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December 1st, 2011

Live Blog: Polk GOP Dinner with Newt Gingrich

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the featured speaker at tonight’s Polk GOP Annual Victory Dinner. Doors open at 6pm and the event gets underway at 7 pm at the Foxboro Conference Center in Johnston.

The is live on the seen and we will be live blogging the event.

5:22 pm – Space here is cramped. They have the media shoved back into a corner of the room. There are 48 tables set up, with 10 chairs per table, so we’re looking at a crowd of almost 500 expected.

Earlier today, Gingrich became the second presidential candidate to sign the a pledge to secure the U.S./Mexico border with a double fence by the end of 2013. Michele Bachmann signed the pledge by Americans for Securing the Border in mid-October.

5:23 pm – Signing the pledge was a smart political move for Newt. It helps strengthen his immigration stance and Bachmann can no longer claim to be the only candidate to sign the pledge.

5:28 pm – WHO Radio’s Simon Conway is tonight’s emcee. Gingrich is slated to speak at 7:30 and according to the program, that will include a Q&A session. He will also do a press availability afterwards, then do a book signing from 8:15-9pm.

5:55 pm – The crowd is swelling out in the lobby. There’s not much room out there either. Stunningly, no other campaigns will have literature tables here. That’s really unbelievable. Ron Paul’s was the only other campaign, besides Newt’s, to purchase a table, but they canceled today. I don’t understand that at all. This is a prime opportunity to sell your candidate to 500 caucus goers.

6:05 pm – A good contingent of Iowa College Republicans from the various schools are on hand. They usually have a good showing at these events.

6:09 pm – You might recall the last time the Polk GOP did a dinner like this, back in May, Michele Bachmann was the headliner and she canceled at the last minute to vote on renewing the Patriot Act. That event was a disaster as a result. No such problems this time.

6:19 pm – The Iowa Energy Forum and Strong America Now are running better campaigns than all of the presidentials. I see their representatives everywhere, promoting their cause. The campaigns who are trying to get their candidate into the White House, not so much.

6:22 pm – The Polk GOP was very fortuitous when they arranged this event with Gingrich headlining. When they scheduled it, Newt was polling in the middle of the pack. Now he’s the frontrunner and the interest here is enormous. A dozen or so TV cameras are and both press tables are full. This is a major event. In fact, I don’t think I will even be able to see the podium, thanks to the TV cameras set up in front of me. I have possibly the worst seat in the house.

6:30 pm – OK, it’s 34 degrees outside, it was snowing most of the afternoon, and they just turned the air on.

6:36 pm – They forewarned the media to have everything set up between 4-6. That was smart. Those reporters that didn’t listen…not so much. It’s a zoo here. I’m thinking they should have reserved a much bigger conference room. This place is just way too small.

6:37 pm – I would like to bring you more interesting info, but that would require crawling over a dozen other reporters to move anywhere. Amusingly, they have red tape up that says “danger” on it, separating the media from the crowd at the tables. I’m not sure if they’re saying we’re the danger, or the attendees. Probably the media.

6:41 pm – The food line is beginning. Darrell Kearney, the Polk GOP’s fundraiser, is instructing the crowd to proceed to grab their food in an orderly fashion. I think it’s going to take a while for everyone to work through it.

6:50 pm – As best as I can tell, the only campaign here that has any representation at all, other than Gingrich’s, is Rick Santorum’s.

6:51 pm – Scratch that last statement. I should have known better. Phil Valenziano from Mitt Romney’s campaign is here. He’s everywhere.

6:57 pm  – Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn is here. I’m not seeing a lot of other luminaries yet, but I know Gingrich is having a private reception with some folks, so they could be there.

6:58 pm – Oh good. More cameras TV cameras just arrived and set up right in front of me. I think we’re pushing almost two dozen now.

6:59 pm – There are some local state reps and senators here. I see Rep. Chris Hagenow, as well as Jim Carley, who is running for the Iowa House next year in Kim Pearson’s district. Pearson recruited Carley to run, but says she has not decided whether or not she will run.

7:08 pm – This looks to be a very successful fundraiser for the Polk GOP. Tickets cost $65 per person and with over 400 tickets sold ahead of time, plus some people paying more for sponsorships, we’re looking at around $30,000 for this event.

7:13 pm – For both of you who care, they’re serving pork tenderloin and almond crusted chicken for dinner. Great. Now I’m starving.

7:15 pm – It looks like we will be a little behind scheduler starting. Folks are still filing in and mingling. The program was slated to get underway at 7:15.

7:17 pm – This room is absolutely packed. We’re talking standing room only. The crowd size is 500, plus around 50 media members.

7:21 pm – They are asking everyone to take their seats and the program should start in about two minutes.

7:22 pm – Emcee Simon Conway has taken the podium and we’re underway.

7:23 pm – Time for the Pledge of Allegiance.

7:24 pm – All the media, including foreign, stood this time. That doesn’t always happen.

7:27 pm – Nicely done invocation by Pastor Clair Rudison.

7:28 pm – Simon is now recognizing the dignitaries. Former Governor Bob Ray is here. Simon jokes that State Senator Mike Gronstal is here.

7:29 pm – Other local politicos include Jack Whitver, Erik Helland, Chris Hagenow, Kevin Koester, Peter Cownie, and Scott Raecker. Simon called supervisor E.J. Giovanetti “Giovanni”. LOL.

7:30 pm – Congressman Latham’s campaign also purchased a table.

7:33 pm – Simon clearly intends to use his entire five minutes. We’re about 12 minutes behind schedule so far.

7:35 pm – Simon is talking about socialized medicine and ObamaCare. Polk GOP Co-Chair Dave Funk will speak next.

7:37 pm – Still talking…

7:38 pm – Dave Funk is moving toward the stage. I think they’re trying to give Simon the hook. We’re running behind and he’s taking up more time than he should have, throwing out a bunch of stats and figures about British healthcare.

7:39 pm – “I’ve gone long, haven’t I,” Simon just said. Yes, he did.

7:40 pm – Dave Funk on now. He recognizes former Congressman Greg Ganske, who was missed earlier.

7:42 pm – Dave started off talking about the Wright Brothers first flight, saying they did it without the approval of the FAA. Says America is headed toward becoming Cuba in the next 50-60 years if we don’t change things.

7:43 pm – Polk GOP Chair Kevin McLaughlin is now introducing Newt.

7:44 pm – “Tonight, we have a room full of social moderates and social conservatives,” McLaughlin says.

7:45 pm – Newt is taking the stage now. I can barely see him from this horrible seat.

7:46 pm – “I like coming back to Iowa for a lot of reasons. My wife Calista went to Luther College… “

7:47 pm – Newt joking about Iowa being a good place for old politicians to come. “You can return to the governor’s office,” speaking of Branstad. Praises Branstad’s policies on budgeting: “You could use a lot more Terry Branstad and a lot less Barack Obama.”

7:48 pm – “Back in June and July, I was supposedly dead…”  … We’re in a mess. We’re in a mess in Washington, with radical Islam, with radical judges…”

7:49 pm – Gingrich is talking about the horror that was the Jimmy Carter administration.

7:50 pm – Now using Reagan’s famous line about depression, recession and “If Jimmy Carter’s unemployed, it’s called recovery.”

7:51 pm – Says recovery will begin late on election night when Barack Obama’s going back to Chicago and Republicans have won control of the Senate.

7:51 pm – “We have to have a team campaign… You can count of me as the nominee being back here in the fall.” Says he has told Governor Branstad that.

7:52 pm – “We need to win as a team…”  … Says America is “endangered by current policies and we want to set the country back on the right track.”

7:53 pm – One camera crew left. I can see again!

7:54 pm – “Barack Obama is legitimately a Saul Alinsky radical… He believes in a world where the United Nations is more important than the United States Congress… “

7:55 pm – Newt is discussing Lincoln and how he always went back to the Declaration of Independence.

7:56 pm – Quoting the Declaration now, the “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. Gingrich says,  “I will dedicate 8 years to making those words real.”

7:57 pm – Gingrich is now talking about Gordon Wood’s tremendous books. I bet Newt could destroy Matt Damon in a debate, even the genius Damon portrayed in “Good Will Hunting”.

How you like them apples?

7:58 pm – “We have to clean up the Congress as much as the executive branch.” Huge applause for that.

“We need to be open to an American campaign, not a Republican campaign and be open to every person of every background.”

8:00 pm – Newt’s giving a history lesson now. References Gordon Wood again. Here’s the Good Will Hunting scene that refers to Wood.

8:02 pm – “I can promise you that one of the first acts that I will do… is close the office of Judge Berry in San Antonio.” He refused all references to God, prayer, moment of silence, etc. at a high school’s graduation. “He is an anti-religious bigot.”

8:04 pm – Newt is talking about unalienable rights, particularly the pursuit of happiness. Says it actually references virtue. It does not references hedonism and acquisition.

8:05 pm – First book plug. Drink!

8:06 pm – “I’m sort of warning you, in case you decide you really want to support me….” .. “I have a passion for work ethic..”

8:07 pm – “It’s fascinating to watch liberals try to avoid reality,” Gingrich said. “The rise of bureaucracies has encouraged laziness..”

8:08 pm – “I’ve been attacked because I said poor children need to learn how to work…”  “McDonalds has taught more people to show up for work than any other institution in America.”

8:09 pm – “We should contemplate very seriously to have the poorest children in the poorest communities learn how to work in the schools they go to.” …. “If they learned that at the end of the week they got money for doing work, they might want to do more work…” He’s getting applause and chuckles for these statements, which have created some controversy.

8:11 pm – Now he’s talking about the Wright Brothers, which Captain Dave Funk already talked about. Who knew we’d have two discussions of the Wright Brothers in one event?

8:12 pm – “Why am I telling you this story? Because I’m asking you to embark with me on a voyage of invention and discovery as bold as the Wright Brothers…. In every aspect of American life… I can’t guarantee you success… I can promise you I will do everything I can to rebuild this country for my grandchildren.”

8:13 pm – He’s now using the common refrain, “I won’t ask you to be for me… What I will do is ask you to be with me…” Says we need every American involved to turn the country around.

8:14 pm – “If Obama’s reelected and he comes to believe that his radicalism is vindicated, I can’t imagine what the second term will be… “

8:15 pm – Gingrich referencing again he will challenge Obama to 7 Lincoln-Douglas style debates and he will let Obama use a teleprompter.

8:16 pm – Says Obama’s ego will force him to agree to the debates, with his Harvard background against a “West Georgia college professor.”

8: 17 pm – Newt: “Unlike our president, I studied American history.”

8:18 pm – If he’s the nominee : “The White House will be my scheduler and wherever the President goes, I will show up four hours later and respond to his speech.”  He’s getting a standing ovation for that line.

8:19 pm – Newt is wrapping up now. I guess there won’t be a Q&A. Another standing ovation.

8:20 pm – Nope, no Q&A. They are plugging Newt’s book signing they will have out in the lobby later. He’s coming over here first for a press availability, so I’ll keep live blogging.

8:22 pm – There’s a crowd surrounding him. I don’t think I’m going to be able to hear this. We’ve got attendees swarming him, reporters crawling on tables… It’s mass hysteria. Cats and dogs, living together..

8:24 pm – Nope, no way I’ll be able to hear what he’s saying. So, that will wrap up the live blogging. I’m going to chat with attendees and get their reaction to Gingrich’s speech for an article tomorrow morning here on TIR.

Thanks everyone for following the live blog. I hope you enjoyed it. Catch the recap here tomorrow AM.

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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