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It's time for another news roundup on the Republican presidential campaigns in Iowa. This week brought new polls, new commercials, and hints of new candidates joining the race. It wasn't a promising week for Bob Vander Plaats and his FAMiLY Leader organization, however.
Poll numbers, campaign ads, and more are after the jump.
Three polls released this week show Representative Michele Bachmann leading among Iowans who are likely to participate in the 2012 Republican caucuses. A Mason Dixon poll out today has 32 percent of likely caucus-goers supporting Bachmann. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is in second place with 29 percent. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is way back with 7 percent, followed by former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum at 6 percent.
Earlier this week, an American Research Group Iowa poll had Bachmann leading Romney by 21 percent to 18 percent, followed by Representative Ron Paul (14 percent), former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (11 percent), undecided (10 percent), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (8 percent), Santorum (5 percent), former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman (3 percent). Several possible candidates tied at 2 percent in the ARG poll: Pawlenty, former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Texas Governor Rick Perry. ARG expects about 84 percent of caucus-goers to be registered Republicans and about 16 percent to be independents; among the independents who were planning to participate, Paul led with 24 percent, then Romney (23 percent), undecided (19 percent), Palin (15 percent) and Huntsman (7 percent), with all others below 5 percent. Romney has been downplaying the Iowa caucuses this year, but his campaign would probably do well to identify and mobilize supporters who are registered no-party voters.
The Iowa Republican blog commissioned its own poll of likely Republican caucus-goers. Voter/Consumer Research conducted that poll and found Bachmann leading Romney by 25 percent to 21 percent. Pawlenty and Cain tied for third place at 9 percent, followed by Paul (6 percent), Santorum (2 percent) and Huntsman (1 percent). Among what Voter/Consumer Research characterized as "the most attentive voters," Bachmann's lead was larger: 32 percent to 18 percent for Romney, 12 percent for Cain, and 8 percent for Pawlenty.
In the poll's alternative ballot, Romney leads the field in Iowa with 18 percent, followed by Bachmann at 15 percent, and [New Jersey Governor] Chris Christie with 13 percent. Herman Cain and Sarah Palin tie for fourth at 7 percent, ahead of Perry and Pawlenty at 6 percent, Paul at 5 percent, Gingrich 3 percent, Giuliani 2 percent, and Santorum and Huntsman with one percent.
It's notoriously difficult to identify likely participants several months before the Iowa caucuses, but clearly Bachmann has gained strength in Iowa over the past few months. I expect her to hold that ground as her campaign appearances and paid advertising bring her appealing message to the Republican base.
The tickets for the August 13 Ames straw poll have been printed, and Perry doesn't have a spot at the venue. However, the Iowa GOP State Central Committee hasn't finalized the straw poll ballot yet, so other candidates could be listed.
As Bleeding Heartland discussed here and here, Pawlenty's under more pressure than anyone else going into the Ames straw poll. He has lots of support in the Iowa GOP establishment but has yet to show he can win over the rank and file.
Male voice-over: How well do you really know the presidential candidates who are asking for your vote? Tim Pawlenty and his wife Mary have a video in which they discuss their faith experience and their values. Watch the Pawlenty video at Pawlentyfaith.com. Here's Tim Pawlenty:
Tim Pawlenty: In my case, as a young person, I was 16 years old, and my mom passed on pretty suddenly. And in that moment, it was one of the times that I leaned deeply into my faith, turned to it, my faith in God, as a source of strength, as a source of reassurance, as a source of comfort.
Voice-over: Here's Mary Pawlenty.
Mary Pawlenty: How we approach our decisions together as a couple, and we ask for God's guidance. It really is a matter of a faith walk, and you ask that God light your path and help you day by day to make the best decisions that you can possibly make.
Voice-over: To watch the entire Pawlenty video, go to Pawlentyfaith.com.
Tim Pawlenty: I'm Tim Pawlenty, and I approve this message.
Voice-over: Paid for by Pawlenty for president.
I wonder how many radio listeners know how to spell Pawlenty's name. If they want to hear more, will they be able to find that Pawlentyfaith.com site? Perhaps Republicans who are engaged enough to participate in the straw poll or the caucuses will be able to figure that out.
Pawlenty needs to find some way to halt Bachmann's rise in Iowa. Last week his campaign distanced itself from remarks by former Representative Vin Weber, a Pawlenty supporter who said Bachmann would be "very hard to beat" in Iowa because of her "hometown appeal," "ideological appeal" and "little bit of sex appeal." (Weber later apologized for that comment.)
Pawlenty's "Results, not rhetoric" slogan strikes me as a veiled jab at Bachmann. While meeting with editors and reporters from the Des Moines Register on July 7, Pawlenty pointed out that Bachmann has had only legislative experience: "as to specific results that have been achieved, I'm not sure what they would be." As a guest on NBC's "Meet the Press" on July 10, Pawlenty made this case more directly:
"I like Congresswoman Bachmann. I've campaigned for her. I respect her, but her record of accomplishment in Congress is non-existent," Pawlenty said on NBC's "Meet the Press." [...]
"We're not looking for folks who just have speech capabilities," Pawlenty said. "We're looking for who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to conclusion. I have done that; she hasn't."
"This is an election about the future of our nation - one where voters will have to decide who is best equipped to lead our nation by looking at our records, as well as our vision for the nation. Instead of negativity, I want to focus on my accomplishments.
"I have fought the cap-and-trade agenda, rather than implement it, and I will work to end cap-and-trade as President of the United States. I stood up against President Obama's support of the $700 billion bailout rather than defend it.
"I was a leading voice, fighting against Obamacare and the unconstitutional individual mandates; I did not lift my voice in praise of it. My message brought tens of thousands of Americans to Washington D.C. to oppose Obamacare. As President I will not rest until Obamacare is repealed. And I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling.
"People can count on me as a fighter; I am proud of my record of fighting with resolve, and without apology, for our free markets, for sane fiscal policies, and in opposition to the advancement of the big government left. As President, the American people can count on me to stand by my record of advancing pro-growth policies to put our nation back on the right track."
Pawlenty also opposes raising the debt ceiling, but Bachmann has put that promise in her television advertising. Yesterday she held a joint press conference with Iowa's Representative Steve King to announce proposed legislation on paying government bills if the debt ceiling is not increased. Under the proposal, the federal government would be forced to pay military salaries and principal and interest on publicly-held debt first after hitting the debt ceiling. King and Bachmann say that would be enough to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its debt. King didn't defend his economic views well on national tv yesterday, but that hardly matters for Bachmann's campaign. She will fight against capitulating on the debt ceiling. If some compromise is reached without her support, who will be able say she was wrong to claim holding firm would not have caused severe economic problems? She'll still be a "fighter."
One other Republican candidate is putting the debt ceiling debate at the center of his campaign message. Representative Ron Paul will start running a 60-second television commercial in Iowa and New Hampshire on July 15. The spot is done in the style of a movie preview:
My annotated transcript:
[Ad starts with words on a green background, as in a movie preview: "THE FOLLOWING PREVIEW HAS BEEN APPROVED FOR ALL AUDIENCES BY RESTORE AMERICA NOW
www.RonPaul2012.com Restore America Now]
[After a few seconds, visual switches to an illustration of the Statue of Liberty with the sun rising behind, words on screen:
BALANCED BUDGET PRODUCTIONS
IN ASSOCIATION WITH RON PAUL]
Male voice-over [footage of President Ronald Reagan, fragments of newspaper headlines]: In the '80s, they did it to Reagan. A debt ceiling compromise: Democrats promising spending cuts and delivering only tax hikes.
[visual switches to a photo of President George H.W. Bush next to photo of onetime Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley, then highlighted words "BROKEN PROMISES" "MORE NEW TAXES"] Voice-over continues: The '90s brought more compromises, more broken promises, and more new taxes.
This August, the next chapter will be written.[Words moving against black screen: "THIS AUGUST" and "THE NEXT CHAPTER"]
A defining moment. [words on screen: "DEBT CEILING DEADLINE LOOMS," CNN, 6/4/11]
14 trillion in debt. Millions unemployed. The dollar in decline. [words on screen: "$14 TRILLION DEBT IN DEBT" "MILLIONS UNEMPLOYED" "THE DOLLAR IN DECLINE"]
We know where they stand. [photos of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; banners above and below their photos read "MORE SPENDING" "HIGHER TAXES"]
But will our party's leaders repeat the mistakes of the past? [photos of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell]
Will they choose compromise or conviction? [highlighted words on screen: "COMPROMISE?" "CONVICTION?"
One candidate has always been true. Ron Paul: Cut spending, balance the budget, no deals. [photos of Ron Paul at podium, addressing rally of supporters, words on screen: RON PAUL
BALANCE THE BUDGET
Standing up to the Washington machine, guided by principle. [photo of Paul's face against blue backdrop]
Restore America now. [Ron Paul 2012 Restore America Now campaign logo against black screen
Paul: I'm Ron Paul, and I approve this message. [photo of Paul waving to audience]
That strikes me as a very strong introductory ad. I strongly disagree with its content--you're worried about a "dollar in decline," but you want to push the U.S. into default?--but then, I disagree with most things Paul stands for. His target audience is educated fiscal conservatives, and I think this message will resonate with them. Viewers may not recognize all the unidentified people in the photos, but they can relate to Washington deal-makers selling out conservative principles.
If Republican voters want someone who's not afraid to stand up against the party establishment, Bachmann is more of a "politically correct" choice than Paul. His anti-war views and libertarian stands are out of step with certain Republican orthodoxies. On the plus side for Paul, he has been speaking out for years on some issues that are becoming more salient, such as how the Federal Reserve manages the economy.
One well-known Iowa Republican's star fell a bit during the past week: Bob Vander Plaats. He tried to position his FAMiLY Leader organization as the kingmaker of the straw poll. The group is expected to endorse a presidential candidate shortly before the straw poll. Only candidates who sign a four-page "marriage vow" (pdf here) will be eligible for that endorsement. Bachmann and Santorum signed the vow right away, but controversy over slavery references in the preamble overshadowed the intended message about the sanctity of marriage. The FAMiLY Leader revised the preamble to remove the slavery language, but not before the controversy became a national news story. Vander Plaats got unflattering attention this week from CNN's Anderson Cooper as well as Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert.
Government should not be involved in the bedrooms of consenting adults. I have always been a strong advocate of liberty and freedom from unnecessary government intervention into our lives. [...]
While the Family Leader pledge covers just about every other so-called virtue they can think of, the one that is conspicuously missing is tolerance. In one concise document, they manage to condemn gays, single parents, single individuals, divorcees, Muslims, gays in the military, unmarried couples, women who choose to have abortions, and everyone else who doesn't fit in a Norman Rockwell painting.
The Republican Party cannot afford to have a Presidential candidate who condones intolerance, bigotry and the denial of liberty to the citizens of this country. If we nominate such a candidate, we will never capture the White House in 2012.
If candidates who sign this pledge somehow think they are scoring some points with some core constituency of the Republican Party, they are doing so at the peril of writing off the vast majority of Americans who want no part of this 'pledge' and its offensive language.
Cain didn't see any benefit to signing: "While I commend their intent regarding the pledge, I believe my stated position encompasses their values without the need to sign the pledge. [...] I am, and will continue to be, an ardent defender of traditional marriage and will work to preserve and protect the sanctity of human life, which I believe begins at conception."
Romney's campaign released this statement: "Mitt Romney strongly supports traditional marriage but he felt this pledge contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign." I give ten bonus points to State Representative Renee Schulte, went out of her way to praise that decision:
"One of the reasons I support Gov. Romney is his support for traditional marriage. However, I am glad he won't sign this ill-advised pledge. The Family Leader would do more to advance the issues that conservatives like Mitt and I support if they kept it simple."
Schulte won her first term in the Iowa House by just 13 votes in 2008. The new Iowa map makes her Cedar Rapids district a shade more Democratic, and the Cedar Rapids area is for the most part socially tolerant. It's smart for her to publicly reject Vander Plaats' handiwork.
"Mary and I have been married for almost 24 years and have been blessed with two wonderful daughters. In all we do, we remain committed to our core values that are set out in scripture. We are saved by grace. As Christians we are to speak the truth, but to do so with love.
"Voters have a right to know about their leaders' faith and values, and how those beliefs may shape their decisions. To that end, today my campaign released a new video in which both Mary and I speak directly and openly about our faith. I fully support traditional marriage. Unequivocally. The traditional family faces enormous challenges in America, and if elected I would vigorously oppose any effort to redefine marriage as anything other than between one man and one woman.
"I deeply respect, and share, Bob Vander Platts' commitment to promoting the sanctity of marriage, a culture of life, and the core principles of the Family Leader's Marriage Vow Pledge. However, rather than sign onto the words chosen by others, I prefer to choose my own words, especially seeking to show compassion to those who are in broken families through no fault of their own.
"I respectfully decline to sign the pledge."
Vander Plaats doesn't look like much of a kingmaker now. He laid out the marriage vow as a necessary pledge for any candidate seeking his endorsement, and all but two Republicans are telling him to take a hike. The best way for the FAMiLY Leader to salvage its reputation would be to endorse Bachmann. The group could then claim partial credit if she does well in the straw poll, even though it's obvious that her rise in Iowa has nothing to do with Vander Plaats. I had a feeling the FAMiLY Leader would lean toward Bachmann anyway, because her Iowa campaign co-chair is State Senator Kent Sorenson. He was one of the most vocal supporters of Vander Plaats' 2010 gubernatorial candidacy.
The other option for Vander Plaats is to back Rick Santorum, but that doesn't seem like a smart play. Santorum gets favorable coverage in The Iowa Republican blog and is paying Republican operative Nick Ryan to be a consultant, but the former senator doesn't have a lot going for his campaign. Most of the Iowa GOP establishment is looking elsewhere. Santorum did get Republican National Committee member Kim Lehman's endorsement this week. As the longtime president of Iowa Right to Life, she has good connections with social conservatives across the state. Still, I don't see Santorum as a top five finisher in the Iowa caucuses. Backing him would make the FAMiLY Leader look even less relevant.
Share any comments about the Republican presidential race in this thread.
UPDATE: On July 14, former Republican Congressional candidate Ben Lange endorsed Santorum, saying:
"Conservatives are hungry for a candidate with the ability to articulate conservative principles, apply those principles to the serious economic problems we now face, and ultimately lead a national conservative movement.
"Senator Santorum has proven he can lead on the national stage, having fought for and won key battles for the conservative movement. As my fellow Iowans learn more about Senator Santorum and all that he has achieved, I believe they will find the candidate they have been looking for."
I got a kick out of this part of Santorum's press release:
Lange nearly pulled off one of the biggest political upsets of the 2010 midterms, falling a mere 4,200 votes short against [Bruce Braley] in a heavily Democratic district and without national Republican assistance.
FRIDAY UPDATE: Representative Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan bid for a spot at the straw poll and will visit northwest Iowa (Le Mars, Orange City, Sioux City and Spencer) on July 18. Hard to imagine him becoming a major factor in the caucuses. Maybe he wants to make himself attractive as a running mate for the eventual nominee. I suspect that is Santorum's game as well.