Republicans talk tough on Iran before Iowa caucus

Bachmann follows Santorum in offering "aggressive posture toward letting Iran know we mean business."

US Rep. presidential candidate Michele Bachmann 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)
US Rep. presidential candidate Michele Bachmann 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)
BOSTON – Republican candidates offered strong words on Iran on Monday – the day before Iowa holds the first vote for the GOP presidential nomination.
“We 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 CBS.
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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 harsh comments 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 strikes.”
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 nominee.
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 survey, 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 Massachusetts.
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 newsletters.
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 competitors.
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.
The Republican race has been marked by its fluidity, with at least seven front-runners at different times, according to various polls.
“It’s the 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.