16 Days Out: Good Morning Iowa

Good morning from Des Moines. We are 16 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.

Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum are all on the campaign trail again today. Perry is on Day Four of his bus tour and he will attend church this morning at two different churches in Clear Lake before having lunch in Charles City. He will hold a retail event in New Hampton this afternoon before a town hall in Decorah. Bachmann is on Day Three of her bus tour and after her marathon 13 stop day yesterday has seven stops today. She will attend church as well this morning in Fort Dodge and then will make stops in Webster City, Clarion, Garner, Forest City, and Manly. This evening she will hold a healthcare summit at the Prime N' Wine Restaurant in Mason City. Santorum will have brunch with supporters this morning in Council Bluffs before holding two town halls in Red Oak and Atlantic.

Weather:  It's 31 degrees here now, but the high today will be *wait for it* 52 degrees! It is just over two weeks away from the caucuses and it's going to be sunny and in the 50s today in Des Moines. Pinch me.

Let's get to the news…there's lots of it.

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

What's in the Register?

Romney:  The Register endorsed Mitt Romney last night ahead of today's paper:  Sobriety, wisdom and judgment. Those are qualities Mitt Romney said he looks for in a leader. Those are qualities Romney himself has demonstrated in his career in business, public service and government. Those qualities help the former Massachusetts governor stand out as the most qualified Republican candidate competing in the Iowa caucuses…He stands out especially among candidates now in the top tier: Newt Gingrich is an undisciplined partisan who would alienate, not unite, if he reverts to mean-spirited attacks on display as House speaker. Ron Paul's libertarian ideology would lead to economic chaos and isolationism, neither of which this nation can afford.  http://dmreg.co/tBePPC

GMI looks at the endorsement and how influential it may or may not be:  http://abcn.ws/s4Zwtu  Keep reading for more GOP reaction to the endorsement.

More Romney: Also, in today's Register (Big DMR day for Romney) Bob Dole put out an ad announcing his support for the former Massachusetts governor. In an "Open Letter to Iowans" the former Republican presidential nominee writes that Romney is his pick:  "As president, Mitt Romney will succeed in turning this country around. He rescued a flailing Winter Olympics when it was mired in financial scandal. He was an exceptional governor of Massachusetts, who managed to both balance the state's budget and cut taxes while dealing with an overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature," the ad reads. "I've run for president myself and twice I had the deep honor of finishing first in the Iowa caucuses. I have many friends in the state. Some of them even call me the president of Iowa. When I say that Mitt Romney is the kind of man that Iowans should support, I know whereof I speak." It ends with, "And one last point: When it comes to agricultural policy, you can trust Mitt-I do.  http://dmreg.co/t5wsOz

And even more Romney: A story in the Register by Tony Leys (@tonyleys) points out Dole and Romney's back and forth last cycle when he endorsed John McCain:  Four years ago, Dole wrote a letter defending Sen. John McCain to radio host Rush Limbaugh. Romney, who was McCain's chief rival for the 2008 nomination, dismissed the value of Dole's move. When Fox News asked him about the issue, Romney replied that Dole was "probably the last person I would have wanted to write a letter for me. I think there are a lot of folks that tend to think that maybe John McCain's race is a bit like Bob Dole's race; that it's the guy who's the next in line, he's the inevitable choice, we'll give it to him - and that it won't work."  http://dmreg.co/s6DWpu

Gingrich: Jennifer Jacobs  (@JenniferJJacobs)  has the front page story today and she looks at the ten factors that could determine Newt Gingrich's fate: Private polling shared with the Register shows Gingrich's negatives are climbing in Iowa, tightening the race between Gingrich and chief rival Mitt Romney. But a Real Clear Politics rolling average of polling shows Gingrich remains the front-runner here, up by 4 points. Gingrich has vowed not to go on the attack - a politically risky strategy. On Saturday, he held a tele-town hall with Iowa voters to respond to recent criticism, and mentioned doing "Ask Newt" conference calls every few days to allow voters to ask him directly about what they're hearing. Read all 10 factors here:  http://bit.ly/s0wS1q

Paul:  Kathie Obradovich's column  (@KObradovich)  looks at what a Ron Paul win could mean for the Iowa caucuses: I've heard…worries from GOP leaders in Iowa, who fear that Paul's "crazy train" will haul the caucuses out to the political fringes and derail, forever stranding Iowa's coveted status. Paul is a threat to traditional Republicans, whom he blames along with Democrats for bloating the federal government's power and cost. In many ways, however, Paul's success in Iowa reaffirms what the caucuses are supposed to be all about. Paul, like Mitt Romney, ran in Iowa four years ago and he learned some very different lessons than did the former Massachusetts governor. Paul, who finished fifth in the caucuses in 2008, never entirely disbanded his operation. Campaign for Liberty continued to organize, especially on college campuses. Several Paul supporters worked their way onto the Iowa GOP state central committee. Iowa Republicans liked to say that Paul's support was a mile deep but an inch wide. They gave him credit for inspiring loyalty and enthusiasm, but discounted his ability to expand his appeal within the GOP base.  http://dmreg.co/sdxs8P

Santorum and Bachmann to Wed Campaigns? Jacobs reports that an evangelical pastor, Rev. Albert Calaway has put his weight behind Santorum, but wants to see Bachmann as his number two: An influential retired Iowa pastor is asking Michele Bachmann to fold her presidential campaign into Rick Santorum's before the Jan. 3 caucuses - and offered Iowans a scathing critique of the rest of the GOP field. The Rev. Albert Calaway, a retired Assemblies of God minister who lives in Indianola, today endorsed Santorum - but said he'd like to see Bachmann as the vice presidential nominee."There's absolutely, positively no divine power vested in me for this, but if I had it, I'd personally love to pronounce Rick and Michele as lawfully wedded running mates," Calaway told The Des Moines Register in a written statement.  He also gives his assessment of all the candidates in the field including Gingrich, whom he calls "the Don Draper this election cycle." More here:  http://dmreg.co/tcW4hC

Santorum and Bachmann's Dueling Bus Tours: Jason Clayworth (@JasonClayworth) and Jason Noble  (@jasonnoble1)  examine the two presidential bus tours and how the two candidates were campaigning in the same towns, even staying at the same hotel:  ALGONA, IA. - This town on Saturday was a micro example of the macro-level fight lower-tiered Republican presidential candidates have launched to win the hearts of Iowans in the final days before the Jan. 3 caucuses. The scene: dueling presidential events as Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry took the stage at different locations in this town at virtually the same time. (Bachmann's started about 15 minutes earlier.) Both are on massive Iowa tours they launched separately last week. It's an attempt to pepper the state with so-called "retail politics" as a way to relaunch campaigns that once were among the leaders in state and national polls but have since fizzled into the single digits…There was additional "dueling" irony earlier in the day. The somewhat parallel plans of both candidates left them both to spend the night at AmericInn in Spencer. Bachmann's tour bus left about an hour before Perry's.  http://dmreg.co/sKho1F

More Dueling Bus Tour:  ABC's Russell Goldman   (@RussellGoldman)and Arlette Saenz   (@ArletteSaenz)  also take a look at the uniquely Iowan event (although Main Street run-ins do happen in the Granite State as well):  Fighting county by county, handshake by handshake, GOP contenders Rep. Michele Bachmann and Gov. Rick Perry twice crossed paths today in the northwest corner of Iowa, each hoping that time spent on the ground here will equal votes come the first in the nation caucuses on Jan 3. Both candidates are lagging in the polls despite the socially conservative bona fides that Republican Iowa caucus-goers traditionally look for. Iowa voters routinely say they make their decision only after shaking a candidate's hand, and each is hoping that old-school retail politics, gruelingly practiced on days-long bus tours will be the key to their success. Perry and Bachmann both spent Friday night in Spencer, Iowa, even staying at the same hotel. Their giant tour buses, wrapped with campaign logos, were parked just feet apart. At events today in Spencer and Algona, held sometimes moments apart and just a few miles away from each other, voters had to choose between which candidate to meet:  http://abcn.ws/uTzuBx

What Else Is in the Register?

More Bachmann: Noble, on Bachmann's bus tour, was even able to see the Minnesota congressman sign a supporter's head. Yes, you read that right:  Michele Bachmann didn't draw much of a crowd during her stop at a Pizza Ranch here on Saturday afternoon, but that just gave her time to get chummy with the few who did show up. And she sure did. First she struck up a conversation with Gene JuVette - and then she signed his bald head. With a crowd of about 10 and her entourage looking on, Bachmann first signed her autograph across JuVette's cranium. And then she signed JuVette's name. And then - just so no one would forget - she added Jan. 3, 2012, the date of the Iowa caucuses. "The headline tomorrow will be 'Bachmann is ahead in Iowa!' " she quipped.  http://dmreg.co/uiKyBH   (Keep reading for a pic!)

Obama:  Occupy Des Moines protesters have taken up an occupation outside of President Obama's Des Moines campaign office and they are planning on staying:  The demonstrators teamed up with Veterans for Peace and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement for a pair of demonstrations on Saturday morning and afternoon. Demonstrators decided to establish an occupation after arriving at the office at 621 E. 2nd St. to find the doors locked and the office closed, said Frank Cordaro, with the Catholic Worker. "It started this morning when we came to air our grievances to the president and he locked us out," Cordaro said. "We decided this is no time to give up this space."… By 2:30 Saturday afternoon, demonstrators had set up two tents and hung a sign on the office door, reading "Obama's former headquarters." "People are committed to staying 24/7, now we have to figure out how we can sustain it, support them and prepare for a course of reaction of the authorities if they should come and arrest us," Cordaro said.  http://dmreg.co/w4Y602

Perry: Clayworth, on Perry's bus tour, notes the Texas governor's campaign talk isn't always about politics…or even caucusing for him:  Gov. Rick Perry today made a stop that wasn't on his official schedule to grab coffee and where he had a riveting conversation about wild boars, his time in the military and Texas drought. The stop was at Sisters Mainstreet Café.  About 40 customers were in the restaurant. Perry pulled up a chair to a table with 10 retirement-aged residents.  He spoke with them for about 15 minutes. Wild boars have become problematic in urban areas, he said to the group at one point in the conversation. Politics did not come up and he left without asking them to caucus for him. "He's just like someone who would come in here every morning and have coffee with us," said resident Monte Johnson.  http://dmreg.co/trFgU6

More Perry: Clayworth also reports that Perry has his eyes set on a former rival for a cabinet secretary position: Herman Cain is the type of person Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he'd consider for his cabinet if elected president, he told a crowd here today. "He has all the characteristics of the type of person I would bring forward," Perry said in response to a question from the crowd at La Chiesa restaurant in Spencer.  http://dmreg.co/t2OFeo

And Even More Perry:  Clayworth also reports that Perry had some strong words for the Freddie Mac and Fannie May executives that are facing SEC charges:  Rick Perry today made a rather unusual statement that resulted in questions about whether he was advocating for the death penalty for six executives of a quasi-government mortgage company alleged to have taken financial missteps."I'm telling you, don't just put them in jail, I'm saying throw them under the jailhouse," Perry said to a crowd in Algona, which applauded. Freddie Mac is a federal home loan corporation and a government-sponsored group that along with Fannie Mae will cost taxpayers an estimated $154 billion in government bailouts. On Friday the Securities and Exchange Commission announced it had brought civil actions against six former top executives of both groups, saying they had failed to disclose their firms' exposure to risky financial moves. Perry, when asked about his statements during a Clear Lake stop told a reporter that he was asking a silly question. "I think you're asking a little bit of a silly question," Perry said.  http://dmreg.co/vphPqX

Santorum: William Petroski (@WilliamPetroski) reports that the Santorum campaign's most beloved and aggressive volunteer passed away last week:  Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum's Iowa campaign is mourning the sudden death  of its hardest-working volunteer, Wendy Jensen of Ames. Jensen, 55, who had been an active member of the Story County Republican Party, had made thousands of calls to Iowans, imploring them to support Santorum's presidential candidacy in the Jan. 3 Iowa Caucuses. "Our campaign is in grief," said Jamie Johnson of Stratford, a top aide to the Santorum campaign in Iowa, on Saturday. Jensen was found dead at her apartment in Ames on Thursday, apparently of natural causes, said Cody Brown, Santorum's state campaign director. She had attended a Christmas party on Wednesday night at Santorum's Iowa headquarters in Urbandale and was tickled when the candidate thanked her for her hard work, gave her a hug and autographed a coffee mug for her.   http://dmreg.co/t6y18P  More on Jensen from Kevin Hall with TheIowaRepublican:  http://bit.ly/taWH0h

Romney:  Craig Robinson   (@IowaGOPer)  at TheIowaRepublican.com  has an interesting take on The Register's Romney endorsement. He makes two important points: how Republican caucus-goers will react to the endorsement and the paper's tendency to reward endorsements to candidates that don't aggressively campaign here: Iowa Republicans have long realized that the Des Moines Register's editorial board is basically at war with everything in which they believe…We are thankful when they don't endorse our candidate of choice because we don't want to have to defend it to our friends and colleagues. Even though their open hostility to the values and philosophies that most Republicans hold is unfortunate, what's even worse is that the Register has now made it a tradition to endorse candidates who are openly hostile to Iowa's First-in-the-Nation status. For two cycles in a row now, the Register has endorsed a candidate who has, in large part, blown off Iowa.  The Register endorsed John McCain in 2008.  To his credit, McCain tried to campaign in Iowa, but failed.  He regrouped in New Hampshire, and in the final weeks before the caucuses, he resumed campaigning in Iowa.  That's not the case for Romney.  Romney has only campaigned in the state for eleven days and only attended 21 events…The Register, and every other media outlet, do very little to defend Iowa's First-in-the-Nation caucus status.  I would never expect a media outlet to base its endorsement on a candidate's attitude towards the nomination process, but it should be a factor.  Without the presidential caucuses, the Des Moines Register is no different than the Asbury Park Press.  The rest of the world doesn't care what the Asbury Park Press writes about, who they happen to endorse, or what their latest New Jersey poll says. The only reason that the Des Moines Register has any prominence is because of the caucuses.  Yet, by their own actions, they seem uninterested in preserving Iowa's status, and by extension, their own importance.  If they feel that Romney is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field, by all means endorse him.  However, it also wouldn't hurt to chide him for not allowing Iowans the opportunity to vet him.  http://bit.ly/ucwv7N

Robinson tells GMI that his sweater vest threat level is a Carhartt jacket. GMI thinks this may change when he reads this and sees that it will be in the 50s today. 

This is the front page Sioux City residents are waking up to today:  http://bit.ly/uzh4ft

What's in the Sioux City Journal?

Jon Erickson looks at how the collide of Christmas with the caucuses could affect campaigning:  Around Christmastime, candidates find audiences can be more difficult to track down, with families traveling for the holidays. College students are on winter break and have largely scattered. Then there's the problem of how to continue to get the message out without offending the sensibilities of Iowans focused on family and religious activities. Friendly, family-focused ads are often aired near the holidays and, therefore, near the caucus date in this early cycle. Justin Holmes, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa, said the early caucus date changes the schedule. "It throws a monkey wrench in campaigning," Holmes said. "We see really a blackout around Christmas. Essentially we see the race fairly well settled by the time we break for Christmas." The presidential candidates appreciate the chance to spend time with family, a scarcity during the election season. But they are also working full bore to reach voters, looking for that final boost.  http://bit.ly/t42oYm

Perry:  ABC's Arlette Saenz   (@Arlette Saenz) has an incredible observation from her time on the Texas governor's bus tour:  Move over baby kissing. Looks like there's a new form of retail politics this election season: beard tugging. Baby kissing is one of the rituals candidates engage in during campaigns, but for Rick Perry, schmoozing with children alone doesn't cut it. At two campaign stops in Iowa during day three of his statewide bus tour, the Texas governor demonstrated a new practice in retail politics - beard tugging. At Sisters Mainstreet Café in Spencer this morning, Perry made the rounds glad-handing with the coffee shop patrons and stopped when he set his eyes on one voter with a long white beard. "We got you a lot going on there," Perry said as he tugged at the man's beard. "You've got a good full one." Shortly after, at his second event at La Chiesa in Spencer, Perry approached another voter who bore a full white beard. "I like your beard," Perry said as he greeted one voter and expressed a touch of jealousy that he can't grow one of his own. "I'd grow one but I've got too many - I'd look like an old mangy dog." Read this:   http://abcn.ws/u6JEKd

More Perry:  Saenz also reports that Perry's famous cowboy boots got a campaign trail treat named after them: Rick Perry's cowboy boots, which make an appearance on the campaign trail every now and then, have kicked their way into the coffee world. One coffee shop has created a coffee blend named after those famous Texas boots bearing the words "Freedom" and "Liberty." The Cabin Coffee Company here in Clear Lake developed the "Freedom & Liberty Blend," made of 100 percent Arabica Beans and described as being "Rich & smooth, medium bodied, sparkling acidity, with Smokey undertones."  http://abcn.ws/uT77QW

And Even More Perry:  Saenz also reports with an eye on the top spot in the caucuses, Perry has stepped up the attacks on both Gingrich and Paul:  The Texas governor opened a new line of attack on the two, linking Gingrich and Paul for their support of earmark spending in Congress. "Earmarks is a, it's a plague. It's a plague on Congress," Perry said speaking at La Chiesa restaurant in Iowa. "Newt was the originator of earmarks back in the 90-s. I mean, if there was a granddaddy of earmarks, he would be it, and I mean, Dr. Paul, he's still birthing earmarks as we speak." Perry has sparingly criticized Paul, a fellow Texan politician, but the Texas governor picked up the attacks this week, first condemning his comments on Iran at a coffee shop Friday and then laying into his penchant for earmarks at Saturday's event in Spencer. "The Republicans stood up and said, "you know what, we're going to do away with earmarks,' but there were four Republicans that didn't follow that, and Dr. Paul was one of them," Perry continued.   http://abcn.ws/siCz3J

Gingrich:  ABC's Elicia Dover reports on Gingrich's tele-townhall with Iowa voters yesterday and how he used it to fight back against campaign criticism and attacks:  "I saw an article that said there's been so many negative mailings, so many different hit pieces and so many negative ads that we just decided that we would [hold the calls] from now to the caucus on a regular basis," Gingrich said. Gingrich said they will give Iowans a chance to ask questions about any negative ad they might receive. "I feel badly about having to have this kind of a phone call just to dispel negative things, as all of you know, I've tried very hard to campaign on a positive basis," Gingrich said. "I'm going to continue my campaign on a positive basis but I'm regularly going to do these kinds of calls so people can ask any question they want to." Gingrich went on to refute what he called attacks on his conservative record… Gingrich attempted to explain the reported $1.6 million he received from Freddie Mac for what Gingrich claims was a consulting job for the failed home mortgage corporation. "I just want to set the record straight. We had a company, the company had three different offices, we were paid annually for six years, so the numbers you see are for six years of work, most of the money went to pay for the overhead for staff, for other things that didn't go directly to me, it went to the company which provided consulting advice," Gingrich said. Read more here:  http://abcn.ws/siCz3J

The Boston Globe's Tracy Jan   (@GlobeTracyJan)  has a fascinating look at the evangelical vote in this state through the eyes of one family: Inside the Carson family home, a white farmhouse surrounded by corn and soy bean fields and accessible only by gravel road, adherence to the teachings of the Lord Jesus is paramount. The four children are home-schooled, to guard against a sinful outside world. Tim Carson, a 54-year-old welder and former atheist who said he found God at age 17, taught each of his children to read by age 5 from the Gospel of John. While their lives center around family and religion, the Carsons worry about what they see as a nation undone by financial and moral bankruptcy. That concern will drive the Carsons - and a disproportionate number of Christian evangelicals - to Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses Jan. 3 to help choose the Republican nominee for president. But unlike in 2008 when many evangelicals and home-schooling families backed Baptist minister and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, propelling him to a win over favorite Mitt Romney, there is no consensus this time among this faith community - except perhaps to support anyone but the former Massachusetts governor.  http://bo.st/uw808o

Obama: The Los Angeles Times' Mark Z. Barabak  (@markzbarabak)looks at how the Obama campaign still has their eye on the Hawkeye State: The  GOP candidates have held more than 700 campaign events in the state, according to  the Des Moines Register, compared with six visits by Obama, who is running unopposed for his party's nomination and thus sees little reason to come before the Jan. 3 caucuses. Yet Obama is hardly ignoring Iowa. The state, which traditionally casts the first votes of the presidential campaign, will probably be one of a handful of Midwestern battlegrounds that both sides target next fall. "It starts here," Iowa  Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said of the 2012 race, and "it will also finish here." A victory in the precinct caucuses four years ago launched Obama on his path to the  White House, and his campaign operation, which powered him to a big Iowa victory in the general election, never really shut down. The president's extensive volunteer network has been kept intact and the first paid staff members arrived here in early spring 2009.  http://lat.ms/rQb1NU

Who's Tweeting About Iowa?

@ jmartpolitico With help from Iowa smarties, a memo on what Newt COULD be doing to win the caucuses >  politico.com/news/stories/1…

@ Jason Noble 13 counties. 13 hours. Spencer to Jefferson. Over & out. Good night and good luck. Back at it tomorrow.  # iacaucus   # 99counties   # FullGrassley

@ Erin McPikMichele Bachmann signing a man's head. She says headline is: "Bachmann is a head."  # iacaucus   # GOP12   yfrog.com/kep81kuj

Iowa Fact of The Day:

State capitol: The golden dome of Iowa's state capitol is 23 karats - and has the combined weight of 100 troy ounces.   It is 275 feet above the ground floor and is 80 feet in diameter. There are 29 different types of marble in the state capitol and in each chandelier in the Iowa House there are 5,600 crystals.

The Schedule:


8:00 a.m. CT - Clear Lake, IA: Will attend church service at Clear Lake Evangelical Free Church (1310 US Highway 18 West, Clear Lake, IA)

10:30 a.m. CT - Charles City, IA: Will attend church service at First Wesleyan Church (913 South Main Street, Charles Lake, IA)

12:15 p.m. CT - Charles City, IA: Lunch at Dave's Restaurant (809 South Grand Avenue, Charles City, IA)

2:45 p.m. CT - New Hampton, IA: Meet and greet at Chickasaw Event Center - large meeting room (301 North Water Avenue, New Hampton, I

5:00 p.m. CT -Decorah, IA: Town hall at Winneshiek Hotel's Steyer Opera House (104 East Water Street, Decorah, IA)


10:45 a.m. CT - Fort Dodge, IA: Will attend service at Harvest Baptist Church (614 Second Avenue South, Fort Dodge, IA)

1:00 p.m. CT - Webster City, IA: Meet and greet at Grid Iron Grill & Sports Lounge (1121 East 2 nd Street, Webster City, IA)

2:15 p.m. CT - Clarion, IA: Tour stop at Pizza Ranch (102 South Main Street, Clarion, IA)

3:10 p.m. CT - Garner, IA: Tour stop at Pizza Ranch (405 State Street, Garner, IA)

4:00 p.m. CT - Forest City, IA: Meet and greet at Shooterz Sports Bar and Grill (1126 Highway 69 North, Forest City, IA)

5:00 p.m. CT - Manly, IA: Meet and greet at the Thirsty Dog Lounge (3594 Orchid Avenue, Manly, IA)

6:00 p.m. CT - Mason City, IA: Healthcare Summit at Prime N' Wine Restaurant (3000 Fourth Street SW, Mason City, IA)


11:00 a.m. CT - Council Bluffs, IA: Brunch with supporters at the Treynor State Bank - HyVee Instore (1745 Madison Avenue - Suite 10023, Council Bluffs, IA)

2:30 p.m. CT - "Faith, Family and Freedom" town hall at Pizza Ranch (1511 North Broadway Street, Red Oak, IA)

5:30 p.m. CT - "Faith Family and Freedom" town hall at Farmers Kitchen Restaurant (319 Walnut Street, Atlantic, IA)