Bachmann & the Tea Party Express

By 4:45 p.m. a small crowd gathered in a grassy area in Water Works Park in Des Moines. The Tea Party Express bus is idling nearby, with the Bachmann campaign bus (we are led to believe) due here soon.  At one point there were more tents and tables than people, but the # of people at 5:11 p.m. edged ahead in the count.

By 5:30 p.m. Michele Bachmann was speaking to the crowd.  The Tea Party Express folks didn’t have a working sound system for the media, so I stood like Lady Liberty, with one arm in the air, holding a recorder in the air to get sound coming from a loud speaker.

“We had an interesting little dialogue today with the president. He decided that he wanted to give this jobs speech at the exact same time when the Republican candidates for president are going to be doing a debate at the Reagan Library. Now does this show maybe a little insecurity on the part of the president? Either a.) he wants to distract the American people so they don’t watch it or b.) he doesn’t want the American people to hear what the next president of the United States is going to say about the president’s (she may have said ‘jobs program” but at this point the recording is unintelligible) because he hasn’t exactly delivered on his promises for jobs.  Is that an understatement? I think so.”

A little later Bachmann advocated for the flat tax. “My opinion is everyone should pay something in taxes, even if it is a dollar,” Bachmann said.

She concluded with her “change of address” line about Obama. “We won the Straw Poll. We’re going to win the Caucus,” Bachmann said to conclude.

McCotter: no “ardor” for the current field (audio)

The Michigan congressman who plunked down $15,000 to compete in the Iowa Republican Party’s Straw Poll in August is in Iowa, meeting privately with Republicans before appearing at a Tea Party Bus Tour event in Ottumwa this evening.  Thaddeus McCotter says he’s not yet decided, for sure, that he’s running, but during an interview with Radio Iowa this morning McCotter quipped that he’ll be “lurking about” the state for the next few weeks to gauge his chances.

Is he running?  “I’m thinking about it. We’re exploring the possibility.”

McCotter said there’s an “absence pure enthusiasm” for the candidates who have said they’re running.  “There’s a sense in the Republican Party and amongst the Republican primary electorates or the Republican Caucus electorates that they’re still waiting to see what happens and they’re not entirely satisfied with the field,” McCotter said, mentioning the buzz about potential candidates like Palin and Perry. “…Or are they looking for something that’s relatively new that they haven’t heard of before? So I think if you want to look at it in a kind of an interesting way, you could be very thankful that you’re not a particularly known quantity at this point in time because the ones they do know they don’t seem to particularly have an ardor for at this point in time and, again, I’m not saying that eventually if I get in that they’ll love me, either, but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know — at least that’s the approach I took with my wife when we were dating.”

Palin was accused of “stepping on” Romney’s “announcement” in New Hampshire by making an appearance in the state on the same day.  I asked McCotter if he had any qualms about “stepping on” Bachmann’s announcement today.  “I think it was purely coincidental and we sit next to each another in committees so she hasn’t said anything, so I think she understands that. And especially given my relative obscurity, which you’ve been so kind to point out, I don’t think that she’s sweating that either. In fact, I thought that her ‘announcement’ was at the debate, which I think was very well played actually and then she had something yesterday and now the formal announcement today, so I don’t think that necessarily that she would view it that way, but you’d have to ask her that. I certainly don’t intend it to be like that.”

The unsettled nature of the race is reflective of the “chaotic, uncertain times in which we live,” according to McCotter.  “In past elections, Mitt Romney would have been our heir apparent.  Republicans like to follow the tail in front of them with their trunks,” McCotter said. “…For whatever reason, he has not been able to inspire the electorate. I think that he is, in many ways, trying to play it safe, believing that he’ll be the presumptive nominee and that becomes a very iffy proposition for those that are that presumptuous.”

AUDIO: McCotter’s conversation in statehouse press room 12 min (Note emphasis on last word in that sentence)

McCotter spent a good deal of time at the end of the interview dissecting Romney, issue by issue.

McCotter, perhaps in a reference to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, volunteered that his wife is on board with a presidential campaign. “My wife said I can do it,” McCotter said. “It just means my honey-do list at home gets a little longer.”

McCotter is being escorted around the state by two long-time GOP insiders: former House Speaker Christopher Rants of Sioux City and Mary Earnhart, a former GOP staffer in the Iowa House who was among this spring’s mass exodus of staff from Iowans for Tax Relief, where she had been policy director/chief lobbyist.

Gingrich 2012 a “Tea Party kind of story” (audio)

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich stood in a room at the Pizza Ranch in Indianola this morning as the main speaker at a Tea Party bus tour event.  A Tea Party organizer asked Gingrich about his recent campaign melt-down, and Gingrich began by calling it “a Tea Party kind of story.”

“I had a fundamental disagreement with consultants,” Gingrich said.   Gingrich explained his vision for the campaign. “I’m willing to gamble and our campaign is going to survive and I’m going to be in it all the way and I believe I can win it…because people want substance more than baloney.”

AUDIO: Gingrich’s full answer 2:20

Gingrich later went on the Tea Party bus and answered questions from the media.  Kathie Obradovich asked Gingrich why he found himself surrounded by people who did not share his vision for the campaign, and how would he avoid the same mistake if he’s elected president.

“Well, as you can imagine, it was a very painful experience and it taught me a lesson that surprises me a little bit, but which I will apply to personnel as the president. My vision of where we’re going and the lessons I think I’ve learned from history is really very different from most Republican consultants and I didn’t realize how profoundly different,” Gingrich said.

I followed up by asking: “You considered running last time around, so you had four years — presumably — to think about the kind of campaign you wanted to run. Why, out of the gate, didn’t you have that firmly in place?”

Gingrich replied: “Because I thought it was much easier to translate what I did here today in a way that would be effective and it turned out that, think about it — these are very smart people who made a very good living doing something they’re good at and they were eager to do what they’re good at. What they’re good at didn’t happen to be where I think America has to go and it was a real revelation to me. This is going to be true across the board. I mean, this means that whether you’re trying to reform the defense department or you’re trying to reform unemployment compensation or you’re trying to reform the Federal Reserve , it’s going to be much more challenging to find people who both agree with the goal and have the technical knowledge and experience to do it and have the will power to get it done because obviously there’s…going to be enormous opposition to the level of change that I’m suggesting.”

AUDIO: Two questions and Gingrich’s answers 6 min

Gingrich told the Tea Party crowd he is the kind of leader who “will cooperate, but…not compromise” because Gingrich said people think a compromiser is a “sell out.”  In answers to reporters’ questions, Gingrich said his campaign “took some hits” but has “every opportunity to be competitive.”  Gingrich said his “bolder, clearer” approach would help him do well in Iowa’s Caucuses.