Rasmussen Shows Gingrich Over Obama

In what may be a bad sign ultimately for Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich has overtaken Barack Obama in a hypothetical poll for the 2012 General Election.  Newt 45, Obama 43 is the Rasmussen headline.

Certainly this is bad news for Barack Obama.  Gingrich has a great deal of distance to cover in order to win over moderates and and establishment Republicans without losing the Social Conservative base.  He has already been attacked by watchdog/attack dog Michele Bachmann for not being conservative enough on illegal immigration.  Mitt Romney is trying to portray Newt as a Washington insider, and liberals like Bruce Bartlett and Paul Krugman are trying to feed a new portrayal of Newt as someone who only sounds smarter than them.  Even Mark Steyn got in on the action while filling in for Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday, saying essentially that Newt only sounds smart because he uses big words.  Yet Newt has accomplished something other flavor of the week Social Conservatives haven’t with this poll.  Falling to Newt this early in a national poll is very bad news for Obama.

So why might it be worse news for Romney?  How about some de ja vu.  Click here for a 2008 New Hampshire poll that might remind you of how the 2008 primary went down. Romney had been the clear choice until polls started showing McCain as being the best candidate to beat Hillary Clinton.  Up until now, Romney has consistently been the best candidate to beat Obama in 2012.

Let’s be honest.  The number one concern of most Republicans when determining who to vote for in this primary is who can beat Barack Obama.  Even though any of the candidates running should be able to beat Obama, many Republicans are basing their vote on that one key: electability.  If Newt continues to beat Obama in the polls, Romney could find himself watching the November results from home for the second time in a row.

A Comparison of the Republican Presidential Candidate’s Economic Plans

Bookmark and Share    As Republicans try to figure out who will be the best candidate to run against President Obama, the economy remains the number one issue affecting voter opinion in the general election for president.  And with projections of unemployment reamining high, long into 2012, combined with a way too slow rate of economic growth, rising prices and debt, low consumer confidence, and a host of other negative economic indicators that offer little hope for a turnaround, it looks like the economy will remain the top issues in 2012. 

As such, White House 2012 has prepared a chart that compares each of the Republican presidential candidate’s econmic plans to one another. 

In the chart you will see exactly where each candidate stands on such things as the personal and corporate rates, repatriation of corporate profits made overseas, Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank, capital gains and death taxes, spending, and more. 

Hopefully this comparison will serve as a quick and handy summation of the similarities and differences between the candidates.  But no matter how helpful it may be, there is no substitution for knowing exactly what each candidate is proposing.  They say the devil is in the details and that is the truth.  While summaries are nice, knowing precisely what is involved is far better.  That is why in addition to our summary comparison chart, White House 2012 is also providing you with the links to each candidate’s actual economic plan.  Some are more detailed than others and in that area, the most comprehensive plan of all out there is the plan outlined in Mitt Romney’s “Believe in America” proposal. 

While the details that Romney offer are commendable, there is also a commendable trend toward to simplicity that is being offered in the 2012 cycle. Each of the candidates are proposes a flatter” tax code with less brackets, and several are proposing an all out flat tax. Such simplification is welcome but they also involve more than just one single tax for all. So I advise you to take a good look at each candidate’s individual plan. Decide for yourself who has the best command of this most important issue and who has the best plan to deal with it.  Below the chart, you will find links to the most detailed information on their economic plans made available by their campaigns.

Click on the name of each candidate to review the details of their economic plans

Michele Bachmann

Herman Cain

Newt Gingrich

Jon Huntsman

Ron Paul

Rick Perry

Mitt Romney

Rick Santorum

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Is Bachmann’s Immigration Stance Electable?

One of the keys to winning the Social Conservative vote is electability.  Many voters out there aren’t asking which candidate has the best ideas.  They are asking which candidate can beat Barack Obama.  On the Social Conservative side, they are asking which candidate can beat Mitt Romney first.

Bachmann has chosen not only to level questionable attacks against Newt Gingrich for his immigration policy, but she has also taken the hardline stance that as President 11.2 million illegal aliens should be deported no matter how long they have been here, their other legal history, or their family and community ties.  With the intensity that Bachmann has attacked Gingrich, I would be comfortable assuming that this would be a national priority for her.

Mitt Romney tried to come down hard on Gingrich in the debate, but admitted himself that there must be exceptions to the rule for mass deportations.  Bachmann, who has played the role of attack dog against more than one candidate, was far more rigid in her approach.  But can a zero tolerance, deport them all approach to Illegal Immigration win in 2012?

Amnesty was a big loser for Republicans in the past.  McCain’s involvement in a potential bill to grant a path to citizenship for illegal aliens nearly ended his career.  But far too often this complex issue is reduced to a soundbite, or single word (such as “amnesty”).  What would happen in a debate between Michele Bachmann and Barack Obama where Bachmann was asked if she would make deporting 11.2 million illegal aliens a national priority and how she planned on doing that?

This issue is a loser all around for Conservatives.  Not because they are wrong, but because like so many other issues there is no easy solution, but they are willing to try.

So far, Mitt Romney has dodged a huge bullet.  No one seems to have noticed his exception caveat to his immigration hardline.  Bachmann has managed to stay on the attack, but it won’t take the media forever for someone to ask her how she plans on deporting 11.2 million illegal immigrants.  For now though, Gingrich is taking the heat just as he predicted in the debate.  As far as what Conservatives actually want, many want Michele Bachmann’s hardline and may stay home if they see weakness in a candidate on this issue.  Others will see Bachmann’s stance as making her unelectable and will avoid her because of it.  Either way, the best thing for the GOP right now is for this issue to run its course in the media cycle and go away soon.  With Bachmann’s perceived chance at spoiling another rival’s campaign, don’t count on it.

Review of the CNN GOP debate from across the Big Pond

Last evenings CNN Republican Candidate debate was moderated by Wolf Blitzer, regular host of the Situation room.  This debate, co-hosted in Washington, D.C., by the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, focussed on four main issues — national defense, the economy, international relations, and terrorism issues and lasted two hours in total and marked the 11th GOP debate of the election season.

The evening was introduced with an introduction highlighting National Security to any president as being the most important and daunting responsibility. CNN showed some footage of major security issues from previous presidencies which put the evening and topic very much into context.

The questions varied on content and context but consisted of the following:

Question1 – Focussed on there being 42 attempted terrorist attacks on the USA since 9/11.

Question 2 – The use of drones and efforts in Pakistan to defeat Al-Qaeda.

Question 3 – The cost to the US for its involvement in Afghanistan and was US involvement to prevent a terror safe haven worth it.

Question 4 – Should Israel be attacked by Iran, would the candidates support/help Israel in their efforts.

Question 5 – Focussed on the effect of sanctions in stopping Iran getting a nuclear bomb.

Question 6 – Focussed on development assistance for poor countries and economic development.

Question 7 – Focussed on spending and cuts to the military budget.

Question 8 – Focussed on the failure of the Super Committee and the $600 billion cuts.

Question 9 – The issue of the massive deficit the nation is facing and entitlement reform.

Question 10 – Focussed on the Mexico border and on how to stop the Mexican drug cartels.

Question 11 – Focussed on the need for High Skill immigration and immigration assistance for high skilled workers

Question 12 – Focussed on the violence of Syria and the impact on US allies in the region.

Question 13 – How to deal with Al-Shabab (Al-Qaeda)

Question 14 – The last question focussed on the one unexpected thing that could happen as president and what issue do the candidates worry about.

I’ve summarised the candidate’s responses and ranked them in order of how I believe they performed on the night.

1 – Newt Gingrich

Gingrich had the first question directed at him and drew the distinction between homeland terrorism and foreign threats and stated, he would not change the Patriot Act but would in fact enhance its powers. Gingrich responded citing the example of Timothy McVeigh as to why, he wanted powers to protect Americans in his response to Ron Paul’s view.

On the issue of Afghanistan, Newt put the questions into context stating,” We should start with Pakistan”. He used the killing of Osama Bin Laden as a reason why the US should be furious with Pakistan. He suggested some alterations and to pursue the fight intensively.

On Iran, Gingrich said the first efforts in dealing with Iran should be made at home in building US energy resources to reduce the impact of any sanctions against Iran. He called for a much strategic approach in dealing with Iran.

On the issue of spending and military cuts, Gingrich replied that there were things we could be better and invoked the memory of American efforts to win previous wars, and said the US could open up oil reserves within a year, and just get the job done and make the Millennium challenge work.

Gingrich commenting on the massive structural deficit referenced his own proposals and used Chile as an example of a model, which, he would use for the US to bring down the entitlement spending.

On the immigration issue, Gingrich called for the issuance of visa’s for highly qualified students to encourage them to stay in the US. He called for a comprehensive approach starting with border control, a visa program and a review of current illegals. Gingrich provided an excellent answer saying the party of the family should not force or break up long established families.

Gingrich said the three biggest threats were a dirty bomb in a major city, an electro magnetic pulse and cyber attacks in the unexpected area.

Assessment

Gingrich won the night again despite sticking his neck out on the Immigration issue which he managed to do in a very eloquent manner. He is realistic and practical on the issue, there is no chance the estimated 11 million illegal’s in the United States will ever be deported. It needs to be dealt with as part of a big package of measures. His assessment for future unexpected threats though was also brilliant.

2-      Jon Huntsman

Huntsman said the Homeland couldn’t be secured out of Washington D.C. but required a collaborative and national approach.

Huntsman opened the account on the second question, saying Washington needs to be fixed before the US turns its attention to foreign nations, but called Pakistan a nation waiting to fail and the US should not be nation building in Afghanistan.

Huntsman disagreed with Romney’s viewpoint and called for an honest conversation and called for a reduction in the 100,000 troops and focus on special-forces presence and the use of drones in Afghanistan.

On the issue of spending and military spending, Huntsman said the first issue needing attention was a deficit in trust among the people in the nation. He called for spending for defence to follow a determined strategy and must be driven by economic policy.

Huntsman responded to a Twitter question regarding the Arab Spring saying, history will tell going on to say the US missed the Persian Spring and reminded all that Israel is a friendly ally. He said sanctions won’t work because China and Russia won’t co-operate.

Huntsman said the biggest unexpected threat was joblessness in America and it needed to be dealt with.

Assessment

The best debate performance by Huntsman to date and I have him tied with Gingrich on the night. He nearly dealt Romney a fatal blow in their heated exchange and Romney was saved by Wolf Blitzer as there is no doubt, had the exchange continued, Huntsman would’ve exposed Romney.

3 – Ron Paul

Rep.Paul disagreed with Gingrich and put forward the view that the Patriot Act is unpatriotic. He asserted his view that you do not have to give up liberty to secure your environment. Santorum’s stance on the use of profiling was attacked by Rep.Paul and said liberties should not be sacrificed because people are suspects.

Unsurprisingly, Rep. Paul said he would not support Israel in any attack on Iran. He said Israeli interests are not US interests and they are capable of looking after themselves. He said the US should be very careful in the nation’s willingness to go to war abroad.

Rep.Paul said he didn’t support financial assistance for foreign development saying it was taking money from the poor in America and giving it to the rich in those countries.

On the Mexico border issue, he called for a cancellation on the war on drugs. Paul went on about eliminating benefits which attracts illegal immigrants.

Rep.Paul in response to the Al-Qaeda threat in the Middle East region he put forward the friendly state policy of non-intervention/retaliation.

Paul said the biggest unexpected threat was an over reaction on the part of the US.

Assessment

Rep.Paul had a very good night and was afforded a lot of time most likely due to his many different views on the issues. As always, Paul talked a lot of sense but his exchange with Gingrich on the Timothy McVeigh exchange damaged him along with his stance on how to deal with Iran. A good night overall though for Paul, ignoring his differing views from the other candidates.

4 – Mitt Romney

The TSA systems was the first question directed towards him which he responded to quickly before shifting back to the terrorist threat and agreed with Speaker Gingrich saying the US needed tools to fight threat both domestic and foreign. He asserted that US involvement should continue and withdrawal gradual based on military advice on the ground.

Romney got engaged with Huntsman in his criticism of Romney’s statement on Afghanistan. He was firm that US involvement in Afghanistan should not be a case of cut and run, the cost was too high.

Romney on the issue of development funding and security and drew the comparison between the trillion dollar cuts from the military as being exactly the amount President Obama needs to fund healthcare. He said Obama was cutting the capacity for America to defend itself. He said Pres. Obama was friendly to America’s foes and disrespectful to its friends and promised Israel would be his first foreign trip.

Romney on the immigration issue called amnesty a magnate and said the US needed to attract highly qualified people. He said the country needed to stop the causes of illegal immigration and for the securing of the border.

On the Al-Qaeda issue and the Middle East again Romney cited Pres. Obama’s appeasement and policy of apology in the region and called for the use of covert action and sanctions in dealing with Syria.

On the threats to the US is Iran, China and the unexpected one is Latin America.

5 – Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann opened her night on the role of Commander in Chief and the technological aspects of the new threats and attacked President Obama on giving up protection for interrogators fighting the threat.

Bachmann called Pakistan the epi-centre of Al-Qaeda and raised the threat about the vulnerability of access to their nuclear facilities. Bachmann said on the issue of cutting funding to Pakistan that she would continue it but demand more for the present time. Bachmann called Perry’s view naïve and said people needed to consider the realities of the nuclear threat on the ground.

Bachmann echoed the other candidate’s views on the Iranian issue and again went after President Obama on his failure to pursue energy independence and reminded the audience that it was Iran threatening Israel back in August not the other way around, calling Obama’s approach in dealing with Iran a doctrine of appeasement.

Bachmann on the issue of deficit reduction went back to her stance from earlier in the year and the raising of the debt ceiling. Bachmann said she would first look to balance the budget then look at paying down the deficit.

Bachmann didn’t agree with Gingrich’s approach on immigration and she then went on to reference Steve Jobs. She said America needed to offer visa’s to worker which the nation needed.

Bachmann said domestic home grown terrorism was the biggest potential threat.

Assessment

Overall, a more assured performance from Bachmann on the night and her insight on intelligence and security issues came to the fore. She did her wavering chances no harm.

6 – Rick Santorum

Santorum opened his account by reasserting his stance on the use of passenger profiling. Santorum also supported the use of the Patriot Act and called for the balancing of interests.

On Afghanistan, Santorum said he agreed with Ron Paul and gave an insight into what Radical Muslim leaders teach their recruits. Santorum said radical Muslim’s tell their members that they only need to out wait American involvement.

Santorum responded first on the issue of development assistance calling it absolutely essential and a key component in national security and called for more efforts and the promotion of key values.

Answering a question on a Ronald Reagan quote of getting 75-80% of what you want, you should accept it and move on. Santorum said it depends on what you get, but you should not undermine the ability of the country to grow for the sake of partisan politics.

Santorum answered the question on high skill immigration and praised the innovation that has been produced in the US by immigrants and said America should continue to be the beacon for such immigrants.

Santorum said he was concerned about Central and South America and the spread of socialism.

Assessment

Santorum always presents himself as very capable and competent. He struggles to get time during any debate, and his exchange with Ron Paul on the profiling of Muslim’s was not authoritative.

7 – Rick Perry

Rick Perry opened his account saying he would privatise the TSA and get rid of the Trade Unions. He returned to the issue of the Patriot Act saying it needed strengthening and cited the current administration a failure in their efforts to develop and gather intelligence around the world.

Governor Perry on the Pakistan issue reasserted his previous viewpoint of not sending any funding to the nation until they demonstrate themselves to be willing partners and not representing American interests.

Perry on the Iran sanctions issue called them the first measure in any fight against Iran and would include Syria in the equation and criticised President Obama for inaction.

On the issue of the super committee failure Perry said it is no surprise to anyone that it failed and said President Obama has been a complete failure on the entire budget process. He said Pres. Obama’s threat of the veto puts American lives at risk and said Leon Panetta should resign in protest. Perry referenced his ten years of bi-partisan working in Texas as proof that both sides can work together.

Perry called for a 21s century Monroe Doctrine to deal with the infiltration of the United States through the Mexican border. He said border security with Mexico was paramount to the security of the Western world and he would put boots on the ground. Perry said the whole issue of the border and immigration could not begin to be tackled until the border is secured, it is a must.

Perry said he supported a No-Fly zone over Syria but it was only one of a number of measures to deal with the problem and if implemented it might encourage others in the military to cross over.

Perry cited China as the biggest oncoming threat to the US national security.

Assessment

Perry had a decent debate but when Michele Bachmann called him naïve, the clip was played on all the major networks following the debate and his call for Leon Panetta to resign in protest was not a good strategic move. It is very hard to see Perry coming back from here.

8 – Herman Cain

Cain when asked on his stance on profiling as proposed by Santorum said he called it target profiling. He said terrorists want to kill all of us and every means possible should be used to prevent attacks. He slipped up calling Wolf “Blitz”, but quickly corrected himself.

Herman Cain answered the Iran/Israel question first and stayed on safe ground referring to the content of any plan as the basis of any decision. Cain responding to Paul said he would support Israel because Iran poses a threat in the region.

On development assistance Cain said it depended on priorities and the success of programmes and said he wanted to see the results before making a decision.

Herman Cain said yes the Mexican border was a threat and outlined reasons why it was a threat. He called for securing the border, enforcing the current laws and promotes the path to citizenship and empowers the states to do what the government can’t deal with themselves.

Cain said he would not support a No-Fly zone over Syria and said he would work with US allies to stop buying oil from Syria.

Cain said Cyber attacks were the biggest area of unexpected concern.

Assessment

Cain was sadly very exposed last night for his lack of comprehension of the major international events and security issues required of a Commander in Chief. He constantly adopts a default position reply of assessing the issue, seek advice from the General’s or experts and then plan or act. While on the face of it appears fine, you cannot use such a response when replying to nearly every question. As I mentioned before, the damage to Cain’s campaign was done in his team’s management and handling of the recent allegations, not the allegations themselves. There have been too many missteps on Foreign affairs and security issues for Cain to win the nomination but he is above all else, a gentleman and has added much to the GOP race. Last night unfortunately, only confirmed what many people suspected, he lacks the knowledge and grasp of the major issues to be President and Commander in Chief.

Foreign Policy Reveals Different Strengths

Whether or not you think the GOP has a strong field, one thing is for sure.  Any of these candidates would be better than Obama when it comes to foreign policy.  That came across clearly from more moderate voices like Jon Huntsman in addition to the two front runners.  Overall it was a great performance by all the candidates.  The contrast between the GOP field, including Ron Paul, and Barack Obama was clear.  So, here are the winners and losers:

Mitt Romney won the debate because of his smooth ability to introduce ambiguity on some issues to give all Conservatives a cushion of comfort.  See Newt’s performance below.  Mitt also took on Ron Paul and I think Mitt won that debate.  It seems pretty clear that Al Qaida terrorists and Timothy McVeigh do not represent the same sort of threat.  In fact, I would argue that lumping McVeigh, a disgruntled anti-American government citizen attacking the system, in with the 9/11 hijackers, foreign terrorists attacking and targeting United States civilians, is a very dangerous way of looking at foreign and domestic terrorism.  I sure hope we would treat a foreign terrorist crossing our border illegally differently than a citizen radical trying to build a bomb in their basement because the IRS just sent them another tax notice.

Jon Huntsman demonstrated his firm control of foreign policy issues.  I think he overcame some fears when he affirmed our strong relationship with Israel.  Huntsman also expressed sentiments on Afghanistan that have been felt by many Conservatives who were mislabeled as “neo-cons” over the last decade.  Many Conservatives supported both wars, but do not support something for nothing nation building in nations that don’t respect us and don’t appreciate the sacrifices we have made.  Huntsman turned again and again to the economy and the failures of Obama and Congress to solve the problem.  Huntsman’s point on how we leave North Korea alone because they have a nuke, but invaded Libya after they gave up their nuclear ambitions is a great diagnosis of the inconsistency in America’s position towards nuclear ambitious countries.

Newt had a great, issue free performance.  Here is the problem.  Newt comes across hawkish, and he is far too honest.  In the end, Mitt agreed with him on long-time illegal immigrants, but Mitt said it in such a way that will be taken better by anti-illegal alien Conservatives.  Newt also hurt himself by endorsing and calling for an expansion of the Patriot act.  This could help guarantee that Ron Paulites stay home and let Obama get re-elected in 2012.  What Newt should have said was that he supported the Patriot Act, but recommends examining it for things that could be eliminated or added.  I think Newt is too straight forward on a subject that honestly Americans would prefer some ambiguity on.  Same with covert operations.  His answer regarding opening our oil resources is not new, but continues to be a very strong point for him.

Ron Paul continued to solidify his base and add some fringe Conservatives who are weary enough of the wars to want to radically change America’s relationship with the world.  For these people, Paul’s angry old man persona, scoffing and reacting to opponents’ answers, and idea that if we leave terrorists alone, they will realize the error of their ways and leave us alone, will not affect his support.  Still, Paul would make a better foreign policy President than Obama.  At least his disengagement would be total, not mixed with war hawkishness like Obama’s.

Rick Perry’s substance earned him a higher spot after this debate.  I still think his idea of zero based budgeting for foreign aid resonates with Americans.  His refusal to dabble in hypotheticals about illegals who have been here more than a quarter century is going to help him as people weed out Romney and Gingrich’s immigration comments and discover the softness there.

Herman Cain did well not to hurt himself in this debate.  He has come across as unknowledgeable on foreign policy.  In this debate he showed he has a recognizable set of foreign policy principles, although he kept things pretty vague.  He didn’t hurt himself and that is a victory for him on foreign policy.

Rick Santorum comes across as a neo-con.   This debate didn’t really change that, and only a change in that perception would cause his status to change as a result of this debate.  No mistakes, but also no movement for him after this debate.  He continues to maintain that we should be paying Pakistan for friendship.

Michele Bachmann is either a career politician or has issues with comprehension.  On multiple occasions she seemed to not be able to grasp her opponent’s position.  A glaring example was when she interpreted Newt’s soft approach to long-time established illegals as some sort of call for general amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens.  She played the same role in Rick Perry’s demise, but now it seems more like a desperate cry for relevance.  Rising and falling as the Social Conservative choice at this point will require superiority on the issues, not loud misunderstanding of opponents, even though that usually produces success with the general electorate.

No matter who the nominee is, what is clear from last night is that we cannot afford four more years of Obama’s foreign policy.

Republican and Democratic big hitters campaign in Iowa, but Romney a notable absentee.

Just over a month before the Iowa caucus, Mitt Romney has opened an Iowa campaign office. Romney has recruited five paid staffers in the state as well as volunteers. Romney’s decision to open an office comes long after many of his GOP counterparts laid groundwork in Iowa. Rep. Michele Bachmann and businessman Herman Cain both opened headquarters in the state in July. Ron Paul set up an office in May, Sen. Rick Santorum in June and Gov. Rick Perry in October. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich plans to announce his Iowa staff and headquarters soon.

Romney has made just three trips to Iowa since announcing his candidacy in June, and is scheduled to make another one this week. His effort in the state has been vastly reduced compared to that in 2008, when the candidate spilled millions into his campaign effort to come in second to Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The other Republican presidential candidates seeking to become the main alternative to Mitt Romney in Iowa spoke to 3,000 conservatives gathers at a Des Moines church yesterday attacking the Occupy Wall Street movement amongst other things.

The Democrats not to be out done and ramping up President Obama’s campaign mode sent out Chicago mayor, and former White House Chief of Staff – Rahm Emanuel for the annual Democratic fundraising dinner also in Des Moines. Emanuel called for President Obama’s re-election and mocked the Republican challengers saying, “The Republican event was called the “Thanksgiving Family Forum, which is fitting because I have never seen such a collection of turkeys.”

Interestingly, Emanuel kept Democratic Party efforts focussed on Mitt Romney attacking his alleged “flip-flopper” status on a series of issues mentioning his name 15 times and attempted to highlight contrasts between President Obama and Romney. Mayor Emanuel described Romney a man he sees as a calculating businessman-turned-politician, whose shifting positions on abortion, gay rights, gun control, climate change, immigration reform and health care reveal no principled core.  “Mitt Romney says he’s a man of steadiness and consistency,” Emanuel said. “And if that’s true, then I’m a linebacker for the Chicago Bears.”

Former Governor Romney was a notable absentee in Des Moines yesterday deciding to skip the Republican forum that was sponsored by a coalition of Iowa groups opposed to abortion rights and gay marriage, a gathering that offered six of his challengers a spotlight before an influential voting bloc and often consisted of each of the candidates complimenting each other.

Governor Romney was in New Hampshire yesterday for a town hall event in Peterborough promising reporters that he will be making a bigger push in Iowa. “I’ve said from the very beginning that we intend to play in Iowa, that I want to do very well there.”

Romney was coy on the exact details of his campaign strategy in Iowa saying, “It will come as no surprise to you that, in the business world and in the political world, that we tend not to reveal our strategies to our competitors, and so you’ll wait and see what we do.”

Mr. Romney reminded reporters gathered around him in the Peterborough town hall to “expect that as we get closer to the caucuses and the primaries you’ll see us visiting those early states more, spending more money there, turning out more volunteers and being more active because, as we get closer to the election, not surprisingly we want to draw people to the polls and support us.”

Mr. Romney attributed his absence at the Family Leader event to scheduling.

Romney needs to make a concerted effort in the coming weeks otherwise he may be accused of disrespecting the base by not committing or engaging in Iowa. In some respects, it appears Romney is following a more traditional campaign approach in opening an office in Des Moines and by recruiting volunteers, using phone banks and holding regular campaign events. It is clear that Romney is keen to learn from his mistakes in the 2008 campaign when he spent $10 million in an effort to win Iowa only to lose to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

The time line is shortening so it is important for Team Romney to be more visible in their efforts on the ground or face missing out on a top three spot in the Caucus. Iowa like most early states has some of the most passionate and committed supporters in any state nationally and they want their candidates to win their vote on merit, as Romney learnt to his cost in 2008 they can’t be bought.

Iowa will be very interesting and although there is much campaigning to do, I expect a surprise in the eventual result with my prediction that Rep. Ron Paul will win the caucus, with Cain, Gingrich and Santorum making up the other slots along with Romney. The only question to be decided is where will Romney come? A failure to secure a top three finish will not be a good result for his campaign to start the race for 2012 with.

Thanksgiving Family Forum Review

The GOP candidates faced something Saturday night that they haven’t seen in a long time, a friendly moderator.  In a round table discussion without buzzers, all but one of today’s contenders shared personal stories, tears, and their faith.  It was a very personalizing debate where Americans got to see these candidates discuss the issues facing family values voters.  So here is the official review:

Newt Gingrich opened up and shared a real personal side of himself with the audience.  He personalized the healthcare debate in a way that would make pro-Obamacare liberals rethink centralized health planning.  He also was the most genuine in sharing his failures with the crowd.  His failure and the resolution of turning his life around through God’s help is exactly what resonates with this crowd. He presented solutions on judicial activism without betraying a sort of militant anti-homosexuality that will be a turnoff to some states rights conservatives who shy away from a marriage amendment, but in a way that should satisfy pro-amendment conservatives who see the courts stampeding over states rights on marriage.

Rick Santorum had a chance to connect with audiences and take enough time to overcome some of the perception of irrelevance that comes with mainstream media consumer based debates.  This will help him especially in Iowa where social conservatives are searching to an anti-Romney with a clean record.  Santorum helped his changes in Iowa, although even if he wins in Iowa he will probably not take any other states.

Herman Cain played to his strength: being real.  Although there are questions about Cain’s foreign policy know how and tax plan, one thing that has made him endearing to Republicans is his realness and his ability to connect on that personal level.  He may have harmed himself though when as a failure he pointed out that he spent too much time working to the top of the corporate ladder and not enough time with his family.  That is a regret that will not resonate with most Americans, and for those who it does it will not be seen as a good thing.

Michele Bachmann did well, but was once again forgettable.  Her answer on schools was good by itself, but was a shadow of answers given by other candidates.  She must find a way to distinguish herself if she hopes to be relevant again.  Perry tried to make himself relevant, but his tax plan was trumped by Gingrich’s flat tax.  Santorum has not been able to make himself relevant again.  Bachmann’s best shot recently at making herself relevant has been apparent support for a $10 surtax on all Americans to make sure everyone is paying something in.  That is not a defining plan that will rocket her back to relevance.

Ron Paul was able to be personal and share his faith, which is important for him among social conservatives.  However, it may also be damaging among libertarian voters.  Paul showed support for DOMA, which will hurt him with libertarians.  His advocacy for moving issues like gay marriage to the church and family are admirable, but naive like his foreign policy.  Paul does not seem to understand the militancy of some liberal homosexual groups.  Paul also hurt himself with his greatest failure, suffering sports injuries that kept him from playing football in highschool.  Honestly, if someone told me that in a job interview I would probably only continue the interview out of politeness.

Rick Perry had a typical bumbling debate performance.  At one point he said “We’ve all heard that saying…” and I was afraid he might forget what it was.  When he talked about his greatest failure, I think he was saying he impregnated his wife (possibly not his wife at the time?) and had to drop out of veterinarian school.  Overall, unimpressive.

The biggest loser was Mitt Romney.  Mitt will not win this election with just the establishment and fiscal conservatives.  This was a must attend debate if he hopes to win over any social conservatives of family values voters.  Then again, if Mitt could not stand toe to toe with these candidates on family values, perhaps it is best that he didn’t show up.

Other no shows, Gary Johnson, Fred Kargar, Buddy Roemer, and Jon Huntsman.  Let’s be honest, who cares.

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