15 Days Out: Good Morning Iowa

Good morning from Des Moines. We are 15 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. Keep them coming.

Four candidates are campaigning in the state today with two: Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry continuing their respective bus tours. Rick Santorum has three events today: a breakfast retail event in Creston, a town hall in Osceola, and this evening he will keynote the Warren County GOP Dinner at the Indianola Christian Church. Michele Bachmann is on Day Four of her bus tour where she's keeping an intense schedule to try to get to all 99 counties in ten days. Each stop is an hour or less apart with some stops being only a quick 15 minutes, while others are longer . Bachmann is speed dating the electorate, but in a state where voters want to shake your hand,  the hectic pace may pay off. She makes ten stops today starting at 9AM in Hampton and going through 7PM at a Pizza Ranch in Waverly. In between she stops in Iowa Falls, gives a speech at Grundy Center High School in Grundy Center, then stops in Allison, Charles City, Osage, Cresco, Decorah, and New Hampton. Rick Perry is on Day 5 of his bus tour and he' s making four stops: Elkader, Manchester, Dyersville, and Dubuque. Newt Gingrich returns to Iowa today and has two events. He makes an afternoon stop at Global Security Services in Davenport and then holds a town hall at Level 10 Apparel in Hiawatha. His wife, Callista will hold a book signing for her children's book after the event.

Weather:  After yesterday's unseasonably warm temperatures, the weather cools down today. It's 34 degrees now with the high only being 40 degrees. It will feel and look more like winter today: the sun will only be out this morning. GMI hopes this isn't a sign that a real Iowa winter isn't about to begin almost two weeks out from the caucuses, but it looks like it.

Make sure to read The Note from Michael Falcone   (@michaelpfalcone) and Amy Walter  (@amyewalter): Confidence Man: Mitt Romney Heads Into The Final Stretch  http://abcn.ws/rErNK7

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

What's In The Register?

On the front page, Daniel Finney  (@newsmanone) looks at how the candidates' talk about faith on the campaign trail and how they are using it to woo evangelical voters: Texas Gov. Rick Perry described separation of church and state as "a one-way wall that protects churches and religious groups from undue government interference. This does not imply, as modern liberals claim, that all mentions of God or religion must be completely removed from the public arena." Newt Gingrich of Georgia, former speaker of the House, called those who push for stronger separation of church and state "secular fanatics" who have abused the courts into "creating a new standard which is totally false." While unanimity reigns on the subject in the Republican field, such views are far from universal. Some theologians and political scientists argue that GOP rhetoric regarding church and state is simply an appeal to evangelical Christian voters who may play a key role in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.  http://dmreg.co/uKQt7m

Timmy Talks:   Albrecht's wisdom and insight for the day:

After a brief family Christmas hiatus, Timmy Talks returns.

Before Iowans pack school gyms, churches, community centers - and even the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls! - there will be a pivotal Christmas caucus underway at dinner tables across the state. Never before have so many Iowans been this persuadable this late. This wide open caucus is a new paradigm for Iowans. Rather than passionately discussing over turkey and fixings who they already support, the argument will be over who they can't, who they want to, and what they should do. Again, this is the hidden merit of organization. If you can get sweet Aunt Nancy or cranky Uncle Leo on your side, going into Christmas, they'll be the persuaders at the kitchen table, and the hard work of campaigns will have paid off.

No sweater vest threats this week, all suits   (GMI note: things are getting serious).

What Else is in The Register?

Bachmann: Jason Noble  (jasonnoble1) is still following the Bachmann bus and reports that she again took on Gingrich calling on him to return the money he made from Freddie Mac:  "I call on former Speaker Newt Gingrich to give that money back to the American people," Bachmann said in a news conference following a church service in Fort Dodge. "This was during the time of the economic meltdown. While the rest of the country was dealing with the economic meltdown, he was pocketing $1.6 million."…The visits were heavy on retail politicking, with the candidate and her husband, Marcus Bachmann, shaking hands and signing autographs but speaking little on policy or her plans as president. The informal approach was a hit at many stops. "I think she's a wonderful, real person," said Rudy Marmaro, who attended the Pizza Ranch stop in Garner. "I think she's a real down-to-earth gal."   http://dmreg.co/sSpTXg

Perry:  Jason Clayworth   (@JasonClayworth) is on the Perry bus tour and went to two churches with the Texas governor: In Charles City, he spoke with the crowd for about 10 minutes. He told the crowd that he had a hole in his spiritual heart until around the age of 27 when he fully accepted Jesus Christ into his life. He quoted a Bible verse that instructs people of faith to pray for their leaders. "It's those that I refer to as the politically correct police who say you can't bring your faith into the public arena. You will be criticized but don't be intimidated," Perry instructed the crowd. He continued: "Here is what I want you to leave with, somebody's values are going to decide the issues of the day … somebody's values are going to be installed. The question is going to be whose values? Is it going to be those of us of faith or somebody else's values?"… Perry…shrugged off the notion that he was playing it up for the evangelicals. He noted that he often goes to various churches in his states, which is something he finds very satisfying. "That's what I'm about. My faith, I can no more divorce myself from that than I can that I'm a child of a couple of tenant farmers out in the country in Texas," Perry told reporters. "That's just part of who I am and I think it's important for our country to be based as our founding fathers did on principles that are very clearly cemented in Judeo-Christian values."  http://dmreg.co/v4oVrq

Gingrich: Craig Robinson   (@IowaGOPer)  at TheIowaRepublican writes that if Gingrich wants to win here he needs to be here:  We have already seen candidates make various pilgrimages to Iowa landmarks and notable eateries.  We have also seen other candidates don orange vests and hunting gear for hunting trips.  The media has also been summoned to watch candidates drag Christmas trees to their offices.  While Gingrich has done very little of this, it's not the lack of photo ops that will knock his quest for the Republican nomination off the tracks. Gingrich needs to spend as much time as humanly possible in Iowa between now and the caucuses in an effort to respond to all of the attacks that are being leveled against him.  We all know that Gingrich is a brilliant debater, but those skills can also help him soothe the concerns of Iowa caucus goers if he is willing to stand before them and answer questions.  Making himself available like that would also help insulate him from further attacks. Not only could Gingrich respond to the millions of dollars of ads that are painting him in a bad light, but he would also get tons of earned media in the local paper, radio and TV stations.  Gingrich could also turn the tables on those who are running ads against him.  In large part, those who are attacking Gingrich are not campaigning in the state.  http://bit.ly/u9y4BZ

MEET OTUS:  With all eyes on the first primaries and caucuses of the 2012 election cycle, ABC News is taking you into the action with the launch of OTUSNews.com - a new interactive destination for politics. OTUS ("Of the United States," a play on POTUS, "President of the United States") features the trusted political reporting and analysis of ABC News and invites users into the American political process with groundbreaking technology, engaging video, and immersive interactive experiences. Check out OTUS News' innovative Political Stock Market - a real-time snapshot of social sentiment, trending, search and the collective assessment of our political experts combined to determine the current "value" of each 2012 presidential contender. Its political punditry with a sophisticated dash of social media - a new way to measure who's up and who's down in a tumultuous campaign.  The Site:  http://otusnews.com

Gingrich: Watch ABC's Jon Karl's  (@jonkarl) Good Morning America piece on Gingrich under attack, especially here in Iowa:   http://abcn.ws/umwLEd

Undecided Iowa Evangelicals Pray For An Answer:  With no Gov. Huckabee to coalesce around, the important voting bloc of Iowa's evangelical voters are confused and praying to make a choice before Jan. 3:  Just a few weeks ago, Kerry Jech, the pastor of New Hope Christian Church in Marshalltown, about an hour Northeast of (Des Moines), was praying that he and other evangelicals like him would coalesce around one GOP presidential candidate. Now, he doesn't see that happening, but he's still looking towards God for an answer. "I'm just really confused, I just don't know at this point who is the best one to support and I'm not sure what's going to push us one direction or the other," Jech said, with just over two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. Faced with such a difficult decision, Jech said he's turning to the "Holy Spirit" for guidance…The evangelical community here is a large and influential voting bloc. In 2008, 60 percent of Republican caucus-goers identified themselves as evangelicals, according to ABC News pollster Gary Langer. That group, which includes politically active home school families, coalesced around former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, helping him beat Mitt Romney here despite the ten million dollars he poured into the state. This time there is no Huckabee to coalesce around, the electorate is splintered, and although most would like to ensure Romney's defeat on Jan. 3 there is no one candidate the group is rallying around.  http://abcn.ws/rBFd5f

Obama:  ABC's Devin Dwyer  (@DevinDwyer)  reports that while Republicans in this state are caucusing Jan. 3, Obama's re-election effort has their own plan for caucus night: While a fractious  Republican Party huddles at caucus sites across Iowa on Jan. 3, hundreds of state Democrats will be quietly plotting a path to bring down the eventual GOP presidential nominee. The caucus-night effort, orchestrated by President Obama's  re-election campaign and the state Democratic Party, will take place at dozens of public schools and libraries, community centers and government offices in all 99 counties. Organizers say state and local party officials and a designated Obama campaign surrogate will brief volunteers on the field of Democratic candidates and the strategy for winning in 2012. A senior member of the Obama campaign - possibly the President himself - will deliver a  live video message to each caucus gathering over the Internet, state Democratic officials said. The exercise marks a new phase in the president's campaign to win Iowa in 2012, four years after the state helped catapult him into the White House. This year's caucuses, however, will be less about numbers and turnout, and more about building a sense of urgency and energy for the quickly escalating campaign. "Our expectation is simple. We carried Iowa for President Obama in 2008 and we will use the caucus this year as another step in our ongoing effort to organize our volunteers and build a campaign," said John Kraus, the Iowa communications director for Obama for America.  http://abcn.ws/u51Fxa

Bachmann: ABC's Russell Goldman  (@RussellGoldman)  is also chasing around the Bachmann bus and yesterday she also went after Gingrich on abortion and illegal immigration: Bachmann is hoping her 10-day whirlwind tour of Iowa, where she's delivering red-meat stump speeches, will slow Gingrich's momentum here. While she has barnstormed the state, hitting more than 10 stops a day, since a televised debate in Sioux City Thursday, Gingrich has not been in Iowa. In an effort to call Gingrich's conservative credentials into question, she went after him on the two topics caucus-goers have most asked about in her three days on the road: illegal immigration and abortion. "The most important issue for the party is the issue of protecting human life," she said. "There is nothing more important than that we need to stand up to protect life.  … [Gingrich] said he would support and campaign for Republicans that support the barbaric practice of partial birth abortion. I would never do that … because this is a barbaric practice." She accused Gingrich of altering his position on illegal immigration, but summarized it as "amnesty." Bachmann met with mostly friendly crowds. At one event in Clarion, however, she was surprised by a group of gay students waving rainbow flags and questioning her about the high rate of teen suicides in her congressional district.  http://abcn.ws/tc3kJM

Perry:  ABC's Arlette Saenz   (@ArletteSaenz)  is still on the Perry bus tour and reports this was the Texas governor's "busiest weekend to date" : Perry held 10 events over a two day period, generally meeting crowds who were receptive to offering the Texas governor a "second look."   His part time Congress plan was a hit among voters, who consistently applauded the proposal at each of his events. Perry's weekend wrapped up with two confrontations at his final town hall in Decorah.  At the conclusion of his event, Perry was approached by a fourteen year old bisexual girl who asked the Texas governor why he disapproved  of gays being able to serve openly in the military.  http://abcn.ws/rpH70a And in response to a question about hydro fracking and ground water pollution, Perry grew contentious, shooting down the voter's idea that hydro fracking causes contamination of groundwater. While both arguments were sharp and heated, they will likely draw support from the base who feels the same way. http://abcn.ws/tZdNgY

More Perry: Saenz also reports that Perry went after Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney "hitting them on issues ranging from Iran to earmarks" :  On Sunday, he launched separate new attacks on Gingrich and Romney.  He suggested Romney raised the corporate tax rate instead of cutting spending while he was governor of Massachusetts, and Perry accused Gingrich of borrowing money from the Social Security trust fund in order to balance the budget.  http://abcn.ws/uiYpv0

More Obama:  Occupy Des Moines protesters camped outside of President Obama's campaign headquarters over the weekend and they have a plan for the week leading up to the caucuses, but Republicans here may be able to breathe a sigh of relief as they say they have no plans to disrupt the actual caucus process:  Occupy the Caucuses…said…"We have absolutely no plans of disrupting the grassroots caucusing process" on the night of Jan. 3. However, they are going to be active and Reznicek has been reaching out to Occupy groups all over the country. She said she expects between 500 to 700 people will be here that week with many of them traveling to Des Moines, but added there could be more. She said she has been in touch with Occupy groups in New York, Chicago, Wisconsin, Kansas, Omaha, and Minneapolis. According to Reznicek, on Dec. 26, Occupy protesters from all over the country will arrive in Des Moines. The following day they will be trained in "acts of non-violent civil disobedience." Different groups will also form that day and protesters will decide which of the presidential candidates, including Obama, they want to "target with their grievances." The groups will then take that list of grievances to all the campaign headquarters on Dec. 28, 29, and 30, and protest or "occupy" them "until those demands are met.  http://abcn.ws/tnJ91T

Santorum:  The former Pennsylvania senator and his campaign are morning the loss of an aggressive and loyal volunteer. The campaign just sent out a statement with Santorum saying, "The news of Wendy's passing is absolutely heartbreaking. I just had the opportunity to visit with Wendy on Wednesday evening, where she was where she always was - hard at work volunteering for our campaign. She was absolutely amazing. Wendy may have been small in stature, but she had the heart of a lion. My deep condolences go out to her entire family and loved ones on her passing. She will be dearly missed."

Romney: CNN's Peter Hamby (@PeterHambyCNN) has a fascinating look at Romney's renewed efforts here and in South Carolina. It's a must read: Mitt Romney is returning to safe harbor on Tuesday, kicking off a week-long tour of New Hampshire, his early state stronghold.But with his team now stepping up efforts in Iowa and South Carolina - two states he largely avoided for much of the year - Romney's playing field has suddenly expanded beyond his New Hampshire citadel, increasing the stakes for his campaign across the early-state playing field. Romney is now in full-blown campaign mode in both Iowa and New Hampshire, spending heavily on television ads and devoting more time to public rallies and media appearances. And in South Carolina, Romney is moving aggressively to capitalize on a high-profile endorsement from Gov. Nikki Haley, spending the weekend campaigning with her across the state. The heightened activity across all three states is normal at this late stage of the primary campaign, said Romney strategist Stuart Stevens. "You get more engaged in all these races the closer you get to the election," Stevens told CNN. "I think that's going to be a pattern that's going to repeat itself throughout the process between now and whenever the process ends." Romney has made just six trips to Iowa this year, after spending roughly $10 million campaigning in the state in 2008 only to finish second in the caucuses.  http://bit.ly/vFr4pS

Bachmann: The Los Angeles Times' Alana Semuels  (@AlanaSemuels) reports from a Bachmann event in Clarion disrupted by LGBT protestors:  Protesters crashed  Michele Bachmann's meet and greet with voters at a Pizza Ranch restaurant in this small Iowa town Sunday, waving rainbow flags and signs to draw attention to what they say are a high number of LGBT suicides in Bachmann's Minnesota congressional district. "I'm very opposed to a lot of her stances on social issues," said Quentin Hill, 18, a  University of Iowa student who organized the protest, bringing about 10 friends to sit among the crowd of about 40 in Bachmann's third event of the day, where she shook hands and signed autographs. In one area, he said, there have been 12 teen suicides in the last two years, and nine have been LGBT students. "Her congressional district has one of the highest suicide rates in the country and over and over again, she's been addressed at events about it, and she has always beat around the bush as to why she hasn't taken action." As Bachmann passed through the room, shaking hands, signing autographs and exhorting people to vote Jan. 3, the students waited for Bachmann to take questions. When she didn't, they waited outside with two rainbow flags, waving them as Bachmann boarded her big blue bus and pulled away. An older woman, Luann Krabbe, waved a sign that said "gay-friendly iowan," which Bachmann had signed in black pen. "Some of us have questions that not everyone's going to ask at something like this, questions like how's that going, praying away the gay? Because her hubby's a pro at that," said Krabbe, who is a Democrat.  http://lat.ms/tCiRZT

The Associated Press' Steve Peoples  (@sppeoples)  reports from the Granite State on the Tea Party's unhappiness with the GOP field:  Just a year ago, tea party activists came roaring out of the congressional elections eager to shape the looming race for the White House. Things have not gone as planned. Turned off by Mitt Romney's style and evolution on several important issues, they have bounced from one candidate to another in hopes of finding a formidable alternative to the former Massachusetts governor to focus their enthusiasm. After a series of disappointments - Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and businessman Herman Cain among them - the anti-establishment movement has settled, for now, on a favorite: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, even though he has spent more than three decades in Washington politics. With the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3 and tea party support fractured at best, some activists worry that the passion that defined the movement 13 months ago may become lost in the selection of the next president. Infighting among conservative groups, a growing sense of pragmatism, and glaring weaknesses among the candidates have forced some tea party leaders to acknowledge their limits and shift their attention to Congress. "I wish that we had coalesced behind one candidate earlier on. It's not because of the tea party movement, it's because there hasn't been that candidate out there so far that has stirred the passion - the fire in the belly," said Amy Kremer, president of the Tea Party Express. "Everybody wants to focus on presidential politics. I think we need to be focused on the Senate. That's where we really, really need to be engaged."  http://bit.ly/snjXU6

In the Columbia Journalism Review, a native Iowan Kirsten Scharnberg Hampton takes on the concept (and an Atlantic article) that the state shouldn't have so much weight in the nominating process, pointing out that Iowans are incredibly engaged in the process and defending the state's kickoff to voting here:  http://bit.ly/rTQS3R

The Schedule:  h/t Josh Haskell   (@HaskellBuzz)


7:30am CT - Creston, IA: Breakfast meet and greet at the Windrow Restaurant (102 West Taylor Street, Creston, IA)

12:00pm CT - Osceola, IA: "Faith, Family and Freedom" town hall at Redman's Pizza & Steak (123 South Main Street, Osceola, IA)

6:00pm CT - Indianola, IA: Keynote speaker Warren County GOP Dinner at the Indianola Christian Union Church (707 East Euclid Avenue, Indianola, IA)


9:00am CT - Hampton, IA: Merry Bee's Meet and Greet (117 1 st Street Northwest. Hampton, IA)

9:50am CT - Iowa Falls, IA: Princess Grill & Pizzeria Meet and Greet (607 Washington Avenue, Iowa Falls, IA)

11:00am CT - Grundy Center, IA: Remarks at Grundy Center High School (1006 M Avenue. Grundy Center. Iowa)

12:00pm CT - Allison, IA: Lil' Ricky's Steakhouse (270 North Main Street. Allison, IA)

1:05pm CT - Charles City, IA: Pizza Ranch Meet and Greet (1000 Blunt Parkway. Charles City, IA)

2:00pm CT - Osage, IA: Fox River Sock Company (227 Poplar Street. Osage, IA)

3:30pm CT - Cresco, IA: Cresco Bank & Trust Company (126 Second Avenue Southeast. Cresco, IA)

4:30pm CT - Decorah, IA: Dragonfly Books (112 West Water Street. Decorah, IA)

5:50pm CT - New Hampton, IA: Klunder's Kafe Meet and Greet (929 West Milwaukee Street. New Hampton, IA)

7:00pm CT - Waverly, IA: Pizza Ranch (2020 West Bremer Avenue. Waverly IA)


10:15am CT -Elkader, IA: Meet and greet at Johnson's Restaurant - main dining room (916 High Street, Elkader, IA)

12:00pm CT - Manchester, IA: Meet and greet at Pizza Ranch (1100 West Main Street, Manchester, IA)

4:30pm CT - Dyersville, IA: Meet and greet at the Country Junction Restaurant (913 15 th Avenue SE, Dyersville, IA)

6:00pm CT - Dubuque, IA Meet and greet at the MannaJava World Café (700 Locust Street #110, Dubuque, IA)


2:30pm CT Davenport, IA: Will visit employees at Global Security Services (1003 West 4 th Street, Davenport, IA)

7:00pm CT - Hiawatha, IA: Town hall meeting at Level 10 Apparel with Callista Gingrich book signing after the event. (820 North 20 th Avenue, Hiawatha, Iowa)

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