28 Days Out: Good Morning Iowa

Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images

Good morning from Sioux Center, Iowa in the Northwest part of the state where it is a balmy three below zero. We are 28 days out from the Iowa caucuses and five days away from the GOP presidential debate, sponsored by ABC News, Yahoo, the Iowa Republican Party, the Des Moines Register, and ABC 5 Des Moines. 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.

Again today, Rick Santorum is the only candidate in the state and he has two town halls. He remains in the very Northwest part of the Hawkeye state. This is the  amazing front page of the Register that Des Moines residents are waking up to today .

The big news this morning out of the state are the brand new ABC News/Washington Post Iowa poll numbers. Newt Gingrich is undoubtedly on top here:

NEWT GINGRICH:         33

MITT ROMNEY:              18

RON PAUL:                       18

RICK PERRY:                    11


RICK SANTORUM:           7

JOHN HUNTSMAN:         2

Analysis from ABC News' Gary Langer:  Newt Gingrich has leapt to a sizable lead in preferences for the Iowa Republican caucuses, drawing on a rally from conservatives, positive views of his political experience and a sense he best represents "core Republican values" to push Mitt Romney into a trailing tie with Ron Paul. Gingrich also scores evenly with Romney as the candidate best able to defeat Barack Obama, a mantle Romney long has sought. And this ABC News/Washington Post poll finds Gingrich ahead of the GOP field in trust to handle the economy, the top issue in Iowa, as it is nationally.

Key point: There's room for movement. Just over half of likely caucus-goers, 52 percent, say there's a chance they may yet change their minds before the Jan. 3 event. Indeed, about one in four, 27 percent, say there's a "good chance" they'll switch their first preference - more than enough to shift the standings if the bulk of them were to move in the same direction. Much more analysis here .

Poll Hits Romney Right In His Wheelhouse: As ABC News' John Berman reports, "What is remarkable in this poll, isn't just the margin of the Gingrich lead…it's that Gingrich now leads Romney in areas that are supposed to be Romney's bread and butter" including the economy and electability. Watch Berman's GMA piece.

What To Do With Newt: ABC News political director Amy Walter has some great analysis on what Romney's options are in light of the poll numbers including GO ON THE ATTACK, LET THE SUPERPAC DO THE DIRTY WORK, LET NEWT BE NEWT, and HOPE ANONYMOUS GROUPS GET ACTIVE. As Walter points out none of the options are that appealing .

What's In The Register?

FOUR-WEEK BLITZ: Time's almost up, Jennifer Jacobs reports, with a fantastic front page primer one month out from the caucuses. She has 12 important points to watch for the next month: MISTAKES, ATTACKS, CAIN CONVERTS, DEBATES, TRUMP TV, RINGING TELEPHONES, UGLY MESSAGES, HOLIDAY ADS, STICKER WARS, NEWSPAPER FAVORITES, SOUGHT-AFTER ENDORSEMENTS and of course NITTY-GRITTY ORGANIZING.

Endorsement Watch:

Gingrich: Jacobs also reports that Republican activist Darrell Kearney, founder of the Conservative Club of Des Moines endorsed Gingrich last night saying he's "the most prepared conservative leader to be president since Ronald Reagan."

Kearney endorsed Mitt Romney four years ago. He said Romney is "my second choice today."… Kearney, who is also finance director for the Polk County Republican Party, has met almost every Republican candidate for president since 1980.

King Still Deciding: The Register's Kathie Obradovich reports that U.S. Rep Steve King is having a hard time deciding who to endorse. It's one of the most sought after in the state:  The Republican presidential field may be starting to gel in Iowa, but U.S. Rep. Steve King still sees a bowl of lime soup with floating bananas and marshmallows…Asked whether he'd (King) changed his mind about picking a candidate, he said, "No, but I also need to come to a conviction and that's been very, very hard to do." King said he's looking for a lot more detail from the candidates than he's heard so far about exactly how they would balance the budget and fix the American economy. "I have yet to see a presidential candidate articulate the breadth and the depth of the financial problems this country has," King said, noting the failed supercommittee plans, the European financial crisis, and continued economic and unemployment distress.

Air Wars:

Gingrich: The Register's Jason Clayworth reports that the group that released the brutal anti-Gingrich ad going after him for his three marriages and admitted infidelity is out with another one:

The group "Iowans for Christian Leaders in Government" has released its second anti-Newt Gingrich video. This one highlights a video and comments he has made surrounding global warming. The group, whose leaders have not identified themselves, have additionally released a flier in the recent weeks since the former U.S. House Speaker's 2012 presidential campaign began to rise in the polls. Watch Here: http://youtu.be/nOQbZvK7KcQ More from Clayworth: http://dmreg.co/vSHH3f
Paul: ABC's Jason Volack reports that Ron Paul is out with a new titled "Big Dog."
Ron Paul mocks his GOP presidential rivals in a new ad today that likens them to yappy little dogs when it comes to cutting the federal budget. The cartoonish 30 second adwhich starts airing in Iowa and New Hampshire compares his rivals to shih- tzus who "love to bark, but when it's show time, they whimper." "You want cuts, Ron Paul has been screaming for years, " the ad states…ABC News has learned that the "Big Dog" ad is part of a $429, 000 ad buy in Iowa an New Hampshire starting today through December 20. That number includes $121,000 on statewide cable in Iowa and New Hampshire on networks ESPN, GOLF, HIST, and NESN. The number also includes $53, 000 in radio ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. http://abcn.ws/w4jITR
It's Time To Train: Craig Robinson at TheIowaRepublican.com reports that conservative group Strong America Now has put a caucus training video together. It's about that time:
Strong America Now has put together a very good caucus training video in advance of the January caucuses. The 17-minute video includes all of the pertinent information one needs to know before attending a caucus. The video also includes remarks from Strong America Now's founder Mike George, Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, and Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn. Also featured in the video are Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul.  Strong America Now also got a little dig in at Mitt Romney, who didn't sign the group's pledge. After listening to the other candidates speak about the importance of the caucus process, the chair of the mock caucus asks if anyone is there to speak on Romney's behalf and nobody comes forward. http://bit.ly/uZClCH

On The Trail:

GMI went to two Rick Santorum events last night in the very Northwest part of this state: Sanborn and Sioux Center. This is what we found

In Sioux Center the Paper Wars Continue: Fliers criticizing Rick Santorum were scattered throughout his event Monday at a small Christian college here in the Northwest part of the state, forcing the GOP presidential candidate to explain to the  audience why he supported a moderate Republican during their time together in the U.S. Senate. The white paper reads, "Why Rick Santorum is not fit to serve as President of the United States" and criticizes Santorum for endorsing Arlen Specter over the more conservative and now senator from Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey. "It is well established that Rick Santorum aggressively campaigned for now-Democrat U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, one of the most pro-abortion Senators serving in the U.S. Senate - over a strongly pro-life primary opponent," the flier reads. He addressed the fliers at Monday's event, telling the crowd he supported Specter because he was the chairman of the Senate's Judiciary Committee and promised Santorum that he would help usher in President Bush's Supreme Court nominees. After the event at Dordt College, where Santorum supporters numbered more than 100, the former Pennsylvania senator told reporters the literature doesn't bother him and "it's part of the campaign." http://abcn.ws/tTXbdS
In Sanborn Santorum Went After Gingrich and Romney:The former Pennsylvania senator expressed some veiled attacks at his opponents, telling Iowans at Jay's restaurant that despite being down in the polls, he can still win the caucuses here in a month. "I wasn't for the Wall Street bailouts and now against them. I wasn't for cap and trade and believing in man-made global warming and now I'm against it," Santorum said. "I wasn't for single pay, I mean individual mandates and health care, top-down government health care and now I'm against it." http://abcn.ws/tTXbdS
In Sioux Center Some Tense Exchanges: Rick Santorum is usually quite amiable on the trail, but Monday evening at a campaign event at a small Christian college here, he had some tense back-and-forth exchanges with one student and another graduate of the college. Jason Kornelis, a 23-year-old recent graduate of Dordt College, asked the former Pennsylvania senator about his anti-same sex marriage stance comparing it to when interracial marriage was illegal in this country. Clearly agitated, Santorum seemed astounded when Kornelis said he couldn't contemplate how this would "be a hit to faith and family in America." "You can't think of any consequence?" Santorum asked. Kornelis answered that he did not. Santorum then said that if same sex marriage was legalized then "their sexual activity" would be seen as "equal" to heterosexual relationships and it would be taught in schools. "Really- wow- um okay, well let's see if we can have a discussion. We can flesh out some, well, let's look at what's going to be taught in our schools because now we have same sex couples being the same and their sexual activity being seen as equal and being affirmed by society as heterosexual couples and their activity," Santorum said. "So what is going to be taught to our people in health class in our schools? What is going to be taught to our children about who in our stories, even to little children - what are married couples? What families look like in America? So, you are going to have in our curriculum spread throughout our curriculum worldview that is fundamentally different than what is taught in schools today? Is that not a consequence of gay marriage?" the GOP hopeful asked. More here: http://abcn.ws/v6pVCy

PAUL: ABC News' Jason Volack Reports:  "Ron Paul's success in Iowa might have much to do with a sophisticated system of voter identification that is headquartered in a nondescript office in New York City's Chinatown…Paul has visited the Hawkeye State at least once a week since May, racking up at least 47 appearances so far. The ground game hasn't gone unnoticed by Iowa's Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who called Paul's operation the best of any of the Republican candidates in the state. … Paul's Phone from Home Program asks volunteers, no matter where they are in the country, to use their own phone to "survey" or ask potential supporters a series of questions on various topics and then ask who best represents their views. It's illustrated in a video clip posted online, where two young women working out of the New York City office are shown appealing for others to join in their crusade to promote the Texas congressman, 76. Once someone in Iowa is identified as a likely supporter, the name is then passed on to a field office, where another volunteer will again contact the potential supporter. 'It's an Iowan reaching out to another Iowan,' said a campaign volunteer who asked for anonymity."  http://abcn.ws/tKyONA

Romney: ABC News' Emily Friedman reports that in a tele-town hall here with Iowa voters Romney went after President Obama (again) for his Christmas vacation. (But as Jake Tapper and the WH troops note, this schedule isn't firmed up yet…despite what Romney may say)

Here's what he said: I have to feel that this president has been a failure. The other day I understand that Chris Christie said that he was a bystander president. That he watches affairs and has not guided affairs. And in some respects, his idea of a "hands on" approach to the economy is getting a grip on his golf club. He's going off for seventeen days in Hawaii. He'll be playing a lot of golf. He told Congress that they need to stay in session and pass his tax breaks for the payroll tax and that they shouldn't leave for vacation until they did that. And yet, he's going off for seventeen days and for golf in the sun and I just think it's time to have a president whose idea of being "hands on" doesn't mean getting a better grip on the golf club. http://abcn.ws/tIEv2t 

Quotable Iowa:
Bachmann on CBS' The Early Show this morning:
"We're going to place strong. I think we're going to be first in Iowa." (h/t Russell Goldman)
Santorum in Sioux Center last night:
"This is the most important election of your life. I personally believe if you sign this form, sign up and help us. But if you want to say, 'No, he's not the guy I'm for,' then go sign up and help somebody else. Do not set on the sidelines."

 The Schedule:


8:00am CT - Storm Lake, IA: "Faith, Family and Freedom" town hall at the Lake Shore Café (1520 Lake Avenue, Storm Lake, IA)

12:00pm CT - Spencer, IA: "Faith, Family and Freedom" town hall at the Pizza Ranch (528 Grand Avenue, Spencer, IA)