Iowa’s Moment Has Arrived

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  January 3, 2012 at 7:57 AM EST

Iowa Caucuses; photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Iowa Republicans will choose their presidential nominee Tuesday. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Here we go! After 13 nationally televised debates, some 900 campaign events, candidates rising and falling in the polls and months of speculation about the shape of the GOP presidential field, Iowa’s moment has arrived.

In 12 hours or so, Iowa Republicans will be gathering at 1,774 precincts across the state to select their choice to be the GOP’s presidential nominee. There are six candidates actively campaigning in the Hawkeye State, and it’s possible not a one will drop out should he or she have a disappointing showing Tuesday night.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who said just last week he’d end his bid entirely if he came in dead last, isn’t likely to have to worry about that scenario, as recent polls show him with the most momentum entering Tuesday’s caucuses.

Both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann plan to make their case in South Carolina instead of pushing in New Hampshire.

In a round of television interviews Tuesday morning, Newt Gingrich backed off a previous prediction that he won’t win the caucuses. He said he’s been hurt by negative advertising, but added, “I don’t think anybody knows who is going to get what right now.”

“Everywhere we go there are a large number of undecided people…anybody could come in first,” Gingrich said from Davenport, Iowa, on CBS’ “The Early Show.” The interview also indicated what’s to come — when asked if he was calling Mitt Romney a liar, Gingrich replied simply, “Yes.” He said he will campaign by pointing out that Romney is a “Massachusetts moderate.”

In an appearance Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Romney said he was prepared for Gingrich’s attacks. “That’s the nature of the campaign,” he said. “If I can’t stand up to that, I shouldn’t be the nominee.”

Romney will address supporters at the Hotel Fort Des Moines late Tuesday before cruising over to New Hampshire Wednesday morning. The former Massachusetts governor is in a better position this time around than in 2008, having spent less money and effort in the state but still likely to place in the top two. (He won just over 25 percent of the caucus vote in 2008, but 25 percent could be enough to win this time around if the conservative vote is split among the other five candidates.) As Susan Page said during Monday night’s NewsHour discussion with Gwen Ifill, whether Romney comes in first or second, he’s in “a pretty good position.”

NewsHour senior correspondent Judy Woodruff outlined Romney’s leaner Iowa effort in her piece Monday night. But he’s also more organized than before. “30 Minutes is all it takes to send President Obama a message,” Romney’s campaign told voters on his website Tuesday morning.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s team announced a last minute promotion Tuesday morning, asking fans to change their Twitter or Facebook photos to show their support.

In an example, perhaps, of the divided electorate, conservative Iowa Rep. Steve King announced Monday night in a radio interview that he wasn’t endorsing anyone. King, one of Bachmann’s best friends on Capitol Hill, had planned a summer endorsement but postponed it. In 2008, he endorsed former Sen. Fred Thompson, who came in third in the caucuses a few weeks later. King’s decision means the entire GOP delegation is staying out of it this year.

NOT HANGING BACK

President Obama isn’t leaving the Republicans alone in Iowa Tuesday. Through the wonders of technology, he’ll do his own campaigning via a live video chat with caucus attendees. (Democrats will gather in their precincts to officially select him as the nominee.)

The president is expected to give some opening remarks and take questions from a Democratic caucus site.

“Our focus in Iowa four years ago was on turnout, but with a non-competitive primary contest, we are using the caucuses as an opportunity to expand the unrivaled organization we have built this year,” an Obama campaign official told the Morning Line.

The official said the aim is that Obama supporters would talk to their friends and family about the president’s record. Among the highlights the campaign hopes supporters emphasize: ending the war in Iraq, passing health care legislation and cutting taxes for middle-class Americans.

Further evidence that lowa will be a battleground state this fall: the Obama campaign says it has already opened eight campaign offices in the state, hosted 1,200 grassroots events, made 350,000 calls to supporters and held 4,000 one-on-one meetings.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TUESDAY NIGHT

We’ll be keeping an eye on the college towns — will students return to campus early to attend caucuses for Rep. Ron Paul?

How many counties won by Mike Huckabee in 2008 will go for Romney this time around?

How does Bachmann perform in Waterloo, where she grew up?

Will Santorum dominate in the Catholic stronghold of Dubuque?

The forecast for Tuesday evening is clear. Highs will be in the mid-20s, balmy by Iowa standards.

WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED

Woodruff (@judywoodruff) will be dropping by a caucus Tuesday night and will provide her insights, as will NewsHour regulars Mark Shields and David Brooks. Ifill (@pbsgwen) will be in Washington as results come in, and she’ll be joined by political editor Christina Bellantoni (@cbellantoni) and Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report for analysis.

“Even if [Romney] does not win, he looks poised for a surprisingly good showing in a state in which he was not expected to compete just a few months ago,” Rothenberg wrote Monday for Roll Call.

Check your local listings for the program, and make sure to tune in for the NewsHour’s election special with Ifill, Woodruff, Shields, Brooks, Bellantoni and Rothenberg at 11 p.m. ET.

OCCUPY IOWA

Quinn Bowman (@quinnbowman) captured the movement’s actions around the caucuses.

Watch his report: LINK

FROM THE WAY BACK MACHINE

The NewsHour’s social media guru Teresa Gorman dug up an October 2007 interview that Woodruff did with Paul. Read his take on why he was attracting young voters:

REP. RON PAUL: Young ideas, a fantastic idea about individual freedom and allowing people to do what they want and take care of their lives, their lives belong to them, and get the government off their backs, and offer them low taxes, and make sure I never mess around with the Internet. Don’t tax the Internet, and don’t regulate the Internet.

You know, freedom is a very popular idea, and young people love it, and they’re open to ideas. And they like principled answers to our problems.

And older people seem to be stereotyped. You know, they get set in their ways, and they’re not as open to the ideas of freedom, yet, to me, freedom is a relatively new idea. It was an experiment, you know, with our country, but we have forgotten about it, and I’m reminding them about this great experiment of freedom, and they love it. And I am just so delighted when I see the young people coming.

The full transcript: LINK

TWEET OF THE MORNING

@HotlineReid: “Some helpful Iowa demographics, per AP: pop. 3,046,355. 91.3% white, 2.9% black, 5% Hispanic. 14.9% over 65, median age 38.1 #HotlineSort”

ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS …

The New York Times is reporting that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta this week will “outline plans for carefully shrinking the military — and in so doing make it clear that the Pentagon will not maintain the ability to fight two sustained ground wars at once.” The Times reports Panetta will say the military “will be large enough to fight and win one major conflict.”

ON THE TRAIL

All events listed in Eastern Time.

  • Mitt Romney holds a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, at 8:10 a.m.

  • Newt Gingrich holds campaign events in Muscatine, Iowa, at 10 a.m., Burlington at 12:30 p.m. and Cedar Falls at 7 p.m.

  • Rick Perry campaigns in West Des Moines, Iowa, at 10:10 a.m., and Des Moines at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

  • Michele Bachmann delivers remarks in West Des Moines at 11:10 a.m. and in Cedar Falls at 6:30 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum appears at the “Rock the Caucus” rally in West Des Moines at 11:35 a.m. and delivers remarks in Urbandale at 3:30 p.m.

  • Ron Paul delivers remarks at the ‘Rock the Caucus’ event in West Des Moines at 11:45 a.m.

  • Jon Huntsman again has New Hampshire to himself, with events scheduled in Pembroke at 10 a.m., Lebanon at 12:45 p.m., Keene at 3:30 p.m. and Peterborough at 6 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @quinnbowman.

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