DES MOINES - On the last full day of campaigning before tomorrow's caucuses in Iowa, the Republican candidates have fanned out across the state making their final pitches to voters.
Recent polling indicates that Mitt Romney is the man to beat, and a confident and cautious former Massachusetts governor took the stage in Council Bluffs last night to cast the race, not as one between himself and his fellow GOP rivals, but one between him and President Obama.
"I've been looking at some video clips on YouTube of President Obama, then-candidate Obama going through Iowa, making promises," Romney said. "I think the gap between his promises and his performance is the largest I've seen, well, since the Kardashian wedding and the promise of until death do we part." http://abcn.ws/vf0lWY
Romney took no questions from the audience at the carefully produced event where campaign aides said the crowd numbered in the hundreds - many of them were forced into an overflow room.
"A lot of people are coming to see someone who they think is going to be the next president," Romney strategist Stuart Stevens said. "That's new."
But at Romney's events over the course of the past week, for every one die-hard Romney supporter there seemed to be at least one or two undecided Iowa caucus-goers. And on the campaign trail yesterday, The Note heard a lot of Iowans who are still considering Newt Gingrich.
The former House Speaker all but abandoned his promises of running a positive campaign (he really had no choice).
As ABC's Elicia Dover notes, when asked if he felt "swiftboated" by the Romney campaign and Romney's super PAC allies - referring to the attack ads launched by a Republican PAC against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 - Gingrich replied, "I feel Romney-boated."
"If I could have done anything different, I would have pulled the plug on Romney's PAC," Gingrich said. "I probably should have responded faster and more aggressive than that."
Note to Newt: As the country singer Tanya Tucker once crooned "it's a little too late to do the right thing now." http://abcn.ws/un8YMy
Among Iowans at least, the views of Gingrich are pretty well baked - and they aren't very positive. In this weekend's Des Moines Register poll, a whopping 23 percent of potential caucus-goers said that he was the candidate they "liked least", 32 percent said he was "the least dedicated to limiting the influence of government" and 36 percent thought he was the "least consistent" (12 points higher than Romney who was at 24 percent)
Meanwhile, his prospects in New Hampshire don't look particularly promising either. In the latest CNN-Time Magazine poll of the Granite State, 40 percent of New Hampshire GOP primary voters said that they would "not consider" voting for Gingrich on January 10.
SANTORUM-MENTUM: 'WE ARE ON THE MOVE'. A dispatch from ABC's Shushannah Walshe, on the trail with Rick Santorum: Leaving his second campaign event on New Year's Day, Rick Santorum responded to a dig thrown his way by the campaign's front-runner, Mitt Romney, who Sunday called him a "career politician." "It's just pretty funny," Santorum told ABC News as he left his event in Orange City. "I mean, I didn't spend my entire career, I worked as a lawyer, I worked in private sector working in a small technology company for three years and done other things in the private sector, been on corporate boards and managed those things. So Gov. Romney suggests that if you've served three terms in the House and two terms in the Senate because you won elections where he has not won elections that somehow or another you are a career politician." He said being in the front-runner's sights "suggests we are on the move." "We are resonating with the people of this state and I think we are going to resonate with the people of this country because I think we reflect the values of the people a lot better than the folks in the field, at least I hope that's the case," Santorum said.
@ shushwalshe : S/O to my amazing cameraman Derek who drove all the way to Rock Rapids in NW IA and back in one day. 8 hrs of driving.
Can Rick Santorum finish first in Iowa? ABC's Matthew Dowd and Jake Tapper analyze recent polls suggesting a new shakeup in race for Iowa on "Good Morning America" today. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/rJPL3B and ABC's Jonathan Karl takes us behind the Santorum surge. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/slBkiF
RON PAUL RETURNS TO IOWA. "After spending the weekend in Texas, Ron Paul returns to Iowa today, confident of a strong showing. Appearing on CNN's 'State of the Union' on Sunday, Paul said, 'I may come in first; I may come in second.' he said. 'I doubt if I'll come in third,'" ABC's Jason Volack reports. "Ron and his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will hit five cities in the eastern and northern part of Iowa today. Question now is if Paul can deliver. The Los Angeles Times writes that if he doesn't win Iowa, he's dismissed yet again by the press as a cult figure. If he does, the focus will be on how a win by Paul might both de-legitimize Iowa's first-in-the-nation status. And even if he does win, there are doubts that Paul can pull off victories outside of Iowa. Rick Perry said on Fox News Sunday, 'We are going to be able to go forward when some of these other candidates may do OK in Iowa, but when it comes to running a national campaign, they're going to falter.'"
BACHMANN WATCH. "Michele Bachmann announced this morning that she's launching her first television ad in Iowa today, just a day ahead of the caucuses and only on cable," ABC's Russell Goldman notes. "Her closing argument runs 30 seconds long and reminds caucus-goers she was 'born and raised in Iowa.' Bachmann continues to lag in the polls, and could likely finish in last place here. A dismal finish in her first home state, however, does not seem to be enough for the Minnesota Congresswoman to call off her campaign. On Wednesday she makes a beeline to South Carolina, where she plans what will likely be her last stand."
"THIS WEEK" REPLAY: Ron Paul admitted that his lack of oversight over controversial newsletters published under his name called into question his management style, but he said it was a "human flaw" and that the newsletters did not reflect his views on race relations. "I don't think anybody in the world has been perfect on management, everybody that's ever worked for them," Paul told ABC's Jake Tapper Sunday morning on "This Week. "So, yes…it's a flaw. But I think it's a human flaw… I admit that I'm an imperfect person and didn't monitor that as well." http://abcn.ws/uJc3jZ
Despite her last-place standing in the latest Iowa polls, GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is counting on a "miracle" Tuesday night at the Iowa caucuses. "This isn't just about polling," Bachmann told Tapper. "This is about what we're seeing in reality, and I think Tuesday night people are going to see a miracle." Despite trailing both Santorum and Perry, Bachmann said she believes she is "the strongest core conservative in this race" and that voters will move to her campaign in the final days. http://abcn.ws/u6Odon
Watch the full episode of "This Week," hosted by Tapper, with Paul, Bachmann, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and the "This Week" roundtable: http://abcn.ws/rqZ4ah
TODAY ON THE TRAIL:
-Romney will hold four rallies throughout the state of Iowa, starting in Davenport and eventually ending the day with a late-night rally in Clive, Iowa. Romney is holding his last event before Caucus day at a place called "Competitive Edge," a custom promotional goods manufacturer.
-Rick Perry completes his bus tour today with three events beginning with two meet and greets in Sioux City and Carroll along with a rally in - where else? - Perry, Iowa. Perry will be joined on the trail today by his family and a slew of surrogates including Steve Forbes, Gov. Jindal, Gov. Brownback, Marcus Luttrell, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, Congressman Sam Graves, Congressman Mick Mulvaney, Comptroller Susan Combs and Larry Gatlin (of the Gatlin Brothers).
-Gingrich begins his day in Independence, Iowa at Heartland Acres Agribition Center. He then makes a stop in Walford before campaigning in Davenport at his campaign office and Hotel Blackhawk. He also has a lot of media appearances, including sitting down with ABC's Jon Karl.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS' IOWA PREDICTIONS. George writes, "With that Des Moines Register poll showing a surge for Rick Santorum, Matt Dowd predicted an Iowa win for Santorum on GMA. As for me, I'll go with Mitt Romney - his team knows the ropes, and late breakers like to go with the man they believe will be the nominee. But in this crazy year, I wouldn't be surprised by either Santorum or Ron Paul." http://abcn.ws/uKTtp4
RICK PERRY COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. "Texas Governor Rick Perry views the road ahead post-Iowa as one working more in his favor than in Michele Bachmann's or Rick Santorum's, saying the two rivals, who are competing for the same conservative evangelical votes, have no national organization to be viable in other primary states," ABC's Arlette Saenz reports. "'I agree that Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann don't have a national organization in place nor the fundraising ability to go forward out of iowa, and so I'm the only one that actually has that ability,' Perry said during an interview on Fox News, also noting that regardless of the outcome in Tuesday's caucuses, he'll 'be going across the country, South Carolina, into Florida, into Nevada, with a national campaign.' Perry also continued his criticism of Santorum in an NBC News interview, slamming him for supporting earmarks and responding to Santorum's spoof of Perry's 'oops' moment on Sunday, insisting that you can eliminate federal agencies."
ROMNEY LABELS SANTORUM A 'CAREER POLITICIAN' Mitt Romney for the first time yesterday attempted to draw a clear contrast between himself and Rick Santorum, who has seen a recent surge in Iowa polling, suggesting that the former Pennsylvania senator fits the bill of a career politician who has less of an understanding of the economy than he does, ABC's Emily Friedman reports. "I can tell you that our backgrounds are quite different," said Romney, responding to a reporter's question about appealing to voters choosing between him and Santorum. "Like Speaker Gingrich, Senator Santorum has spent his career in government, in Washington - nothing wrong with that, but it is a very different background than I have. "I think the people of this country recognize that with our economy as the major issue we face right now that it would be helpful to have someone who understands the economy firsthand," Romney said. http://abcn.ws/vT7liB
IOWA AIR WARS. "They dribble in like ceiling leaks on a rainy day, a drop at a time, then faster and faster until by evening they bear down in a steady downpour: Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich. Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum," writes The New York Times' Alessandra Stanely. "In the last days and hours before the Iowa caucus, campaign ads are flooding local television, adding a riot of green fields, church spires and bustling factories to more prosaic spots for Activia, mattress clearance sales and New Year's tips from Dr. Patricia Tice, owner of Etiquette Iowa. (Customers should say 'thank you' to sales clerks as well as the customary 'have a nice day.') The campaign commercials are clustered around local newscasts and Sunday talk shows, but also pop up in the middle of "Dr. Phil," "Wheel of Fortune" and 'The Tonight Show.' The messages about family ties and unfettered free markets are all but impossible to ignore. More intensely now than ever before, political ads are driving the polls and shaping the dizzying race. Many are positive, many are negative, and some are so artfully opaque that they are more like brainteasers than political pitches." http://nyti.ms/w0wsn2
GOOD MORNING IOWA. Don't forget to check The Note blog every morning for the latest edition of "Good Morning Iowa" - a one-stop-shop tip-sheet covering everything you need to know from the Hawkeye State, reported by ABC's Shushannah Walshe.
DISPATCHES FROM THE TRAIL. Also, keep an eye on our new political website OTUSNews.com ( www.Otusnews.com) The Note ( http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/the-note/) and on ABC News/Politics ( http://abcnews.go.com/politics) for rapid-fire updates from the campaign trail between now and the Iowa Caucuses. Follow our reporters in the field on Twitter:
Michele Bachmann : ABC's Russell Goldman ( @GoldmanRussell )
Newt Gingrich : ABC's Elicia Dover ( @EliciaDover )
Jon Huntsman and New Hampshire: ABC's Susan Archer ( @TheOnlyArcher )
Ron Paul : ABC's Jason Volack ( @Jason_Volack )
Rick Perry : ABC's Arlette Saenz ( @ArletteSaenz )
Mitt Romney : ABC's Emily Friedman ( @EmilyABC )
Rick Santorum and Iowa: ABC's Shushannah Walshe ( @shushwalshe )
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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