Saturday night, six of the eight Presidential candidates who met the criteria laid out by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition spoke to over a 1000 of Iowa’s social conservatives at the Knapp Animal Learning Center on the Iowa State Fairgrounds (you can see the video of the event here). No one came looking for the perfect candidate, as Ralph Reed, leader of the national Faith & Freedom Coalition put it, “We’re not looking for a human Messiah to save our country, unlike the other side. We understand there was already a Messiah who came…. We put our hope in Jesus Christ.”
Herman Cain addressed the group first. This was a standard stump speech, but he did right off the bat say “I’m 100% pro-life. I believe in life at conception, no abortions, no exceptions” in order to respond to criticism that he has received over a CNN Interview where he essentially said he’s anti-abortion, but pro-choice. Cain spent very little time meeting with people before and after the event. He had come into the building, but then left to go back out to his bus. He left as soon as he was done speaking. Cain said he favored a constitutional amendment to protect the definition of marriage to mean one man and one woman. This is a departure from what he told me when I interviewed him back in January. Then he didn’t favor a federal marriage amendment.
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann spoke next. She talked about placing her faith in Christ back in 1972 when she “radically abandoned her life to (Jesus Christ).” Bachmann said that the most important role for the President is that of being Commander-in-Chief. She took a shot at Cain saying, “I would not negotiate releasing Gitmo prisoners for an American citizen.” She also said that she concerned about Obama’s distancing the United States from Israel, saying that Obama’s call for Israel to go back to their 1967 borders sent a clear message to their enemies. She said as President she would stand with Israel. She also affirmed a commitment for a constitutional amendment protecting life “from conception to natural death,” as well as, a federal marriage amendment.
Texas Governor Rick Perry also focused on the abortion issue saying that 50 million have died because Americans have not protected the right to life. He noted that as Governor of Texas he signed into law a sonogram bill and parental notification bill. He also said that we need a human life amendment. He said he would appoint judges who would “uphold the Constitution, not rewrite it.” He was the only candidate on Saturday night to bring up embryonic stem cell research saying that he is against it. He also took a swipe at Cain saying, “It is a liberal canard to say I’m personally prolife, but government should stay out of the decision. You are not prolife.” This was received with loud applause (perhaps that’s why Cain didn’t stick around). Perry used some self-depreciating humor when talking about how none of the candidates in the room are perfect, “We are not called to be perfect… if anyone of you have watched my debate performances know that I am far from perfect.” Perry didn’t not mention anything about a Federal Marriage Amendment.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich spoke next. He said that 2012 is the most important election our country has had since 1860. He asked “will we repudiate an 80-year drift to the left?” He addressed President Obama’s decision to pull troops from Iraq at the end of the year. He said that because of Obama the United States will have lost our 3rd Iraq War, Iran is stronger, and we have lost influence despite all of the money and effort. He said it is time to rethink our policy in that region. He said that economic recovery won’t take that long to accomplish claiming that once Obama and the current Senate majority is defeated recovery would being. He claimed we can have “a better 2012 Christmas if it is a good bye Obama Christmas.”
He addressed the judicial branch more than any of the other candidates. He said historically the judicial branch was meant to be much weaker than what it is today. He laid out four things that can be done to address the judicial branch:
- Presidents can ignore the Court. (He said he would ignore the last three Supreme Court decisions on terrorism)
- Congress can use its power to limit the rights of appeal on certain issues.
- On the basis of the 14th Amendment pass a law that personhood begins at conception.
- Abolish some of the courts (President Andrew Jackson did this). Gingrich called for the abolishment of Judge Perry’s court in San Antonio who told kids they couldn’t pray. Put 9th Circuit on notice, “if they continue to be radical, they will become unemployed.”
Gingrich was the first person that evening to receive a standing ovation.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul spoke next and he basically gave the same speech he gave at The FAMiLY Leader’s Presidential Lecture series in March. He addressed spending cuts citing his plan to cut one trillion dollars worth of spending from the Federal budget in one year. He noted families drive values, not government. He addressed honest money and how there was a direct correlation between dishonest money and the loss of freedom. He discussed how government was taking over more responsibility in the area of education when that responsibility belonged to families. When asked what he would do to address abortion and protect traditional marriage, Congressman Paul touted the “We The People Act” that I believe he has authored that would take marriage and life issues out of the jurisdiction of Federal Courts. A couple of things to note. One was how incoherent his speech was. He has never been a very good speaker, but this appeared more disheveled than normal. The second thing was how disrespectful some of his supporters were as a good number of them got up to leave as soon as the Congressman was off the stage. You didn’t see that happen after any other candidate.
Former Senator Rick Santorum had the hard position of going last. He discussed his “zero-zero-zero” plan that focuses on manufacturing job growth. He spoke of his concern of Iran developing a nuclear weapon that would act as a “shield” allowing them to continue with state-sponsored terrorism without fear of reprisal. Santorum noted that no nuclear power has ever been attacked. He said that we “need to bring people together on the basic values of our country.” He shared the personal story of how one of his children, a son, was born and lived only two hours and how that shaped his prolife conviction. If you don’t watch any other part of the event, be sure to watch that section of his speech it is definitely worth your time. You could hear a pin drop in the room. Santorum was the only other candidate to receive a standing ovation.
One of the themes that I heard is that people were giving Speaker Gingrich a second look. Many had dismissed his candidacy before, but have been impressed with what he had to say in the debates and that evening. A couple I spoke with had gone from undecided to deciding to back Gingrich. Several people told me that he was on their short list. Santorum also received high marks. None of the candidates who came last night did themselves any harm, but the true loser of the evening was Mitt Romney who opted instead to speak to a group of 35 in Council Bluffs, IA. Yes, he’s *really serious* about campaigning here.
I have video of different people’s reaction below:
Jen Bowen, the Executive Director of Iowa Right to Life shared her thoughts:
Kim Lehman, Iowa’s Republican National Committeewoman discussed why she was supporting Rick Santorum.
Norm Pawlewski who works for Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition and Iowa Right to Life talked about who he tought did well and what candidates were on his short list.
Tamara Scott, the Iowa State Director for Concerned Women of America and host of Truth for Our Time gave me a breakdown of what she thought of each candidate and who is on her short list.
Steve Scheffler, President of Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition and Iowa’s Republican National Committeeman discussed what he tought of the evening.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich shared with me how he plans to position his campaign to finish strong in Iowa