11 Days Until Caucus: Good Morning Iowa

Good morning from Cedar Rapids. We are 11 days out from the Iowa caucuses. We here at Good Morning Iowa are always open to news tips, suggestions, and praise…critiques too. Thanks to the other morning notes that this takes much of its inspiration from. We love all the suggestions and tips we have received since we started…and all our new readers! 

It's only Michele Bachmann campaigning in the state today ahead of the Christmas weekend. She's on Day Eight of her bus tour and is making six stops. She starts at 9AM in Bloomfield with a coffee stop then visits Centerville, Corydon, Chariton, Pella, and then finishes the tour in Newton. She picks up again on Tuesday for two more days and then she will have completed all 99 counties otherwise known as The Full Grassley.

Weather:  It is only 12 degrees now in Cedar Rapids, but it will warm up to be in the 30s and sunny this afternoon. GMI is taking off for the weekend because your loyal correspondent is  heading out of the Hawkeye state, but I will return and so will GMI. I hope everyone has a restful holiday and gets some time off the trail and with their families. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah from GMI. 

Check out The Note today for more detail on the growing controversy surrounding Bob Vander Plaats endorsement of Rick Santorum. The Christian conservative was soliciting up to one million dollars from the campaign and was seeking out money from campaigns last cycle as well: Less than 48-hours after receiving the backing of Bob Vander Plaats, the head of the prominent evangelical group The Family Leader, Santorum disclosed that the prominent Iowan told him he needed money to make the most out of the endorsement.

And sources familiar with talks between the conservative heavyweight and representatives from several of the Republican presidential campaigns went a step further, describing Vander Plaats' tactics as corrupt.

"Clearly the endorsement was for sale - without a doubt," one source said…Though Santorum did not specify the dollar amount he and Vander Plaats discussed, multiple sources said he was soliciting as much as $1 million from Santorum and other candidates…ABC News has learned that Vander Plaats tried to solicit money for his endorsement during the last presidential cycle too.

A former staffer for Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential bid who is currently unaffiliated with a campaign said Vander Plaats came to them seeking money for his backing if he supported the former Massachusetts governor. Read it here: http://abcn.ws/tTA5ie

This is the front page Cedar Rapids residents are waking up to today:  http://bit.ly/vHntaZ

What's in the Gazette?

Paul: James Q. Lynch was at Ron Paul's events in Manchester and Cedar Rapids yesterday and reports on the enthusiasm he's being greeted with in the state:  His rivals are beating him up for his foreign policy positions, but Ron Paul is finding plenty of support among Iowa caucus goers for his non-interventionist philosophy. Paul's reluctance to get tough with Iran as well as his call to end foreign aid and bring all troops home has made him an easy target for other 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls. It's also made him an easy choice for some caucus goers. Justus Thompson of Brooklyn, Iowa, and Molly Franta of Elkader were impressed enough with Paul when he visited the University of Northern Iowa, where they are students, to attended his rally at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Manchester Dec. 22. Mostly, they said, it was Paul's anti-war philosophy that attracted them. "Ron Paul sees the value in not trying to control the world," Thompson said. "There are several reasons, but the economy is the biggest - we can't afford to keep doing it."…A couple of chairs down the row, Franta's father, John, sounded  similar themes, saying he plans to caucus for Paul because of his opposition to war - "current and prospective," "They're immoral, unnecessary and costly," the elder Franta said.  http://bit.ly/sE9BsA

Paul will be returning to the state next week:   http://bit.ly/vOhsDk

GMI also spent the day with Paul yesterday and found large, adoring crowds that included Dems: http://abcn.ws/vLylYC  He also spoke about his foreign policy throughout the day including his thoughts on 9/11 and his belief that Iran will not be able to develop a nuclear weapon: "I'm worried about it too, but maybe not in the same way as some others worry about it. I worry about us overreacting on Iran like we did in Iraq," Paul said. "I think what's going on now is not too dissimilar with Iran. Iran is not a physical threat to us. They do not have capabilities. The stories you might hear about them being on the verge of a nuclear weapon is not true by our CIA and by the United Nations they are not on the verge of it. Does that mean I don't care? Yeah I care. I don't want them to get a weapon." Paul said even if Iran does get a nuclear weapon that conservatives in favor of preventing the country from developing one and support intervention to stop the development are just worried that Iran will get a nuclear weapon and won't use it and "all their fear mongering didn't work." "Who are they going to bomb?" Paul said referring to Iran. "If they had one or two bombs, they are going to bomb Israel? Israel has 300 of them! And our submarines all around there passing and everything else."  http://abcn.ws/s3RAAk

Back to the Gazette:

Bachmann:  Lynch was also at one of Bachmann's bus tour stops yesterday. Make sure to check out the quote from the still-undecided voter: Michele Bachmann revved up the Dec. 22 leg of her 99-county bus tour by hopping on a vintage motorcycle at the National Motorcycle Museum. Bachmann, who is about three-quarters of the way through her pre-caucus tour, made a quick look around the museum after asking 50-some people for their support in Iowa's first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses Jan. 3. Like she does in every county, Bachmann also made a video that will be part of an invitation to supporters in each county to come out to the caucuses. The invitation also will include information on how to caucus. Many in the audience said they have Bachmann on their short list, but haven't decided who they'll support Jan. 3. "Absolutely not," Rob DeSotel of Anamosa said when asked if he knew who he would support. Herman Cain was his leading candidate before suspending his campaign. Now he's leaning toward Bachmann."I think she has more of a connection to the Midwest and the middle-class," DeSotel said. Bob Vondran of Monticello is going back and forth between Bachman and Rick Santorum. He believes both are honest and he appreciates their support for "family values." "I've got a couple of more days to figure it out," he said.  http://bit.ly/uGgtzz

Christopher Larimer gives his take on the state of the race:   http://bit.ly/udVyw0

Jennifer Hemmingsen has a really interesting column exploring if sexism is at work behind the call for Bachmann to bow out of the race:  http://bit.ly/uwIpKx

This is the front page Des Moines residents are waking up to today:  http://bit.ly/s0wS1q

What's in the Register? 

Jennifer Jacobs  (@JenniferJJacobs)  has more on  the legality around Vander Plaats endorsement firestorm: The Register confirmed Tuesday that Vander Plaats had asked for help in raising money to promote the endorsement. In an interview, he was careful to say he didn't ask any campaign itself to give money. Just having a conversation about future advertisements could run afoul of federal rules, Ryan said. It's off-limits for an outside group and a candidate to coordinate spending for an ad buy, he said. Ads cannot be produced based on the candidate's suggestions. For example, the candidate can't suggest content, request which TV stations to go up on, or discuss timing of an ad. Nor can any agent of the candidate or campaign communicate these details. "There's no easy end run around the rules," Ryan said. Asked for specifics about the conversation on advertising between Vander Plaats and Santorum that day earlier this fall, a campaign spokesman declined to share details…Santorum could legally ask others to give money to a super PAC connected to Vander Plaats as long as he made clear that he wasn't soliciting checks in excess of $5,000 and that he wasn't asking for union or corporate donations, Ryan said. (Those would fall under the soft money solicitation ban.) Candidates can legally help with fundraising in other ways, too. They can attend a fundraiser for a super PAC or other outside group as the featured guest. An organizer could take the microphone and ask for unlimited donations - as long as the candidates don't make the request themselves, Ryan said.  http://dmreg.co/sgQIud

Gingrich:  Jacobs has another great piece looking at Gingrich's past and if his call now to restore civility in politics is hypocritical: Read it here:  http://dmreg.co/sPWFA8

Joe vs Mitt? Vice President Joe Biden has an opinion piece in today's Register and he goes after Romney: Romney appears satisfied to settle for an economy in which fewer people succeed, while the majority of Americans are left to tread water or fall behind. His proposal would actually double down on the policies that caused the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression and accelerated a decades-long assault on the middle class. Romney also misleadingly suggests that the president and I are creating an "Entitlement Society," whereby government provides everything for its people without regard to merit, as opposed to what he calls an "Opportunity Society," where everything is merit-based and every man is left to fend for himself. The only entitlement we believe in is an America where if you work hard, you can get ahead. Read it here:  http://dmreg.co/s9gkYy

And just moments ago in New Hampshire Romney responded to the op-ed, ABC's Emily Friedman reports. The candidate called it "another gaffe" by Biden and wondered "if he's living in a fantasy world."

Paul:  Mary Stegmeir  (@marystegmeir) was with Ron Paul yesterday and also witnessed his passionate supporters, many of them Democrats:  Democrat Travis Bockenstedt of Cedar Rapids told the congressman he was "on the verge of converting." "I am a gay Iowan, and one thing that I do like is that you're staying out of my bedroom," said the 24-year-old, whose remarks were applauded. Bockenstedt then added: "I know you have your feelings about that and that's OK. I'm not going to trust any politician that would be a single-issue politician this season. That is not what our country needs."  http://dmreg.co/rywjh0

Bachmann: Jason Noble  (@jasonnoble1) has an interesting report from the Bachmann bus tour where her supporters are raising the possible sexism issue as well:  During a stop at the Doose Café in Marengo on Thursday afternoon, former state Rep. Danny Carroll raised the gender issue specifically, telling the crowd that a passage from the Book of Exodus referring to women "usurping" power from men did not apply in Bachmann's run for the White House. "Pastors that I talk with recognize that Michele is in a right relationship with her pastor, her church and her husband," Carroll said in an interview afterward. "She is not looking to usurp authority over her husband or over her church or pastor. But she is simply holding herself out as a candidate for public office."…Brad Sherman, the pastor at Solid Rock Christian Church in Coralville and a Bachmann supporter, said he believed some evangelicals had expressed concerns on the issue, and perhaps were throwing their support to another socially-conservative candidate as a result. "I know it's an issue to some people," Sherman said. "How many, I don't know. It could be the big elephant in the room." But, he stressed, his interpretation of scripture indicated such concerns were misplaced. "She's in a proper relationship with her husband spiritually. That's a key point," Sherman said.    http://dmreg.co/sIRHbu

Bachmann: Noble also has the eye popping numbers from the bus tour:  http://dmreg.co/tDPsgY

And Even More Bachmann: Occupy Protesters stopped by one of her bus stops yesterday: About two dozen activists with Occupy Iowa City packed the diner before Bachmann arrived Thursday, then loudly chanted in unison as she tried to mingle with supporters. Their chant blasted the Minnesota congresswoman's position on gay rights, health care and taxes and ended with: "You're not wanted here. So go, just go."  http://usat.ly/vbJmGF

Perry:  Josh Hafner (@joshhafner)  reports that Perry stopped his stump speech yesterday to remember a deceased Iowan and Navy SEAL: "I wear a - I wear a little band, matter of fact one of your Iowans, who was killed on the sixth day of August this last year, who was one of those Navy SEALS that went down in a helicopter, Jon Tumilson, to remind me about my duty to make sure those young men and women have the support they need as they serve on active duty." Tumilson, a Rockford native, was one of 30 Americans killed last summer under attack from enemy forces in Afghanistan. His death became well-known after moving images of his dog lying on the floor near Tumilson's coffin went viral.  http://dmreg.co/sEeSY4

Jason Clayworth  (@jasonclayworth) reports that conservative talk show host Steve Deace will be holding  a tele-townhall next week. Four of the candidates have confirmed: Gingrich, Bachmann, Santorum, and Rick Perry:  http://dmreg.co/rWM5Jr

Endorsement Watch: 

Romney: Yesterday, he nabbed the support of President George H. W. Bush and the former Massachusetts governor put out a list of 25 current or former public Iowa officials backing him:  http://dmreg.co/uk4pNZ

Air Wars:

Perry: Jennifer Jacobs has the details on his new holiday television ad, "President of Honor," that will air this weekend:  http://dmreg.co/vRZ8oc

Paul:  The campaign wives did it and now Ron Paul's son, Rand appears in a Christmas-themed ad for his father: ABC's Jason Volack reports: The Kentucky Senator and Tea Party favorite is shown sitting in front of a Christmas tree as he notes the origins of the Tea Party movement. Rand says that his "father stood against the establishment and against government bailouts" adding he "has always stayed true to his principles and his convictions" and won't falter and bend.  http://abcn.ws/sePwZP

Romney: ABC'S John Berman reports that the Romney SuperPAC "Restore our Future" will not be airing ads this weekend. Gingrich get a negative ad break in his stocking. Watch Berman's piece on the big endorsement and the candidates' Christmas plans and wish lists:  http://abcn.ws/uN1pH9 

Santorum:  The former Pennsylvania is out with a new television ad this morning titled "Pop Up" featuring his family and pop up stats about them. It also includes that Sarah Palin praise again.   http://bit.ly/tb0M7W

More Santorum:  Tony Leys  (@tonyleys) reports the candidate spoke at the funeral for his super-volunteer who died last week:  http://dmreg.co/tCjEgD

Paul-mentum:  Craig Robinson   (@IowaGOPer)  has a great piece on the GOP "freaking out" over the possibility of a Paul win here:  http://bit.ly/uNDbR0

Perry:  Arlette Saenz   (@ArletteSaenz)  reports on the end of this leg of the Texas governor's bus tour:   http://abcn.ws/tnG6LT And also from Arlette you will want to read what interrupted Perry's speech in Burlington, Iowa yesterday:   http://abcn.ws/vof6TO

More Perry:  Saenz also reports he went after the president for the extension of the payroll tax cut: "His priorities are so messed up. He's worried about a temporary tax cut when we ought to be talking about freeing entrepreneurs so that they have the confidence that they can create jobs in this country, putting people back to work. That's what this president ought to be talking about, but he's more interested in playing politics," Perry said to a crowd of just under 100 voters at Kuhly's Bar & Grill.  http://abcn.ws/tDdXJT 

And Even More Perry:The candidate got on the press bus yesterday to talk about Christmas. From Arlette: "Here's what they hate because I take my video camera out, and I video them in bed and you know,  they're like pulling the cover over their head, and they're like 'Come on dad. You know like we're grown, would you cut it out?'" Perry said laughing. "Now they're 28 and 25, and last year at 27 and 24, there were pictures of them, you know, getting up and walking in and the Christmas tree and opening the presents and the wiener dog and the black lab we'd, you know, tie bows around them." "That is our typical Christmas. You know, it's kind of like, 'Dad you are so lame,'" Perry said. "I think they would be disappointed if I didn't do it, so we have fun."Perry said his daughter is normally showered with "Christmas presents year around," and his wife, Anita, is never surprised by her gift Christmas morning. "Actually, my wife and I have a deal. She picks her Christmas present and I pay for it," Perry said. "It's a nice bag. I haven't seen it yet."  http://abcn.ws/uZ8X8I

The LA Times'  ( and GMI friends) Robin Abcarian  (@rabcarian)  and Seema Mehta   (@LATSeema)  have a fantastic look at the onslaught of negative ads here and how the electorate is reacting to them: "Oh goodness," said Jill Jepsen, 57, a retired department store employee who lives in Oskaloosa and supports former House Speaker  Newt Gingrich. "I just don't listen to it. I can't listen to it. It makes me sick."  http://lat.ms/vcu91p

The New York Times' FiveThirtyEight blog  (@fivethirtyeight)  has some number crunching that will be music to the ears of Bachmann and Santorum:  http://nyti.ms/tQWoHN

Politico's Jonathan Martin  (@jmartpolitico) and Edward-Isaac Dovere  (@IsaacDovere)  have an interesting interview with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad: "We've never seen such a tumultuous situation," Branstad told POLITICO in the latest installment of the "On the Line" audio series. "They're looking for the perfect candidate, but hopefully at the end of the day, they're going to recognize nobody's perfect, but they need to sort out and choose the strongest candidate, because I think most people in this state and across the country believe that we cannot afford four more years of Barack Obama." But Branstad said he won't be telling them whom he wants them to go with via an endorsement ahead of the Jan. 3 vote. "I think maybe after the caucuses, as the race goes forward, at some point I may decide to endorse, but I'm not planning to endorse before the caucuses," Branstad said.  http://politi.co/v6304o

More Paul-mentum:  CBS News' Rodney Hawkins   (@Rodney_CBSNJ)  interviewed the Texas Congressman and they discussed how his win would be seen in the party:  Rep. Ron Paul says his critics are engaged in "wishful thinking" if they believe that if he wins the upcoming Iowa caucuses, it would discredit the Hawkeye State's long-established first-in-the-nation political process. "I don't know why we have elections if they don't mean anything," the Texas congressman told National Journal/CBS News in an interview late Wednesday - though he added that "If you win one caucus, it doesn't guarantee anything."…Paul acknowledged that "I have my work cut out for me" because other many Republicans have abandoned the historical views of former Ohio Sen. Robert Taft, who opposed U.S. involvement in World War II, and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who upon leaving office warned of the dangers of the "military-industrial complex." "I defend my position as a Republican," Paul said. "So [other Republicans] sort of left that tradition of being less militant. I frequently quote a famous congressman from Iowa, H.R. Gross, and he and I would have voted together completely. He was a civil libertarian and he was a fiscal conservative and he didn't like any wars going on overseas."  http://bit.ly/rSx9xE

The American Prospect's Patrick Caldwell  (@patwcaldwell) has a great look at Paul's supporters: Every political generalization has its exception, and I think I finally stumbled upon one yesterday. The people who show up for Ron Paul events aren't there to weigh the Texas Congressman against the rest of the field; they entered the door certain that Paul is their man. Read it:  http://bit.ly/rWK4r7

The American Prospect also takes a look at why Iowa IS the best place to start off voting:  http://bit.ly/tFQyHz

Iowa Fact of The Day: Terrace Hill was built in the 1800's by the first millionaire in Iowa for $250,000.  In the 1970's the Hubbell family who offered it to the state for the use of the governor and his family and four governors and their families have resided there (Ray, Branstad, Vilsack, Culver, Branstad).  The entire building is open for guided tours and the governor and his family reside in a private apartment on the third floor.

Who's Tweeting About Iowa?

@ JamieNBCNews The Bachmann bus tour will be via Chevy Suburban today - the bus driver has gone home for Christmas. The rest of staff leaves later today.

@ FearRicksVest Hearing  @ RickSantorum may have argyle sweater vests on his Christmas list! We'll be stylin' for final week before  # iacaucus!

@ greenfield64  Beneath Iowa frenzy: a) it's business as usual; b) retail politics still matters c) Iowans decide LATE. From TPM  bit.ly/vZ4f1E

The Schedule:


9:00am CT - Bloomfield, IA: Meet and greet at the Oasis Coffee House (114 South Madison Street, Bloomfield, IA)

1O:00am CT - Centerville, IA: Meet and greet at Tangleberries (104 West Jackson Street, Centerville, IA)

11:00am CT - Corydon, IA: Meet and greet at Lodge Pizza & Steakhouse (105 West Jackson Street, Corydon, IA)

12:15pm CT - Chariton, IA: Meet and greet at Papa Leo's Restaurant (126 North Grand Street, Chariton, IA)

1:40pm CT - Pella, IA: Tour stop at the Christian Opportunity Center (1553 Broadway, Pella, IA)

2:50pm CT - Newton, IA: Meet and greet at Uncle Nancy's Coffee House (114 North 2 nd Avenue West, Newton, IA)

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