Tales from the Trail

Married v. unmarried could be the new election “gender gap”

Despite the American obsession with voting differences between men and women – the famed U.S. election “gender gap” – there is a far bigger “gap” dividing likely voters in 2012 - the yawning divide between marrieds and unmarrieds.

Fifty-seven percent of likely voters who are unmarried support Democratic President Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 general election, including those who have never been married, live with a partner or are widowed, divorced or separated.

Thirty-three percent of those unmarried likely voters back Republican challenger Mitt Romney, giving Obama a 24-point edge among the 910 respondents, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling data for the week ended Oct. 21.

Among married likely voters, Romney led by a 13 percentage point margin, 53 percent to 40 percent, in a sample of 1,322 respondents, for a yawning 37-point “marriage gap.”

“There is something that appears to be around the marriage factor alone,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.

Obama shows Biden some love after debate mention

President Barack Obama broke from his standard campaign speech on Tuesday to show his running mate Joe Biden some love, heaping praise onto the vice president less than 24 hours after he put Biden under a harsh spotlight during the final presidential debate.

When explaining his decision to kill Osama bin Laden, Obama said in the debate to his Republican opponent Mitt Romney that “even some in my own party, including my current vice president, had the same critique as you did.”

“But what the American people understand is, is that I look at what we need to get done to keep the American people safe and to move our interests forward, and I make those decisions,” he continued.

Foreign policy issues rank low among voter priorities

Hype for the third and final presidential debate tonight has been considerably less than for the two previous face-offs — perhaps for good reason. The debate is focused on foreign policy, and Americans don’t seem to care that much about it.

“War/foreign conflicts” and “terrorism/terrorist attacks” tied for a spot near the bottom of a list of issues from which respondents were asked to identify the most important, in Reuters/Ipsos polls conducted since January. Only 2 percent of likely voters saw each of those two as issues of top importance.

In October, 43 percent of likely voters said the economy was the most important issue and 25 percent pointed to “unemployment/lack of jobs,” followed by healthcare (7 percent), morality (5 percent), “other” (5 percent), education (4 percent) and immigration (3 percent).

Big Bird to Obama: Take down your TV ad

Big Bird, a bright-yellow protagonist of children’s television show “Sesame Street,” wants out of his role in a nationwide television advertisement for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

In the 30-second TV ad and an accompanying statement, the president’s re-election team needled Republican challenger Mitt Romney for focusing on cutting government support to “Sesame Street” distributor PBS, which would do little to reign in excess spending, instead of offering specific details about financial regulations needed to prevent financial fraud, such as the Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Bernie Madoff.

“Mitt Romney knows it’s not Wall Street you have to worry about, it’s Sesame Street,” says the narrator in the spot, set to run on cable TV nationwide. “Mitt Romney. Taking on our enemies, no matter where they nest.”

Vice presidential candidates by the numbers

The vice presidential candidates who will take the stage for a debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky this week are just as polarizing as their running mates, according to Reuters/Ipsos polls. “Very unfavorable” was the most commonly held view of both men.

According to data collected last week, Vice President Joe Biden is seen “very unfavorably” by 22 percent of respondents, in line with President Barack Obama’s “very unfavorable” score of 27 percent.

U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, the Tea Party darling and Republican budget master, has a corresponding figure of 25 percent. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s “very unfavorable” score is, like the president’s, 27  percent.

Obama heads to Florida for re-election fundraising effort

President Barack Obama on Thursday will travel to Florida for a fundraiser at a hotel in Miami with hundreds of guests that could raise at least $1 million for the Democratic incumbent and Democrats’ re-election coffers, according to a major donor.

“People are enthusiastic about how the race is going — the danger of a Romney administration is less likely — but this election is far from over,” said Kris Korge, a Florida businessman helping to organize the event.

Romney enjoyed a jump in several opinion polls after a strong debate performance last week against an strikingly tepid Obama. A positive jobs report on Friday gave Obama some positive news, but poll aggregator RealClearPolitics showed the presidential race tightening in Florida and other key swing states.

Swing state ad from hawkish Democrats hits Romney on foreign policy

A group of hawkish Democrats with close ties to President Obama’s re-election campaign announced on Thursday a new swing state television advertisement attacking Mitt Romney on national security and foreign policy issues.

The 60-second advertisement by the Truman National Security Project is part of a low six-figure media buy and is set to run in veteran-heavy Ohio, one of a handful of states that could prove pivotal to the Nov. 6 election.

The advertisement oscillates between press footage and a montage of young veterans speaking directly to a camera questioning Republican White House candidate Mitt Romney’s ability to keep Americans safe in a dangerous and unpredictable world.

Romney’s strong debate draws cheers and relief from Republicans in Congress

Mitt Romney’s strong debate performance eased concerns by fellow Republicans in Congress that his recent struggles could be a problem for all of them on Election Day.

“His first debate was very important – and he delivered,” said Congressman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a member of the House Republican leadership.

“He established himself as a person who can be president of the United States – and that will make everyone feel positive,” said Republican Senator Mike Johanns.

Obama takes a break from debate prep – at the Hoover Dam

U.S. President Barack Obama took a break from preparing for Wednesday night’s debate with a quick visit to the Hoover Dam.

Wearing a gingham shirt, khaki trousers and sunglasses, according to a White House press pool report, the president asked some questions of a dam manager and a staffer from the U.S. Department of the Interior. He learned that most of the power generated from the dam – in Nevada, not far from Las Vegas – goes to Southern California, and that some of the 28,ooo people who built the dam were killed, but “fewer than you can imagine.”

A reporter asked Obama why he made the trip, and he responded: “It’s spectacular and I’ve never seen it before. I didn’t realize it was so close by.” Obama often takes breaks to visit tourist sites as he travels. Aides have said the tourist stops offer a mental break from the work of his office.

The “likability” factor

Is Mitt Romney “likable enough”? The eve of the first 2012 presidential debate is a good time to revisit that concept, made famous in an exchange between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during a primary debate in 2008.

The answer, based on Reuters/Ipsos polls, is bad news for the Republican nominee.

It’s not just that, as anyone who has followed this race knows, President Obama claims a majority of respondents on the question, “Which candidate is more likable?” – 52 percent among men and 51 percent among women. What must concern the Romney campaign is how low the favorable response to that question is for their candidate. At 24 percent for men and women, it is lower even than the combined number of “neithers” and “don’t knows.”