Tales from the Trail

Romney targeted over plans for growth — of his house

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney,  who has criticized President Barack Obama for taking a nine-day vacation at a time of high unemployment, filed for permits to almost quadruple the size of his oceanfront home in La Jolla, California.

The former Massachusetts governor and his wife bought the house three years ago for $12 million. They want to knock down the one-story, 3,009-square-foot home overlooking the Pacific Ocean and replace it with an 11,062-square foot place in its stead, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

Romney says he needs a bigger place to have room for his five sons, their wives and his 16 grandchildren. The Union Tribune said the plans would keep the house’s existing pool and spa.

Romney has fought a reputation as being somewhat out of touch, an impression that will not be enhanced by undertaking a massive renovation while campaigning for president. The super-rich candidate raised eyebrows earlier this month when he told a heckler in Iowa that “Corporations are people, my friend,” and a remark in June to unemployed workers in Florida that he was “also unemployed”  fell flat and was jeered by the Democrats.

Critics have seized on the project to scoff at Romney. Jess Durfee, chairman of the San Diego County Democratic Party, used the house project to joke about Romney’s residency. “Let’s hope he hires a contractor that provides union-equivalent wages and helps to stimulate the local economy,” Durfee told the Union Tribune. “He also could register to vote here and help out the Republicans, whose numbers are dwindling.”

Notes from Unity, New Hampshire

(View an in-depth look at scenes from Iowa and New Hampshire in a downloadable pdf format here and a look ahead to the primaries here)

Unity, New Hampshire, is not known for much. The town of 1,671 sits in the western fringe of Sullivan County, a few miles from the Vermont border.

At the one general store are T-shirts that riff off the famous Las Vegas motto. “What happens in Unity stays in Unity — But nothing really happens here.”

Washington Extra – Breaking glass

The new IMF chief is an accomplished negotiator, an international relations expert and a European finance minister.

The newly elected managing director also made history, and it had nothing to do with credentials. Christine Lagarde in 2011 becomes the first woman to head the IMF.

This is also the year when two women might start vying for the 2012 Republican nomination for president — Michele Bachmann is running, Sarah Palin has yet to reveal her intentions.

Washington Extra – Her Waterloo

It takes some political derring-do to launch a presidential campaign from a town named Waterloo.

After all, in another time, on another continent, that was the locale of Napoleon’s final defeat, from which sprang the term “met his Waterloo.”

Tea Party conservative Michele Bachmann chose Waterloo, Iowa, her birthplace, to announce a run for the Republican presidential nomination. And she wasted no time in going on the offensive.

Washington Extra – Long day

The longest day of the year probably seemed even longer for some.

Jon Huntsman started the day in New Jersey to formally throw his hat into the ring against the picturesque backdrop of the Statue of Liberty. Here’s the thing about backdrops and TV… Huntsman made it into every shot, but not Lady Liberty. And then he was off to New Hampshire for a rally.

At the Capitol, it was scheduled as a two-hour meeting, but the issues seem never-ending as Vice President Joe Biden and lawmakers negotiate on the deficit and debt limit. Some speculation swirling that perhaps a short-term increase in the debt limit may be an option if agreement is out of reach.

Not exactly a sunny day for the economy. Data out today point to a housing market still struggling to regain footing.

Huntsman’s big day out

Jon Huntsman knew coming into Tuesday that low name recognition was a problem.

But the former Utah governor might not have expected it in the heart of his campaign on the day he announced a run for the White House.

Media traveling with the just-hatched candidate in New Jersey were handed press passes which touted the “John Huntsman for President Announcement Tour” (that’s an extra H in the first name). Staff quickly scrambled to retrieve and replace the errant IDs.

By Huntsman’s second stop of the day, a rally in Exeter, New Hampshire, aides had opted instead for the generic tag of  “Governor Huntsman.” Less chance of a blunder.

Washington Extra – One more for the road

Jon Huntsman is in. Well, technically, the Republican announced that he will announce that he is in next Tuesday.

“I intend to announce that I will be a candidate for the presidency a week from today,” the former U.S. ambassador to China said at a Thomson Reuters event in New York.

He advocated “getting our own house in order” to improve ties with China. “As we have a very weak economic core, we are less able to project the goodness and the power and the might of the United States,” Huntsman said.

Washington Extra – Seven up

Ready… Set… Go… And they’re off to the races for 2012. The Republicans went north. The Democrat went south.

Seven Republicans go head-to-head in New Hampshire tonight in the first major debate in the battle for their party’s presidential nomination.

The One they hope to unseat next year, President Barack Obama, sought a head start by talking jobs (he said the word 21 times) in the battleground state of North Carolina, before attending three back-to-back Miami fundraisers in fickle Florida.

And the GOP favorite is…

Top establishment Republicans are getting more desperate about the GOP’s current presidential line-up all the time.  Care to guess why?

Newt Gingrich, once among the most prominent voices in the GOP, appears to be on the ropes only a week after declaring his candidacy – and even before his first official campaign trip to the early voting state of Iowa.

He has apologized to House Budget chief Paul Ryan for calling his Medicare plan “right wing social engineering” in a national interview and admitted making “a mistake.”

Fiscal conservative Gingrich had at least $250,000 debt with Tiffany’s

Politicians are in heated debate about the $14.3 trillion national debt ceiling. But their personal debt can also be eye-popping.

Politico reports that Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich owed at least $250,000 and as much as $500,000 to luxury jewelry company Tiffany & Co.

We checked the store website but couldn’t find any one item for that amount, although a few baubles here, a few watches there, and it all adds up.