerned about the country and recognize that America’s in crisis…We’re led by a man who’s a fine fella, but he’s out of his depth and doesn’t understand how the economy works.”

Romney hammered away at his biography. “If you want to create jobs, it helps to have had a job and I have spent my life in the private sector,” he said, getting applause. “…If we’re going to turn around the economy…Let’s send some citizens to Washington.”

Romney said the recession was “deeper” and the recovery has been more “tepid” because of Obama.  “His policies did the exact opposite of what the nation needed,” Romney said.

Romney made a point of saying he was governor of Massachusetts for “only” four years.

“I didn’t inhale politics,” Romney told the crowd. “I’m still a business guy and a private citizen.”

Romney got a huge burst of applause by calling for a balanced budget.  He doesn’t use the word “socialist” but Romney said Obama may have gotten “inspiration” for his policies from Europe.

“I believe in freedom and opportunity, American-style,” he said, getting applause.

Romney promised to repeal ObamaCare, based on a 10th Amendment argument.

Romney concluded his remarks and then opened it up to questions. The first came from a woman who asked about the wealthy and Social Security benefits.

“There was a time when we didn’t attack people based on their success,” Romney said in response. A heated exchange ensued.  “…We’re not going to tear down other Americans.”

After a back-and-forth between Romney and a group of folks in the crowd, Romney has a sort of “I paid for this microphone” moment.  “Let ’em talk,” he said.

Romney then forcefully said it was his turn to talk. “If you don’t like my answer, you can vote for someone else,” Romney said, getting applause and cheers from the crowd.

“I’m not going to raise taxes. That’s my answer.  And if you want somebody who will raise taxes, vote for Barack Obama. Barack Obama is killing this economy,” Romney said, getting even more applause.

“Wall Street greed,” the group started chanting.

Romney said he wouldn’t be like other candidates. “They promise all sorts of free stuff,” he said. “It’s time in America to tell the people the truth. We can’t spend more than we earn year after year after year,” Romney said, to applause.

The group of agitators keeps pressing.  Romney repeated his “no new taxes” pledge and asked the crowd if they thought taxes should be raised.

“No,” most of the crowd hooted.

This group of agitators are like the Energizer Bunnies; they won’t give up.  Romney told the entire crowd the small group got to the Soap Box spot early and claimed front-row seats. “My guess is they won’t be voting for me,” Romney quipped, then spoke to the rest of the crowd. …But you guys are going to be voting for the next president of the United States — a person who won’t raise taxes and I’m that person.”