DES MOINES, Iowa — Republican presidential candidates who campaigned across Iowa on Monday took no pity on President Obama after the stock market plunged more than 600 points yesterday. Instead, they took aim.
On the first full day of trading after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s credit rating on Friday, candidates like Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann, who are both engaged in a rough and tumble battle for support this crucial early caucus state, pinned the blame squarely on the president.
“It's another wake-up call to a president who seems just so out of touch and inept and really doesn't have a plan to fix the economy. I do,” Pawlenty told ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe in a brief interview after a campaign event Monday afternoon at a cafe in Johnston, Iowa. “We've got to cut taxes, we've got to lighten up on the regulations, we've got to do things to encourage job growth in this country, not have it suffocated by overreaching, burdensome government.” http://abcn.ws/rh8T7d
The former Minnesota governor added, “Look, this problem has been brewing for a lot of years and a lot of decades, but he made it exponentially worse.”
In an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly from Council Bluffs, Iowa last night, Bachmann declared, “We need a new president. We need to make positive decisions to turn the economy around.”
“This is a very bad, no-good day,” Bachmann said. “Senior citizens are looking at their portfolios right now and they’ve taken a huge hit.” (As she has been doing at stops across Iowa this week, Bachmann once again called on Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to resign).
While campaigning in New Hampshire yesterday, Mitt Romney admonished President Obama to “stop attacking, take responsibility and lead.” And, in South Carolina, Jon Huntsman argued, “We've done this to ourselves and it's time to reverse this business-unfriendly attitude of the past two-and-a-half years.”
Meanwhile at the White House yesterday, President Obama pointed the finger in the other direction.
“It’s not a lack of plans or policies that’s the problem here. It’s a lack of political will in Washington,” he said. “It’s the insistence on drawing lines in the sand, a refusal to put what’s best for the country ahead of self-interest or party or ideology. And that’s what we need to change.”
The S&P downgrade and the severe market slide over the past week are providing Republican candidates with fresh ammunition with which to attack the president, but it’s less clear how it’s factoring into the competition among them for the GOP nomination. Pawlenty has been arguing that the latest economic slump is proof that executive experience matters when picking a president (a not-so-subtle dig at Bachmann). Other candidates like Herman Cain, who is popular among Iowa voters, argued the opposite — that times like these call for a Washington outsider to lead the country. Bachmann said her staunch opposition to raising the debt ceiling demonstrates she is a woman of leadership and convictions.
BOTTOM LINE: What is clear is that the glum economic headlines are forcing the candidates to say in greater detail how they would handle the meltdown. At campaign stops around Iowa and elsewhere, they’re fielding questions about what, specifically, they would do if they were in President Obama’s shoes. We’ll hear more about that throughout the week and especially on Thursday night when the candidates appear on the same debate stage for the first time in months.
RICK PERRY WATCH: STRAW POLL, INTERRUPTED. While the rest of the GOP field focuses on politicking in Iowa before the debate and straw poll this week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has his eyes set on South Carolina where he will make his 2012 intentions clear on Saturday, ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports. Perry will deliver a speech at the RedState Gathering in Charleston where he will "remove any doubt" that he is running for president. http://bit.ly/nvOtya
The governor's office on Monday issued a non-denial, denial saying in a statement, “The Governor is not a candidate for Office at this time. With President Obama’s dismal economic record, and Texas’ success in creating jobs and balancing our budget, Governor Perry continues to consider a potential run for The White House. Stay tuned.”
Following his speech in South Carolina, Perry will travel up the east coast to New Hampshire where he will meet with Granite State Republicans at a house party hosted by state legislator Pamela Tucker. The Texas governor's trip to two key early primary states will send a jolt through the presidential race and could overshadow the Ames Straw Poll Saturday where the majority of candidates will spend the day courting votes. http://abcn.ws/pYEjF5
Des Moines Register political columnist Kathie Obradovich wrote of the straw poll, “This event is looking more like a Shar-Pei than a greyhound all the time.” http://bit.ly/ptz1yZ
SANTORUM VS. PERRY. In Iowa yesterday, Rick Santorum became the first presidential candidate to take aim at Perry after the news of a potential announcement, saying, “If reports are true, then I want to be the first to welcome Governor Perry to the race, but it's too bad he chose to ignore Iowa. I guess we'll all see each other soon on the trail. I wonder which version of marriage he'll be 'fine' with in South Carolina — obviously, not the same version he was 'fine' with in New York." (This is not the first time Santorum has attacked Perry's stance on gay marriage. He did so two weeks ago in Colorado as well.)
ROMNEY VS. PERRY. “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told a town hall meeting that he will compete across the U.S., and appeared to take a swipe at Texas Gov. Rick Perry,” the Wall Street Journal’s Danny Yadron notes. “When one man asked if he plans to campaign harder in Dixie than he did during his last presidential campaign, Mr. Romney replied that he has potential in several southern states. ‘Last time around I did really well in Florida,’ Mr. Romney said. ‘I know most people don’t consider that Dixie but it certainly is in the South.’ … And then he focused on Texas. ‘There was a poll that I guess was about a month ago that was a little surprising,’ Mr. Romney said. ‘It had me as the only Republican candidate who in Texas could beat President Obama. I think I was ahead by eight points, no one else was ahead of me. So I’d like to get Texas.’ Mr. Romney may have been referring to a late June survey by Public Policy Polling in which he bested Mr. Obama by eight percentage points, more than any of the other GOP candidates in the survey. Mr. Perry who still is not a declared candidate, narrowly lost to the president 45% to 47%. The margin of error was 3.5 percentage points. Mr. Romney’s campaign declined to comment.” http://on.wsj.com/pt8kSa
THE NOTE ON THE ROAD: All week ABC News reporters are on the campaign trail in the Hawkeye State, keeping an eye on the candidates and talking to Iowa voters along the way. ABC will offer complete coverage of Thursday’s Republican presidential debate and Saturday’s Straw Poll in Ames. ABC News will be broadcasting a special edition of “This Week” from Iowa, the day after the Ames Straw Poll anchored by ABC’s Jake Tapper. Keep up with our regular dispatches from the road on ABC.com’s Note blog: http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Zach Wolf talks to Wisconsin State Representative Fred Clark to get his take on today’s recall elections in the Badger State. Also on the show, Christian Broadcasting Network’s Chief Political Correspondent David Brody talks Rick Perry and the 2012 field. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc
“TOP LINE” REPLAY: IOWA GOP CHAIRMAN MATT STRAWN. Though GOP favorites Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Rick Perry won’t be in Ames this weekend, Matt Strawn, the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, told ABC’s “Top Line” yesterday that this Saturday’s straw poll remains a “very important test” for the men and women who are seeking the presidential nomination. “It's proven a very vital piece to the presidential nomination chase here in Iowa, partly because these campaigns need to identify who their key organizers are across the state leading up the February caucuses,” Strawn said. “If somebody is going to get in a car, get on a bus on a summer Saturday and come to Ames to support you, that's somebody you can count on in February. So it's a very important test for these campaigns.” http://abcn.ws/pG9DZB
GUESS WHO’S COMING TO AMES? Chairman Strawn announced yesterday that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Co-Chairman Sharon Day will attend Thursday night’s presidential debate in Ames. According to the Iowa GOP, “Strawn extended invites to the 168 members of the RNC and 22 members from 16 state/territories have confirmed their attendance at both the Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate and the Iowa Straw Poll.”
AROUND THE HAWKEYE STATE. A dispatch from the Washington Examiner’s Byron York on how Michele Bachmann was able to turn a potential foe into a supporter yesterday in Atlantic, Iowa: “Anyone who doubts Michele Bachmann's talents as a hands-on politician didn't see her performance here Monday. In an otherwise unremarkable town hall meeting, Bachmann turned a potentially embarrassing encounter with a grouchy voter into an opportunity to win the most treasured political commodity in Iowa these days: a vote in Saturday's Republican straw poll.” Here’s how: http://bit.ly/pffVx6
PAWLENTY: ‘I’M NOT DOING THIS TO GET A CABLE TV SHOW.’ Less than a week before he competes in one of the early tests of his viability as a presidential candidate, Tim Pawlenty suggested that he’s a long-haul campaigner who is treating Saturday’s Ames Straw Poll as “an important measure” but “not the final measure” of his campaign’s success. “From our standpoint, the ultimate goal here is the caucuses next January or February,” Pawlenty said on Monday. “And the Ames Straw Poll is a benchmark along the way to that journey.” In recent days, Pawlenty has been careful to cite his sixth place finish in a Des Moines Register poll of the GOP primary field in June as a way of setting expectations for the Ames contest. “Our goal is to try to move up substantially from there,” he said. “We haven’t put a number on what that means in terms of first second, third. Our goal, generally, is to show some good progress from towards the back of the pack to toward the front of the pack.” http://abcn.ws/rd1WEq
“My campaign is not a shooting star campaign,” Pawlenty said, adding later: “I’m not doing this to get a cable TV show or some sort of gig down the road. I’m doing it because the country’s in trouble, and we need real leadership to solve the real problems and that’s what I offer.”
@TimAlbrechtIA: In just Ottumwa, Straw Poll buses include Pawlenty, Santorum, Strong America Now, Bachmann and Paul.
PRO-LIFE GROUPS BARNSTORM IOWA. Today the Susan B. Anthony List, Family Research Council Action’s Faith Family Freedom Fund and the National Organization for Marriage, will open their Values Voter Bus Tour in Des Moines Iowa. The tour, which will cover more than 1,000 miles and 22 cities over four days is meant to showcase the groups’ pro-life agenda. Joining the tour are several presidential candidates — Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Thaddeus McCotter — as well as Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, the state’s Lt. Gov Kim Reynolds and former Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave. The bus stops in Des Moines, Oskaloosa, Washington, Muscatine, Davenport and Iowa City today.
OBAMA’S ANTI-ROMNEY STRATEGY. “Barack Obama’s aides and advisers are preparing to center the president’s re-election campaign on a ferocious personal assault on Mitt Romney’s character and business background, a strategy grounded in the early stage expectation that the former Massachusetts governor is the likely GOP nominee,” Politico’s Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin report. “The dramatic and unabashedly negative turn is the product of political reality. Obama remains personally popular, but pluralities in recent polling disapprove of his handling of his job and Americans fear the country is on the wrong track. His aides are increasingly resigned to running for re-election in a glum nation. And so the candidate who ran on “hope” in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent. In a move that will make some Democrats shudder, Obama’s high command has even studied President Bush’s 2004 takedown of Sen. John F. Kerry, a senior campaign adviser told POLITICO, for clues on how a president with middling approval ratings can defeat a challenger. ‘Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney,’ said a prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House.” http://politi.co/orJi3m
ALL EYES ON WISCONSIN. “Wisconsin voters head to the polls today in six recall elections that both political parties stress have implications not just for the Badger state but the entire country,” reports ABC’s Shushannah Walshe. “Outside groups on both sides have poured in millions of dollars for television advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts. Democrats hope to take three of the seats to flip the state Senate from Republican to Democratic control, and also set the stage for similar collective bargaining and budget fights in other states. Six Republican state senators are facing recall votes today in mostly tight races that will depend on voter turnout in an unusual summer election, when much of the electorate are thinking more about vacations than going to the polls. Joe Heim, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, said Democrats appear to have more enthusiasm but it's a tossup at this point. ‘It looks right now like two seats are leaning Democratic and two are in the tossup category,’ he said. ‘Two of the races were leaning Republican up until this week, which seems to be picking up a trend that the Democrats may do better than expected.’ The recall effort began in January when Republican Gov. Scott Walker assumed office and Republicans gained control of the state legislature, putting forward a budget aimed at austerity and limiting the rising costs of public employee benefits by ending collective bargaining for all public workers except police and firefighters.” http://abcn.ws/nq9BiF
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes that Democrats are “very nervous” about Wisconsin: “‘We don’t have a precedent for this,’ Mark Mellman, the well respected Dem pollster who is conducting recall polling for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, acknowledged to me. ‘The nature of the turnout is so uncertain that it really will make a huge difference. We’re dealing with big uncertainties.’ Mellman said that three of the key races — though he wouldn’t specify which — are so close that if turnout doesn’t break the Dems’ way, it could throw them to Republicans. He described them as “all very close races that could go either way.’” http://wapo.st/r6I9WD
WHITE HOUSE WATCH: ABC’s Devin Dwyer and Mary Bruce report that President Obama has this morning has cancelled a planned visit to Interstate Moving Services in Springfield, Va., where he was set to announce new fuel efficiency standards. "The President will no longer travel to Interstate Moving Services today," the White House said in a statement. "This morning, the President will meet with industry officials at the White House to discuss the first of their kind fuel efficiency standards for work trucks, buses, and other heavy duty vehicles. This meeting is closed press." This afternoon the president will meet privately with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner at the White House. http://abcn.ws/oxvwwg
NOTED: CALL FOR INTERNS. The Note and the ABC Political Unit are in the market for interns for the Fall of 2011. We require actively enrolled students and we prefer applicants who are spending the semester in DC and can commit a regular 9-5 schedule. E-mail a resume and cover letter to Zachary.B.Wolf@abc.com
@politicoroger: Face each new day with dread and you will never be disappointed.
(all times local)
* Michele Bachmann speaks at the "Join me in Ames in 4 Days!" Sign Up Event at 10 a.m. in Sioux City, Iowa. At 1 p.m., she attends an event by the same name in Arnolds Park. At 5 p.m., Bachmann speaks at the "Join Me in Ames in 4 Days!" – GOP Picnic in Humboldt.
* Tim Pawlenty kicks off the day with a meet-and-greet in Sully, Iowa at 8 a.m. From there, he heads to the Family Research Council Action, National Organization for Marriage and Susan B. Anthony List Values Bus Tour Kickoff in Des Moines at 10:10 a.m. In the afternoon, Pawlenty drops by a meet-and-greet in Boone before visiting and touring Chantland-MHS in Humboldt. At 6 p.m., Pawlenty attends a Humboldt GOP meeting. Then at 7 p.m., the Webster County GOP Summer Picnic in Fort Dodge.
* Herman Cain stops at the Masonic Temple in Davenport, Iowa at 8:30 a.m. At 11:30 a.m., he heads to the African American Museum and Cultural Center in Cedar Rapids. His next stop is at the Park Place Center in Cedar Falls at 3 p.m. He ends the day at Kennedy Park in Fort Dodge with the Webster County GOP Summer Picnic as part of his Common Sense Solutions Bus Tour.
* Rick Santorum hosts town hall meetings in Cedar Falls, Independence and Oelwein,Iowa from 8 a.m. to noon. At noon, his wife, Karen Santorum, is the keynote speaker at the Five Season's Republican Women's Luncheon in Cedar Rapids. At 1:30 p.m., Rick Santorum hosts a town hall meeting in Strawberry Point, followed by one in Manchester at 3:30 p.m. and Dubuque at 6:30 p.m. At 5 p.m., the Santorum Family visits the "Field of Dreams" movie site in Dyersville as part of the Santorum Family Tour.
* Ron Paul gives a speech at a meet-and-greet in Fairfield, Iowa at 7 p.m.
The Note Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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