Gingrich prepares for an interview with
Sean Hannity at the Fox News/Republican
Party of Iowa debate last Thursday in Sioux
Positioned in the center of the stage at the
Sioux City Convention Center last Thursday night,
Republican presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich
delivered a memorable riff on lawyers, nimbly
unsheathed historical references and wheeled
out a haymaker at President Obama on a controversial
North American oil pipeline plan — all of which
reinforced his leading status in polls just
weeks before the Jan. 3 Iowa Caucuses.
Gingrich did nothing of the self-inflicted variety
at the Fox News/Republican Party of Iowa debate,
and his six opponents failed to land any shots
or barbs that will leave a bruise.
Where there may be movement, though, is with
support for U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who
embraced the premise of a Fox News question
suggesting he was to the left of President Obama
on foreign policy.
Paul’s isolationist positions are no secret
but have been somewhat backseated during a heavy
focus on the economy in this cycle. On Thursday,
the Paul foreign policy vision came into starker
view for Iowa Republicans — who clearly don’t
like his walking-in-their-shoes rationale for
Iran pursuing nuclear weapons. Paul is one of
perhaps two GOP candidates within Iowa striking
distance of Gingrich — and the central question
now is: can anyone close the gap?
Paul said much of the rhetoric about Iran coming
from his opponents amounted to saber-rattling.
“It’s another Iraq coming,” Paul said. “It’s
He added, “That’s how we got into this useless
war in Iraq and lost so much.”
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., quickly
“I think I’ve never heard a more dangerous answer
for American security,” she said.
A recent InsiderAdvantage survey of 517 registered
likely Iowa caucus-goers shows former U.S. House
Speaker Newt Gingrich with 27 percent support.
Paul is at 17 percent, followed by Texas Gov.
Rick Perry at 13 percent, and former Massachusetts
Gov. Mitt Romney at 12 percent.
Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn
said there is still time for trailing candidates
“You have two-thirds of Iowa Caucus-goers who
are effectively telling pollsters they could
change their mind between now and Jan. 3,” Strawn
said in an interview.
One candidate who made a colorful appeal with
regard to that possibility is Perry.
“There are a lot of folks out there who said
Tim Tebow isn’t going to be a good NFL quarterback,”
Perry said. “Am I ready for the next level?
Let me tell you, I am ready to be the Tim Tebow
of the Iowa caucuses.”
Reporters questioned Perry’s staff after the
debate about the contrast between their candidate,
who was using sports references tied to the
Denver Broncos quarterback, and Gingrich, who
salted his answers with mentions of Thomas Jefferson,
Abraham Lincoln, the Dred Scott case on slavery
and the Federalist Papers.
In the debate Gingrich took rhetorical shots
at the federal judiciary, which he thinks has
overstepped its bounds, and went after lawyers
in general, saying law schools “have overly
empowered lawyers to think that they can dictate
to the rest of us.”
Gingrich’s strongest answer — and one that Gov.
Terry Branstad’s communications director Tim
Albrecht said in a tweet showcased “why” Republicans
are drawn to the former speaker of the U.S.
House — centered on the Keystone XL oil pipeline
planned for a route between Alberta, Canada
and the Gulf Coast of Texas.
The State Department had planned to issue a
decision on the matter in 2013, but the pipeline
is tied up in a battle over the extension of
a payroll tax cut and a division between President
Obama, unions and environmentalists who want
“The Iranians are practicing closing the Straits
of Hormuz,” Gingrich said. “The Canadian prime
minister has already said to the American president:
‘If you don’t want to build this pipeline to
bring, create 20,000 American jobs and bring
oil through the United States to the largest
refinery complex in the world, Houston, I want
to put it straight west in Canada, to Vancouver,
and ship the oil direct to China, so you’ll
lose the jobs, you’ll lose the throughput, you’ll
lose 30 or 40 years of work in Houston.’ ”
R.C. Hammond, a Gingrich spokesperson, said
in an interview: “It is beyond our understanding
why the Obama administration is willing to ship
tens of thousands of jobs to Canada by stopping
Hammond also responded to challenges from Bachmann,
who sought to diminish Gingrich’s pro-life credentials
on abortion by noting that he had supported
pro-choice Republicans in the past. Gingrich
said the GOP would have lost power had it engaged
in a purging of pro-choice elected officials.
“If you’re going to have a majority in the U.S.
House of Representatives, you’re going to have
a lot of Republicans that fit under that bill,”
Hammond said. “And that’s going to include some
pro-life Republicans and some pro-choice Republicans.
There’s just mathematically no way around it.
If your choice is between being in the minority
and being completely purged and pure — that
is one option. The other one is you can build
a coalition of Republicans which includes moderate
Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa
newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily
Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.