Good Morning Iowa: 30 Days Away From the Caucuses

Dec 4, 2011 10:45am

Good Morning from Des Moines.

We are exactly 30 days out from the caucuses.

Rick Santorum is the only candidate in the state and Herman Cain is out of the race, but the big news is the latest Des Moines Register Iowa Poll released just last night.

Here are the numbers:

GINGRICH: 25

PAUL: 18

ROMNEY: 16

UNDECIDED: 11

BACHMANN: 8

CAIN: 8

SANTORUM: 6

PERRY: 6

The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll coverage:

In a race that’s still far from settled, previous candidate surges have had a half life.

But Gingrich’s comes at a critical time – with just a month until the first votes are cast in the nation’s GOP nominating contest.

The key question is whether his support represents momentum or a peak. Politics watchers say it could be difficult for Gingrich to withstand the rigors of front-runner status, especially when his campaign has shown a lack of discipline so far, plagued by early debt, staff turnover and a paper-thin organization.

One striking finding: The results show Gingrich’s ascendancy has the potential to grow, pollster J. Ann Selzer said.

More respondents choose Gingrich as their second choice than any other candidate. Together, 43 percent of likely caucusgoers pick him as first or second.

The Register’s Political Columnist Kathie Obradovichhas a great “mythbusters” edition of the poll results and sorts out the fact vs. fiction.

Including this insight: Myth – Social conservatives dominate: On social issues like abortion and gay marriage, 46 percent of likely caucusgoers say they are very conservative, and 18 percent say they are mostly conservative. The favored candidates for this group are, in order: Gingrich, Paul and Romney. Michele Bachmann, who is at 8 percent in the poll, is considered the most socially conservative by 27 percent of caucusgoers, a plurality. http://dmreg.co/tl6Y0a

ABC News’ Iowa Poll coverage:

Caucus campaign veteran and current spokesman for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Tim Albrecht calls the results an “accurate snapshot” of what’s going on here on the ground, but Albrecht says now it’s Gingrich’s turn to play the expectations game.

“The poll places Newt Gingrich in a must-win position with regard to the Iowa caucuses,” said Albrecht, who is currently unaligned but last cycle served as Romney’s communications director in the state. “The question is if he can build the ground game necessary to be successful. Time will tell.”

“The first thing that jumped out at me is that two-thirds (of those polled) say they are still persuadable voters, which tells me it’s going to be a wild ride for the next four weeks,” says Matt Strawn, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party. “It still doesn’t seem that Iowa caucus voters are locked in.”

Strawn pointed out this could also mean the candidates are having a hard time cementing those all-important precinct captains for caucus night because of the high number of undecided voters.

In Other Iowa News:

Romney: He scored an influential endorsement last night winning the backing of the Sioux City Journal. They also endorsed him in the last cycle and it’s a region Romney did well in last cycle. If he wants to win here in a month, he needs to do well there again.

The paper called him the “best prepared through experience, skills and qualities to lead the country” and it lavishes high praise on the candidate, even comparing him to Ronald Reagan.

“If it’s a ‘family values’ candidate you want, Romney is a good and decent man of integrity who lives the values he espouses,” the Sioux City Journal writes. “By virtue of his bid for president in both 2008 and 2012, no candidate in this year’s Republican field has been vetted like Romney. If no skeleton has been discovered in his closet to this point, it’s likely there isn’t one.”

The editorial also knocks Gingrich and his other opponents, although not by name.

“Do not discount the importance of personal traits in a candidate for president. As we said in our 2007 endorsement of Romney, if a presidential candidate is a polarizing figure within the halls of Congress and devoid of the personal characteristics necessary to inspire Americans to listen and follow, his or her plans have little to no chance of success, regardless of how detailed and well-conceived they might be, “the editorial reads. “Like the popular Ronald Reagan, Romney combines a pragmatic conservatism with confidence (not arrogance) and an easy, comfortable style and manner, even charm.”

Cain: The Cain Trail derailed yesterday so how will that affect the caucuses? The DMR’s Iowa poll showed his support plummeting from 23 percent in October to 8 percent. Where will his supporters go?

Craig Robinson, former political director of the Iowa GOP who now runs the politics website The Iowa Republican.com told ABC News that the end of Cain’s campaign could help both Santorum and Bachmann in the state.

“Clearing that distraction out of the race might be good for Santorum, that goes for Bachmann, too,” Robinson said. “That’s the one thing they have to be banking on and that is their support is greater than what they are seeing in these polls.”

Although Cain is out, the poll shows how dramatically he dropped in the eyes of voters here and how the sexual harassment allegations as well as foreign policy gaffes hurt him. In the October poll he was on top with 23 percent support, but in this poll he received only 8 percent. His most recent scandal, allegations of a 13-year affair with a Georgia businesswoman, broke on day two of polling. The Register reports that over four days of polling Cain went from 12 percent to 4 percent support.

Robinson said Cain supporters in Iowa will go to “multiple” candidates instead of just one and it may not help Gingrich.

“A lot of his (Cain) supporters are super passionate about illegal immigration. They are not going to Gingrich,” Robinson said, referring to Gingrich’s comments at a CNN debate last month where he said he opposed the deportation of all illegal immigrants. “I don’t think they will all go to one place.”

The DMR has a great tick tock of every Cain campaign moment, including all the troubles. Take a look

Also in The Register:

Christine O’Donnell: The meeting here between the “I am you” candidate and tea partiers did happen yesterday, but as the Register reports it wasn’t exactly packed:

The purpose, she said in an interview before the meeting began, was to gauge the presidential candidate preferences of Iowa tea party groups before she formally endorses a candidate.

“I will be endorsing somebody before the Iowa caucus, and as my top three tend to rotate, I wanted to get the input of my supporters,” she said. O’Donnell’s father and an aide, Matt Moran, required attendees to sign a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement before entering the meeting space.

Twelve people attended, including the two traveling with O’Donnell. The room was set up to accommodate 40.

The meeting stretched on for more than three hours, with O’Donnell speaking for about an hour and then listening to attendees’ perspectives and candidate preferences.

Back to Cain: There were some real tears at Cain’s Iowa headquarters yesterday. ABC News went to their Urbandale HQ to watch his announcement along with the staff:

In a small office in Herman Cain’s headquarters here, three volunteers and Cain’s communications director, Lisa Lockwood, crowded around a staffer’s laptop to watch their boss’ announcement.

Lockwood said she was “surprised” and “disappointed” that Cain decided to suspend his campaign.

“I think he’s an awesome man and I think he would have been an awesome president. I still hold out hope that one day he will. I think he will continue to be a strong voice for the people and take a positive difference for our country,” Lockwood said.

She had no warning, watching to find out his decision along with six members of the press.

When asked if the former pizza executive’s decision to suspend his campaign made her second-guess whether the allegations of sexual harassment and an extramarital affair were true she said the former candidate had “been nothing but professional and wonderful to work with from my perspective,” but she didn’t say no.

“I’m not judge or jury. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s true or not. I’m not going to speculate, I believe in him,” Lockwood said. “I trust him.”

So unexpected was the decision at Cain’s headquarters that staff members were even moving around furniture earlier today to make room for staff from the national operation that was expected to come help in the lead-up to the caucuses.

There were no tears among staff, but volunteer Patti Spencer Burdette, who has been supporting him since January and was driving around the state Friday delivering signs, was overcome with emotion.

“I’m not a happy camper. But out of every pile of ashes phoenixes rise again. And I’m going to be a very pesky phoenix and we’ll find out where to go on,” Burdette said, pledging to continue to work for Cain in his new venture. “We love him and he loves us. We’re a family. And there’s sadness in the family.”

She blamed the press for “taking a good man and his family down.”

Her son Thom Moore also became emotional and teary eyed, “I feel like I’ve lost my best friend.”

“I lost all control of any capacity that I had, and it’s taking in me – no, it’s taking everything in me not to fall apart,” Moore said. “I’m going to find out what Mr. Cain needs. I honestly came in to ask the question, ‘Are we done? Do I pack up my stuff and go?’ And nobody knows.

Gingrich: He’s now the frontrunner here, but he won’t sail to victory without a fight. An anonymous group here called Iowans for Christian Leaders in Government has put together a brutal anti-Gingrich web video. It edits together different interviews with Gingrich and news clips, all talking about his three marriages and extra marital affairs.

Watch here.

The Schedule: Rick Santorum is on “This Week” with Christiane Amanpour this morning and later he will be campaigning in the state.

3:00 p.m. ET – Sidney, Iowa: Will host a “Faith, Family, and Freedom” Town Hall focusing on job creation and economic growth. Sidney Senior Center (2820 Northridge Road, Sidney, Iowa)

6:30 p.m. ET – Council Bluffs, Iowa: Holds a “Faith, Family, and Freedom” rally at the Mid-America Center (1 Arena Way, Council Bluffs, Iowa)

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