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Cain, Romney pick big money over Iowa voters

BY ADAM B SULLIVAN | NOVEMBER 02, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa Republicans, your two favorite candidates are cheating on you.

While a handful of the Iowa caucus candidates are attending a big GOP fundraiser in Des Moines this weekend, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain are skipping out so they can hang out with some fat-cat billionaires in Washington, D.C.

Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry all plan to be at the Republican Party of Iowa's annual Ronald Reagan Dinner. Romney and Cain were also invited, but they are snubbing the event and instead going to the Defending the American Dream Summit, Slate reports.

This should be unacceptable to Iowa Republicans. Both these guys — Cain in particular — have built their followings this year on messages of being anti-Washington. That they would snub a roomful of caucus-goers to rub elbows with East-coast millionaires ought to be insulting to anyone who claims to oppose big-government bureaucracy.

Sure, fundraising at events such as the one in Washington this weekend is a practical political reality. A candidate without some major cash-backing is going to struggle last through the middle and late primary states. And certainly the eventual Republican candidate will need some bucks to take on a well-funded incumbent. However, reaching out to the regular people ought to be a bigger priority.

(But, I mean, in Cain and Romney's defense, I hear the bros at the Defending theAmerican Dream Summit throw pretty rad parties. They have their Facebooks on lockdown so you can't see the pics from their Halloween party over the weekend, but I heard Dick Armey dressed up as … well, you get the picture.)

Cain and Romney, of course, are the top two candidates in Iowa, according to a recent poll by the Des Moines Register. Cain has support from 23 percent of likely caucus goers, according to the polling data, and Romney is the top pick of 22 percent.

Political insiders around the state also view the two candidates favorably. The Iowa Independent's nonscientific poll of journalists, strategists, and other observers put Romney and Cain at second and third late last month, trailing Texas Republican Paul.

That the former Massachusetts governor and former pizza-chain exec declined the Iowa GOP's dinner invitation shouldn't be surprising, though. Romney's been to the Hawkeye State fewer than a handful of times in 2011 (one of those times, by the way, he wasn't even nice enough to pose for a picture with me). Cain's record is a little bit better, but he's hardly stepped onto a cornfield since the Ames Straw Poll back in August.

What is surprising is that Iowans have continued to put up with it. The case for keeping the first-in-the-nation presidential contest here always includes a point about how Iowans demand individual contact from their presidential hopefuls. A caucus-goer is asked how she feels about candidate so-and-so, the anecdote goes, and she replies something like, "I haven't made my mind up yet. I've only met him once."

So, Iowa Republicans, I think it's time you sit down and have a serious talk with your beaus. An ultimatum in lipstick on the bathroom mirror might even be necessary: Come to Iowa and talk about the issues, or we're through.


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