Final New Hampshire GOP debates discussion thread

Six Republican candidates are debating twice in 15 hours this weekend ahead of Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire. Mitt Romney, who’s way ahead of the field, will be playing not to lose. Everyone else will be under pressure to trip him up.

Any comments about the ABC debate on Saturday night or Sunday morning’s encounter on “Meet the Press” are welcome in this thread. I’ll liveblog the ABC debate after the jump.

Moderate Republican Fred Karger was excluded from these and all previous televised debates, but he has been campaigning in New Hampshire and has a tv ad on the air. Transcript: “Fed up with the Republican Party? Well, there’s one candidate you just might like. Fred Karger is the only moderate Republican running for president. He’s pro-choice, supports gay marriage, and wants us out of Afghanistan now. Send the Republican Party a message: vote for Fred Karger for president.”

UPDATE: Added excerpts from the Meet the Press debate transcript at the end of this post.

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Iowa GOP/Fox debate discussion thread

Eight Republican candidates take the stage this evening in Ames for a debate co-hosted by Fox “News” and the Republican Party of Iowa: Representative Michele Bachmann, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Representative Ron Paul, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.

Several Republicans who have launched presidential campaigns weren’t invited to the debate, including former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, longtime GOP activist Fred Karger (the first openly gay Republican presidential candidate), and Representative Thad McCotter. Fox made that call because those candidates didn’t receive an average of 1 percent support in five national polls. It’s an especially tough break for McCotter, who might have assumed automatic entry to the debate after paying for space at Saturday’s straw poll event. He will be on the straw poll ballot, along with the eight candidates debating tonight.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry isn’t in Ames because he hasn’t officially declared his candidacy. Perry will try to bigfoot the straw poll by making his intentions clear on Saturday in South Carolina.

I’ll update this post later. Meanwhile, comments about the debate or the GOP presidential race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Thoughts about the debate are after the jump.

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Iowa State Fair tips and soapbox schedule

The oppressive summer heat broke in time for today’s opening of the Iowa State Fair. I’ve posted some of my tips for enjoying the fair below, along with the schedule for this week at the Des Moines Register’s “soapbox.” Ten Republican presidential candidates (including one I’d never heard of) are speaking, along with Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

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New Hampshire Republican debate discussion thread

For those who plan to watch this evening’s CNN debate featuring seven Republican presidential candidates, here’s a new discussion thread on the race for the GOP nomination.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty tried to set the media narrative going into the debate. During a Sunday morning appearance on Fox News, Pawlenty noted, “President Obama said that he designed ‘Obamacare’ after ‘Romneycare’ and basically made it ‘Obamneycare.’” Romney’s campaign responded, “Republicans should keep the focus on President Obama’s failure to create jobs and control spending.” Easier said than done, given how unpopular the health insurance reform law is with the GOP primary electorate.

Pawlenty has traded blows with Representative Michele Bachmann over the past few days:

During a Friday interview, Neil Cavuto of Fox showed Mr. Pawlenty a poll indicating he’s running at the back of the pack and he asked the former governor if he was annoyed that Ms. Bachmann seems to generate more buzz than he does. “Look,” he replied, “I’m not speaking about Michele Bachmann here but I’m not running for comedian-in-chief or entertainer-in-chief. You know, if people want to have that be the main consideration, they should go to a Broadway show.”

In a WSJ Opinion interview Saturday, Ms. Bachmann was asked whether Mr. Pawlenty as a good governor. “I really don’t want to comment,” she said.

Some Iowa Republicans believe Pawlenty is best positioned to capitalize on last week’s mass exodus of Newt Gingrich staffers and Romney’s decision not to contest the Ames straw poll.  I find it hard to see Pawlenty drawing a lot of enthusiastic support from the rank and file. If he seems to be on the rise, it won’t be hard for other candidates to bring up his terrible record of fiscal management.

Besides Pawlenty, Romney, Bachmann and Gingrich, the CNN debate will also include former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, Representative Ron Paul, and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. CNN excluded some candidates who have been campaigning in New Hampshire, such as former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and longtime campaign operative Fred Karger, probably the best-known Republican supporter of marriage equality.

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman decided against participating in this debate, but he is likely to announce his candidacy in the next two weeks. Appearing on CNN yesterday, Huntsman indicated that he would accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. His campaign will put foreign policy experience front and center, but Huntsman has also begun to criticize President Barack Obama’s economic record. If he did that on the debate stage, his rivals would surely point out that Huntsman supported the 2009 federal stimulus.

Pundits increasingly speculate that Texas Governor Rick Perry will run for president. He has reportedly been talking to major donors, and could hire a couple of the senior staffers who quit the Gingrich campaign. I don’t see Perry as a strong presidential candidate. Linda Feldman discussed some of his weaknesses in the Christian Science Monitor, but she left out one other glaring problem in his record. This year Texas had the second-largest projected state budget shortfall in the country (as a percentage of current-year state government spending), even larger than California’s.

UPDATE: I didn’t watch the debate, but Republican insiders seem to think it was a good night for Romney and Bachmann and a bad night for Pawlenty.

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Weekend open thread: Odds and ends

Time with extended family means less time for blogging, so I’m posting the weekend open thread early. Here are some links to get the conversation going.

Rural voters were a crucial factor helping Republicans retake the U.S. House. Of the 125 most rural Congressional districts, Republicans held all 64 seats they had going into the election and flipped 39 Democratic districts (that alone would have been enough to give them a majority). Going into the election, Democrats held 61 of the 125 most rural Congressional districts. Now they hold only 22 of those districts, including IA-01 (Bruce Braley) and IA-02 (Dave Loebsack).

Smart Politics looked at what it calls “Iowa’s Schizophrenic 2010 Electorate” and observed, “Never before in the history of Iowa elections have Republicans won a majority of seats in the Iowa House while Democrats won a majority of the Hawkeye State’s U.S. House seats.”

I listed the Iowa House and Senate Democrats before and after the election, grouped by Congressional district. Bleeding Heartland user American007 created red and blue Iowa maps showing which parties held state House and Senate districts before the election and after.

Fred Karger, a Republican political strategist and gay activist who’s exploring a presidential bid, has been running this commercial on the Fox network this week in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities, Mason City, Ames, Burlington and Fort Dodge. Have you seen it? Hard to imagine a strong base of support for Karger in Iowa, but I’m glad a moderate may be running for president on the Republican side.

If Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels runs for president in 2012, some Iowa Republicans will not forgive him for supporting merit-based judicial selection in his state.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said all the “right” things about Iowa judges during his recent Des Moines visit. But this week Huckabee described the controversial searches of airline passengers as a “humiliating and degrading, totally unconstitutional, intrusion of their privacy.” Uh oh! Social conservatives don’t typically acknowledge that there is a constitutional right to privacy. That dreaded “penumbra” underlies U.S. Supreme Court rulings affirming reproductive rights.

I learned this week that New Hampshire has some elected Republican officias who support marriage equality. It’s not clear whether there are enough of them to stop large GOP majorities from repealing same-sex marriage rights in that state. I wonder when (if ever) a current Republican office-holder in Iowa will defend equality.

Iowa First Lady Mari Culver says she accomplished what she set out to do during her husband’s term as governor, and her kids are excited to be moving back to their West Des Moines home full-time.

What’s on your mind this holiday weekend?  

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New thread on the 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses

It’s time for another look at the Republican presidential contenders’ prospects in Iowa. The 2012 cycle may seem like a long way off, but the serious candidates will probably start hiring staff in Iowa before the end of this year. Since the last time Bleeding Heartland covered this ground, several Republicans with presidential ambitions have spoken out on our GOP gubernatorial contest, visited Iowa or scheduled trips here during this fall’s campaign.  

Lots of links and speculation are after the jump.

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