• WisPolitics

 5:43 PM  Tommy in Iowa: Going for Broke

Tommy Thompson, in a new WisPolitics.com interview, says he's going "for broke'' to get first or second in the GOP straw poll in Ames, Iowa next weekend and that Rudy Giuliani and John McCain aren't participating because "they knew they were going to get beaten.''

Thompson also says the only candidate who's nearly as experienced as him to be president is Bill Richardson on the Dem side.

But he predicts Hillary Clinton will win the Dem nomination and that Minnesota and Wisconsin will likely be the states that decide a close general election.

And while he served in George W. Bush's cabinet, describing it as "insular,'' he says Bush's father "will go down in history as doing a better job.''

WisPolitics Milwaukee Bureau Chief David Wise joined the former Wisconsin governor in Iowa last weekend as he completed the third leg of his tour to fulfill his promise to visit all of the state's 99 counties in advance of the Aug. 11 Ames Straw Poll.

THOMPSON INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS: The spat with Tancredo and other Tommy stories

Selected highlights of the July 29 interview are below.

WisPolitics.com: You've been putting a lot of time and energy into Iowa. How confident are you that your efforts are going to pay off, and what would it mean for you campaign however you place in the straw poll?

Thompson: I have to come in first or second. ... Iowa is a strange state as it relates to responding to people who work hard in their state. Nobody's working as hard as I am. ... I don't have the money, as everyone knows, so it's strictly organization and hard work. I'm the only candidate that's going to all of the counties. I've been to 87, out of 99, which in-and-of itself is remarkable. If I stop right now, no other candidate can even come close to hitting all of the counties I've already hit. I told the people I was going to go to all of the counties, and I intend to fulfill that promise. And I think that it has come along well and I'm cautiously optimistic that I can come in first or second. I'm shooting for first. ... That's the way I am; I go for broke.

Hear the audio: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070729TommyAmes.mp3

WisPolitics.com: A campaign (Tom Tancredo's) has been putting out literature that's made you have to answer a lot of questions on immigration ...

Thompson: It's obvious when people attack you they must think you're doing better than they are. I don't do that. I don't attack my opponents. But I responded. It's an absolute lie what he's putting out and I can't imagine that in good faith he can do that. I guess he feels he has to do that in order to try to build himself up trying to tear down who most people think are the three front-runners here in Iowa: Romney, Brownback and Thompson.

Audio: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070729TommyOnTancredo.mp3

WisPolitics.com: You have quite a bit of experience, four terms as governor and you were secretary of Health and Human Services. You've said that makes you more qualified than the other candidates. Are there any other candidates that have enough qualifications to serve as president?

Thompson: Other candidates have qualifications, but no one has all the qualifications that I have and the resume that I have. ... I think the one closest to me is Bill Richardson, on the Democrat side. But his Department of Energy was much smaller than the Department of Health and Human Services, and he hasn't been governor as long.

When you apply for a job, people look at your resume. I, for one, have been a farmer, an individual that's a lawyer, a governor for 14 years. Nobody can equal that. I ran the largest federal department, money-wise, and no one can equal that. And successfully, with all of it. I put together revolutionary programs in welfare reform and school choice and economic development. No one can question that or equal that. I have 1,900 vetoes. That's more vetoes than all the candidates combined. I vetoed $16.4 billion in spending and taxes in Wisconsin. That's more than all the candidates combined. A resume like that should propel me to be in the front position.

The only problem is I don't have any money. I don't have money to be on television or otherwise I'd be out there.

WisPolitics.com: You've been putting quite a bit of your own money into the campaign. How much did you put in and how much are you willing to do?

Thompson: I put in enough.

Audio: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070729TommyOnQualifications.mp3

WisPolitics.com: Giuliani and McCain have dropped out of the straw poll, aren't putting the resources into it. How has that changed what you're doing down here?

Thompson: It hasn't changed a bit. People don't realize this, but everyone of those candidates' names is going to be on the ballot. McCain, Giuliani. So I don't see what they've gained by backing out. They can always say they didn't put the resources in it, but they didn't have the resources in Iowa. That's why they dropped out. They knew they were going to get beaten. They're still going to get beat because their names are on the ballot and people are going to see who the straw poll voters have voted for.

Audio: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070729TommyOnStrawPoll.mp3

WisPolitics.com: Some of the Republican candidates look like they're not going to participate in the YouTube debate. ... You're willing to go to that, right?

Thompson: I'm interested. I'm not afraid of putting myself on the line for all the debates. I don't like the debates the way they're formatted because the news people have chosen who they think the three front-runners are. I think they've chosen wrong. I don't think those front-runners are going to be there when it's finally said who's going to be the nominee on the Republican side.

Audio: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070729TommyOnDebates.mp3

WisPolitics.com: On the Democratic side, who do you think is the most beatable and who would you like to match up against?

Thompson: I think it would be fun to go against any of the top three. Hillary, Obama, Edwards. ... I think this is going to shake out to be a classic presidential campaign. Even though I think Hillary is going to get the nomination, nobody's got anywhere near a lock on the Republican nomination. And I think the difference is going to be so dramatic it's going to be decided for the voters. The voter is not going to have to scratch his or her head as to who they're going to vote for. ... I think it's going to be very close, and I really think it's going to be Minnesota and Wisconsin ... that will probably be the states that are going to determine who is going to be the president of the United States.

Audio: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070729TommyOnDemsGeneralElection.mp3

WisPolitics.com: You've been on the road quite a bit. How is your family dealing with it?

Thompson: Sue Ann is not with me today, but yesterday my son was with me. ... Today I've got the grandchildren and my two daughters. I love having them around ... which I miss. I'm down here now for the duration. I won't be back to Madison for two weeks. I feel bad about that. I like to get home. The last time I was home was last Sunday night. I haven't been home all this week and now I won't be home until two weeks from today. That will be three weeks. Sue Ann will be on vacation with her girlfriend ... so she'll be coming down next week for the final week.

WisPolitics.com: You had an inside look at the Bush administration while you were head of Health and Human Services. ... Did you notice any undue pressure on the surgeon general's office or any interference?

Thompson: No. No more undue pressure than on any of us has. I think it is what it is. The White House likes to have the opportunity to ensure people are all singing out of the same hymn book. When they did that I had no problem with it. They would talk to me, but I would still do a lot of things my own way and never really got in that much trouble. I had a very good working relationship with Dr. Carmona and I didn't see anything while I was (in Washington). He wasn't there the first two years I was there. The two years I had there that were overlapping we got along well and I didn't see anything that was untoward ...

WisPolitics.com: He never complained to you?

Thompson: Nothing was ever discussed with me.

Audio: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070729TommyOnSurgeonGen.mp3

WisPolitics.com: How would you relate with your cabinet secretaries?

Thompson: I would be much more open. ...The president of the United States should not be so insular and have such a cloistered type of administration. I found it hard to break through. The president likes to limit the contacts to him and that's the way he governed and that's the way he conducted the affairs of state at the federal level. I'm a different type of person. I love to have people come in and see me. I'm very open. I was much more open with the press when I was governor. I met with the press any time they really wanted to. I got a chance to invite a lot of people with diversity, a lot of women, a lot of minorities. I always felt that was a better way of doing things than just limiting the kinds of individuals that will report to you. I think you've got to hear a lot of different variations in order for you to really understand the scope of the problem and make the right decision.

I think when the history of the White House under George Bush is written I think it's going to be that he missed the opportunity to have a lot more advisers that could have influenced him and he could have done a better job. I think that's what history's going to say.

Not to say that he didn't do a good job. I think George W. Bush has had a lot more thrown at him than anybody else ever though possible. He's kept us from having any more attacks on our homeland. He gets blamed for everything and he needs to get credit for some of the stuff.

WisPolitics.com: Who do you think did a better job as president? His father or him?

Thompson: Well, I think his father will go down in history as doing a better job. If he turns this Iraq war around before he gets out, history may be kind to him. If he doesn't, I don't think history will be that kind to him.

WisPolitics.com: What's your view on the surge plan he's got going on now over in Iraq. Do you think we need more time to wait?

Thompson: I like my plan better. My three-point plan, requiring the federal government to vote as to whether or not they want us in their country and tell us how they're going to help pay for it and how they're going to help us win that war. I don't think it's fair and equitable to have all the responsibility for both paying for and fighting that war on America, and Americans. And that's why I've come up with my plan. Secondly, if they don't want us (there) and they vote that way, then ... we'll re-deploy our forces outside the Middle East and to other countries like Afghanistan, have all the territories elect their leaders like we do in Wisconsin and that will be able to really reduce down the civil war and strife that's going on, the religious civil war that's going on in Iraq. And I would also split the oil revenue: one-third to the federal government, one-third to the states and one-third to every man, woman and child. We do that in Alaska, and that's worked out very well.

Audio: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070729TommyOnBush.mp3

WisPolitics.com: You tell some pretty good stories on the campaign trail ... in your speech, are there any other that you...

Thompson: Sure I'd love to tell you a story ... Muscatine, Iowa. I was there on a Saturday afternoon ... I think it was in January when I first started coming down here ... People were inviting people into their houses to see me, to get a chance to meet me and I was at this house and he invited in about 50 people. And I noticed this elderly woman with a seat at the kitchen table, and I spoke and I noticed that she was watching me intently and listening to everything I said. And what you try and do as a candidate is ... try and get people to sign up, you know, after I speak so there are contacts and we can ... solicit them to come to the straw poll on the telephone after I leave. That's how we're building our campaign in Iowa. And this elderly woman, she was watching me so intently I thought: 'My Lord,' I'm pretty sure I've got her. So I went over to her after I got done speaking and she said to me: 'You just did a wonderful job.' She said: 'I'm Mrs. Patterson, and I'm 81 years old and I just come to these events to meet the candidate. I never listen to them; I usually fall asleep. But I want you to know, I listened to everything you said, you made a lot of sense, and you really were interesting and I really want to thank you.' And I said: 'I noticed you were watching me Mrs. Patterson; that's why I came over. I'm wondering if I can get you to sign my endorsement slip.'

And she said: 'Oh no Mr. Thompson. I've only met you once.'

Well, the attitude is that they've got to meet you three times down here before they sign up. And that's a true story. 'Oh no Mr. Thompson. I only met you once.'

Audio: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070729TommyOnMuscatine.mp3

 10:06 PM  Bus departs for stretch run

The Thompson campaign has finished its final event for the day and has begun its 300-mile trek towards Creston, Iowa.

They will overnight there and head to a morning stop in Corning. The events to be held over the next two days in the southeastern part of the state will wrap up all 99 counties for the campaign.

Iowa campaign manager Chad Olsen said the campaign had put on between 5,000 and 6,000 miles on its Winnebago during the bus tour. Fortunately, the Winnebago has been rented by the week, not the mile.

-- By David Wise

 10:04 PM  Strategy session

The event has wrapped up, and volunteers are taking town tables and chairs. Tommy is in the Winnebago with senior campaign advisor Steve Grubbs holding a strategy session.

Olsen is chatting with a few supporters, and was handed a check by host Bobby Kauffman. Olsen poked fun at campaign spokesman Rennick Remley for saying earlier in the week that the corn in Iowa this time of year is almost as tall as he is. It was readily apparent while stepping out of the Winnebago today that the corn was nearly 8 feet tall.

Tommy remarked when he got off the bus earlier that it was the tallest corn he'd ever seen.

-- By David Wise

 8:40 PM  Thompson stumps on a farm

Over the last two days, Tommy has been focusing on wrapping up some of the smaller counties in his 99-county goal. That's put him in some fairly rural areas, but tonight's stop at the home of Bobby Kauffman has Thompson giving his pitch at a farm.

Kauffman's home is not quite a home yet. The 1876 red brick farmhouse belonged to his great-grandfather, then his grandfather, and it hasn't been occupied since the 1970s. Kauffman is planning a complete restoration. After Kauffman introduced Thompson, Tommy praised him for his industriousness.

In addition to restoring the house, Kauffman is a college student and former chair of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans. He also hauls steel and is raising 30 cows and 20 sows, as well as working on Tommy's campaign.

"When I'm not doing that," Kauffman said, "I'm pretty much just lounging around."

Thompson's event here is one of the larger ones he's had this weekend, drawing about 85 people. While the crowd is mostly older people, a number who appear to be in their 20s are also in attendance. The crowd appeared to listen intently, applauding at several points during the speech.

Thompson's daughters Kelli and Tommi, who've been riding along with the campaign the past two days, will be heading back with their families to Madison tonight.

-- By David Wise

 8:10 PM  Candidate beats Tommy to "every county" distinction

It turns out that Tommy Thompson isn't the only candidate that is visiting all 99 counties. Illinois businessman and GOP candidate John Cox has already been to all 99.

However, Thompson's Iowa campaign manager Chad Olsen remarked that Cox just came into a restaurant and shook a few hands when he visited Olsen's county.

"That doesn't do much good when you're running for president," Olsen said, noting the importance of staging events, talking to people and recruiting volunteers.

"We're doing Tommy Thompson for President events in every single county," Olsen said, adding that the campaign's local events feature local media, along with mailings and follow-up robocalls.

"I don't doubt that (Cox) has physically visited all 99 counties," Olsen said, noting that he would be more comfortable saying Tommy Thompson is the only candidate to hold events in all 99 counties.

-- By David Wise

 7:49 PM  89 down, 10 to go

The maps are out and Chad Olsen's got a marker.

After a quick tally, Olsen says they've been to 89 counties. That leaves 10 to go, which he said will be accomplished by Tuesday.

Thompson said it feels "fantastic" to be near to accomplishing his goal.

"I'm the only candidate that can say I've been to all 99 counties in Iowa," Thompson said.

Tommy orders up a press release.

Thompson's granddaughters, Sophie, 7 and Ellie, 4 are having fun playing with Rennick Remley, the campaign spokesman.

Sophie shares a cute joke with those on the Winnebago: Have you ever heard of the jump rope joke? No? Skip it.

-- By David Wise

 7:15 PM  Thompson campaign to be featured in documentary

A film crew from hd.net is following the campaign today, gathering footage for a series of documentaries called World Report. Thompson will be featured in about a 20-minute section of the show. The concept behind the documentary is to give an in-depth report on one candidate, on one issue. Tommy's will be medical diplomacy.

A camera man is riding on the campaign's Winnebago, filming Thompson, his two daughters and three of his grandchildren as they make their trek to Kauffman's house.

The camera man's got Tommy wired up for audio.

-- By David Wise

 7:13 PM  Thompson draws more than 100 in Cedar Rapids

Thompson stepped off the Winnebago in Noel Ridge Park in Cedar Rapids to be greeted by his largest self-organized crowd of the weekend at well over 100 strong.

Attendees were treated to barbecue pork sandwiches, beans, chips, veggies, cookies and brownies before they took seats on picnic tables under shelter overlooking a picturesque lagoon.

Although it is a bit muggy outside, the shade of the shelter and a gentle breeze offered considerable relief.

Thompson was introduced by Leon Mosley, co-chair of the Iowa Republican Party. Mosley, Thompson and others had gone trout fishing the week earlier and neither caught a fish. Mosley said he could see the trout right next to him, "but they wouldn't bite nothing."

Thompson delivered his speech, drawing laughs and applause at several points.

Chad Olsen, Thompson's Iowa campaign manager, said he was pleased with the event, noting that many new people signed on to ride the buses the campaign will provide to Ames.

Thompson has been to Cedar Rapids at least six times already.

Thompson is now on the way to Cedar County, to the home of Bobby Kauffman, former chairman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans.

-- By David Wise

 7:10 PM  Traveling with family

Tommy says he's been in Iowa for a week and that he'll be there all the way through the Aug. 11 Ames straw poll, making it nice to be able to travel with family this weekend.

Both of his daughters and his grandchildren rode with Tommy at various points today and yesterday. Tommy was also joined yesterday by his son and his family.

-- By David Wise

 5:10 PM  "Healthy Wisconsin" is "Hillary Lite," Thompson says

In response to a question at the Wig & Pen about Wisconsin State Senate Dems' universal healthcare plan, Thompson called it "Hillary lite."

"Wisconsin has not done well since I left; there's a Democrat governor and a Democrat Senate, and they put in a health plan that costs $15 billion," Thompson said. "It's absolutely a government controlled system and I just don't want that."

Thompson followed saying one reason he wants to be president is that he understands healthcare better than any other Republican candidate. "I want to be able to use the private enterprise system to make it affordable and successful," he said.

-- By David Wise

 5:07 PM  Thompson wraps up Iowa City visit, heads to Cedar Rapids

Thompson is now en route to a Cedar Rapids presidential picnic after a stop at the Wig & Pen in Iowa City.

While there, Thompson gave his standard campaign pitch as about 40 potential supporters listened and ate complimentary pizza in the back room of the upscale sports bar. Thompson spoke for just under 25 minutes then fielded several questions from the largely middle-aged audience.

Thompson drew his loudest applause when discussing his views on illegal immigration, saying he was against amnesty and that he would have a southern border fence built within 150 days of taking office.

Thompson was joined at the event by his daughters and grandchildren. In part of his speech, Thompson mentioned how his daughter Tommi's daughter was born through in-vitro fertilization after having an egg frozen for more than two years -- her sister Kelli was the surrogate mother and carried the baby to term. Doctors gave it a 5 percent chance of success, he said. Thompson called his new grandchild a "miracle" and said that further cemented his position opposing abortion. Thompson showed the child to the crowd after finishing his speech.

Thompson also took a shot at Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney's position on abortion without mentioning him by name.

"I didn't change my position just last year to run for president," Thompson said, saying he has opposed abortion throughout his career.

Questions from the audience focused largely on foreign policy. Pat Minor, 55, of West Branch, asked if Thompson would speak with Hamas about Israel-Palestine relations. Thompson said he preferred to deal with Abbas, as Hamas refuses to recognize Israel.

Minor said afterwards that she disagreed with his position on Israel, but was interested in a lot of things that he had to say. Iowa City has been a frequent stop for candidates, with Minor having seen Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton as well as Republicans Tom Tancredo and Sam Brownback. At this point she is undecided, but said she would like to go to the Ames Straw Poll.

More enthusiastic were John and Allie Dane, age 81 and 80, respectively. John Dane said they had both seen Thompson twice and liked him even more the second time around. John Dane had a $100 check filled out he said he planned to give to the campaign.

-- By David Wise

 2:40 PM  Thompson family eats lunch, heads to first stop soon

Following services this morning at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Tommy sat down for a private lunch with campaign staff, his daughters Kelli and Tommi, and their families.

Thompson's public events resume at 3 p.m. at the Wig & Pen in Iowa City.

-- By David Wise

 12:32 PM  Relaxed pace planned for Sunday

After six stops Saturday, the campaign has a slower pace planned for today, with just three stops on the schedule.

The campaigning starts with a late lunch in Iowa City at 3 p.m., followed by a 5 p.m. presidential picnic in Cedar Rapids and a 6:30 p.m. barbeque at a home in Wilton.

See the right-hand column of this blog for scheduling details.

 11:52 AM  The closer

Although Tommy delivers the main pitch at his campaign stops to convince voters to support him at the Ames straw poll, his campaign consultant Steve Grubbs or another staffer attempts to seal the deal.

Following Thompson's pitch, the speaker highlights Thompson's experience and accomplishments and reminds those assembled how important Iowa is in winnowing the field of candidates.

They're asked to fill out a card for a free ticket to the straw poll (worth $35) and a ride in an air-conditioned bus to Ames. Filling out the card also nets the person a Tommy Thompson magnetized bumper sticker and a limited-edition "kitchen cabinet" lapel pin.

-- By David Wise

 11:02 AM  In the news

Several reporters interviewed Thompson at various stops on his tour. Here are a couple of stories that featured Thompson.

Des Moines Register: Thompson: A strong showing at straw poll is crucial

WGEM: On the Campaign Trail

-- By David Wise

 9:44 AM  Tommy goes to church

Thompson, his son Jason, his daughter-in-law and his grandson are attending church in Coralville.

After church, the campaign said Thompson will take time out for lunch and recreation before heading to Iowa City.

-- By David Wise

 12:34 AM  Tommy courts farmers

Along with Thompson's gift of gab is an uncanny ability to pick farmers out of a crowd, regardless of what they're wearing.

When he spots a likely farmer Thompson walks up and usually asks: "Are you a farmer?"

The answer is invariably yes.

Farmer status confirmed, Thompson asks them what they raise and points out he also has a farm on which he says he raises Belted Galloway cows. He describes them as "oreo cows," because they are black on both ends with a white stripe in the middle.

Most of the Iowa farmers raise corn, soybeans and hogs.

Those farms dominated the landscape on the route to all of yesterday's stops. Corn and bean fields stretched as far as the eye could see. Hogs on farms are harder to see, but easy to smell.

With the abundance of farmers and farmland in the areas Thompson visited yesterday, his message of increasing the use of bio-fuels to gain energy independence has gotten got a warm response.

-- By David Wise

 10:54 PM  Thompson refutes Tancredo charge at GOP fundraiser

After a day of defending his stance on immigration, Thompson criticized fellow Republican candidate U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo for negative campaigning in response to the Tancredo campaign's mailer this week suggesting Thompson supported amnesty.

Thompson said the piece described him as a "moderate governor from Wisconsin," a charge he roundly dismissed during his roughly 25-minute address at the Lee County GOP fundraiser in the town of Denmark.

Thompson said that while governor he cut taxes by $16.5 billion, led the way on welfare reform and school choice, and issued 1,900 vetoes. "If that's moderate, so be it," Thompson said.

Though he didn't mention him by name, as Tancredo walked into the door, Thompson pointed him out. "The candidate who just walked in said that about me," Thompson said.

"I have been against amnesty my whole career," Thompson said, "contrary to what one of my opponents has said."

Afterwards, Tancredo said the literature piece only referenced views Thompson expressed at a rally about immigration, and not any other issue.

-- By David Wise

 6:40 PM  Tommy arrives in Denmark for Lee County GOP fundraiser

Thompson hopped off the Winnebago at the Lee County GOP Fundraiser, now wearing a navy blue suit, and headed straight for the waiting television camera from WGEM-TV.

Thompson briefly laid out his views on Iraq, immigration and healt hcare. Thompson again pointed out he's against amnesty, as he'd been doing all day since dogged by a mailer from the Tancredo campaign that came out this week suggesting he supported it.

Thompson told the reporter the main thing that sets him apart is experience on both the federal and state level, and he highlighted his four terms as governor and his time as secretary of health and human services.

After Thompson entered the large, open hall, an aide encouraged people to line up for a picture with him. There were few takers, however, as most were seated and munching on roast pork and assorted side dishes or waiting in line for a plate.

While Thompson and Tancredo were to be the only presidential candidates to speak, signs for all the Republican candidates decorated the paneled walls and fliers littered the dining tables.

A volunteer pegged the crowd at about 150. As with other stops today, the audience appeared to be comprised of mostly people middle-aged and older, along with some children. Thompson looked a little run down and took a seat while waiting for the program to begin, but stood up when a photographer from the local paper started snapping pictures of him.

-- By David Wise

 5:00 PM  Watching Flashy Bull at the Silver Dollar

The Winnebago was no sooner headed on its way from Bloomfield before it turned around and stopped at the Silver Dollar bar so Thompson could catch a horse race.

But it wasn't just any horse race -- this one featured Flashy Bull, a horse Thompson owns a partial stake in. Although his horse had won four races in a row recently, today it came in fourth.

Of course, Thompson couldn't enter a roomful of people without shaking hands and asking for support. Before he left, he implored them to come to Ames for the straw poll and received an enthusiastic, liquor-fueled response.

Thompson's senior advisor, Steve Grubbs, joked later that they should campaign at bars more often.

-- By David Wise

 4:45 PM  85 down, 14 to go

Thompson's stop in Bloomfield, located in Davis County, marks his 85th county visited since he began visiting Iowa.

Thompson met with nine people under a shaded picnic structure in Bloomfield City Park and gave them a shortened version of his standard stump speech. While Thompson was speaking, one man frequently chimed in with comments and questions, which Thompson took in stride and responded to.

Bloomfield is a small town with a population of around 2,600, but the city park is fairly large and has a good-sized public pool, in which at least one couple's grandchildren played while they met with Thompson.

Among those in attendance was Davis County Sup. Max Proctor, who said he was impressed with Thompson's accomplishments and speaking ability, in addition to the fact he came to his county, one of the smaller ones in the state.

Proctor said Mitt Romney's campaign has been contacting him frequently. "They started six months ago trying to win me over, but I try to keep an open mind," Proctor said.

The campaign served vanilla ice cream with fudge and caramel toppings. Thompson, who hadn't eaten anything at his earlier stops, polished off a bowl.

-- By David Wise

 3:00 PM  Tommy hits Ottumwa

When he arrived at Ottumwa for an ice cream social, Thompson told the crowd of about 25 that he talks about Ottumwa a lot. And it's true.

A tale involving the town has become woven into his stump speech.

Here's the short version of what he says:

When Thompson went away to the University of Wisconsin as a young man, he brought his clothes with him in a paper bag from Thompson's grocery store.

Fast forward to early 2007, and he's supposed to be at a pancake breakfast in Ottumwa the next day, but he's stuck at the airport in San Diego because a blizzard hit the Midwest. He doesn't want to miss the event, partially because he hasn't missed being in Iowa at least once per week since December.

He finely makes it to Iowa, but his luggage doesn't. A bit "odiferous" after being in the same clothes for more than 20 hours, he buys undergarments and toiletries at a Wal-Mart.

As he's walking out, he realizes that once again, everything he owns at that time is in a paper bag.

He then looks up to the Lord and says: "Sir, things haven't changed very much in my lifetime."

The story got a good laugh from those sitting in the shade of large trees on a pristine day in the historic City Park in the town of about 25,000. After Thompson told his story he launched into his pitch while the attendees and their children ate vanilla ice cream with fudge and caramel toppings that the campaign picked up at the local Hy-Vee grocery store.

After his speech, Thompson fielded a couple of audience questions and a then a few from a couple of reporters.

-- By David Wise

 12:30 PM  Thompson says he'd likely tap Powell, Forbes for cabinet

In response to a voter's question at the White Buffalo Restaurant in Albia, Thompson said that if elected he would look to name Steve Forbes as treasury secretary and would "strongly consider" Colin Powell for another stint as secretary of state.

"I want to have a cabinet that wants to get things done," Thompson said.

Thompson also pledged he'd make all federal departments cut their budgets by 3 percent. He said he'd use the money saved to reduce the national debt and build a border fence, among other projects.

If the departments or Congress failed to reduce those budgets, he said he'd veto the spending bills.

Thompson noted how he used his veto pen 1,900 times as governor.

"I'm not reluctant to veto," Thompson said.

The White Buffalo event only drew 10 people, who sat around a rectangular table eating soup while Thompson sat with them and gave a low-key address followed by a question-and-answer session.

Thompson delivered a firm response to a woman who said she heard he supports amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Thompson said he's always been against amnesty and blamed a "hate piece" for spreading the misinformation.

Thompson said the charge stems from a "half statement" he made and was from "somebody who's way behind and is trying to attack me."

A campaign staffer later said the information was spread in a mailer from the Tom Tancredo campaign that hit houses this week.

-- By David Wise

 11:30 AM  Tommy builds support in Oskaloosa

Different town, same pitch.

After laying out his story and platform to a group of about 40 at the Smokey Row Coffee House in Oskaloosa, Thompson appears to have won over at least a few likely straw poll voters.

Thompson made his address in a small back room of the coffee and beverage and sandwich shop that featured nostalgia-covered brick walls and a rustic hardwood floor. The shop is adjacent to the town's market square, which features verdant lawns and a historic band shell that is the very definition of Americana.

Robert Sandor, a 20-something from Oskaloosa who was videotaping the event for a local public television station, said he was impressed by Thompson's pitch even though he's a Democrat.

"I'm not usually very impressed when I hear a Republican who comes to town," Sandor said.

"But I have to admit, he actually had a lot of good things, actually, that he said."

Oskaloosa's Angie Binns, 51, said Thompson changed her opinion about his viability as a candidate and called him "incredibly believable."

"You look at this guy and you can see he means what he says," Binns said. "Almost all of the issues he expressed, as far as I'm concerned, he hit right on the money."

However, she said she didn't agree with Thompson's labeling of the Iraq war as a civil war, but said "he addressed that issue very, very well."

Binns said Thompson likely will get her vote in the straw poll. "I'm surprised," she said. "I did not come in here expecting to say that."

Eleanor Coster, 72, of New Sharon, said she listened to Mitt Romney when he visited yesterday and described him as "glib."

"I wasn't terribly impressed, but I am impressed with Governor Thompson," she said.

Coster added that she wasn't considering voting for Thompson in the straw poll before today, but now, she said, "I think I will."

"I think he comes across to me as being very sincere, and that's what I really value," Coster said.

But not everyone was equally impressed. TJ Sandin, 21, of New Sharon, said he thought Thompson answered some of the questions asked in a "roundabout way" and was disappointed he didn't get to ask one. However, Sandin was able to catch Thompson as he walked out and asked him about bio-fuels and alternative energy.

Before leaving, some of the campaign workers considered having Thompson visit the classic car show being held on the market square, but there wasn't enough time.

-- By David Wise

 10:32 AM  Tommy's ride

The campaign is travelling in a Winnebago Vista motor home that can run on E-85.

-- By David Wise

 10:05 AM  Tommy's hopes rest on good showing in Iowa

In response to a question by Wisconsin Public Radio's Chuck Quirmbach, Thompson said if he doesn't place first or second in Iowa, he could well be out of the race.

"If I don't come out first or second I'm out," Thompson said. "But I want to win; that's my intention."

With most of the top-tier candidates except Mitt Romney opting out of the Ames Straw Poll, Thompson said it's come down to Romney's money versus his organization.

While Thompson noted his organization is "much smaller" than Romney's, he's been working harder in Iowa. "We're working hard," Thompson said. "It's almost an equal fight right now."

Hear the audio: http://blogs.wispolitics.com/tommy/audio/070728TommyStrawPoll.mp3

-- By David Wise

 10:02 AM  Tommy stumps in Washington County

A couple of familiar Wisconsin faces greeted Tommy Thompson this morning at his first stop of the day at Café Dodici in the town of Washington.

The first was Wisconsin State Rep. Joel Kleefisch, who was in town visiting family and walked over to the event to introduce Tommy to the crowd of about 35.

The second was Wisconsin Public Radio reporter Chuck Quirmbach, whom Thompson pointed out to the crowd while playfully noting "he's not always been too nice to me."

Thompson, decked out in grey pants, a blue shirt and a yellow tie, had his picture taken with each of the attendees, which were printed out and given to the people by the end of his roughly 25-minute campaign pitch.

Thompson gave a sometimes animated, sometimes personal address, sharing his plans on Iraq, energy independence, health care, medical diplomacy, immigration and abortion.

He used part of his speech to dismiss his second-tier status, noting that people though he couldn't win when he first was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly and then as governor.

He said he did both by getting out and meeting people, like he is doing in Iowa.

He argued that while the media is telling Americans who to vote for, it is actually Iowa that America has historically listened to.

Listen to his address: http://blogs.wispolitics.com/tommy/audio/070728TommyWashingtonCounty.mp3

-- By David Wise

 11:49 AM  Introduction

Get an up-close look at Tommy Thompson's presidential campaign as WisPolitics Milwaukee Bureau Chief David Wise heads to Iowa this weekend to join Wisconsin's former governor on the third leg of his tour to fulfill his promise to visit all of Iowa's 99 counties in advance of the Aug. 11 Ames Straw Poll.

Although lagging in the polls and in fundraising, the former Wisconsin governor and secretary of Health and Human Services has been making a full-court press in Iowa in hopes that a win there will catapult him into the national spotlight.

After a few days off the road, Thompson picks up his tour again Saturday morning with a stop for coffee and rolls at Café Dodici in the town of Washington. From there, Thompson is slated for several more stops throughout the day at various eateries and ice cream social events before heading to the Lee County Annual GOP Fundraiser in Denmark, where he is to be joined by fellow candidate Tom Tancredo.

This leg of the tour includes 21 scheduled stops and continues through Tuesday. WisPolitics will cover the tour through Sunday. Check back all weekend long for updates.


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