Tales from the Trail

Romney on his work as a Mormon missionary: “We didn’t convert one person”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday, where co-host Joe Scarborough asked him about his experience as a Mormon missionary in France in the 1960s. “Talk about your rejections as a missionary knocking on door, after door, after door in a hostile environment,” Scarborough asked.

Romney recalled five months he spent in one French city, where he said near-constant brush-offs built his resilience:

“We knocked on doors from morning until quite late in the evening,” he said. “We didn’t convert one person in five months. So, you understand the rejection, you know that’s a pretty high level of rejection and you get used to it. You say, ‘okay, what do I believe, what’s important to me,’ and you don’t measure yourself and your success by how other people react, but instead by how you’re doing and how you feel about the things you care about.”

Watch the clip below (Romney speaks about his experience as a missionary starting at the 2:00 mark):

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Battered by negative ads, Gingrich calls for Republican truce


A still from “Selling Access,” a recent ad released by the Ron Paul campaign.

Newt Gingrich is waving a white flag in the ad wars. As the most recent Republican frontrunner, he’s become the target of attacks from Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and the the pro-Romney group Restore Our Future.

Many of the attacks have focused on Gingrich’s consulting work for Freddie Mac in the run up to the financial crisis and the collapse of the housing market. Today his campaign announced a petition urging Republicans to stop attacking each other–and presumably to stop bringing up his work for Freddie.

Washington Extra – Black box

For the past week or so, we’ve watched Democrats and Republicans playing chess on the payroll tax cuts, trying to outmaneuver each other and gain the upper hand in this final bitter budget battle of 2011. Today, it looks like the match moved off the chessboard and into the unknown.

In this vacuum, people are struggling to know what happens next. Eric Lascelles, chief economist at RBC Global Asset Management in Toronto, told us his confidence that the tax cut will be extended in 2012 “is beginning to waver.”

“As usual,” he added, “the political process is such a black box it’s hard to credibly put odds on this.”

Obama campaign reaches out in hard-fought states

By Eric Johnson

CHICAGO – U.S. President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, which has already proven its fund-raising prowess on its own behalf, is sharing the wealth. The campaign launched a joint fundraising committee to benefit the Democratic Party in the all-important “swing states,” where voting is expected to be close next year, and costs are expected to be high.

The new “Swing State Victory Fund” is the campaign’s second joint account, according to the Federal Election Commission. The fund will help the campaign and state parties in battleground states to fill their coffers as they push to elect. The states connected with the joint account are: Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

An individual could contribute a maximum of $10,000 to each state party per calendar year, in addition to the $2,500 maximum that can be donated to a candidate during the primary and the general election seasons, respectively, according to the FEC.

Huntsman goes after the media

For months, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign has arguably been kept afloat by the media. Fundraising has lagged and his national poll numbers are still at about 2 percent — the same as when he entered the race in June. Yet Huntsman has received lengthy and favorable profiles by the New York Times magazine, Newsweek, Esquire and Vogue — coverage that Buddy Roemer or Gary Johnson, who have registered similar poll numbers, or Ron Paul, who has much better ones, could only dream of.

But that didn’t keep Huntsman from lashing out at the media today while campaigning in Nashua, N.H. “My hot button is when the media have me come across as cool and collected, because I’m not,” said Huntsman, in response to a question about what makes him angry. “When I’m placed on the end of the debate stage and get three minutes of time because everyone is focused on who lights their hair on fire in the debate.”

Huntsman praised his “Lincoln-Douglas” debate in New Hampshire last week with Newt Gingrich as a model of civilized discourse because neither he nor Gingrich were asked any “gotcha questions.” But he lamented the media’s analysis of the debate. “There wasn’t any blood on the floor, how come you didn’t kill each other?” he said. “This is what we’ve come to.”

In New Hampshire, fringe candidates get their moment


Bipartisanship flourishes among fringe candidates. Democrat Vermin Supreme and Republican Hugh Cort share a laugh before Monday night’s debate at Saint Anselm College.

New Hampshire voters looking for something different got to size up some other presidential candidates on Monday night. The questions were pointed, the answers often succinct, sensible and serious. But some of the platforms were narrowly focused and, well, a bit wacky.

“I’m here to tell you about thorium, an overlooked energy alternative,” said Robert Greene, a Democrat from Mountain View, California. “If politicians are having any discussion that does not include thorium, they have not had a serious energy discussion.”

Mitt Romney’s Late Show Top 10 Redux

It was like deja vu with Mitt Romney when the Republican presidential candidate presented the “Top Ten” list on the “Late Show with David Letterman” Monday night.

The script was different, and so were the clothes – but Romney’s latest late night TV performance looked and sounded a lot like the the previous one he gave  back in February.

This time, the former Massachusetts governor revealed the “Top Ten Things Mitt Romney Would Like to Say to the American People.”

Washington Extra – Talking with the Taliban

For most Americans and for many here in Washington, the idea that the United States could broker successful talks with the Taliban that lead to the end of the Afghan war is mind-bending. And yet, that is what senior U.S. officials have allowed themselves to entertain as 10 months of secret dialogue reach the point of breakthrough or collapse. It’s a small glimmer of hope where there once was none.

In our exclusive “Secret U.S., Taliban talks reach turning point,” we reveal that the United States is considering the transfer of Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo to the Afghan government. The Taliban will have to correspond with its own confidence-building measures like denouncing international terrorism and entering formal talks with President Karzai’s government.

Judging from initial reactions, a reconciliation process will be no easy sell here at home (not to mention in Afghanistan, where a senior Taliban commander said talks had not even started).

Omen for Huntsman in Brady-Tebow duel?

There was a twist on the Tim Tebow relationship with the presidential race on Sunday.

Mary Kaye Huntsman, wife of Republican White House hopeful Jon Huntsman, wore a Tom Brady New England Patriots jersey to her husband’s “town hall” meeting in Plaistow, NH.

As for whether the Florida native really loves the Boston-area team? The wife of the former Utah governor and Chinese ambassador was diplomatic: “We’re spending so much time in New England that I’ve grown to love New England.”

from Political Theater:

Ron Paul says Michele Bachmann “hates Muslims”

Ron Paul was on The Tonight Show last night, where Jay Leno asked him to say a little something about the other Republican candidates for president. Mitt Romney, according to Paul, is "a nice guy." Newt Gingrich should "run for Speaker of the House again," and Jon Huntsman is "a good diplomat" and " a thoughtful person."

And Michele Bachmann? Well, "she doesn't like Muslims," Paul said. "She hates Muslims. She wants to go get 'em." Rick Santorum, too, has a preoccupation with "gay people and Muslims."

Here's the clip: