Tales from the Trail

Romney goes after the South Pacific vote

If Republican Mitt Romney is playing his “away game” in the southern United States this weekend, his son Matt is playing the “really, really away” game as he looks to prop up his dad’s support in the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, which hold their caucuses on Saturday. Romney is truly leaving no delegate unturned in his quest for the magic 1,144 needed to clinch his party’s nomination.

Matt (the second oldest Romney son, said to be known within family circles as “the smart one”) attended a lunch on Friday with the Northern Marianas Republican leadership on the island of Saipan, and on Saturday will hold a meet-and-greet and address caucus-goers at the Sheraton Hotel in Tamuning, Guam.

Matt’s winter junket evidently stirred up some sibling rivalry. Tagg, the oldest Romney son, said on Twitter: “Matt pulls all the tough assignments. Check him and wife Laurie out in this photo in the N Mariana Islands.” Tagg’s hometown of Boston is forecast to be 42F on Saturday, so Tamuning, at 86F and sunny, would presumably sound intriguing.

Guam’s governor, Eddie Calvo, has endorsed Romney, which is likely to help the former Massachusetts governor lock up most of the island’s nine delegates. The Northern Mariana Islands also have nine delegates up for grabs.

“He’s a business guy, so he understands how federal regulations can really hamper economic growth. When I told him about all these different federal regulations that make no sense for an isolated island like ours, he got it. He understands. … He didn’t have to call. He didn’t even have to send his son here. But, he’s going out of his way to let us know that we count as well,” Calvo said.

Bachmann for president? Tea Party darling blames media

RTXQELN_Comp-150x150Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann, champion-in-chief of the House Tea Party caucus, blames the media for all the recent chatter about her status as a potential presidential candidate.

“I’m not concerned about my own personal ambition,” she tells NBC News. “Right now, too many people in the media are concerned about who will be the nominee in 2012.”

That’s a wee bit odd given that the speculation began after her office announced a trip to the presidential field of frolic known as Iowa, with guidance that a White House run is not off the table.

Clinton’s happy to be out of the running

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seen here in a Nov. 9, 2009 file photo of an event marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  REUTERS/Christian Charisius

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seen here in a Nov. 9, 2009 file photo of an event marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. REUTERS/Christian Charisius

Former U.S. senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she is done seeking votes.

Clinton, who is secretary of state under President Barack Obama, said on Sunday she is not planning to run again for president or any other political office.

Washington Extra – A late start

obama_gmIt must be more than a little frustrating to win the Nobel Peace Prize for your best intentions — ridding the world of nuclear weapons – and then struggle to even get the START Treaty ratified this year. Not surprising, then, that President Barack Obama told his deputy to work “day and night” to get this thing through.

But whatever the temptation to throw a little egg on the president’s face, many security analysts still find it amazing to see Republicans blocking a treaty that the U.S. military so strongly backs. Welcome to bipartisan Washington, again, I guess.

Despite the uneven start to the week, Wednesday was not a bad day for Obama by any means.

Jindal’s not running for president, but…

LOUISIANA GOVERNORS ELECTIONFirst, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says he isn’t running for president. Then out comes his prescription for righting the national economy. 

“What I’m saying is, if we actually focus on the real challenges facing our country, not get diverted into taking over car companies and healthcare (but) cut taxes, create jobs, our country can get back on the right path, right direction,” the rising Republican conservative star of the South tells NBC in an interview.

Political oracle Karl Rove has anointed Jindal as one of 10 potential GOP presidential candidates for 2012.  Seven others on the list are also current or former state governors. But the 39-year-old son of Indian immigrants is the only one who is his state’s first nonwhite governor since the Civil War era, whose popularity among voters that has scored one decisive election victory after another.  

Washington Extra – Shuffling the pack

cabinetWe hear the White House is not wildly pleased with former budget chief Peter Orszag for abandoning the party line on tax policy this week. Now Democrats in Congress are beginning to distance themselves from President Barack Obama’s push to let taxes rise for the wealthiest Americans. We are unlikely to see this resolved before the mid-terms anyway, and there are still several different ways this could pan out. One possible compromise would be a short extension of the tax cuts for the rich and a longer extension for the middle classes, keeping any crucial decisions as far away from the 2012 campaign season as possible.

More today on the potential for a reshuffle in Obama’s inner circle after the November elections, especially if Rahm Emanuel departs for Chicago. Democratic sources tell us Larry Summers, never that happy in his role, might be among those who leave, but that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is likely to stay the course.

One administration official who is flagging his own retirement is Defense Secretary Robert Gates. As we report from our Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington this week, Gates used to be viewed by the defense industry with apprehension, but these days many industry executives see his efficiency drive as both sensible and as the best way to protect the overall defense budget. It seems he will be missed.