“The caucus clock is ticking. In the 36 hours between 7 a.m. today and 7 p.m. Tuesday, each Republican presidential candidate will deliver his or her closing arguments to Iowa caucusgoers,” the Des Moines Register’s Clayworth writes, before breaking down the keys to success for each candidate.
“Mitt Romney sought to convert his tentative standing atop the polls into a first-place finish in the caucuses here, telling Iowans on Sunday that he had the “capability to go the full distance” against President Obama, as his rivals beseeched voters not to settle on a candidate lacking full commitment to their conservative values,” the New York Times says. “Just as confidence had been rising among Mr. Romney and his aides that they could pull off a win here on Tuesday night, they were faced with a new challenge from Rick Santorum, who emerged as the latest in a rotating cast of surging alternatives, ebullient about his rising standing in the polls and support from excited crowds on Sunday in Sioux City and Rock Rapids.”
GINGRICH: Gingrich complained yesterday that he’d been “Romney-boated” in this election, NBC’s Alex Moe reports. But he contended that Romney “didn't get rid of me, he just slowed me down.” He added, “He would buy an election if he could.” Asked if Romney is buying it, Gingrich said, “Well I dunno, 3.5 million in negative ads, you tell me.”
The New Yorker looks at the Gingrich “bottle rocket.”
PAUL: The heir: “Paul will be joined by his son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, during stops in Des Moines, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls and Mason City,” the Des Moines Register notes.
“Texas Representative Ron Paul today stood by statements he made in his 1987 book arguing that someone who is a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace should bear some responsibility for resolving the problem and that society should not bear the burden of paying for the care of AIDS victims,” the Boston Globe notes of Ron Paul’s appearance on FOX News Sunday.
Paul said: “If it’s just because somebody told a joke to somebody who was offended, they don’t have a right to go to the federal government and have a policeman come in and put penalties on those individuals,” Paul said of verbal harassment. “They have to say maybe this is not a very good environment. They have the right to work there or not work there.” Paul continued: “Because people are insulted by rude behavior, I don’t think we should make a federal case about it.”
PERRY: “Texas Gov. Rick Perry and his family attended a New Year’s Day service at a West Des Moines megachurch on Sunday,” the Des Moines Register reports of a church with 15,000 members and “is the fastest growing in the United States.” “Perry had no other events scheduled for the first day of 2012, but will continue hard on the campaign trail today.”
ROMNEY: “Romney has continued with the same optimistic campaign speech. As large crowds have packed into his events, Romney has praised America and attacked President Barack Obama while largely ignoring his GOP rivals,” AP writes, but: Romney has been much sharper with the rivals when his campaign worried they could have the money, organization and potential support to challenge him for the Republican presidential nomination.”
“Mitt Romney lightly criticized former senator Rick Santorum here this afternoon and sought to brandish his own conservative credentials, a renewed attempt at broadening his support and capturing a victory here Tuesday night,” the Boston Globe writes. Romney: “I can tell you that our backgrounds are quite different,” Romney said, when asked to contrast his record with Santorum, who is surging toward second place in polls. “Like Speaker Gingrich, Senator Santorum has spent his career in government, in Washington — nothing wrong with that. But it’s a very different background than I have.”
SANTORUM: At two stops in the Northwestern, socially conservative corner of Iowa, Santorum made his closing argument on what he called a “thank you” tour. “You here in Iowa are the Lexington and Concord,” he said. “You take the first shot. Do not miss. Do not miss. The country is too important.” He repeated several times that he believed, “This is the most important election in your lifetime … I don’t care how old you are.”
Twice yesterday he poked fun at Texas Gov. Rick Perry, saying eliminating whole departments is easier said than done. “I love these candidates, who say, ‘I’m going to get rid of this one, and this one, and uh— one other one.” That got laughs before Santorum, smirking, said, “Rick Perry’s a good guy.”
He took this implicit shot at Romney: “You can’t buy Iowa. You gotta work.” And he took aim at the field in general for not wanting to talk about their records: “If I had their record I’d just talk about what I’d do, too.” And, of course, he also hit Ron Paul, dismissing his foreign policy.
At both stops, he got questions about why he supported Arlen Specter. Santorum talked about judges and that if there was no Specter, there might not have been Justices Roberts or Alito. Both men who asked the questions said they were convinced.
But most of his remarks were trained on President Obama. Santorum compared what the U.S. is going through to “the economic malaise of Jimmy Carter.” And: Obama “doesn’t believe America is a place for good.” Under Carter, he said there was a “hostage crisis.” Under Obama, there’s now a “nuclear crisis” and he “does nothing to stop Iran.” And he hit notes intended to resonate with white, working class, conservative-leaning voters on what they see as issues of economic fairness – talking about welfare, illegal immigration, and he talked an awful lot about being the grandson of a coalminer.
The AP, in the lead story of the Sioux City Journal, writes: “He began his campaign day at the Daily Grind, a downtown Sioux City coffee shop that's very popular - but nothing like it was on Sunday, when it was so jammed that movement was next to impossible.” And: “Later, in Orange City, far from the state's population centers, hundreds of Santorum backers jammed a bank conference room, spilling out into the hallway.”
More: “As the former Pennsylvania senator's poll numbers have improved, the feel of his campaign events has changed dramatically, and the candidate himself is distinctly upbeat. He has worked for years to build his ties to Iowa's potent conservative electorate, and there are signs it could be paying off.”
The New York Post: “On the Sunday before tomorrow’s caucuses, scores of God-fearing Iowans looked on in wonderment at Rick Santorum’s Lazarus-like rise in the polls.”
The Boston Globe’s Jan, though, doesn’t see Santorum as having locked up religious voters: “Despite a surge in the polls in recent days for former Pennsylvania governor Rick Santorum, voters who identify with the religious right remain divided among several conservative candidates - paving the way for a Romney victory despite the fact that many Christians consider his record too moderate on key issues such as marriage and abortion. Some religious conservatives, seeing Romney as the inevitable nominee, say they may even caucus for him.”