Five Republicans considering a 2012 presidential bid meet in Iowa Monday with many of the states social conservatives in Pella, Iowa. All five are still officially undeclared GOP candidates, each trying to feel out their potential prospects in Iowa. The collection of speakers marks the first event of its kind in the 2012 race with potential candidates sharing the same stage.
The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition hosted former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, businessman Herman Cain and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer for a forum at a suburban Des Moines church.
Coalition president Steve Scheffler said most of the candidates have similar views and they are looking for someone who will back up their words with action.
“They are looking for a candidate who will carry out what they say after they’re elected,” Scheffler said. “We’re looking for somebody with some backbone, who has a little iron in his spine.”
Gingrich noted he is “not yet a candidate,” but laid out a plan for how to change the direction of the country beginning on the first day of his presidency. He would issue executive orders abolishing every czar in the White House, reinstate the Reagan policy that no American tax dollars would be used to fund abortion anywhere in the world, reinstate the George W. Bush implementation of the conscience protection act so health care workers would not have to participate in procedures to which they object and order the State Department to locate its Israeli embassy in Jerusalem.
Roemer also wanted to change the culture of Washington.
“The country is hurting,” he said, “but Washington is a boomtown.”
He declared his independence, promising to take no more than $100 from any individual, refuse money from political action committees and report the name and address of every donor.
“The only way to do what Newt wants to do,” Roemer said, “is to have a president who is free, free to do the right thing.”
That includes being free to declare he will end the subsidy for ethanol.
“Ethanol takes four rows out of 10 … that doesn’t go to hungry people. That’s not right,” Roemer said to scattered applause.
Making the changes – moral and economic — necessary to restore America, “ain’t going to be easy,” Pawlenty said. “But if prosperity was easy, everyone would be prosperous. If freedom was easy, everybody in the world would be free.
“This isn’t about easy,” Pawlenty said. “This is about rolling up our sleeves and getting the job done.”
He has already proven he’s up to that challenge, Pawlenty said, explaining he had been the Republican governor in the state of Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and now Al Franken.
“As Sinatra would sing of New York, ‘If we can make it here, we can make it anywhere,’” he said.
America is about an idea and the Republican presidential candidate need to believe in that idea again, Santorum said.
“We have to paint a picture of an America that believes in you … where Americans believe in ourselves again,” Santorum said.
He believes Americans have an obligation to leave the country better than we found it.
“There are a lot of tough things going on, but I feel blessed to be here at a time when America needs you,” he said. “It’s a crisis, but it’s a blessing. America needs you … to put your citizen cap on and go out and fight to make the country at least as good as was given you.”
Cain also saw a silver lining behind the attack on traditional American values.
The bad news, Cain said, is that America is under attack.
“The good news is we are fighting back … with our freedom to fight back,” he said.
Cain shared his “common-sense solutions,” including leading “America from entitlement society to an empowerment society.”
In the end the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition gave voters a great look at their potential candidates and the candidates got a good sense of who their competition is.