Pat Robertson endorses Giuliani

Reverend Pat Robertson — the second-place finisher in the 1988 Iowa Caucuses — endorsed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani this morning. Giuliani just spoke with me about the endorsement.  Hear it here —  Download robertsonendorse.mp3.

UPDATE:  After the jump, read the statement issued by the Iowa Christian Alliance just before 6 p.m.

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Giuliani at Drake University

Texas Governor Rick Perry is warming up the crowd, bragging about his seven-year record of governing a "rather large state" where he says they reduced a budget deficit and turned it into a surplus.  (His twang gave the word "surplus" a strange twist for this Iowa audience.)

Perry bragged about being "arguably the most pro-life governor in Texas history."  He told the crowd, "some of my friends on the social conservative side say, ‘Wait a minute: how can you get comfortable with a person who is in his personal life prochoice?’  I said….Mayor Giuliani is not our enemy.  He is a cultural warrior, I will suggest to you."

Perry described Giuliani as an "old-school conservative" and told the crowd he (Perry) had given "prayerful thought" to his decision to endorse Giuliani today (that happened this morning in Washington, D.C.).  Perry said Giuliani’s promise to appoint "strict constructionist judges" to the Supreme Court "makes my heart warm."

Finally, with a verbal flourish, Perry introduces "America’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani."  The crowd applauds and Giuliani enters the room which is crowded with about 400 people.

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Rudy, Romney court Grassley today

The GOP presidential candidates are parading themselves in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Washington, D.C. today.  Two of them also have scheduled private meetings with a very influential Iowa Republican — Senator Charles Grassley.

Grassley, as you may recall, backed Bob Dole’s 1996 bid for the White House and campaigned extensively with his senate pal in that cycle.  The night Dole was nominated at the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego, Grassley was sitting on the couch beside Dole.  It was the night Elizabeth Dole gave her speech at the convention and afterwards, when she arrived in the hotel suite where Dole & Company were positioned, a campaign aide suggested to Grassley that he get up from the couch he was sharing with Dole so Dole’s wife could occupy the space (there were still cameras in the room to record the moment when Dole was officially the party’s nominee).  Dole himself said no and as Grassley recounted the story, insisted that Grassley remain where he was because Grassley’s backing in Iowa that winter had put the whole thing in motion.  If you see pictures from that moment when Dole won the nomination, you will notice that Elizabeth Dole is sitting on the floor by the couch.

No word on who is sitting where today as Grassley meets privately in DC with Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, but here is what Grassley told Radio Iowa’s Matt Kelley this morning about the process:

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Dodd on 9/11

Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd today was asked (by me) at a news conference on the steps of the statehouse about an ad Hillary Clinton’s running in Iowa and New Hampshire which mentions her response to the health care problems of workers at Ground Zero.   Here’s the Radio Iowa story (audio link at the bottom lets you listen to entire news conference).

Dodd’s news conference began with an endorsement from State Senator Tom Hancock of Epworth, a volunteer fire fighter who mentioned 9/11 as he read his statement.  "It was Chris Dodd’s leadership that ensured that fire fighters across the country would have the resources they need to protect our communities before the attacks of September 11th made that a priority for others," Hancock read. 

So, after Dodd finished his opening remarks, I asked the following:  "Senator Hancock talked about 9/11 in his remarks.  Are you troubled by the use of 9/11 in the campaign?  As you know, Senator Clinton has an ad which mentions 9/11."

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Giuliani on Iowa, Iraq’s president & Hillary Clinton

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called into the Radio Iowa newsroom this morning for a five minute interview.  He was in New York.  Here’s the transcript:

Henderson:  "You haven’t set foot in Iowa since early August and why would you campaign here since it appears you’re well-positioned for contests in places like Florida & California.  I’m wondering if these virtual appearances you’re doing tonight will be the modus operandi for your Iowa campaign."

Giuliani:  "No, absolutely not.  We’ll be in Iowa quite a bit.  We’ve been to Iowa 9 times this year including 3 times in August.  This month has been devoted, quite frankly, to raising money because we have to report at the end of the week & we want to raise as much money as we can.  Raising money in the summertime, you know, in July & August is always tough and we had to put a lot of it into September & that’s the only reason why we haven’t made as many political trips not just to Iowa but basically to every place else as we have been doing in the summer and we will resume those in October & November.  We’ve got 11 full-time staff in the state.  We’ve got a headquarters in Clive.  We have a campaign office in Iowa City & 39 of our house parties are going to be done in Iowa tonight — at least 39 of them…It’s not going to replace our making personal appearances in IA, NH, SC — all of which we’ll be doing all throughout the fall."

Henderson:  "You’ll be meeting today with the president of Iraq.  Many Republicans are frustrated with the lack of progress his government has made on several fronts. How do plan to express that frustration or do you intend to?"

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Attack Dog Vilsack

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack was in New York City yesterday to introduce Hillary Clinton at a NYC fundraiser.  He took a turn on a New York television station and took a few shots at former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  Vilsack mentioned Giuliani’s "multiple marriages" and references Giuliani’s strained relationships with his children in the interview.

Watch it here.

Vilsack’s statements would no doubt be classified as "negative" by the Giuliani campaign, if the Giuliani folks were making comments on this episode (which they’re not).  Adding more context to this flap is Vilsack’s tirade against Barack Obama in July during the whole squabble over whether Obama and/or Clinton would or would not talk to dictators if either is elected president.  "It’s not the Iowa way," Vilsack said, accusing Obama of engaging in "negative politics" in his verbal tussle with Clinton. 

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Finally, the votes are counted

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has won the 2007 Iowa Republican Party’s Straw Poll. 

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Pregame from the Iowa GOP Straw Poll

9:15 a.m.  People are starting to trickle into the event.  Food is being unloaded.  "Gators" are running hard with supplies.  The Fair Tax rally seems a bust.  There were a dozen people in Stephens Auditorium.  The Fair Tax folks say their rally isn’t starting ’til 10:30 now.

9:20 a.m.  Iowa GOP chair Ray Hoffman walks down the concrete stairs near Stephens Auditorium, resplendent in his navy jacket, starched white shirt and yellow tie.  He was on site at 4 a.m. for a TV interview — that got cancelled.  Hoffman picked up a cup of coffee from the Fair Tax folks and chatted with me for a while.

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Final thoughts on GOP debate in DSM

1.  Romney was "on" today.  He had the best line of the day — the dig at Obama using "Jane Fonda" and "Dr. Strangelove".  It’s a cultural reference political types and Baby Boomers get.  I’m not so sure it’ll make The Greatest Week Ever on VH1, but then young people don’t turn out in droves at the Caucuses either, so he’s speaking to the "audience" he needs to mobilize.

2.  All the ground on abortion that opened the debate had been covered before.  Romney’s answers during the Brownback versus Romney verbal tussle were answers he’s given before, although the closing answer about his "pro-choice" days as a politician is a new nuance.

3.  All but Ron Paul (and perhaps John McCain, who often brings up his criticism of the way the war was waged for its first four years) fail to go on the offensive against their president.  While Romney said he’d be a different president than W, Romney didn’t spell out in what ways he’d be different and later in the debate he defended the president from detractors.   

4.  Romney didn’t bring up the ethical lapses in DC that he’d been harping about during the past few days on the campaign trail.  (Also of deep-background note:  Romney’s new criticism of the ethical culture in Washington is at odds with something he said in Davenport in 2005 when Romney described the then-recent indictment of Scooter Libby as a "bug bite" — a comment he made during a banquet speech to a group of Scott County Republicans.  Romney told reporters afterwards that the "bug bite" line was just a joke.)

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Republican debate on ABC in DSM

As I was driving down 31st Street at about 6:30 a.m. this Sunday, a rainbow seemed to be beaming out of the roof of the Kum ‘N Go Convenience Store at 31st and University — just down the street from Drake University where the debate is to be staged.  Despite the rainbow, the rain continued to pour.  Reporters arriving to cover the debate were caught in the deluge. If you’re watching the debate at home in half an hour, if the candidates have dark splotches on their suits, it may have been the rain.

As I drove closer to the venue this morning, I passed a group of Ron Paul supporters standing across the street from the Drake campus, waving their signs.  It was impossible to count the group through the pouring rain, but they could be heard inside my car above the din of the drumming rain. 

The GM of WOI-TV is speaking with folks assembled in the auditorium where the debate is to be staged, advising them to stay seated for the next couple of hours.  Drake University president David Maxwell gives a brief introduction, followed by a greeting from debate moderator George Stephanopoulos, who shall hereafter be noted as "GS" in this post.  David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register is now entering the hall.  He’s going to ask questions of the candidates as well. 

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