Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Moonshot no more

April 26, 2012

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich bows his head in prayer before speaking at First Redeemer Church while on a campaign tour in Cumming, Georgia, February 26, 2012. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Earth calling Newt: When the biggest news of your presidential campaign is the penguin biting your hand at the zoo, it’s probably time to pack it in.

Even though Newt Gingrich’s odds of winning the Republican nomination were about as long as those of realizing his dream for a moon colony, the 68-year-old seemed to enjoy himself to the end. “I never got the sense that he was quote-unquote down,” said adviser Charlie Gerow. “I got the sense on a couple of occasions that he was tired. Really tired.” And really in debt. His campaign spent $4.3 million more than it brought in.

For all his offbeat ideas, Gingrich did bring a dose of seriousness to this campaign. With some stellar debate performances and a deep knowledge of politics and history, he probably made Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum study more and work harder to win support.

Members of the media, targets of some of his most vicious attacks, may not miss Newt much. But there’s no denying that, for the world of news, Gingrich was the gift that kept on giving, right up to his encounter with a penguin.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

US high court appears to back Arizona on immigration – Conservative justices who hold a majority on the Supreme Court appeared to endorse Arizona’s immigration crackdown, rejecting the Obama administration stance that the federal government has sole power over those who illegally enter the United States. During 80 minutes of oral arguments, the justices suggested by their questions and comments that states have significant latitude to adopt laws that discourage illegal immigrants from moving to and staying in the country. For more of this story by James Vicini and Joan Biskupic, read here.

Fed stands pat but says will act if needed – Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday said U.S. monetary policy is “more or less in the right place” even though the central bank would not hesitate to launch another round of bond purchases if the economy were to weaken. In a statement after a two-day meeting, the Fed’s policy-setting panel reiterated its expectation that interest rates would not rise until late 2014 at the earliest, and it took no action on monetary policy. For more of this story by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa and Mark Felsenthal, read here. For related video, click here.

Gingrich to quit White House race after stormy bid – Newt Gingrich is quitting the Republican presidential contest after a tumultuous campaign that saw him go from longshot to front-runner and back again. The final blow for the former House of Representatives speaker came on Tuesday night, when rival Mitt Romney easily won primary victories in five northeastern states that crowned him as the presumptive Republican nominee. -  For more of this story by Sam Jacobs, read here.

Can cash-strapped US cities afford the 2012 election? – The economy looms large over November’s general election in a basic way for strapped cities and counties: can they afford it? With cities and counties across the United States in dire financial straits, many local officials are struggling to come up with the millions of dollars they will need to hold the elections. That is likely to mean fewer election workers and long lines for voters, which could reduce turnout. For more of this story by Patricia Zengerle, read here.

Napolitano : Prostitute scandal posed no risk to Obama – President Obama’s safety was not jeopardized by the actions of Secret Service agents who brought prostitutes back to a Colombia hotel on the eve of his arrival, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano assured a Senate committee. For more of this story by Tabassum Zakaria and Susan Cornwell, read here.

Obama: Romney can’t disown conservative views for election – President Obama, seeking to sharpen contrasts with Mitt Romney, said his presumptive opponent in the November election won’t be able to disavow conservative views he embraced in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. For more of this story by Matt Spetalnick, read here.

SEC’s Schapiro says agency still probing Lehman – The SEC is still probing Lehman Brothers more than three years after the investment bank collapsed during the global financial crisis, agency chairman Mary Schapiro said. Schapiro told lawmakers it would be inappropriate to comment on a matter that “remains under investigation,” but assured lawmakers that the SEC has conducted interviews with management at the highest levels and has reviewed millions of pages of documents. For more of this story by Sarah N. Lynch, read here.

Military to review course teaching ‘US at war with Islam’ – The top military officer ordered a review of training material after a course for officers was found to espouse the view that the United States is at war with Islam, the Pentagon said. For more of this story by Missy Ryan, read here.

U.S. seeks to re-engage Pakistan with envoy visit – The Obama administration’s top envoy for Pakistan will arrive in Islamabad for two days of meetings aimed at resetting the two countries’ fractious relationship after a series of damaging setbacks. For more of this story by Andrew Quinn, read here..

From elsewhere…

George Zimmerman: Prelude to a shooting – A pit bull named Big Boi began menacing George and Shellie Zimmerman in the fall of 2009. The first time the dog ran free and cornered Shellie in their gated community in Sanford, Florida, George called the owner to complain. The second time, Big Boi frightened his mother-in-law’s dog. Zimmerman called Seminole County Animal Services and bought pepper spray. The third time he saw the dog on the loose, he called again. An officer came to the house, county records show. “Don’t use pepper spray,” he told the Zimmermans, according to a friend. “It’ll take two or three seconds to take effect, but a quarter second for the dog to jump you,” he said. “Get a gun.” For more of this story, read here.

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