Alana Rocha

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Thoughtful, last minute decisions in Iowa

In the week or so since arriving in Iowa, I’ve learned voters here are all about procrastinating. Pretty much anyone I’ve engaged in conversation has told me who they’re leaning towards, but that they’ll make their final choice caucus night.

Those delayed decisions have left an already volatile field really anyone’s for the taking, at least any of the six GOP hopefuls campaigning here.

Voters have had plenty of opportunity to meet the candidates, hear their different messages in small, intimate settings and fact check their claims – including those made in the ads airing nonstop locally.

Yes, most Iowans do their homework before they caucus. Most.

Some have told me, somewhat starry-eyed, that a candidates’ words alone – especially those that incorporate bible scripture – have locked in their vote.

More than anything they want to be able to vet the candidate. They take the responsibility of being the first Americans to vote seriously. They might not have an impeccable record of predicting the eventual nominee, but they do succeed in narrowing the field.

Voters listen as Governor Perry speaks in Perry, Iowa Monday night.

A big part of the vetting process is Q&A sessions. And Monday night, in his final stop on a multi-city bus tour of Iowa, Rick Perry didn’t offer those in the audience that opportunity.

He spoke at the Hotel Pattee in the town of Perry with familiar faces by his side – his immediate family, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, State Comptroller Susan Combs, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.

Afterwards one voter told me about how Rick Santorum had also spoken there, earlier in the day, and how he took 30 to 45 minutes answering questions.

When I asked this voter if his choice was then Santorum, he told me, ‘No, that it’s between Gingrich and Perry.’


Again, anyone’s game. Or, maybe the voters are just having fun with the scores of media in town that clearly outnumber them at many candidate events.

One thing is clear, at least according to state Republican Party officials, the turnout for this caucus is expected to be great.

Voters are motivated to choose the right person to unseat President Barack Obama and with temperatures a balmy 13 degrees (zero with the wind chill), weather shouldn’t be a factor…

Presidential hopefuls push hard in Iowa

In the days leading up to the country’s first caucus, Iowans are inundated with political rhetoric.

Television and radio ads are running around the clock. Meanwhile signs, buses and speeches can be found everywhere.

Tim McCoy and John Reed have lived in Iowa most of their lives. They said they’ve never really gotten used to the inundation of propaganda in the days leading up to the nation’s first caucus.

"It’s really tiring because the older you get, the more you’ve been around it. It doesn’t get better. It just gets more," McCoy said.

But with more than half of all likely voters still undecided, the six top-GOP presidential hopefuls are trying to reach people any way they can.

Not all of the candidates campaigning in Iowa have the money to make it happen. Ads from Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Perry are abundant, but Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum ads are few and far between.

With only one candidate able to win, the rest is just noise.

"Looking forward to going, and looking forward to it being over," Reed said.

Iowa Republican Party officials said they’re expecting a high turnout for their caucus.

The Iowa caucus is set for Jan. 3.

Taking in Iowa: cornfields and grassroots

We flew in Wednesday ready to weather the cold Midwest air and found it warmer than what we left in Texas. According to a few local meteorologists, the balmier temps will stick around through Tuesday night when Iowa’s registered Republican voters head to their nearby church or school to caucus.

Party officials tell me the weather is just one of the reasons they’re expecting a high turnout for the meeting-style vote. See, come 7 p.m. Tuesday night, voters in their respective precincts will gather to hear last-minute pitches from the candidates themselves or a representative as to why they should get their vote.

With more than 1,700 precincts, voters are more likely to hear from campaign representatives. That’s where the grassroots effort comes in.

All of the campaigns, especially Rep. Ron Paul’s, have spent the past few weeks recruiting volunteers from across the country to ensure they have a representative at each location.

I quickly learned after talking with likely voters, the majority are still undecided. Many told me they plan to wait till Tuesday night to make up their minds.

Not all.

One guy simply said, "Anyone, but Mitt Romney." He went on to explain he doesn’t feel the former Massachusetts governor is a true conservative, but added that if Romney was the eventual nominee, he’d vote for him over President Obama.

At least two people pledged their allegiance to Paul after listening to him on a stop in Perry, Iowa Thursday. One told me they found him genuine – that he’d do what he’s promising.

The support for Paul is evident in the state. Turning on WHO Radio this morning, Jan Mickelson made mention that he has never had an unsolicited Rick Perry supporter call in on a whim to laud their candidate, but that Ron Paul has countless do so on a daily basis.

And it seems as though Rick Santorum’s persistence is paying off. The former US Senator from Pennsylvania touts that he’s visited all 99 counties in Iowa and his poll numbers, and ad runs, are beginning to reflect his efforts.

Could he be the come-from-behind upset? Anything’s possible. Between now and Tuesday, Iowans will have plenty of opportunities to hear the candidates’ pitches in person or via the airwaves.

We’ll be here to cover it all on air and online, saving the heavy coats and scarves for New Hampshire.

Why Perry had to put Tim Tebow in

Courtesy ESPN

Like the 231,000 Google results that populate when you search his name, Tim Tebow’s list of titles and accomplishments seems never-ending: a beloved Gator football alum leading the University of Florida to two NCAA championships in 2006 and 2008; first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy (2006); drafted to the Denver Broncos in 2010; labeled an ‘overrated’ quarterback, until recently; and, as the son of a preacher, he’s a player who’s not afraid to strike a prayerful stance on the field for millions of people across the country to see.

Many of those viewers are conservatives and that’s perhaps why Rick Perry attempted to compare his struggling run for the White House to that of Tebow’s career during Thursday night’s debate in Sioux City, Iowa.

When the moderators asked the Texas Governor if he was ready for the next level, Perry responded saying, "There were folks who said Tim Tebow wasn’t going to be a very good NFL quarterback. There were people who stood up and said he didn’t have the right throwing mechanisms or he’s not playing the game right. And you know, he won two national championships and that looked pretty good."


Perry went on to say, "We were the national champions in job creation back in Texas. So am I ready for the next level? Let me tell you, I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses."

As soon as he uttered Tebow’s name, my head began to lower and shake slightly side to side without me even realizing. I quietly asked myself, ‘why.’ Then just as quickly answered my own question.

Everyone is cashing in on the Tebow brand right now. He’s the symbol of purity, popularity and good looks.

I mean, just in time for Christmas, Fathead -a wall graphics company- evidently started selling a graphic of Tebow praying or "Tebowing." It became a top 10 seller along with two other Tebow-related graphics of theirs.

Bonfire Brewing in Eagle, Colorado just debuted its new barley wine,

This Sunday Bonfire Brewing out of Colorado launched its barley wine "Tebrew." The high-alcohol type beer has a logo that features a man crouching as if in prayer, holding up a mug of beer with the tag line, "The Sunday Sipper."

Even Saturday Night Live had a skit this weekend mocking Tebow’s openness to pray when, during the parody, the Broncos get a visit from Jesus.

So I guess it shouldn’t have really come as any surprise that Rick Perry would try to capitalize on Tebow’s popularity, in an attempt to try to boost his own.

South Carolina’s governor endorses Romney

While Rick Perry makes his way through Iowa, Mitt Romney knows he’s set himself up well in the state of the first-in-the-south primary with the long-sought after support of Governor Nikki Haley.

We were there, in Charleston, S.C. back in August as Texas Governor Rick Perry made it official, joining the group running for the GOP presidential nomination.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was also at the Annual Convention as Perry spoke to the group of conservative bloggers about his record on jobs creation.

The two met outside of that convention and again in October, when Perry went back to South Carolina, to announce his jobs plan.

We were there for that stop in Gray Court and one later that same day in Columbia when State House Speaker Bobby Harrell endorsed Perry.

There was word circulating at the Capitol that Haley planned to also throw her support behind the governor whose popularity, at that point, had fledged after a few poor debate performances.

Haley is a rising star in the GOP — hugely popular amongst southern conservatives and the Tea Party – making her a key endorsement for any of the candidates to secure.

Perry’s fruitless attempt of courting Gov. Haley comes as a blow to his campaign, but it’s not their focus, at least not right now. Hundreds of supporters are blanketing Iowa in hopes of drumming up enough support for Perry to place in the top tier of the January 3 caucus.

South Carolina primary voters cast their ballots January 21.

Herman Cain’s Plan B: offer endorsement

Before a list of women came forward alleging past relationships with Herman Cain, the former Republican presidential candidate’s message centered on 9-9-9 – his plan to overhaul the current tax system.

Over the past several weeks, Cain has had to instead shift the conversation to his personal life and defend accusations of sexual harassment and one of a 13-year extramarital affair.

In his remarks Saturday afternoon in Atlanta, Cain told a crowd of stanch supporters while he "is at peace with God; at peace with his wife and most importantly, at peace with himself," he is suspending his presidential campaign.

The audience there was none too happy.

Cain cited the strain the accusations have put on his family, primarily his wife Gloria; the pain it’s caused her.

With that declaration, Cain vowed to stay relevant in discussing the issues affecting our country and continue to be a "voice for the people." That includes keeping 9-9-9 alive.

It was his next statement that peaked the interest of his now-former GOP contenders. As part of his "Plan B," Cain would be endorsing a candidate for president. He immediately ruled out the current Commander and Chief.

Within moments of Cain leaving the stage, CNN was reading a statement Michelle Bachmann had issued acknowledging Herman’s tough decision to leave the race and wished he and his family the best.

Cain can expect several more public statements, like Bachmann’s, to follow from the seven GOP candidates who remain.

Gingrich choice of influential New Hampshire newspaper

So it looks like Newt Gingrich’s recent surge to the top of the polls will last, for a while. Maybe. Other GOP hopefuls have taken their turn as the frontrunner, only to – after a few weeks – fall back into the pack without having garnered any ‘seal of approval’ from a credible figure or, in this case, publication.

Courtesy: Politico

Or so I thought.

Sunday, The Union Leader made it known Gingrich was its choice to secure the Republican presidential nomination. Readers’ comments said otherwise.

Nearly 200 had posted their peace underneath the editorial board’s endorsement just hours after it hit the home page . Many told the paper that by making such a choice The Union Leader had lost ‘any credibility.’ Others called it a ‘let down,’ ‘lame,’ and an ‘endorsement of the status quo.’

More than one endorsed Rep. Ron Paul instead.

During my brief stay in New Hampshire this October, I made a point to pick up a copy of The Union Leader each day knowing its reputation. The paper, based out of Manchester, is the go-to for many New Englanders when it comes to the politics of the region.

Whoever you like, The Union Leader’s endorsement definitely makes a statement. The paper’s reputation coupled with the fact that it’s in the state where the first primary happens (that being January 10), says that after several months of evaluating the field and only six weeks till the first ballots are cast there they’re set on Newt.

Not Mitt Romney, surprisingly.

Rick Perry’s “Oops”: There’s an app for that

Exactly 10 days following Perry's gaffe, Lunagames released Oops: What's the third agency again?

Imagine a world where you control how Rick Perry’s "oops" moment plays out, over and over again. The combinations of the different phrases the GOP presidential hopeful exchanged that night are endless. Come to find out, this app has some competition. There are a total of four apps that center on candidate Perry. Who knew?

Well actually, I did know of the first one listed. It’s his official 2012 campaign app I downloaded a few months back when he made his run for the White House official. The app acts as a hub for all things Perry – listing every article he’s mentioned in in key media publications.

The next three, gaming companies conjured up. Two allow you to orchestrate the dialogue that filled those 53 seconds of the CNBC debate November 9 in Michigan. That night, after listing Education and Commerce, Perry blanked on the third agency of government he’d eliminate, if elected.

Now, with the tap of the screen, you decide what happens first – the ‘Oops,’ his turn to Rep. Ron Paul for help in remembering the third agency or Perry’s side note about the EPA.

The gamers at Epic American Apps Inc. thought up Thumbs Up Republicans.

It’s all in good fun. Hours after Perry’s infamous brain freeze, he was poking fun at himself on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Funny or not, the fourth and final Perry iPad app takes you back to the arcade. "Thumbs Up Republicans" is a classic Whack-A-Mole style game where the heads of different GOP figures take turns randomly popping up on the White House lawn – just long enough for you to bop them with your finger(s).

It teaches great hand-eye coordination and quickens your reaction time. I’ve made it to level 13.

Like politics, it can be tricky.

Reacting to redistricting

The three-judge panel out of San Antonio rolled out the final court-ordered Texas House map the day before the holiday. Representative Aaron Peña was among those who took time around the turkey table Thursday to discuss the map with friends and family, and his future in public service.

According to YNN Political Contributor Harvey Kronberg, of the Quorum Report, Peña’s decided not to seek another term in office.

"The district I have been placed in is a 75% Democratic seat. It is unwinnable by me or any Republican candidate and I will not move into another legislative district to run against a colleague," Peña said.

The court-ordered map will dictate the March and November 2012 elections here in Texas, that’s if the judge’s panel in Washington, DC doesn’t act in a timely fashion. They have, after all, been told to take their time.

Attorney General Greg Abbott weighed issuing a request to stay the enforcement of the House map, knowing full well doing so would likely delay the primary elections for the Texas House of Representatives.

Abbott said, "While all unaffected primary elections will continue as scheduled on March 6, 2012, the State is prepared to delay its Texas House of Representatives primary elections in order to ensure that it is not forced to conduct elections using a legally flawed map."

Click here to see the maps.

Ron Paul: future party switcher? Supporters say ‘no way’

Something the political pundits were bantering about caught my ear this week. Would Ron Paul consider running as an independent if his growing popularity didn’t secure him the GOP nomination? Paul told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace he had "no intention of running" as an independent. Why not? Paul says he doesn’t want to. Of course, in the political world that is not enough to quiet the speculation. The conversation immediately jumped ahead to November 2012. Who would suffer the most with an independent on the ballot? Who might be on Paul’s ticket? Would Governor Gary Johnson be his VP?

I contacted a few of the diehard Paul supporters in the Austin area to get their take. A few almost seemed offended I was questioning their candidate’s integrity. In their eyes, the thought implied Paul has strayed from his word in the 30+ years he’s held public office, especially when responding to such an "unlikely proposition." One Ron Paul supporter after another told me he does not flip flop. Ever. He’s not your average politician. I’ll give them that.

Paul is holding steady in the polls. You could say this presidential run for the Texas Congressman has been easier since he hasn’t had to dedicate as much time building name recognition. Supporters will tell you much of his 2008 bid was focused on making sure Americans had reason to remember his name. Today, it’s safe to say most voters can put a face with the name, maybe even quote his stance on a particular issue or a line he delivered in a debate.

He’s no longer a sideline candidate. But, whether notoriety and a consistent message can transfer into a position opposite President Obama is anyone’s guess. Paul said himself Sunday, “Oh, I think there is a cycle going on here and I don’t think that in particular. I think we have seen sudden surges of candidates and then they fall again. I think all of that is all helpful to me.”