BOSTON – Republican candidates offered strong words on Iran on Monday – the day
before Iowa holds the first vote for the GOP presidential nomination.
need to have our missile systems capable and ready to deliver. We need to send a
very strong signal that the United States is on high alert and we will do
whatever it takes,” Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota told The Early Show on
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“What we need to do is take a very aggressive posture toward letting
Iran know that we mean business, that we don’t want them to seek a nuclear
weapon,” she said.
Bachmann also criticized US President Barack Obama for
putting distance between America and Israel, endangering the Jewish state in the
face of the threat from Iran.
The Islamic Republic test-fired two
long-range missiles on Monday and announced over the weekend that it had
produced its first nuclear fuel rod, after Obama tightened sanctions on the
country on Saturday. Iran has also threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz in
light of the sanctions.
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Bachmann’s comments followed Rick Santorum’s own
on Iran on Sunday. The former US senator from Pennsylvania told
NBC’s Meet the Press that the message to Tehran should be, “You either open up
those facilities, you begin to dismantle them and make them available to
inspectors, or we will degrade those facilities through air
Santorum has seized the momentum in the open and unwieldy
political field in Iowa, which will hold its caucuses on Tuesday night, in the
US’s first vote for delegates who will choose the Republican presidential
He has been among the candidates vying for the support of
Evangelical Christians, who have until now alternated their support among the
many staunch social conservatives in the race.
Bachmann wooed them first,
with a win at the Iowa straw poll in August, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry and
former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich have also been leading
candidates at various times.
This weekend, a Des Moines Register
considered one of the most reliable for the notoriously hard-to-poll caucuses,
gave Santorum 15 percent, up from the single digits he had until recently. But pollsters for the
newspaper noted that in the last two days of the four-day-long poll, Santorum
had captured upwards of 20% of the vote – placing him within spitting distance
of the 24% backing enjoyed by front-runner Mitt Romney, the former governor of
The same poll found support for US Representative Ron Paul
of Texas at 22%, though other polls in recent weeks put him in first place. But
in the space of the four days the Des Moines Register poll was conducted, Paul
began at a high of 29% and ended at 16%.
Several analysts attributed this
decline to his controversial views on foreign policy, as well as newsletters
written under his name in the 1990s that had negative comments about Jews,
blacks and gays. Paul has denied knowledge of the content of the
Paul, a Libertarian, is the only candidate who has minimized
the threat posed by Iran and has not espoused strong financial and military
support for Israel, an issue on which he has been attacked by several of his
Bachmann told CBS, “I took Ron Paul to task because his
foreign policy is very dangerous. He says that he has no problem with
Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon,” adding, “This is going to be one of the
largest issues of this campaign.”
Paul’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton,
who appeared on MSNBC, dismissed the falling poll numbers, saying that the
team’s internal polling still showed Paul finishing strongly.
Republican race has been marked by its fluidity, with at least seven
front-runners at different times, according to various polls.
most bizarre nominating process I’ve seen in American politics,” veteran
democratic strategist James Carville said on CNN Monday.
With just days
to go before the Iowa vote, the Des Moines Register
poll found that 41% of
expected caucus-goers still hadn’t made up their minds. Though Romney and
Santorum have both picked up speed, the number of undecided voters is large
enough to scramble the results once again.
Caucuses are traditionally a
tricky process to prognosticate upon because the contour of the vote is so
different from the traditional quick stop to a polling booth, as will take place
in the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary on January 10. In a caucus,
voters need to congregate in person at one appointed place, often a church,
school or other municipal building, and spend hours debating and casting their
votes. Supporters of candidates who don not pass the vote threshold reapportion
their vote as part of the process.
Another wrinkle is added by
independents, who can register as Republican just to participate in the caucus.
Anne Selzer, an Iowa pollster, estimated that about one-fifth of Iowa
caucusgoers on Tuesday would be independents, noting that the Des Moines
Register had included this group in its poll numbers. Independents were likely
to favor the more moderate Romney or the libertarian Ron Paul, she said.