26 Days Out: Good Morning Iowa

Good morning from Des Moines. We are 26 days out from the Iowa caucuses and three days away from the GOP presidential debate, sponsored by ABC News, Yahoo, the Iowa Republican Party, the Des Moines Register, and ABC 5 Des Moines. 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.

Candidates are starting to arrive for this weekend's debate: Ron Paul has four campaign stops today including a "Youth for Ron Paul" rally this evening at Iowa State in Ames. Rick Santorum is in Dubuque this evening for a house party event while Anita Perry is in town campaigning for her husband with four stops including an Iowa Farm Bureau pancake breakfast here in Des Moines early this morning.

This is the front page Des Moines residents are waking up to today: http://bit.ly/c1CZ8U

Weather Report: At 25 degrees here in Des Moines, it's much warmer today, but it looks like there will be SNOW showers this afternoon. GMI is a Floridian originally, but she believes this is what it means when they say it's too cold to snow…not today.  Good luck to those traveling here today and don't forget the boots.

What's in the Register?

The Des Moines Register has a front page exclusive look at campaign spending here and found out the state that kicks off the voting process is getting short changed with less than five percent of the nearly $56 million spent nationally by the GOP candidate was spent here:

For all the time and attention presidential candidates lavish on Iowa in the months leading up to its first-in-the-nation caucuses, they don't spend that much money here. A Des Moines Register review of nine months' worth of campaign finance reports filed by the major Republican candidates revealed relatively few dollars flowing to Iowa businesses and individuals - a counterintuitive finding given the state's unending presidential publicity and outsized influence over the nominating process. "There's a mythology that does exist nationally that there's this enormous financial windfall for the state of Iowa because of the caucuses," said Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn. "But the true windfall for Iowa is in the prestige of hosting the caucuses." Indeed, from January through September of this year, Iowa expenditures totaled just $2.7 million - less than 5 percent of the $55.8 million spent nationwide by the campaigns of Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Thad McCotter, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Six states and the District of Columbia outpaced Iowa in campaign spending receipts, according to the Register's computer-assisted analysis. Read the whole story here: http://dmreg.co/so06bY

Timmy Talks: Thank you for the overwhelming support for our new feature! Here's Albrecht's insight today:

Rick Perry has purchased $1 million in advertising, which has led many pundits to say he's "all in." Nothing could be further from the truth. Where is he? "All in" in Iowa means mail, ads and visits. The first two he's got covered. Until he boards a bus and lives here, he's nothing but all in. Instead, he's absent. You can't sign up a caucus volunteer through the airwaves. It takes a personal appeal. Iowans look forward to meeting Rick Perry in person.

Another good way to gage the weather in the state is Tim's wardrobe, specifically what kind of sweater vest he is wearing:

Full-fledged sweater yesterday. Arms and all! Red Christmas. Full-fledged suit today. Big day.

More from The Register:

Sen. Chuck Grassley tells the Register that there will be several winners out of Iowa on Jan. 3:

"I think that you are going to have two or three winners out of Iowa. You will obviously have one on top, but I don't think there will be a wide difference between first, second and third place," Grassley told Iowa reporters on a telephone conference call.  Although former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has recently surged to the top in Iowa polls, the lawmaker said he sees the race as still fluid. Gingrich "can surely win," but it would be wrong for him to predict a Gingrich victory because surveys have shown about six in 10 likely caucus participants say they could still change their minds before the Jan. 3 Iowa Caucuses, Grassley said. "We have seen the rise and fall of Newt Gingrich several times. The reason he is able to do it I think is because he is just totally consistent and persistent," said Grassley, who has not endorsed a presidential candidate. http://dmreg.co/rJvpeJ

Here's what Cedar Rapids Residents are waking up to today: http://bit.ly/bxTudH

What's In The Gazette?

297 people have filed to run for president in this state. The paper has a great look at ones that we aren't paying attention to: http://bit.ly/uWa5rl

James Q. Lynch tells us why working hard as number two could mean number one for Ron Paul: http://bit.ly/ttI4KH

Air Wars:

Perry: From ABC's Arlette Saenz: In an attempt to court social conservative voters in Iowa, Rick Perry released a forceful ad Wednesday knocking President Obama for his "war on religion" along with criticizing the ability of gay men and women to serve openly in the military as religious liberties are curtailed at home.  "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school," Perry said in the ad which will air in Iowa. "As president, I'll end Obama's war on religion, and I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again."  The Perry campaign has recently decided to pour over $1 million into advertising in the Hawkeye state.  This ad marks Perry's second attempt this week to highlight his faith and attack President Obama for his social policies.  http://abcn.ws/u4AyAp

Romney: From ABC's Huma Khan, Jon Karl, and Michael Falcone: In a new ad aptly titled "Leader," Romney takes a shot at Gingrich's personal history, without once mentioning his opponent by name. Amid a backdrop of Romney with his family, the ad features a clip of the former Massachusetts governor from the Nov. 9 CNBC debate, talking about his "steadiness and constancy." "I've been married to the same woman for 25 - excuse me, I'll get in trouble - for 42 years," Romney says in the ad. "I've been in the same church my entire life. I worked at one company, Bain, for 25 years. And I left that to go off and help save the Olympic Games."The ad never mentions Gingrich, but it makes it clear that Romney is the candidate who has been happily married for 42 years, versus Gingrich, who has been married three times… "If I'm president of the United States, I will be true to my family."… And there's another swipe: "I've been in the same church my entire life."

Longtime Romney watcher and reporter John Berman has this line: "With all the subtlety of a sledgehammer."

ABC's Jake Tapper has some insight on the ad: A Gingrich adviser thinks Romney's new television ad, which focuses on images of Romney's family and his faith, is saying "my family is better than your family" - and the adviser says it will backfire. Voters care about leadership and the economy and as long as Newt is honest about his past failings they will accept and move on, the adviser says. (That said the issue could have resonance with the Iowa conservative base because it's not just a failed marriage or two, there are allegations of behavior that the would view as immoral.)

Chris Christie Comes to Town…and Gets Occupied:

From ABC's Emily Friedman: There was no lack of exuberance tonight in the Hawkeye State, where New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie came out swinging during a campaign stop on behalf of Mitt Romney, making veiled references about who might embarrass the country as president and referring to President Obama as a disappointment. "First and foremost, when we look at these candidates, say, 'Is this the kind of person that is always going to make me proud in the Oval Office and I'm never going to worry will embarrass America, that I never have to worry will do something that will make me ashamed?'" said Christie…"He just won't," said Christie of Romney. "Maybe we should expect that from all our leaders but we've learned over time we don't always get it," Christie added, seeming to reference former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose career has been marred by scandal. But Christie was perhaps most on his game when handling a group of raucous Occupy Iowa Caucus protestors, who butted in during his speech with chants of "Put people first! Put people first!" At first laughing, Christie then engaged, saying, "You're so angry aren't you, so terrible." http://abcn.ws/ud9eq0

RealClearPolitics' Scott Conroy notes Christie spent a lot of time talking about…Christie:

But Christie also spent a significant portion of his remarks extolling his own leadership style and vision for the country and seemed to relish stoking speculation about his national ambitions. "I don't try to pretend that I'm the smartest guy in the room because I'm not, and I don't try to pretend that I have the answer to every question, but here's what I know how to do," Christie said. "I know how to decide, and I know how to lead, and I know who I am, and I know what I want our country to be." Christie endorsed Romney in October after deciding against his own presidential run, but during his remarks here, the colorful New Jersey governor often sounded as if he were a candidate. "If the polls say something that I don't agree with, I'm not going to concede to it and change my position," Christie said. "I'm going to go out there and try to convince you that you're wrong. That's the kind of leadership I think we need in America now." Toward the end of his remarks, Christie switched to the third-person in referring to his penchant for attracting video-friendly confrontations during his own political events. "If there was a Chris Christie event without a YouTube appearance, we wouldn't know what to do," he said. On the possibility that he could end up as Romney's running mate, Christie repeated his well-worn refrain about how he would be an unlikely second fiddle to anyone but made a point to keep the idea alive. "I won't say absolutely not because in the end, I think it's impolite. . . . I think it's impolite to say no to something that hasn't been offered," Christie said. "I wouldn't bet on Romney/Christie. I wouldn't lay any money on that, but one never knows. We can live and hope."  http://bit.ly/vsMHFC

And Craig Robinson at The Iowa Republican notes that the crowd seemed much more excited about Christie than Romney: Chris Christie's support is both a blessing and a curse for Mitt Romney. Unless Sarah Palin decides to make an endorsement, no presidential surrogate can engineer the amount of excitement Christie does. Therein lies the problem for Romney. His campaign was able to attract 200 Iowans to a campaign rally in West Des Moines on Wednesday. Mitt Romney was not there, but no one seemed to mind. This crowd wanted to listen to the New Jersey Governor. Although the crowd was clearly pro-Romney, it was obvious many of them would be more excited about a Christie candidacy than Mitt Version 2.0. The question and answer session following Christie's speech told the story. Only one person asked about Mitt Romney. Three of the seven questions were specifically about Christie's political future. One lady asked if he would be Romney's running mate. Another attendee asked if he would run for president in future years. http://bit.ly/uGn4p8

ABC's Michael Falcone points out that Romney is quickly leaving the state after the debate on Saturday, scheduling an afternoon town hall in New Hampshire. The former Massachusetts governor will hold a town hall in Cedar Rapids on Friday.

Ground Wars:

Jennifer Jacobs from The Register has two new Texas mailers hitting mailboxes here: From Ron Paul and Rick Perry. Paul's is seven pages long:

The mailer for Perry, the governor of Texas, calls him "the son of tenant farmers from Paint Creek, Texas. As a young child his family had neither electricity nor running water. But they had strong faith," it says…"Why is Rick Perry unique? He is the only candidate who is not beholden to the Washington Establishment, who hasn't served in Congress or an administration, who hasn't been a paid lobbyist."…In a separate mailer, Paul, who is in the top tier in Iowa, spends seven pages explaining why he opposes abortion. "As a doctor who has delivered over 4,000 babies, I know firsthand how precious, fragile and in need of protection human life is. That's why I am now, and have always been, pro-life," he says. "Maybe you didn't know this about me, since you and I both know the left-wing media likes to focus on their version of political stories." http://dmreg.co/v6va8S

Talking about Paul…ABC's Jason Volack has a great take on "The Forgotten Candidate"  While portions of the national press corps have declared the GOP primary a two-man race between Newt Gingrich  and Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, the tenacious Texas Congressman on his third run for the White House, is quietly picking up speed…Paul has set his sights on Gingrich, releasing videos that criticize the former House Speaker for a career in politics and policy shifts. The two have not only sparred over the size of the federal government, but its scope. Paul unveiled an ad last week attacking Newt for being a serial hypocrite and for building his wealth through questionable lobbying efforts on behalf of the health care industry and mortgage giant Freddie Mac. 'He's been on a lot of different sides on all the issues,' Paul told ABC's Jon Karl today. 'He may be the opposite of what I've been doing for 30 years. My positions haven't changed all that much.'"  http://abcn.ws/v9V4kc

More Ground Game: Rick Santorum is the only GOP candidate waging a traditional campaign here: barnstorming the state while signing up and publicizing precinct captains, county captains, and today his campaign released the names of 16 members of his steering committee. They include high profile endorsees for the former senator including Chuck Laudner and Pastor Cary Gordon.

GMI got to get a glimpse into the mind of the young, undecided likely caucusgoer last night: At two different focus groups, Iowans between the ages of 22 and 29 split into different groups by party affiliation spoke frankly about their lives, politics and during the Republican group, who they are thinking of caucusing for next month. The focus groups were sponsored by Harvard University's Institute of Politics and the Culver Public Policy Center at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. Although it's hard to say that a focus group is representative of the average voter, it was a window into the mind of a young caucusgoer in the Hawkeye state. See what they said about the GOP candidates and President Obama. It was both interesting and surprising at times: http://abcn.ws/sAJOoE

Poll-Tastic: The CNN-Time Iowa poll also shows Gingrich on top:

Gingrich:33, Romney: 20, Paul: 17, Perry: 9, Bachmann: 7, Santorum: 5, Huntsman: 1 Full Results: http://ti.me/sDAgvw

Even More Gingrich: The Daily Caller's Alex Pappas has an interesting interview today with Bob Vander Plaats where the influential conservative says he thinks religious voters here could still support Gingrich despite his three marriages and history of marital infidelity:

 "The centerpiece of our faith is forgiveness," Vander Plaats, the leader of the Family Leader organization, said during a discussion at a diner here on Wednesday. Gingrich, he said, has "admitted that he's hurt people" and "wishes he could do things differently" and therefore Christian voters are open to him. "They're kind of thinking, maybe we should overlook some of this stuff with Newt because he might be the best to lead at this time," Vander Plaats said. "That's what I think you're seeing with his rise."

And as Michael Falcone and Amy Walter mentioned earlier this morning in The Note, Sarah Palin told the Fox Business Network she won't endorse before the Iowa caucuses:

Not before Iowa. And Iowa's not the end of the road. It's the beginning of the road really," Palin said. "Newt Gingrich I believe has risen in the polls because he has been a bit more successful than Romney in reaching out to that base of constitutional conservatives who are part of the tea party movement. He hasn't been afraid of that movement." Her advice to Romney and the rest of the field: "Romney and others need to reach out and convince Tea Party Patriots and constitutional conservatives that he truly believes in smaller, smarter government." And her thoughts on Gingrich: "He can't portray himself as a Washington outsider when he has been an insider. However, some of the things he's done have been good things." Read the entire NOTE here: http://abcn.ws/vUw7zt

Who's Tweeting About Iowa?

@ JenniferJJacobs Where did campaign $$ go in IA? Redwave's @ ddkochel, Caudill Consulting, Windstar bus, Machine Shed, Central Lighting. http://dmreg.co/uAWLSY
@ fivethirtyeight Only 9% of likely Iowa caucusgoers say social issues are their top priority. http://bit.ly/txd09d
@ HotlineReid Rick Perry is spending $653k on Iowa radio and TV ads this week alone. Saturation-level in 3 major markets - http://bit.ly/sy8GeR

The Schedule:


1:00pm CT - Des Moines, IA - Employee town hall meeting at Principal Financial Group Auditorium (711 High Street, Des Moines, IA 2

4:00pm CT - Boone, IA: Will attend Boone town hall meeting at the Boone Public Library (702 Greene Street, Boone, IA)

6:30pm CT - Ames, IA: "Youth for Ron Paul" event at Iowa State University's Memorial Union Great Hall (2229 Lincoln Way, Ames, IA)


6:30pm CT - Dubuque, IA: House Party at the home of Ron & Becky Herrig (9253 Route 52 South, Dubuque, IA)


6:30am CT - Des Moines, IA: Iowa Farm Bureau pancake breakfast at the Polk County Convention Complex (501 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA)

10:00am CT - Indianola, IA: Speaking at Simpson College's McNeill Hall (505 W. Girard, Indianola, IA)

3:30pm CT - Mount Vernon, IA: Speaking at Cornell College's Thomas Commons (600 1st Street, Northwest, Mount Vernon, IA)

7:00pm CT - Cedar Rapids, IA: Five Seasons Republican Women's Christmas Party at the Cedar Rapids Country Club (550 27th Street Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, IA)

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