20 Days Out: Good Morning Iowa

Good morning from Des Moines. We are 20 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 over the past few days. Keep them coming.

The schedule is packed today with four candidates in the state and one spouse, including an event this evening all four candidates will attend. It finally feels like three weeks out! Rick Santorum holds three events around the Des Moines area; Gingrich is meeting with the Cedar Rapids Gazette Editorial board and will participate in a discussion about brain science research at the University of Iowa College of Public Health in Iowa City; Rick Perry will be holding events in Council Bluffs, Harlan, and Denison; Michele Bachmann is holding a press avail this afternoon in Des Moines; and Ann Romney will be in Council Bluffs this evening. Santorum, Gingrich, Perry, and Bachmann are all going to be attending the Mike Huckabee screening of the anti-abortion documentary "The Gift of Life" this evening.

Weather: It's going to be another rainy day - all day - here in Des Moines, but with temperatures in the 40s  (they may even climb into the 50s) we can't complain. Feels like summer!

Make sure to check out today's Note from Michael Falcone (@michaelpfalcone) and Amy Walter (@amyewalter): How The 'Mittness Protection Program' Became The Mitt Blitz http://abcn.ws/utu2Y3

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

What's In The Register?

Perry: Here's a photo of Perry's bus that he will hit 44 cities in. It has Faith, Jobs, and Freedom splashed on the side: http://dmreg.co/uijSm3

Bachmann: Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) reports Iowa Christian conservative leaders are going to hit the trail for the Minnesota Congresswoman: "Frankly, we're looking to shake things up a little bit," former Iowa Rep. Danny Carroll, a conservative Republican from Grinnell (said)… The pastors delicately made it clear that they don't think Gingrich is the best choice for president. Nor is Rick Santorum, a religious conservative who has been courting the evangelical vote in Iowa. "(Gingrich) is tremendous in debates," said Brad Sherman, an evangelical Christian minister with Solid Rock Christian Church in Coralville. "Part of me wants to say I'd love to see him debate Obama because I think he would chew him up. But I have to live by principle - and Michele Bachmann has proved it." Santorum has made some questionable choices in the past - such as when he endorsed Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania for U.S. Senate and endorsed Mitt Romney for president when Mike Huckabee was still in the race four years ago, Sherman told The Des Moines Register after the press conference…."We have determined that Michele Bachmann is Biblically-qualified to be the president, to be a leader. She is capable. She is trustworthy. She fears God and she hates dishonest gain."…Carroll and various faith leaders are embarking on an eight-city tour of Iowa - Oskaloosa, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Mason City, Council Bluffs and Sioux City - to call on Christians "to be informed." http://dmreg.co/twnurt 

Gingrich: Tony Leys (@TonyLeys) reports that two evangelical Iowa pastors are criticzing Gingrich for not signing the Family Leader's marriage pledge: "Mr. Gingrich is the Don Draper of 2012: When it comes to his character record, he's a very fine, empty suit with a broken zipper," the Rev. Albert Calaway of Indianola wrote, referring to the lecherous character on the show "Mad Men." "Christians in Iowa - and I understand many of his old U.S. House colleagues as well - desperately want to see a changed man, yet we keep on seeing a glib, wordy cheater. On all fronts, Newt should just be faithful." The Family Leader's 14-point marriage pledge calls for opposition to anything but one-man/one-woman marriage. Three other Republican presidential candidates, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry, have signed the pledge. But Gingrich, who has been married three times, has not. Calaway, a retired Assemblies of God minister who founded the group Truth Values & Leadership, said he is not backing any candidate yet. He mocked reports that Gingrich endorsed the Family Leader's marriage pledge Monday. "When you 'endorse' a check, you sign it. When you get married, you sign the license," he wrote. "When you sign a contract or covenant, that means you are all-in. But, Mr. Gingrich has yet to sign for many things which Christian Iowa cares about very deeply."The Rev. Cary Gordon, pastor of Sioux City's Cornerstone Church, added to Calaway's criticism of Gingrich. "When you stand before the altar and say your marriage vows, you either mean it, or you don't," wrote Gordon, who is backing Santorum. "Sad to say, but by endorsing some of the Vow without signing it, I think Mr. Gingrich is dodging a sacred commitment which Iowa's Christians really expect from him." http://dmreg.co/tlhTkX

Timmy Talks:   Albrecht's (@TimAlbrechtIA) insight and wisdom for the day.

If you are looking for local color and some great Sioux City-based Twitter handles ahead of, and during, tomorrow night's debate, you will do well to follow these individuals - trust me on this one: @scj @SCJBretH @SCJMitchP @C_Rants @mattbreenKTIV @SCJThomasR @SCJDaveD

Sweater Vest Threat Level: Tan-Light Blue Argyle

GMI note: Thanks to all the other sweater vest aficionados from as far away as the Granite State for their support.

What Else Is In The Register?

The Register takes a look at some of the young volunteers and caucus-goers three weeks out: http://dmreg.co/vpc0dj'

A columnist, Rehka Basu says there are so many still undecided voters here because trust is the number one issue:  It's the effort to figure out which candidate is the most real. Real as in authentic, down to Earth, trustworthy.That matters in Iowa, where people are, for the most part, that way. Not ostentatious or flashy, even if they're wealthy. Not intellectually arrogant or personally self-righteous but restrained (even if privately, they think you're a shameless hussy). Iowans like a candidate who'll look them in the eye, speak to them plainly and make them feel as if they're the only ones in the room, even on a crowded stage in a packed theater. George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan had that easy, folksy quality people respond to. So did Bill Clinton, though he was a Rhodes Scholar. No one felt they were trying to show others up intellectually. Worth a read: http://dmreg.co/t2NaRA

Endorsement Watch:

Santorum: Des Moines City Councilman Halley Griess announced yesterday he is endorsing the former Pennsylvania senator's campaign. The Register's William Petroski (@WilliamPetroski) has the story: http://dmreg.co/tffm07

Romney: ABC's Emily Friedman (@EmilyABC) notes that "I am not a witch" former Delaware senate candidate and tea party activist Christine O'Donnell endosed Mitt Romney on Fox News last night: http://abcn.ws/tP8Nj6

Santorum vs. Bachmann: Kevin Hall at the Iowa Republican looks at how Bachmann and Santorum are going head to head for the evangelical vote here:  Most of the media spotlight focuses on presidential frontrunners Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. However, one of the key battles in the lead-up to the Iowa Caucus is being waged between Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. They are widely considered the two most conservative candidates in the race. That means they are also competing for the same voters: the evangelicals. Mike Huckabee was able to garner the overwhelming majority of support from this group four years ago. That boosted him to victory in Iowa. This year, many of those evangelicals are split between Bachmann and Santorum. With less than three weeks to go, the campaigns are trying hard to sway that key voting bloc into their camp. Both candidates have received significant endorsements from pastors and faith leaders… The two have avoided trading barbs during most of the campaign. However, that ended during Saturday's debate. On at least three separate occasions, Bachmann referred to herself as "the proven conservative" in the race. During the first hour of the debate, Santorum offered a rebuke. "I mean, I think Michele has been a consistent conservative.  But, she's been fighting and losing.  I fought and won… So far, Bachmann has not publicly criticized Santorum, but that could change in the final weeks before the caucus. She needs his voters… Most polls show Bachmann a few points ahead of Santorum in Iowa. Unless one of the candidates is able to coalesce most Iowa evangelicals around their campaign, Bachmann and Santorum will split that vote. That means they both lose. http://bit.ly/v5M5ec

Even More Santorum vs. Bachmann: And Radio Iowa reports Santorum kept up the contrasts yesterday on the campaign trail in Belle Plaine: "I've won in a state and I've won in districts where you needs Democrats and independents to vote for you. Michele represents one of the most Republican districts in the state of Minnesota," Santorum said. "It's not like she has ever had any record of success in attracting the kind of voters we are going to need to win this election." Santorum served 16 years in congress, first as a member of the U.S. House, then a U.S. Senator. Bachmann was first elected to the U.S. House five years ago. "So the question is experience," Santorum said. "I think she has a lot going for her, but we've gone through now a president with very limited experience and it's not working out real well for America."  http://bit.ly/vU2ZpI

Santorum: Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson (@okayhenderson) reports Santorum has launched another moneybomb. This time the goal is $250,000 in three days: http://bit.ly/tKL3tj 

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

What's in the Gazette?

Santorum: The former Pennsylvania senator told the Gazette's editorial board that he doesn' t have to win here to do well:  "We're working to win here in Iowa,"(Santorum said). "But we don't have to win here to do well. We have to exceed expectations and right now expectations are last… However, Santorum said he's not competing with Gingrich and Romney as much as Perry and Bachmann."If we finish in front of anybody… I think it will show the strength of our message," he said…Republican caucusgoers are, for the most part, activists, he said, who "are paying more attention and won't be swayed by television ads."…"We're poised to really make a break here in the last couple of weeks as people rethink Newt Gingrich," he said. "We need someone who is solid, someone who is not going to be the issue, someone we can trust. We think we fit that better than anybody." And anything better than a sixth-place finish Jan. 3 "will be a very good sign for us coming out of Iowa and give us the lift we need," Santorum said.   http://bit.ly/sqywb9

The paper is running an AP article on how the social conservative issues are no coming into focus more in the campaign: Mitt Romney is forced to defend his opposition to same-sex marriage. Newt Gingrich endorses a pledge to be faithful to his wife. Rick Perry runs an ad noting he's against gays serving openly in the military, and abortion may take center stage Wednesday. Three weeks before Iowa's leadoff caucuses, cultural issues that have been virtually dormant in this Republican presidential campaign are bursting to the forefront as social conservatives - who make up the core of GOP primary voters and haven't rallied behind any one contender - search for a candidate who shares their views. "Everyone knows what Iowans want to hear and they will be willing to say those things," said the Rev. Brad Cranston of Burlington, who is backing Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. "But I think it's important that we examine their records." Almost daily now, GOP front-runners Gingrich and Romney are answering for records and backgrounds that are flawed in the eyes of these voters. And Republicans rivals looking to revive their struggling campaigns - like Perry - are turning ever more to topics that resonate strongly with this powerful segment of their party's primary electorate in hopes of becoming their preferred candidate. http://bit.ly/vhZSEw

Bachmann: Chris Larimer writes that Bachmann has a chance to shine at tomorrow's Fox News debate:  Despite being perceived as the so-called "target" going into the presidential candidate debate in Des Moines last Saturday, Newt Gingrich was not only able to hold his ground, but also faced relatively few direct attacks from his main rival, Mitt Romney (or others). One attack that may have gained some traction, however, is Michele Bachmann's clever grouping of Gingrich and Romney as "Newt Romney."  If Bachmann is able to continue such rhetoric and land a few more notable phrases in the Fox News debate on Thursday in Sioux City, she may be able to turn in a surprise showing on caucus night. Poll after poll has shown that many Republicans are reluctant to support Mitt Romney… What does this mean for Thursday's debate and beyond? Should Bachmann put in another strong performance in Sioux City, she may have a legitimate shot at finishing third on caucus night. In order to do this, however, Bachmann needs to continue to direct her criticisms toward Mitt Romney. http://bit.ly/tCEos8

This is the front page Sioux City  residents are waking up to today: http://bit.ly/hxls4

What's in the Sioux City Journal?

R0mney vs. Gingrich: The front page is an article from the AP's Tom Beaumont (@TomBeaumont) on Romney raising his stakes here: Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's surprise rise has disrupted rival Mitt Romney's carefully laid plan to lower expectations in Iowa, where Romney fought aggressively in 2008 but ended up losing. Now Romney has been all but forced to try to derail Gingrich, the GOP's leader nationally and statewide - and in doing so has made the outcome of the Iowa caucuses more important to the Romney campaign than he had wanted. Mindful of the dilemma, his team is trying to find a middle way, aided by millions of dollars in television advertising by a political action committee that supports his bid to become the GOP presidential nominee. With only three weeks until the Jan. 3 caucuses and Gingrich well ahead in Iowa polls, time is running out for Romney or his allies to influence the outcome. "It's a real problem," said Doug Gross, who was Romney's 2008 Iowa campaign chairman but is unaffiliated with any 2012 candidates. "All he's doing now is raising the stakes for himself in Iowa." Must read: (thanks to the Globe's website ad it is not posted on the SCJ yet) http://bo.st/sQ6rli

Bret Hayworth (@SCJBretH) looks at the economic impact that tomorrow night's debate will have on Sioux City: http://bit.ly/uQQcD6

Ground Wars:

Perry Hits the Hawkeye Road: ABC's Arlette Saenz (@ArletteSaenz) reports that Perry kicks off his 42 city bus tour through Iowa today, in what his campaign hopes will be the boost to carry him to victory in the Iowa caucuses in January.  The first nine day stretch of the tour will take him from Council Bluffs up north and across the state before heading south to end the excursion in Newton…Moving at a faster pace than his previous schedules, the Texas governor, who shines doing traditional retail politicking, will endure days often filled with four or five events. http://abcn.ws/vUoL51 

Bachmann: The Minnesota Congresswoman will also be heading out on a 99 county, ten-day bus tour, pulling a Grassley, and following Rick Santorum who completed the counties last month.

 Air Wars:

Perry: Saenz also reports the Perry campaign released a new web video highlighting the Texas governor's gaining 'momentum.' The nearly two minute video, titled "Momentum," strings together clips of some of Perry's strongest moments from the ABC News debate in Iowa, including a moment where he hits opponents Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich for the health care bill individual mandate, while also featuring commentary by pundits and journalists lauding his performance.  The video includes praise from Tim Albrecht, director of communications for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who said during ABC News' debate coverage that Perry had his "strongest performance yet." http://abcn.ws/txi4Hz

GMI Note: This is from the Timmy Talks section of GMI.

Gingrich: ABC's Elicia Dover reports that a Gingrich staffer has now been fired for comments during a focus group here:  A member of Newt Gingrich's campaign staff in Iowa was asked to resign Tuesday after disparaging comments he had made about Mitt Romney surfaced. Craig Bergman, the political director for Newt 2012 in Iowa said last Wednesday that some pastors are on the "anti-Mitt Romney bandwagon.""A lot of the evangelicals believe God would give us four more years of Obama just for the opportunity to expose the cult of Mormon. There's a thousand pastors ready to do that," Bergman said last week to a Republican focus group. In the same focus group Bergman also was critical of Gingrich, calling him the "smartest unwise man in America."…Bergman had just begun working as a political director for Newt 2012 last week, and had participated in The Iowa Republican's focus group prior to joining the campaign…Bergman has previously worked for Ron Paul during his 2008 campaign, and most recently was a part of the grassroots movement in Iowa for a Sarah Palin presidential campaign, 'Organize 4 Palin.' http://abcn.ws/rvJvJK

Here's The Iowa Republican's original story on the focus group: http://bit.ly/vAlayZ

Romney: GMI went to Robins, Iowa last night to Ann Romney's event there. This is what we found: Mitt Romney's wife Ann hit the stump Tuesday evening in this small town close to Cedar Rapids, exactly three weeks out from the Iowa caucuses, to persuade the crowd to vote for her husband by describing what an honest and trustworthy man he is. "He's steadfast, honest, he's good. He sticks with you in the hard times," Ann Romney said in this living room at a fundraiser for a state representative. "I appreciate that, and I appreciate that quality of his. He's good to the core and I trust him so completely." The Romney campaign has been sending Ann Romney out more, hoping she's the secret weapon that can help stop the surging campaign of Newt Gingrich. Compared to the thrice married Gingrich who has admitted to marital infidelity, the Romneys are a stark contrast: married for 42 years and seemingly still madly in love, Ann Romney is out trying to make that case without naming names or explicitly comparing family lives.  http://abcn.ws/s15db4

And The Donald is out of the Newsmax debate, ABC's Matt Negrin reports, because he may um still run? http://abcn.ws/t4Bwad

The Schedule:


7:15am CT - Urbandale, IA: Address to the Westside Conservative Breakfast at the Machine Shed (11151 Hickman Road, Urbandale, IA)

9:00am CT - Des Moines, IA: Address to employees at Nationwide Insurance (1100 Locust Street, Des Moines, IA)

12:15pm CT - Johnston, IA: Will visit employees of Pioneer Hi-Bred at the Carver Conference Center (7000 NW 62 nd Avenue, Johnston, IA)

5:30pm CT - Urbandale, IA: Christmas party for supporters at Santorum Campaign HQ (11197 Aurora Avenue, Urbandale, IA)


11:15am CT - Cedar Rapids, IA: Meeting with Cedar Rapids Gazette editorial board 2:45pm CT - Iowa City, IA: Will participate in a discussion about brain science research at the University of Iowa College of Public Health (375 Newton Road, Iowa City, IA)


1:00pm CT - Council Bluffs, IA: Town hall meeting at the Bayliss Park Hall main floor (530 1 st Avenue, Council Bluffs, IA)

3:15pm CT - Harlan, IA: Main Street walk from Harlan Town Square (1101 7 th Street, Harlan, IA)

5:00pm CT- Denison, IA: Meet and greet at Cronk's Café Restaurant and Lounge (812 4 th Avenue South, Denison, IA)

Michele Bachmann

3:15pm CT - Des Moines, IA: Press Availability at the Hoyt Sherman Place (1501 Woodland Avenue, Des Moines, IA)


5:30pm CT - Council Bluffs, IA: House party at the home of Deana Romriell (41 Norwood Drive, Council Bluffs, IA)  


7:00pm CT - Des Moines, IA: Mike Huckabee screening of pro-life documentary "The Gift of Life" at the Hoyt Sherman Place (1501 Woodlands Avenue, Des Moines, IA)