It's All Politics
4:15 pm
Mon January 2, 2012

Iowa's Cold Doesn't Stop Campaigns From Heating Up Ahead Of Caucuses

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:10 am

Blustery winds and freezing cold temperatures today didn't slow down the Republican presidential candidates' campaigning on the eve of the Iowa caucuses.

Six GOP candidates — most with family members in tow — shook voters' hands and made their final arguments.

Here's a look at what our reporters are finding on the campaign trail:

-- Mitt Romney, who has edged into the lead in recent polls, is looking to deepen — not broaden — his statewide map in the final stretch, campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom tells NPR's Ari Shapiro.

As Ari reported earlier, Romney plans to visit areas of eastern Iowa where he did well in 2008.

So the former Massachusetts governor kicked off his last full day of Iowa campaigning at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport.

"This county did good things for me last time around," Romney told those assembled. "I need you to get out and do that again."

Last time, the support in these counties was not quite enough: Iowa was the beginning of the end for Romney in 2008. This year, polls suggest he could win. But this morning's event was only about half full, Ari reports. Most of the voters Ari spoke with expressed more pragmatism than enthusiasm for Romney. They believe he's best positioned to unseat the president.

Romney said that ability to take on President Obama is why Iowans should choose him — and he didn't once mention his rivals.

-- Rick Santorum began his day of campaigning at the Rising Sun Café in Polk City, where the number of supporters was rivaled by the number of national and international journalists, reports Sonari Glinton.

The former Pennsylvania senator warned voters: "Do not defer your judgment to the pundits and to the polls."

Santorum said he's going to spend the remaining time before the caucuses explaining that he's the true electable conservative in the race.

When speaking to reporters, Santorum acknowledged his surge in the polls but tried to tamp down expectations. "I'm hopeful that what we're seeing here is a lot of momentum and intensity," he said. "And if we can finish in the top three, that's a good finish for us."

One sign of his momentum? For most of his time in Iowa, Santorum has been traveling by pickup truck. He's still in the truck, Sonari reports, but now it's followed by a bus.

-- Ron Paul was on what his campaign calls a daylong whistle-stop tour across Iowa today.

As Don Gonyea reports, there were no trains involved, but the imagery works for a candidate who has kept chugging along, repeating his libertarian message.

"This is what the vote is about tomorrow: Are we sick and tired of the expansion of government, the endless spending and deficit, doing the things they weren't supposed to do and forgetting about doing the things they should be doing?" Paul said.

For the Texas congressman, it's a simple choice for Iowans looking to challenge the status quo. "There's one issue that has made America great, and the issue that you can answer all your questions on is individual liberty," he said.

Paul supporters are intensely loyal — like Mandy Devries, a mother of five from Ankeny, Iowa. She told Don: "I stand behind him, but I stand behind his ideas. And even when Ron Paul is no longer on the scene, I know that his ideas are going to stick around."

-- Newt Gingrich stood flanked by a dump truck and backhoe today at an excavating company in Walford, just outside Cedar Rapids, to underscore his plan to turn around the economy.

But the former House speaker first attacked President Obama for saying that he will push his agenda with or without Congress, reports David Schaper.

"Now, I don't know what country he thinks he's in, but it's constitutionally impossible to govern without Congress," Gingrich said. He accused Obama of and Congress of being childish.

Gingrich talked up his own experience in crafting bipartisan solutions — and it impressed Rosie Moser of Oelwein.

"I am not a supporter and I am now," she said. "He totally turned my thinking around."

Moser told David she especially likes Gingrich's promise to put American interests first, not partisan ones.

Gingrich remains upbeat that other Iowa Republicans will reject the barrage of negative ads against him, David reports. But Gingrich also says Iowa is like the first three minutes of the Super Bowl — and there's much more of the game to play.

-- Rick Perry spoke to Iowans today at a hotel and conference center on the western border of the state. The Texas governor said that the country is at a precipice, and he presented voters with this question:

"Why would you settle for anything other than an authentic conservative that reflects your values?"

-- Michele Bachmann also fought for the conservative mantle, reminding voters that she won the Iowa straw poll this summer. "I believe without a shadow of a doubt Iowans want to get behind a candidate who will represent their values," she said, "and I believe that I best represent their values."

As Mark Memmott noted earlier today, Bachmann has also launched an ad in which she makes the case that she's an American "Iron Lady," like former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. Blustery winds and freezing cold temperatures did not slow down the final day of campaigning in Iowa. Romney, Paul, Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, Gingrich, six Republican presidential candidates, most with family members in tow, shook voters' hands and made their final arguments. Our reporters are also braving the cold in Iowa and we're going to hear now from four of them. First, NPR's Ari Shapiro, who's traveling with Mitt Romney's campaign.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Romney campaign advisor Eric Fehrnstrom says in this final stretch of the Iowa race, the former Massachusetts governor is looking to deepen, not broaden, his statewide map.

ERIC FEHRNSTROM: You see Mitt Romney visit communities here in eastern Iowa that he won in 2008, places like Davenport and Dubuque and Cedar Rapids. And our goal is to consolidate our base of support and motivate them to go to their caucus locations tomorrow evening and vote for Mitt Romney.

SHAPIRO: So the candidate kicked off his last full day of Iowa campaigning at the Mississippi Valley Fair Grounds in Davenport.

MITT ROMNEY: This county did good things for me last time around. I need you to get out and do that again.

SHAPIRO: Last time, the support in these counties was not quite enough. Iowa was the beginning of the end for Romney in 2008. This year, polls suggest he could win here, but this morning's event was only about half full. Most of the voters I spoke with expressed more pragmatism than enthusiasm for Romney. They believe he's best positioned to unseat the president. Romney said that ability to take on President Obama is why Iowans should choose him. He didn't once mention his rivals.

ROMNEY: These have been a tough three years, but these years have been a detour not our destiny. We remember a time when you didn't have to worry about looking at the gas pump and you didn't have to worry about looking at your retirement account. And when you spent your week thinking about what movie you might take the kids to on the weekend, as opposed to worrying about whether you could put food on the table until the weekend.

SHAPIRO: This weekend, if Romney has his way, he'll have victory under his belt in the first nominating contest of the 2012 presidential campaign. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Dubuque, Iowa.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: I'm Sonari Glinton, following Rick Santorum in Perry, Iowa.

RICK SANTORUM: Make room, make room. Good go be in Polk City. Thank you so much.

GLINTON: Santorum began his campaign day at the Rising Sun Cafe, where the number of Santorum supporters was rivaled by the number of national and international press.

SANTORUM: Do not defer your judgment to the pundits and to the polls. Well, there's a lot of pundits here. That's why they're not clapping. And by the way, they weren't here last week. They haven't been at our town hall meetings and they haven't been talking to Iowans very much. They talk to each other.

GLINTON: Santorum has been talking to Iowans, traveling to the state's 99 counties. Santorum said he's going to spend his time explaining that he's the true electable conservative in the race.

SANTORUM: If you really care about what Republicans care about, which is freedom, then you have to be for limited government.

GLINTON: Speaking to reporters, the former Pennsylvania senator acknowledged his surge in the polls, but tried to tamp down expectations.

SANTORUM: That's what you're looking for. You're looking for that momentum. What caucuses are about, they're about intensity and momentum. And I'm hopeful that what we're seeing here is a lot of momentum and intensity. And if we can finish in the top three, that's a good finish for us. Having been, 10 days ago, at 5 percent, we feel pretty good at being where we are.

GLINTON: A sign of the momentum in the race, for most of his time in Iowa, Santorum has been traveling by pickup truck. He's still in the truck, but now it's followed by a bus. Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Perry, Iowa.

BLOCK: So we heard from Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Now, on to the remaining Republican presidential candidates as they try to close the deal in Iowa. Here's NPR's Don Gonyea, who's been following Ron Paul.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Texas Congressman Ron Paul is on what his campaign calls a daylong whistle-stop tour across Iowa.

RON PAUL: Good to see everybody. Wow, look at the crowd. Hey.

GONYEA: There are no trains involved in this whistle-stop. The event was in a downtown hotel. But the imagery works for a candidate who has kept chugging along, repeating his libertarian message. Paul brought a special guest with him, his son, U.S. Senator Rand Paul.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: There's only one candidate who stands above, head and shoulders above, who lobbyists will tell you is incorruptible.

GONYEA: Then it was the candidate's turn.

PAUL: This is what the vote is about tomorrow. Are we sick and tired of the expansion of government, the endless spending and the deficit doing the things they weren't supposed to do and forgetting about doing the things they should be doing?

GONYEA: For Paul, it's a simple choice for Iowans looking to challenge the status quo.

PAUL: There's one issue that has made America great, and the issue that you can answer all your questions on is individual liberty. That is the issue.

GONYEA: Ron Paul supporters are intensely loyal, like Mandy Devries, a home-schooling mother of five from Ankeny, Iowa.

MANDY DEVRIES: I stand behind him, but I stand behind his ideas. And even when Ron Paul is no longer on the scene, I know that his ideas are going to stick around.

GONYEA: But she and others in this ballroom hope the Iowa caucuses will help make this year Ron Paul's moment. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Des Moines.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: I'm David Schaper in Walford, Iowa, at the Schrader Excavating and Grading Company, where Newt Gingrich was flanked by a dump truck and a backhoe. Both here and at an earlier event today, Gingrich attacked President Obama saying that he'll push his agenda with or without Congress.

NEWT GINGRICH: Now, I don't know what country he thinks he's in, but it's constitutionally impossible to govern without Congress.

SCHAPER: Gingrich accuses President Obama and Congress of being childish.

GINGRICH: And for the president's staff to announce he's now going to govern without Congress, well, that means he's not going to govern. He's going to be a candidate for an entire year. He shouldn't take a salary. He shouldn't pretend he's president. He's just a candidate.

SCHAPER: Gingrich talked up his own experience in crafting bipartisan solutions and it impressed Rosie Moser of Oelwein.

ROSIE MOSER: I am not a supporter and I am now. I looked the man in the eye, shook his hand. He totally turned my thinking around.

SCHAPER: Moser says she especially likes Gingrich's promise to put American interests first, not partisan ones.

MOSER: I believe the man really knows how to balance and get inside on both sides and bring the people together, 'cause that's our biggest thing right now. We're too - way too divided.

SCHAPER: Gingrich remains upbeat that many other Iowa Republicans will reject the barrage of negative ads against him. And Gingrich is already looking forward, saying Iowa is like the first three minutes of the Super Bowl and there's much more game to play. David Schaper, NPR News, traveling with the Gingrich campaign in Walford, Iowa.

BLOCK: Finally, two more candidates in Iowa put forward confident faces despite low poll numbers. On the western border of the state, Texas Governor Rick Perry spoke to Iowans at a hotel and conference center. He said that the country is at a precipice, and he presented voters with this question.

RICK PERRY: Why would you settle for anything other than an authentic conservative who will fight for your views and values and not make an apology for them, not one time? Why would you settle for anything other than an authentic conservative that reflects your values?

BLOCK: And Congresswoman Michele Bachmann also fought today for that conservative mantle. Standing outside her bus, Bachmann reminded voters that she won the Iowa straw poll this summer.

MICHELE BACHMANN: And that's why I'm anticipating tomorrow night at the Iowa caucuses, because I believe without a shadow of a doubt Iowans want to get behind a candidate who will represent their values and I believe that I best represent their values. And also, I believe Iowans want the candidate who will be able to stand up on the stage and debate Barack Obama fearlessly. That's what I will do.

BLOCK: The caucuses begin in just about 24 hours. You can find results and analysis tomorrow night on NPR and online at NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.