DES MOINES, Iowa -- At Java Joe's, a coffee shop in downtown Des Moines decorated with pictures of presidential candidates past, Newt Gingrich said he's changed.
"I would say that I am a sadder and slower person than I was 25 years ago," Gingrich said in response to a question that alluded to his past marital problems. "Twenty-five years ago, I thought that if you just kept moving fast enough, somehow everything would always work. And I've learned a lot of limitations in life, that in fact, sometimes it doesn't work."
"I don't ask people to vote on whether they approve of my entire life," Gingrich said. "What I ask you to look at is a 68-year-old grandfather who has spent 53 years studying what this country needs and how to get it done."
Indeed, some voters in the audience say that Gingrich's personal past doesn't mean much to them.
"None of us can throw a stone, ok?" said Maria Murphey from Des Moines. As long as Gingrich has asked God for forgiveness and isn't continuing with his past behavior, then he's good in Murphey's book.
Others, including Georgia Musfeldt from Ankeny, say that other aspects of his past, including his consulting work for Freddie Mac, could come back to haunt him during Tuesday's caucuses.
"Considering how high he was in the polls to where he is now, I think Iowans have had a chance to think about it," she said. "They're tired of the corruption."
Gingrich was the leading candidate in Iowa just a few weeks ago, but he has dropped in the polls. In early December, some surveys had Gingrich snagging as much as 30 percent of the Republican vote here. Today, his Real Clear Politics average is 14 percent, coming in third or fourth place.
A barrage of negative ads airing here against Gingrich may have contributed to his decline. During his talk, Gingrich said he would be "ashamed" to run any of those spots.
One points out that he once supported a cap-and-trade plan to curb global warming, something the largely female group at Java Joe's wanted to hear more about.
In response to a question about how Gingrich would assure the mothers in the room that he would preserve a clean environment for their children, Gingrich said that he's all for preserving clean air and water.
"But I'm for cleaning them up at a rational level, in a way that's economically sustainable," he said. "What I wouldn't do is allow the [Environmental Protection Agency] to crush the electricity industry in this country, which will drive all manufacturing out of the United State and kill several million more jobs."
Another question came from a teacher who said she belongs to a union only for legal protections. Otherwise, she's not happy that some ineffective teachers are able to keep their jobs.
In response Gingrich said that states should adopt co-op insurance programs that compete with insurance offered by unions.
"That way you wouldn't have to be a union member in order to get the protection you need," which artificially boosts union membership, Gingrich said.
With the all-important "electability" question defining this year's Iowa caucuses, the audience also wanted to know how Gingrich planned to attract both Democratic and Independent voters in the general election.
Gingrich said he will draw on his past experience campaigning: keep things positive and pick issues that most Americans can agree on.
Take federal food assistance, Gingrich said.
"President Obama has been the most successful food stamp president in history," he said. "I don't mean that as an attack, I mean that as a fact."
DES MOINES, Iowa-- Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is also the vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee. That's why he was in suburban Des Moines Friday morning holding a news conference with Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky. The focus of the event? Ripping Mitt Romney.
Rybak said Democrats are zeroing-in on Romney because he has consistently lead in the polls as the other GOP candidates have collapsed.
Rybak said if Romney wins Tuesday's caucuses, he will not be able to claim a grassroots victory and instead will have to take credit for winning a multi-million dollar negative advertizing campaign. It's not the way then-Sen. Barack Obama won the 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses, Rybak said.
"Mitt Romney and the rest of this field mostly have been focused on trying to run a campaign from a TV studio. There have been some who've gone grassroots and door-to-door, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum have done that," Rybak said. "But Mitt Romney has basically just spent massive amounts of money with primarily surrogates, the closer he gets to the Iowans, the less they seem to like of him."
On the issues, Rybak said all Romney has been consistent on is supporting tax cuts for the wealthy.
"He has been a weather vane on every other issue, but you know that he stands with those who already have a whole lot right now and the president stands most directly with the middle class," Rybak said.
Iowa Democratic leaders are encouraging strong turnout for their caucuses next week, even though there is no race for the nomination on their side. They want to use the caucus time to further organize Obama's re-election effort in Iowa. The Iowa Democrats who do show up will have a chance to hear a web address from Obama.
On Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign, Rybak said he would not dismiss her prospects, despite being in single digits in most polls of likely Iowa Republican caucus goers.
"I have never underestimated her, and I don't think anybody should write her off right now," he said. "Now Mitt Romney seems to be measuring the drapes of the Oval Office, but you know, Iowans will have a say."
AMES, Iowa -- Mitt Romney showed up to his Ames, Iowa, campaign rally like most contenders for the Republican presidential nomination: in a bus.
Romney's Ames event was decidedly high-tech compared to the meet-and-greets of Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign, the coffee shop question and answer session Rick Perry held in Creston, and the straight forward policy talk Ron Paul gave at the Iowa Motor Speedway in Newton.
In contrast to his dramatic entrance, Romney kept his speech to several hundred people low-key and personal, with few details on the policies he'd implement as president. He opened his speech by talking about he met his wife and Romney family road trips.
Such personal tales are becoming regular fare during Romney's campaign stops; he's been criticized for being too stiff in person.
Still, Romney criticized President Barack Obama for instituting government policies that encroach on individual liberties. Those policies go against what the Founding Fathers had in mind for the country, Romney said.
"The dreams of the patriots, the way they crafted this country, what they built with our founding documents was not something just temporary," Romney told the crowd. "They would see beyond the years."
Romney then turned his rhetoric to the current administration.
"I think [Obama or the people around him] want to change America," Romney said. "This is not an election just to change presidents, it's an election to save the soul of America."
Romney also tried to paint himself as a political outsider, a tactic meant to separate him from some of his rivals, such as Newt Gingrich, who have long political careers. Though he gave few details, Romney argued that his business experience leading the private equity firm Bain Capital would help him grow jobs and the economy.
"I spent my life in the private sector, I spent my life in business," Romney said. "I've only spent four years in government. I didn't inhale."
Romney is at the top of the polls in Iowa, running neck-and-neck with Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Marilyn Schager of Ames, Iowa says she's leaning toward voting for Romney for his stance on expanding jobs, rebuilding the economy, and spending less in Washington.
Romney's shifting views on abortion and health insurance mandates don't bother Schager.
"This was so many years ago. Our whole world has changed since 9/11. You cannot hold these people responsible because we had unlimited spending," Schager said after the event. "I want the one who is going to address the problems we have now, not what it was before 2001."
After taking a government class in high school this year, Kaiden Billings, 18, is excited to participating in the Iowa caucuses for the first time.
He's also leaning toward Romney for being detailed with his plans for the economy. Billings agrees that the government should be smaller and regulations should be eliminated to let companies grow.
And there's another reason: Billings went to the Salt Lake City Olympics, which Romney managed. And he was impressed.
"He did a great job with the Olympics," Billings said. "I think he could also fix our economy."
Photo by Jeff Thompson. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses the crowd during a rally in Ames, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011.
This just in from Sen. Kent Sorenson, Rep. Michele Bachmann's former Iowa chair, who defected to the Ron Paul campaign last night.
Bachmann said yesterday that the move was financially motivated, which Sorenson said are "ridiculous allegations."
Here's the rest of his statement.
The Ron Paul 2012 Presidential campaign released the following statement from Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson. Last night Sen. Sorenson defected to the Ron Paul camp, endorsing the 12-term Congressman from Texas before a crowd of more than 600 Paul supporters and media. Moments before his endorsement and in past months, Sen. Sorenson had served as Iowa Chairman for U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign for the presidency. In the minutes that followed the endorsement, Rep. Bachmann made baseless claims suggesting the Ron Paul 2012 Presidential campaign provided Sen. Sorenson with a financial incentive to join the Paul camp - and, that this was a deciding factor in the senator's decision to endorse Paul. Below please find comments from Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson: "I have to say, I've been saddened by the way Congresswoman Bachmann's campaign has decided to handle my decision to endorse Ron Paul for President of the United States. "Like many folks here in Iowa and throughout the country, I simply came to the realization that Ron Paul is the candidate for true pro-life, pro-gun, pro-limited government conservatives. "The recent smears from the media and the national political establishment motivated me to rush to Congressman Paul's aid because he did the same for me in both of my races for the Iowa General Assembly. "As for the ridiculous allegations that Congresswoman Bachmann and her surrogates have made, I was never offered money from the Ron Paul campaign or anyone associated with them and certainly would never accept any. "Financial reports come out in just days which will prove what I'm saying is true. "Even Congresswoman Bachmann's political director issued a statement defending my character. Since then, he's been fired by the Bachmann campaign for daring to tell the truth. "Sadly, the values I most appreciated in Congresswoman Bachmann appear to have gone out the window in a last-minute effort to salvage what's left of her campaign. "On the other hand, Congressman Ron Paul's track record of standing up for constitutional principles and traditional values is unmatched. "He's proven he is the one candidate who can take on defeat both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama."(2 Comments)
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Less than a week before the Iowa caucuses, Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign has suffered two back-to-back blows: the defection of her Iowa chair and a request from a church leader to drop out of the race.
Late Wednesday, news reports surfaced that two evangelical pastors asked both Bachmann and Rick Santorum, who has also been courting the religious vote here in Iowa, to drop out of the race. They fear the two could split the evangelical vote and give front-runner Mitt Romney a leg up in the race.
Just hours later, Bachmann lost her Iowa chairman, Sen. Kent Sorenson, to the Ron Paul campaign, which has gained significant ground here in recent weeks.
Still, Bachmann has pledged to continue her race, pointing out that she has widespread support among other church leaders. And despite poll numbers that indicate Bachmann will not finish at the top in next week's election, she is clearly well-liked among voters here.
Nevertheless, concerns about Bachmann's campaign continue to come up in conversations with other members of Iowa's Republican party.
At a corner table of the Indianola Pizza Ranch restaurant, Rick Halverson and Steve McCoy, who chair the Warren County Republicans, talked about Bachmann's chances in Iowa.
To be clear: both men like Bachmann. But Halverson, who is likely to back Rick Santorum next week, is among those who have asked Bachmann to change the direction of her campaign. He says he isn't sure that America is ready for a woman president.
"I asked Michele today, 'you and one or two of the other candidates need to team up and get in the same car and drive it all the way to the White House,'" Halverson said. "I don't care who's in the front seat or who's in the back seat, but you're splitting the good conservative vote too many ways here, and I'm afraid that's going to put somebody like Mitt Romney in the White House."
Halverson worries that Romney can't beat Barack Obama in the general election, and his party will once again have missed an opportunity to put a conservative in the White House.
Some Iowa voters also worry about Bachmann's electability in the general election.
McCoy says that the perception that Bachmann couldn't do well in nationally is the result of a poorly constructed campaign. Her handlers, he said, have prevented her from being herself.
"Why did she win the straw poll? Because at that point early in her campaign she was connecting," McCoy said. "I think that her handlers have handled her terribly."
Bachmann hasn't gotten the proper exposure, she's been given the wrong advice by her staff, and her campaign speeches have become canned, McCoy said.
Case in point: In nearly every speech, Bachmann brings up her family and children. Halverson said the talking point got tired; voters, he said, want to hear something new from a candidate, or they will lose interest.
"People said, 'we don't want that, we want more of you,'" McCoy said. "That's one of the things I told one of her campaign managers: tell Michele to go be Michele again. Quit telling her what the national consultants out of Washington D.C. want her to be."
INDIANOLA, Iowa -- Iowa is buzzing with talk of Ron Paul.
The Texas congressman appears poised to win the Iowa caucuses, and excitement about his candidacy was palpable at a standing-room only event in Newton, Iowa on Wednesday where Paul quipped that he'd never seen so many cameras at one of his campaign stops.
"I've been talking about freedom for a long time," Paul said. "For many years, the crowds were very small. But they've steadily grown."
Paul has experienced an unexpected surge in the polls here in recent days; his Real Clear Politics average is 22.5 percent, meaning he's neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney and leading the rest of the pack.
And on Wednesday night, Paul snatched Sen. Kent Sorenson from Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign. In a statement, Bachmann blamed the defection of her state chair on "a large sum of money to go to work for the Paul campaign."
Paul covered a lot of ground during his Newton stop, promising to ax the Patriot Act, to cut $1 trillion from the budget in the first year, and pull United States troops out of the Middle East.
One of the toughest questions from the crowd focused on Paul's pledge to eliminate a handful of federal departments, including the Department of Energy, which oversees security of the nation's nuclear stockpile.
Paul conceded that the National Nuclear Security Administration ought to be preserved but put in a different department.
Meanwhile, Paul's stance on foreign affairs has come under fire from other candidates for being too isolationist
Bachmann is among the critics.
"Ron Paul would wait until one of our cities in the United States is wiped off the map before he reacted," Bachmann said at a campaign stop in southern Iowa. "I won't wait. I'll act."
But that's among the many things that Jack Church of Blakesburg, Iowa, likes about Paul.
"A lot of the other Republican candidates seem to be on this drive, this march to go to war with Iran," Church said. "I think that is insane. I'm sick of young men and women coming back with missing body parts, missing legs from the [improvised explosive devices]."
Paul didn't leave the stage without reminding the crowd to vote next Tuesday. Iowa has same day registration, and some of the Democrats and Independents who say they'll support Paul this time around could turn the caucuses in his direction.
Paul argued that if voters are sick and tired of the status quo, he's the quintessential outsider candidate.
"A message is going to be sent," Paul said. "There are a lot of status quo politicians out there... if you pick another status quo presidential candidate, nothing is going to change."
The heated battle for Iowa's GOP presidential nomination is playing out on state's airwaves.
Iowa's networks are loaded with standard positive election ads paid for by the campaigns, peppered with pictures of the candidates with their families or hard at work looking very presidential.
What's different this year is the emergence of ads paid for by super political action committees. Super PACs are sponsoring ads that do the dirty work of political mud-slinging so the candidates don't have to.
Super PACs, which emerged in 2010 after the Supreme Court ruled that corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts of cash on campaigns, can't coordinate messaging with campaigns, but they can air ads supporting or opposing a candidate.
Together, these groups and the campaigns have reportedly spent $8 million so far.
This spot paid for by Restore Our Future, a PAC aligned with Mitt Romney, never mentions Romney, but rather goes after Newt Gingrich's work for Freddie Mac and his previous support for a cap-and-trade plan.
"You know what makes Barack Obama happy? Newt Gingrich's baggage," the ad states.
So far, Restore Our Future has spent $2.6 million since Dec. 15 attacking Gingrich through direct mail and television advertising, according to OpenSecrets.org, a group that tracks campaign finance data.
Make Us Great Again, a pro-Rick Perry super PAC, is going after Gingrich and Romney together in this ad, painting both candidates as closeted liberals.
Perry, on the other hand, has cut taxes and created jobs as governor of Texas, making him the "proven conservative." It's a theme Perry's been playing up in person as he makes stops in Iowa this week. While his rivals have been tainted by politics, Perry argues he's the proven conservative with outsider experience.
Meanwhile, ads paid for by the candidates are generally positive.
For instance, this one, which was paid for by the Romney campaign, is meant to play up Romney's character.
"If you really want to know how a person will operate, look at how they've lived their life," says Romney's wife Ann. It's an subtle jab at Romney's rival, Newt Gingrich, who has been divorced twice and married three times.
Meanwhile, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who's come from behind in the polls recently, is airing this ad about his career as an obstetrician.
"More than 4,000 babies delivered," a woman's voice says in the ad. "A man of faith, committed to protecting life."
In Iowa, where social conservatives dominate the Republican party, voters scrutinize candidates' abortion records, and Paul has some marks on his. Earlier this week, Personhood USA, a group trying to advance policies that give fertilized eggs the same rights American citizens, questioned Paul's pro-life credibility.
For her part, Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign announced last week that she would be running television and radio ads in Iowa as well. They feature Iowans who've come out to meet Bachmann on her tour of the state's 99 counties. Here's one from Bachmann's YouTube page.(1 Comments)
CRESTON, Iowa -- With a week to go before the caucuses, many of the GOP candidates for president are in Iowa today.
At a stop in Creston, at Adams Street Espresso, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that, as president, he would do all he can to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential as possible.
The federal government's role in local education?
"It's none of their business," Perry said.
Incentives for alternative energy?
Let the markets dictate what works, and let states determine incentives, Perry contends.
Perry even wants to cut the salaries and work hours of members of Congress. And if legislators couldn't balance the budget, Perry said he would slash his own salary "in a heartbeat."
"Not a problem at all," Perry said.
While Perry's small government approach on a range of issues prompted loud rounds of applause from the crowd, voters at the coffee shop were especially receptive to Perry's words on immigration.
Perry, who has gotten flack for allowing the children of those in his state illegally to get state college tuition breaks, showed up with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an Arizona law enforcement officer whose stance on illegal immigrants is controversial with some and beloved by others.
The Mexican border is not safe because weapons and drugs are being smuggled across it, Perry said. As president, Perry said he would send thousands of National Guard troops to the border. It will be secure within a year after taking office, Perry promised.
But those words may not have impressed some at the Creston event who said Perry's stance on illegal immigration in Texas has been too soft.
"I like Perry's record," said Larry Mark, who lives in Creston. "I don't like his comments about immigration concerning the tuition issue."
"I like his family values, I like his Christian background," said Lori Jeter also of Creston. "Not too thrilled about the immigration comment. But you're never going to like everything about any of them."
In fact, that's why choosing a candidate this caucus season is tougher for Jeter than in the past.
"There's maybe two or three or four of them that if you could put them together, you'd really have something," she said. "It's really been really hard to choose."
Meanwhile, Bob Eklund of Afton came to the event unsure about Perry. But after hearing him talk, Eklund said he's likely to vote for Perry next Tuesday - and for reasons that are difficult to pin down, he said.
"I don't know if there's any one thing," Eklund said, adding that he hadn't been too impressed with Perry in debates. "I expected polished politics, but I thought he was genuine. He fooled me if he isn't."
Perry also tried out a talking point that will likely be heard a lot in the days leading up to the caucus. Perry said he's an outsider who hasn't been tainted by Washington.
His rivals, however, are Washington insiders.
"I've got all the respect in the world for the folks they identify as the front-runners in this race," Perry said. "You just ask yourself: if we replace a Democrat insider with a Republican insider, is that going to change Washington, D.C? No. It's not."
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa -- A week before the Iowa caucuses, Rep. Michele Bachmann is back in the state.
Her first stop on this chilly Tuesday morning was Scooter's Coffeehouse in Council Bluffs for a skinny white chocolate peppermint mocha.
Bachmann wasn't just there to get her caffeine fix, though. She was shaking hands and trying to win votes.
"One week from today, Iowans will send a signal to Barack Obama that they are now going to see the end of his liberal policies," she said during a press conference outside the tiny coffee shop. "We need a candidate for president who will show the distinct differences that there are like Ronald Reagan did with Jimmy Carter did in 1980."
It's a message the Bachmann hasn't wavered from since the early days of her campaign. Of all the GOP candidates in the race, she argues she's the most consistently conservative on a range of issues.
Take changes to the nation's health care system, Bachmann said. While Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, two of Bachmann's chief rivals here in Iowa, previously supported a mandate that all people have health insurance, Bachmann hasn't.
"That's why I've been calling them Newt Romney," Bachmann said. "Neither of them is conservative."
Still, a few of the voters who showed up to meet Bachmann aren't sold on her as a candidate.
"I have a top three," said Naomi Leinen, who is the Republican co-chair for Pottawattamie County.
Leinen likes what Bachmann has to say on everyone paying some amount in income taxes, but Rick Santorum's stance on family issues and Gingrich's intellect also appeal to her.
Ultimately, Leinen says she's going to vote for the candidate who is the most electable, and she isn't sure Bachmann is that person.
Still, Bachmann sounded confident while autographing a picture of the White House for two children who came to the event.
"Are you going to come and see me when I'm there," she asked the kids. "Our first party is going to be the Iowa party."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry also started the day in Council Bluffs, with a brief speech at another cafe.(1 Comments)
A spokeswoman for Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann told MPR News Monday evening that influential Iowa social conservative Bob Vander Plaats did not ask Bachmann to end her presidential campaign and to team up with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Politico, citing unnamed sources, first reported that Vander Plaats, president and CEO of Christian activist group The Family Leader, made that request during a telephone call with Bachmann on Saturday.
Bachmann 2012 spokeswoman Alice Stewart said Vander Plaats "asked her [Bachmann] to merge with another candidate." Stewart said the evangelical leader, "didn't say whether she [Bachmann] should be #1 or #2," just that she should "consider the possibility of merging with another candidate."
Stewart said Vander Plaats did not say which candidate or candidates Bachmann should consider teaming with, but did "hint" that she should look toward Santorum or Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Stewart said Vander Plaats said the best way to beat former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was for the strong faith candidates to merge and go against Romney. Stewart added that Bachmann has no intention of ending her presidential campaign and noted that the Minnesota congresswoman is polling ahead of Santorum.
Earlier Monday, Vander Plaats announced he was personally endorsing Santorum. The Family Leader announced it would not weigh-in on an endorsement.
Despite repeated inquiries from MPR News, Vander Plaats has not made himself available to talk about his endorsement.
UPDATE: A spokeswoman for The Family Leader Julie Summa told MPR News via email just after 9p that Vander Plaats did not ask Bachmann to end her presidential campaign in favor of joining with Santorum as his vice presidential candidate.
Rep. Michele Bachmann sought to diminish former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's leading position in the Republican presidential nomination battle at last night's debate in Sioux City. She accused Gingrich of influence-peddling and weakness on opposition to legalized abortion. Gingrich fought back accusing Bachmann of untruths.
Asked by a Fox News moderator how she could back up her claim that Gingrich was paid to lobby on behalf of Freddie Mac, Bachmann said Gingrich's paycheck was confirmation.
"That's the best evidence you can have. Over $1.6 million dollars," said Bachmann. She said Gingrich was promoting Freddie Mac at a time when she was trying to dismantle the mortgage giant.
"He was taking $1.6 million dollars to influence senior Republicans keep the scam going in Washington D.C. That's absolutely wrong," Bachmann said,
In response, Gingrich snapped back at Bachmann. "Sometimes people ought to have facts before they make wild allegations," he said.
"What she just said is factually not true. I never lobbied under any circumstance," said Gingrich who doesn't deny Freddie Mac paid him but says it was for consulting work, not lobbying.
Bachmann said Gingrich's explanation does not add up.
"You don't need to be within the technical definition of being a lobbyist to still be influence-peddling with senior Republicans in Washington, DC." Bachmann said.
Later in the debate Bachmann was asked to outline her concerns about Gingrich on the issue of legalized abortion. She accused Gingrich of failing to pursue opportunities to defund Planned Parenthood when he was in Congress and that he lacked aggression in opposing fellow Republicans who supported partial birth abortion.
"When he was in Washington D.C. he made an affirmative statement that he would not only support, but that he would campaign for Republicans who were in support of the barbaric procedure known as 'partial birth abortion'. I could never do that," said Bachmann who called opposition to legalized abortion a "seminal issue," for Republicans.
"It's something that we can't get wrong and as president of the United States, I will be 100 percent pro-life from conception until natural death," said Bachmann.
Gingrich, again, accused Bachmann of being wrong.
"Sometimes Congresswoman Bachmann doesn't get her facts accurate," said Gingrich who cited his 98.5 percent right to life voting record over 20 years along with efforts to ban partial birth abortion.
But Bachmann did not back down and demanded a rebuttal.
"This isn't just once. I think it's outrageous to continue to say over and over through the debates that I don't have my facts rights when, as a matter of fact, I do. I'm a serious candidate for president of the United States and my facts are accurate," said Bachmann reiterating her point that Gingrich failed to hold some fellow Republicans accountable on partial birth abortion.
Finally Gingrich conceded the point.
"What I said on that particular issue is, I wouldn't go out and try to purge Republicans. Now I don't see how you're going to govern the country if you're going to run around and decide who you're going to purge," said Gingrich who said he has consistently opposed partial birth abortion and supports prohibiting legalized abortion. Gingrich also said as president, he would defund Planned Parenthood.
In addition to criticizing Gingrich, Bachmann attempted to address electability questions about her candidacy, claiming that the elections she has won for Minnesota Senate and Congress were won not only with the support of Republicans, but also with votes from independents and even Democrats.
"People wanted to know, who could they trust? They knew that, in me, they may not always agree with me, but they knew that I was a woman who said what she meant and meant what she said and they respected that level of authenticity and sincerity," said Bachmann.
Bachmann will seek to build on any momentum the last few debates have given her struggling campaign with a weeks-long bus tour of Iowa in which she plans stops in all of its 99 counties.
In an interview with MPR News Thursday afternoon on her campaign bus, Bachmann said the strategy mimics her successful summer campaign push in Iowa.
"Of all of the candidates, no one has done more retail politics in Iowa than I have done and I am very happy to have done that. I think that paid off very well for the Straw Poll. I'm the candidate that won the straw poll and now we're employing the same strategy. We're going to be in all 99 Iowa counties and I think that's exactly what we need to do to actually meet people where they are, shake their hand, speak with them. Iowans want to know they matter and they matter to me."
Bachmann kicks off her bus tour Friday with several stops planned in conservative northwestern Iowa.
The next debate is scheduled for January 7, just a few days after Iowans will finally cast ballots in the GOP nomination battle. That debate will take place in Manchester, N.H. with the remaining candidates.
SIOUX CITY, Iowa-- Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann will join the other Republican presidential hopefuls tonight for the final debate prior to the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. Many political observers say if Bachmann's showing in the caucuses mirrors her distant position in most polls she will have little choice but to end her campaign for president.
Aboard her campaign bus Thursday afternoon, Bachmann said she expects the Sioux City debate to be "vigorous."
"There's no question because this will be the last televised debate before we have the all-important Iowa caucuses, and I look forward to it," she said. "I love the debates. I think I've proven myself very well in the debates. People can see that I am the best candidate to go toe-to-toe with Barack Obama and defeat him in 2012. And I think that's what we'll show tonight too."
Bachmann announced her entrance into the race during a debate in mid-June in New Hampshire. She formally launched her campaign in Iowa from her Waterloo birthplace. Bachmann moved to Minnesota as a young girl, but has emphasized her Iowa roots as she's sought support in the Hawkeye State.
Bachmann surprised many by winning the Ames Straw Poll in mid-August. For a brief time she was statistically tied in a Des Moines Register Iowa Poll with then front-runner Mitt Romney, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry's entrance into GOP presidential nomination battle and her misstep on vaccines dealt Bachmann a blow from which she has not been able to recover, despite relatively strong debate performances and an aggressive Iowa campaign schedule.
Still, Bachmann is expressing optimism about her prospects in the caucuses, confidently predicting that Iowans will "come home" to her on Jan.3.
"We're moving up. That's really what you want when you're at this stage of the game," she said. "We think we're positioned perfectly to land exactly where we need to be on Jan. 3. Because what people are looking at right now is who will be the consistent champion, the consistent conservative, who is the proven voice? And as people are looking at the candidates, they're looking at Newt-Romney and they're seeing very clearly that these are the voices not of conservative champions. And so now we're getting a second look, and we think we're going to be exactly where we need to be to win."
On Friday morning Bachmann will launch a bus tour of all 99 Iowa counties in an attempt to rally support. Day one of her trip will include several stops in northwestern Iowa, one of the most conservative parts of the state.
Tonight's debate will be broadcast live on Fox News at 8:00 CST.(1 Comments)