Thanks again to my understanding husband who I stood up for dinner via text so I could spend the evening with Newt, Rick and close to 2,000 conservatives, tea partiers and GOPer's, plus a handful of SCUM (so-called unbiased media - H/T funwithknives). One of the perks of working in downtown Birmingham is that I didn't have to fight for a parking spot to attend the forum tonight since my monthly space was only a couple of blocks from the historic Alabama Theatre. I didn't even have to stand in line for a ticket. Just walked over from work and took my seat as the Chairman of the AL-GOP, Bill Armistead, introduced the first candidate. As planned, each candidate spoke about 25 minutes, followed by one question each from 3 chosen panelists and Chairman Armistead. The first question had to do with turning the country back toward God (from a teenager), the second about preventing special interest groups/unions from influencing D.C. and any bids for jobs (from a woman), and the third about military intervention and defense (from a veteran). The Chairman asked each candidate to explain why he is the best conservative in the race who can beat Obama.
There were definitely more than a few Santorum fans in attendance. And the Senator didn't disappoint them, or me for that matter. Being a regular at redstate, how could I not be aware of his, shall we say, tendencies toward big government solutions and his inclination to be a team player, both of which are a big turn off for me. Not that I don't enjoy team sports, but in politics, I prefer a fighter who will go into the ring ready to deliver a knock out. However, I've never gotten the angry, whiny vibe from him that others have. The man I heard tonight is one who loves his God, his family and his country. When he said he got in the race because he wanted to be able to tell his children he did everything he could to protect their freedoms, I believe him. No doubt about it in my mind. He would fight to protect religious freedom for all of us. And frankly, I think it's likely he's learned a lesson or two about some of his not so conservative votes. The Senator drew solid rounds of cheers and chants, and it was clear he received a very warm reception. I was moved by his earnestness and would be proud to cast my vote for him if he wins the primary. The money quote for Senator Santorum tonight was (and I hope I get this right because I didn't take any notes), "If you can't say what you believe, why speak?" Hopefully, a video of the full speech will turn up tomorrow. If it does, I'll update with a link because it's definitely worth the few minutes it takes to watch, whether you've already voted or not. However, Newt was better.
Anyone who read my diary My Political Romance With Newt knows I committed to vote for Newt after hearing him speak last Saturday night. I heard most of the same speech tonight, but he was even better tonight. I know he was preachin' to the choir, but Newt got standing ovations with more than one money quote. He made his case by outlining the stark contrast between himself and Obama. The largest round of applause was when Newt said he would never apologize for defending America. The crowd roared when he laid out his plans for Day One of a Newt presidency (eliminate the czars, reinstate Mexico City policy, approve Keystone, restore conscience clauses for healthcare workers, move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and withdraw Holder's lawsuits on states). See Newt's Day One Plan. He challenged Obama to 7 Lincoln Douglass style debates with no moderators and no timekeeper. He offered to meet Obama to discuss algae vs. $2.50 a gallon gasoline at any oil rig, gas station or even on a college campus where Obama would feel more comfortable. He spoke of the culture war and attacks on Christianity from liberals and the media, specifically mentioning the new show, GCB airing on ABC. And Cold Warrior, he came close to taking your advice. He remarked that even if elected, doing what needs to be done would require all of us to get involved and stay involved. One of Newt's staffers has my business card. If he follows up per our discussion, I'll be suggesting that he advise Newt to endorse the Precinct Project.
Unfortunately, Senator Santorum had another event to attend, so he left immediately after his speech. Newt and Calista stayed and greeted supporters, shook hands, autographed signs (including mine) and took photos. One of my pet peeves is a weak handshake. I'm happy to report that Newt and Calista each met my standard with a firm handshake.
Interesting to note that neither Santorum nor Gingrich used a teleprompter.
al.com reported these comments from fellow attendees:
Tom Rogers of Calera came out of today's forum just as he went in.
"I came in believing that Santorum best spoke to my issues, best expressed how I want the president to feel about freedom, about a faith in God you don't hide in public life and about the life of the unborn," Rogers said. "I leave tonight comfortable with Sen. Santorum and I'll vote for him."
Kitty Lester came into tonight leaning toward Gingrich but having not ruled out Santorum. She ruled him out after tonight's performance by Gingrich.
"Sen. Santorum was fine in what he said. Didn't say a thing I disagreed with," Lester said. "But, did you hear Newt? Did you hear that fight in him? He's ready to debate Obama right now, tonight and beat him. Really, I didn't see a lot of difference between Santorum or Newt but there was a difference and it was Newt is ready to fight, fight and fight. ... He has my vote."
Jon Drake of Prattville, just north of Montgomery, drove up for the forum undecided. He left wearing a Newt button.
"Santorum was really good but Newt rules," said Drake. "I want the guy who takes on the president to be just as convinced as Obama is that he's right. We need passion and Newt has it."
I personally spoke to several folks who moved into Newt's camp after hearing him. I hope they convince their families and friends to do the same.
Vote Newt 2012! I am!
P.S. The poor volunteers at Romney's table looked lonely. Looked like they were having a lot of trouble giving his signs away. There were several Paul supporters, including the one
lone loon voice who yelled "Ron Paul" at one point which I promptly booed.