22 Days Out: Good Morning Iowa

Good morning from Des Moines. We are 22 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 over the past few days. Keep them coming.

Rick Santorum is the only candidate in the state today. He'll make stops at the Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, the Cornell College Thomas Commons in Mt. Vernon, and he ends the day in Cedar Rapids at the Linn County Republican Christmas Party.

Weather: It's much warmer today! It's 41 degrees right now and should stay that temperature throughout the day. Bring an umbrella in case it rains this morning.

Make sure to read The Note: If Newt Goes Up, Must He Come Down? http://abcn.ws/uWUj8m

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

What's In The Register?

Jason Noble (@jasonnoble1) has a front page story looking back at Saturday Night's debate sponsored by ABC News, Des Moines Register, Iowa GOP, and WOI-TV. He also looks forward to next week's Fox News debate and has a day two assessment on how all the candidates did Saturday night:

The Republican presidential candidates who walked off the canvas Saturday night after a bruising debate in Des Moines won't have much time to catch their breath before Round Two. The bell rings again on Thursday for one last nationally televised forum before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, this time in Sioux City. In the next-day analysis on Sunday, the consensus was that Newt Gingrich emerged relatively unscathed, that Michele Bachmann may have improved her standing and that Mitt Romney did the most damage to himself, by offering $10,000 in a rhetorical wager with Rick Perry….The ABC News/Des Moines Register debate was among the more contentious the candidates have engaged in so far in an election season largely defined by multicandidate forums. Front-runners Gingrich and Romney traded jabs all night, while second-tier candidates like Bachmann and Perry punched upward, trying to land a blow and win some attention. More here: http://dmreg.co/w3mHU9 Noble also has all the key debate exchanges all in one place: http://dmreg.co/u4pNvs

Kathie Obradovich (@KObradovich) has a fascinating interview with Rick Perry for her "Conversations with the Candidates" series. Perry tells the columnist that he's a  "new candidate" since he's recovered from back surgery in July. You can watch the full interview on Iowa Public Television: www.iptv.org

"My back is great, I'm back running again for the last six weeks so I think part of the reason you've seen a somewhat different candidate on the debates is that my health is, really both physically and mentally, just really back in the game from the standpoint you have a fusion on your back and it takes you a while to get back on your game," he said. I asked him if he wasn't feeling well during the early debates. Perry and his campaign were downplaying the effect of the surgery as recently as a month ago. But today, he acknowledged it took a toll. "I would suggest to you I was pretty fatigued," he said. "But no excuses, it was there, it's what it is and, look, if anybody's looking for a perfect candidate I'm not it.  If they're looking for the perfect debater, if they're looking for someone that is going to have the answer to every question and never make a mistake, I'm not their candidate." I also asked Perry why he didn't take that $10,000 bet that Mitt Romney offered in last night's debate. Perry still thinks he was right about what Romney's book, "No Apologies," originally said about his Massachusetts individual insurance mandate being a model for the national plan. (The Washington Post's Fact Checker has said Perry's wrong about that.) But, he said, "I don't have $10,000 to bet and I was a little shocked, frankly," he said. He called it a "clarion moment" in the debate."…That's just a lot of money for most people and I guess not for Mitt," he said. http://dmreg.co/szzm97

Timmy Talks: Albrecht's (@TimAlbrechtIA) insight and wisdom for the daytoday with an Elf reference!

Multiple campaigns have told me they have half the 1,774 precinct leaders they need going into caucus night. The last-half sprint is on, and the mad scramble begins to have all of them in place by Jan. 3. This is telling, as it means support for the candidates is beginning to solidify, and once voters are locked in, there is little hope they will change their mind. It's like in "Elf," when the sleigh's engine couldn't get started until it had enough Christmas cheer. These campaigns are feeling a lift in their caucus sleighs as Iowans begin fueling that caucus rocket, all the way to Jan. 3.

Watch ABC's Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) on GMA this morning reporting on the fallout from the debate and Romney's $10,000 bet: http://abcn.ws/tVPbFP

Talking about the debate: It was the most watched debate of the primary season drawing 7.58 million total viewers.

Gingrich: Craig Robinson (@IowaGOPer) at The Iowa Republican writes Gingrich needs more than strong debate performances to win here, he needs to campaign harder in the state.

From the start of the campaign, we all expected Gingrich to do well in the debates.  And while he has not disappointed in that regard, the issues on which he is currently being criticized are all issues that give conservative voters pause. Gingrich is having the kitchen sink thrown at him, and while the gang-tackle makes sense with the caucuses just being weeks away, the various candidates and organizations that are attacking him are also willing to do so because they know these are issues that will move voters because they have hurt him earlier in the contest…Gingrich might have defended himself well on the debate stage, but it may not ultimately matter.  The barrage of ads that are running against him will make an impact on the race.  His Republican candidates don't necessarily need to beat him up when they seem him in person on the debate stage since they are spending millions of dollars beating him up on television…The best way for Gingrich to defend himself in advance of the caucuses is to aggressively campaign in Iowa.  There is no better way to deal with a slew of negative ads being run against you than standing in front of Iowans and taking these issues head on.  There is no doubt that Gingrich is skilled enough to do it, the question is whether or not he is disciplined enough to do it. He also has an assessment of how all the GOP candidates are doing at this point: http://bit.ly/rv4AYI

Dems Speak: The Iowa Democratic Party is putting out a fundraising mail trying to raise money over Romney's $10,000 bet gaffe while promoting their Twitter hashtag #What10kbuys at the same time by listing what $10,000 could buy in Iowa including 3,125 gallons of gas, a year's worth of mortgage payments on an average home, and 1,666 pork chops on a stick at the Iowa State Fair.

At the debate in Des Moines this Saturday, we saw yet another blatant example of just how out of touch Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP field are with middle class Iowans. In an exchange about flip-flopping on his own Massachusetts health care plan, Romney bet $10,000 he was right…In the blink of an eye, Romney bet more than two months salary for the average Iowa family.  This comes from the same Mitt Romney who declared this summer at the state fair that "corporations are people" and who thinks that a $1,500 tax break for working families is just a "little Band-Aid."  Mitt Romney may think that $10,000 is just chump change, but to most Iowans, it's a heck of a lot.

Romney: Reporting from New Hampshire, ABC's Emily Friedman has what Romney's wife, Ann, said to him after the debate.

"Actually after the debate was over Ann came up and gave me a kiss and said I was great and she said there are a lot of things you do well, betting isn't one of them," Romney said during a press conference after a town hall this afternoon in Hudson. Pressed as to whether he regretted making the wager or whether it was the largest bet he's ever made, Romney responded, "That's all I've got," and laughed. http://abcn.ws/w46Jxn

Gingrich vs. Romney: ABC's Amy Walter (@amyewalter) has some great analysis on the rivals just three weeks out from the caucuses: On top of the polls and riding a wave of momentum from his strong performance at Saturday night's ABC-Des Moines Register debate, Newt Gingrich is now the clear front-runner for the GOP nomination. And, for the first time this year, the "steady as she goes" Mitt Romney campaign looks off-balance. Even so, the consensus among the handful of top Republican strategists whom I reached out to Sunday was that Romney remained the odds-on favorite for the nomination. The biggest reason: Gingrich himself. As one long-time Republican put it, Gingrich "can self-destruct on a dime." Another wrote in an email, "Newt would truly be changed if he didn't mess this up." That said, Gingrich has time on his side. Between now and the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3, there is one more debate and then a dead zone of at least a few days around Christmas. A compressed window means fewer chances to make a big mistake or for the weight of his baggage to catch up with him. Most agree that Romney can't simply wait for Gingrich to self-destruct, but they also acknowledge that the Romney campaign has few good options. Must read here: http://abcn.ws/w3q5QA

Perry ABC's Arlette Saenz (@ArletteSaenz) reports Perry used Romney's 10,000 bet debate slip up to string out a day's worth of criticism Sunday including releasing a new minute long web video, called "Truth Cannot Be Bought" highlighting Romney's $10,000 wager while also calling "Romneycare a losing bet for America."  http://abcn.ws/vDgH8g

"After an event at a coffee shop in Ames Sunday," Saenz reports. "Perry told reporters Romney's $10K proposition was mere 'pocket change' for the Massachusetts governor, and in a Fox News Sunday interview, the Texas governor characterized Romney's proposition as "out of touch" with ordinary Iowans. "I was taken a little aback. Driving out to the station this morning, I'm pretty sure I didn't drive by a house that anyone in Iowa would even think about that a $10,000 bet was even possible, so a little out of touch with the normal Iowa citizen," Perry said. "He was the only candidate in the Hawkeye state Sunday aside from Rick Santorum, just one day after the GOP field descended on the state for the ABC News debate, engaged in a day of retail politicking, speaking at two church services at Point of Grace church in Waukee, Iowa and holding one of his largest meet and greets to date in Ames.  Around 150 voters packed into the Café Diem coffee house to hear the Texas governor speak, but not all of the attendees were supporters.  At the end of his event, hecklers shouted at Perry asking him questions such as, "Why do you hate gay people so much?" in reference to his recent advertisement which criticized the ability of gay men and women to serve openly in the military.  At two morning church services, Perry, speaking without notes in a preacher-like tone, recounted his faith journey to Iowans while urging people of faith to engage in politics. http://abcn.ws/tpMjlt

The Washington Post's Dan Balz (@danbalz) looks at whether the Iowa caucuses still have carry the weight of years past:

Iowa caucuses are still first, but are they no longer foremost?-Four years ago, Iowa was awash in presidential candidates crisscrossing the state. Campaign headquarters were packed with staffers and volunteers. The airwaves were clogged with political commercials. Excitement was palpable. Today, everything seems different. Iowa still holds its coveted position as the state whose caucuses will mark the opening of the Republican presidential nomination process. What happens here Jan. 3 will still have a major impact on the Republican race. But at least for this presidential cycle, Iowa has lost much of the unique character that has marked previous campaigns. Candidates are spending less time and money here. They have held fewer events, and those events (with a few exceptions) draw smaller audiences and generate less excitement than in the past. Campaign organizing is months behind the pace of the past several cycles. Advertising has only just begun in earnest. http://wapo.st/s5ebMt

Gingrich: Bloomberg's John McCormick (@McCormickJohn) hears from evangelical voters in Iowa torn over supporting Gingrich because of his three marriages and admitted infidelity. They convened at a focus group  of seven evangelicals sponsored by Bloomberg:

Linda Warner acknowledges Newt Gingrich has some "baggage" and can be "pugnacious." She also thinks he has the best chance of beating President Barack Obama, and that trumps any concerns she has about whether Gingrich's marital infidelity should disqualify him from becoming the standard-bearer of the party of family values. "He has shown so well in the debates," said Warner, 52, a physics teacher who backed Ron Paul in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. That's not the conclusion drawn by Philip Fisher, who said Gingrich's three marriages and the extramarital affair he had with his current wife, Callista, hurt his chances to become president - while also potentially signaling ethical weakness. "Cheating on your wife, that I have a problem with," said Fisher, 41, a technical project coordinator who is leaning toward supporting Mitt Romney. "If you're willing to cross that moral line, that leads you to a gray area and realistically that's why I'm afraid that he's not electable." How those crosscurrents play out over the next three weeks will help determine whether the former U.S. House speaker from Georgia keeps his lead in Iowa, the state that starts the Republican nomination voting with its Jan. 3 caucuses. Warner and Fisher sat across from each other at a conference room table last week in a focus group that Bloomberg News convened of nine Republicans, all evangelical Christians who plan to participate in the caucuses. Three of the voters are leaning toward Gingrich, five are gravitating toward other candidates, and one is undecided. http://bloom.bg/rpMyG4

Romney vs. Gingrich: RealClearPolitics' Scott Conroy (@RealClearScott) has an interesting look at the Romney campaign's Gingrich strategy: Going after his temperament.

After testing out several lines of attack intended to thwart Newt Gingrich's surprising surge and apparent staying power atop the Republican field, the Romney campaign is moving next to portray the former House speaker as a reckless flamethrower who lacks the even-keeled disposition needed in the nation's highest office. The strategy is fraught with risk in a GOP race that has rewarded candidates who echo the outspoken language of the Tea Party, but it is one that may be the last best chance for the former Massachusetts governor to define Gingrich on his own terms before voting begins next month. Romney aides are still sorting through a thick opposition research file on Gingrich, a decades-long treasure trove of bombastic pronouncements and intra-party squabbles that call into question the candidate's steadiness at the wheel. http://bit.ly/tJhXvd

Romney: The LA Times' Mark Z. Barabak (@markzbarabak) looks at why Romney is hurting at this point in the race: But right now it is Romney who is struggling, and the reason is clear: For most Republican voters, this contest has ceased to be about jobs and the economy, and instead rests on which candidate can shove a fist the furthest down President Obama's throat. Romney came into the GOP contest figuring his blue-chip business background would make him the strongest contender at a time when pocketbook issues seemed like voters' overwhelming concern. For a while, it worked. Though Romney has never enjoyed the support of much more than a quarter of the Republican electorate, he remained at or near the top of voter surveys as several would-be alternatives rose and then imploded. But as Saturday night's boisterous debate in Des Moines demonstrated, the fight for the GOP nomination has become just that: a test of pugilistic skills. http://lat.ms/tCKX9o

Romney: On NBC's Meet The Press yesterday, Iowa governor Terry Branstad said Romney is being too cautious here.

""I think he's starting to understand that he's going to have to get much more aggressive," Branstad said." "He's going to need to spend more time here." http://dmreg.co/t5hqCO

Santorum: The former Pennsylvania senator told CNN's Candy Crowley that Gingrich is more about ideas than anything else:

(Santorum) said Gingrich's recent surge is due to his debate performances and wealth of policy ideas, but that the presidency is not "just about ideas, it's about executing those ideas." "He's a great teacher, I mean that's what he is," Santorum told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. "He's a very bright man who has a lot of ideas. The question is can you stay focused on those ideas, can you execute those ideas and can you motivate the American public." http://bit.ly/vPxQb9

Who's Tweeting:

@ TomBeaumont (AP) Perry going for broke in Iowa with 3 weeks to go - Politics Wires - http://MiamiHerald.com http://hrld.us/tGMEBl via @ miamiherald

@ dmrcaucus What can $10K (bet) buy? A lot of media attention. Follow the post-debate fallout w/ Iowa Politics Insider: http://dmreg.co/vZLwVG #IAcaucus

@ samsteinhp if tebow entered the iowa caucus tomorrow, what would happen? The Schedule:


11:30am CT - Des Moines, IA: Will visit the Principal Financial Group (711 High Street, Des Moines, IA)

3:00pm CT - Mt. Vernon, IA: Will visit Cornell College Thomas Commons - Hedges Conference Room (810 Commons Circle, Mt. Vernon, IA)

6:30pm CT - Cedar Rapids, IA: Special guest at the Linn County Republican Christmas Party (90 Twixt Town Road NE, Cedar Rapids, IA)

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