November 1, 2007 6:27 PM
Flavor of the day
View imagePhotos by M.E. Sprengelmeyer
If your town got as many presidential candidate visits as little Decorah, Iowa, does, you might need your own electronic sign to keep tabs of all the comings and goings, too.
On Thursday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney became just the latest presidential contender to stop by Decorah, a college town within spitting distance of the Minnesota border.
All the top Democrats have been here this year. Republican Sen. John McCain is expected next week. And on Thursday, Romney drew several hundred people, including a contingent of liberal-leaning students that was, by happenstance, conspicuously sequestered behind a bank of television cameras on Romney's left flank.
They gave him a hard time with a smattering of boos, hisses and stern stares when he started talking about gay marriage and his support for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Still, even the curious Democrats in that crowd said afterwards that they were glad Romney came all this way -- a four-hour drive from Des Moines -- to let them get a look at him.
There's more -- MUCH MORE -- including Romney's lengthy statement about why he thinks all kids need a father and mother (even if they're divorced or one of them is dead).
So keep reading...
View image Photo by M.E. Sprengelmeyer
Romney launched a four-stop swing across northeastern and central Iowa on Thursday so he could trot out a new trade policy. (See the Associated Press story HERE.)
But since the Luther College visit was also one of his trademarked "Ask Mitt Anything" sessions, he got the usual batch of questions about abortion, health care, the "North American Union" and gay marriage.
Watch Friday morning's Rocky Mountain News for an analysis of one or two words he left out of his discussion of the latter topic.
Here's a partial transcript of what he said when asked what he would say to a gay couple that wants to get married:
"For those who are not familiar with it, of the four nationally leading candidates for president -- and I count myself as one of those, but also Mayor (Rudy) Giuliani, and Sen. (John) McCain and (former Sen.) Fred Thompson -- there's only one of us who's in favor of a federal amendment to the constitution to limit marriage to the relationship between a man and a woman. And that's me."
"I feel very strongly about this because, as I said earlier, I believe that maintaining the strength of the marriage relationship, the family relationship, is critical to the strength of an entire society."
"And I believe that the development of children is enhanced by having a male and a female as part of their upbringing in their home. Even when there's a divorce, you still have a mom and a dad. And even where one member of the partnership may pass away, the memory and the characteristics of that gender, of that partner influence the development of a child."
"I'm in favor of promoting, as a society, the marriage of men and women and the development of children in that kind of setting."
Romney got applause from parts of the audience in the part of the room to his right -- where the early-arriving, older folks had taken most of the good seats.
But his words didn't seem to please some of the students who arrived at the last minute and were forced to sit behind a row of television cameras to Romney's left.
Some booed -- quietly. Some hissed -- quietly. Riots are so much more polite in the Midwest.
An older man in the audience raised his hand to address students in the crowd, asking that they keep open minds about "candidates of both parties."
But afterwards, we could only find Democrats as we went looking for student reviews of Romney's speech.
* * *
Said Rachel Bruns, 18, who is studying Spanish and political science, and supports Sen. Barack Obama for president:
"I disagree with the same-sex marriage thing. I don't think there should be an amendment."
Still, she added:
"I think some students just appreciate that he's here and spent the time to talk to them."
* * *
Said Keeley Houlahan, 21, who's majoring in international studies and also supports Obama:
"In no way is it a waste of his time (speaking to students). I think it's great and I appreciated the opportunity to hear. This is the first Republican I've heard speak. He had a really friendly presence and a lot of things he said were very positive to me. (But) the moral issues: that's what turns me off."
* * *
Said Stephen Nilsen, 20, a math and statistics major who supports Sen. John Edwards:
"I really like that he thinks America should be 'Number one...' (Still,) it almost seems xenophobic to say we need to be 'Number one.' The sex-ed thing wasn't that bad."
(In response to a question, Romney criticized Obama (as he has in the past) for saying that some form of "age appropriate" sex education needs to be taught to children at a very young age. Romney had said: "In my opinion, the 'age-appropriate' sex-ed in kindergarten is NONE.")
* * *
Claire Tebbenhoff, 21, a political science and history major who supports Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, said she worried that college students wouldn't turn out for the scheduled Jan. 3, 2008, Iowa caucuses as they should.
"I don't think college kids are going to show up as much as candidates hope we will. It's important to come to the caucuses because we are the future. We're the ones who are going to control the next 50 years."
So watch out, grown-ups. They might sound quiet and polite right now, but...
TO BE CONTINUED