Tales from the Trail

Hard to believe there’s room for TV programs in Florida

For those voters in Florida who have felt overwhelmed by political advertisements this primary season — you have been.

By January 25, Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney and his supporters had aired almost 13,000 advertisements on broadcast television in the state, compared with only about 200 spots from Romney’s main rival, Newt Gingrich, and outside groups supporting his presidential aspirations, according to data from Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan University media project.

And that was six days before Florida holds its primary on Tuesday.

With the blizzard of ads, Romney has seen his place in the polls leap upward in Florida. He went from trailing Gingrich by 5-9 percent in polls of the state taken a week ago, to leading by an average of 12.5 percent. A week ago, Gingrich was fresh off his upset victory in on Jan. 21 in South Carolina, where he defeated Romney by 12 percentage points.

“One reason we’ve seen the Florida polls shift in Romney’s favor over the past few days, when the national polls have not, is that his mesage has dominated the paid airwaves in the Sunshine State,”  Travis Ridout, association professor at Washington State University and director of the Wesleyan Media project, said in a statement.

In national polls compiled by RealClearPolitics, Gingrich holds a slim 2.5 percent lead over Romney.

Oops again? Rick Perry revises his list of three departments to cut

Lagging Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry can’t seem to catch a break. The Texas governor is facing criticism across the blogosphere for again flubbing the federal departments he would eliminate if elected.

On a radio show on WTKS in Savannah, Georgia, a listener asked Perry how many and which federal departments he would cut.

“Three right off the bat. You know, commerce, interior, and energy are three that you think of right off…” Perry said, making a point not to miss a beat.

Colbert bumps Huntsman in South Carolina

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman finished a disappointing third on Tuesday in the presidential primary in New Hampshire, despite focusing his campaign on the state and attending some 150 events there. But things are, arguably, worse for him in South Carolina, where a new poll ahead of the state’s Jan. 21 primary put him behind comedian and late-night talk show host, Stephen Colbert.

The survey, by the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling, had Colbert in sixth place, with just 5 percent support, in South Carolina’s primary, behind Mitt Romney (27 percent), Newt Gingrich (23 percent), Rick Santorum (18 percent), Ron Paul (8 percent) and Rick Perry (7 percent). But he was ahead of Huntsman’s 4 percent and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (1 percent).

It is not completely surprising that Huntsman would trail Colbert, who is from South Carolina and had even offered to sponsor the state’s primary. The Emmy- and Peabody-winning comedian also has name recognition because of his popular Comedy Central Show, the Colbert Report.

Huntsman wouldn’t be the only U.S. president to speak Chinese

 

Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman’s language skills have been in the spotlight since Saturday, when he said during a presidential candidates’ debate that his rival Mitt Romney does not understand U.S. relations with China — underscoring his point by saying so in Mandarin.

Huntsman is a former U.S. ambassador to China who learned the language as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan in the late 1980s. His campaign says the former governor of Utah also speaks Hokkien, a Chinese dialect used in Taiwan. 

Polls give Huntsman only a slim chance of making it to the White House, perhaps because some Republican voters view him as too moderate for serving as Democratic President Barack Obama’s emissary in Beijing. He has only about 3 percent support in the race for the Republican nomination to oppose Obama’s re-election bid, according to polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.com.

Best of the debate: Ron Paul v. Michele Bachmann

Presidential debates allow voters to hear how candidates differ, and there are few policy differences as great as that between Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Michele Bachmann on Iran. Take this exchange from last night:

Bachmann:

“Without a shadow of a doubt, Iran will take a nuclear weapon, they will use it to wipe our ally Israel off the face of the map and they’ve stated they will use it against the United States of America.”

For what it’s worth, Politifact has looked into Bachmann’s claim and rated it “false.”

New Romney ad counters ‘flip-flopper’ label

In case you missed it, Mitt Romney grew a bit testy when Fox News’ Bret Baier pressed him with questions about his about-faces on issues like abortion, climate change and immigration in an interview last week.

Now a new ad out from his campaign looks to counter the ‘flip-flopper’ label Romney has grown so tired of talking about. The ad, released online today and due to air in Iowa and New Hampshire this week, features images of Romney as a young man with his family while Romney gives a voice-over:

 I think people understand that I’m a man of steadiness and constancy. I don’t think you’re going to find somebody who has more of those attributes than I do.

Press release hoaxer targets SEIU, Obama

 

Someone is unhappy with President Barack Obama, but it isn’t the Service Employees International Union.

Targeting an influential union that is an important source of support for the Democratic president as he seeks re-election, a hoaxer put out a fake press release on Tuesday night saying the labor group had voted to withdraw its Nov. 16 endorsement.

The reason? According to the fake release, the 2.1-million-member union felt it was too early to endorse anyone.

Just what is a “Lincoln-Douglas” debate?

Republican frontrunner Newt Gingrich and long-shot Jon Huntsman say they’ll hold a “Lincoln-Douglas” debate in New Hampshire on Monday. So how will it be different from the usual debates?

During the 1858 race for U.S. Senate in Illinois, incumbent Democrat Stephen Douglas and upstart Republican lawyer Abraham Lincoln held a series of seven three-hour debates in towns throughout the state on the day’s hottest topic: slavery.

The debates had no moderator, and the candidates spoke in paragraphs rather than today’s rehearsed 45-second sound bites. In each of the debates, the first candidate was given 60 minutes to make opening remarks. His opponent was given 90 minutes to respond, and the first candidate was allowed a final 30-minute rebuttal.

Newt, schmoot – Democrats keep sights firmly on Romney

 

Newt Gingrich may have jumped into the lead among Republican presidential hopefuls in some national polls, but the Democrats — at least – seem convinced that Mitt Romney will be President Barack Obama’s opponent in November 2012, at least if you look at how they are spending their advertising dollars.

The latest barrage, an early salvo in what is expected to be a particularly nasty presidential campaign, is a four-minute-long attack titled “Mitt v. Mitt: The Story of Two Men Trapped in One Body.” Slamming the former Massachusetts governor as having changed his position on a wide range of issues, the ad uses clips showing Romney speaking at varying points in his career and expressing different viewpoints on issues such as healthcare, immigration, climate change and even Ronald Reagan.

Speaking of Reagan, the video shows the former president saying, “There you go again,”  a particularly devastating line the Republican icon used in a debate with Democratic President Jimmy Carter, whom Reagan defeated in the 1980 election. It also uses clips from late-night television hosts depicting Romney as a candidate who “flip-flops” by changing his position, echoing Democratic attacks on Romney.

Perry does Letterman’s “Top Ten” excuses for gaffe

Texas Governor Rick Perry wrapped up his apology, explanation, damage control (take your pick) tour where it started — on TV with an appearance on David Letterman’s “Late Show.”

Instead of sitting in the guest seat, the Republican presidential hopeful stood center stage presenting the “Top Ten Rick Perry Excuses” for an embarrassing 53-second brain freeze live on national TV at the Michigan debate.

Here’s the Top Ten in Reverse Order:

    10 “Actually there were 3 reasons I messed up last night 1) was the nerves and 2) was the headache and 3) uh, uh.” 9 “I don’t know what you’re talking about I think things went well.” 8 “I was up late last night watching ‘Dancing With the Stars’ “ “I thought the debate was tonight” 6 “Hey listen, you try concentrating with Mitt Romney smiling at you. That is one handsome dude!” 5 “Uhhhh, El Nino” 4 “I had a five-hour energy drink six hours before the debate.” 3 “You know I really hoped it would get me on my favorite talk show but instead I ended up here.” 2 “I wanted to help take the heat off my buddy Herman Cain.” 1 ” I just learned Justin Beiber is my father.”

Anyone tuning in for another Perry moment would have been disappointed. The  Late Night performance went well. His delivery, facial expressions and hand gestures were just right — not too stiff, not too overdone.