Tales from the Trail

Bush recipe for wooing Hispanic voters

Republicans need to think of immigration as an economic issue — not just a border security issue, former Florida governor Jeb Bush wrote in a Washington Post opinion article on Wednesday, laying out a strategy for wooing Hispanic voters.

Bush, whose op-ed comes ahead of next Tuesday’s Florida primary, calls Hispanics “the most powerful swing voters,” predicting they’ll represent the margin of victory in the fifteen states likely to decide the 2012 presidential race.

“Although Democrats hold the edge, Republicans have an opportunity” to regain the momentum, Bush says.

“First, we need to recognize this is not a monochromatic community but rather, a deeply diverse one,” he writes. “The traditional Republican emphasis on the importance of the individual has never been more relevant.”

Moreover, Republicans should highlight the aspirations of Hispanic voters by talking up the American immigrant experience and press for real and broad education reform, Bush argues.

Washington Extra – Easy money

Some great news for all you borrowers today from the Fed. Interest rates are likely to remain around zero until at least late 2014. That’s later than previously expected, and to put things in perspective, it’s nearly two years into the term of the president who will be elected in November.

What it tells us is that the economy is still very vulnerable. Ben Bernanke said as much today: “I don’t think we’re ready to declare that we’ve entered a new, stronger phase at this point.” He left the door wide open to further Fed stimulus via bond purchases.

And Bernanke was almost apologetic about what this interest rate outlook means for another large swathe of the population: the savers. Take Maggie Smith, not the actress but a 74-year-old from New Jersey who watches her interest income on savings stagnate while home and car costs go up. After more than five years of rock-bottom rates, it’s no wonder she feels like she’s “being punished” for being prudent.

Candidates run Hispanic media gauntlet in Miami

The leading GOP presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, walked into the lion’s den today when they agreed – after much back and forth – to participate separately in a ‘Meet the Candidates’ event co-hosted by Univision Network, the nation’s largest Spanish-language broadcast news outfit.

Univision is considered Public Enemy No. 1 by many in the GOP for its strong pro-immigrant advocacy on issues such as the DREAM Act and the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

The network is owned by a consortium led by Haim Saban, the billionaire head of New York private equity firm Saban Capital Group, who is reportedly a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton and a major Democratic Party donor. GOP strategists describe him as the liberal media’s answer to Wall Street Journal owner and fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch.

Obama’s State of the Union in a word cloud

Obama uttered the words “tax” or “taxes” 34 times as he called for higher taxes on the rich, echoing a recent partisan theme of Democrats accusing Republicans in Congress of favoring tax breaks that favor the wealthy.

The Democratic president, who faces reelection in November, emphasized a fair tax code just a day after Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, his potential rival, released tax returns that showed he pays a lower effective tax rate than many top wage-earners.

“We need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes,” Obama said.

Americans’ expectations low ahead of Obama’s State of the Union

U.S. voters are looking to President Barack Obama to talk about jobs and the economy in his State of the Union address tonight, but doubt his ability to follow through on his proposals, two recent polls showed.

A survey done for the group Public Notice found that 62 percent of 805 likely voters said they were extremely or very interested in Obama’s speech tonight. The group describes itself as an independent non-profit focused on the economy and the role of government. Obama faces reelection in November amid a slowly improving U.S. economy.

Twenty-three percent said that jobs were the most important topic the president could talk about in his speech, while another 20 percent said the economy was the most important. Fourteen percent of respondents said government spending should be addressed, according to the poll.

Presidential candidates take on Castro in Florida

Republican White House contenders took the race to win their party’s nomination to Florida this week, where they tried to outdo each other on topics important to Floridians–including what to do about Cuba, the small, Communist, Spanish-speaking island that has long frustrated U.S. foreign policy.

In a debate on Monday in Tampa, the candidates took turns lambasting Castro and current U.S policy toward Cuba, striving to curry favor with conservative Cuban Americans who make up the majority of Florida’s 400,000-some Hispanic Republican voters.

Florida votes next in a primary race that has already had three different winners and is home to the country’s largest Cuban-American community–many of them former refugees who escaped the communist dictatorship under Fidel Castro. A 2011 poll by the University of Florida showed that 80 percent of Cuban Americans believe a decades-long U.S. trade embargo on the country has been ineffective.

Washington Extra – Timed release

Right before Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich tangle in tonight’s debate, we are supposed to get details of Gingrich’s work for troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac from his former consulting firm.

The disclosure could shed light on what work Gingrich did in exchange for $ 1.6 million in consulting fees. What it for his historical acumen, as he has claimed, or his influence in Washington, as rivals for the Republican presidential nomination charge?

It could be interesting fodder for the debate if it comes out by 9 pm EST. Or it might just disappear in the heavy news flowing from the debate, which suggests the former consulting firm is doing Gingrich a favor by coming out at this strategic time.

Romney presses Gingrich on Freddie Mac fees

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is turning the tables on Newt Gingrich, putting the squeeze on the former House Speaker to disclose details of his financial relationship with Freddie Mac.

The Romney camp scheduled a conference call Monday morning to talk to reporters about Gingrich’s work as a “historian” (quote marks supplied by the campaign) for the government-owned mortgage finance giant.

Romney campaign surrogates former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Will Weatherford, Speaker Designate of the Florida House of Representatives, will be on the conference call — with the call code name “Definitely Not a Lobbyist.”

Stephen Colbert, Herman Cain team up at South Carolina rally

Stephen Colbert, who last week announced that he would explore a “possible candidacy for the president of the United States of South Carolina,” is joining forces with former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain at a rally — dubbed the “Rock Me Like a Herman Cain: South Cain-olina Primary Rally” – in Charleston today. 

Colbert is not on the ballot in South Carolina because he missed the filing deadline by several months, but Cain, who suspended his bid for the White House on December 3, still is, and Colbert is asking supporters to vote for Cain in his stead. South Carolina permits Democrats and Independents to vote in the state’s Republican primary. 

“Herman Cain is my main man,” Colbert said in an appearance on Morning Joe this morning. “He’s my main man with a tax plan so fine, they called it 9-9-9. The Mad Max of the flat tax. Herman Cain has qualities that I admire — he’s a family man, he’s pro business, and he has something I don’t think I’ll ever have: a place on the South Carolina ballot.” 

Gingrich rejects “open marriage” question, blames media

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich got the Republican candidates debate in Charleston off to a lively start Thursday night with an angry denial of charges a former wife made in an interview that came two days before the South Carolina primary.

Here’s an excerpt from the debate on CNN:



Ex-wife Marianne Gingrich accused the former House Speaker of week of asking her
for an “open marriage” when he was having an affair.

Here’s an excerpt from her interview with ABC’s “Nightline.”