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GOP rivals prepared to debate Donald Trump

 Considered the ultimate wildcard, Donald Trump is complicating debate strategy for Republican presidential candidates now scrambling to prepare for their first face-to-face meeting on national television.

The billionaire businessman, who has dominated the 2016 Republican race in recent weeks, threatens to do the same when the top 10 GOP candidates — as determined by national polls — face off in less than two weeks. It’s a high-risk, high-reward event for candidates eager to stand out yet wary to fall victim to one of Trump’s notorious bombastic political attacks.

“It’s the No. 1 unavoidability,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a 2012 GOP candidate who had a knack for standing out in debates four years ago.

“Do not try to match him in anger and in aggressiveness. It’s not possible,” Gingrich warned Trump’s rivals. “He’s a very instinctively aggressive guy, and if you try to dance with him on his strengths he’ll run over you.”

Despite his longshot status, the reality television star has commanded attention and seen his poll numbers rise after firing off provocative comments about immigrants, his presidential rivals and critics in both parties.

His supporters love him because he’s willing to say what others only think. But that makes him dangerous in a debate setting, says Charlie Black, a leading GOP strategist who has worked on multiple presidential campaigns.

“Just try to ignore him,” Black said. “The less attention you give him the better. I wouldn’t even look at him.”

That’s easier said than done in a nationally televised program where Trump is sure to play a central role — literally, perhaps, if he’s positioned at the center of the stage as the leader in recent polls.

Count former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as among the candidates eager for a showdown, although he may not qualify for the Aug. 6 meeting in Cleveland. Only the top 10 candidates in national polling will be allowed on stage. With 16 declared candidates, several high-profile Republicans will be left out. Perry is on the bubble.

“If Donald Trump wants to sit on the stage and talk about solutions, I’m going to be happy to have that conversation,” Perry said on Fox News. “But if all he’s going to do is throw invectives, then I’m going to push back and I’m going to push back hard.”

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky told The Associated Press that he’s ready to be tested.

“You have to be able to stand your ground,” Paul said, because politics is “somewhat of a body combat sport.”

Even without Trump’s emergence, the first debate promises to be an unruly affair.

Never have more than 10 candidates taken the stage for a televised Republican presidential debate. Part of the problem is basic math.

In a 90-minute debate featuring so many candidates, there could be only enough time for four or five questions — with little time left over for the interaction between candidates that makes for an actual debate.

And few campaigns expect Trump to respect the time limits or other rules established by organizers.

While there were some rumblings about trying to bar Trump from the stage, some GOP leaders say they’re happy about Trump’s participation, predicting it will attract a far larger audience, exposing new people to Republican ideas.

“If I were Fox, I would be thrilled that Trump has made this so intense so early because they’ll have a much higher viewership than they would have three or four weeks ago before Trump got on a roll,” Gingrich said.

Ron Kaufman, a senior adviser to 2012 nominee Mitt Romney who is supporting Jeb Bush, said Trump offers a prime-time opportunity to lesser-known candidates to get attention.

“I think they have to pick a fight with Trump,” Kaufman said.

Many candidates have already been hard at work. Bush, one of the top contenders, recently brought in two veterans of Romney’s 2012 campaign, Beth Myers and Peter Flaherty, to help coach him. Aides say Bush will fill much of his schedule next week with debate preparation in Florida.

Bush has not participated in a debate as a candidate since his successful re-election campaign for governor in 2002.

“My objective with this is to, wherever I can, share my record,” Bush said this week in South Carolina. He said he’ll go into the debate without thinking about Trump or any rival but that it’s his first presidential debate and he’s “not certain how all this plays out.”

Paul perhaps summed up the field’s feeling best when asked how he prepares to face someone like Trump: “Very carefully,” he said.

Analysis: Republicans lost 5 House seats last time the GOP pushed impeachment

The last time Republicans unleashed impeachment proceedings against a Democratic president, they lost five House seats in an election they seemed primed to win handily.

Memories of Bill Clinton and the campaign of 1998 may help explain why Speaker John Boehner and the current Republican leadership want no part of such talk now, although conservatives increasingly clamor for it. And also why President Barack Obama’s White House seems almost eager to stir the impeachment pot three months before midterm congressional elections.

Republicans have already “opened the door for impeachment” with their plans to sue the president over allegedly failing to carry out the health care law, White House aide Dan Pfeiffer told reporters. In something of a dare last week, he also said any further action Obama takes on his own on immigration will “up the likelihood” of a  Republican-led move to remove Obama from office.

The Democrats’ campaign committee from the House of Representatives used reports of tea party Republicans meeting to discuss impeachment in an emailed fundraising plea sent Sunday. They warned “the fate of Obama’s presidency is at stake.”

Pfeiffer and Democratic fundraisers aren’t privy to the inner workings of the House Republican leadership. Boehner, who is, insists at every public opportunity that the lawsuit is one thing, impeachment is another — and not on the table. The planned suit results from a dispute over the balance of powers between the president and Congress, he said last month, and the House “must act as an institution to defend the constitutional principles at stake.”

Republicans dispute suggestions by Democrats that the suit’s true purpose is to release pressure from the party’s more extreme supporters for impeachment.

One Republican committee chairman, Congressman Pete Sessions, said in a brief interview that Clinton deserved to be impeached, but Obama does not.

The 42nd president “broke the law,” he said of formal allegations that accused Clinton of lying under oath to a grand jury and obstructing justice in connection with his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Contrasting the former president with the current one, Sessions said: “Breaking the law is different from not fully enforcing the law.”

At least one senior Republican isn’t as definitive. Interviewed on Sunday on Fox, Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, newly elected to the Republican leadership, repeatedly declined to rule out impeaching Obama.

For his part, Sessions spoke a few hours after he opened a meeting of the House Rules Committee with what could well have been a case for impeachment: sweeping allegations that went far beyond the boundaries of the planned lawsuit.

“The president has unilaterally waived work requirements for welfare recipients,” the Texas Republican said. The chief executive “ended accountability provisions in No Child Left Behind,” an education law dating to the George W. Bush era, he said.

The president “refused to inform the Congress of the transfer of what is known as the Taliban five,” Sessions went on. “And ignored the statutory requirements of the Affordable Care Act,” he said, using the formal name for the 4-year-old health care law also known as Obamacare.

However compelling the complaints, no judge will ever rule on most of them.

Three months before the November elections, Republicans intend to limit their lawsuit to a narrower claim, that he has failed to faithfully carry out the health care law that, according to polls, remains poorly received by the public.

“In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” Boehner said in a statement last month. “No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

Republican officials say they decided to narrow the focus of the court case after being advised by lawyers that their chances of succeeding would be stronger.

None of this seems likely to satisfy the political right, as 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin recently made clear. “It’s time to impeach; and on behalf of America we should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment,” she wrote.

Yet her opinion is not widely shared among non-Republicans, and Democrats quickly sought to use calls like the one from Palin to raise campaign funds.

In a CNN survey last week, more than half of all Republicans said they favor Obama’s impeachment, but that level that fell to one-third of the overall electorate. Among independents, 63 percent opposed it.

A lawsuit is also generally unpopular, but less so than impeachment would be, the poll indicated.

When it came to the lawsuit, 41 percent of the country backed it. Support was 75 percent among Republicans, while independents opposed it by 43-55.

As a junior member of the leadership in 1998, Boehner had a seat at the table when Republicans decided to inject Clinton’s impeachment into that year’s elections.

Republicans held their majority, but Democrats gained five seats, a rarity in midterm elections for the party in power in the White House.

Clinton was impeached in a post-election session of the House, later acquitted in the Senate and remained in office. Then-Speaker Newt Gingrich fared worse. Under pressure from his rank and file, the Republican gave up his post and left Congress soon after the election debacle.

In the upheaval, Boehner lost his leadership post for a decade.

GOP leaders willing to bend on issues after election

For years, Republicans have adhered fiercely to their bedrock conservative principles, resisting Democratic calls for tax hikes, comprehensive immigration reform and gun control.

Now, seven weeks after an electoral drubbing, some party leaders and rank-and-file alike are signaling a willingness to bend on all three issues and others, including gay marriage.

What long has been a nonstarter for Republicans – raising tax rates on wealthy Americans – is now backed by GOP House Speaker John Boehner in his negotiations with President Barack Obama to avert a potential fiscal crisis.

Party luminaries, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have started calling for a wholesale shift in the GOP’s approach to immigration after Hispanic voters shunned Republican candidates.

And some Republicans who previously championed gun rights now are opening the door to restrictions following a schoolhouse shooting spree earlier this month.

“Put guns on the table. Also, put video games on the table. Put mental health on the table,” U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said last week. Other prominent Republicans echoed him in calling for a sweeping review of how to prevent tragedies like the Newtown, Conn., massacre. Among those who were open to a re-evaluation of the nation’s gun policies were Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

“You’ve got to take all these things into consideration,” Grassley said.

And yet, the head of the National Rifle Association, silent for a week after the Newtown shootings, has proposed staffing schools with armed police, making clear the NRA, which tends to support the GOP, will continue pushing for fewer gun restrictions, not more.

Meanwhile, Boehner’s attempt to get his own members on board with a deficit-reduction plan that would raise taxes on incomes of more than $1 million failed last week, exposing the reluctance of many in the Republican caucus to entertain more moderate fiscal positions.

With Republican leaders being pulled at once to the left and to the right, it’s too soon to know whether the party that emerges from this identity crisis will be more or less conservative than the one that was once so confident about the 2012 elections. After all, less than two months have passed since the crushing defeat of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who moved far to the right during the primary season and, some in the party say, lost the general election as a result.

But what’s increasingly clear is that the party is now engaged in an uncomfortable and very public fight over whether its tenets, still firmly held within the party’s most devout ranks, conflict with the views of Americans as a whole.

Many Republicans recognize that to remain relevant with voters whose views are changing, they too must change.

“We lost the election because we were out of touch with the American people,” said John Weaver, a senior adviser to past presidential candidates John McCain, the GOP nominee in 2008, and Jon Huntsman, who ran for the nomination this year.

The polling suggests as much.

While Republican candidates for years have adamantly opposed tax increases on anyone, an Associated Press-GfK poll earlier this month found roughly half of all Americans supported allowing George W. Bush-era tax cuts to expire on those earning more than $250,000 a year.

Most GOP candidates – Romney among them – also long have opposed allowing people in the country illegally to get an eventual path to citizenship. But exit polls from the Nov. 6 election showed most voters favored allowing people working in the U.S. illegally to stay.

And gun control has for decades been anathema to Republicans. But a Washington Post/ABC News poll published last week, following the Connecticut shooting, showed 54 percent of Americans now favor stronger restrictions.

This is the backdrop as Republicans undergo a period of soul-searching after this fall’s electoral shellacking. Romney became the fifth GOP nominee in six elections to lose the national popular vote to the Democratic candidate. Republicans also shed seats in their House majority and lost ground to majority Democrats in the Senate.

Of particular concern is the margin of loss among Hispanics, a group Obama won by about 70 percent to 30 percent.

It took only hours after the loss for national GOP leaders to blame Romney for shifting to the right on immigration – and signal that the party must change.

Jindal, a prospective 2016 presidential contender, was among the Republicans calling for a more measured approach by the GOP. And even previously hardline opponents of immigration reform – like conservative talk show host Sean Hannity – said the party needs to get over its immigration stance heavily favoring border security over other measures.

“What you have is agreement that we as a party need to spend a lot of time and effort on the Latino vote,” veteran Republican strategist Charlie Black said.

When Congress returned to Washington after the election to start a debate over taxes and spending, a number of prominent Republicans, including Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, signaled they would be willing to abandon their pledges against raising taxes – as long as other conditions were met – as part of a package of proposals to avoid a catastrophic budget meltdown.

Leading the effort was Boehner, who has told Obama he would allow taxes to be increased on the wealthiest Americans, as well as on capital gains, estates and dividends, as part of a deal including spending cuts and provisions to slow the growth of entitlements. Obama, meanwhile, also has made concessions in the talks to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff by agreeing to a higher income threshold for tax rate increases, while insisting that Congress grant him the authority to raise the debt ceiling. Both sides have spent the past several weeks bickering over the terms.

While some Democrats quickly called for more stringent gun laws, most Republicans initially were silent. And their virtual absence from the debate suggested that some Republicans who champion gun rights at least may have been reconsidering their stances against firearms restrictions.

By the Monday after the Connecticut shooting, MSNBC talk show host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, called for reinstating the ban on assault-style weapons, which he had opposed. The ban expired in 2004, despite support for the ban from Republican President George W. Bush. Referring to the shooting, Scarborough said:  “I knew that day that the ideologies of my past career were no longer relevant to the future that I want, that I demand, for my children.”

The next day, Grassley and Kingston were among the Republicans saying they were at least willing to discuss stronger gun laws.

“The party is at a point where it wants to have those discussions in public, where people feel comfortable differing from what is perceived as the party orthodoxy,” Republican consultant Dan Hazelwood said.

If silence is a signal, shifts on other issues could be coming, chief among them gay marriage, which the GOP base long has opposed. Exit polls found half of all Americans say same-sex marriage should be legally recognized.

After three states – Washington, Maryland and Maine – voted to legalize gay marriage last month, the Republican leadership generally has remained quiet on the issue. And there has been no effort in the House or Senate to push major legislation, only narrower proposals, such as a move in the Armed Services Committee to bar gay marriages at military facilities.

But in a sign that the fight over gay marriage also may be waning within the GOP base, Newt Gingrich said it was time for Republicans to accept shifting public opinion.

The former House speaker, who oversaw passage of the Defense of Marriage Act in Congress and helped finance state campaigns to fight gay marriage in 2010, said in a Huffington Post interview that the party should work toward acceptance of rights for gay couples, while still distinguishing them from marriage.

“The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to accommodate and deal with reality,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich says GOP should embrace civil marriage equality

Newt Gingrich, who was House Speaker when Congress passed the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, has told the Huffington Post that the Republican Party must find a way to support civil marriage equality.

Gingrich, in an interview with the online news site, said the Republican Party has been on the wrong side of history on opposing civil marriages for gays and that the party should distinguish between “marriage in a church from a legal document issued by the state.”

Gingrich, whose half-sister is gay, told the Huffington Post, “The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to … accommodate and deal with reality. And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states – and it will be more after 2014 – gay relationships will be legal, period.”

Responding, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, said, “Newt Gingrich reflects the experience that has changed the minds of so many Americans in understanding that LGBT people are a part of every family and community – including his own. His evolution resonates with people on a very personal level and is a quintessential example of why momentum is on the side of equality.”

Other Republcian leaders to support marriage equality include former Vice President Dick Cheney, former first Lady Laura Bush, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, attorney Ted Olson and former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman.

Griffin said, “Gingrich’s comments give other Republican leaders the room to do the right thing and embrace marriage equality – which is reflective of the fundamental conservative principles of freedom and individual liberty. The six million LGBT people who voted this election cycle, along with the decisive victories we secured across the board, make clear the direction in which our country is heading.”

Log Cabin Republicans also responded. “Log Cabin Republicans welcome former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s remarks calling for a Republican reality check on marriage. Gingrich speaks for many Republicans who are concerned about our party’s future, and who are ready to accept the freedom to marry matters to many Americans, gay and straight,” said R. Clarke Cooper, LCR’s executive director. “As Gingrich noted, LGBT people are part of every family and every community, and the time has come for greater inclusion. It is particularly important and welcome to hear that Gingrich now understands the difference between church ceremonies and a civil marriage license, and that equality is no threat to religious freedom.”

Candace Gingrich blogs on Newt Gingrich’s “evolution” on marriage: 


Gingrich: Gay marriage example of paganism’s rise

U.S. presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich this week said legalizing marriage for gays and lesbians is an example of paganism’s rise.

Gingrich made the comment in a conference call with Christian right leaders aiding his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.

“It’s pretty simple: marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Gingrich, who has been married three times, divorced twice and had at least two adulterous affairs. “This is a historic doctrine driven deep into the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and it’s a perfect example of what I mean by the rise of paganism. The effort to create alternatives to marriage between a man and a woman are perfectly natural pagan behaviors, but they are a fundamental violation of our civilization.”

Gingrich went on to say that he and third wife Callista volunteered to serve their country knowing they’d have to suffer “news media assaults” and “vicious gossip.”

“We both concluded that we had a moral obligation to endure whatever comes and to at least offer, as citizens, to try and be of service,” said Gingrich, whose next contest is on Jan. 31 in Florida.

The conference call included Mat Staver, Jim Garlow, George Barna and Don Wildmon, all members of Gingrich’s Faith Coalition and influential leaders on the Christian right.

Garlow, on the stakes in the 2012 election, said, “At the risk of sounding melodramatic, the United States as we know her will cease to exist as will, then, Western Civilization.”

Anti-gay NOM congrats Gingrich on SC win

The National Organization for Marriage is congratulating presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on his victory in South Carolina.

NOM, which invests heavily in anti-gay initiatives to block and repeal marriage-equality legislation, celebrated Gingrich as a protector of “traditional marriage.”

“It is now clear that the Republican Party will nominate a candidate who is strongly committed to preserving marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” NOM president Brian Brown wrote on his blog. “We have succeeded in making the preservation of marriage a key issue in this race, and we will continue to do so throughout the primary season, and into the general election against President Obama.”

Gingrich has signed NOM’s pledge advocating a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman and opposing marriage equality at the state level.

Brown did not mention that Gingrich is in a third marriage and that his first two ended in divorce after adulterous affairs. Brown also didn’t address recent claims from Gingrich’s second wife, who said Gingrich asked for either a divorce or an open marriage.

That information hit the news media just days before Gingrich’s win in ultra-conservative South Carolina.

Now Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum are in Florida, where the GOP primary will take place on Jan. 31.

Romney placed second in South Carolina, followed by Santorum and then Ron Paul, who is bypassing Florida.

Catholic leaders ask Gingrich, Santorum to stop their racist rants

More than 40 Catholic leaders and theologians have called on fellow Catholics Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to stop their racist rants on the campaign trail, according to Faith in Public Life.

An open letter to the candidates says:

“As Catholic leaders who recognize that the moral scandals of racism and poverty remain a blemish on the American soul, we challenge our fellow Catholics Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to stop perpetuating ugly racial stereotypes on the campaign trail.

“Labeling our nation’s first African-American president with a title that evokes the past myth of ‘welfare queens’ and inflaming other racist caricatures is irresponsible, immoral and unworthy of political leaders.

“Some presidential candidates now courting ‘values voters’ seem to have forgotten that defending human life and dignity does not stop with protecting the unborn. We remind Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum that Catholic bishops describe racism as an ‘intrinsic evil’ and consistently defend vital government programs such as food stamps and unemployment benefits that help struggling Americans.”

Gingrich recently said Obama should go to the NAACP and tell African Americans to “demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”

In Iowa, Santorum said, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better” through government aid. Only 9 percent of Iowans on food stamps are black. After facing criticism for his remarks, he denied making them.  

Thirty-nine percent of Americans on welfare are white. An increasing number of food stamp beneficiaries have jobs and receive paychecks that are the primary source of their income but still fall below the poverty line. 

Newt Gingrich asked second wife for an “open marriage”

Newt Gingrich asked his second wife for an “open marriage” or a divorce at the same time he was promoting family and religious values, his former wife, Marianne, told The Washington Post today.

According to the story, Marianne Gingrich said her ex first asked for a divorce over the phone. “Is there anybody else?” she asked. “He was quiet. Within two seconds, when he didn’t immediately answer, I knew.”

The next day, Newt Gingrich gave a speech titled “The Demise of American Culture” to the Republican Women Leaders Forum in Erie, Pa., criticizing liberal politicians for supporting tax increases, saying they hurt families and children.

Marianne Gingrich said she was speaking out for the first time this year because she wanted her story told from her point of view, rather than be depicted as the victim or suffer a whisper campaign by supporters of Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid.

“How could he ask me for a divorce on Monday and within 48 hours give a speech on family values and talk about how people treat people?” she said.

In the four weeks after that 1999 phone call, Marianne and Newt Gingrich saw a counselor. During that time, he seemed to vacillate about what he wanted to do. Marianne Gingrich had learned the name of his then-paramour, Callista – now his wife – though Newt Gingrich never talked about her by name.

Newt Gingrich asked Marianne for an “open marriage” so that he could continue to see whomever he wanted. Marianne Gingrich, who had attended services in a Baptist church with Newt Gingrich, refused.

For the full story, click here.

Romney declared winner of Iowa Caucuses

Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa Caucuses by eight – that’s eight votes, not percentage points.

The Jan. 3 contest was the first in the balloting for the Republican presidential nomination process leading up to the national convention in Tampa this summer.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney placed first in the tight race, followed by former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and then Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich ran a distant fourth, followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who had skipped the caucuses to focus on next week’s primary in New Hampshire.

With the exception of marginal candidate Fred Karger, who is gay, none of the Republican candidates have good records on LGBT issues.

But Santorum heads to New Hampshire and then South Carolina with the worst record on LGBT issues and a strong, surprise, second-place showing in Iowa.

Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT GOP group, responded to the Iowa results early Jan. 4.

“Of the candidates who participated in the Iowa caucuses, Gov. Mitt Romney was one of the best on issues affecting LGBT Americans. By contrast, Sen. Santorum rose by appealing to a uniquely socially conservative electorate,” said LCR executive director R. Clarke Cooper.

But Santorum’s appeal in Iowa probably won’t play well in New Hampshire and other states, according to Cooper.

“It is very early in what promises to be a long and drawn-out nomination process, and Log Cabin Republicans are confident that ultimately our party will select the candidate with the best chance to win the White House,” Cooper said. “Rick Santorum is not that candidate. As the nomination process moves forward, Log Cabin Republicans suggest all of the candidates reject Santorum’s politics of division and win by focusing on the issues that matter most to Americans – jobs and the economy. If using gay and lesbian Americans as a wedge can’t score enough political points to win more than 25 percent in Iowa, it certainly won’t help the Republican nominee in November.”

Occupy protesters arrested at Michele Bachmann’s Iowa office

Eighteen protesters connected to the nationwide Occupy movement were arrested Saturday outside the presidential campaign headquarters of Republicans Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

Police in suburban Des Moines, Iowa, say the 16 adults and two juveniles were arrested for trespass, a simple misdemeanor. Most were released.

Dozens of demonstrators massed outside the office where Bachmann had come to rally staff and make calls to potential caucus-goers. Campaign security told the protesters not to approach the office.

Urbandale police Lt. Kent Knopf said the 10 Occupy demonstrators were arrested, handcuffed and taken away in squad cars from Bachmann’s office after they ignored security.

Bachmann did not come outside of the building, but she laughed off the disruption. “The people who are outside are the president’s re-election advance team,” she told reporters and others inside the office.

One young demonstrator, a 16-year-old high school student who was among those arrested in front of Bachmann’s office, said she wished the candidate had come out and heard her concerns about the cost of higher education, the war in Afghanistan and the national debt.

The protesters moved on to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign office, where no arrests were reported, and then on to Gingrich’s office, where five more arrests were made. The demonstration shifted to Santorum’s office, where three more were arrested.

Hundreds of Occupy activists from at least 10 states were expected to participate in a “People’s Caucus” in Des Moines as the Jan. 3 caucuses near. The activists are promising to interrupt candidates at events and camp out at their Iowa campaign offices.

The congresswoman from Minnesota is far back in public opinion polls as the first vote in the Republican nominating season begins, but insisting that a surprise is coming on Tuesday.

“I’m believing in a miracle because I know the one who gives miracles,” she said in an interview being taped for ABC News.

Bachmann didn’t venture outside the Des Moines-area on Saturday. Her only public event on Today is an appearance at the Oskaloosa church where she has the pator’s support.