Iowa GOP’s top 2 tied in final stretch

By S.A. Miller - The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 26, 2016

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — Donald Trump's closing argument ahead of the country's leadoff nominating contest sounds almost exactly like his opening pitch: Build a wall, make better deals, bash the press and, most of all, make America great again.

Seven months after he announced what seemed like a long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination, the now front-runner hasn't expanded his agenda or added much detail to his plans.

"It's called 'Make America Great Again.' We're going to make America great again, believe me," Mr. Trump said at a crowd of thousands Tuesday at a town hall meeting in a domed high school sports arena.

The consistency of Mr. Trump's campaign underscored just how much he, more than any other candidate, has driven the debate in this election cycle, including keeping illegal immigration a top issue.

In stark contrast, Mr. Trump's top competitor in Iowa, Sen. Ted Cruz, has carefully honed a closing argument that includes a laundry list of goals for the Oval Office.

Early, Mr. Cruz rattled off his to-do list at town hall meeting in Albia, Iowa.

He pledged he would rescind all of President Obama's executive actions, order the FBI to investigate Planned Parenthood, order the Justice Department and IRS to cease "persecution of religious liberty," rip up the Iran nuclear deal and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

"Now that's Day One," he said to applause from the roughly 200 people at Bogie's Steakhouse.

He then vowed to "repeal every word of Obamacare," cancel Common Core education standards, secure the border and end illegal immigrant sanctuary cities, reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, protect the right of every service member to keep and bear arms, destroy the Islamic State terrorist group, take on the Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, establish a flat tax and abolish the IRS.

Every item on Mr. Cruz's agenda was an applause line at the town hall.

"If you think things in Washington are going great, that we need to keep heading in the same basic direction just kind of fiddle around the edges, then I ain't your guy," he said. "On the other hand, if you think Washington is fundamentally broke, that there is bipartisan corruption of career politicians of both parties that go along with the lobbyists and special interests and grow and grow government and we need to take power out of Washington and back to we the people, that is what this campaign is all about."

Mr. Cruz was joined on the campaign trail by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Steve King, a popular Iowa Republican.

At every campaign stop, Mr. Cruz has called on conservative voters to unite behind him in Iowa and send a message across America as he seeks to regain momentum in the neck-and-neck race with Mr. Trump in the caucuses Monday.

Mr. Trump continues to lead in the polls nationally and in every other early-voting state.

At Mr. Trump's town hall, the billionaire businessman was joined by Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has become a national figure in the fight against illegal immigration.

They also addressed reporters at a press conference.

Sheriff Arpaio called Mr. Trump a "great patriot."

"It's just easy to endure him because just everything I believe in he is doing and he is going to do when he's president," said the sheriff.

Mr. Trump said Sheriff Arpaio was "the kind of guy we want on our team."

In response to a reporter's question, Mr. Trump said he didn't make deals with Sheriff Arpaio or conservative leader Sarah Palin, who also has endorsed him.

"We don't make deals," he said.

The joint appearance of Sheriff Arpaio and Mr. Trump drew Hispanic protesters outside the event, and a handful of protesters in the crowd briefly interrupted the town hall. Security guards escorted the protesters out without incident.

Mr. Trump also picked up an endorsement Tuesday from Christian leader Jerry Falwell Jr., giving his run a potential boost with evangelical voters, who typically make up as much as 60 percent of Republican caucusgoers.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz have been battling for those evangelical voters.

"I am proud to offer my endorsement of Donald J. Trump for President of the United States. He is a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again," Mr. Falwell said in a statement.

Mr. Trump touted his broad appeal in the Hawkeye State.

"I have bonded with the people of Iowa," he told reporters. "I've really bonded with evangelicals, with tea party and the people of Iowa."