Romney said he would bring change to Washington
AMES, Iowa (CNN) - Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sharply criticized Washington and promised to offer the nation a new direction if elected president in a speech in this college town Saturday where thousands of Republican activists descended to cast votes for their favored GOP candidate.
"We are going to send a message to the entire nation: We want to see a Washington that can finally get the job done," Romney said to a sea of political supporters wearing yellow "Team Mitt" shirts as well as other Republicans attending the Iowa GOP sanctioned straw poll.
The former governor also used the speech to hit on issues favored by the Republican base and at the same time vowed to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats.
"We want to see a Washington that will solve our immigration problems; that will open our hearts and homes to the people who really need our help," said Romney, who was flanked by his wife, Ann, and their family. "We are going to make sure we get healthcare for those who don’t have it. We are going to do a better job supporting our troops. Think of the families today that are not out here celebrating in the sun, but are instead thinking about their loved ones far away. Let's have a surge of support for those that are making such a surge of sacrifice."
He later added, "We are ready for somebody who will actually get the job done; reach across the aisle with Republicans and Democrats coming together to solve the problems America faces."
AMES, Iowa (CNN) - While Texas Rep. Ron Paul is registering in the low single digits in national polls, his supporters Saturday sought to pump up the volume on his candidacy in this college town that is hosting the Iowa Republican Party sanctioned straw poll.
A parade of supporters carrying signs and an American flag has been parading around the Hilton Coliseum on the campus of Iowa State University shouting out his name. They are even marching by the tents of his opponents in an apparent effort to add to their parade.
Earlier in the day, Paul's campaign told reporters his wife was rushed to an Iowa hospital. The campaign did not say what happened, but noted she had stabilized. A veteran member of the House of Representatives, Paul has distinguished himself from his GOP opponents by calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston
AMES, Iowa (CNN)- Voting is underway in the first crucial Republican straw poll contest of the 2008 presidential campaign season. The first ballots were cast at 10am CT here on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames. Voting will last until 6pm local time and results will be announced one hour later.
Voters need to prove they are Iowa residents and need to pay a $35 entrance fee. Many of the campaigns are busing in their supporters and paying for their entrance fees. But the ballots are cast in secret so there is no guarantee on how people will vote, even if they are bused in and their entrance fees paid for by certain campaigns.
After they cast their ballots, voters need to dip their thumbs in indelible ink, similar to the kind used in the Iraqi national elections. This is supposed to prevent people from voting more than once.
Mitt Romney is expected to win today’s straw poll. The big question right now is by how much the former Massachusetts Governor will win. The top three GOP contenders in the national polls, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Senator from Tennessee Fred Thompson, who’s yet to announce he’s running for President, and Senator from Arizona John McCain, are not actively taking part in today’s straw poll.
The other big question today is which of the second tier candidates will come in second. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Senator from Kansas Sam Brownback, and former Wisconsin Governor and Bush Cabinet Secretary Tommy Thompson are all gunning hard for capturing second place. Congressmen Duncan Hunter and Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo are also here today and hoping for a strong finish.
There’s the possibility that some of these second and third tier candidates may drop out of the race for the White House if they don’t perform well in today’s straw poll.
- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser
AMES, Iowa (CNN)- He may be low down in the national polls, but Ron Paul is winning the early sign wars on the road to Ames. The home of Iowa State University is in the political spotlight today, as it hosts a crucial Republican straw poll.
As we drove north on Interstate 35 from Des Moines to Ames, Ron Paul signs started sprouting up alongside the highway. Upon exiting the interstate and riding along US 30 into Ames, the number of Ron Paul signs increase in number. I witnessed Paul supporters along side the highway putting signs into the ground. Paul is a Republican Congressman from Texas who two decades ago ran for President as a Libertarian. He’s low down in all the national polls, but he does have strong and passionate supporters who make themselves heard on the internet.
In second place in the sign wars on the road to Ames is Sam Brownback. Signs and banners for the Republican Senator from Kansas were sprouting up alongside the highway. Brownback is also far down in the national polls but he’s hoping for a strong showing today in the Ames straw poll.
- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser
AMES, Iowa (CNN)- There is no question that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney believes the Hawkeye State could be the key to him winning the GOP presidential nomination.
Romney has invested heavily in Saturday's Republican straw poll including running television commercials leading up to the event.
"Change begins in Iowa," he said to Republicans attending Saturday's straw poll. "It begins today. You are going to make it happen. Let's go out there and win one.'
This theme was echoed by Romney's wife, Ann, who is playing a prominent role in his presidential campaign.
"We have come to recognize that this is the heartland and you have touched our hearts," she said. "Our lives have been changed because of you."
- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - Candidates, candidates, candidates. The Iowa State Fair is in full swing in Des Moines, and with it comes, you guessed it, the presidential wannabe's.
GOP hopefuls Mitt Romney, Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul and even unofficial candidate Newt Gingrich have all made stops at the fair in Des Moines so far. Tommy Thompson will also make an appearance.
More than a million people attended this Iowa tradition in 2006, and this year fair officials expect nothing less. So what better place for the GOP candidates to look for votes for Saturday's straw poll than right here?
But in addition to the candidates' stops at the Des Moines Register's political soapbox speech area –where candidates can give a short description of themselves to voters - there's a veritable smorgasbord of possible photo ops to choose from.
Former Massachusetts governor and current Iowa frontrunner Mitt Romney grabbed a spatula to flip a few pork chops today at the Iowa Pork Producers Association booth. And yes, a reporter did ask about the coincidence of his "flipping" pork chops and the fact that he's been accused of flip-flopping on the issues. Romney laughed that off. He did, however, accidentally drop one of the chops, which he quickly picked up and, citing the so-called "five-second" rule, threw back on the grill. Needless to say, that was met with a few friendly boos from the onlookers.
Romney was also asked by a German media outlet what he thought of their country. Another minor flub followed.
"President Merkel is wonderful, and will do great things for her country and for the world," Romney said.
The only thing is, Angela Merkel is the chancellor of Germany, not the president.
- CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rep. Ron Paul's wife was hospitalized Monday at a Houston-area hospital, a spokesman for the Texas Republican confirms to CNN.
"Carol Paul has been taken ill and is currently in the Critical Care Unit at a Houston area hospital," Jesse Benton, Paul's spokesman, said in an email statement to CNN. "She has had several abdominal surgeries and remains in serious but stable condition. Dr. Paul appreciates the outpouring of concern and good wishes during this difficult time."
Benton did not name the hospital or provide further details about the hospitalization.
Paul unsuccessfully sought the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, developing a loyal following among people who support limited government as well as among anti-war activists. Paul was the only Republican presidential candidate who opposed the Iraq war.