Debate prep: Newt draws a smiley face & writes “short, concise” (audio)

According to Jackie Cushman, the former speaker’s daughter, her father’s top two debate advisors are her children, his grandchildren.

“His two greatest debate coaches are my children,” Cushman said earlier this afternoon during an interview with Radio Iowa. “…They’ve really focused on two things. It started with Maggie, the oldest. She’s 12 and was like, ‘Grandpa, you need to smile more.’  Because when she seems him, he’s always smiling. I mean, who isn’t smiling when they see their granddaughter…so he started smiling more.

“And then Robert, the 10-year-old — and this is a 10-year-old who loves history, loves the military channel, is current reading the Sharpe series novels, I mean he’s really into that — and he’s like, ‘Grandpa, your answers need to be a bit shorter and more concise, so people can understand,’ so that’s the coaching he’s gotten and I think if he sticks with that coaching tonight, he’ll be fine.

“When he walks up on stage, the first thing he’ll do is he’ll draw a smiley face and write ‘Maggie’ and he’ll write, ‘short, concise’ and put, ‘Robert’ and that’s what he has in front of him. He doesn’t make notes about, you know, phrases or anything else. That’s literally his reminder of what to do.”

AUDIO of Cushman’s remarks about Gingrich debate prep on stage.  Back in a few with more of the conversation.

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.”


Long-time Iowa GOP insider endorses Gingrich

Darrell Kearney has done lots of things in Iowa politics. He’s been the chief fundraiser for the Republican Party of Iowa. He worked for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and for Jack Kemp in 1988. Kearney was Bob Dole’s Iowa Caucus campaign manager in 1996. Kearney is now publicly endorsing Newt 2012.  Read his statement below:

As the founder of the Des Moines Conservative Club and Breakfast club, It is with  great enthusiasm that I announce my support for Newt Gingrich for the Republican Nomination for President and encourage all of my conservative friends to vote for Newt at the upcoming Iowa Caucuses.  All of our Republican Candidates are good people and they all have strengths, expertise and ideas that are commendable.  Any of them would make a far better President than the one who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Ave today.  I supported Governor Romney in the 2008 caucuses and he would be my second choice today.  But my first Choice for the 2012 Caucus is Newt.

Having met almost every Republican Candidate for President since 1980 and having worked either as a volunteer or staff person for many of them, it is my opinion that Newt Gringrich is the most prepared conservative leader to be President since Ronald Reagan.

George Santayana once said, “if you do not learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it”.  Newt’s deep understanding of American History and it’s foundation of liberty provides him with a philosophical compass that will help him steer a strong course for renewed freedoms and prosperity.  He understands that America’s greatness comes from God and freedom and free enterprise not big government.  He understands that a government that can give you everything you want is also a government that can take everything you’ve got.

Newt Gingrich’s visionary Contract with American for the 21st Century spells out in detail the solutions for the problems we face.  Just as he was successful in the first Contract for America in 1994 leading to the Republican Takeover of the US House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.  I am convinced with our help, Newt can win in 2012 and help us restore America to that “Shining City on a hill”  President Ronald Reagan so elegantly dreamed of.

Darrell Kearney, Founder
Conservative Club of Des Moines
Conservative Breakfast Club

Gingrich says he’s “most experienced outsider in modern times” (audio)

Mitt Romney yesterday called Newt Gingrich a “life-long politician” and Ron Paul released a video alleging Gingrich is a flip-flopper. During a Radio Iowa interview with Gingrich late this afternoon, I noted that, with audiences, Gingrich stresses his experience and criticizes Obama as an inexperienced president.

I asked: “How can you be both an outsider and someone who has inside knowledge?”

Gingrich replied: “I would just draw the distinction I’m certainly a life-long citizen and I tell people it started in August before my sophomore year in high school and I’m proud of citizenship. I would also say I’m a little bit like Reagan in that Reagan spent eight years in the White House, but was never in Washington, that it’s a state of mind.  If you look at the degree to which the Washington establishment would tell you I’m an outsider, you know, it’s pretty clear that the way I think, the degree to which I challenge the establishment and the degree to which I’m willing to follow ideas and solutions to their natural consequence without regard to Republican or Democratic political correctness makes me probably the most experienced outsider in modern times.”

AUDIO of that response.

I raised the idea that Herman Cain’s (previous) popularity was due to his outsider status, as voters are attracted to that persona.  Gingrich, in his reply, quipped that the country is having its own “999” moment with a nine percent approval rating for congress and the nine percent unemployment rate.

AUDIO of this portion of the Radio Iowa interview

“It’s a little bit like being in a card game where they want to kick over the table.  I mean, they don’t want to get told, ‘Just deal another hand.’ They want to say, ‘Wait a second.’ And I think the country’s right. This is a mess,” Gingrich said. “…I get the sense people, because they’re really worried about the country, they’re having conversations that are much more substantive and much tougher minded than if we were at four percent unemployment and a balanced budget and everything was working, they’d be asking a totally different set of questions and so they’re sort of peeling back the layers and saying, ‘Now wait a second. Nice slogan. What’s the policy? Nice policy. Could he really get it done?’ And interestingly, maybe just because of who gets involved in these things, I find an amazing level of sophistication in the people that ask me questions and talk to me…Not just in the obvious three early states, I mean, you and New Hampshire have this exquisite experience of personally interviewing every presidential candidate at least six times, but there’s also just a general, when you go around the country,  it’s almost like there’s a national conversation going on and because of youtube and stuff, people will take like certain scenes from debates. We’re seen by millions more people than watched the debate because that clip went everywhere.”

I next raised the topic of the Ron Paul tape, and its specific rap on Gingrich regarding the health care mandate.  “How will you answer that question amid this criticism that you flip-flopped on it?”

“It’s an idea which the longer we studied it, the worse it got. Period. Virtually every conservative was for it in 1993 to stop Hillary and gradually people reached a conclusion that it wasn’t workable and it was a bad idea,” Gingrich said. “I don’t mind saying there are things I’ve learned over the last 53 years that I have changed my opinion on.”

I followed up with: “Do you think that’s an adequate response?”

“Against Barack Obama? He’s not going to attack me because of the mandate,” Gingrich replied.

AUDIO Gingrich addressing the health care mandate.

Gingrich: raised more money yesterday than in July (audio)

Many Iowa Republicans who supported Mike Huckabee in 2008 lament that he didn’t have the resources ($$$) to be competitive beyond the early states, and Huckabee himself talked about the importance of fundraising for 2012 were he to run again.  Here’s what Huckabee said in Nov., 2010:

“I’m probably going to give more weight to (fundraising) this time than I did before because I understand far better than I can even begin to tell you how tough it is to run a campaign on fumes, without fuel,” he said.

During an interview with Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich late this afternoon, I asked if he had the resources to go the distance.

“We raised more money yesterday than we raised in July and that’s true probably four days a week now and people are flocking to the campaign, so we’re getting a lot of folks coming in who wouldn’t have been for us six months ago, but suddenly (are) and I think today’s Rasmussen poll will probably accelerate that,” Gingrich said. “So what I can assure people is that we will be competitive everywhere. I assume Romney will out-spend us, just because he has huge assets — you know, without spending his own money he has huge assets — but I don’t think he’ll out-spend us enough to be definitive…We have a different challenge. We have to get up to sufficiency and I think if we get up to sufficiency we get our message out and that will happen in every state. The other thing, as you’ve seen, is we just generate immense amounts of earned media and, well, that’s not going to stop.”

AUDIO: from the Radio Iowa interview, of that passage above.

Gingrich says he would present “widest choice” versus Obama

During a town hall meeting at Nationwide Insurance in Des Moines, Newt Gingrich presented himself as the person who would provide, as the GOP presidential nominee, the “widest choice in American history” in a general election match-up with President Obama.

He started by talking about the “visionary” Abraham Lincoln, who began advocating for building railroads before he had ever seen rails or a locomotive.

“Up until the mid-1960s, we were a country that believed in the future,” Gingrich said, adding the nation’s “elite culture” has a “negative and frightened” attitude toward innovation and progress.

“You don’t get very far into the future if you hide from it,” Gingrich said. “…I think we need a serious, in-depth conversation about the mess we’re in…This mess has been growing for 30 years. ”

Gingrich repeated a theme he’s struck before on illegal immigration, jokingly suggesting that the way for authorities to track down illegal immigrants in America is send them a package via FedEx or UPS.  “And then when we’re delivered we know exactly where they are,” Gingrich said, getting a wave of laughter from the audience.

Gingrich then took pains to ensure everyone in the room knew this idea was “hyperbole and that was not a serious proposal.”

Gingrich touched on a number of different themes, including “gasahol”.  He said “economic nationalism makes sense” in regards to ethanol, Gingrich said, repeating some of the ideas he talked about last winter in Des Moines.  He closed his remarks, as he normally does, by asking people not to be “for me” but “with me.”   Question and answer time began.  I’ll be back with a separate post on that.

Harkin: Gingrich as GOP nominee would be “heaven sent” (audio)

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) held a telephone conference call with reporters this morning.  The topic of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was raised, and Harkin started swinging (rhetorically).  Here’s the AUDIO.

“I was in the House with Newt, as a matter of fact, years ago. I can remember him being a bomb thrower at that time. One of those people always lobbing things around. I thought at that time, in his early career in the House, he was irresponsible at that time. I kind of got to know Newt later on, (he’s an) intriguing individual, but perhaps I’ve never met a more undisciplined person in politics in my life and if you’re going to run for president, you have to have discipline. Believe me, I speak from experience on that one and if you’re going to be president you have to have some discipline in how you approach things and how you assess situations.  Newt has never been one to engage mind before opening mouth. He engages mouth before engaging his mind sometimes, most of the time. That doesn’t bode well for him at all. I think there’s some, what I’m picking up around here is there’s a lot of quiet, silent cheering in the Obama Administration and the Obama campaign for Newt to get the nomination. It would be just be heaven-sent if he got the nomination.”

“…Someone once described the prospect of Newt getting the nomination, saying that, ‘Imagine that you’re standing in front of a door and behind that door all these suitcases are piled and you open the door and all the suitcases come tumbling out.’  Of course, I didn’t know what they were talking about. He said, ‘Baggage, he has a lot of baggage and once he gets up there all that baggage comes tumbling out.'”

Harkin was asked to share his thoughts on Romney. Romney seems to be “plodding along” with a “very cautious” game plan, according to Harkin.

Ron Paul video casts Gingrich as flipper

Ron Paul’s campaign has been producing some movie-trailer-quality videos and tonight it has released a video which attacks rival Newt Gingrich for “serial hypocrisy.”

According to an email from the Paul campaign, the ad will be distributed via “a far-reaching email list of conservative voters nationally, including in key early voting states.”  The campaign will also “purchase banner ads on national and state websites where conservative readers congregate.”

“Our campaign is making a bold move to debunk the myth that the Newt we are seeing on the 2012 campaign trail is the conservative he has been touted to be all along.  This step we are taking is necessary, as voters are seeking authenticity among conservatives who are able to show a decades-long career of consistently walking the walk of Constitutional principles, limited government, and promoting sound money and economic policy. Ron Paul is the only Republican presidential candidate with that record,” said Ron Paul 2012 National Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton.

An open letter to Bob Vander Plaats from a secret group

A secretive “group” calling itself Iowans for Christian Leaders in Government has penned an open letter to Bob Vander Plaats, the GOP candidate for governor in 2002, 2006 & 2010 who is now president & CEO of The Family Leader. TFL is a conservative group that’s been leading the effort against gay marriage in Iowa. Vander Plaats said earlier this month he might endorse a candidate on his own, and he didn’t rule out giving his backing to Newt Gingrich. Vander Plaats made his statements on the eve of The Family Leader’s presidential candidate forum, in which Gingrich participated.

…Newt Gingrich didn’t sign “The Marriage Vow,” but Vander Plaats said Gingrich — who has admitted to affairs and has divorced twice — isn’t automatically disqualified from getting his endorsement or the backing of The Family Leader.

“At the heart of our faith is a thing called forgiveness,” Vander Plaats said. “…Has he asked for forgiveness? Has he demonstrated a level of maturity? Is he willing to move on? A lot of these attendees like Newt, they like his experience and they like his ability to debate and so if the focus can be on his vision for America, I think he’s going to do well. If the focus remains on his personal past, then he’s probably going to be in trouble.”

Now, Vander Plaats is the target of a letter from Iowans for Christian Leaders in Government which focuses not only on Gingrich’s past, but on Vander Plaats’ past.  Read it below:

Dear Mr. Vander Plaats:

We are aware that you are preparing to endorse a candidate for President of the United States in the coming weeks.  This will undoubtedly be an important decision considering you have the ear of many Christians throughout our state of Iowa.  Our group believes that we must select leaders who not only espouse our values, but who live them each and every day.

With that being said, we have serious concerns that your endorsement may be guided, not by prayer and conviction, but by personal benefit and prior relationships.  Of which, would seem to lead you toward Newt Gingrich and, needless to say, he is not an acceptable choice among Christians.

[Read more…]

Newt’s immigration stand “makes it harder” to back him, King says

Iowa Congressman Steve King says the immigration stand Newt Gingrich articulated in last night’s debate is a problem for Gingrich. Gingrich said his proposal was the “humane” way to deal with the problem, by giving some illegal immigrants who’ve lived here for years a pathway to legal status.

“I think if Speaker Gingrich had that to do over again he might couch his language differently, at a minimum,” King says. “…It is a form of amnesty.”

King says this “makes it harder” to support Gingrich.  “That piece is something that concerns me because the rule of law is one of the essential pillars of American exceptionalism and if we let the rule of law be eroded and we allow people to be rewarded for breaking the law and by the way these people probably had false identification; they were working illegally; they maybe just didn’t get arrested in a quarter of a century, so I think that principle of the rule of law needs to be examined and I’d like to hear Speaker Gingrich speak to that.”

When pressed, King said those remarks last night “had moved a little bit away” from Gingrich.  King said all the candidates have “something to offer,” and he “hopes” to publicly endorse a candidate before the caucuses.

King made his comments during taping of “Iowa Press” which airs tonight Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Iowa Public Television.