WEST DES MOINES, Iowa –- The Republican candidates for president frequently tell voters that this is the most important election of their lifetimes. For some of them, the contest is so important that it’s worth comparing to one of America’s most decisive moments: World War II.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday became the second candidate to compare his presidential bid to the great battles of the 1940s. He invoked the 1944 Allied invasion of German-occupied Normandy.
“It is a powerful moment in America’s history,” he told a group of about 200 volunteers assembled at the campaign’s informal headquarters in the West Des Moines Sheraton for a last-minute training session. “And you are on the front lines. This is Concord, this is Omaha Beach. This is going up the hill, realizing the battle is worth winning. This is about sacrifice.”
The supporters were gathered for a last-minute training session ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday night.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s national campaign director made a reference to Pearl Harbor just weeks ago after his candidate failed to meet the requirements to appear on the primary ballot in Virginia – a misfortune that he and Perry share.
“Newt and I agreed that the analogy is December 1941: We have experienced an unexpected setback, but we will regroup and refocus with increased determination, commitment and positive action,” Michael Krull wrote in a Facebook note to supporters.
Rick Santorum, meanwhile, drew attention for a speech he gave in December to a Republican Jewish group blasting President Obama’s foreign policy. “And this president, for every thug and hooligan, for every radical Islamist, he has had nothing but appeasement. We saw that during the lead-up to World War II,” Santorum said. (The remark prompted a peeved Obama to fire back: “Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al-Qaida leaders who’ve been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement.”)
There have also been symbolic allusions to the war that defined the 21st century. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman made a campaign stop at a World War II museum in Wolfeboro, N.H., on Dec. 29 where he spoke against a backdrop of tanks.
Some of the candidates, including Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann, have also held events at the U.S.S. Yorktown, an aircraft carrier in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., that was named after a ship commissioned and sent into battle in the Pacific theater.
Of course, the candidates aren't the only ones to invoke the 70-year-old conflict.
On Tuesday, MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews cited the barrage of negative ads run against Gingrich in Iowa. "I can only compare it to the Allied bombing in World War II," he said. "It left nothing standing."