Today's TCT is brought to you from the Ronald Reagan Building in Downtown Washington D.C., where all of the GOP candidates, minus Ron Paul, are speaking at a forum held by the Republican Jewish Coalition.
It should be an interesting event. They'll cover the obvious topics of Israeli-American relations, the growing threat by Iran and global security. But they'll also have free reign, if they so choose), to take swipes at President Obama or each other. After remarks, they'll be questioned by audience members. So far, it looks to be an influential and excited group filling every seat in the auditorium; 25 TV cameras ready to catch any highlight or slip and plenty of print media in the wings as well.
I'll be bringing you updates, Tweets and Touts as often as possible highlighting comments by the candidates.
Update 5:38 p.m.
To wrap up the day's events (we had to leave after Newt Gingrich's speech for editing purposes) I'll leave clarify/add a quote many people have been asking/Tweeting about this afternoon.
Gingrich on radical Islam:
"I am very, very worried about our entire relationship with radical Islam because it's based on a pack of lies, it's based on a pack of self deception, it's based on a state department which is consistently engaged in appeasement. It's an act of dishonesty to the American people the fact that the justice department has said all of its training programs on terrorism have to take out the word Islam is an outrageous denial of truth (applause)."
After his appearance, he emerged in the hallway for photos and a long walk to a sitting room but as frontrunner apparently feels just fine refusing to talk to reporters.
Me: "Can I ask you just quickly, one factor"Gingrich: "No, no, no. Cover the speech, cover the speech"
He brushed all reporters aside, even softball questions constantly responding to any request with "Nope" or "you have plenty of material."
His wife was kind enough to answer even an admitted 'softball' question that Gingrich wouldn't: 'To what do you attribute your recent surge in the polls?' by saying, "hard work."
Story, video & more at 6pm.
Update 2:45 p.m.
The lunch break provided some serious energy for this crowd. Or was it seeing their new frontrunner up close and in person? Riding high from his new poll numbers in Iowa and South Carolina, Newt Gingrich seemed to have this crowd cheering for him as if he were the host of a late night TV show telling jokes and bringing the audience to its feet on occasion.
Even when his wife entered to sit in the front row, still photographers huddled around her to take pictures of her reacting as her husband took the stage. Gingrich was dripping with confidence and brushed off the lone question about his electability based on past ethics violantions/investigation.
"All of you were told in June and July I disappeared and it must be with great shock that I've shown up again."
-Said he'd challenge President Obama (if nominated) to seven, 3-hour debates and would concede to letting President use a teleprompter because "if you had to defend Obama-care, would you want to (use it)."
"I need your help to get the nomination but beyond that I need your help to make sure we have a big majority in the Senate."
-vowed within two hours of inauguration would move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Huge round of applause, many stood and cheered.
--Hate to follow that act. Good luck Rick Perry, then Michele Bachmann.
Update 12:50 p.m.
Mitt Romney seemed to be sharpest among his colleagues in criticism of President Obama saying he "doesn't get America" and doesn't understand "American Prosperity".
Many of his remarks garnered loud ovations, including for the obvious comments in support of Israel and condemning Iran's recent actions. He also was lobbed flattering questions/comments during the q/a session with audience members touting his friends in NY (to which he complimented Rudy Giuliani) and N.J. (more praise for Chris Christie too).
While Romney didn't make himself available for any press time after, as Huntsman did, the former Gov. did have an important surrogate on hand. The luncheon was featuring Gov. Chris Christie as the main guest/speaker, who is currently campaigning on behalf of the Romney camp.
One quick note: I spoke with former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer in the hallway who told me that while the Gingrich surge is real, his friends in the Romney camp are NOT hitting the panic button just yet.
He says they predicted this would happen with at least one of the opponents and that a long drawn out primary season between Gingrich and Romney would actually favor the 2008 candidate because it will allow more time for Gingrich to possibly err in a way that could turn off some voters.
Update 12:40 p.m.:
John Huntsman gives powerful speech at RJC, eloquently lays out policies on everything from Iran to economy to term limits for members of Congress. Starts off by saying:
"... will not twist myself into a pretzel."
"... will not pander to get elected."
"...will not go to a trump debate either (loud applause)" referring to the Newsmax debate in IOWA Dec. 27th that has divided the candidates among those who are willing to take part in a forum in which Trump is the moderator.
(Romney too has said he will not attend)
Speaking of the lack of competitiveness against foreign nations in some fields and a lower ranking internationally for education and innovation, Huntsman added "If that doesn't grab you by the lapels and shake you to the core, I don't know what will."
Finally, after saying this nation is in a "funk" he also stressed in order to restore confidence in Capitol Hill we should institute term limits for Congress.
After his speech, I spoke briefly with Huntsman about ways in which he could create a surge of momentum similar that which Newt Gingrich is currently riding. You can hear what he told me tonight at 6 p.m. on ABC7 News.
Jon Huntsman (Photo: Scott Thuman)
Rick Santorum is getting a very warm welcome from RJC based on pro-Israel, anti-Iran comments. Highlights below (and follow me on Tout for actual video clips of event).
On President Obama:
"This president for every thug and hooligan, every radical Islamist, has shown nothing but appeasement"
"As we look at the situation developing in Iran, Iran is on the precipice of developing a nuclear weapon"we need someone in the oval office "who has the will to stand up and do what's right."
"There is no greater purveyor of terror in the world, than Iran"
"We must stand up and not only say they should not get a nuclear weapon" "It doesn't matter unless you have the power and the will to do something about it."
"We cannot sit and hope to contain Iran."
Here is the order:9:05 Rick Santorum9:45 Jon Huntsman10:25 Mitt Romney(lunch break in which Chris Christie will hold court for about a half hour with Ambassador Sam Fox)2:05 Newt Gingrich2:45 Rick Perry3:25 Michele Bachmann
Meanwhile, not a stone's throw away at the White House, President Obama will be meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and then is holding a campaign event at a D.C. hotel.