News Center

November 19th, 2011

Live Blog: The Family Leader’s Thanksgiving Forum

The Iowa Republican is live on the scene at First Federated Church in Des Moines for the “Thankgiving Family Forum”, put together by Bob Vander Plaats’ Family Leader organization. Six presidential candidates will participate: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum. An invitation was extended to Mitt Romney, but he declined.

The event gets underway at 4 pm. Unfortunately, it will not televised live. You catch watch ii on KFTG FM, 102.9 radio in Sioux Rapids will broadcast the event live.

Craig Robinson and Kevin Hall will provide a running live commentary here on TIR. You are welcome to join us.

2:06 – The doors are open and folks are filingin. There was a line forming outside the door for quite a while. A crowd of over 2,000 is expected. More than 150 press credentials were issued. Frank Luntz, who moderates the post-debate focus groups on Fox News Channel, will moderate this forum.

2:14 – This event could potentially change the landscape of the Iowa Caucus race. Bob Vander Plaats, and a lot of social conservatives, are waiting until after this event to offer their endorsement. If one candidate can solidify the majority of support from BVP and this group, he/she could make a serious run at winning Iowa.

2:18 – I hear that Governor Branstad will be here, prior to heading to his big 65th birthday bash later tonight at Adventureland. I would love to capture Branstad and Vander Plaats in an Obama/Jintao-like embrace. That would be hilarious.

2:26 – They have Family Leader promos and faith based messages playing on the big screens as people come in. It’s a lot like attending a movie.

2:30 – They are now showing messages from the candidates on the big screen. A well-produced Gingrich video is showing now.

2:44 – Much like most church services, no one wants to sit up front. Folks are filing in the back area first.

2:46 – Huge thanks to Matt Reisetter from the Family Leader. He let me snag some advil from his car. Dealing with a huge backache, which happens everytime I sit for a while. I hope Matt doesn’t mind that I took his pickup out for a test drive. Sorry about those scratches, too.

2:48 – There is a large, what I believe is supposed to be a cornucopia on the stage in front of the table where the candidates will sit. From here, in the back of the auditorium, it looks like a large pile of dead grass and leaves. And it’s off center.

2:54 – Congressman Steve King and Iowa GOP chair Matt Strawn are back here mingling, both just a few feet from me. All the political big wigs are here today.

2:59 – BTW, if anyone would like to take Matt Reisetter’s pickup for a spin, I have his keys here. Just come grab them. Matt won’t mind.

3:04 – Just took a look at the scores on There’s a headline that reads: “Iowa State Shakes Up BCS Race”. How cool is that?

3:18 –  OK. I thought I had the perfect seat staked out, but a Japanese (I think) camera crew just set up right in front of me. How do you say, “Can you please move down a little” in Japanese?

3:22 – The auditorium is filling up. Crowd continues to file in. They’ve asked for everyone to be seated by 3:25. That might take some doing.

3:23- Crisis averted. Event organizers asked the camera crew to move. My clear view returns. This set up is really no conducive to the media. There is no real media work area. Most are typing from church pews.

3:25 – The lights just dimmed. They’re now playing inspirational music over the loud speaker. No more promos on the video screens, I hope. After seeing each of them four of five times, I’ve had my fill.

3:29 – So, CSPAN isn’t carrying this, but they are airing the Dems’ Jefferson-Jackson Dinner featuring Rahm Emanuel. Dumb.

3:30 – Chuck Hurley from the Family Leader has taken the stage and is encouraging everyone to take their seats.

3:31- Hurley is now acknowledging Senator Grassley, Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds (they are here! At a BVP event!). HUGE applause for Steve King.

3:32 – Hurley is now referencing the Del Tackett 2.0 event which took place earlier today and had a huge turnout. Craig Robinson will have more on that on the site later.

3:33 – Hurley says, “While certain campaign rules prevent us from endorsing Pastor Jeff Mullen as a candidate… we want to thank him.” Mullen is the pastor of Point of Grace Church in Waukee and running for the state senate. He’s doing the invocation.

3:37 – Mullen asked everyone to stand for prayer. A large amount of the media remained seated. Disrespectful.

3:42 – BVP now taking the stage to a standing ovation.

3:43 – Prior to that, they played a video that including clips of the national media criticism of BVP, including several of Whoopi Goldberg.

3:44 – Internet connection was spotty for a second. Hopefully that doesn’t keep happening.

3:45 – Bob just quoted Charlie Sheen. “Winning’.

3:46 – BVP: “I believe for people to remove their voice from the public process is spiritual negligence.” Crowd applauded.

3:47 – Bob says if Frank Luntz does his job right, this will be the most crucial forum in entire primary process and believes the next president will be among those on the stage. Mitt, are you listening?

3:48 – Bob is laying out the ground rules. Forum will run from 4-6. “We’re gonna get down to the root and get beyond the talking points.”

3:49 – There will be two ten minute segments from co-sponsor, CitizenLink and the National Organization of Marriage, when they can ask questions and BVP and Hurley will be allowed to ask follow-ups during that time.

3:50 – Frank Luntz now taking the stage to a standing ovation. First thing he did was with Governor Branstad a happy birthday.

3:51 – Luntz: “I want you to learn more in the next two hours than you’ve learned in the entire campaign.”

3:52 – Luntz asking how many traveled more than 100 miles today to be here. A lot of people raised their hands. Pretty fair amount came from over 200 miles.

3:54 – Luntz said every candidate will be heard and said what happened to Ron Paul in the CBS debate when he received only 89 seconds of time “was simply wrong”.

3:56 – Luntz is asking the crowd if they think America’s best days are ahead and if their children will have a better quality of life than they do. For the last question, few raised their hands.

3:57 – Luntz says it’s reasonable to ask that there are some folks here from Occupy Wallstreet. “If you come here to protest, take two minutes now. Take the time now and speak to everyone here.” But he says make sure you show the civility and decency not to disrupt the 2 hour forum. One member is now taking the microphone now. Bold move from Luntz.

3:59 – It’s some guy from Nevada. We will see if the Occupy people interrupt the event or not. If they do, they are scum.

3:59 – He’s talking about the Federal Reserve. Must be a Ron Paul backer. Says the Fed is “foreign dominated” and the owners are anonymous.

4:00 – He’s done and the crowd is giving respectful applause. Let’s hope that’s the end of that. Luntz asks to show the candidates respect. Introducing the candidates now.

4:02 – All six are on sta. Here is the seating order at the table from left to right: Paul, Bachmann, Santorum, Perry, Cain, Gingrich. It was done by a draw, not polls numbers as they usually are. Luntz is seated next to Gingrich.

4:03 – First question to Ron Paul: The last four words in the presidential oath are “so help me God.” When you hear those words, what would you think?

404 – Paul says he takes his oaths very seriously and believes he’s done a good job of upholding the Constitution. Herman Cain now taking the chance to answer.

4:05 – Cain: “It is an expression of my view of asking my job to help me.”

4:06 – Bachmann: “Without his hand we won’t be able to get back on track.” She talks about accepting Christ at the age of 16. “It’s not just this world, I’ll have to answer to God in the next world.”

4:07 – Luntz is asking Bachmann was specifically happened when she was 16 that changed her. She says she was a sinner and thought she was Christian but wasn’t really living that life.

4:08 – Perry says those words are “so powerful…. We have to have that eternal wisdom that comes from God.” Says, “I’ve been driven to my knees multiple times as the Governor … make decisions about life and death…”

4:09 – Luntz asking Santorum what the number one value America has lost that we need to get back. “Our rights come to use from our Creator, rights come to us from God…” .. “Our civil laws have to comport with a higher law.” … “As long as abortion is legal, we will never have rest…”

4:10 – Santorum says when he won his first race, he knew that he had “a constituency of one…” Luntz asks what message was God sending when he lost his race in 2006. (crowd laughs). “I’ll get to that…”

4:11 – Santorum is taking an extended amount of time. Didn’t really discuss God’s message when he lost, but talked about having a core group in congress who share beliefs.”

4:12 – Gingrich now answering. “We have to measure what we do in the framework of God’s greater plan.”

4:13 – Gingrich draws first applause line of the night by stressing how we need to have a society that follows the words “endowed by our Creator” and lives up to that.

4:14 – Luntz is letting whoever wants to answer the questions jump in. Santorum took the opportunity to answer question about taking the culture back.

4:15 – Santorum is talking about the company he started that allowed parents to block questionable content from the TV. He says he thinks Hollywood can be shaped.

4:16 – Paul: “The goal of government isn’t to mold society.”

4:17 – Paul: “The law can’t reflect the morality of the people…our goal ought to be to preserve liberty.”

4:18 – Paul was applaused after his answer. Cain answering now.

4:18 – Cain: “Those of us that are people of faith have allowed the non-faith element to intimidate us into not fighting back.”

4:18 – Cain gets applause for answer about expressing faith in any setting and not allow political correctness to determine what you do.

4:19 – Newt was asked why he’s always under attack from people who don’t attend church and says those who don’t attend are the most “unhappy and always angry. Why?” Newt: “Because they’re unhappy and angry.” Newt scores with humorous response.

4:21 – Perry talks about his “Pastors and Pews” effort in Texas and “The Response” prayer event that was held shortly before he jumped into the race. Perry imploring politicians and pastors to spend every day talking about values. “It needs to be our values and virtues based on Judeo-Christian fundamentals…”

4:23 – Perry says if pastors talk about values, they don’t need to preach about politics because the people in the pews are smart enough to figure it out.

4:24 – Paul is now debating what Newt earlier, and talking about liberty. “Because somebody might make a bad choice, you don’t give up on liberty.”

4:25 – Bachmann: “Probably the greatest amount of censorship in the country today is in the pulpits.” Because they’re not free to talk about elections and politics.

4:26 – Bachmann says we should back repeal of law that silences pastors from discussing politics from the pulpit.

4:27 – Luntz asks if they would have a problem with liberal pastors talking about their political beliefs from pulpit. Bachmann says, “They do already.”

4:28 – Luntz: “What is your worldview and speak of it in terms of freedom, responsibility and morality.” Wants all the candidates to answer.

4:29 – Paul: Americans have a responsibility to take care of their own freedom.

4:30 – Bachmann: “I have a biblical worldview…He wrote owners manual, so to speak.”

4:31 – Cain: “Freedom without responsibility is immoral.”

4:32 – Cain threw in that you can’t infringe on someone’s right to life and that includes the right of the unborn. I wonder if Luntz will grill him on his confusing abortion stance.

4:33 – Perry: “The idea that we are sending billions of dollars to China, who are aborting 35,000 babies a day is immoral and it has to stop.”

4:34 – Santorum: “I believe with at least three of the folks here on the idea of freedom….” I’m guessing Paul is not one of them.

4:35 – Santorum: “Our Founders felt liberty is about what you ought to do, not what you want to do.” He got an “Amen” from at least one audience member and big applause afterwards.

4:36 – Gingrich using historical analogies again. Now discussing Occupy Wall Street. Gutsy. Basically calling them freeloaders. “Go get a job right after you take a bath.” HUGE applause.

4:37 – Cain says Gingrich “just gave a perfect illustration of the statement I made earlier.”

4:38 – Almost all of Cain’s answers have been very short.

4:38 – Luntz: “Do governors on states have the responsibility to tell Washington ‘No’. Question directed to Cain.

4:39 – Cain says the Founders who were recognizing at the time that “all men were created equal.” Says the Founders set the bar high “so we could get up to that”.

4:40 – Cain: “The states can’t say no to the federal government if they are wrong.” Not sure his answer made sense. Ron Paul is now taking issue with it.

4:41 – Paul: “What we must do is obey the law…most things were left to the states…. We don’t need the Department of Education.”

4:42 – Perry: “And the Energy Department too.” Luntz: “Governor, is there a third area you want to cut?” GREAT humor from Perry and Luntz. He scores with the self-deprecating humor.

4:43 – Perry is now discussing that you can amend the Constitution and talking about the Human Life Amendment. “There are limits on what the state can say no to…” but not a constitutional amendment.

4:44 – Cain turning the conversation to ObamaCare. “That’s an example of when the states can say ‘No’.” Luntz: “If only Mitt Romney were here to respond.”

4:44 – Bachmann just corrected Cain and said the federal legislation of ObamaCare trumps the states.

4:45 – Santorum: “The states do not have the right to do wrong…” He’s discussing gay marriage, saying it’s wrong (applause). “I’m the only one on this stage who came to Iowa and worked to defeat those justices…” Santorum scored with that one. Crowd appreciated it.

4:46 – Tom Minnery from CitizenLink now asking about abortion. First question to Cain.

4:47 – “Will you pursue a federal law banning abortion or a constitutional amendment.”

4:48 – Cain: “If that legislation gets to my desk, I will sign it.”

Moderator: “Will you push hard to get that to your desk.”

Cain: “Yes, it would be something that I would support and I would sign it.” Cain is failing there. Weak answer. Not going to work with this crowd. They want a president to use the bully pulpit to push for life legislation.

4:49 – Gingrich discusses Personhood and says that amendment would undue Roe v. Wade. He got big applause.

4:50 – Paul says murder, robbery, etc. are state issues and we don’t need more bureaucrats dealing with enforcing laws about when life begins. Says law should be made at the state level. “It should not be that we enforce this law at a life level.”

4;51- Paul says we could have passed a law to repeal Roe v. Wade ten years ago when we had the majorities. “If we would have passed that by a majority vote, we could have saved millions of lives.” Said we did not have the support from the right to life community.

4:51 – Bachmann: “Every human being is created in the likeness of a Holy God.” … Says we now have “taxpayer subsidized abortion because of ObamaCare… Planned Parenthood has been given full lease on our public schools and will be pushing chemical abortions… This is the one election and the only chance that we have to repeal ObamaCare. If we don’t, we will have taxpayer subsidized abortion.” (big applause for Bachmann)

4:53 – Question to Rick Perry about faith based adoption agencies being run out of business. “Is this a federal problem?”

Perry says passing a federal marriage amendment would help and says a gay couple cannot adopt a child in Texas. Supports such a law on the federal level.

4:54 – Santorum says we can’t wait on a federal marriage amendment. “There’s no way gay marriage would have passed in the state of Iowa..” if it had gone to the voters.

4:56 – On overturning Roe: “I’m not gonna wait for that. I’m going to go out and live it in my life and fight for that…”

4:57 – Newt is playing history professor again, framing his argument. He’s so good at this.

4:58 – Newt says the degree to which the left wants to drive out our values “is a mortal threat”. Another big applause line for Gingrich.

4:59 – Luntz asking how many in audience support term limits for Supreme Court justices. (nearly everyone). Perry jumps in with: “How many of you would support a part-time Congress?” More applause. Luntz jokes: “Governor, I’ll let you be a pollster if you let me be governor.” Newt: “That’s a scary thought.” Funny stuff all around.

5:00 – Bachmann talking about offshore oil leases and opening up and expanding energy production. I’m not sure how we got there but the crowd liked it.

5:01 – Gingrich: “I propose to abolish the court of Judge Baer in San Antonio” who wouldn’t let students to pray, say benediction, use the word ‘God’, etc. at graduation. “I regard that as such a ruthlessly anti-American statement that he should not be on the court and I would move to abolish his court…” Crowd loving Newt again.

5:02 – Santorum: “I would go one step further and abolish the entire Ninth Circuit.” (applause)

5:03 – Santorum is talking about standing up to the judiciary while he was senator on partial birth abortion ban. “That is a track record of standing up to the court.” (applause)

5:04 – We’re not taking a five minute break. The next part should be very interesting. Will ask if anyone has anything they’d like to ask forgiveness for. This is a fantastic forum so far. Gingrich, Santorum and Bachmann are shining. I think Perry’s doing well, too.

5:09 – OK. We’re starting up again.

5:12 – Cain is tearing up talking about dealing with Stage 4 Cancer. They’re being asked about moments that their faith challenged them. Cain’s wife is here tonight. First time in Iowa during campaign. “I said, ‘I can do that’. She said, ‘We’.”

5:22 – Wireless connection is spazzing out so I’m live blogging on a word document and will put in later. The candidates are still being quizzed on the influence of faith in their life and what changed you. Perry talked about growing up in Texas, Paul discussed being a doctor and delivering babies.

5:24 – Santorum discussing authoring the partial birth abortion act. He’s bringing up the baby they had who was born with Downs Syndrome who they immediately found out was likely to die within 10 days.

5:26 – Santorum says, “The doctor look at her (Karen, his wife) and said ‘You have to learn to let go’. … Then Mama Bear stood up… (crowd breaks into cheers and applause). They got the prescription for oxygen that they needed.

5:28 – Santorum says he was “the rock” in the house for five months. He’s tearing up. This is a very powerful moment. “i decided to treat her differently… to not love her, because it wouldn’t hurt as much… I had seen her as less of a person because of her disability. I prayed for that moment to please, please let her live…. She made it.”

5:31 – Talks about special needs babies who do not get the care that they need. “I will fight to make sure that happens and I will fight for that.” HUGE applause for Santorum. Very powerful moment.

5:32 – Wireless internet, thankfully seems to be working now. Gingrich is speaking.

5:32 – Newt is discussing a child who is a family friend who had heart problems, they later found out he had brain tumors. “He today has a good heart, a good brain, is good a baseball and football….” Turns it to the ObamaCare bureaucracy. Says stories like that are what next year is all about.

5:34 – Luntz says the candidates are “so admirable in terms of character.” .. “This may get me fired, truthfully…” He’s now asking them about their failures in life.

5:35 – Newt goes first. Talking about his childhood.

5:37 – Gingrich talks about an intervention in his life. Talks about he has inflicted a lot of pain in his own life and went to God for reconciliation.

5:39 – Says faith must play a role in the life of a president. We are too weak to go it alone.

5:40 – Paul says he’s his own worst critic. ‘I can’t stand watching myself on TV because all I see is my imperfections.”

5:41 – Luntz: “So no failures?”

5:42 – I think Paul really missed the mark with his answer. Cain answering now.

5:43 – Cain: “I believe that I have had a series of little failures instead of one great big disaster.” Says he doesn’t believe he was home enough when his kids were growing up. He’s getting choked up again. Luntz: “I feel like Dr. Phil.” Funny.

5:44 – Perry jokes about wanting to be a veteranarian and then God introduced him “to organic chemistry”. (crowd laughs). So he went into the Air Force.

5:46 – National Organization of Marriage asking questions now.

5:47 – First question was to Ron Paul about a federal marriage amendment. He took a long way to get to not wanting the federal government involved.

5:48 – The Paul people clapped, but I don’t think anyone else did.

5:49 – Question to Santorum about why he believes federal marriage amendment is necessary. He compares it to what happened with Roe v. Wade. “This is exactly what’s going to happen with same sex marriage unless we go out in the states and fight it right now.”

5:50 – Santorum references taking out Gronstal in 2012. Crowd cheers.

5:51 – Other candidates are asked if they want to chime in. Bachmann jumps at the chance. Talks about fighting for the issue in Minnesota senate. Says “we had to get all the children out of the home because of all the death threats we’d gotten”.

5:52 – Bachmann says she will fight for marriage amendment as president.

5:53 – Cain says he would lead the charge to overturn the Supreme Court if they overturned DOMA. Didn’t say how and crowd didn’t respond.

5:54 – Newt said we could re-pass DOMA if the Supreme Court overturned it. He said it’s the role of the executive and legislative branch to educate the judiciary.

5:54 – Question from a mother on the stage: Do you believe in a common good?

5:55 – Newt took the first opportunity to answer. Crowd like his response. Perry follows up, referencing public safety and then moves into the federal government failing to secure the border. Touchy subject for him.

5:56 – Perry says we need to “shut that border down, secure that border”. Remember, he’s taken a lot of flak for opposing a border fence.

5:57 – Cain: “Common good. Enforced laws. Secondly, the common good is to establish a level playing field for everybody to compete fairly.” I’m waiting for him to say 999.

5:58 – Cain also talked about the Civil Rights Act and received some applause.

5:59 – Question for a student: Is it the responsibility of the school to teach the difference between right and wrong?

Santorum: The education system in this country is “fundamentally broken”.

6:00 Santorum talks about how his children are home schooled. Says, “It’s the parents responsibility to educate their children.” He’s being applauded by a crowd that probably has a lot of home schoolers.

6:01 – Santorum says there is tons of money being spent on education but it’s not being spent on the child, it’s being spent on the system.

6:02 – Bachmann talking now about common good and education. “We want to make sure that we don’t have the federal government involved in education.”

6:03 Bachmann is still talking. We are now 3 minutes past our time limit. Luntz says there will be one more question. About the Declaration of War.

6:04 – Luntz: “What is the moral justification for war?” Paul going first.

6:04 – Paul: “We don’t go to war without a declaration.” Says every war we’ve fought since WWII was unconstitutional and immoral.

6:06 – Bachmann started to answer, referring to calling families of dead soldiers in her district. Luntz redirected her to the question: “What is the moral justification of war?”

Bachmann: If we are attacked or threatened. We have to have a clearly defined interest.

6:08 – Cain says “the defense of freedom and the defense of liberty” are moral justifications for going to war.

6:09 – Perry: “When America’s interests are in jeopardy, there is a time and a place for us to intervene and intervene military.” … .But “we must make the decision on how we are going to win” …. “Don’t let some congressman sitting in an air-conditioned office in Washington, D.C. decide what the rules of engagement are.”

6:11 – Santorum talking about Iran’s numerous attacks on the U.S.: Beirut, Khobar towers… “They are now developing a nuclear weapon…”  “We have a moral obligation to partner with the State of Israel to insure their survival… It must be stopped.”

6:13 – Newt’s turn.

6:14 – Gingrich: “I believe we should not go to war if we can avoid it and if we have to go to war we should do so decisively, with overwhelming force… do whatever it takes to win…”   .. “You come into our country and kill 3,100 of our people, we will make sure you never have the capacity to do so again… ” Newt then agrees with Santorum on protecting Israel: “I couldn’t care less what the rest of the world thinks.” HUGE applause again for Gingrich.

6:16 – Luntz is wrapping up now. He encourages the candidates to remain civil in the remaining debates. Event is over now and lights are coming on. Very interesting forum.

6:17 – The crowd is filing our now. It was a fascinating event. The ramifications of the next few days should be interesting. Did this make BVP and The Family Leader settle on a candidate to back? We will soon see.

Thanks for joining the live blog. Much more on this event, including recap and analysis, later here on

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

blog comments powered by Disqus