- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2011

THE IOWA ALLURE

The potent, promising allure of Iowa has drawn all the Republican hopefuls to a pair of significant events this weekend — all except roguish Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr., that is, who prefer New Hampshire. Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rick Santorum appear at a very debatelike Thanksgiving Family Forum in Des Moines on Saturday, organized by the Family Leader — a socially conservative group founded by former Iowa GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bob Vander Plaats.

“I promise this won’t be like anything you’ve ever seen. No gotcha questions by the panel. No spin by the politicians. Just an authentic discussion,” says moderator and pollster Frank Luntz, who will field questions about abortion and gay marriage, among other things.

The candidates only have a matter of minutes before they must race over to attend Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s 65th birthday bash at Adventureland Park in nearby Altoona. Maybe they should carpool. Mr. Branstad, meanwhile, is vexed that Mr. Romney is skipping his big soiree, not to mention the state of Iowa altogether.

“I think that the advisers in Boston don’t get it. They’re too far away from the reality. They have that East Coast mentality,” the governor observes.

IOWA HAWKEYES

A new Iowa State University poll of 1,256 registered Hawkeye State voters conducted Nov. 1-13 reveals that presidential hopeful Herman Cain is still the front-runner and gets more support from women (28 percent) than men (20 percent). James M. McCormick, chairman of the university’s political science department, calls the counterintuitive findings “remarkable,” given Mr. Cain’s recent public relations challenges.

Meanwhile, Jon Huntsman Jr. received a whopping “0.0” of voter support, the poll found, prompting one keen-eyed observer to say, “Then why is he still in the debate? Why don’t they just call in Buddy Roemer?”

WEEKEND READING

Some 200 tea party members attempted to present solutions to the federal budget crisis — but doors were locked and microphones removed before the hearing room group had their say. Capitol Hill officials claimed there was “a discrepancy in paperwork”, Adam Brandon, spokesman for the grassroots group FreedomWorks, tells Inside the Beltway.

But hey, this is America. There are always alternatives. The entire 36-page “Tea Party Debt Commission” document can be found here: www.freedomworks.org/the-tea-party-budget.

NEWTWEAR

“Newt: For a New Contract with America,” “Hope and Opportunity: Newt 2012,” “Newt Gingrich: Still crazy after all these years,” “Please Newt, save us all,” “Root for Newt“, “Give Obama the boot/Vote for Newt,” “God, guns and Gingrich,” “Cain/Gingrich 2012”.

(Among the mottos on new campaign T-shirts and memorabilia supporting Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, from online retailer Zazzle.com)

HEELS ON, GLOVES OFF

“There is definitely a sense of urgency among women on the right. They have been on the front lines of the conservative resurgence these last three years and know well what is on the line: the welfare of their families and their country,” Teri Christoph tells Inside the Beltway.

She is founder of Smart Girl Politics and on the advisory board for Women Working for Change, an event for politically inclined Republican women, under way near the U.S. Capitol, that has drawn the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a spate of lawmakers, and potential first ladies Callista Gingrich, Anita Perry and Mary Kaye Huntsman.

“There is quite a bit of buzz about the wives of the Republican presidential candidates who will be speaking. Our attendees are interested in hearing about life on the campaign trail and hope to gain more insight into the campaigns of Speaker Gingrich, Gov. Huntsman and Gov. Perry,” Ms. Christoph adds.

CANDIDATE TRACKER

Brain freezes, grand gaffes, blunt aggression — could such behaviors be a sign of true fatigue among Republican presidential hopefuls? Maybe. It would be no wonder, though. The schedules continue to be frantic, occasionally chaotic, and grueling.

They return to Washington for another presidential debate on Tuesday, this one hosted by CNN, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. Here’s where the candidates will be in the next 72 hours:

Florida: Herman Cain.

Iowa: Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum — who is making a cheeky appearance, incidentally, at a Godfather’s Pizza in Knoxville.

Massachusetts: Mr. Gingrich.

New Hampshire: Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman Jr.

New York: Mr. Perry.

POLL DU JOUR

● 85 percent of Americans are thankful for family relationships and the health of their family this Thanksgiving.

● 63 percent are grateful for their “personal economic situation.”

● 56 percent are thankful because it is “safe to walk on the streets.”

● 45 percent say they have “about as much to be thankful for” now as they did in recent years.

● 32 percent have more to be thankful for, 18 percent have less; 5 percent are not sure.

● 36 percent are thankful for “the way people treat each other.”

● 14 percent are thankful for the “economic situation in the U.S.”

Source: A Harris Poll of 2,463 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 10-17 and released Thursday.

Tip line always open at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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