Nightly News | November 05, 2011
LESTER HOLT, anchor: two months away from the Iowa caucuses . Today the Republican candidates for president were off and running on the campaign trail, the start of a 60-day sprint to Des Moines . NBC 's Mike Viqueira has the latest.
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MIKE VIQUEIRA reporting: In Des Moines , Republicans are counting the days until the first votes are cast.
Mr. MATT STRAWN (Iowa Republican Party Chair): Sixty days from right now we start the process of choosing Barack Obama 's Republican successor and it starts here in Iowa .
VIQUEIRA: With front-runners Mitt Romney and Herman Cain no-shows at last night's Reagan dinner, five GOP presidential hopefuls spoke to party faithful.
Governor RICK PERRY (Republican Presidential Candidate): You might say that Newt , we're involved in a project called Operation Occupy the White House .
VIQUEIRA: Newt Gingrich , counted out over the summer, is now gaining ground in some polls. Last night he won praise for pledging if nominated he'd challenge President Obama to a series of Lincoln-Douglas -style debates.
Former Representative NEWT GINGRICH (Republican Presidential Candidate): I will announce that from that date forward for the rest of the campaign, the White House will be my scheduler, and wherever the president appears I will appear four hours later.
Representative RON PAUL (Republican Presidential Candidate): Is that better?
VIQUEIRA: With the field unsettled, GOP candidates are fighting for the conservative base.
Mr. HERMAN CAIN (Republican Presidential Candidate): I've been in Washington all week. And I 've attracted a little bit of attention.
VIQUEIRA: One big question, will that base stay behind Herman Cain following allegations of sexual harassment? Friday the lawyer for one of his accusers confirmed a charge made in 1999 when Cain ran the National Restaurant Association .
Mr. JOEL BENNETT (Cain Accuser's Attorney): She made a complaint in good faith about a series of inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances from the CEO.
VIQUEIRA: Cain denies the allegations, and so far his support appears to be holding, but questions remain.
Mr. STUART ROTHENBERG (Political Analyst): In the long run, I think it's much more questionable whether he can survive. He is an inexperienced politician. He has a record that people haven't looked at. They're going to be doing that more and more.
VIQUEIRA: And, Lester , tonight Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich will square off one-on-one in a debate sponsored by the Texas tea party , but don't expect any fireworks. It's going to be a rather sedate affair, 30 minutes on Social Security , Medicare and Medicaid each. All sides, all parties involved have agreed not to bring up the controversies that have surrounded Herman Cain over
the course of last week. Lester: All right. Mike , thank you.