- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 8, 2011

DATE WITH DES MOINES

The Iowa caucuses are a mere 600 hours away — give or take few minutes — a fact that weighs heavily on a half-dozen Republican presidential hopefuls as they meet Saturday night for debate No. 14 at Drake University in Des Moines. Dynamics leave no room for dithering. Though he is the current darling of the polls, Newt Gingrich’s iron-plated popularity has some rust; lawmakers and peers grumble about his lofty status while wonks warn that inevitable personal attacks loom ahead for the candidate.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney are in war mode. Armed with aggressive campaign ads and no apologies, Mr. Perry soon embarks on a 42-city bus tour of Iowa. Mr. Romney is out to dispel doubts about his “steadiness” and to convince America he is the sole Republican who can best President Obama. The remaining hopefuls — Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, plus Rick Santorum — deserve kudos for their consistency and sheer resilience. And Jon Huntsman Jr.? He’s off the grid, tucked away in New Hampshire on small campaign stops.

Which leaves the two-hour debate on ABC, moderated by the network’s George Stephanopoulos and Diane Sawyer, a combo fraught with liberal peril, says Media Research Center analyst Geoffrey Dickens. He predicts many prime-time “jabs,” considering that 75 percent of Mr. Stephanopoulos’ questions to the candidates in recent interviews were left-leaning.

“Viewers don’t expect softball questions to be thrown at the participants, but they would hope any tough questions came mostly from the right,” Mr. Dickens notes. “However, as his recent interviews with GOP candidates on ‘Good Morning America’ indicate, that is a task the former Democratic White House spinner to Bill Clinton seems unable or unwilling to handle.”

AND THE DISTRACTIONS

Among the many: Occupy Wall Street protesters will risk arrest by lurking outside the debate on Saturday, pushing a motto that the Republican candidates are all “1 percenters.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been campaigning for Mitt Romney this week in the Hawkeye State, seeking to convince voters that, yes, his man is the lead dog and that Occupiers are “jokers.”

Drake University politics professor Dennis J. Goldford, meanwhile, has pointers for those trying to get down to the red meat of it all, despite the distractions. What should we watch for?

“To what extent do the other candidates go after Newt Gingrich, and how well and calmly does he respond?” Mr. Goldford advises Inside the Beltway.

MYTHOLOGICAL OCCUPIERS

The top economic myth of the year is the notion of the “99 percent,” says Julie Seymour, an analyst with the Business and Media Institute, which tallied the top-10 such myths for 2011. What with all their righteous bravado, the Occupy Wall Street crowd is largely a media-fueled myth.

“The extreme anti-capitalists, anarchists, communists and socialists protesting in New York and other cities across the country did not speak for 99 percent of people,” Ms. Seymour says, noting that a mere one-third of Americans typically support the movement despite intense, positive coverage.

“The media’s promotion of the Wall Streeter did not come as a surprise, because it was the natural outcome of the mainstream media’s reporting on wealth and inequality and the liberal economists they interview,” she adds. “The phrase ‘We are the 99 percent’ shouted by protesters may be new, but the class-warfare foundation for it has roots in a decade’s worth of reporting.”

The complete list of economic myths can be found here: www.mrc.org/bmi.

CANDIDATE TRACKER

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