Tales from the Trail

Make way for Clegg, Fizz and Kiss Romney

Most American voters now know Mitt Romney and some also know Tagg Romney, the presidential candidate’s oldest son. But how about Clegg Romney, Tuff Romney and Fridge Romney?

Chicago-based comedian and freelance writer Daniel Kibblesmith and his friend, webmaster John Holdun, have created the “Romney Family Name Generator” website, romneyfamilynamegenerator.com. Visitors can click through to see a variety of fictional Romney family and staff, such as “Girth Romney,” Mitt’s daughter, and “Fizz Romney,” Mitt’s live-in gardener.

The kicker? The sparse-looking site contains a pop-up advertisement from “Romney for President, Inc,” inviting visitors to click through to make a donation to the Romney campaign and make Barack Obama a “one-term president.”

“The ads are generated by Google keywords, so we suspected that Romney ads would appear almost immediately, a notion we found delightful,” Kibblesmith said. “We tried to make the names sound as chunky as ‘Mitt’ and ‘Tagg’ so people wouldn’t assume they were generated by computer (no computer is that dumb).”

“We’d probably get more profitable click-throughs if we figured out how to make them Obama ads, but we’ve been too lazy,” Kibblesmith said, who blogs at kibblesmith.com. “Overall, the site has earned us about two dollars, which we’re splitting.”

Newt’s moon colony — the gift that keeps on giving

Comedians everywhere surely could not have been more thrilled last week when Republican White House hopeful Newt Gingrich laid out his plans for a permanent colony on the moon, with the long-term goal of making it the 51st U.S. state. “By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the moon,” Gingrich said to thundering applause at the NASA stronghold of Cocoa, Florida.

That includes the copywriters at Team Mitt Romney, for whom Gingrich’s proposed moon program is the gift that keeps on giving. Following up on an email over the weekend entitled “Earth to Newt: Tell the Truth,” the Romney Press Shop sent out the following missive on Thursday: “Ground Control to Major Newt: Nevada needs jobs, not a moon colony,” which reminded the former U.S. House speaker that unemployment in the Silver State is still running at 12.6 percent and nearly six in ten mortgaged homes in the state are under water.

Predictably, Comedy Central political satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were quick to ridicule the moon colony. Stewart accused Gingrich of wanting to be “Lunar Trump” by starting a colony the size of a condo development. “And like Earth Trump, you will not be President,” he said. Colbert mocked Gingrich’s idea that the moon could become a manufacturing hub. “America will bring manufacturing to the moon. Ohio? Out of luck.”

More grief for “The Mitt” with backing from The Donald?

Mitt Romney, Donald Trump said in a surprise endorsement from Las Vegas this afternoon, would make a “tough” and “smart” president who wouldn’t “allow bad things to continue to happen to this country we all love.”

But it wasn’t clear that backing from Trump, a real estate mogul who cultivates an aura of glitz and glamour, would help Romney, the former private equity executive who has a net worth estimated at some $270 million and fights charges by critics that he is out of touch with the concerns of average Americans.

Democrats pounced on the opportunity to draw parallels between Romney and the television personality, claiming in a video that alluded to Trump’s starring role on the reality television program, “The Apprentice,” that Romney nabbed Trump’s endorsement because “they both like firing people.”

Washington Extra – Combat ready?

The Obama administration is known to be methodical when it comes to its messaging. But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s declaration that the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan might end next year seems to have caught people here and overseas by surprise.

Today, everyone from Panetta to White House spokesman Jay Carney to NATO allies tried to tamp down notions that a major policy shift was underway. But many were still scratching their head about whether there is now a new U.S. timetable for winding down a war that is over a decade old.

One senior NATO official summed up the potential for confusion with a mind-bending quote: “He (Panetta) said the combat role will come to an end but he also said combat will continue. And that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

Gingrich to get Trump recommendation – media reports

The “major announcement”  Donald Trump will make   Thursday afternoon  in Las Vegas is that he is endorsing the presidential bid of  former House Speaker Newt Gingrich,  according to media reports.

The CBS affiliate in Las Vegas, KLAS  TV reports  sources confirmed  what Trump would say.  Earlier a Trump spokesman said only that the impending announcement would pertain to the campaign.

Trump’s announcement will come two days before the Republican  caucuses in  Nevada, the next state in the party’s presidential nominating contest.

Washington Extra – Proposals to nowhere

A line kept cropping up in our stories from Washington today, something along the lines of “unlikely to be passed in Congress.”

President Obama went out to Falls Church, Virginia to tout his $5 billion to $10 billion plan to help homeowners refinance. The proposal, sketched out in last week’s State of the Union address, could provide relief to many locked into high rates by their homes’ sagging value. But it doesn’t look like it will overcome Republican opposition.

Democrats also introduced today the “Paying a Fair Share Act of 2012,” longhand for the “Buffett Rule” that Obama also raised in his address last week. The idea is that millionaires would pay a minimum 30 percent effective tax rate. It has almost no chance of passage in a Republican-controlled House that has sworn off tax increases.

Bad Lip Reading’s Rick Santorum: “I’m crazy and I’m right…”

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who already has something of a Google problem, is the latest honoree of Bad Lip Reading, an anonymous music and video producer from Texas that has taken to spoofing this year’s presidential candidates by dubbing over their television appearances.

Watch the video here from their YouTube channel:

Why did Romney quote Thomas Paine?

When White House seeker Mitt Romney told Obama to get out the way in his Florida primary victory speech on Tuesday, he evoked the words of Thomas Paine, an early American revolutionary who is in many ways a far cry from the archetypal role model for modern-day conservatives.

After beating his Republican rivals by a wide margin, an exuberant Romney told a crowd of cheering supporters: “In another era of American crisis, Thomas Paine is reported to have said, ‘Lead, follow, or get out of the way.’ Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it’s time for you to get out of the way!”

There is debate over whether the quote can accurately be attributed to Paine, but Romney’s intention is clear. Since the beginning of his campaign, Romney has been courting adherents of the grassroots conservative Tea Party movement, many of them constitutional purists who glorify the founding fathers. But Paine doesn’t fit in neatly with some of the other 18th century political leaders who pushed for American independence from England.

Is Romney too rich and out of touch?

Mitt Romney ran into a wall of criticism during what should have been his Florida victory lap when he said live on CNN this morning that he is “not concerned about the very poor” and the country has a safety net to protect them.

Democrats leaped onto the remark as yet another sign that the wealthy Republican frontrunner is out of touch with average Americans. Whether or not that is true, it was another gaffe by a candidate who is becoming increasingly known for misspeaking on the campaign trail, especially on issues related to wealth and poverty, even as he blasts Democratic President Barack Obama for waging “class warfare.”

Last month, Romney said he had made “not very much” in speaking fees — and the total turned out to be $375,000. In December, he blundered in a debate by offering Texas Governor Rick Perry a $10,000 bet on healthcare policy. Earlier in the campaign, Romney came under fire for saying he liked to fire people, telling jobless workers in Florida that he, too, was unemployed. And he famously told a questioner at the Iowa State Fair that “corporations are people.”

Romney says he’s “not concerned about the very poor”

You have to wonder just what Mitt Romney was thinking this morning when he told CNN host Soledad O’Brien that he’s “not concerned about the very poor” because, he said, they’re protected by “a safety net.”

Romney was, by all appearances, trying to portray himself as a champion of the middle class — “the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling,” as he put it. And, to be fair, he also said he’s “not concerned about the very rich.” But the statement still, O’Brien pointed out, might sound “odd” to poor Americans who are also struggling.

“Finish the sentence, Soledad,” Romney responded. “I said I’m not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net. But if it has holes in it, I will repair them.”