Blog Posts by Chris Moody

  • Fickle Iowans and a consistent message give Santorum a chance to win

    Rick Santorum greets supporters at a stop in Sioux City, Iowa. (AP)ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa -- In the final hours before Iowans make their choice for the Republican presidential nominee, Rick Santorum has been making some of his final stops here in Iowa's rural, conservative northwest corner. As he makes the last push to the finish, Santorum is clearly hoping to put himself over the top with a region full of his most fervent supporters.

    Even though he has invested more of his time in the state--hosting more than 350 town halls, at least one in each of Iowa's 99 counties--than any of his competitors, Iowa voters are only coming around to the Santorum cause. The final Des Moines Register poll taken before the caucuses showed Santorum trailing Romney and Ron Paul, but rising fast. There are several reasons why Santorum is just now beginning to resonate here.

    First, Iowans have proved themselves to be an indecisive bunch this campaign. The same Des Moines Register poll that confirmed Santorum's momentum also showed that 41 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers were still open to changing their minds before they vote on Tuesday. Over the course of the campaign, the Register poll has shown Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul at or near the top of the list.

    Like crabs in a bucket, every time a 2012 Republican candidate has scrambled above the pack, the others have latched on to the newest leader--with a little help from a more-than-willing news media--and pulled the candidate down again. (Mitt Romney seems to be the only contender able to overcome the law of politics dictating that what goes up must come down.)

    With the caucuses taking place on Tuesday, there likely won't be enough time for the other candidates to unleash a round of attacks on Santorum in a way that will resonate. Santorum may have wanted more air time and a longer moment in the spotlight--but waiting so long for his rise in the polls could be a blessing. He has benefited from the benign neglect of the rest of the field: None of his competitors found it useful to spend resources on attacking him.

    On the trail, Santorum tells voters that he's the combination of a principled conservative and an electable nominee that they have been looking for all along. His stump speech is heavy on his record in Congress, pointing to his successful Senate elections for two terms to represent Pennsylvania, a swing state with a long Democratic legacy. (Never mind that he lost by double digits in 2006, although when asked, Santorum attributes it to the national anti-Republican wave that year.)

    He's also not shy about adding a dose of flattery in each of his speeches before Iowa voters.

    "The people of Iowa are doing their homework," Santorum said Sunday in Orange City, a small, conservative town in northwestern Iowa. "I told reporters over and over, just wait. When the people of Iowa sit down and they come to make that decision, they're going to lead. And they're going to be bold. So people ask me why we're rising in the polls. That's what I believe it's happening. We've laid out a bold message for this country and we have a strong track record to back it up."

    If you ask Iowans what separates Santorum from the others, you'll usually hear similar responses: He shares my values; he shows the strongest willingness to oppose abortion; he's someone I can trust to champion conservative causes in Washington. But the word you heard most often is "consistency."

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  • Rick Santorum appearing more confident as crowds grow in Iowa

    Santorum (Evan Vucci:AP)

    SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- There was something different about Rick Santorum on Sunday.

    As he spoke before a packed downtown coffee shop here on New Year's Day, Santorum displayed a more confident tone and demeanor--a marked change from just a few days ago, when he was considered a hopeless candidate in the state and certainly for the Republican nomination.

    "It's great to see such a good turnout," Santorum said, before vowing that he would be back in Iowa "in the fall"-- a not-so-subtle suggestion that he planned to win the party's nomination.

    The well-respected Des Moines Register poll of likely Republican caucus-goers put Santorum in third place on Saturday night--his strongest showing yet--while also signaling that he was gaining momentum in the state in the final days before Tuesday's caucuses. With events filled with crowds of supporters and journalists, Santorum comes across as a new man.

    Until now, the former Pennsylvania senator has campaigned more as a prophet of doom than a savior of the republic. On the stump, he has tended to discuss his past record in Congress more than how he would change the country as president. But now, with momentum building behind his campaign in the frenetic final 48 hours before the Jan. 3 caucuses, Santorum is talking about the future, not just the past.

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  • Mitt Romney and Ron Paul top new Iowa poll, but Rick Santorum has momentum

    DES MOINES, Iowa--The last Des Moines Register poll before Tuesday's Iowa caucuses shows Mitt Romney ahead of the Republican presidential field, with Ron Paul just 2 percentage points behind, within the poll's margin of error.

    Here are the results:

    Mitt Romney: 24 percent

    Ron Paul: 22 percent

    Rick Santorum: 15 percent

    Newt Gingrich: 12 percent

    Rick Perry: 11 percent

    Michele Bachmann: 7 percent

    The poll of 602 likely Republican caucusgoers was conducted over four days, from Dec. 27 to Dec. 30.

    If the last two days of polling are considered by themselves, Santorum springs to second place, with 21 percent saying they would support him. Paul falls to 18 percent, with Romney remaining at 24 percent.

    The full results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The margin of error for the last two days is plus or minus 5.6 percentage points.

    Read More »from Mitt Romney and Ron Paul top new Iowa poll, but Rick Santorum has momentum
  • Facing attacks, Gingrich prepares to shift strategy

    Newt Gingrich campaigns in Atlantic, Iowa. (AP)

    ATLANTIC, Iowa -- Facing a barrage of attack ads in the run-up to Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, Newt Gingrich said Saturday that his campaign plans to shift its messaging strategy by increasing its focus on his competitors' records.

    "We may go to a much more clear contrast," Gingrich told reporters here, suggesting that he would begin a stronger offensive against the other Republican presidential candidates. "But we're not going to respond in kind. Those ads are dishonest and [Mitt Romney] knows it. They are factually false and he knows it."

    This month alone, more than $8 million has been spent on advertisements in the state by the campaigns and outside groups operating under looser regulations on political speech. Iowans have been flooded with negative ads targeting Gingrich. Support for Gingrich in Iowa has dropped by half in the past few weeks, according to several polls. Not long ago, he was riding on the top; now he has sunk to the middle-tier, below long-shot candidate Rick Santorum.

    In the final days before the caucuses, Gingrich crossed the state touting an experimental strategy that shies away from traditional negative campaigning.

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  • Campaign trail photo of the day

    Mitt Romney speaks at Music Man Square in Mason City, Iowa

    Via @JamilSmith, a segment producer for MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," who tweeted, "Just in case it wasn't clear, Vast Majority of America: you're the dude holding the chair."

  • Video: Newt Gingrich tears up in Iowa while speaking about his mother

    DES MOINES, Iowa--In a rare personal moment on the campaign trail for Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker and Republican presidential candidate broke down when asked to speak about his mother, Kathleen Gingrich.

    At a town hall meeting at a coffee shop here, Gingrich reflected on the role his mother played in his life, and spoke about her struggles with bipolar disorder and depression. She died in 2003.

    "I'm better at talking policy than personal," he said, wiping tears from his eyes.

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  • DES MOINES, Iowa--On Friday morning before a planned event appearance by Newt Gingrich, some members of "Occupy Iowa" made a stop at Java Joe's, a coffee shop here that MSNBC has been broadcasting from.

    The protesters didn't get far before the owner of the shop gave them the boot.

    About four or five Occupiers stood chanting in the middle of the crowded coffee shop before they were told to leave.

    "I just had to shut it down, I couldn't stand it," Amy Brehm, who owns the store, told Yahoo News after police escorted the last demonstrators out. "We all have our rights, but not in my place."

    Read More »from Video: Des Moines coffee-shop owner evicts Occupy protesters; ‘You’re not allowed to ever come back’
  • Rand Paul kicks Newt Gingrich while he’s down

    Newt Gingrich seems to be sliding further down in the Republican presidential campaign polls every day, but Ron Paul isn't coasting to the finish line in Iowa.

    His son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, just sent out a fundraising letter that rubs Gingrich's new low numbers in his face:

    Not too long ago, Newt Gingrich said with 100% certainty, "I'm going to be the nominee."

    It's got to be hard watching something you think you're entitled to slip away.

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  • Facing air attack from Perry, Santorum stands by ‘Bridge to Nowhere’

    Rick Santorum (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

    MUSCATINE, Iowa--Rick Santorum doesn't care what Rick Perry says: he's proud of his earmarks.

    During a campaign stop Thursday at the Button Factory restaurant along the Mississippi River, Santorum responded to a new radio ad released by Perry's campaign that knocks him for supporting earmarks during his time in the Senate, from 1995 to 2006, that cost billions of dollars in taxpayer money. The ad, which will air throughout the state, calls Santorum a "congressional porker" who "grabbed for a billion in earmarks-- until voters kicked him out of office in a landslide." It also notes that Santorum voted for a transportation bill that would have spent $25 million on a bridge to an Alaskan island that is home to just 50 residents.

    Santorum's response: Yeah, so what?

    "Absolutely I had earmarks while I was in the United States Senate. Look at the Constitution. Who has the responsibility to spend money?" Santorum said. "Please go take a look at my earmarks. Are there things in there I'm proud of? You bet there are."

    "People say I voted for the 'Bridge to Nowhere.' I did!" Santorum said. "Who am I in Pennsylvania to tell Alaska what their highway priorities should be? You had a city that was separated from its airport. And of course in Alaska, you travel by air, and they had to have a ferry. Well there were times when they couldn't get across and so they built this bridge.

    "I gave the benefit of the doubt to the people who have the expertise and knowledge about what's best for their state," he went on. "Look at the Constitution. The Constitution says, 'roads.' So this is clearly a federal function."

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  • Has Rick Santorum’s moment finally arrived, just in time for Iowa?

    Rick Santorum gestures as he waits to speak to local residents during a campaign stop in Dubuque, Iowa. (AP)

    CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Despite a new CNN poll indicating what appears to be a last-minute surge for his candidacy--the first of the entire 2012 Republican presidential campaign--Rick Santorum is playing it cool. When reporters brought up the poll Wednesday after a town hall (his third of the day and his 359th in the state this year), Santorum was careful not to make any grand predictions.

    "One poll does not make a boomlet," he said, adding, "I'm just going to keep working hard and believe in the people of Iowa that they're going to make the right choice."

    Only a few days ago, Santorum was fielding questions about his campaign's demise. As late as Tuesday, Santorum said he would "pack up and go home" if he came in last in Iowa, something that didn't appear beyond the realm of possibility at the time.

    Now, all anyone can talk about is how far he can take it. The latest sign of Santorum's growing confidence: His campaign is buying statewide TV ads in New Hampshire, which will begin airing on Monday, before Iowans have even voted, reports CNN's Peter Hamby.

    Read More »from Has Rick Santorum’s moment finally arrived, just in time for Iowa?


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