No Ordinary Rival: Piling on Ron Paul (The Note)
December 28, 2011 08:56 AM
By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )
MUSCATINE, Iowa - The candidate who may have the best shot at walking away with a win in the Iowa caucuses six days from today has become persona non grata among his Republican counterparts.
With his libertarian bent and his views on foreign policy that leave some of his fellow Republicans scratching their heads, Ron Paul is a threat of a different sort. And as pre-caucus polls continue to show him at the top of the pack in Iowa his opponents are swatting at him with fresh intensity.
Leading the charge yesterday was Newt Gingrich, who told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he could not support the long-time Texas Congressman if he won the Republican nomination, characterizing his views as "totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American."
"I think the choice of Ron Paul or Barack Obama would be a very bad choice for America," Gingrich lamented.
Another rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, warned voters to carefully study Paul's record, which Santorum said puts him somewhere to the "left of Barack Obama on national security."
Santorum also pointed the crowd to Paul's time in Washington, noting that "he's been in Congress for 20 years and hasn't passed a bill." And he didn't stop there. Yesterday, Santorum, who is vying for one of what is likely to be three or four tickets out of Iowa, even took a shot at Paul's age, reminding his crowd in Mason City that the Texan is 78 years old.
Rick Perry, meanwhile, has been invoking Paul's controversial stance on Iran at campaign events and last week he accused Paul of being a pork-barrel politician.
"The Republicans stood up and said, "you know what, we're going to do away with earmarks, but there were four Republicans that didn't follow that, and Dr. Paul was one of them," Perry told voters in northern Iowa. "He had earmarks I think over the last two years approaching half a billion worth of these special interest earmarks."
For weeks, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, has been referring to Paul as "very dangerous" and while addressing Iowa voters during a stop on her whirlwind bus tour in Council Bluffs yesterday she asserted: "Ron Paul doesn't believe the government should protect the institution of marriage."
As ABC's Jason Volack notes, Paul is facing many questions concerning a decade's worth of incendiary newsletters published by the Texas Congressman and were written under his name. And he will likely continue getting asked about them as he gets back on the campaign trail in Iowa today. http://abcn.ws/s1kmDB
Nevertheless, Paul has a committed base that isn't going anywhere and will turn out rain, shine or snow. And, if the field is split in as many ways as it is now, Paul's low ceiling of 24-25 percent could be enough to win in Iowa.
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX: PAUL'S NEW AD: From the Paul campaign "The Ron Paul 2012 Presidential campaign released today a new television adÂ titled 'Machine' airing on television in the key early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.Â The ad begins airing today. The 30-second ad condemns the dysfunctional Washington-insider atmosphere created and furthered by slick politicians, and presents Ron Paul as a leader who has stood apart and above such an environment." http://bit.ly/sqFJ0T
GINGRICH FALLS WHILE ROMNEY'S FLAT. A new Gallup polling shows Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich now tied - Gingrich has shed 12 points since early December. Not a good narrative heading into the caucused for the former House Speaker. Still, it's worth noting that even as Newt has fallen, Romney hasn't picked up any support. Â At some point he has to show that he can do more than keep steady - he's got to be able to show that he can grow.
ABC's Jonathan Karl notes that Gingrich is having a "man up" moment, telling his GOP rival Mitt Romney to take responsibility for the negative ads being run by super PACs supporting him.WATCH: http://abcn.ws/tcQvjA
THE NOTE ON THE ROAD. The Note boarded the Mitt Romney press express at 6:45 a.m. Iowa time to head to Elly's Tea and Coffee in Muscatine, Iowa where the former Massachusetts governor is holding his first event of the day. With the sun barely rising above the horizon on a chilly morning here, a line to see the candidate stretched out the door. The crowd this morning follows another over-flow event in Davenport last night. "Thanks for getting up this morning!" Romney said, cheerfully greeting voters. Romney's bus tour will take him to Clinton and North Liberty, Iowa later today.
ROMNEY OFFERS A CLOSING ARGUMENT TO IOWANS. ABC's Emily Friedman reports from Davenport, Iowa: In his final major speech to Iowa voters before next week's caucuses, Mitt Romney pivoted from his nearly around-the-clock focus on President Obama to target Vice President Joe Biden, encouraging supporters to pity the president's second-in-command. "You have to feel sorry for Joe Biden," Romney said, speaking in a ballroom at the Blackhawk Hotel in downtown Davenport, where Obama stayed a few months ago. "Four years ago, he warned us about Barack Obama. It turns out he was right. Now, every day, he has to keep quiet about that. And you know how hard that is for Joe." While Romney had joked last week on the campaign trail in New Hampshire that Biden's editorial in the Des Moines Register was just another "gaffe" by the politician who has come to be known for his off-the-cuff remarks, tonight's speech included a large chunk dedicated to the vice president. In the piece, Biden wrote that Romney "appears satisfied to settle for an economy in which fewer people succeed." http://abcn.ws/tWdFug
THE NOTE'S QUOTE: Mitt Romney in Davenport, Iowa Tuesday night: "This is an election not only to replace a President. It is an election to save the soul of America. It is a choice between two destinies."
Likely Iowa caucus-goer Jennie Barnds, a stay-at-home mom, who The Note spoke to after Romney's speech to an standing-room-only hotel ballroom in Davenport. Barnds walked into the event undecided; she walked out a Romney supporter.Â "I think its Mitt Romney," Barnds said, pausing for a moment. "I know its Mitt Romney. Like Mr. Romney said, this is an election about saving America's soul. â€¦ His personal background in business is what's extremely appealing. You need someone with a proven track record in the business sector."
DEMOCRATIC COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. "Rather than offering a plan to restore economic security for the middle class, Romney made it clear he would settle for an economy where fewer Americans succeed regardless of how hard they work," Iowa Democratic Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said in a statement today. "After a year of pretending he wasn't competing here, Romney continues to try to downplay expectations for his performance in the Hawkeye State next week.Â But the reality is that in the month of December alone, Mitt Romney's campaign and the Super PAC supporting his candidacy spent $4 million in Iowa - clearly, Romney is now all in to win in Iowa."
@ ABC :Â Top Campaign Moments of 2011 Â http://abcn.ws/sCidgL
GOOD MORNING IOWA. Don't forget to check The Note blog every morning for the latest edition of "Good Morning Iowa" - a one-stop-shop tip-sheet covering everything you need to know from the Hawkeye State, reported by ABC's Shushannah Walshe.
DISPATCHES FROM THE TRAIL. Also, keep an eye on our new political website OTUSNews.com (www.Otusnews.com) The Note ( http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/
Michele Bachmann : ABC's Russell Goldman ( @GoldmanRussell )
Newt Gingrich : ABC's Elicia Dover ( @EliciaDover )
Jon Huntsman and New Hampshire: ABC's Susan Archer ( @TheOnlyArcher )
Ron Paul : ABC's Jason Volack ( @Jason_Volack )
Rick Perry : ABC's Arlette Saenz ( @ArletteSaenz )
Mitt Romney : ABC's Emily Friedman ( @EmilyABC )
Rick Santorum and Iowa: ABC's Shushannah Walshe ( @shushwalshe )