Robert Jeffress introduced Texas governor Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit on Friday. He started a great big hullabaloo by asking, “Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person, or one who is a born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?”
Before we go on, let me just say, I’d probably go with curtain No. 1. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve got no problem with a born-again Christian being my president, my pilot, or my chiropodist. But saying someone is a born-again Christian, for me at least, is not inherently synonymous with being a “good, moral person,” never mind being transparently preferable to one.
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A Romeny staffer confirmed the news to Politico.
According to Fox News, his announcement will take place in Hanover, New Hampsire, in advance of tonight's GOP 2012 debate.
This is a developing story.
There is a key bloc of Republican voters whose ambivalence has turned the GOP nomination contest into an erratic mix of roller-coaster ride and dating game. They flirted with Donald Trump and then embraced Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) before jumping on and off the Rick Perry bandwagon. At different times they yearned for Govs. Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Chris Christie of New Jersey and, always, some have cast a longing eye in the direction of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.The one point on which they have been most consistent, however, is their resistance to the candidate...
LONDONDERRY, N.H. -- Mitt Romney's grip on New Hampshire may be far less secure than it seems.
Beneath the conventional wisdom, the expectations game and the evolving dynamics of a newly settled GOP presidential field, there lies a stark reality here: Less than 100 days before the nation's first presidential primary election, the state's fickle voters haven't tuned into the race.
That reality was on display last week when 10 New Hampshire women, middle-class mothers with a strong voting history, shared their perspectives on the presidential contest with political researchers – and had trouble simply naming the candidates.
When asked who was running, they cited Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and his chief rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, relatively quickly. One of them tentatively suggested the name of Texas Rep. Ron Paul. But they could name no one else. They could not recall former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who had recently moved his national headquarters to a building about 10 miles down the road. They didn't mention the only woman in the race, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. Nor did they name businessman Herman Cain.
"Many primary voters aren't truly paying attention to the race right now," says Michael Dennehy, a New Hampshire-based Republican operative who led Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign four years ago.
The full slate of Republican presidential candidates is descending upon New Hampshire for the first time this week, courting this state's independent-minded voters in diners, corner stores and town halls before and after squaring off in a Tuesday night debate at Dartmouth College.
Three months before the primary, polls show that Romney, the former governor of a neighboring state, is the Republican to beat. He has a summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee here and is often referred to as an adopted New Hampshire son on the campaign trail. A WMUR Granite State poll released late Friday says he is the current choice of 37 percent of likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters. Cain finished a distant second with 12 percent.
Only 11 percent said they have definitely settled on a candidate. Another 21 percent are leaning toward someone. But that leaves 89 percent of people who could change their mind between now and the primary early next year.
Early polls are hardly predictive. And with so many voters not tuned into the race, the dynamics are all but certain to change. The result of the Iowa caucuses – tentatively slated for Jan. 3, seven days or less before the New Hampshire primary – also will set the stage for the contest here.
"It's very fluid," said Kevin Smith, a likely Republican gubernatorial candidate and head of one of the state's leading conservative think tanks. "Any one of these guys could catch lightning in a bottle."
So far, just one candidate, Paul, has begun to run television ads.
Up until two weeks ago, it appeared that Perry was poised to challenge Romney's dominance. But poor debate performances combined with underwhelming campaign stops around the state have seemed to stall Perry's momentum. He's lost ground in early polling here since entering the race in August even though his campaign has at least a dozen paid staffers in the state and he's visited four times as a candidate. He has vowed to compete as hard in New Hampshire as anywhere else, despite Romney's inherent advantages and Perry's southern roots.
"Polls at this point are neither predictive or enlightening," said Perry's top political adviser, Dave Carney, who is based in New Hampshire. "These public polls have zero impact in our plans, which is to be competitive in every contest through Tampa 2012" when the GOP holds its presidential nominating convention.
Some candidates have more riding on New Hampshire than others.
Bachmann was visiting New Hampshire for only the second time as a candidate. Any enthusiasm for her campaign that once existed here has all but died after she made clear her intention to largely ignore New Hampshire in favor of states like Iowa and South Carolina, where her socially conservative positions carry more weight.
New Hampshire allows independent voters to participate in the Republican primary, which favors candidates with support beyond the traditional Republican base.
That's among the reasons why Huntsman, considered more moderate than his rivals, is staking his political future on the state. Facing weak national polling and financial strains, the former Utah governor recently relocated his national headquarters from Florida to New Hampshire.
If the move didn't make it clear, Huntsman spokesman Michael Levoff did when he said: "New Hampshire is our top priority."
And while few Republicans expect Paul to knock off Romney here, the Texas congressman with libertarian views could be poised to play spoiler. He is often mentioned as one of the "Big Three" in Republican circles along with Romney and Perry. Many expect him to finish in second or third place.
"The pressure is going to be ramped up on these front runners as people in New Hampshire do what we do best, which is putting these candidates through their paces and doing it rather mercilessly," said Phyllis Woods, a New Hampshire member of the Republican National Committee. "That's the challenge for New Hampshire. People are going to have to choose the best candidate who can win against Obama."
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin recently said something both profound and essential. As she was nearing her decision not to launch a presidential campaign — appearing to discern what role she could best play in national affairs, and perhaps preparing to let her most ardent supporters down easy — she asked Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, “Is a title worth it? Does a title shackle a person?” She continued: “Does a title take away my freedom to call it like I see it and to affect positive change that we need in this country? That’s the biggest contemplation piece in my process.”
Such questions could be interpreted as indicative of a dismaying attitude toward public service. But they may also demonstrate an admirable self-awareness, and a keen appreciation of the different ways one might play a role in public life.
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President Obama spent 75 excruciating minutes at a White House press conference last week touting his “jobs” bill and accusing Republicans in Congress of blocking an economic resurgence. He took questions from nine reporters and delivered long and tedious answers. Two days earlier, by the way, New Jersey governor Chris Christie got 42 questions (not including follow-ups) and gave terse replies during a 50-minute session in which he said he won’t be running for president in 2012.
AP - Mitt Romney faced relentless criticism four years ago for changing his positions on abortion and gay rights and equivocating on other issues, including immigration and gun control. This year, the former Massachusetts governor has largely escaped such attacks as he competes again for the Republican presidential nomination.
By Daniel Burke
Religion News Service
WASHINGTON (RNS) Several GOP presidential candidates sought to kick-start their stalling campaigns on Friday (Oct. 7) by preaching a gospel of low taxes and conservative Christian values to a summit of Tea Partiers, religious right activists and beltway insiders.
Every major Republican candidate except former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is scheduled to address the Family Research Council's "Values Voter Summit" this weekend. The annual event is seen as a high-profile platform for reaching social conservatives, a key constituency in early voting states such as Iowa and South Carolina.
On Friday afternoon, the stage belonged to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, two staunch conservatives whose campaigns have faltered.
Perry, who started strong after launching his candidacy in August, has seen his poll numbers fall since several lackluster debate .
Perry's campaign targeted conservative Christians early on, hosting a high-profile prayer rally in Houston and huddling with leaders of the religious right at a Texas ranch. But the Texas governor has pivoted recently to focus on pocketbook issues.
He continued that trend on Friday, devoting much of his speech to touting his state's economy, which he said is responsible for 40 percent of American jobs created since 2009.
The keys to boosting employment, Perry said, are low taxes, fair and predictable regulations, reining in "frivolous" lawsuits and curtailing government spending.
Perry also highlighted the anti-abortion positions he has taken as governor, including the defunding of Planned Parenthood, which drew a standing ovation from the crowd of 3,000 social conservatives here.
Perry received a boost before he even spoke, when Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress introduced and enthusiastically endorsed him.
"Those of us who are evangelical Christians are looking for a candidate with three attributes: a genuine commitment to Christian values, a proven competency to govern, and also someone who is electable," Jeffress said.
"In Rick Perry we have a candidate with all three attributes," said Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, which lays claim to 10,000 members, and host of the television program "Pathway to Victory."
Jeffress also called Perry a "born-again follower of Jesus Christ," implicitly comparing him with chief rival Mitt Romney, who is Mormon.
Santorum, who placed seventh among GOP candidates in a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, cast himself as a veteran culture warrior who has consistently fought for socially conservative values.
"Most politicians, when it comes to these issues, tend to put them on the back burner," Santorum said. "I have been out there fighting and leading the charge."
A Roman Catholic, Santorum devoted much of his speech to recounting his successful push in the Senate to pass the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which President Bush signed into law in 2003.
He also unveiled a "zero-zero-zero" tax plan that would eliminate corporate taxes on manufacturers, cancel taxes on funds stashed overseas and later invested in the U.S. and "repeal every regulation the Obama administration has put in place."
Ultimately, though, a healthy economy depends on a solid moral framework, Santorum said, arguing that two-parent families earn more money and depend less on social services than single-parent households.
"People talk about economic plans, but we cannot have a strong economy without strong families and strong values," he said, promising that as president he would fight until same-sex marriage is banned in every state.
"Don't you want a president who is comfortable in his shoes talking about these issues? That's the difference here."
The FRC's political arm, FRC Action, will announce the results of its straw poll late Saturday afternoon.
Paul Blum, 70, of Clifton, Va., said he was leaning toward Romney until hearing Santorum's speech. "We need to get the president out of the Oval Office and get in a nice Christian man or woman."
(Josef Kuhn contributed to this report.)
Los Angeles (CNN) -- Undocumented immigrant students in California will be able to receive state-funded financial aid in 2013 to attend college under a new law signed Saturday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The law allows top students who are on a path to citizenship to apply and receive the state aid, the governor said.
About 2,500 students are projected to receive Cal Grants totaling $14.5 million, according to the California Department of Finance. That averages out to $5,800 per student.
SPENCER, Iowa -- It was a good day in the Hawkeye State for Rick Perry, but he'll need a lot more like it to climb his way back to the top slot among GOP presidential candidates.
At the end of his third and last campaign stop in a state that will be crucial to his fortunes in the Republican presidential primary, the Texas governor took the most provocative question of the day from a voter.
A man in his late 20s stood and pleasantly asked Perry what he thought about being called "the 'I-shot-a-coyote-in-the-face' candidate" by MSNBC show host Joe Scarborough -- though that's not exactly what Scarborough said -- and asked Perry whether he would have "his whole party's support" if he won the nomination.
The governor's wife, Anita Perry, was sitting directly in front of the questioner, and her irritation was evident. She frowned and seemed to be making an effort to calm herself, but her husband took a breath, swelled out his chest and met the question head on.
"I think Americans are looking for a president that will look them right in the eye and tell them the truth. I think they want a president who has the record of job creation. I think they want somebody that's not about rhetoric but that's about record," Perry said.
It was an efficient and well-delivered recitation of the three things Perry needs to do to turn his political fortunes around: introduce himself, highlight contrast with President Obama and distinguish himself from Mitt Romney.
But Perry has been beset recently by an ongoing cascade of gaffes and distractions. The latest: on Friday a Texas minister who introduced Perry at a public meeting in Washington told reporters that Mormonism is a "cult" and that Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and current Republican frontrunner, is not a Christian. The campaign distanced itself from the minister, but then had to acknowledge they gave the green light for him to introduce Perry.
The reaction to Perry from voters here in northwest Iowa -- the most conservative part of a conservative state -- appeared mixed at times, which shows the damage that Perry has suffered over the course of three bad debates in the past month. But if Perry is going to win Iowa, which goes first in the primary process, he will have to win over and energize voters in this part of the state.
To do that, he'll need to spend a lot more time on the ground, as many voters who said they like him thought he still faced an uphill battle.
"I hope he can come back. He's taking a beating right now," said Steve Maher, 49, who said he is supporting Perry after attending the candidate's first event of the day in Sioux City, near the state line with Nebraska.
Anita Bomgaars, a 56-year old teacher, real estate broker, independent film producer and mother of three, came to the second event of the day in Orange City and said, "Mr. Perry's got to gain back a little ground."
Voters asked Perry for more specificity in his proposals on tax reform and on entitlement reform, and got vague reassurances from Perry that he will release them "over the course of the next few days, and certainly weeks and months."
One woman dismissed Perry's talk of what he'd do -- "That's nirvana, [but] you have to work with Democrats," she said -- and asked what his "backup plan" was.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), the outspoken congressman who represents this part of the state, appeared prescient in an interview Friday about the challenges that Perry faces in winning over local voters.
"He's got to go iron out some of the kinks on the policies that were brought to light in the debates. Immigration is one of them," King said.
And sure enough, at each stop Saturday, Perry was asked about his support for giving in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants in Texas. He was ready for the questions, using a new argument that by making it easier for the young people to get an education, it increased the chance they would make more money and become "taxpayers, not tax-wasters."
One woman, Fae Groff-Moritz, a 63-year-old medical records clerk from Orange City, buttonholed Perry to press him about the issue. She walked away satisfied.
"Maybe I misunderstood what he said on TV. He said there was no free rides for illegal immigrants," she said, though she added that she is not ready to make up her mind who she will support.
There were also signs that Perry's focus on a jobs message was having an impact, and he has continued to hone his message on the job creation in Texas.
"There will be a bright line drawn between a president that has lost 2.5 million jobs while he has been at the White House, and we've created a million jobs in the state of Texas. That's what Americans care about," he said.
Kirk Huisenga, a 61-year old property insurance firm owner from Spirit Lake, was impressed.
"It will resonate with people. As a nation we've gone backwards in jobs, versus Texas," Huisenga said.
Huisenga and his wife, Becky, both were intrigued by Perry's assertion that the bulk of job growth in Iowa has not been all in oil and gas. But Becky Huisenga said that she was discomfited by Perry's talk of freedom and reducing the role of the government.
"That's good rhetoric, but in reality does that invite illegal activity and other issues?" she said. "The way he described this freedom was almost frightening."
Perry was able to stay on message all day with the help of a large posse of Texas state troopers and political aides, who kept a cordon around Perry that prevented reporters and voters from crowding the governor too closely. As he ended his last event of the day, five troopers with ear pieces and two political aides swooped in. All of them stood within at least 10 feet of the candidate, who shook hands for a few minutes and then left.
When reporters did get close enough to ask Perry questions, he ignored them. The Huffington Post did not see Perry answer a question from a member of the press corps all day.
Perry shook hands for just a few minutes at his first and third events, and spent some extended time talking to voters after the second event. Part of the reason Perry stayed longer seemed to be that his security contingent was confused about which direction to take him out of the room and herded him from one end of a lobby to the other before going back the direction they had first come from and exiting through a back door.
Some attendees said that Perry will need to loosen up and spend more time meeting with voters.
"I wish he would have stayed longer," said Tom Mitchell, a 61-year old retiree in Sioux City. "As soon as he was done talking his handlers came in."
SIOUX CITY, IOWA -- Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry made a new argument Saturday in defense of his actions to give children of undocumented immigrants in-state tuition to Texas universities, saying that it was a pro-growth economic decision.
"We wanted to make tax-payers, not tax-wasters," Perry said, speaking to about 100 voters at an Irish pub here in the northwest corner of the state, which the Texas governor called "Republican country."
Perryâs standing with conservative voters has been damaged over the past month in large part due to his decision in 2001 to approve the in-state tuition policy, and he made things worse by saying those who disagreed with him "don't have a heart." He subsequently apologized for that remark.
But Perry has not backtracked from his position, and on Saturday he made his most lengthy and detailed defense of the policy when a voter asked him about it during a question and answer session.
"Because of the absolute failure of the federal government to secure our border, states got forced upon them decisions on how you're going to deal with people in your state, because the federal government also says you gotta give them health care, you gotta have education," Perry said.
He continued, "And we decided as a state in 2001 that to deal with this population we had one of two choices: we could either kick them to the side of the road and say we'll deal with you as a tax waster, or we're going to give them the opportunity to pursue citizenship, to pay in-state tuition -- full fare, it's not subsidized in any form or fashion -- and be part of an educated workforce. That was the decision that the people of Texas made."
"We didn't have any other options from my perspective," he said. "One of the two. We chose the latter."
In remarks to the Values Voters Summit on Friday in Washington, and again to Iowa voters in the eastern part of the state on Friday night, Perry mentioned immigration during his prepared remarks and listed the ways in which he has cracked down on undocumented immigration: signing legislation to require identification to vote and vetoing legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to have drivers licenses. He did not mention the in-state tuition issue either time.
But when he was asked about it Saturday morning, he had a ready answer, and he then tried to pivot back to defending his record and his reputation.
"I've got a strong record on immigration from a standpoint of clearly being a rule of law person," he said. "But we cannot secure the border by ourselves in Texas. ... Thatâs the federal government's requirement."
Perry's wife, Anita, then chimed in from the front row of seats, and instructed him to point out that children of undocumented immigrants were pursuing a "path to citizenship" and to mention the voter I.D. law, which the governor had already mentioned earlier.
"My wife just reminded me, which she is very good about doing," Perry said to laughter and applause, "these young people are pursuing citizenship, and we also passed a couple of other really strong issues in Texas on drivers licenses, vetoing legislation for anyone who is in our country illegally ... and we passed voter I.D."
Perry's top rival in the Republican primary, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has pressed the issue to make sure it does not go away. His campaign released a memo listing Perryâs record on the 2001 law, and a campaign spokesman sent around a comment on Perry's defense of the tuition policy.
"Rick Perry has consistently supported liberal policies that encourage illegal immigration," said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. "He opposes a border fence and signed legislation that provides taxpayer backed benefits to illegal immigrants. His liberal immigration policies are out of step with Iowa values and wrong for our country."
WASHINGTON -- The pastor who introduced Texas Gov. Rick Perry at a conservative gathering Friday said rival presidential candidate Mitt Romney is not a Christian and is in a cult because he is a Mormon.
Robert Jeffress, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, made similar remarks about Romney when he ran in the 2008 campaign. Event organizers at the Values Voters Summit selected Jeffress to introduce Perry, but the Perry campaign was consulted about the choice and approved Jeffress to introduce the Texas governor.
Jeffress endorsed Perry at the event and introduced him as "a proven leader, a true conservative, and a committed follower of Christ."
After his remarks, Jeffress told reporters that Perry's religion is different from Romney's.
"Rick Perry's a Christian. He's an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ," Jeffress said. "Mitt Romney's a good moral person, but he's not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity."
Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are commonly called Mormons.
Perry and his campaign made clear that he disagrees with Jeffress.
Asked by reporters Friday night in Tiffin, Iowa, whether Mormonism is a cult, Perry replied, "No."
Earlier Friday, spokesman Mark Miner said that "the governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult."
Still, the campaign refused to definitively say whether they were accepting his offered endorsement. "The governor is running a campaign of inclusion and looks forward to receiving the endorsement of many people," Miner said. "People can endorse whoever they like."
Jeffress had made similar comments about Romney before, during the former Massachusetts governor's first presidential run in 2008.
"Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Even though he talks about Jesus as his lord and savior, he is not a Christian," Jeffress said in a 2007 sermon. "Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult. And just because somebody talks about Jesus does not make them a believer."
In that sermon, Jeffress said he was frustrated that some religious leaders had backed Romney anyway. "What really distresses me is some of my ministerial friends, and even leaders in our convention, say, `Well, he talks about Jesus, we talk about Jesus, what's the big deal?' It is a big deal."
The campaign initially said the decision to have Jeffress introduce Perry had been made strictly by organizers, but a Perry spokesman told The Associated Press Friday night that the campaign had agreed to it.
"It was their suggestion; it was their choice of who introduced us. They asked our campaign what we thought, and we said OK," Miner said.
Jeffress is a prominent religious leader in Texas. His First Baptist Church has more than 10,000 members. In 2009, Perry recognized Jeffress by name during his speech at a dinner for the Light of Life dinner and gala in Dallas.
AP reporter Charles Babington in Tiffin, Iowa, contributed to this report.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California's governor announced Friday that he signed a bill banning the sale, trade and possession of shark fins to protect the world's dwindling shark population.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB376 over objections that the fins are used in a soup considered a delicacy in some Asian cultures.
California joined Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and Guam in the ban that environmental and animal rights activists hailed for closing off Pacific ports in the U.S. to the shark fin trade.
"The practice of cutting the fins off of living sharks and dumping them back in the ocean is not only cruel, but it harms the health of our oceans," Brown wrote in a statement.
The bill had split the Asian delegation in the California Legislature.
Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, who authored the bill, said it was needed to protect endangered shark species, but others called the measure racist because the fins are used in a soup. The fins can sell for $600 a pound, and the soup can cost $80 a bowl.
The California market for shark-fin soup is the largest outside Asia. During a legislative debate, Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, noted the bill would ban only part of the shark while permitting the continued consumption of shark skin or steaks.
"I respect the governor's decision and now hope the proponents of AB376 will focus on protecting sharks, such as the spiny dogfish shark, from being endangered due to consumption of its meat, such as in steaks and fish and chips," Lieu said in a statement.
Critics of shark finning, which already is restricted in U.S. waters, estimate that fishermen kill 73 million sharks each year for their fins. They said it is particularly cruel because the wounded sharks often are returned to the ocean to die after their fins are removed.
"Californians can be proud of their role in giving these remarkable top predators a chance to recover their populations and helping to restore balance to our oceans," said Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who co-authored the bill.
Brown said researchers have estimated that some shark populations have declined by more than 90 percent.
"In the interest of future generations, I have signed this bill," he wrote.
The ban was supported by celebrities, including actress Bo Derek and retired NBA center Yao Ming of China. It also was backed by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, and other environmental advocates.
Brown signed another bill by Fong, AB853, that allows existing stocks of on-hand shark fins to be sold until July 1, 2013. It also makes it clear that sport fishermen who catch a shark can still eat the fin or have the shark stuffed and mounted as a trophy.
It also clarifies that the ban would not affect stuffing and mounting of sharks, nor the donation of fins to research or medical institutions.
"Sharks need their fins, and we don't," said Jennifer Fearing, the Humane Society's California director. "The momentum to protect sharks globally has taken a huge step forward."
The ban will take effect Jan. 1, 2012.