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Harkin: Dems will fight to stay in White House

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual Democratic steak fry fundraiser last weekend left attendees covered in rain and mud. But the bad weather, Harkin said, did not dampen their spirits heading into the 2012 election.|By Christinia Crippes, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual Democratic steak fry fundraiser last weekend left attendees covered in rain and mud. But the bad weather, Harkin said, did not dampen their spirits heading into the 2012 election.

“Democrats that I’m running into recognize the tea party has had the bully pulpit for too long, and now we’ve got to come back and organize. So I’d say there’s a fighting spirit among Iowa Democrats right now,” Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, said during a conference call with reporters Friday morning. “They’re on their toes; they’re not on their heels. They’re on their toes.”

Harkin pointed to the current batch of GOP presidential candidates, and their supporters, as helping to energize the Democratic base.

“(Texas Gov.) Rick Perry is the gift that keeps on giving,” Harkin said. He also named fellow GOP presidential candidates U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum as expressing views far outside the mainstream that help energize Democrats.

“Hearing this, that Santorum wants to take away the right to collectively bargain, it seems that many of those people, like Santorum and those, are always talking about freedom, freedom, freedom, more freedom, more individual freedom, but they want to take away basic rights, basic legal rights of people,” Harkin said. “I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.”

He said in watching the Republican debates, he’s also been surprised by the reactions of some of audience members to questions or comments. Harkin expressed shock a gay soldier serving in Iraq was booed Thursday night after asking a question about whether the presidential candidate would reinstate the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy toward gays that ended this week.

He was even more dismayed that during a previous debate some audience members cheered letting another person die for not having health insurance.

“What is the Republican Party coming to? It’s just bizarre,” Harkin said.

Asked whether the Democrats were as guilty of using harsh rhetoric, Harkin balked.

“I do say that many of these tea party people are kind of wacko. I’ve used that phrase before. What else can you say about someone who says that a young person that doesn’t have health care, they get sick, just let them die?”

Harkin said. He said there’s “quite a bit of difference” between calling someone a wacko — a name he acknowledges people have called him, as well — and cheering the death of a fellow American.

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(c)2011 The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa)

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