Tales from the Trail

Bush recipe for wooing Hispanic voters

Republicans need to think of immigration as an economic issue — not just a border security issue, former Florida governor Jeb Bush wrote in a Washington Post opinion article on Wednesday, laying out a strategy for wooing Hispanic voters.

Bush, whose op-ed comes ahead of next Tuesday’s Florida primary, calls Hispanics “the most powerful swing voters,” predicting they’ll represent the margin of victory in the fifteen states likely to decide the 2012 presidential race.

“Although Democrats hold the edge, Republicans have an opportunity” to regain the momentum, Bush says.

“First, we need to recognize this is not a monochromatic community but rather, a deeply diverse one,” he writes. “The traditional Republican emphasis on the importance of the individual has never been more relevant.”

Moreover, Republicans should highlight the aspirations of Hispanic voters by talking up the American immigrant experience and press for real and broad education reform, Bush argues.

Washington Extra – Easy money

Some great news for all you borrowers today from the Fed. Interest rates are likely to remain around zero until at least late 2014. That’s later than previously expected, and to put things in perspective, it’s nearly two years into the term of the president who will be elected in November.

What it tells us is that the economy is still very vulnerable. Ben Bernanke said as much today: “I don’t think we’re ready to declare that we’ve entered a new, stronger phase at this point.” He left the door wide open to further Fed stimulus via bond purchases.

And Bernanke was almost apologetic about what this interest rate outlook means for another large swathe of the population: the savers. Take Maggie Smith, not the actress but a 74-year-old from New Jersey who watches her interest income on savings stagnate while home and car costs go up. After more than five years of rock-bottom rates, it’s no wonder she feels like she’s “being punished” for being prudent.

Washington Extra – Timed release

Right before Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich tangle in tonight’s debate, we are supposed to get details of Gingrich’s work for troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac from his former consulting firm.

The disclosure could shed light on what work Gingrich did in exchange for $ 1.6 million in consulting fees. What it for his historical acumen, as he has claimed, or his influence in Washington, as rivals for the Republican presidential nomination charge?

It could be interesting fodder for the debate if it comes out by 9 pm EST. Or it might just disappear in the heavy news flowing from the debate, which suggests the former consulting firm is doing Gingrich a favor by coming out at this strategic time.

Romney presses Gingrich on Freddie Mac fees

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is turning the tables on Newt Gingrich, putting the squeeze on the former House Speaker to disclose details of his financial relationship with Freddie Mac.

The Romney camp scheduled a conference call Monday morning to talk to reporters about Gingrich’s work as a “historian” (quote marks supplied by the campaign) for the government-owned mortgage finance giant.

Romney campaign surrogates former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Will Weatherford, Speaker Designate of the Florida House of Representatives, will be on the conference call — with the call code name “Definitely Not a Lobbyist.”

Washington Extra – Home alone

When it comes to fixing the housing market in this election year, it’s a battle between the “ineffective” and the “do-nothing.”

President Obama’s relief measures for homeowners facing foreclosure have fallen far short of objectives. Republican candidates, meanwhile, prefer to let the marketplace work its magic. Prices will then hit bottom and begin to recover.

The hands-off approach might not cause too much damage to Republicans in South Carolina. But when the race moves to foreclosure-heavy states such as Florida and Nevada, Republican candidates could find themselves having to explain why they don’t want to help any homeowners.

Perry stands ground on Turkey

Given an opportunity to revise (back down or retract) his comments he made in Monday’s Republican debate linking Turkey to “Islamic terrorists,” Texas Governor Rick Perry stood his ground on Tuesday.

The Republican presidential candidate made no apology for nearly touching off an international incident with his take on the long-time U.S. ally. Perry defended his view in a CNN interview, hours after Turkey’s response.

Here’s the video:

Rick Perry lags in home state of Texas

Tuesday only got worse for Texas Governor Rick Perry whose comments about Turkey in a debate last night got him lambasted by foreign policy experts, the Turkish press, and the Turkish government in Ankara.

Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history, polled only third in a survey of his fellow Longhorn Republicans, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Less than a fifth of those polled by the Democratic polling firm, Public Policy Polling said they would choose Perry over his rivals. He lagged frontrunner Mitt Romney  as well as former Speaker of the House Gingrich.

Reuters Washington Extra – Behind the numbers

At last night’s debate, Mitt Romney said he’d be happy to release his tax returns in April. But today he disclosed a crucial piece of information as the clamor grew for him to come out with his returns. The frontrunner to clinch the Republican nomination has a tax rate that “is probably closer to 15 percent than anything.”

That’s a low rate, but it is in line with what is paid by wealthy Americans who earn much of their income from capital gains, which are taxed at 15 percent. So, now the number is out and we will see how American voters (and wage earners) react.

Another interesting number from Romney today concerned speaker fees, which he says he collects “from time to time, but not very much.”  Campaign financial disclosure forms indicate that Romney was paid more than $374,000 in speaker fees from February 2010 to February 2011. Not very much, if you are Mitt 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.

Stephen Colbert: Exploring run for president of USA of South Carolina

Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert announced on his show Thursday night that he is forming an exploratory committee for a “possible candidacy for the president of the United States of South Carolina.”

“This is a difficult decision. I’ve talked it over with my money. I’ve talked it over with my spiritual adviser,” said the comedian who puts on the persona of an ultra-conservative news anchor on his late-night show “The Colbert Report.”

Colbert said he would try to compete in the Republican primary in South Carolina, his home state, on Jan. 21. The filing deadline is long past but Colbert may be able to participate as a write-in candidate.