The Big Conversation:
Rick Perry's going big in Iowa, and making no secret of it.
Perry makes a direct play for evangelical Christians, who make up a large share of the Iowa caucus turnout, in an aggressive new ad released Wednesday.
"I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a Christian,” Perry says in the ad. “But you don’t need to be in the pews every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”
Perry also says in the spot, which has drawn strong criticism from liberal and gay-rights groups, that he'll end "Obama’s war on religion" and fight against "liberal attacks on our religious heritage."
The Perry campaign denies that the ad signals that the governor has turned his focus away from the economy. "These ads are just one part of introducing the governor, his record and background to the people of Iowa and all Americans," spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told the Austin American-Statesman. "Faith is an important part of who he is and guides the decisions he makes."
The ad, which the campaign has spent $650,000 to run this week in Iowa, opens Perry's huge, $1.2 million ad blitz leading up to the state's Jan. 3 caucuses. The campaign has already spent about $2 million on ads in Iowa, according to The Associated Press, but the governor's poll numbers in the state — mired in the high single and low double digits — haven't budged in weeks. (The campaign, though, has recently seen reason for hope in some internal polling data acquired by Newsmax.)
As the Houston Chronicle reports, Perry allies have begun to publicly tamp down their expectations for the governor in Iowa, hoping he can mount a comeback. Attorney General Greg Abbott — one of the highest-profile members of the 600-person Texas entourage Perry will bring to Iowa in the next month to campaign for him — said that if the governor can finish in fourth place or higher, "he will continue to be a very strong and viable candidate."
- Rick Perry continued to play up his religious credentials at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum in Washington on Wednesday, saying that his faith would guide him as president and that he would increase "strategic defense aid" to Israel. Perry also used the forum to promote his "part-time Congress" proposal, which, as The Dallas Morning News reports, received mixed reviews from lawmakers.
- The Des Moines Register has obtained mailers from Rick Perry and Ron Paul that appeared in Iowa mailboxes on Wednesday. "As a young child his family had neither electricity nor running water. But they had strong faith,” says Perry's, which calls him the "only candidate who is not beholden to the Washington Establishment." Paul's mailer spends seven pages playing up his opposition to abortion: “As a doctor who has delivered over 4,000 babies, I know firsthand how precious, fragile and in need of protection human life is," the letter says. "That’s why I am now, and have always been, pro-life."
- According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, Newt Gingrich leads Mitt Romney by double digits among Republicans in three key states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports today that the White House and its allies have set their sights on Gingrich, whom they now view as a formidable foil to Romney. "Look, for the longest time, Gingrich was not really a factor in this race, he was left for dead at the checkout counter at Tiffany’s," David Axelrod, President Barack Obama's chief political adviser, told the Times. "Now he is resurgent and he could be the nominee."
- Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission — but better known, perhaps, as the attorney for Stephen Colbert and his Super PAC — talks with the Tribune's Ross Ramsey about campaign finance, why donors actually want limits on their giving and running a presidential campaign without the hassle of a candidate.
"You guys are a bigger pain than the back surgery." — Rick Perry to CNN's Wolf Blitzer on how the governor's stem-call procedure has affected his campaign
- GOPers prep for 'alpha dog' debate, Politico
- Firing of Macy's worker pits freedom of religion vs. GLBT rights, San Antonio Express-News
- 2 Character Models for a Single Cinematic Point: Winning Elections at Any Cost, The New York Times
- High in the Polls, Ron Paul Remains a Long Shot, The Texas Tribune