In Iowa, opposite candidates win in opposite ways
- Written by Thomas Beaumont
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The little-known, cash-strapped Santorum broke through as the leading conservative contender by cutting a painstaking path through every Iowa county. Romney, the GOP's deep-pocketed national front-runner, wanted to avoid being seen as underperforming and captured the state's more urban areas with little effort.
Both of their strategies went almost perfectly according to plan.
Santorum, a fierce abortion-rights opponent, caught fire with undecided social conservatives in the campaign's final two weeks, while Romney won over undecided Republicans who were concerned about finding a candidate to beat Democratic President Barack Obama.
Their near-even finish at about 25 percent each, punctuated by libertarian-leaning Ron Paul's close third-place showing, illustrates the sharp divide in the GOP going forward and the work ahead for the candidates hoping to establish a winning coalition.
After a long night, Romney won the caucuses — by eight votes. But Santorum was hardly a loser, coming as far as he did in such a short time.
"You have one, deep within the right, and a scrapper, who did it the old-school, shoe-leather way," said John Stineman, an Iowa Republican strategist who ran Steve Forbes' 2000 Iowa caucus campaign. "And you have the candidate who is the national front-runner, who put together a strategy for how they compete and manage expectations."
Santorum carried vast tracts of Iowa's rural areas and its conservative northwest, having methodically campaigned in each of Iowa's 99 counties. For months, he persisted in meeting county party leaders a handful at a time, in 381 local meetings.
Romney carried many of Iowa's most populous counties, including a number of those he won four years ago, spending less than one-fifth the time and money he did during his 2008 campaign.
While Santorum needed to establish himself in a field of far better-known rivals, Romney needed to survive without underperforming in a state where he was viewed as the most electable, but where the state's influential social conservatives had doubts about his Mormon faith and changed positions on social issues.
Romney, who got 24 percent of the vote in a disappointing second-place finish four years ago, needed to do well, while acknowledging that his support was capped by his spotty background with strict conservatives.
Santorum needed to show a more traditional approach could still succeed.
Both benefited from a lot of time in Iowa. For Romney, though, that time was spent in 2007.
Santorum started in September 2009, making his first Iowa appearance at a suburban Des Moines church to speak to an abortion opposition group training program.
"You, by standing up and not compromising, ... have taken the first step in taking this country back," Santorum told supporters at a rally back then in Johnston.
It was a sign of things to come. Santorum would go on to headline multi-candidate forums around the state, often winding up as the last speaker and holding the audience rapt with stories of his Senate fights over abortion legislation or his disabled daughter's struggles.
While no candidate put together the coalition of evangelical voters former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee did in winning four years ago, Santorum surged late with this group, picking up endorsements from influential pastors.
He picked up Sioux City talk radio host Sam Clovis, who may have contributed to Santorum's victory in that critical northwest Iowa county. Santorum also won the endorsement of Bob Vander Plaats, a former candidate for governor who led the campaign to oust three state Supreme Court judges who backed a decision to allow gay marriage in 2010.
The economy and the federal budget deficit were top issues for caucus attendees, according to entrance polls. However, the state's evangelical voters and strong conservatives tilted toward Santorum, the polls showed.
Although Santorum collected big pieces of the splintered social conservative coalition in the closing days of the campaign, he also benefited from the backing of Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, who was elected in 2010 and is popular with the tea party.
Santorum also had the early support of Nick Ryan, a former congressional chief of staff and campaign operative, who started a super PAC for Santorum and was the first to advertise on his behalf — although not until December.
Santorum has a tougher hill ahead in New Hampshire than Romney, who leads there in the polls, has vastly more money and has a more natural home with the state's economic conservatives than Santorum, more identified as a social conservative.
Although Santorum has been to New Hampshire 30 times, he probably won't be able to build the same kind of grassroots network he achieved in Iowa before the primary is held on Jan. 10.
In Iowa, Romney avoided disappointing. In his speech in Des Moines late Tuesday he pointed out how much leaner his campaign was in 2012 than in 2008.
Five staff, instead of 52. Less than $2 million spent, compared with $10 million four years ago.
He spent most of 2011 playing down how well he would need to do in Iowa. In 2008, after spending more than 100 days and $10 million in the state, he finished a disappointing second.
"It's great that in the heartland, a campaign begins," Romney said before he was declared the winner, vowing "to make sure that we make sure we restore the heart and soul of the entire nation."
The outcome raises the bar for Romney in New Hampshire. His campaign has prepared for that challenge, long saying they need to win in order to continue to the GOP nomination.
Unlike Iowa, where Romney's support was steady without dominating, he has maintained a strong lead in New Hampshire for months.
His Iowa strategy was to project himself as a national candidate and emerge ahead of those viewed as potential national rivals, such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Although he focused more on Obama than any of his rivals, Romney did sponsor automated telephone calls attacking Perry's immigration positions. He later went after Gingrich on immigration and his temperament.
But Romney got a lot of help — almost $3 million in advertising — from a super PAC friendly to his campaign and run by former campaign aides.
Most of the ads fiercely attacked Gingrich, and his standing tumbled quickly. That gave Santorum an opening to rise and challenge Romney.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
Bachmann quits race, says she'll fight for issues
- Written by Mike Glover
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The conservative Minnesota congresswoman's decision, widely expected following her dismal Iowa showing, leaves her supporters up for grabs by the other candidates in the race, particularly former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
"I have decided to stand aside," Bachmann said at a hastily arranged news conference in Des Moines, hours after the caucus results were announced. "I will not be continuing in this race for the presidency."
Her campaign manager, Keith Nahigian, told The Associated Press, that Bachmann has "no time frame or person" in mind for her endorsement.
In the announcement, Bachmann said she had no regrets about running and will continue to fight for the causes she emphasized during the campaign, including to overturn President Barack Obama's "socialist policies."
It has been a long, deep slide for the Minnesota congresswoman, who enjoyed a high point in her campaign when she won a Republican straw poll in Ames, Iowa, in August. But her campaign steadily lost support since then, beginning with Perry's entry into the race on the day of her straw poll win.
Bachmann, 55, had told a small group of supporters Tuesday night that she was staying in the race as the only true conservative who can defeat Obama.
In her statement, Bachmann referred repeatedly to "Obamacare" — the health care law Obama signed in 2010— and said the Republican Party must not miss a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to repeal it and the financial regulatory overhaul law known as Dodd-Frank.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
Ohio 'heartbeat' bill sponsor clarifies confusion
- Written by Ann Sanner
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A Dec. 15 letter written by state Rep. Lynn Wachtmann sheds new light on the sudden hold that was put on the divisive legislation dubbed the "heartbeat bill." Backers had believed it was headed toward passage before the holiday break.
In the letter obtained by The Associated Press, Wachtmann told the leader of the Ohio Senate that "miscommunication" with his office resulted in the revisions reaching only the vice chairman of the Senate's health committee, and not the chairman who was conducting the hearings.
"I would like to take full responsibility for the confusion that has recently ensued with respect to the amendments offered for this bill, and I apologize for any inconvenience," wrote Wachtmann, a Napoleon Republican.
AP obtained a copy of his letter through a public records request.
Senate President Tom Niehaus halted hearings on the bill on the last scheduled day of the 2011 legislative session, saying lawmakers needed more time to weigh the roughly 20 amendments proposed by bill supporters. Niehaus, a New Richmond Republican, had said the "eleventh hour" changes to the bill were creating uncertainty about an already contentious issue.
The heartbeat bill would outlaw abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat — sometimes as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
Wachtmann said in an interview the purpose of his letter was to set the record straight about where the suggested amendments originated.
"My understanding was that somebody was taking the amendments over to the chairman's office, but that didn't get done," Wachtmann said Tuesday. "I'm not going to play games over who should have done it or didn't do it, so I just take responsibility for it because it's my bill."
His letter also contained legal background about the revisions from David Forte, a law professor at Cleveland State University who helped write the heartbeat measure. Forte said the revisions were born out of conversations he had with senators, who he said wanted to strengthen the legislation.
Asked whether the office mix-up caused the Senate leader to suspend hearings, Wachtmann said, "In the end, I'm not 100 percent sure. But I wanted to clarify what happened and why it happened."
Wachtmann said he had a "positive" conversation with Niehaus about the bill before Christmas.
Some suggested revisions would align the bill with other abortion measures and court rulings. One adjustment clarifies that a physician should use appropriate means of detecting the heartbeat, not a specific test. Physicians would be required to note the method, date and time of the test, and results on the woman's medical records.
The heartbeat bill passed the Republican-controlled Ohio House in June. It had been stalled in the GOP-led Senate for months, until initial hearings got under way in the beginning of December.
Supporters of the Ohio measure hope to provoke a legal challenge and overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in the United States. The ruling upheld a woman's right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.
The fate of the heartbeat measure remains unclear.
Niehaus said in a recent interview with the AP that he's asked Senate health committee members to review the amendments, and recommend what to do next with the bill. Gov. John Kasich, an abortion opponent, has not indicated whether he would sign the bill.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
Fight over Beyonce, Jay-Z leads to Ohio stabbing
- Written by APNewsNow
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Police say the fight occurred New Year's Eve in Parma, Cleveland's biggest suburb.
Detective Marty Compton says 31-year-old Ronald Deaver of Parma was charged with felonious assault. A woman who told police Deaver no longer lived at his address was charged with obstructing justice.
WJW-TV reports (http://bit.ly/yJPh28) the 48-year-old man who was stabbed is hospitalized in good condition. They had been watching music videos at the apartment.
Court records do not identify an attorney representing Deaver.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
Report: Body paraded after China self-immolation
- Written by Scott McDonald
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BEIJING (AP) — The body of a Tibetan monk who died after setting himself on fire was paraded through the streets in northwestern China, a report said Monday, in the latest in a series of self-immolation protests against Chinese rule.
U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Asia said hundreds of angry Tibetans forced police to hand over the remains of the 42-year-old monk, named Sopa, and then carried them through the streets in Dari county in Qinghai province.
It said the monk died Sunday morning after drinking kerosene and throwing it over his body. Radio Free Asia quoted a source as saying Sopa's "body exploded in pieces" before police took it away.
Two other men set themselves on fire Friday in Sichuan province. At least 15 monks, nuns and former monks are now believed to have set themselves on fire in the past year. Most have chanted for Tibetan freedom and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
Radio Free Asia said police first refused to give up the body but relented after "the protesters smashed windows and doors of the local police station," according to another source.
It quoted a third source as saying only the head and chest parts were intact.
The official Xinhua News Agency identified the dead monk as Nyage Sonamdrugyu. The reason for the discrepancy in identification was not known.
Xinhua said an initial investigation found the monk set himself on fire out of shame that his "secret love affair with a local woman was discovered by the woman's husband," citing an unnamed spokesman with the local Communist Party committee.
Xinhua said about 500 sympathizers gathered on the streets around the intersection where he died but dispersed two hours later "under the persuasion of relevant departments."
Calls Monday to the Communist Party's propaganda department, the Public Security Bureau and the government in Dari county rang unanswered. The county is in Golog prefecture, and calls to the prefecture level party, public security and government offices also rang unanswered.
Radio Free Asia said security in the area has been tightened.
The U.S. State Department on Monday said it was seriously concerned by the latest reports of self-immolations. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the incidents reflected "enormous anger and enormous frustration" over severe Chinese government restrictions on human rights and religious freedom.
Most of the self-immolations have occurred in traditionally Tibetan areas of Sichuan that have been hotbeds of opposition to central government control. The area where Sopa reportedly set himself on fire Sunday is just north of Sichuan.
Friday's incidents, which occurred in Sichuan's Aba prefecture, were confirmed by Xinhua. One of the men died, according to the London-based Free Tibet group, which said the men were protesting tight Chinese control over Tibetan life and culture.
China chooses Buddhist leaders in Tibet and wants to pick a pro-Beijing successor to the Dalai Lama, whom China considers to be a separatist. China says Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for most of that time.
Xinhua reported late Sunday that senior officials from Tibet "have pledged stepped-up efforts to strengthen the management of monasteries in the fight against the Dalai Lama group."
It quoted Basang Toinzhub, a senior political adviser in Tibet, as saying the top priority was to maintain stability and promote harmony.
Basang said the focus this year will be on helping the government strengthen management of monasteries "to push forward the patriotic and legal education among monks and nuns."
China routinely blames supporters of the Dalai Lama for encouraging acts of opposition. Xinhua cited a Tibetan expert as saying "the Dalai Lama clique" had "instigated and enticed" the two men to set themselves on fire Friday.
The Dalai Lama and representatives of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile say they oppose all violence.
The State Department's Nuland said the U.S. has "consistently and directly" raised the self-immolations with the Chinese government, and has urged it to have a productive dialogue on Tibet, allow access for journalists and diplomats to that region and to respect the human rights of all its citizens.
Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.