Garance Franke-Ruta is a senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic. More
Franke-Ruta was previously national web politics editor at The Washington Post, and has also worked at The American Prospect, The Washington City Paper, The New Republic and National Journal magazines. In 2007, she and the other contributors to The American Prospect 's blog "Tapped" won the Hillman Prize. In 2006, she was fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Mass., and in 2007, a summer fellow with The Iowa Independent, based in Des Moines, Iowa. Garance has lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, the Harvard Art Museums, Williams College, Wellesley College, Brandeis and Georgetown Universities, and taught in Georgetown's Master of Professional Studies in Journalism program. She has also has made numerous appearances on national and regional television and radio programs. Born in the South of France, Franke-Ruta grew up in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico; New York City; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has lived and worked in Washington, D.C., since graduating from Harvard in 1997.
Guess what's coming in Russ Feingold's negative campaign? He's going to tell you I said Washington treats Social Security like a Ponzi scheme. You know what? I did say that -- 'cause it's true. Russ Feingold and politicians of both parties raided the Social Security trust fund of trillions and left seniors an IOU. They spent the money. It's gone. I'll fight to keep every nickel of Social Security for retirees, and I respect you enough to tell you the truth.Of course, Johnson -- who beat the incumbent Feingold 52 to 47 percent -- was running in Wisconsin, not in states like Florida. And as author Michael Cohen pointed out last night, President Obama could in 2012 lose the states of Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado and Ohio and still win reelection if he can pick up Florida.
Still, as much as Social Security is the third rail of American politics, were Perry to become the GOP nominee and chose someone like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) as his running mate, it would likely complicate the picture and negate some of the damage Democrats are hoping his Social Security stance will do to his support among seniors.
The charges were dropped after he spent more than a month in prison. Now he's rallying Bachmann's faith-based support and prepping for a movie about his ordeal.
Updated 6:35 p.m.
The evangelical organizer who helped Michele Bachmann win the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa Saturday was previously charged with terrorism in Uganda after being arrested for possession of assault rifles and ammunition in February 2006, just days before Uganda's first multi-party elections in 20 years.
Peter E. Waldron spent 37 days in the Luriza Prison outside Kampala, where he says he was tortured, after being arrested along with six Congolese and Ugandan nationals for the weapons, which were described variously in news reports as having been found in his bedroom or a closet in his home. The charges, which could have led to life in prison, were dropped in March 2006 after a pressure campaign by Waldron's friends and colleagues and what Waldron says was the intervention of the Bush administration. He was released and deported from the east African nation, along with the Congolese. On Saturday, Waldron told The Atlantic in Ames that he was a staffer for Bachmann and responsible for her faith-based organizing both in Iowa and South Carolina. But he also declined repeatedly to give his name.
Asked about Waldron's role and background, Alice Stewart, the press secretary for the Bachmann for President campaign, replied in an email: "Michele's faith is an important part of her life and Peter did a tremendous job with our faith outreach in Iowa. We are fortunate to have him on our team and look forward to having him expanding his efforts in several states."
Waldron's ordeal and life are the inspiration for a film, "The Ultimate Price: The Peter E. Waldron Story," from Big Promise Production. Here's the synopsis of the film that accompanies the trailer released on YouTube earlier this year:
Lebanon. Iraq. Syria. Afghanistan. Pakistan. Uganda. India. For over thirty years, his family never knew where he went -- never knew what he did. Based on a true story, Dr. Peter Waldron was on a mission. Was he a businessman, a preacher, a spy? Tortured and facing a firing squad, he never broke his oath of silence. What secret was worth the ultimate price?
The trailer was removed from YouTube after The Atlantic posted this story.
Waldron, a Republican operative since the late 1980s, had been in Uganda since 2002 and was at the time of his arrest working for the "Africa Dispatch" newsletter and, according to reports in 2006, working on a pilot study of a new health-care information technology management system.
One Ugandan paper alleged he was working with Congolese rebel militia members to capture Joseph Kony, the leader of the Ugandan guerrilla group the Lord's Resistance Army, and claim a $1.7 million bounty on his head being offered by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but that planning for the operation was botched, leading police to Waldron's house and the guns. But the Kampala Monitor reported that the inspector general of police "told a news conference Waldron was suspected of links to a group in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and 'planned to set up a political party here based on Christian principles.'"
On his website, Waldron says he was "falsely accused of being a spy by the Uganda government's secret police," leading to his arrest. One man who knew Waldron in 2004 told The St. Petersburg Times in 2006 that Waldron had told him he used to work for the CIA, and the question of whether or not Waldron has worked as a spy is prominently teased in the trailer for the movie based on his life now being promoted on his personal website.
(Andrew Rice, the man who spoke with the Times about Waldron's purported history as a spook, on Wednesday said he had incorrectly recalled their conversation, but that his general impression of him was "that he was quite a vivid storyteller" and "a particularly flamboyant example of an archetypal character: the American who goes to Africa, a continent where a little money and a lot of talk can buy substantial power, in search of a position of influence.")
At the time of his arrest, Waldron was hailed on one blog as being ""the latest victim of Christian persecution in Africa." His allies seeking to free him said he was being persecuted for his reports in the "Africa Dispatch" newsletter about Ugandan opposition activities, and that he denied that he owned or was storing weapons.
Dave Racer, who worked to free Waldron in 2006, said Wednesday that he was uncertain as to the veracity of the allegations against him or the counter-claims. At the time, there was, as he understood it, "an allegation that Peter was involved in gun-running, I believe he was accused perhaps of fomenting some uprising against [Ugandan] President Museveni."
But, he said, "It's not possible from here to know what was fact. There's just no way to know. From here, it looked like he was a victim of political persecution."
The passage of the years has made him even less certain. "I have no knowledge of what really happened," he said, except that the detention "was very hard on him."
Waldron has been described at times as a leader of a wide variety of organizations, including Advancing American Freedom (co-founder); Christians Restoring America's Greatness (founder and president); Cities of Faith Ministries (founder); the Contact America Group, Inc. (president); and The Save The Family Foundation (president).
From 1995 to 1999 he ran the Rising Stars Education and Sports Foundation in Florida, according to The St. Petersburg Times, taking in $600,000 from state and local governments, and he later had an affiliation with "the Rocky Mountain Technology Group, a Montana software development company," according to the paper.
This year's was his third Ames Straw Poll organizing campaign, Waldron said Saturday. On his website, he says he also has worked for the Reagan/Bush; Bush/Quayle; Bauer; McCain; and Bush/Cheney presidential campaigns.
Waldron did not reply to emails seeking comment sent to three different addresses linked to his websites.
Image credit: PeterEWaldron.com
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Paul Begala reports that Texas Gov. Rick Perry wore such tight jeans and "adjusted himself so often" as a young Democrat in the Texas state legislature Begala and a group of other aides called him "the Crotch."
That's an interesting data point, as two turns of phrase from the now-Republican governor of Texas last night to a GOP dinner in Waterloo, Iowa, suggest that the way Perry talks about women and deploys his masculinity on the stump will bear watching in the months ahead.
First, Perry invoked the old "girls have cooties" stereotype at the start of his Waterloo speech:
I was about eight years old, and my momma decided I needed to have some musical influences in my life. So I took piano lessons. Mom drove us 16 miles from out in the country into town, and I sat by a little blonde-headed girl.
I'm pretty sure I wasn't real happy about that at the moment, having to sit by a girl when I was eight years old.
Eight years later, I had my first date in my life with her.
And 16 years after that, I married her. Now that's a whole 'nother story about how long it took, that long.
But it just kind of goes to tell ya, sometimes it kind of takes me a while to get into something, like this presidential race. But lemme tell you something, when I'm in, I'm in all the way!
Then, after he finished speaking and was about to entertain questions, Perry took off his jacket and handed down from the stage to his wife at front-row table, who passed it on back to his daughter, who was wearing a sleeveless dress.
"Excuse me, my daughter's cold, so I gave her my jacket. And if this shirt's got a few wrinkles in it, it's not my wife's fault," Perry quipped. The crowd laughed.
Perry's cocky persona and apparent relish for playing gender stereotypes for laughs could sit uneasily with women in a general election contest. Of course, there's no evidence he's got any appeal to Democratic women in Texas -- or to Democrats there more generally -- but half of winning is avoiding angering the other side enough to turn out against you in force.
In any event, something to keep an eye on.
But it's Iowa, and she's a hometown girl, and that gets him an inch. It will be a long road from here to the caucuses.
WATERLOO, Iowa -- The electricity in the Electric Park Ballroom was palpable when Texas Gov. Rick Perry took the stage Sunday night at the Republicans of Black Hawk County Lincoln Day Dinner. Moving away from the podium and holding a handheld-mic, he worked the crowd from his first applause line -- that he had been a 4-H "gold-star boy" -- to the last of a folksy speech that was at turns biographical, combative and policy-oriented. His antics on the stage marked him as a master performer and deft politician who will be able to deliver what will appear to be plain talk on the economy and debt.
It was the sort of performance that made congresswoman Michele Bachmann, daughter of Waterloo and winner of the Ames Straw Poll the day before, seem almost an afterthought when she spoke after him to tepid applause under changed lighting conditions (to give her "a different color temperature," according to her "lighting guy" Kenneth Morton) in the room.
But while Perry certainly won converts from the Cedar Valley area last night -- not to mentioning wowing the national press -- this is Iowa. Things run different here. While the day's chatter at the national level was all about how the GOP presidential primary contest was now a three-way race between Bachmann, Perry and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, in Iowa, the only contenders that mattered were those who were committed to playing on the ground.
"You're number three now!" Marc Lattin of Cedar Falls greeted former senator Rick Santorum, who was shaking hands and talking to attendees at the early-bird dinner.
"That's what I'm looking at," Santorum replied with a smile. The exit of former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty from the race earlier in the day meant that fourth-place Ames finisher Santorum, who also spoke briefly at the dinner, was able to savor having moved up a notch in the game, at least in theory.
After the speeches, I ran into a couple I'd lunched with the previous day at the straw poll in the Pawlenty tent who'd been intrigued by Perry. Lavada Dennis was now totally sold. "I think right now I'm in Perry's camp," she said.
Agreed her husband, Erv Dennis, "He's got depth. He's got experience....This was a great event."
But Russ Knoll, who represents central Iowa to the state GOP and was for seven years the Black Hawk County GOP chair, was less immediately impressed.
"I was a little taken aback by Perry's non-preparedness. He got stuck a couple of times. Being the governor of Texas I expected a little more," he said.
"I took that as him choosing his words carefully," Erv said.
Knoll clearly had already developed an eye for local gal Bachmann. "We was down here when she announced and she gave a great speech then and a great speech tonight. She's a little ball of dynamite."
And that's Iowa in a nutshell. Perry and Bachmann could not have more different personal styles, even as they are both charismatic tea party figures and social conservatives. Where he was all bluster and testosterone, her voice got high and breathy at times as she touted her Waterloo roots and told the story of her grandmother who changed snow-tires in a dress. She ended her remarks by giving away an apple pie to the oldest GOP mother in the room, 100-year-old Mary Canfield. Perry, in an act of chivalry, had taken off his jacket mid-speech and given it to his daughter, saying he could see she was cold.
It's too early to say which approach will play better here in February when the caucuses take place, though Perry's executive experience and greater time in public life seem likely to make him a more formidable campaigner, and Texas's jobs picture as he presents it is already making people take notice.
Clay Trittle, for one, was still undecided after hearing Perry speak. "That's kind of why I'm here," he said. "We know Bachmann. We know Romney." But Perry was an unknown quantity and he'd need to see more of him to know what he thought. Perry was still a newcomer to the scene.
One thing he did know, "It's gonna be a tough, bloody race. I can see it coming."
Image credit: REUTERS/Jim Young
AMES, Iowa -- Women wearing sign-boards that say, "I am a person" over an image of a fetus. The ubiquitous Fair Tax people. The AARP. The National Association for Guns Rights' development director barking into a bullhorn against "Hillary Clinton's small arms treaty" and "the international destruction of the Second Amendment."
The Ames Straw Poll is a test of Republican presidential contenders' organizational strength that has a strong track record of accurately predicting the winner of the Iowa caucuses -- since 1979, that man's always been an Ames No. 1 or 2 finisher, Nate Silver reminds -- if not the GOP nomination or the presidency.
It's also a zoo, the political equivalent of the Iowa State Fair down the road in Des Moines, a festival of Bar-B-Q and T-shirts, bumper stickers and personal mobility devices. Some 700 members of the press reportedly signed up to cover it this year, and an eye-ball estimate of the conservative throngs by midday suggested to me attendance was far larger than in 2007, when 14,302 cast votes. Of course, not everyone here voted. Some just came for the scene.
Here's some of what they saw:
"I have been to 4 #iastrawpoll events and never seen a line as long as Bachmann's," Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad's Communications Director Tim Albrecht tweeted midday.
That seemingly endless line was the subject of much speculation, snaking out from her tent and curving back around until it nearly intersected with the food line at former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum's tent on the other side of the Hilton Coliseum on the campus of Iowa State University. At the line's front, once could actually slip unimpeded into her tent to see musical acts like Randy Travis in the dim air-conditioned space, where there were seats for the elderly and infirm. The hold-up at the tent's entrance wasn't to enter -- it was the thousands of people waiting to sign in and be given tickets that would allow them to cast a vote for Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
Ultimately, more than 6,000 of the $30 tickets to vote were distributed by her campaign, according to a source inside her tent, giving her the edge and making her the first woman to ever win the Ames Straw Poll after 4,823 of them cast ballots for her.
"Thank you everyone for being here," Bachmann said to cheers, emerging briefly from her campaign bus to shake hands and thank supporters after being declared the victor. "This is the very first step toward taking the White House in 2012 and sending the message that Barack Obama will be a one-term president." The one-term president line has become a signature in her stump speech, so much so that the coliseum audience chanted it along with her when she used it in while addressing them earlier in the day.
"We love you. Thank you so much. It's your victory," she told supporters.
It's not totally clear what happened to the rest of the distributed Bachmann tickets, some 1,200 of which did not turn into votes. What was clear was that not everyone in Bachmann's long lines was an eligible voter -- there were a slew of people from Minnesota still waiting for beef sundaes toward the end of the balloting period, for example. Among them was Pat Konkleir, 58, who came down from Blaine, Minn., in Bachmann's district to help organize straw poll activities. "We brought down a bus of 40 or 50 or so," she said.
Even so, with 16,892 ballots cast, it was highest number of votes at a straw poll since 1999.
Bachmann's Iowa faith-based coalitions organizer credited her win to the churches. "I've not ever seen anything like this," he said, strolling the floor in the press center after it was clear she'd won but before the results were announced -- and before realizing he wasn't supposed to give out his name. They were "extraordinary numbers."
"At the end of the day, the story is going to be the faith-based turnout," he said. That, and Ed Rollins, Bachmann's top political adviser, who was "really an inspiration. He told us how to do it."
But in talking to volunteers wearing orange Michele Bachmann T-shirts or wilting in line for her tent, Bachmann's social conservatism stood out as only one aspect of what appeared to be a coalition that's gathered around her.
"She's a constitutionalist," observed volunteer Paul Dayton of Boone. "She's fiscally conservative. She votes the way she says she will."
"She's firm, she's solid. I love her enthusiasm. I love everything she is," effused Shirley Ripley, 70, of Charles City, a self-described "tea party person." Pressed for specifics, she pointed to "regulations up the ying yang," "how they're trying to tell us how we can't have salt, can't have potato chips, can't have pop" and what is being taught to children.
In addition to religious conservatives, fiscal conservatives and constitutionalists (which usually means people with a libertarian stance toward federal government regulations), Bachmann appeals to conservative women. Even if they are so conservative they can't always vote for her.
Dea Davenport, 73, of Diagonal, Iowa, said she was a Bachmann supporter but hadn't cast her straw poll vote for her. "If she were a man I would have voted for her," Davenport said. "I feel like a man ought to be running the country, but she'd be my second choice."
"I think she's a good candidate, though, I really do," she sighed. "I just wish she were a man."
A STALLED PAUL
Texas Rep. Ron Paul is waging his third presidential bid and has said he won't run for the House again so he can focus all his energies on it. The fact that he won as many votes as he did, 4,671, and that Bachmann could put together an operation that bested his years-long effort in just 48 days -- a number she mentioned repeatedly during her speech in the coliseum Saturday afternoon -- suggests both how narrow and deep his base of support is.
Paul has tended to win straw polls wherever he goes, but the critical difference between the Ames Straw Poll and the ones at the Conservative Political Action Conference and the Republican Leadership Conference earlier this year -- both of which he won -- is that this poll was limited to people from a circumscribed geographic area.
It's easy for Paul to gather his impassioned supporters from around the country at a conference; it's harder for him to muster support within a single locale. That was the case for him last cycle as well, when he was able to build enormous presence at GOP and conservative events throughout Iowa by drawing supporters from around the region but came in fifth in the straw poll.
This time, Paul did a better job turning out his local backers, but there was little to suggest he'd significantly broadened his appeal. His Hawkeye-State backers in Ames by and large seemed to have been with him for the long haul, rather than new supporters, raising questions about how much more backing he can gain before the caucuses. Sure, he had a dunk-tank near his tents for little kids, to compete with Bachmann's entertainingly tiny yellow blimp, which floated above her campaign bus all day to signal where her tent was, but the people who turned out for him weren't there for that or the hot dogs or his giant inflatable "Sliding Dollar" slide game.
Ray Bures, 69, of Ely, Iowa, had been a supporter of Paul's "going all the way back probably 20 years, when I first became aware of him." Tony Stuntz, 30, of Council Bluffs, had been backing him "since 2007" and says he'd "met a couple of guys who voted for him in '88." Mark Hansen, 30 and also of Council Bluffs, described himself as "a strong supporter for the last four years."
Paul's consistency has kept these voters and others like them with him, even as new candidates have entered the field. "He's always been doing the same thing," said Bill Hofmeister, 39, of Cedar Rapids, a Paul supporter since 2009. "He's not a flip-flopper."
SOFT PAWLENTY SUPPORT
Tim Pawlenty's machine seemed well-organized, but interviews with individuals in and around his tent revealed less than firm support for him -- a level of support that was ultimately reflected in Pawlenty's third-place finish with just 2,293 of the votes cast.
"Why are you supporting Tim Pawlenty?" I asked Becky Reif of Cedar Rapids, who was one of many people wearing a green Pawlenty 2012 T-shirt.
"I don't have a candidate," she replied. "I'm still open to other people."
"But you voted for him today?" I followed up.
"I did vote for him today," she said. "He sounds like a good man. He sounds like he's got the same Christian values."
She'd come in with a group from the River of Life Church that was all voting Pawlenty, she explained. She was not in Ames out of any kind of personal passion for him.
Over in the food tent, Lavada Dennis, 74 and from Cedar Falls, was similarly noncommittal. "I'm a Pawlenty supporter. But it's a long way from the election," she said while eating a sandwich from Famous Dave's BBQ. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who announced his presidential campaign today at an event in South Carolina, was also of interest to her.
"I think Rick Perry has a lot of experience running the state of Texas," she observed. That made his argument much like Pawlenty's -- the experience argument, "versus, you know, Bachmann," she said.
Pawlenty, perhaps sensing his weak hold on those wearing his T-shirts, warned them from the stage midday: "I hope you have all voted. If not I'm gonna come over and give you the what for."
A SANTORUM BUMP
"This is the little engine that could campaign," Santorum described his candidacy in remarks in the coliseum.
Wooed with hot dogs and peach preserves made from peach trees on Santorum property -- quite excellent by the way -- a surprising number of people appeared to have turned out for him. But he still came in fourth with 1,657 votes, a finish that was clearly disappointing to him. Ebullient and cautiously optimistic at midday, he had a deflated look when he came back to speak to the press long after results were announced and staff from Iowa State University was trying to clear press out so the space could be turned over to NBC for a taping of "Meet the Press."
The Santorum effort would be "the fine wine candidacy," he said, committing to staying in the race. "We will age very, very well."
Below are the rest of the official results:
2011 Straw Poll Full Results (Votes, %)
1. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (4823, 28.55%)
2. Congressman Ron Paul (4671, 27.65%)
3. Former governor Tim Pawlenty (2293, 13.57%)
4. Former senator Rick Santorum (1657, 9.81%)
5. Herman Cain (1456, 8.62%)
6. Gov. Rick Perry (718, 3.62%) write-in
7. Former governor Mitt Romney (567, 3.36%)
8. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (385, 2.28%)
9. Former governor Jon Huntsman (69, 0.41%)
10. Congressman Thad McCotter (35, 0.21%)
Scattering (162, 0.96 %) Includes all those receiving votes at less than one-percent that were not on the ballot.
Image credits: Bachmann (REUTERS/Daniel Acker); Santorum (Garance Franke-Ruta)
At the Iowa State Fair, those planning to vote in the straw poll and others just having a pork cutlet were clear: the ceiling should not have been raised
DES MOINES -- The lingering effect of the debt ceiling fight seems likely to be felt at the Ames straw poll Saturday, as anger over a nation perceived as living beyond its means suffused the comments of Iowans drawn to the Des Moines Register soapbox for presidential candidate speeches. But it came up, too, over and over in conversations with others around the fairgrounds, independents and Republicans alike, some of whom saw in President Obama's fiscal policies a continuation of the Bush-era profligacy they despised.
A frequently mentioned beneficiary of their sentiments? Michele Bachmann.
Jim Ritz, 69, said he was going to go to Ames to vote for Bachmann. "I just know whoever's following the line that we need to freeze our income and cut our spending is following my line," said the Des Moines resident, who was sitting on a bench after listening to former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty speak at the fair. "All along I said I don't care if we go into default, I'd like to see them live within their means....The sooner they get the budget balanced, the sooner they're going to get it upgraded. If I spend more than I take in, my budget wouldn't be in good shape either."
Ronald Van Genderen, 70, of Monroe, Iowa, and William DePorte of Council Bluffs were talking about it earlier in the day, after former business executive Herman Cain left the hay bales of the stage to head out onto the concourse.
"Obama, he stretched this budget thing. Don't you have to balance your own house? Come on, you can't just keep putting it on a credit card," Van Genderen, a "semi-retired" cattle and hog farmer wearing a John Deere cap, said.
That's one reason he said he'd be backing the House Tea Party Caucus founder at the straw poll, he said. "Palin, if she don't run, it'll be Bachmann."
DePorte, for his part, says he'll back "the first one that says, 'Get a roommate if you can't pay your mortgage.' Duh!"
Rick and Jerri Bittner of Oskaloosa are both independents and said they probably weren't going to vote at the straw poll. They were surprised and pleased when Pawlenty sat down with them in the Iowa Pork Producer's tent where they were having lunch after Mary Pawlenty learned the Bittners had a son who'd just returned from service in Afghanistan. They're not sure who they would back in 2012, but when it comes to the Republican candidates, "they're all at least talking about the same thing," Rick Bittner said. The budget, "it does need to get balanced."
Chimed in Jerri Bittner, "Yah. It's a good thing to talk about. They gotta get control of it before it gets too far out of line."
"They need to lower it," added Rick. "Like Ross Perot said years ago, government should run like a business. If it ain't got the money, don't spend it."
Back at the soapbox, Fred Dailey was passing through from West Virginia. His interest this cycle was taking back America, "not just from Obama, from Obama and Bush and everyone who's made our government too big." A retired environmental engineer who once worked for GE, he and his wife wore matching T-shirts that read, "You Are Not Entitled to What I Have Earned."
The country needs "a Balanced Budget Amendment and not to spend more than they take in. And if that means I have to give up some of my Social Security, so be it," he said.
Curious if the soapbox was drawing a particular type, I headed over to the Agriculture Building to see the famous butter cow and interview folks coming off the line there -- perhaps a more representative sample. Sure enough, I found of a handful of Des Moines Democrats with different views. "I'm kind of on a balanced approach side and I'm kind of upset with everybody involved," said Drew Selim, 31, an AV tech from the city. Richard White, a retired engineer and and independent, said the fight was "nothing new." Things just cost more these days so of course the limit had to go up, he said. "Every president who comes in has to do it."
But back at the soapbox, supporters were predicting a Bachmann victory in Ames thanks, in part, to her leadership in the fight against raising the debt ceiling limit. "She led the fight and every other candidate followed her on that," said Ryan Rhodes, the founder and chairman of the Iowa tea party who on Tuesday endorsed her for the straw poll. "She's shifting the terms of the debate" and forcing other candidates to commit to her positions, he observed. Those may not be legislative results, but he's certain legislation will soon flow from the changes in views she's bringing about.
"I think Michele's going to win," he said.
Image credit: REUTERS/Daniel Acker
Romney unscathed, Bachmann-Pawlenty clashes, and a defense of civil unions from Jon Huntsman
AMES, Iowa -- Some observations on the Fox News Republican presidential primary debate here, filed from the basement press center of the Hilton Coliseum at Iowa State University, where they normally hold basketball games or Ice Capades:
Good-bye, Minnesota Nice. Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann clashed early and often. Pawlenty, who had clearly come prepared with some zingers for Mitt Romney and others to make up for his lackluster debate performance in New Hampshire, denied upon questioning that he'd drawn attention to Bachmann's headaches. But he worked hard to give her some new ones. She responded with the poised and polished fierceness that's made her every appearance seem as orderly and, uh, intense as a scripted television spot.
"It is an undisputable fact that in congress her record of accomplishment and results is nonexistent," Pawlenty said of his one-time state colleague and now national rival.
"I would say governor, when you were governor in Minnesota you implemented cap and trade in our state and you praised the unconstitutional individual mandates and called for requiring all people in our state to purchase health insurance that the government would mandate," Bachmann retorted. "Third, you said the era of small government was over. That sounds more like Barack Obama, if you ask me."
Bachmann cast herself as a fighter: "People are looking for a champion. They want someone who has been fighting. When it came to health care, I brought tens of thousands of Americans to Washington to fight the unconstitutional individual mandates. I didn't praise it. When it came to cap and trade, I fought it with everything that was in me, including I introduced the Lightbulb Freedom of Choice Act so people could all purchase the lightbulb of their choice."
"She's got a record of misstating and making false statements. And that's another example of that list," Pawlenty retorted. "She says that she's fighting for these things. She fought for less government spending, we got a lot more. She led the effort against ObamaCare, we got ObamaCare. She led the effort against TARP, we got TARP. She said she's got a titanium spine. It's not her spine we're worried about, it's her record of results.
"If that's your view of effective leadership with results, please stop, because you're killing us."
"I was at the tip of the spear fighting against the implementation of ObamaCare in the United States Congress. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama ran Congress, but I gave them a run for their money," Bachmann was unmoved. "Again, on cap and trade, I was there from the very beginning, giving Speaker Pelosi a run for her money. That's why I was Speaker Pelosi about her number one target to defeat last year, because I was effectively taking them on on nearly every argument they put forward...when others ran, I fought. And I led against increasing the deficit."
An exchange about a Minnesota bill that raised taxes on cigarettes and strengthened an anti-abortion position served as the second round of their squabble, with Pawlenty saying he regretted having voted for the act and Bachmann explaining why she supported it as an anti-abortion candidate. Hard to say who was the victor here, but it was good to see them actually debating their records and actively seeking to distinguish themselves.
Newt Gets Feisty with Liberal Media Outlet Fox News. Maybe he got too much sun at the Iowa State Fair, where he was walking about under the noonday sun, giving fair-goers the thumbs-up with Callista and taking photos with families, but Newt Gingrich seemed to have had it with acting like he might actually have a shot at things if he pretended to be someone other than himself.
First he went after Fox News host Chris Wallace, chastising him, "I wish you would put aside the gotcha questions" and declaring, "I intend to run on ideas."
And then he seemingly remembered that he used to be someone, and not just an afterthought on the would-be presidential stage who people make fun of for his now-shuttered Tiffanys account and policy flip-flops.
"Look, I think this super committee is about as dumb an idea as Washington has come up with in my lifetime," he said, after all the candidates on stage affirmed they'd walk away from a ten to one cuts to revenue budget deal in the future.
"I mean I used to run the House of Representatives," the former speaker said. "I have some general notion of these things. The idea that 523 senators and congressmen are going to sit around for four months while 12 brilliant people, mostly picked for political reasons, are going to sit in some room and brilliantly come up with a trillion dollars or force us to choose between gutting our military and accepting a tax increase is irrational. This is -- they're going to walk in just before Thanksgiving and say, all right, we can shoot you in the head or cut off your right leg, which do you prefer?
"What they ought to do is scrap the committee right now, recognize it's a dumb idea, go back to regular legislative business, assign every subcommittee the task of finding savings, do it out in the open through regular legislative order and get rid of this secret phony business."
It was perhaps his applause line of the night.
His repeated clashes with the Fox News crew quickly drew praise on right-wing blogs, proving that it's possible to score points with anti-media tirades, even if the outlets in question are conservative ones. Wrote Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit: "It's about time a Republican candidate slammed the liberal media for asking bogus 'gotcha' questions of the candidates rather than substantial policy questions. Newt went after Chris Wallace tonight for his outrageous tabloid questioning of the candidates. Awesome!"
Romney Unscathed. Romney continued his laser-like focus on the economy, but he also continued to lay out seemingly contradictory principles. For example, he backed a states rights approach to health-care legislating, but said he believed marriage should be governed at the federal level. But mainly Romney was just a pained face in a reaction shot, purposefully resisting being drawn into any explosive exchanges with his competitors. "That's fine," was all he said after Pawlenty proposed to mow the lawn of any person in America who could find Obama's stated policies on Social Security and Medicare reform -- except Romney's, whose lawn he'd only mow but one acre of.
Jon Who? Jon Hunstman was not a presence at the debate, with the exception of his support for gay rights, which is perhaps one reason he is not running hard in Iowa. "A Des Moines Register poll found that 58 percent of likely caucus goers, Republican caucus goers here in Iowa, consider support of civilian unions a deal killer for a candidate," questioner Byron York of the Washington Examiner pointed out. "You support civil unions. Why are you right and most other candidates along with most GOP caucus goers, why are they wrong?"
Huntsman's reply made clear that he really is a different sort of Republican, and while he's not as obviously an unelectable figure as Ron Paul, his role in the field may yet be the same -- to advance the general idea that Republicans can actually have a wider array of opinions on issues than they often appear to these days, and broaden the conversational space in the party. "I'm running on my record. I'm proud to run on my record. Some people run from their record, I'm running on my record. I believe in traditional marriage first and foremost. I've been married 28 years. I have seven terrific kids to show for it," he said.
"But I also believe in civil unions. Because I think this nation can do a better job when it comes to equality. And I think this nation can do a better job when it comes to reciprocal beneficiary rights. And I believe that this is something that ought to be discussed among the various states.
"I don't have any problem with states having this discussion. But as for me, I support civil unions....
"I believe in traditional marriage. But I also believe that subordinate to that we haven't done an adequate job when it comes to equality. That is just my personal belief. Everyone is entitled to their personal belief too."
Submissive No More? York posed a question to Bachmann that was greeted with more audience dislike than any other: "In 2006, when you were running for Congress, you described a moment in your life when your husband said you should study for a degree in tax law. You said you hated the idea. And then you explained, 'But the Lord said, 'Be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.' As president, would you be submissive to your husband?"
This is the kind of question that can kill a candidacy if answered poorly, but Bachmann manged to handle it deftly. While she may play in the same media space as Sarah Palin and even former Delaware senate candidate Christine O'Donnell -- two other hyper-conservative, attention-getting female party outsiders -- what's become increasingly clear as she has campaigned is that she is a much more self-controlled and skilled politician than they were and, at least since announcing for the presidency, not so prone to gaffes. (Though she does remain mistaken on a number of critical points, such as the relationship of the debt ceiling fight to Standard and Poor's downgrade of America's credit rating.)
"Marcus and I will be married for 33 years this September 10th. I'm in love with him. I'm so proud of him. And both he and I -- what submission means to us, if that's what your question is, it means respect," Bachmann told York at the debate.
"I respect my husband. He's a wonderful, godly man, and a great father. And he respects me as his wife. That's how we operate our marriage. We respect each other. We love each other."
There will be some debate over whether that was a fair question. It's true it would never be asked of a man, but then, there was no man on stage who has publicly stated he believes in a doctrine of submission for himself. It would be interesting and illuminating, however, to know if any of them believe in it for their wives.
Image credit: Jim Young / Reuters
Stating traditional Republican views baldy seems unlikely to hurt in a GOP primary, and will be irrelevant in a general if the economy doesn't improve
DES MOINES -- Democrats and liberal bloggers wasted no time today seizing on an off-the-cuff comment by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in response to aggressive questioning at the Iowa State Fair's famous soapbox that "corporations are people."
Of course, anyone who knows anything about the construct of legal persons know what he means -- corporations are legal entities composed of people and treated like them under parts of the law. See for example this explanation from Cornell's Legal Information Institute:
The law treats a corporation as a legal "person" that has standing to sue and be sued, distinct from its stockholders. The legal independence of a corporation prevents shareholders from being personally liable for corporate debts. It also allows stockholders to sue the corporation through a derivative suit and makes ownership in the company (shares) easily transferable. The legal "person" status of corporations gives the business perpetual life; deaths of officials or stockholders do not alter the corporation's structure.
Also worth bearing in mind is that Democrats have been known to overestimate the populism and anti-corporate sentiment of the American people, who -- even when they poll as fed up and angry -- routinely turn to wealthy businessmen as the alternative to the bums they want to toss from office. Think of "the people versus the powerful," or -- more recently -- the recall election results in Wisconsin.
A defense of corporations against hecklers seems unlikely to have any impact on Romney in a GOP primary campaign, except to the extent it perhaps adds another data point to the picture some are seeking to paint of him as weird -- an effort Republicans will likely be unable to resist joining.
The big question for Romney, should he win the Republican nomination, will be if he seems like the kind of person for whom disaffected independents can vote. Along with the "corporations are people" statement, the Democratic National Committee is also bashing Romney for having helped argue that having raised taxes in Massachusetts should entitle the state to a better credit rating.
That's the sort of thing that would actually work for Romney in a general.
The one thing the present disillusionment with Obama won't change is people's tendency to see in candidates what they wish to, and for Romney right now, where some might see a candidate with no core values, others might see a temperamentally and politically moderate former East Coast governor who has to tack to the right in order to try to win a GOP primary dominated by radicals and who will likely tack on back to as close to the center as he needs to should he manage to run the highly-partisan gauntlet of the primary states. All the facts of the Massachusetts S&P story prove is that Romney, unlike the tea party partisans in the House, is not an ideologue and that he's willing to do what it takes to help his state succeed. Would that all political actors on the right these days had such flexibility!
That said, Romney's carefully calibrated low-key strategy -- from spending more than a year honing and delivering a consistent message on jobs and the economy even while the public conversation ricocheted about to opting out of aggressive plays in caucuses and straw polls -- seems certain to run up against a buzz saw more formidable than the mockery of liberal bloggers in the form of the emerging Rick Perry campaign. Perry is already shaking things up, and his decision to announce his presidential bid in South Carolina the day of the Ames straw poll -- and to let official word slip on Thursday, the same day as the Fox News Iowa debate -- signals that he has the potential to be a formidable campaigner. Or at the very least, that he has a tremendously acute sense of timing.
Already Michele Bachmann's had to rejigger her schedule to accommodate the Perry challenge, setting up a Sunday battle in Waterloo (yes, the cliched headlines write themselves), Iowa, where she was born and where he announced he will speak at the Lincoln Day dinner in the evening. She'll campaign there too now -- one can't cede one's hometown to an interloper -- and has moved her announced State Fair appearance up to Friday.
Certainly there's no question Romney can be awkward. The father of five boys, he has what I think of as a classic dad personality. Sometimes he's a bit stiff and overly formal, and when his jokes fail, they do so in exactly the kind of way that would make you go, "Oh, dad!" and cover your face with your hand if you were his child. But really, he's only awkward because he's a grown-up trying to seem cooler than he is amid the theatrical ridiculousness of a presidential campaign, and in a general election contest his very lack of cool could seem a plus to those who don't think Obama's hipness got them where they had hoped it would.
His background could make Romney seem distant and out of touch, but Americans tend to like successful businessmen even when they say they hate what they stand for, and it can't come as a surprise to anyone who has paid any attention to politics in the last few decades that a Republican former businessman would defend the interests of businesses. There is also a real constituency for such arguments, election results show.
So long as the GOP does not nominate a divisive radical, the 2012 general election contest seems likely to be a referendum on Obama's stewardship of the economy and whether or not he's brought about results people judge acceptable. Bald and poorly worded statements of traditional Republican positions aren't going to impact perceptions of the Republican nominee as much as the facts on the ground will impact those of President Obama.
Addendum: As to the critical question of how the gaffe is playing in Iowa, driving back from Ames to Des Moines after the debate Thursday night I listened to a local right-wing talk-radio station that replayed most of the shouty exchange Romney had had with the hecklers, whom the radio host repeatedly pointed out belonged to a liberal Iowa advocacy group. The commentator basically presented Romney as a hero for his handling of them and blamed "the liberal media" for accepting the protestors at face value. The quote in question about corporations as people didn't even come up.
DES MOINES -- In August 2007, while spending some weeks in Iowa, I discovered that despite the quadrennial pilgrimage of political consultants and members of the press across its flat fields, there was no decent up-to-date statewide guide for outsiders looking to take advantage of what the state had to offer, or at least find some place that was not a fast-food chain to grab a bite while traveling its expanse.
And so I compiled, Wiki style, a crowd-sourced resource for campaign reporters heading to
the Hawkeye State, with an eye toward places that would make coastal types feel at home. Some of the text came verbatim from others (as should be apparent
from the tone in the Ames "drinks" section); some reviews were edited takes from friends
in Iowa, D.C.-area former Iowans, and traveling campaign
staffers and reporters; and some were based on personal observation. Overall, I tried to restrict the focus to places that
would appeal to non-Iowans for reasons of quality, and also included
some with a high camp or local cultural interest factor. In the smaller
towns, where the options are limited, the listed places were described as local
I've done one major update of this guide already in 2011, removing a slew of places that have gone under and adding loads of new material for Pella, Ottumwa, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown and Iowa City -- thank you, contributors! -- but I'm still going to need your help to get and keep this up to date.
Know what's new and hot in Des Moines (especially) or Dubuque? Which of the below places have gone down hill or shuttered? Email email@example.com with tips and reports, or leave your updates in the comment threads, and I'll update the text on an ongoing basis for as long as this guide seems relevant.
Jim Duncan of CityView said it best: "Des Moines was designed to service the obesity of Iowa agriculture. The state leads the nation in corn, soybeans and hogs, while the city maintains the world's largest water filtration system to cope with Big Ag's poisonous run-off. Restaurants here mostly cater abundance with garish décor, gargantuan portions and Styrofoam containers for leftovers." Here are the exceptions:
The Cafe Milano of Des Moines (political and media hub), an Italian
restaurant and bar where you're sure to run into someone you know. 1011 Locust
801 Grand Steak and Chophouse. High-end Iowa steakhouse, located inside the Principle Financial Tower. #200 at this address.
French brasserie that promises "no attitude" despite that. A collaboration from the Hotel Fort Des Moines and the chef at Centro, entrance through the hotel lobby. 210 10th St.
Lucca. Excellent contemporary Italian restaurant in the East Village with lovely wine list, minimalist servings. Modern decor, heirloom tomatoes. 420 E. Locust St.
Bistro Montage. Neighborhood bistro on a street thick with little shops and restaurants. Good wine list and a fresh menu. 2724 Ingersoll Ave.
Proof. Probably the best lunch in town, according to one. Delicious contemporary take on Mediterranean food. Amazing desserts. 1301 Locust St.
Jesse's Embers. A neighborhood classic old-time steakhouse -- "the original" -- with great character (a.k.a. few recent renovations). Fancy? No. And you'll smell like steak for a day or so, but that's a good thing. 3301 Ingersoll Ave.
Splash Seafood Bar & Grill. Fresh seafood flown in daily. 303 Locust St.
Café di Scala. Cozy little Calabrian place in a neatly painted Victorian house, a few blocks north of downtown in the Sherman Hill neighborhood. Winner of a 2007 Wine Spectator award of excellence. 644 18th St.
Court Avenue Restaurant & Brewing Company. Excellent local micro-brews, and a largely local crowd. Early evening Happy Hour specials. 300 Court Avenue.
Raccoon River Brewing Company. Right next to the Hotel Fort Des Moines. Outdoor seating. 10th and Walnut.
Los Laureles. Authentic Mexican food on an incredibly cool Mexican block where you can also get paletas y dulces. 1518 E. Grand Ave.
Tacos Mariana's has even better Mexican food, say some. 2225 University Ave.
El Salvador del Mundo. Authentic-seeming Salvadorean place with an extraordinarily cheap menu and tasty pupusas. 2901 6th Ave.
Nut Pob. "Great Loatian" in South Des Moines. 3322 Indianola Ave.
Zombieburger is the hot new upscale-y burger joint in town, boasting quite the assortment of creative, overkill toppings. Best veggieburgers in town, too. 300 E. Grand.
Big Daddy's Barbecue. Fancy? Not even close. Tasty? You bet. This is a dive, but the BBQ is memorable. Open Fridays and Saturdays ONLY; drive-thru option. 1000 E. 14th St.
Big Tomato Pizza Co. Said to be the best pizza in town by some, best pizza "if you're drunk" by others. Served by the slice after 10 p.m. and by full pizzas anytime, including delivery. Open until 4 a.m. 2613 Ingersoll Ave. (515)288-7227.
Gusto Pizza Co. For when you're not drunk. 1905 Ingersoll Ave.
La Mie Bakery. French bakery/cafe with v. good lunches and Saturday brunch. Also: macarons! 841 42nd St., just north of I-235.
The Machine Shed Restaurant. Get yer meat and don't forget
the bowl of cottage cheese. A "restaurant honoring the American farmer."
In Urbandale at the Living History Farms. 11151 Hickman Road (I-80/35 -
Exit 125). Multiple branches elsewhere in the state.
Panera Bread. Across the street from the Fort Des Moines. Sometimes you just need a sandwich.
Star Bar. Surprisingly good food. Often used for events by local Democrats, and for after-event drinks by younger campaign staffers. Martinis and tapas. 2811 Ingersoll Ave
Wellman's Pub and Rooftop. Serves three shifts a night: locals; early bird-dinner elderly; and students/campaign staffers. Where field staff go to drink. Outdoor patio. 2920 Ingersoll Ave.
Royal Mile. Okay, the food's not spectacular, but it's not bad either, and it's a great English pub hangout if you're into that kind of thing. On 4th St. between Court and Walnut.
The Continental. Live music, also a restaurant. 428 E. Locust
Hessen Haus. If you want to polka. 101 4th Street.
Starbucks. This is the main one -- a convenient place for your daily dose. 10th & Locust.
Amici Espresso. Free wi-fi & great coffee in a quiet, upscale downtown setting across from the Courthouse. 6th Ave and Mulberry.
Mars Cafe. Great coffee shop by Drake University. Free wi-fi. 2318 University Ave.
The Village Bean Co. Cool little coffee shop in the "East Village" of Des Moines. 305 E. 5th.
Ritual Cafe. A hipster-hippie vegetarian coffee joint (every small city has one), for an escape from the rythms of politics. On 13th St. between Grand & Locust.
Gateway Market. New foodie haven, the local version of Whole Foods/Dean & Deluca. Attached cafe has tasty offerings for breakfast/lunch/dinner and there's a take-out deli. On the corner of MLK and Woodland Ave.
Java Joes. A bit grungier, free wi-fi. 214 4th Street, between Walnut and Court Ave.
Zanzibar's Coffee Adventure. 28th and Ingersoll.
WHERE TO STAY.
Hotel Fort Des Moines. The journalists' hotel. Also popular with campaigns, though some fixtures have a bit of an accidental mid-century modern look because of the lack of recent renovation. 1000 Walnut St.
Hampton Inn Des Moines Airport. Some people love them a Hampton Inn. If you're among them, this one won't disappoint. The exact same cheap, no frills hotel with complimentary WiFi, breakfast and late night snacks you'll find anywhere in America. 5001 Fleur Drive.
See also the Des Moines WikiTravel Guide for more (Marriott, Hilton, Renaissance Savery etc.).
Apple Store. 101 Jordan Creek Parkway, West Des Moines. (515) 440-6860
Staples. Open until 9 p.m. every day but Sunday, when it closes at 6. 906 E 1st St, Ankeny. (515) 964-0338. Also in Des Moines at 3800 Merle Hay Road.
OfficeMax. 2700 Ingersoll Ave., so pretty convenient to downtown. (515) 280-6992
Hamburg Inn No. 2 Inc. If you're in Iowa City, your trip probably started here. Home of the Coffee Bean Caucus. Since 1948. 214 N. Linn St.
Devotay. Fabulous small plates and tapas right across the street from the Hamburg Inn; excellent wines. Great for lunches, too. Chef Kurt Friese is "a leading member of the international 'Slow Food' movement," according to a UI dining site. 117 North Linn St.
Linn Street Cafe. Best high-brow restaurant in Iowa City. 121 N. Linn St.
Givanni's. Semi-upscale Italian-American food in a casual setting on the Ped Mall, for when you want some simple fish or pasta and wine without the fanfare of the Linn Street Cafe. A bit deficient in the charm department. 109 E. College St.
One Twenty Six. "Midwestern nouvelle cuisine," a.k.a.
contemporary American. Excellent grilled cheese sandwiches -- "the
highest-brow grilled cheese I've ever had," says one University of Iowa
professor. 126 E. Washington St. Sister restaurant Hearth is right next door: small plates and wood-fired oven pizzas.
Motley Cow Cafe. More bohemian (but only slightly). 160 North Linn St.
A & A Pagliai's Pizza. Mediocre New York pizza, which is a small miracle for the Midwest. Half a block away from the Hamburg. 302 E. Bloomington St.
Takanami. Sushi and high-end Asian-American fusion near the
university. A competitor -- one of maybe three such places -- for the title
of best sushi in Iowa. 219 Iowa Ave.
Leaf Kitchen. Recently voted Best Chef / Restaurant by the readers of Edible Iowa River Valley magazine. Uniformly delicious eclectic offerings in an eclectic setting. 301 Kirkwood Ave
Red Avocado.Tasty organic vegan and vegetarian. 521 E. Washington
New Pioneer Coop. The sort of place Whole Foods wants to be, but with the college town volunteer authenticity Whole Foods can't have. Tasty deli sandwiches and rotating hot-table menu, plus all the stuff you expect in a crunchy but expensive grocery store. 22 South Van Buren Street
Shorts Burgers and Shine. Offers a menu of interesting burgers and a excellent selection of craft beers from small Iowa breweries. 18 S. Clinton St
George's Buffet Bar. An Iowa Writer's Workshop hangout/townie bar. 312 E. Market St.
Dave's Fox Head Tavern. Also draws a huge chunk of its clientele from the Writer's Workshop program. 402 E. Market St.
The Sanctuary Restaurant & Pub. Has a wide beer selection, pizza, and -- critical come winter -- a warm fireplace. 405 South Gilbert Street
The Mill. A bar around the corner from the Sheraton on Burlington whose major selling point for campaign staff and fellow travelers is the convenient location and relatively cheap pitchers. Outdoor patio. 120 E. Burlington Street.
These are among the few places where there will be no table dancing; UI is a big party school.
The Java House. Free WiFi, good coffee, younger crowd. Seven locations, the main being at 211 1/2 E. Washington St.
Starbucks. The usual. 228 S. Clinton St. at Burlington, just around the corner from the Sheraton.
Prairie Lights Bookstore. Independent bookstore that's the it destination for out-of-town authors. Also has coffee. 15 South Dubuque Street.
Capanna Coffee and Gelato. Spacious coffee house on the Ped Mall with lots of light, reliable free WiFi, plenty of power outlets, and good gelato. 136 S. Dubuque St
The Tobacco Bowl. The place for smokers: Coffee bar in addition to selection of cigarettes and cigars, and you can smoke inside. Good free WiFi.
WHERE TO STAY.
Sheraton Iowa City Hotel. Surprisingly inexpensive, clean and nice, with free WiFi if you use the signal from the Iowa Public Libraries nearby. Tip: You can get the library signal in many of the restaurants in the pedestrian mall adjacent to the Sheraton, as well. Also: Starwoods Points! 201 S. Dubuque St.
The Hotel Vetro. If you're working for Conde Nast. Iowa City's only boutique hotel. 201 S. Linn St.
Tremont on Main. Maybe the only good restaurant in town. Standard American fare done passably well. Go for a pork or beef dish; it's central Iowa. 22 W. Main St.
Zeno's Pizza. What pizza was like when pizza was a mid-century novelty in places like Iowa. You'll like it less than the locals, but it's interesting to eat what they like. 109 E Main St.
Cecil's Cafe. A dive diner on the edge of town. Solid breakfast joint with a farming, truck-driving clientele. Cecil's keeps it real. A large chicken with a top hat and a sign reading "FOOD" graces the roof. Junction of highways 30 & 14.
Rube's Steakhouse. A steakhouse that's well worth the trip. The closest thing most folks may be familiar with is the restaurant in The Great Outdoors where John Candy eats a 96-oz steak. Or perhaps they've paused on a road trip at the "Big Texas Steakhouse" with the giant neon cowboy off the highway near Amarillo, Texas. Recipient of a Travelocity "Local Secrets, Big Finds" award. Specialty cuts from Rube's Steakhouse and Meat Company can also be shipped nationwide. 118 Elm Street.
Also in WAUKEE at 3309 Ute Ave.
Montour is 15 miles east of Marshalltown, 18 miles north of Grinnell, 53 miles south of Cedar Falls/Waterloo, and a quick 8 miles to the Meskwaki Bingo Casino.
Highway 63 Diner Steakhouse. Better than average classic Iowa diner serving burgers, pork loin, and steak. 3030 Marnie Avenue.
Great Plains Sauce & Dough Company. Pizza, Denver- and Idaho-style. Unlike most pizza you've had before. 129 Main Street.
Hickory Park BBQ and Ice Cream. Great burgers. Milkshakes and sundaes and things. Very popular. 1404 South Duff Avenue.
Battle's Bar-B-Q. Texas-style BBQ and homemade lemonade. 218 Welch Ave.
Le's Vietnamese. Delicious Vietnamese. 113 Colorado Ave., off Lincolnway on the West side.
The Spice. Thai food in a contemporary setting. Closed Sundays. 402 Main Street.
Cyclone Truck Stop. Long-haul truckers from all over the U.S. stop in here for meals 24 hours a day, and it's always interesting to be a fly on the wall. Good corned beef hash, too. I-35 Exit 111 B (US 30, - 1 Mi W).
Cafe Beaudelaire. "The soul of Brazil in the heart of Iowa." The Spanish burger there is celebrated by some as the best burger in Ames. Wi-fi. 2504 Lincoln Way.
Pita, Pita. Falafel and hummus make for a healthy fast-food alternative. 2508 Lincoln Way.
See also the Ames Travel Wiki.
The two Starbucks in Ames are embedded inside the HyVees at 3800 and 640 Lincoln Way.
Local options: Stomping Grounds, which features indoor and outdoor seating and Wifi (303 Welch Ave); Cafe Diem on Main Street; Burgie's on Airport Rd.; Santa Fe Espresso on Welch; and Gregory's on S. Duff.
Or try one of Ames' coffee-shops-cum-bars: Beaudelaire (above) and the multi-culti Boheme Bistro (2900 West St.).
There are literally thousands of people with world-class educations stuck in Ames from all over the world. If you're overeducated or have done interesting things and are angry about being temporarily stuck in a small town in the Midwest, come to Ames, find a bar and be visibly grouchy. Someone will surely share your angst. Just remember: only Iowans get to really complain about Iowa.
The granddaddy of dive bars in Ames is Whiskey River on Main St., though some say Thumb's is better. You can karaoke with locals at the Fox (111 S 5th). Aside from these selections, prime target-rich environments when seeking a frothy beverage include the intersection of Lincolnway and Welch Ave., and Main St. downtown.
The Phoenix Cafe and Market. A cafe-gallery-bookstore-wineshop-market. Mediterranean-inflected food in an old Victorian. Inn has three very inexpensive rooms. 834 Park Avenue. (641)236-3657
Kelsey's Fine Foods. For the prime rib. 812 6th Ave.
The Blue Strawberry Coffee Company. Upscale coffee shop that also serves wraps, sandwiches, and pastries. Popular site for candidate appearances. 118 Second Street SE, with a second location at 5741 C Street SW.
Croissant Du Jour. Patisserie and cafe. 3531 Vernon Road SE
Zins. Small plates modern. 227 Second Ave. SE
La Salsita. Has some of the best authentic Mexican in town (the lengua comes highly recommended). on 1st Ave. NW, just off 380
Al & Irene's Bar-B-Q House. A
local institution. 2020 North Town Lane.
Emil's Deli. Since 1954. Try the Reuben. 7073 C Ave. NW
Candlelight Inn. Right on
the Mississippi, close to its widest. Beautiful views, especially toward
sunset, and Friday night all-you-can-drink
$1.99 margaritas. Farther up the river, there's Eagle Point Park, which
should be resplendent through early fall.
The Wide Rivery Winery. Fun, though Iowan wines tend to be like natives: deeply, weirdly sweet.
The Faithful Pilot Cafe & Spirits. A nice pub with Mississippi views, voted among the best in the Quad Cities.
The Drake on the Riverfront. Stunning views of the Mississippi River from this contemporary American restaurant in historic downtown Burlington. 106 Washington.
The Pepper Sprout. Gourmet "Midwest Cuisine" that wins rave reviews from locals, served in a pleasing dark-wood and exposed brick setting. Solid wine list, but (alas) somewhat irregular lunch hours. 378 Main Street.
Cafe Manna Java. Wood-fired pizza, paninis, pastries, coffee and wifi. Great for lunch. 269 Main Street.
Asian Gourmet. Totally passable pad thai. 115 West 11th St., downtown.
Beecher's Ice Cream and Yogurt. "OMG, delicious," says one frequent Dubuque visitor. Waffle cones made on the premises. Only open during the summer. 1691 Asbury Rd., near University.
Betty Jane Homemade Candies & Ice Cream. This will do if Beecher's is closed. 3049 Asbury Road.
In addition to Manna Java:
Moo Java Espresso. For your drive-through latte, chai, green tea, and coffee needs. Two locations at: 4120 Dodge St. & 245 W 2nd St.
One Mean Bean. Free wi-fi, decent coffee, not that much room to sit. 2728 Asbury Rd.
Aroma. Free wi-fi. 806 Wacker Plaza, Ste. 116.
The Lift. A good little bar on lower Main that's part of the 180 Main entertainment complex, which itself is a key part of the Old Main District revival that's been taking place since 2000. Also has good food. 180 Main Street.
Woodfire Grill. Where the other Centro used to be. "Midwestern fare." 131 W. 2nd Street.
Duck City Bistro. East of Woodfire, at 115 East 3rd St. "Small but expensive and upscale by Iowa standards, it is where a lot of PGA golfers eat during the John Deere Classic."
WHERE TO STAY.
Hotel Blackhawk. Has a good coffee/breakfast place, as well as an upscale restaurant (by Iowa standards) and a martini bar/bowling alley in the basement. Advertises itself as "hip and historic." Stay there or at the Radisson if you are overnighting.
Daly Creek Winery & Bistro. Classy, with a great upscale-ish menu. The wine is, well, not Sonoma or Bordeaux, but it's still fun and maybe a little oasis for a yuppie in nowheresville. 106 North Ford Street. (319)462-2525
Decker Hotel. A super-weird, super-cool spooky old mansion. One 2007 guest says, "If I were a ghost, this is exactly the kind of place I would hang out: creaky floorboards, lots of weird ornate flourishes, a large gramophone inexplicably placed in the middle of a third floor hallway, etc. Paradoxically, perhaps, for just $100 you can get a king bed and a whirlpool tub, and there's a place with coffee and fresh pastries about a block down Main Street." 128 North Main Street.
The Ivy Bake Shoppe & Cafe. It's downtown -- not hard to find because downtown is tiny. A bakery/café run by the Martha Stewart of Southern Iowa. Good stuff, including lunches. Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. 6th Street & Avenue G.
Plaza Mexico. "The waitstaff barely speaks English and the food is great," says one local reporter. 1501 N. Lake Ave.
The Pantry. A lunch spot downtown where people won't mind if you strike up a conversation at the counter. 505 Lake Ave.
The Regatta Grill at King's Pointe Lodge. Offers a good sampling of Iowa fare, including pork and walleye. 1520 E Lakeshore Dr.
The Embers. The place to go for a steak and a stiff drink. 723 Lake Ave.
Smokey's Tavern. If you want some beer and to meet blue-collars and/or try out "northwest Iowa's only snooker table." 707 Lake Ave.
Nota bene: Buena Vista University in Storm Lake is believed to be the only college in Iowa where one can tailgate *on the field* before the game. If one is so inclined.
Northwestern Steak House. For a spectacular experience of a slab of Iowa beef...with a Greek twist. This is a down-home spot that you'd never find if you weren't looking for it. It's been there for decades; it used to be the place that the cement plant workers on the north end would go. Plan on a wait for a table -- there are no reservations unless you've got a group of six or more. 304 16th St. NW, 641-423-5075
Birdsall Ice Cream Co. Cranking out home-made ice cream since the '50s. 518 N. Federal Ave, 641-423-5365
Jitters Coffee Bar. Southbridge Mall, 100 S. Federal, 641-424-4880 (next to B. Dalton Books)
The Quarry. "Pretty darn sophisticated cooking," says one former resident. 10 S. Federal Ave., 641-421-0075
Try OMAHA, across the river in Nebraska. Seriously -- it's the largest, most sophisticated city in Nebraska, houses a major regional university, and has a population nearly seven times the size of Council Bluffs (390K vs. 58K).
THINGS LOCALS ENJOY & POINTS OF INTEREST.
The Iowa Speedway. NASCAR in Newton.
Boone Speedway. Dirt-track races.
Downtown Farmer's Market. Court Avenue, 7 a.m. to noon, Saturdays in Des Moines.
Iowa Cubs. AAA Minor League Baseball.
The Amana Colonies. Stick to the foodstuffs and avoid the tchotchkes. Known for their baked goods and legendary ham, also purveyors of fine 19th century delicacies like dandelion wine. One of America's longest-lived and largest religious communal societies, founded in 1855 in Iowa, and transformed into a corporation in 1932. Seven villages. German origins. Off I-80 about 15 minutes from Cedar Rapids or half an hour from Iowa City. Small hotels and motel in Amana (the main Amana) provide a cute, cheap alternative to staying in unattractive downtown Cedar Rapids.
Big Creek Lake. Boats and kayaks for rent by the hour or day.
Meskwaki Bingo Casino. Had a rough week? Go crazy and blow some dough at this Indian casino in the middle of Iowa. Just make sure you've got a sober driver, because it's unlikely you've got housing anywhere within 50 miles. Other important places to gamble in Iowa: Prairie Meadows Racetrack and various riverboats along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
Friday Night Lights. High school football games are (mainly) free* anywhere in the state from August to November. The high schools are broken up into divisions by school-size. The 4A division is for the larger schools, with games that are played in the largest stadiums and which draw the biggest crowds, making it easier to blend into them as an outsider. *Some large schools do charge a small admissions fee.
Maid Rite. A local fast-food chain, founded in 1926. Home of the Loose Meat Sandwich. "Honestly delicious, even though it may look a little weird," says one Iowan. "Also do not forget that salt, pepper, and ketchup are your friends." Others disagree; one calls the loose meat specialty "disgusting...like a sloppy Joe but with broth instead of tomato sauce." Multiple locations.
Culver's custard. Culver's is a Midwestern chain, not an Iowa-specific thing, but you can find a bunch of their frozen custard outlets in Iowa. Like fro-yo, but eggier. Multiple locations.
John Wayne's Birthplace. Museum & Learning Center. 216 S. 2nd St. Winterset, Iowa
The World's Largest Truck-Stop. "Back in 1964 when we began operations at Interstate 80's exit 284, who would have thought we would grow to be the World's Largest Truckstop? After all, we were just a small, white enamel building with two diesel pumps, one lube bay and a tiny restaurant, located in the middle of Iowa cornfields." Fuel, food, and dentistry, open 24-7. Also a truck museum. Exit 284, I-80.
The Music Man Square. Childhood home of Mason City's favorite son, Meredith Willson, and a celebration of "the original River City." 308 S. Pennsylvania Avenue, Mason City.
Image credit: REUTERS/Brian Frank
Abe Sauer sends in this shot of the Tea Party Express bus parked in Hudson, Wisc., today at the first stop of its "Restoring Common Sense" tour across the state in advance of recall elections of state senators scheduled for Tuesday. Pointing out typos on hand-lettered signs is a form of low-brow political mockery indulged in on both sides of the aisle; it's less common to see such typos -- as in the misspelling of September, above -- make it all the way onto a motorized vehicle sponsored by a major independent group.
Image credit: Abe Sauer
"When I went up, she said, 'Joe," Biden recalled of his meeting with Giffords. "I said, 'Now we're both members of the Cracked Head Club.' You know, I had two craniotomies. For real. They literally took the top of my head off. Twice. Now, the wags in Delaware, when the second operation occurred, wrote and said, 'Well, it's because they couldn't find a brain the first time!'"
"She and I just commiserated about the steps to recovery," he added. "Hers, much more consequential. But it scares the living devil out of you when you're recovering from a serious operation or injury to your head. But it comes back. And knowing people who've been through it and came back was helpful, for me anyway. You know what I mean?"
"I will tell you my favorite food of all time is celery. Honest to God my favorite food is celery. Straight up celery. I will personally consume the entire stalk of celery. At the Thanksgiving table I have the plate of celery in front of me. I know it's strange. It's my favorite food."
--Michele Bachmann to The Brody File
Should he run, it would be his third presidential bid
White supremacist and former Louisiana state representative David Duke confirms he's mulling tossing his hat into the 2012 presidential contest.
"Yes, I am considering it," the former high-ranking Klansman, who has been doing a YouTube video series with a Danish attorney of late, said in an email.
Earlier today, The Daily Beast's Eve Conant reported that "former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and Republican executive-committee chairman in his district until 2000" would this month be "launching a tour of 25 states to explore how much support he can garner for a potential presidential bid."
Duke's public flirtation with a presidential bid comes against a background of growing interest in elective office from white supremacists, the Beast reports, and also an unusual amount of carnival-like publicity-seeking this election cycle by those purporting to be considering Republican presidential primary bids.
Duke, who has been living in Europe of late, would seem to be ill-positioned to be more than another sideshow in the contest, given his beliefs and the fact that he has only won office once before -- a state-level special election in 1989 that resulted in him serving two years as the representative of Metairie, Louisiana.
Should he run, presumably as a Republican, it would be Duke's third presidential bid, following runs as a Democrat and then Populist Party candidate in 1988, and as a Republican in 1992. He won 119,115 (0.94 percent) GOP presidential primary votes that year, to incumbent President George H.W. Bush's 9,199,463 (72.84 percent).
Image credit: Hart Matthews/Reuters
This photo, via celebrity news site TMZ, was taken on June 2 and purported to show the 68-year-old former speaker of the House "chilled out on Paradise Beach on the island of Mykonos." His staffers quit en masse just days later.
But Joe DeSantis, who works for Gingrich and has co-authored a book with him, says that it is not in fact the presidential candidate. "Just asked Newt...the picture on TMZ is not him...remarkable resemblance though," he tweeted.
That led Washington Post reporter Rachel Weiner to quip, "Anticipating a tearful Newt press conference later this week where he admits the photo is of him after all."
Photos of presidential candidates in bathing trunks are pretty commonly snapped by the celebrity press these days (Obama underwent a round of beach scrutiny in early 2007) and there also are a fair number of pictures of the later 20th century presidents in the historical archives in which they wear nothing but swimming shorts.
Add this latest twist to the events of the past two weeks though -- a period in which Rep. Anthony Weiner baldly lied about sending a lewd picture and said he did not know if it was a picture of himself; two straight American men were uncovered falsely posing online as lesbian bloggers, one Syrian and allegedly kidnapped; and it was reported that the man riding the motorcycle in the latest Jon Hunstman ad is not the candidate -- and it seems clear that we've gone back to the future on questions about what is and is not real online.
The gossip website took the picture down some time Wednesday. "They took it down when they realized it wasn't Newt," Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told Hotline On Call.
Image via TMZ
10 p.m. The last five minutes are a love fest. The field thinks very well of itself, and the candidates of each other. Kind of a nice touch, and one that's sure to vanish if and when the contest really heats up.
9:56 p.m. Palin or Biden? Pawlenty goes with Palin, criticizes Biden for having wanted to partition Iraq.
9:53 p.m. Not trending, but fun: #thisorthat.
9:46 p.m. Michele Bachmann is gaining stature just by being on the stage tonight. Very tough on Obama for decision to go into Libya.
9:44 p.m. #cnndebate is the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter worldwide right now.
9:42 p.m. Is it time for us to leave Afghanistan? Romney, "It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we can," based on the conditions on the ground as determined by the generals. Ron Paul: As commander in chief, I'd tell the generals what to do, not wait for them to tell me what to do.
9:38 p.m. Coke or Pepsi? Pawlenty, "Coke."
9:34 p.m. Newt Gingrich defends nuance in the immigration debate, a middle ground between kicking 20 million people out and not protecting America's borders.
9:26 p.m. "Not only have I taken the pledge, I've taken the bullets..." Rick Santorum lays out his anti-abortion position. Kathryn Jean Lopez points out this is not the first time he's used that formulation in recent weeks.
9:25 p.m. Bachmann says she's opposed to same sex marriage, but doesn't see it as the role of the president to go into states and tell them how to legislate. She also gave a heartfelt answer about the problem of difficult homes, her own imperfect home, and why she was a foster parent. I think this is what's going to make her so interesting in the months ahead: She's a 1970s-generation conservative, a conservative by choice in response to the excesses of that historical moment, even though she's only emerged nationally during the tea party era.
9:17 p.m. Spicy or mild? Romney, surprisingly, says spicy.
9:14 p.m. Romney and Pawlenty are really playing a different game than everyone else on stage, and I'm not sure it's good for them to be so surrounded by the more vehement partisans. Yes, it makes them look reasonable. But it also makes them look, well, pained.
9:09 p.m. Cain defends his lack of comfort with the idea of appointing Muslims to a hypothetical Cain administration, then quickly pivots to attack sharia law. Nice split screen on CNN as Romney gives Cain a very skeptical look as the pizza magnate defends asking Muslims extra questions before hiring them. "Of course we are not going to have sharia law," says Romney taking the question as well, and emphasizing that anyone hired in his administration would be someone he knew. Gingrich says he'd back a loyalty oath for government service, as was done in the Nazi and, controversially, communist eras.
9:02 p.m. A question from the audience: Do you support raising the debt ceiling? Romney: We won't raise the debt ceiling unless Obama lays out plans for reining in government excesses, and spending. And if we don't raise it? Romney doesn't answer. Or rather, he answers with another question -- what if we keep spending?
9 p.m. Cain supports the Ryan plan wholeheartedly. Gingrich says his statements on the Ryan plan were taken out of context.
8:56 p.m. Pawlenty addresses the questioner with a promise to keep faith with promises made to him on Medicare, a serious and personal response that really serves as a reminder how few candidates on the stage are actually acting like politicians campaigning for an office, as opposed to politicians arguing with each other on TV.
8:54 p.m. And here we go with Medicare. "It's not solvent...it can't be made solvent, it has to change," says Ron Paul in response to a question about how he'll keep the program strong. "You talk about opting out of Obamacare? Why can't we opt out of the whole system?" he asks.
8:53 p.m. BackBerry or iPhone? Ron Paul goes with the BB.
8:51 p.m. Gingrich has the first strong preference on a this or that question/ Dancing with the Stars or American Idol? "American Idol," he says, without missing a beat.
8:49 p.m. This debate is feeling a little ADHD, zipping along so quickly from topic to topic and candidate to candidate it's hard to get a sense of them all on key questions. But good for CNN for at least trying to shake up the format.
8:48 p.m. Should the federal government be doing food safety regulation? "Yes," says former pizza company CEO Cain.
8:45 p.m. "We're not a developed country," says Gingrich in an answer to a question about the space industry, saying the U.S. has yet new frontiers to explore. "I didn't say end the space program," Gingrich emphasizes, after ripping into NASA. "You can get into space better...if you decentralized it" and cut out the middleman and the bureaucracy.
8:42 p.m. "I fought behind closed doors against my own party on TARP," Bachmann says. She's doing a really good job of introducing herself and presenting herself as a leader within the Republican Party.
8:41 p.m. Romney says he wasn't wrong about the auto industry in opposing bailouts, saying that what helped them most was bankruptcy reorganization, not the federal government dollars.
8:39 p.m. Some goofball questions, to mix it up, asked of just one person each. Leno or Conan? Santorum says he doesn't watch either. Elvis or Johnny Cash? Bachmann again goes for both, noting she's got Christmas with Elvis on her iPod.
8:36 p.m. Meanwhile, an Iowa political blogger reports:
8:30 p.m. Pawlenty backs right to work, strongly, to applause. We don't have the government tell us what organizations we can be part of, we tell the government what to do. Gingrich, asked a similar but not identical question -- as he was quick to point out -- brings up the National Labor Relations Board, which he said should be defunded. Herman Cain also believes in right to work, "and I hope New Hampshire is able to get it passed." (N.H. Gov. John Lynch this spring vetoed a right to work law passed by the state legislature, but efforts are ongoing to change the laws governing unionization in the state.)
8:30 p.m. Pawlenty on trade, new challenges to manufacturing: "I'm for fair and open trade but I'm not for being stupid and I'm not for being a chump." Wounded look.
Bachmann just talked about an "omnibus bill" -- that's House insider talk! -- and called the EPA the "job killing organization of America."
8:20 p.m. Romney rebuts charges of Obamaneycare from Pawlenty, but given the opportunity to reiterate the criticism he made over the weekend, Pawlenty takes his time getting there. "We took a different approach in Minnesota," he said. Using the term Obamaneycare is a reflection of the president's assertion that he looked to Romney's Massachusetts health-care overhaul to design the federal program, says Pawlenty, again declining to sharply go after Romney.
Romney's response is a direct question for the president, "Why didn't you give me a call and ask what worked" if you were going to base a plan on the Mass. experience? (Apparently he first tried that line out in April in Las Vegas. Points for consistency.)
8:12 p.m. Michele Bachmann: "I filed today my paperwork to seek the office of the presidency." ... Later, asked about "Obamacare," she says she will not rest until it is repealed: "It's a promise, take it to the bank."
8:10 p.m. The first question is on jobs. What are the jobs plans? Rick Santorum won't criticize Tim Pawlenty's projection of 5 percent growth in a followup from debate moderator John King. Santorum says natural gas drilling in Pa. is lowering gas costs there. Pawlenty, "This idea we can't have 5 percent growth in America is defeatist." "It's hogwash," he says, pointing out that other countries have high growth, like China. Romney chimes in to turn the question around to go after Obama, instead of Pawlenty, hammering in on his message of jobs, jobs, jobs, despite King's efforts to interrupt him. Gingrich calls the Obama administration "a destructive force" -- and calls for the repeal of Dodd-Frank. Bachmann takes pride in her role in introducing the bill to repeal Dodd-Frank.
8:03 p.m. Strong applause for all in the audience on the intros. Everybody has lots of kids! Except for Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain. And Ron Paul has chosen to emphasize those he's delivered, not sired.
8 p.m. This thing is going to be 2 hours long. I'll be compiling thoughts and highlights here on the CNN GOP presidential primary debate in New Hampshire tonight.
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