17 Days Out: Good Morning Iowa

Good morning from Des Moines. We are 17 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.

Three of the candidates are campaigning in the state and both Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry are on their respective bus tours. Rick Santorum has four events today: three town halls in Onawa, Carroll, and Denison. This evening, he will be a the Harrison County, Iowa Republican Christmas Party in Logan. Michele Bachmann is on day two of her bus tour and she has thirteen, yes thirteen stops today. She begins at 9AM in Spencer and goes all the way through 9PM in Jefferson. In between she will stop in Spirit Lake (at Hey, Good Cookies! Espresso Café GREAT NAME), Estherville, Emmetsburg, Algona, Humboldt, Pocahontas, Rockwell City, Sac City, Ida Grove (Albrecht's home town), Denison, and Carroll. Each stop is separated by between 50 minutes to an hour so it will be a tight day for the Bachmann team and reporters covering her. Rick Perry is on day three of his bus tour and also has stops in Spencer and Algona. The Algona stops are at the same time, but different locations. Maybe a main street run in? Perry has another retail stop in Clear Lake before finishing up with an evening town hall in Mason City. This evening at 7pm CT the Des Moines Register will announce who they are endorsing ahead of tomorrow's paper. Keep a watch on twitter @shushwalshe at that time if you want to know the highly anticipated endorsement from the state's largest paper.

Weather: It's 27 degrees now in Des Moines, but it will be sunny today and will get up to the low 40s before going back to the 20s tonight.

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

What's In The Register?

Who do you think will get the Register's backing? You can tell them here: http://dmreg.co/uCwijF

In the last cycle they endorsed John McCain and Hillary Clinton, in 2004 they backed John Edwards to take on George W. Bush, and in 2000 they also endorsed John McCain and Bill Bradley on the Dem side.

Gingrich: Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) reports that there is a new web video attacking Newt Gingrich put up by the anonymous group Iowans for Christian Leaders in Government: This latest video has images of a fetus in the womb and a child singing about "the baby Lord Jesus." The text crossing the screen says Gingrich worked against a Republican National Committee proposal in 1998 to cut off party funding to candidates who supported partial-birth abortion. The video appeared shortly after Michele Bachmann hit Gingrich on his abortion record during Thursday night's debate, and two days after Mike Huckabee's abortion forum in Des Moines attracted 1,200 Iowans and four presidential candidates - Bachmann, Gingrich Rick Perry, Rick Santorum. The anonymous group this week posted a Christmas-themed video saying Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats would be hypocritical to endorse Gingrich, "the family leaver," and earlier did letters and fliers in Iowa. http://dmreg.co/vrbDjz '

Jason Clayworth (@JasonClayworth) takes another look at the Fox News debate in Sioux City and finds the  somewhat tame battle helped Bachmann and possibly Mitt Romney while Ron Paul is being taken more seriously  by his opponents and Newt Gingrich may have been wounded: http://dmreg.co/sJmMcn

Romney: Tony Leys (@tonyleys) reports from the Romney event in Sioux City where the former Massachusetts governor criticized China: Mitt Romney promised here this morning to get tough with China for ripping off American innovations and artificially keeping its prices low so U.S. industries can't compete with it. Romney said that in his first day as president, he would declare China a currency manipulator, which would allow him to invoke tariffs on its products. "I'll look at what they've done with regards to stealing technology, intellectual property, designs, patents and so forth, as well as where they've hacked into computers to steal technology, and we'll apply those tariffs where I believe they're necessary to make sure that they understand we're not going to allow them anymore to play on an uneven playing field," he said at a Missouri Valley Steel factory, which makes equipment for companies that fabricate metal parts. http://dmreg.co/rHfdAu

More Romney: ABC's Emily Friedman (@EmilyABC) reports from the plane out of Iowa with Romney  en route to the highly coveted Nikki Haley endorsement where he tried to explain some comments he made about health care entitlement programs at his Sioux City event: At a steel mill in Sioux City, Iowa, Friday morning, Romney was discussing publicly supported health insurance programs when he said, "You wonder what Medicaid is, those that are not in all this government stuff."You know, I have to admit, I didn't know all the differences between these things before I got into government," Romney said. "And then I got into it and understand that Medicaid is the health care program for the poor, by and large."…But  hours after the event, Romney tried to explain what he'd meant to reporters, saying that his comment was a self-deprecating attempt intended to poke fun. He said that while he may not have known the "intricacies" that made the programs different, he did understand their contrasting purposes: Medicare is a government health program for the elderly, while Medicaid is a health care program for the poor. Romney also highlighted his previous experience working for health care consulting firms. http://abcn.ws/sG6jqS

Dems Speak: Friedman also reports the DNC immediately went after Romney: The Democratic National Committee  pounced immediately, using Romney's remarks to try to suggest, again, that  he is out of touch with middle-class Americans. "One has to wonder how Mitt Romney thinks he can represent American workers, their families and seniors when his concern for the poor and the middle-class comes across like an afterthought," said DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a written statement. http://abcn.ws/sG6jqS

What Else is In the Register?

Bachmann: Jason Noble (@JasonNoble) is on the Bachmann bus tour and he has a dispatch from Primghar with details from her Sioux City, Le Mars and Orange City stops including what Marcus Bachmann sees as his role as in the White House: "I've decided my cause is not going to be Happy Meals," Marcus Bachmann said, in an oblique critique of Michelle Obama's initiative against obesity. "I've decided my cause is going to be what Michele and I have been a part of all our lives, and that is pro-marriage, pro-family and pro-life." Read all about the bus tour day one plus the enthusiastic crowds that greeted her: http://dmreg.co/u3siNH

More Bachmann: Noble was also at the last stop of the day when she got a tough question about a topic she is constantly talking about on the trail: same sex marriage. It was at a coffee shop in Storm Lake that Rick Perry visited earlier in the day:  Storm Laker Andy Wobbema challenged the Minnesota congresswoman on a September interview with Jay Leno on the "Tonight Show" in which she deflected questions about her position on same-sex marriage and answered. Wobbema, who's trying to decide between supporting Bachmann or Rick Santorum in the caucuses, wanted to know why she didn't explain her opposition to same-sex marriage more directly. Bachmann replied that she was caught off-guard Leno's question, and hadn't expected an extended discussion of her policy views. She then described her efforts opposing marriage for homosexuals, including pursuing a marriage definition amendment to the Minnesota state constitution. "It takes more than just three or four minutes to make the case, but I'm not afraid to," Bachmann said. "I have a very strong belief in this area and it's grounded in my faith." Afterward, Wobbema said he was less than impressed. "She should be ready to defend her positions on things like that," he said. Still he said he hadn't ruled out backing Bachmann at caucus time. Wobbema also said he was approached just as the event concluded by Bachmann's husband, Marcus Bachmann, who tried to persuade him against supporting Santorum. Mr. Bachmann said Santorum can't win, he said. http://dmreg.co/uv9m5j

Kevin Hall from TheIowaRepublican has more from the conversation between the voter and Marcus Bachmann: http://bit.ly/uLy2Qo

Even More Bachmann: ABC's Russell Goldman (@RussellGoldman) is also on the tour and notes Bachmann "repeatedly invoked" Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and at her press conference in Sioux City when she was asked about her testy exchange with Newt Gingrich at Thursday night's debate where for the second time in a debate he questioned the accuracy of her statements. Her response: "I am not a student of his.": GOP contender Michele Bachmann kicked off a whirlwind tour of Iowa today, pledging to visit all 99 of the state's counties in 10 days, in the hopes that an old-fashioned ground assault here will help her gain in the polls just 20 days before the first-in-the-nation caucuses. The bus tour comes on the heels of a Fox News Channel debate that aired last night in Sioux City, where the Minnesota congresswoman gave a strong performance, repeatedly attacking frontrunner Newt Gingrich for not being conservative enough. The message, that she is the "consistent conservative," unwavering on social issues, like abortion and gay marriage, was her primary message on the first day of a grueling tour. At each of her first three stops on Friday, Bachmann asked, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" echoing a question Ronald Reagan asked on the stump in 1980. http://abcn.ws/uczRmt

GMI stopped by two of Bachmann's tour stops and noted she was wearing cropped pants and her ankles were exposed on a frigid day in Northwest Iowa. It's a very different alert than the sweater vest threat level, but still shows a courageous approach to the Iowa winter.

Ground Wars:

Romney vs. Gingrich: Jacobs from The Register reports on two different anti- Gingrich mailers being sent to homes here: A super PAC that supports Mitt Romney pushed two mailers into Iowa today - both attacking rival presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. One mailer from "Restore Our Future, Inc." has a picture of President Barack Obama holding a newspaper with a "NEWT WINS IOWA" headline. "It's what he wants. But, is it really what we want?" it says. "It goes on to say that the "Obama machine" wants Gingrich to be the GOP caucus winner because "as a 30-year Washington insider, Newt has taken both sides on core Republican issues: abortion, global warming, cap and trade, Libya, illegal immigration, support for the UN, stem cell research." The political action committee is not affiliated with the Romney campaign, but it's following a similar path in bashing Gingrich, the current frontrunner in Iowa. The caucuses are Jan. 3…The second mailer says Gingrich and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi have "more in common than you think." It says Gingrich, a former U.S. House speaker from Georgia, sponsored 418 bills with Pelosi. "Newt is not the conservative he's claiming to be," it says. "When you attend the January 3rd caucus, ask yourself: Who is the consistent conservative who can defeat President Obama? It's not Newt Gingrich." See them here: http://dmreg.co/vhH06D

Santorum: The campaign sent out a release yesterday alerting the press to a piece of direct mail they are dropping on homes here in Iowa. The mailer focuses on the candidate's theme that he won't "surrender" on the social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Like his recent ad, it includes praise from Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and has a photo of his family.

Bachmann: The Minnesota congresswoman appeared on Sioux City radio before launching her bus tour and Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson (@okayhenderson) reports Bachmann took on Ron Paul calling his Iran stance a "disqualifier": Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann just appeared on KSCJ (Keep Sioux City Jumpin') Radio this morning.  She had a brief conversation with host Sam Clovis. Clovis was offering his critique of Paul's foreign policy views, as expressed last night during the debate, and Bachmann said Paul's views are a "total disqualifier" for the presidency.    Clovis: "I couldn't believe what I was hearing last night." Bachmann: "It was unbelievable…It's a total disqualifier as far as I'm concerned…This is so off-base and this isn't just one thing. This is all foreign policy. I could not disagree with Ron Paul more." http://bit.ly/tOFReZ

This is the front page Cedar Rapids residents are waking up to today:  http://bit.ly/uq7xli

What's in the Gazette?

James Q. Lynch notes that despite being so close to the caucuses, most Americans can't wait for this to be over: http://bit.ly/rDYQVv

Endorsement Watch:

The Gazette reports that  Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson has endorsed Paul: http://bit.ly/uJDoDI

Perry: ABC's Arlette Saenz (@ArletteSaenz) is on the Texas Governor's bus tour and was with him yesterday in both Cherokee and Storm Lake. Perry criticized both Paul on his Iran comments at Thursday night's debate and Gingrich for his past work with Freddie Mac. Perry also pointed out he's the only out of his GOP rivals that's "herded cattle.": Squeezed into the back corner of a packed coffee house here, Texas Gov. Rick Perry did not hold back on criticizing some of his Republican opponents, starting with Rep. Ron Paul for his comments on Iran in Thursday night's debate. "The idea that there is one individual that was on the stage last night who thinks what's going on in Iran and allowing Iran to have access to a nuclear device-to have a bomb is really not any of our business," Perry said. "Dr. Paul is just wrong on this issue. "You can't make nice with the mullahs. They hate us, they hate everything about America. They hate our lifestyle, they hate our faith. They dislike us to the point that they would use a nuclear device first to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and they consider Israel to be the little Satan, they consider us to be the big Satan." "This truly makes me nervous when I hear that type of rhetoric out of Dr. Paul. I greatly respect him," Perry continued. "We cannot have a president of the United States that basically is so hands-off to a country like Iran that they say, 'It's not our business, we're not going to get involved.' It is our business." In a media availability after his event, Perry was asked whether Newt Gingrich's work for Freddie Mac should disqualify him from the presidency after the SEC charged three Freddie Mac and three Fannie Mae executives with securities fraud. "I think it's a question that was brought up last night and very strongly so and the idea that somehow or another 'I'm a consultant, I wasn't a lobbyist.' For most of us, that is a very weak excuse at best," Perry said.  http://abcn.ws/uEJZFb

More Perry: Saenz also reports on Perry's personal financial disclosure released yesterday that showed the candidate essentially "retired" in January to begin the early collection of pension benefits, drastically increasing his take home pay as governor. The story was originally reported by the Texas Tribune's Jay Root (@byJayRoot): The FEC disclosure revealed Perry's gross annual income as governor of Texas of $150,000 was supplemented in the last year by a $7,698 annuity each month, totaling $92,376 a year.  This raises the Texas governor's total annual income to more than $240,000…Ray Sullivan, communications director for Perry, told ABC News the governor started receiving the Texas state employee retirement annuity on Jan. 31, 2011, and said "the annuity is consistent with Texas state law and Employee Retirement System rules." Per Sullivan, Perry, 61, qualified for the annuity based on the state's rule of 80, which combined Perry's service in the U.S. military, state service and age. Sullivan noted "Perry continues to pay into the Employees Retirement System with a 6.5 percent withholding from his state salary." Perry defended his use of the system while he continues to serve as governor saying, "That's been in place for decades and I bought my military time and then obviously the 25 years of public service time, so as you reach that age you become eligible for it, so I don't find that to be you know out of the ordinary." "I think it'd be rather foolish to not access what you've earned," Perry said. More here: http://abcn.ws/rWM3ML 

And here's GMI friend Jay Root's original piece: http://bit.ly/rum8n3 with this great lede: Rick Perry has done something his opponents have been hoping he'd do for years: retire. But it's not what the governor's detractors had in mind. Perry officially retired in January so he could start collecting his lucrative pension benefits early, but he still gets to collect his salary - and has in turn dramatically boosted his take-home pay. Perry makes a $150,000 annual gross salary as Texas governor. Now, thanks to his early retirement, Perry, 61, gets a monthly retirement annuity of $7,698 before taxes, or $6,588 net. That raises his gross annual salary to more than $240,000.

Gingrich: The Los Angeles Times' Paul West (@paulwestdc) takes a look at the Gingrich campaign "scrambling" to get a ground game together before Jan 3: Iowa State junior Jeremy Freeman is juggling final exams in ecology and invertebrate biology along with a tough assignment from a presidential campaign: find supporters willing to stand up and deliver a persuasive pitch for Newt Gingrich at the caucuses next month. Recruiting "somebody who can get up there in front of people and speak will be very difficult," said Freeman, the Gingrich campaign chairman in Story County, one of the most populous in the state. At the moment, he has enlisted a Gingrich backer in about a dozen of the county's 43 caucus sites, mainly churches, schools and other public buildings, and he hopes to locate about a dozen more in coming days. The secret to success in Iowa, a party official once said, is to "organize, organize, organize, then get hot at the end." Now, for the first time, a leading presidential contender is attempting to win the caucuses by turning that formula on its head. http://lat.ms/uQ04Iw

Paul: The New York Times' Richard A. Oppel Jr. reports on Ron Paul's ground game that they have been building here since 2008: It was four years ago that Ross Witt, a soft-spoken electrical engineer at John Deere, overcame his natural discomfort with knocking on hundreds of his neighbors' doors during dinnertime as a precinct coordinator for Ron Paul's campaign. Ross Witt an electrical engineer at John Deere, has been going door to door, canvassing for Mr. Paul in Ankeny. But when Mr. Paul dropped out of the national race in June 2008, Mr. Witt did not stop, because, in a sense, neither did Mr. Paul: Mr. Witt and many other supporters here joined the Iowa branch of an independent political group Mr. Paul established after the race. They carried on his libertarian message, and picked local organizers. And when Mr. Paul announced that he was running for president this year, Mr. Witt and others jumped back onto his campaign, a force more motivated and efficient than before. Alone among the Republican field, Mr. Paul, a Texas congressman, has a built-in network from 2008 that gives him a decisive organizational edge. Iowa Republicans say that advantage is an important reason some polls show him within striking distance of a victory in the Jan. 3 caucuses, with a battle-tested ground game poised to take advantage of a lack of passion for the rest of the candidates, a stark contrast to 2008, when evangelicals rallied around Mike Huckabee. http://nyti.ms/tnM0F2

Santorum: The AP's Tom Beaumont (@TomBeaumont) has a great piece on Santorum's aggressive approach to campaigning here and if it will pay off on Jan. 3:  In a presidential campaign marked by sharp rises and falls, Republican Rick Santorum has experienced neither. "I'm counting on the people of Iowa to catch fire for me," the former Pennsylvania senator, who described himself as a "strong conviction conservative," said Thursday during a debate with his rivals. "Iowans are beginning to respond." His dogged courting of Iowans the old-fashioned way - campaigning in living rooms, coffee shops and town squares - may be starting to pay off and at just the right time, as Iowa's Jan. 3 presidential caucuses approach. http://bit.ly/sSrJOv

Who's Tweeting:

@McCormickJohn: @NewtGingrich tells IA supporters that Freddie payments represented 6yrs work and mostly paid firm overhead, not him

@shearm It appears that the temperature in Spencer has creeped above 18 in advance of Michele Bachmann's arrival at the HyVee.

@mattklewis Newt wisely using Iowa Tele-Townhall to build organization. (Press #1 to help caucus for him. Press #2 to be precinct captain.)

@TonyFratto @mattklewis Press #3 to contact a Freddie Mac representative.

Iowa Fact of the Day:

State symbols:

Bird - Eastern Goldfinch

Tree - Oak

Flower - Wild Rose

The Schedule:


8:00am CT - Onawa, IA: "Faith, Family and Freedom" town hall at the Onawa Public Library (707 Iowa Avenue, Onawa, IA)

1:00pm CT - Carroll, IA: "Faith, Family and Freedom" town hall at Pizza Ranch (425 West Highway 30, Carroll, IA)

3:30pm CT - Denison, IA: "Faith, Family and Freedom" town hall at Cronk's Café (812 4 th Avenue South, Denison, IA)

6:00pm CT - Logan, IA: Featured guest at The Harrison County, IA Republican Christmas Party at the home of Ross and Lee Hieb (524 West 4 th Street, Logan, IA)


Bus tour (13 stops total):

9:00am CT - Spencer, IA: Meet and greet at the Hy-Vee Deli Meeting Room (819 Grand Avenue, Spencer, IA)

10:00am CT - Spirit Lake, IA: Meet and greet at Hey, Good Cookies! Espresso Café and Gift Shop (1310A 18 th Street, Spirit Lake, IA)

11:00am CT - Estherville, IA: Tour stop at Cool Beans Coffee House (618 Central Avenue, Estherville, IA)

12:00pm CT - Emmetsburg, IA: Tour stop at Pizza Ranch (2120 11 th Street, Emmetsburg, IA)

1:00pm CT - Algona, IA: Tour stop at Chocolate Season (16 East State Street, Algona, IA)

1:55pm CT - Humboldt, IA: Meet and greet at Miller's Landing (600 13 th Street Southwest, Humboldt, IA)

2:50pm CT - Pocahontas, IA: Meet and greet at Pizza Ranch (211 North Main Street, Pocahontas, IA)

3:55pm CT - Rockwell City, IA: Meet and greet at Pizza Ranch (102 Warner Street, Rockwell City, IA)

4:45pm CT - Sac City, IA: Sac County Cattle Company (508 West Main Street, Sac City, IA)

6:00pm CT - Ida Grove, IA: Tour stop at Pizza Hut (175 West Highway 59, Ida Grove, IA)

7:00pm CT - Denison, IA: Tour stop at Cronk's Café (812 4 th Avenue South, Denison, IA)

7:50pm CT - Carroll, IA: Tour stop and remarks at Carroll Bowl (23688 Highway 30, Carroll, IA)

8:50pm CT - Jefferson, IA: Tour stop and remarks at Abundant Life Ministries Church (1308 West Lincolnway Street, Jefferson, IA)


11:00am CT - Spencer, IA: Meet and greet at La Chisea Restaurant (24 West Park Street, Spencer, IA)

1:00pm CT - Algona, IA: Meet and greet at the Chrome Country Inn - event room (211 Highway 18 East, Algona, IA)

3:30pm CT - Clear Lake, IA: Meet and greet at the Cabin Coffee Shop (303 Main Avenue, Clear Lake, IA)

5:15pm CT - Mason, City, IA: Town hall at Streetscape Room - Music Man Square (308 South Pennsylvania Avenue, Mason City, IA)