Tales from the Trail

Big campaign bucks don’t always spell victory

Expectations for massive fund-raising in the 2012 election may obscure one point — big bucks don’t always lead to victory. And in fact, too much spending — especially in the form of too many advertisements — can turn off voters.

There have been several notable examples of heavy, but ultimately fruitless, outspending in recent elections.

In the 2010 midterms, Republican Meg Whitman, the billionaire former chief executive of eBay, spent $140 million of her own money, or about $43 per vote,to campaign for governor against Democrat Jerry Brown.  Brown spent $7.50 per vote to defeat her by 12 percentage points, in a race that was a rare bright spot for Democrats in elections that saw most Republicans sweep to victory.

Another Republican, wrestling executive Linda McMahon, also spent lots of her own money last year — lending her campaign about $50 million — or about $100 per vote — in losing by 12 percentage points to her Democratic rival Richard Blumenthal.

But big spenders don’t always lose. Jon Corzine, a liberal Democrat who made a fortune as a Wall Street executive, spent $60 million of his own money as he won his U.S. Senate race in 2000, his first run for public office.   That race broke the previous record, set by Republican Michael Huffington as he lost his bid for a U.S. Senate seat in California in 1994.

Haley not ready to pick 2012 Republican favorite

An endorsement from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a favorite of the Tea Party movement, could give a boost to the  Republican presidential candidate of her choice.

But in an interview with CNN on Thursday she said it’s too soon to pick a favorite in the campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

“What I have told everybody is now is the time where we need to weigh in on asking them the hard questions,” she said. “This is the time we really need to be doing a lot of the listening to what their details are and what their specifics are and waiting to weigh in until we can really see what the full platform looks like.”

Perry, Bachmann shine star power at Iowa dinner

Newly-minted Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry (and his black campaign bus)  rolled into Waterloo Sunday, where the Texas governor made a  campaign pitch to Iowa voters.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann showed up at the same event. They weren’t on stage together but Perry ending up sharing the spotlight.

Perry spoke first at the Black Hawk County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner and acknowledged another Republican presidential hopeful in the room, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum .

Reuters/Ipsos poll: Majority says U.S. on wrong track

A large majority of Americans say the United States is on the wrong track and nearly half believe the worst is yet to come, according to a  Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.

The poll reflects growing anxiety about the economy and frustration with Washington after a narrowly averted government default,  a credit rating downgrade by Standard & Poor’s, a stock market dive and a 9.1 percent jobless rate.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll  — conducted from last Thursday to Monday — found 73 percent of Americans believe the United States is “off on the wrong track,” and just one in five, 21 percent, think the country is headed in the right direction.

Pawlenty defends blandness with race card joke

The race card? No, Governor, he just means you’re boring.

Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor running for the Republican nomination to unseat Democrat Barack Obama, the country’s first black president, brought up race on Sunday when asked if he was too boring to win.

“The knock on you is .. that you’re too nice, too bland, and Republicans want somebody who can take the fight to Barack Obama,” “Fox News Sunday” interviewer Chris Wallace said.

Wallace mentioned conservative Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly’s comment last week that “Haagen Dazs could put his picture on vanilla.”

Palin sees U.S. economy as “sinking ship”

Fresh off her “One Nation” bus tour that may or may not have been a precursor to a 2012 presidential campaign, Sarah  Palin on Sunday likened the sputtering U.S. economy to a sinking ship.

“It’s very noble of President Obama to want to stay at the helm and maybe go down with this sinking ship,” said Palin, who herself  resigned as Alaska governor in 2009 with more than a year left in her first term.

“I prefer, many Americans prefer, that we start plugging the hole, that we start powering the build pump and start getting rid of this unsustainable debt that is sinking our ship. We don’t have to go the way of the Titanic,” Palin said in a  Fox News interview.

Mitt Romney launches 2012 presidential campaign

It was supposed to be Mitt Romney’s day in New Hampshire, but the presidential hopeful ended up sharing the spotlight with a potential rival.

Sarah Palin’s “One Nation” family bus tour just happened to roll into the Granite State on Thursday — the same day  as Romney’s  big announcement.  The former Alaska governor  says the timing of her arrival was just a coincidence.

Romney  formally tossed his hat into the ring to compete for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination under clear blues skies at a New Hampshire farm. The main event was an informal cook-out where the candidate  served up chili and charges that “Barack Obama has failed America.” The former Massachusetts governor blamed the Democratic president for high unemployment,  home  foreclosures and other economic woes, highlighting Obama’s main weakness.

Washington Extra – T-Paw power

Right off the starting line, Republican Tim Pawlenty is fashioning himself as the Chevy of presidential candidates. “We will not be the money champion in the race to start with. My friend, Mitt Romney, will be the front-runner in that regard,” he told NBC’s Today show. His nomination bid, he added, “may not be the BMW or the Mercedes campaign.”

Sounds like T-Paw is calling Mitt a Mercedes. But what Pawlenty isn’t saying is that he is running the Cadillac of campaigns in Iowa. The former Minnesota governor has put more troops on the ground in that early voting state than any of the other candidates combined, according to the Iowa Republican website.

A political scientist in his native Minnesota called it a big and costly operation, “a Napoleonic army sort of thing.” With potent paychecks, Pawlenty has drawn in some of Iowa’s best campaign talent.

Pawlenty is in the race for Republican presidential nomination

Tim Pawlenty upstaged Tim Pawlenty  on Sunday.

The former Minnesota governor said he is in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, revealing the news in a polished, campaign-ready  video posted on his website.

The surprise announcement came in a preview of the official announcement he was set to make Monday in Iowa. In the video,  he says Des Moines  is his first campaign stop. But he was already campaigning.

“We need a president who understands that our problems are deep, and has the courage to face them. President Obama does not. I do,” Pawlenty says in the video.

Obama on conspiracy theories, birth certificates

obama_lightsPresident Barack Obama says most Americans are confident that he is American-born and bred and says the “birther” issue could be a problem for Republican challengers in the 2012 presidential campaign.

Obama addressed the persistent questions about his place of birth when he was invited, during an ABC News interview, to size up his potential opponents.

He was also asked his thoughts on Donald Trump’s rise to the top of the Republican field on “fantasies” about the president’s background.