Tales from the Trail

Michelle Obama likes just being “Meesh”

ORLANDO – First lady Michelle Obama craves normalcy sometimes. The woman who has seemingly endless options living at the White House loves it most when she can hang out and just be “Meesh” to her family and friends.

Obama, who realizes her life will get even busier leading up to the Nov. 6 election, said she tries to get away from the “bubble” created by security and media at the White House and be as much of a regular person as she can.

“I go shopping. I go to my friends’ houses for dinner,” she said in an interview with a few reporters.

“Barack and I try as much as possible to get the girls out of the White House,” she said about her daughters Malia and Sasha. “That is important to us. There’s a freedom of getting them into some normalcy. When they’re outside of the bubble -– even if it’s going for a walk or going skiing or going for a bike ride — it just reminds them that their life is normal.”

A fond memory is taking the girls and traveling to Oregon not too long ago to see her brother Craig Robinson and his family.

Not all smooth sailing for Romney in Maine

Republican Mitt Romney found it was not all smooth sailing in Maine on Friday night when he was heckled repeatedly at a town hall meeting in Portland at a marine storage and repair facility.

Romney jetted in from Washington to fire up his base a day before the Maine Republican Party announces the results of a week-long caucusing process. But the well-attended meeting wasn’t without some unexpected drama that showed the candidate’s testy side.

The event’s second question centered on “stashing your money away in Cayman Islands,” based on investment strategies revealed when Romney recently released his 2010 tax returns. “ First of all, first of all, I’ll have to take a look at what the trustee says,” Romney said, adding that his fortune — estimated to be as high as $250 million — has been managed in a blind trust for ten years.

Obama kids are happy campaigners, first lady says

The Obamas return home after their vacation in Hawaii, January 3, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

DALLAS – Michelle Obama, who entered the 2008 presidential electoral season reluctant to go out in public and urge voters to support her husband, shared a surprising nugget of personal information: their kids love to campaign.

The first lady, who has been fiercely protective of her daughters Malia and Sasha and their privacy since Barack Obama became president, said that to the kids, the campaign trail was fun.

Watch live: Newt Gingrich speaks at CPAC

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaks at CPAC at 4:10pm ET.

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Watch live: Mitt Romney speaks at CPAC

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at CPAC at 12:55pm ET.

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Watch live: Rick Santorum speaks at CPAC

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks at CPAC at 10:25am.

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Rick Santorum: birth control ruling has nothing to do with women’s rights

Forcing religious organizations to provide contraceptives has nothing to do with women’s rights, Republican presidential contender and vocal Catholic Rick Santorum said on Thursday.

The comment aligned Santorum with a lineup of conservative critics bashing Democratic President Barack Obama’s rule requiring religious institutions — but not churches — to provide health insurance plans that cover birth control.

The rule, announced in January, covers religious-affiliated groups like charities, hospitals and universities. The Catholic Church opposes most methods of birth control and conservatives have painted the rule as an attack on religious freedom from a secular president.

Washington Extra – Just “okay”

It was a long slog to the government’s mortgage abuse settlement with top banks, one in which officials slept in their offices and worked round the clock. And yet, a consumer advocate looking out for those who lost homes to foreclosure can only muster an “it’s okay.”

You don’t need an expert to tell you how little of a dent the $25 billion deal makes in a mortgage morass that President Obama reminded us is one of the biggest drags on the economy. It took 16 months to get to a settlement that helps roughly 1 million borrowers, while 11 million Americans owe more money that what their homes are worth. People who lost their homes to foreclosures will get payments of $2,000. Home prices, meanwhile, are still 33 percent lower than 2006.

It’s a lot of work for a little relief. But if there is one constituent that walks away satisfied it has to be the state of California. Attorney General Kamala Harris held out for a better deal right to the end. What she won was 45 percent of the settlement spoils, and she only came to the table with a third of the nation’s foreclosures in her portfolio. It pays to play hard to get.

Maybe it’s better not to get that big endorsement

One staple of the U.S. political scene is the quest for endorsements, and Republican front-runner Mitt Romney seems to be leading in the race for support from the GOP establishment.

He picked up the support of Arizona Senator John McCain, who was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, who also was a member of the U.S. presidential field until August.

He may not be part of the party “establishment,” but Romney even got the backing of a high-profile party figure — albeit one who declared himself an independent in December — reality television star and real estate mogul Donald Trump, who called the former Massachusetts governor “tough, sharp and smart.”

Michelle Obama rocks out with kids in Des Moines

“Let’s Moooooove!” Michelle Obama yelled, standing on stage with Iowa celebrities, Olympic athletes and college students to lead 14,000 kids in dancing to celebrate the second anniversary of her healthy eating and fitness initiative.

Dressed in a red and white sweater with a heart on it, the first lady smiled broadly as she jumped and clapped, making the Ninja moves and fist pumps of the Northern Iowa University dance “The Interlude.”

After the dance, a breathless Bob Harper — one of the trainers on the Biggest Loser TV show — presented Obama with a massive cake to celebrate the program’s second birthday.