Blog Posts by Holly Bailey

  • (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    ATLANTIC, Iowa--Mitt Romney began his final campaign push before the caucuses by making a stop Sunday at a small diner in this tiny western Iowa town—which, unsurprisingly, could not fully accommodate his audience of voters and reporters.

    It was the first stop of what will be a 625-mile cross-state journey over the next two days. The trip, which will literally take Romney from one side of the state to the other and back again, is focused on areas where the former Massachusetts governor did well four years ago.

    The journey provides plenty of logistical challenges for reporters trying to keep up with Romney. The candidate is expected to fly across the state from Sunday's final event in Council Bluffs to Davenport, the site of an early morning rally Monday morning. But the reporters accompanying Romney face a grueling five-hour bus ride across the state Sunday night.

    On Monday, Romney heads from Davenport to Dubuque, which will require another five hours of driving. He'll then hold an

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  • Confidence shaken, Rick Perry tries to rescue his 2012 campaign

    Perry in Fort Dodge (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    FORT DODGE, Iowa--For weeks, Rick Perry has been everywhere in Iowa, or at least that's how it has felt.

    Backed by nearly $4 million in ads, the Texas governor's face has been a ubiquitous presence on television across the state, his voice a constant mainstay on local radio.

    "I'm Rick Perry, I'm not ashamed to talk about my faith," he confidently declares in the ads that have been airing almost nonstop in the state since early December.

    But when Perry turned up here on Saturday morning, he wasn't the man voters have been seeing on TV. Standing before a crowd of roughly 75 people at Bloomers Coffee Shop, he lacked the confidence and swagger that has defined his long political career in Texas.

    Instead, he spoke with an air of uncertainty that captures the state of his campaign, during what could be a last-ditch effort to save his struggling 2012 presidential campaign.

    His Republican rivals have long mastered their stump speeches, repeating variations of the same lines at every stop, but Perry spoke cautiously, his eyes drifting repeatedly away from voters in the room and down to pages of prepared text. Dominating his remarks were attacks on Rick Santorum, who has leaped ahead of Perry in the polls here and is now considered his chief rival for viability here and in contests to come.

    "Sen. Santorum is a good man. He's got a great family. I respect him substantially. But we do have differences," Perry said, eying his notes.

    Echoing a line of attack he unveiled just two days ago, Perry argued that Santorum is a creature of a Washington whose record isn't as conservative as he suggests.

    "If you want to truly overhaul Washington, D.C., we can't do that with a senator who has voted to raise the debt ceiling eight different times, allowing our debt to grow from $4.1 trillion to $9 trillion on his watch," Perry said, turning to his next page of text. "That's so much debt, it exceeds what President Obama has done in the White House."

    "And what's so important…" Perry paused, glancing at his text. "I've gotta ask Rick, 'What was so important that it compelled you to add greater debt to our children's charge card?'"

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  • Mitt Romney says crying is ‘nothing to be ashamed of’

    Mitt Romney's stump speech still lacks any mention of the other candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. But he appeared to make a passing reference to Newt Gingrich during a brief campaign swing in New Hampshire Friday, when he told a crowd that he wouldn't tear up when talking about his parents.

    "At a time like this I think about my parents, and I'm sure during the holidays you think about your parents as well," Romney told a crowd in Merrimack. "My mom and dad were extraordinary people, and they both left this life and moved on."

    "Don't cry," an audience member called out, in an apparent reference to Gingrich's teary moment in Iowa on Friday while discussing his mother, Kathleen, who died in 2003.

    "I won't cry, no, I won't," Romney replied. "But I do, I do. Nothing to be ashamed of in that regard."

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  • Romney’s schedule offers clue about his Iowa expectations—they’re high

    Romney in 2008 (LM Otero/AP)DES MOINES, Iowa--Mitt Romney isn't making any predictions about the outcome of next Tuesday's Republican presidential caucuses in Iowa, but his upcoming schedule suggests his campaign is confident he'll do well.

    Romney will stay overnight in Iowa next Tuesday after the caucuses, according to a press release sent out by his campaign on Friday. He won't depart for New Hampshire—the next state up in the 2012 presidential sweepstakes—until Wednesday morning.

    The schedule gives him enough time to make the rounds of the morning TV news shows—just in case Romney has occasion to take a victory lap in the aftermath of Tuesday's caucuses.

    By comparison, Newt Gingrich's campaign announced he'll head to New Hampshire on Tuesday night, shortly after the caucus results are announced.

    You could interpret that as a sign that Gingrich, whose poll numbers are in a free fall in Iowa, doesn't feel great about the upcoming vote and wants to hightail it out of town.

    Or not. In 2008, Mike Huckabee flew to New Hampshire in the middle of the night, celebrating his Iowa caucus win by bowling oranges down the plane's aisle and schmoozing with reporters and staff.  He promptly deplaned and sat for a series of TV interviews that morning.

    Read More »from Romney’s schedule offers clue about his Iowa expectations—they’re high
  • Christie warns he’ll return ‘Jersey style’ if Iowans don’t vote Romney

    Romney and Christie in West Des Moines (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    WEST DES MOINES, Iowa--Chris Christie came to Iowa on Friday, not as a 2012 presidential candidate, as many Republicans in the state had hoped, but as Mitt Romney's most high-profile surrogate in the final days before Tuesday's first-in-the-nation caucuses.

    More than 100 people turned out before daylight in the parking lot of a Hy-Vee supermarket, standing for more than an hour in high winds and a steady drizzle to see Romney and Christie, the governor of New Jersey.

    Dressed in a pinstripe navy blue suit, Christie was greeted like a celebrity by the bundled-up masses, some of whom rushed outside to see the governor after taking refuge inside their cars against the harsh winter morning.

    Christie bluntly put forth what has become Romney's main talking point: That President Obama has failed to deliver on the hope and change he promised as a candidate four years ago.

    "The president is going to try to convince you somehow that he deserves to be rehired," Christie said. "Well let's be real clear, real clear: President Barack Obama came out to Iowa three years ago, and he talked to you about hope and change. Well let me tell ya, after three years of Obama, we're hopeless and changeless, and we need Mitt Romney to bring us back, to bring America back."

    Playing off his persona as a New Jersey tough guy, Christie issued a mock warning.

    "New Jersey's watching you … We're watching you real closely," he said. "And I want to tell you something. I want to tell you something really clearly. I'm in a good mood this morning. I'm feeling happy and upbeat. I'm happy to be with Mitt and Ann. But let me tell ya, if you people disappoint me Tuesday, if you don't do what you're supposed to do on Tuesday for Mitt Romney. I will be back, Jersey-style."

    Afterward, as Christie moved through the crowd toward Romney's bus, a man called out, "I wish it were you!" Christie smiled, but did not respond.

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  • ‘I want to win Iowa,’ Romney says, and his weekend schedule proves it

    Romney in Cedar Falls, Iowa (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)MASON CITY, Iowa--If there was any mystery about whether Mitt Romney is competing to win in Iowa, it's been ended by the candidate's schedule in the coming days.

    The former Massachusetts governor, who is set to wrap up a bus tour of the state with a rally tonight in Ames, heads to New Hampshire Friday but will return to Iowa a little more than 24 hours later. Between Saturday and Tuesday, Romney will hold nine campaign events across the state before finishing with a caucus night rally in Des Moines.

    At a town hall here on Thursday, a voter told Romney some people are skeptical about his bid for the Republican presidential nomination because the candidate hasn't competed here as heavily as he did four years ago.

    "I want to win Iowa, " Romney insisted. "Everybody does."

    At one point, an eight-year-old boy asked Romney, "Is it hard running for president?"

    Romney grinned. "Yes and no," he laughed. "Sorry. That sounds like a politician. I apologize."

    He touched on the grind of political life: "It's hard in terms of getting up early in the morning, sleeping in a strange bed almost every night, one hotel after the other … And sometimes you don't sleep so well."

    The night before last, Romney said, he awoke throughout the night because trucks kept honking at his campaign bus, which was parked in a hotel parking lot near a major interstate.

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  • Ron who? Ignoring fellow Republicans, Romney targets Obama in Iowa

    Romney in North Liberty, Iowa (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    CLINTON, Iowa--Listening to Mitt Romney on the stump, you would think the 2012 Republican presidential primary is already over.

    During his talks to crowds at tiny diners and coffee shops on the second day of his Iowa bus tour, Romney made only oblique mention of his rivals for the Republican nomination. Instead, he cast the race as a choice between him and President Barack Obama, a man he insisted again and again is "changing America into something we don't recognize."

    "I'm frightened that we have a president that doesn't understand America, that he doesn't understand what makes us unique," Romney warned Wednesday at a stop in Clinton. "He would transform America. I will restore America."

    With less than a week to go before Iowa's caucuses, Romney made only one passing reference to Ron Paul, whom he narrowly trails--by less than a percentage point--in the RealClearPolitics average of the latest polls from Iowa.

    Asked about foreign policy by a voter at a meet-and-greet in Muscatine, Romney attacked Paul without mentioning his name directly.

    "One of the people running for president thinks it's okay for Iran to have a nuclear weapon," Romney said. "I don't."

    It was the only time the candidate or his staff appeared to mention Paul during the final days of the Iowa campaign, even as Paul has released TV ads attacking Romney as a "flip flopper" who represents the "status quo" in Washington. Instead, the Romney campaign has kept its focus on Newt Gingrich, releasing an email attacking him as an "unreliable" leader. And a super PAC supporting Romney has run TV and radio ads attacking Gingrich and Rick Perry—a move that will likely not only help Romney's campaign but will also boost Paul's chances to win Iowa.

    Asked directly by a reporter if a Paul win next Tuesday benefits him, Romney smiled and curtly replied, "Ah, no."

    But Romney's refusal to directly engage with Paul suggests that he and his advisers believe that if Romney can't win Iowa, the next best thing for his campaign would be for Paul to come in first place, because the libertarian-leaning member of Congress is not regarded as a viable threat to actually win the Republican presidential nomination.

    Even privately, Romney's aides seem focused on running a general election campaign against Obama.

    A senior Romney aide, who declined to be named discussing strategy, suggested in an interview with Yahoo News that Romney will spend much of his time in the next few weeks directly quoting from the campaign speeches that Barack Obama gave four years ago during his Democratic presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton.

    "All you need to do is pull up the calendar and see where he was and what he was saying," the Romney aide told Yahoo News. "He has to explain why he hasn't delivered … That's a winning argument for us."

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  • Do-over: Are Mitt Romney’s 2008 voters enough for him to win Iowa this time?

    Romney in Davenport, Iowa (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    DAVENPORT, Iowa--When Mitt Romney returned to this state on Tuesday for the final push before next week's presidential caucuses, he began by telling more than 300 people at a hotel here about a speech Barack Obama delivered in the same city four years ago this week.

    "He promised to bring people together. He promised to change the broken system in Washington. He promised to do away with gridlock. He promised to repair the nation," Romney said. "Well, Mr. President … You have failed to deliver on the promises you made here in Davenport."

    Romney did not mention any of his Republican rivals as he looked past the Republican primaries and caucuses and toward the November general election. But if Romney wants to quickly clear the Republican field so that he can focus on a direct challenge of President Obama, he must first deliver on some of the promise that he, too, demonstrated four years ago in Iowa.

    Perhaps the biggest unknown heading into Tuesday's caucuses is whether Romney can win here merely by activating the organization he built in Iowa for his 2008 presidential campaign. With key voting blocs, like social conservatives, divided among several other candidates, some Republicans in the state say Romney has a real possibility of pulling off a surprise win on Jan. 3.

    "It's a wild card," Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Iowa Republican Party, told Yahoo News. "He has a base of support from 2008, but nobody really knows what these people will do."

    For months, Romney has been coy about how much money and effort he would invest in Iowa—and with good reason. Four years ago, he spent tens of millions of dollars to win the state—hiring dozens of consultants and flooding the TV and radio airwaves with campaign ads. Romney criss-crossed the state in what the campaign called the "Mittmobile," visiting each of the state's 99 counties at least once.

    "By the end, there wasn't anybody who didn't know who he was," Renee Schulte, a state representative who ran Romney's organization in Linn County in 2008 and is now a co-chairwoman of his 2012 campaign in Iowa, told Yahoo News.

    But it didn't help. The ex-governor came in a disappointing second place to Mike Huckabee, an insurgent candidate who had spent virtually nothing compared to Romney. The loss contributed to Romney's speedy collapse in the polls in other early voting states like New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.

    Yet, while Romney lost to Huckabee in 2008 by 10 points, more than 30,000 people supported his candidacy, and he won several counties by large margins in eastern and western Iowa. In a divided field with lower voter turnout expected, 30,000 votes might be enough to win Iowa in 2012.

    "Four years ago, he started out with a name recognition of 3 percent, and this time, around, we now have a foundation to work with," Schulte told Yahoo.

    Read More »from Do-over: Are Mitt Romney’s 2008 voters enough for him to win Iowa this time?
  • Rick Santorum hunts for a big endorsement but comes up empty

    Santorum and King address reporters (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    ADEL, IOWA--Rick Santorum insisted he just felt like going hunting. But with just a week to go before Iowa's Republican presidential caucuses, it wasn't quite that simple.

    Dressed in a bright orange jacket and a baseball cap stitched with the letters "NRA," Santorum embarked on a post-Christmas Day pheasant hunt outside Des Moines Monday, but it wasn't just the birds he was aiming for.

    At Santorum's side was Rep. Steve King, an influential Iowa congressman whose 2012 endorsement is still up for grabs ahead of next week's vote. Standing before a pack of reporters, the former Pennsylvania senator conceded that he hadn't performed as well as he'd hoped on his excursion.

    Santorum was talking about the birds—he'd killed just four, down from the six he'd bagged during his last hunting trip.  But he might just as well have been talking about his main quarry--King, the Hawkeye state conservative leader, who told reporters in the wake of the pheasant-hunting trip that he still doesn't know who he will endorse for the Republican nomination.

    "I've got a few days yet before a decision has to be made," King said, as Santorum awkwardly stood at his side. "I want my head and my heart to come together, and when that happens, and if that happens, I'll jump in with both feet. I hope it's not after the ship's already left, but it could be."

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  • Newt Gingrich aims to win the GOP nomination with animal photos

    Gingrich with a bearcat in 1995 (Joe Marquette/AP)

    With less than two weeks to go before Iowa's Republican presidential caucus, Newt Gingrich is set to unveil what could be a game-changing secret weapon in his bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

    His campaign announced it will launch a website featuring photos of Gingrich with animals. ABC's Elicia Dover reports:

    The campaign said today that it will soon launch a "Pets With Newt" site aimed at Gingrich's love for animals, intended to show a "lighter side" of the candidate. "As speaker I made it possible for people in public housing to keep their pets in 1988. I love pets so we're going to have an entire project," Gingrich said.

    Gingrich doesn't have any pets at this time, but he told ABC News today he and his wife Callista want a dog in the White House, and it's a friendly disagreement between the couple over what kind and size of dog. Callista wants a small dog and Newt wants a large dog, though he says dogs like a Great Dane are a little too large.

    "When I was a child I had a cocker spaniel and Doberman pincher and German Sheppard. But we have not yet had a family conference on this topic," Gingrich said.

    Gingrich has slyly dropped hints at his love of animals throughout his GOP nomination bid. Last summer, he even campaigned at a zoo in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he was identified in a local news report as an "expert" on endangered tigers.

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