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GOP Hopefuls Give Iowa Presidential Pitch

Tuesday, March 08, 2011 - 12:04 PM

WNYC

The Iowa Caucus is a little less than a year away, but even though there aren't any official candidates for president, many Republicans considering a run have been testing the waters in Iowa.

On Monday night, the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition hosted five likely presidential candidates at the Pointe of Grace Church in a suburb of Iowa's capital city of Des Moines — and the house was packed.

More than two-thousand people attended the first potential multi-candidate presidential forum. Iowa’s Governor, Terry Branstad welcomed the crowd.

“This is the first significant event of the caucus season and your turnout tonight shows you are interested in making significant change,” he said, as he opened the floor to the speakers.

All five Republicans participating in the forum said they've formed presidential exploratory committees to help decide if they should run for president.

One of the contenders was businessman Herman Cain, the former C.E.O. of Godfathers Pizza and the host of his own radio talk show program called "The Herman Cain Show" in Atlanta, GA where he's from. He's never run for a political office but said, “If you are familiar with my background, in many instances I was compelled into a position of leadership.”

Cain said many leaders in Washington D.C. have stopped doing what’s right. Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, another speaker, agreed and said special interests groups have too much control, a topic that is the punch word of his potential candidacy.

“Washington isn’t about leadership, it isn’t about people, it’s about money,” he argued. “The nation’s hurting and Washington D.C. is a boom town.”

Roemer said he never has, and never will, take money from any Political Action Committee. Instead, he plans to finance a run for the presidency through individual donations of no more than $100 each.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty spoke as well, and also argued against the nation’s capital. He said, the biggest problem the country has is debt.

“We have a problem in Washington D.C. We have some leaders who believe the enormous immoral debt in our country doesn’t matter. It matters,” Pawlenty said to the crowd. "Just because we followed Greece into democracy, doesn’t mean we follow them into bankruptcy.”

All three candidates agreed on defunding Planned Parenthood, limiting the scope of the government and maintaining the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman. All candidates offered plenty of criticism of President Obama as they delivered pitches for their own shot at the presidential post.

Another speaker was former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who has recently flirted with the thought of running for president. He wasted no time railing against President Obama's politics saying he shares views with "the secular socialist left."  Gingrich said, the country needs to re-establish what he calls, “American exceptionalism.”

“The power starts with you and eventually goes to Washington, when necessary. Power does not start in Washington with a bunch of judges and bureaucrats dictating to you what you do."

Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania also spoke as a potential presidential candidate and called himself "a conservative's conservative." He expressed gratitude to the Tea Party for stepping up while the country is in trouble. 

Each of the five Republicans had ten minutes to speak to the crowd at the Des Moines, Iowa forum.

Official statements aren’t too far down the road. Republicans will begin to formerly announce their run for the presidency by the end of March.

Produced in partnership with Iowa Public Radio, which includes WOI AM and FM at Iowa State University, WSUI-AM and KSUI-FM at the University of Iowa, and KUNI-FM and KHKE-FM at the University of Northern Iowa.

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