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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Iran Claims Testing of a Nuclear Fuel Rod; 39 Los Angeles Fires Blamed on Arson; The World Welcomes 2012; Latest on the GOP Race; Santorum Makes Late Surge; Gingrich Resists Going Negative
Aired January 1, 2012 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, thanks so much for joining us. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We'll have more on the 2012 presidential contenders in this hour, but first an update on some of today's top stories.
Iran seems to be one step closer to being a nuclear nation. The country semi-official news agency reports that scientists successfully built and tested Iran's first nuclear fuel rod. The rod contains natural uranium, which is normally used to fuel nuclear reactors.
And the number of suspected arson fires in the Los Angeles area is up to 39. Investigators say seven of them were set last night. They are offering a $60,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Most of the fires have started in cars then spread to nearby homes and businesses.
And the New Year is off to a sad start for the Atlanta Braves baseball team. The wife of a team trainer was killed after a Georgia State patrol cruiser struck the family's SUV. Our affiliate WSB Television reports the trooper was responding to a police chase at the time.
And civil unions for same-sex couples are legal in Hawaii. This is just one of thousands of new laws that take effect today. The bill grants same-sex couples the same rights that married couples receive. Hawaii's governor signed the bill back in February.
Tens of thousands of revellers rang in the New Year in New York City's Times Square. More than a million others watched the festivities on television as the famous crystal ball was dropped to signal the start of 2012.
And we're following the Republican contenders live in Iowa today as they crisscross the state. The "Contenders 2012" continues now with CNN's Candy Crowley.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to "The Contenders 2012." This is our attempt to show you these candidates as they crisscross the state, as Fredricka just said, we do expect a number of live events from three of these candidates during this hour.
Help me along through the 3:00 Eastern Time hour are Joe Johns is in Atlantic, Iowa. Our Jim Acosta is in Marshalltown. We also have, what would an election be without a poll, a new "Des Moines Register" poll of likely caucus goers, Republican caucus goers, about -- Romney, 12 percent, Ron Paul 22 percent, Rick Santorum 15 percent, Newt Gingrich 12 percent, Rick Perry 11 percent and Michele Bachmann at the bottom 7 percent.
You will see no Jon Huntsman. He did not play as we say in Iowa. He is in New Hampshire hoping to stake a claim there. Let me bring in our Jim Acosta here.
Jim, I guess if you're a candidate and you wake up today if you're in that bottom tier, it's sort of part of the folklore or conventional wisdom in Iowa, that there's three tickets out, first, second, third, and after that you may be going.
But you're going on fumes, and I think if you're one of the candidates in the lower tier, you're looking at another number today and that's the 41 percent that are not completely sure of having -- have not completely made up their minds and could change their minds.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, that's right, Candy. You know, even though we've been talking a lot about Rick Santorum's momentum, the way he's fired up into third place in that "Des Moines Register" poll, second place, the last two days the poll was taken.
I mean, Newt Gingrich is still, in you look at the full results of this poll, a statistical tie with Rick Santorum and Rick Perry. So, you know, Newt Gingrich still has a chance to eke out a third place showing in this state.
If he does that, obviously that's going to breathe life into his campaign because he's, to some extent, being written off in the last days of Iowa caucuses and I do think that's a little bit unfair.
We're inside the sports bar getting ready to listen to the former speaker talk to a pretty decent sized crowd. Just to give you a little of the back story here, they started off in a larger meeting room setting up for this event.
Then they were worried that the turnout wasn't going to be that great and moved into a smaller, private room behind, which is overflowing into the sports bar. So they should have stuck with the larger room to begin with. I think they would have been a lot better off.
So this is what happens in the final days before these types of contests. The campaigns are still trying to, you know, they're still trying to find the best way to skin the cat, as they try to get people out here, fired up, ready to go into the caucus night and you know support their candidate.
And you know, it's going to be interesting to hear what Newt Gingrich has to say at this meeting because he has been, you know, relentlessly staying on a positive message throughout the last few weeks of the campaign heading into the caucuses.
He has resisted going negative on Mitt Romney. But earlier this morning, coming out of Catholic mass, here in Iowa, Newt Gingrich followed out of mass by a couple of reporters who asked him about what about these negative ads?
They're still coming at you, every day, day in, day out. And Newt Gingrich said, something about Mitt Romney that was very interesting. He said, Mitt Romney is trying to buy this election.
And it was probably the sharpest attack that we've heard from Newt Gingrich aimed at Mitt Romney in some time and it's perhaps an indication that he's going to finally engage with the former Massachusetts governor. The question obviously is, and you asked this earlier, is it too late?
CROWLEY: Absolutely. It might be worth if we can, putting up that "Des Moines Register" poll of likely Iowa caucus goers. Again, Jim, you make a really good point becuase if you consider there are three tickets out of Iowa, you look at Romney and look at Paul, and you think OK, those two seem like they're going to get a ticket.
But then look at -- go down and consider that this poll has plus or minus of 4 percent error rate, plus or minus, Santorum 15, Gingrich 12, Perry 11, Bachmann 7. So there's lots of room for the third ticket.
And the other thing we know about this poll, is that in fact, if you took just the last two days, you would see Santorum going in second place. So you know the ground is still shifting here.
ACOSTA: That's right.
CROWLEY: Santorum, by no means, you know, guaranteed one of those spots at the top. But I know that you talked to him yesterday, Jim, and he was pretty upbeat.
ACOSTA: He was very upbeat, Candy. You Know, he has been sort of the ironman, the marathon man of the Iowa caucuses. He's visited all 99 counties. He's given 360 town halls. You know, these are his talking points.
You know, some of the candidates talk where they stand on the issues. Rick Santorum does that somewhat, but Rick Santorum also likes to talk about how much time and energy and effort he's put into winning this state.
You know, if he comes out on top on caucus night, obviously it's going to a huge earthquake in this Republican contest for the nomination and rightly so because he has shot out of nowhere.
I mean, if you look at the polls earlier this year, he was in dead last in most of the polls on where people in Iowa stood in terms of which candidate they liked best.
I think one of the really interesting trajectories in that "Des Moines Register" poll when we look at it, over the course of the four days, is what has happened to Ron Paul? Because over the course of those four days, Ron Paul has slid, you know, a good six to ten points.
And if you listen to what some of the folks in the polling unit with the "Des Moines Register" are saying he's on a done downward trajectory, Rick Santorum on an upward trajectory, coupled with fact that you mentioned a few moments ago, Candy, that 40 of -- roughly 40 percent of Iowans say they may still change their mind between now and caucus night.
This just shows you this is a very fluid contest right now. It goes to the reason why Newt Gingrich is perhpas taking a sharper tone, showing that fight. Because one of the things that, you know, a lot of people have wondered about Newt Gingrich is whether there is positive message of his goes against his branding.
He's always been the guy who has enjoyed the fight and to see him, you know, go positive and just take this abuse from Mitt Romney and the Romney forces at the "Super PAC" has been counterintuitive the way Newt Gingrich has operated his entire career.
So maybe this is, you know, this is a strategy shift and we'll have to see how to turns out.
CROWLEY: You know, Jim, you've watched him over the years and had an opportunity to be out on the campaign trail with him. And again, I think I told Joe that I was really interested in a half hour, that Gingrich saying vote on where I am now, I want them to caucus on where I am now, rather than where I was 10, 15 years ago.
When you are around Gingrich or when you see him on the campaign trail, is that -- does he seem significantly different from the Newt Gingrich you knew and covered in Washington?
ACOSTA: Well that's -- we are seeing the softer side of Newt Gingrich. That has been part of the way he has rebranded himself, I think, in this campaign and to some success, obviously working well for him.
The question, though, I think, is whether or not that is consistent with the Newt Gingrich people have always known. So he's sort of in this box of his own making, you know? His brand has always been the fighter, the conservative fighter out there fighting for the conservative cause.
And to take on this positive message and say I've learned from my mistakes and I'm a softer, gentler kind of guy I don't know whether or not that mix is an effective, you know, clear message to voters out here in Iowa.
But you know, I think Newt Gingrich had to do that in man many ways if you look at negative attack ads Mitt Romney's Super PAC is reminding voters here in the state on a daily basis of all of the things they may not like about Newt Gingrich.
I think perhaps he was in a box and he was trying to figure out what's the best way to do this and thought, let's take the positive approach. He did have history on his side. He likes to think of himself as a history professor.
Mike Huckabee waged a positive campaign in 2008 and that paid dividends for Mike Huckabee. The thinking was inside the Gingrich campaign, inside the mind of Newt Gingrich, staying positive is the best way to go.
I just keep coming back to the thought perhaps on Wednesday morning, you know, the winner of the Iowa caucuses might be restore our future because it's one of the most devastating campaigns of attack ads that I've seen focused on one candidate in this kind of process.
You know, not coming from a candidate, you know, coming from somebody from the outside and outside group. And it's -- and it's done -- it's done its job. It's taken down perhaps the greatest threat to Mitt Romney in the race for the GOP nomination -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Jim Acosta. Just sort of orient our viewers here, those pictures that you're seeing of Newt Gingrich are not live, those are on tape. But we do expect Newt Gingrich live within the hour. That's where Jim Acosta is.
I also have with us our Joe Johns, we're expecting Mitt Romney live event from him as well as Rick Santorum. So lots of live coming up where you will be able to hear these candidates live and unedited, basically with the people of Iowa have been hearing for about a year now.
How about Bob Dole? There's a guy who knows how to win the Iowa caucuses. What he's got to say after the break.
CROWLEY: Welcome back to the 3:00 Eastern edition of "The Contenders 2012." We are trying to bring you these candidates as they move from place to place. Sometimes on tape, sometimes live.
But always unedited in the form, large chunks of the form that these Iowa voters have been listening to for the past year or so. Come Tuesday they're going to have to make up their mines because that's when the Iowa caucuses are.
I want to bring in Jim Acosta and our Joe Johns. We're going to talk any number of things there's Iowa polls, Santorum surge. But really the man of the hour and the surprising thing about this has been that Romney, who has not exactly played hard in Iowa, now looks as though he's the guy to beat. I want to play a little bit from Romney in La Mars, Iowa yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I must admit that family's the best part of life, the people you love, the people you care for, that's really the richness of life, and I was lucky enough to grow up with an extraordinary mom and dad.
My dad was born in Mexico of American parents living there. When he was 5 or 6 they moves back to from the states and went to Los Angeles, Utah, his dad was in the construction business and anyone here in construction knows that goes up and down and his dad went broke more than once.
My dad was never able to finish college, couldn't get the time or money together to do that, but believed in America. And knew that in this country you could accomplish whatever you set your heart to.
And so he proposed to his girlfriend from high school, they got married, didn't have money for a honeymoon he took aluminium paint, borrowed these cans -- bought cans of aluminium paint, put them in the trunk of their car drove across the country selling the aluminium paint to pay for gasoline and hotel rooms.
And ultimately, despite the fact he didn't have a college degree and didn't have a lot of money, he ultimately became head of a car company and made cars. They were ramblers, but they were still cars. And he became governor of a state where he'd sold aluminium paint once. An amazing country we live in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: That is Mitt Romney, of course, in La Mars, Iowa yesterday. One of the things that is so important to folks who get to meet you and get to know you over the course of the year and a half, for them to find some place to relate to you.
And hear Mitt Romney telling the story of his dad who became a wealthy man and executive at an auto company in Michigan as well as governor of Michigan, in fact, Mitt Romney's dad ran for president at one point.
This is a man who has lived a very privileged life, but says he certainly can understand the ordinary things that Americans are going through. But that connection is so important I want to bring our Jim Acosta and our Joe Johns who have been out there covering all of these candidates for many, many months.
Let's talk about making that connection because the fact of the matter is, when you look at some of the polling, the person who seems to have made the biggest connection is Ron Paul, at least in terms of people who believe in his issues. I think he was at 22 percent, was the highest of any of the contenders on who do you most agree with. Mitt Romney has had difficulty making that connection -- Jim.
ACOSTA: That's right. I mean, Ron Paul, you know, can say this, he has true believers supporting his campaign and I think it can be arguably said that Mitt Romney done and that he's still making that case.
And the reason why you hear Mitt Romney talking about you know the struggles that his far went through, building his business, is because he wants to -- honestly he's starting to work on his general election campaign message, a little bit too.
Because day in, day out the Obama re-election folks are hitting Mitt Romney on the fact that you know he has downsized companies as part of his career and that sort of thing. The Romney campaign has sort of two things they need to accomplish on that front and just to talk about the tones of the humble upbringings and so forth at one Romney event a couple of weeks ago, Ann Romney talking about how her grandfather was a welsh coal miner.
So the Romneys are going all out in terms of trying to create a second narrative, this other biography people don't know. Yes, while they're doing quite well, their family might be worth a quarter of a billion dollars their family did have to come from somewhere to get to that point.
And I think that's part of the reason why they're trying to deliver the message. But no question about it, I mean, one reason we're seeing Mitt Romney at 25 percent or so in this "Des Moines register" poll and just about every poll that has come out in recent weeks on Mitt Romney, is that you know that is basically his ceiling.
And that's been talked. But in a fractured field, where the Evangelical conservative vote is splintered and spread out among a variety of candidates, that can possibly enough for Mitt Romney to win.
CROWLEY: You know, Joe Johns, I want to bring you in because you've covered Michele Bachmann over time and I remember, in August, that any reporter that came out here talked about the connection she was making.
She actually grew up, spent some of her childhood at least in Iowa so she has that connection. She's in the Midwest, as it is now but she actually was from Iowa, to begin with, and she had made such a powerful connection. She has quite a story to tell, yet somewhere along the line she seems to have lost that.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think you're right. I mean, there became some issues of Michele Bachmann's credibility from time to time whether she could back up things that she said.
I know there was that issue that had to do with Michele Bachmann saying that the HPV virus had somehow severely injured a child or whatever, and the medical community came out and raised a lot of questions about that.
So that's the kind of thing that became her Achilles' heel, if you will, being able to back up some of the assertions that Michele Bachmann made.
Another one, I know, that I covered, was when she said she would be able to, if she were president of the United States, bring gasoline prices back down to the $2 a gallon level.
And if you talked to you know people in the field, of petroleum sales, the industry, they say those days are just long gone and number one.
Number two, the president of the United States just simply does not dictate petroleum policy to that degree to be able to make some type of a blanket promise to the American public that she's going to take them back to the good old days of $2 a gallon oil prices.
So, Michele Bachmann is still seen as I very attractive candidate to a lot of conservatives out here and a lot of people actually are very saddened by the fact that she hasn't done any better in the polls than she has.
Sort of languishing now in the single digits, and people are asking whether she's going to be the next one to have to drop out because things just aren't looking for good for her -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Joe Johns, Jim Acosta, I want you both stick with me and I want to remind our viewers we are expecting live events during this hour where you will be able to hear newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and at some point we also expect to hear from Mitt Romney.
Up next, just a little quiz for you, as we go into this. Who won the Iowa caucuses in 1988 and in 1996? Quick, go Google. When we come back, I'll play you an interview I had with that candidate after this.
CROWLEY: Welcome back to CNN's "The Contenders 2012." That is Sioux City, Iowa, and inside that room somewhere is one of the contenders, Rick Santorum. He is getting ready to speak. We are going to take that live when he gets up to the podium.
It's what we're trying to do for you today is to give you a chance to hear these men and women as they go about their final arguments, those caucuses, of course, coming on Tuesday.
I want to bring back in our Jim Acosta and Joe Johns, as we wait for Rick Santorum to take that podium in Sioux City, Iowa. What's interesting to me is, polls are cold, hard facts and the cold, hard facts for so long have been that Rick Santorum was getting to where, Joe Johns, in Iowa.
And he kept saying to us, you guys aren't picking up something, there's something going on here, I know my support is better than that, and guess what's happened over the past week or so?
He has shot up into that upper tier. And that's what makes these caucuses so great. We can tell you the cold, hard fact of the "Des Moines Register" poll, but we can't tell you what's going to happen on Tuesday night, Joe.
JOHNS: That's for sure. You know what? This was just hard work for Santorum. You know, he's been to 99 counties. He's done something like 350 town halls. He's been here, you know, for 100 days.
It's just shoe leather if nothing else, sheer determination to try to get people to come around. But the other thing about Iowa is that it's sort of right for Rick Santorum, 60 percent of Evangelical, social conservatives that's kind of the Republican base that goes to the caucuses here.
A lot of people who think what he thinks and believe what he believes, and so it's not that surprising when you think about it, that he's where he is right now, surging and can do very well. You think back four years ago with Governor Huckabee, he had the same experience because he was very much right for that constituency.
That said, Rick Santorum has hurdles as you know, Candy, we haven't talked about them because he hasn't been in the limelight, if you will, where you get the added scrutiny. We haven't talked that much about his 2006 Senate race.
That was where he lost by something like 18 percent, his opponents call it a landslide. This is a Republican senator in a battle ground state, Pennsylvania incumbent, running for re-election just gets trounced by his Democratic opponent there.
Which raises the question, if a Republican senator can't win his own state, Pennsylvania, which is a very important state, why would Republicans trust him with the nomination because he can't even bring Pennsylvania along?
Well, I asks him about that and he makes a case that, number one, it was a very bad year for Republicans in 2006, which it was, and the other thing, I think, is perhaps the more important thing to a lot of the conservative voters here, he says, Look, people wanted me to move toward the middle in order to get more votes in the middle and do better in the election on principle. I stood and decided, no, I'm not going to go there and he says that's why he lost the race. So that's one thing.
The other thing he's getting attacks on a lot is this issue of earmarks, something like $1 billion in earmarks, he asked for, while he was in the United States Congress. But people forget, earmarks were not always the dirty word they are on Capitol Hill. Now, there was a period where people in Congress actually asked for earmarks because they wanted to do something for the folks back home and they were pretty much noncontroversial, if not a pretty good idea. His point is it's the congressional prerogative to seek earmarks and to decide where the spending should go and that's where he's hanging his hat on that issue.
And so, he's gotten hit lately with some few other issues. Number one, among them, I think is his endorsement of none other than Mitt Romney in the last presidential election. He says he did that because he didn't want John McCain to get the nomination.
So, here and there, there are some issues that Rick Santorum gets hit on and not the least of which is the fact that he sort of gotten pigeonholed into being the big supporter of a handful of wedge issues, social conservative issues, issues that that constituency very much cares about at a time when for a lot of voters, there really just two things that that worried about if they're Republicans, beating Barack Obama in the fall and, number two, the economy. You know, that's been really the number one issue for all Americans for quite a while now.
So, the question, of course, is whether he's been pigeonholed and a little bit anachronistic. But it's interesting to see how well he's done. And now, if this trend continues, there's a question of whether, you know, Michele Bachmanns and the Rick Perrys and the other people competing for the same pot of votes, the social conservative votes, if they fall by the way side and he becomes the guy who is the big winner of conservative votes, just how will that help him fare against, say a Mitt Romney, as you go down to New Hampshire and South Carolina and on that way.
But he's also got an organization problem, too, as you know. He's really not built for a 50-state battle and for this thing to go for any protracted amount of time, Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Once again, for our viewers, we are looking at Sioux city, Iowa, the guy to the left of the screen in the black sweater vest, the younger man, is Rick Santorum. He's waiting his turn to talk.
That's the thing about Iowa, is they want to tell you as much as they want to listen to you. So, these town hall meetings sometimes can turn into long speeches by folks who came to ask questions. These are all many of them on stage, are supporters of Rick Santorum. He is enjoying a time in the limelight that he has not seen for the past year and a half.
We want to give you just a little sense of what this is like. As you can see, that is a small, but packed room. So, we want to open up the mike and give you a sense of what it's like to be in one of these without the heat of having to stand there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. we are the stewards of our republic and that's where we have made a mistake. We begin correcting that mistake by sending the best, capable, the best people, we can, period, to Washington, D.C. The most important job that we elect for in this country is president of the United States, it is about the person we send, it's about who they are, it's about their record.
I've known Rick Santorum for years. When I base the president if my books, people say is Rick Santorum in there? Yes, there is a lot of him, because I envision sending the best among us to Washington, to do this nation's most dangerous and most important business.
So, as I turn it over to the fantastic Sam Clovis -- this is fun for me. I never thought I would introduce Sam Clovis as much less Senator Santorum, a lot of people have said, you know, what's the most important reason you've endorsed Santorum and you've thrown in behind Rick? And I tell people, the two most important reasons I have are my kids. It's important to me -- I'm going John Boehner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's how much I love my country. It's important to me that I leave a country stronger with more freedom to them than was left to me. OK. How many cry when they introduce you, Sam?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's after. After. After.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just glad this isn't on national television. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Brad, wait, right there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great for the tough guy conservative to come and weep at a caucus event. Anyway, with that being said, I think you know where I am on this. I want -- I want to introduce an incredible patriot, a man who served his country with incredible distinction and honor. You all know him in Sioux City, so well, a fantastic American, Sam Clovis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Way to go buddy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll lose some creed here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One thing I can do is get cameras to move back, that's for sure.
Well, I would -- I don't think introductions are really necessary here. I know most you personally and this is a wonderful thing about being here today. I was with the senator all day yesterday. And it was just one of the greatest things I've ever done if my life.
CROWLEY: The man who was crying Matt Schultz, the Iowa secretary of state, introducing this gentleman, who will introduce Rick Santorum. We will come back for Rick Santorum. We want to take a quick break.
CROWLEY: Welcome back to "The Contenders 2012."
Sometimes our cup runneth over and that's the case to the left of your screen, that is Rick Santorum. He is talking right now in Sioux City, Iowa. In the right screen, a familiar face, that is Newt Gingrich, he's talking to Marshalltown.
We want to start, first, with Rick Santorum.
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: meeting that we've done. And the press was saying, you know, you're working hard, you're doing everything they say you're supposed to be doing, but you're not moving anywhere in the polls. And we kept hearing from people as they, you know, we'd make phone calls and follow up, you know, really, Rick, we like you, but you know, we're not sure that you can win because you know the pundits say you can't win. And these national polls have you behind.
And I reminded everybody that at the national polls about two months ago, pew was taking one of the national polls and they decided to ask a relevant question, how many people -- how many of you can name any of the Republican nominees before we tell you who they are? And 46 percent couldn't name one. And yet, we're following the national polls when half the people in the poll don't know who's running.
So, this is what I sort of held out for. You know, the people of Iowa -- they're not doing what the national folks are doing, people around the country. You're doing the job of Iowans.
You fight to be first. You fight to be first because you take this responsibility seriously. You take the responsibility of being the one that recommends to the nation in the first vote of this primary process, you recommend to the nation who you've met -- these candidates who you've met, who you've researched, who you've questioned. You recommend to the nation who you believe, not what the pollsters believe, not what the pundits believe, but who you believe having researched and questioned these candidates more than any other group of Americans ever will, you suggest who you think the best person is to lead this country.
And you know what? I believed in that from the very beginning. I remember telling several of the imbeds that we're following us, they say, what's going get your bump? I said, the people of Iowa are going to give us our bump, not anybody else. The people that we went out and met.
And we had a lot of folks who are saying, we like to be for you but we're not sure. And then, folks started stepping forward like Matt Schultz, like Sam Clovis, like Cary Gordon, subsequently, Bob Vander Plaats, people stepped forward and said, you know what? Take a look at this guy we have. We decided we're going to provide leadership and we're going to step forward and say who we believe are the best -- is the best person.
Well, now, it's Iowa's turn to provide leadership. It's all of your turn to provide leadership.
Do not defer your judgment to national polls or to pundits who don't come to these things, who haven't been to my town hall meetings. These pundits, all they do is talk to each other, they don't talk to these candidates. You have.
How many people in this place have met one -- at least one or candidate for president? Raise your hand. OK. There you are folks, and they're here. They're here, two days before the caucus.
They're here because they've measured up all of the other candidates. They are here because they've done the analysis. The analysis that frankly nobody else in this state, in this country -- excuse me, is doing maybe now except for New Hampshire, on the process of doing the same thing.
Lead this country, that's what I ask the people of Iowa. Don't defer, lead. Lead this country, number one. And number two, when you lead this country, don't put forward somebody who isn't good enough to do what's necessary to change this country. Put forward someone that you know has the vision, the trust, the authenticity, the background and the record to make that happen.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: That's you.
SANTORUM: I would agree with that.
(APPLAUSE) SANTORUM: From the very beginning, I said I would trust the people of Iowa if they had a chance to get to know me, and if I make myself available they'd be kind enough to come out. We've had like I said 372 town hall meetings, the biggest one we've had so far --
CROWLEY: Again, that is Rick Santorum, he's speaking in Sioux City, Iowa. We want to break away right now. We don't do that lightly but that's Jim Acosta and that's Newt Gingrich.
And we thought for a moment that Jim was going to grab Newt Gingrich and talk to him, wanted to bring that to you live. Obviously, you saw Newt Gingrich walk by him? Why, because voters are more important at this point and we understand that.
We're going back to Rick Santorum in Sioux City.
SANTORUM: And that's the experience I've had here in Iowa. It's just been a wonderful, you know, experience of the heartland of America. And this is your chance, heartland. This your chance, heartland of America, to speak out.
People say, well, Rick, you know you're going to do well if you do well because of social conservatives or evangelicals. And I said, no, we're going to do well because folks in Iowa understand that just as Pastor Gordon said, just as Sam has said, just as Brad and Matt have said, the key to America, the foundation of America, are strong families and strong faith. That's what makes America the greatest country in the history of the world, that foundation.
That's what makes America the most successful economy in the world. If you think about it, having that strong foundation of the faith and family allows America to be in a position where we can be more free. We can be free because we are good, decent, moral people. We're a people that learn the work ethic, learn to take care of our neighbor so government doesn't have to do as much, right?
The more we do for each other, the less government has to do for us. The more the family can provide for us, the smaller the government can be. That's been the watch word of America for 200 years, but we all know that's changing. And it's what really has royals us, that's really has gotten us concerned that American, the America that we were given is an America that may be changing right from underneath ourselves.
And, in fact, I would make the argument I agree with all of these presenters, that this is the most important election in our lifetime. This is the decision as to what kind of America you are going to hand to your children and grandchildren. Are you going to leave America that is more and more dependent on bigger and bigger government to do the things that families and churches and local communities used to do?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No.
SANTORUM: Are you the America -- are you going to leave an America that says that, no, America isn't a source for good in the world, we shouldn't have a responsibility to make sure that Americans are safe by making sure that the world is a better place and a safer place. Or do you want to withdraw from that? Like the president said when he was campaigning, and I predict, that if President Obama has four years, he's not looking to re-election, his foreign policy will not be any different than Ron Paul's foreign policy. They will be the same.
You're seeing it -- you're seeing evidence of it, of pulling back, of focusing on a growing the welfare state. And you look at every European country that has had world domination, if you will, a world presence, from the French to the British, 100 years ago the sun didn't set on the British empire. And look at that empire today. Why?
Because they lost heart and faith in themselves and their mission about who they were, and what values that they were going to spread around the world, not just for the betterment of the world, but for the safety and security and the betterment of their country.
We have taken up that -- we have taken up that cause. We have a president who doesn't believe in that, who believes that we can give this to the United Nations, we can give this to other bodies, that we can pull back and that we can be timid in the face of threats.
Ladies and gentlemen, we've been through this before at one of these transformational moments back in 1980. When we had the malaise, the economic malaise of Jimmy Carter and a poor economy, high rates of inflation, and a horrible situation with our president didn't believe in his own people. We are back in that situation where we have a president who believes in government more than he believes in you, who believes in top-down not bottom-up in solving America's problems. And we have a president who doesn't believe that America is a source for good and that by being involved and promoting those values around the world will make America a safer place.
Just like Jimmy Carter, Iran is now causing problems. It was a hostage crisis. Now, it's a nuclear weapons crisis, which is worse -- which is more dangerous to the security of the country. And yet, this president, as I talked about on "Meet the Press" this morning, sits idly by and throws platitudes out and does nothing to stop Iran from doing what will fundamentally change the security posture of America and the world.
We cannot afford that. That's why Iowa has to step forward.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We want you.
SANTORUM: That's a very good thing. I appreciate that.
So, I ask you all for your help and support. This is an election that is going to be very close. I'm very appreciative of what we see that our support is rallying and rising here. But there's two more days. There's a lot of work to be done.
I would ask all of you, just like Matt Schultz said, take those yard signs, you've got those take the stickers, take them off your shirt and put them on your coat, so when you go out into the public and you go to the grocery store or wherever you're going, so you can talk about it, sign up to be a caucus captain.
We have about 1,100, 1,200 caucus captains right now, but we need more here in Woodbury County. We need you to sign up, we need you to go to the caucuses, be an advocate for us, get up and speak on our behalf. We're hearing -- I was listening to one of the -- to Kathy Obradovich from the "Des Moines Register" saying she thinks that maybe a third or more of the people who are coming to the caucuses will be undecided.
Help them make their decision. Say I've met with him. I've talked to him. I've had a chance to ask him the tough questions.
Let me tell you, I know what's up here, I know what's in his heart, I know the fire burning in his belly.
This is the most important election of your lifetime. I'm asking you to do what our Founders did, when they wrote at the bottom of the Declaration of Independence, they pledged their lives, their fortune and their sacred honor.
They knew the easy job would be establishing freedom. What they wrote about and they understood that the hard job would be for generation after generation of Americans to maintain that freedom, because every country over time eventually as they get farther and farther away from the passion that created their greatness loses heart, gets soft, forgets the hard work of freedom.
Don't be that generation. Don't be the generation that says, OK, President Obama, OK, those of you who believe in statism, those of you who believe in western European socialism, OK, you take it from here. We're tired.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No.
SANTORUM: We don't want the responsibility anymore. Don't be that generation.
Stand up and fight for your freedom. Stand up and go to those caucuses and in between times recruit those voters. I'm making the sacrifice. We're making the sacrifice.
My daughter Elizabeth is here. My son John is here. We've got five other kids at home. Seven children, age 53 and our little girl has a disability.
This is not -- it's not the best time of my life to run for president of the United States. But this is the most important election of my lifetime. This is where America's freedom is at stake. And so, I couldn't, Karen couldn't, and our kids couldn't stand by and not do everything we could.
Ladies and gentlemen, the next two days, I'm not asking you for great things, I'm not asking you for your lives, I'm not asking you for your fortune, although you can write a check to Rick Santorum for president or you can go on the Web site at RickSantorum.com and help us out, but I'm asking you to stand up for your honor. Honor is not something talked about a lot in America. But it is really important. It is really important that we have that integrity, that honor, of doing what's right.
I'm asking you, you pick whatever candidate you want, do what you think is right, don't defer, do what you believe is right for this country, and in the next two days, fight for it. Fight for it. Fight for what's right. Do your duty. Go to those caucuses.
And you will send a loud and clear message to the world of what the heartland of America wants, what America is looking for, for our future.
Thank you very much. God bless you. Thank you.
SANTORUM: Do I have time for questions? Do I have time for questions? I can take -- I can take a few questions. So why don't we do that.
Yes, sir. I can't see you, but go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wanted to say hi to your daughter. She's the one I had to escort at the debate.
SANTORUM: Oh, OK. Thank you. Sioux City, there you go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I wrote this down. So I wouldn't say it wrong. This Tuesday I will be speaking on behalf -- on your behalf at the precinct.
SANTORUM: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to totally assure the folks there that you will be different. Most of you agree on the major issues, promises have been made, with a career politicians in the House and the Senate making these promises of change is like saying my favorite NFL team, the Colts, will win the Super Bowl next year, just by changing the coach.
Without better players in the case of these politicians, how can these promises and changes happen? My question is: is there anything you can or will do to fix this problem of political corruption in D.C.?
SANTORUM: Well, hopefully -- did everybody hear the question generally? How -- well, yes, Cary, you want to summarize the question. I mean --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you going to do about the corruption in Washington?
SANTORUM: OK, that was the final question. There was a little bit more to it than that. All right. Thank you, Pastor.
Well, you know, again, track record is a pretty good indication of what you're going to do in the future. And if you look at our track -- I mean, the pundits have always criticized me up until about the last few days, said, you know, you're not working because all you do is talk about your track record. I said, well, people want to know what you've done in order for them to be convinced that you're actually going to do what you say you're going to do, you know?
And they say, well, the other candidates just talk about that they say they're going to do. I said, well, if I had their track record, that's what I would do, but I don't, right? I have a good track record. It's not perfect. And you'll hear, I'm sure, from my friends, about my words. We all have them, but just because I may have voted for a thing or two that now, I regret doing.
I didn't advocate for those things. I may have held my nose because there were good things in the bill and bad things in the bill. And you take -- sometimes, you got to take some good with bad, but you didn't see me advocating for the bad or promoting those things.
When it came to corruption, there is nobody in the field that's actually gone out there in Washington and taken on the tough challenges of beating back the good old boy network in Washington, D.C. I did it as a freshman, along with another Iowan, Jim Nussle. We were the two youngest members of the House. He was 30, I was 32. And we heard about this check bouncing scandal, where there were members of Congress who were loaning themselves money at taxpayers' expense for free. And then subsequently found out about members of Congress who would go and get stamps from the post office and then sell them for cash.
Well, this business had been going on, this bank scandal had been going on for years. There were reports on it every two years by the General Accounting Office and usually a member of Congress would highlight it and do a speech on it. This has got to stop and everyone said, OK, fine, just be quiet. And they were.
Well, there was a group of us called the "gang of seven" and said, no, we're not going to be quiet. We were all freshman. We didn't know better. That's what they told us.
And we decided we were going to go out and fight this. And so, day after day after day we went out there on the floor of the House and said, we're not going to rest until this bank is closed and we expose who was doing this and members of Congress. We had both parties, both leaderships, Republican and Democrat, crushing down on us, telling us to shut up, why? Because they were doing it. Just like everybody else.
And we stood and we fought and those names were released. People talk about 1994 being a year of the Contract with America. Go back and read your history. 1994 was about corruption in Washington because we stood up, a group of us, freshmen, minority, folks -- Republicans were such a minority, nobody even paid attention -- we had been in the minority for 38 years.
We were so much in the mood of just, well, you know, whatever scraps you can throw from the table, that's what most Republicans just live for. We didn't care about the scraps from the table. We cared about standing up for honesty and integrity. And we did that.
CROWLEY: That, again, Rick Santorum in Sioux City, Iowa. You got a good take of what his feel is to these voters in the final moments of this campaign that has been going on for more than a year. He has spent more than 100 days here in Iowa. While Santorum was talking, in Sioux City, in Marshalltown, Newt Gingrich was talking. We're going to take a quick break and when we come back, we'll hear from Newt Gingrich.