Tales from the Trail

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.

“Even if Huntsman finishes second in New Hampshire tonight it doesn’t speak well for his prospects down the line that he’s running behind Stephen Colbert,” Public Policy Polling said in a blog posted on Tuesday before the primary.

Colbert’s key, the company said, would have been to attract Democratic voters to the South Carolina primary, which is open. Thirty-four percent of Democrats who planned to vote in the GOP contest supported Colbert, compared with 15 percent for Romney.

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.

Washington Extra – Keeping it positive, not

It’s a cruel world out there, what with these Super PACs. Just ask Newt Gingrich, the candidate who promised to stick to the positive message. Battered by weeks of negative ads from a Super PAC and plummeting poll numbers, Gingrich took a sharp detour off the high road in the final hours of campaigning in Iowa.

Gingrich called putative Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney a liar because he tries to distance himself from the ad-spewing PAC created by Romney staff and funded by his millionaire friends. “It’s baloney,” Gingrich said.

Romney in turn mocked Gingrich, telling him to toughen up and get some broader shoulders. “If you can’t stand the heat of this little kitchen, wait for the hell’s kitchen that’s coming from Barack Obama,” he responded.

Mitt Romney’s Late Show Top 10 Redux

It was like deja vu with Mitt Romney when the Republican presidential candidate presented the “Top Ten” list on the “Late Show with David Letterman” Monday night.

The script was different, and so were the clothes – but Romney’s latest late night TV performance looked and sounded a lot like the the previous one he gave  back in February.

This time, the former Massachusetts governor revealed the “Top Ten Things Mitt Romney Would Like to Say to the American People.”

Omen for Huntsman in Brady-Tebow duel?

There was a twist on the Tim Tebow relationship with the presidential race on Sunday.

Mary Kaye Huntsman, wife of Republican White House hopeful Jon Huntsman, wore a Tom Brady New England Patriots jersey to her husband’s “town hall” meeting in Plaistow, NH.

As for whether the Florida native really loves the Boston-area team? The wife of the former Utah governor and Chinese ambassador was diplomatic: “We’re spending so much time in New England that I’ve grown to love New England.”

Washington Extra – Theater of the absurd

No one said extending the payroll tax cut in Congress by December 31 would be a walk in the park. But did we really expect it to turn into another marathon with multiple detours?

After a rare display of bipartisanship on Monday on a spending bill to keep the government running through 2012, Tuesday gave way to another day of bitter back and forth, in which Democrats and Republicans aimed to out-maneuver and out-smart each other.

The Republicans managed to pass their payroll tax cut bill in the House with the controversial measure to speed up the decision on green-lighting the Keystone oil pipeline. It almost certainly won’t make it through the Senate and the White House made clear today that President Obama will veto it if it does. He’s decided the Keystone pipeline has to wait until after the elections and won’t be dragged into this debacle.

Washington Extra – End in sight

President Obama didn’t bite when asked by a White House reporter today if he still thought the U.S. war in Iraq was “a dumb war.” Back in 2002, he could get away with such a blunt statement. As president, and with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at his side, he needed to be more subtle.

Up the two men went to Arlington Cemetery, their motorcade driving past the white grave stones of wars past and present, canon shots firing in the background, until they arrived at the Tomb of the Unknowns. A military band played both countries’ anthems, Obama stood with his hand over his heart for both songs while Maliki stood erect with his hands by his sides.

Obama said it was Maliki who wanted to go to Arlington, but it turned out to be a fitting, if somber way for Obama to close this chapter. By going to a place where the costs of war are so much in evidence, he was able to answer the “dumb war” question in a serene, statesman-like way.

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.

Shaq throws in support for Obama in 2012

NBA star Shaquille O’Neal said on Monday he believes President Barack Obama is doing a ”fabulous job” and will win the 2012 presidential election.

O’Neal, who retired from pro basketball this year, joined a handful of celebrities endorsing the Democratic president, ranging from singer Lady Gaga and actor Tom Hanks to Basketball hall-of-famer Magic Johnson.

“It’s a hard job … You can’t please everybody but I think he’s doing a fabulous job,” O’Neal told CNN host Piers Morgan. ”The world is in a little bit of turmoil right now — the economy’s down — but … he’s going to pick it back up and I think he’s going to win this next election.”

Gingrich takes heat over “amnesty”

Electrified fences, predator drones and anchor babies were nowhere to be found when the subject of illegal immigration came up in the latest of a series of Republican presidential debates.

The softer, gentler tone Tuesday night at Constitution Hall was a contrast from when the White House hopefuls took on the subject at a debate in Las Vegas last month.

But there was still heat at the Washington debate — and this time Newt Gingrich got scorched by expressing a relatively moderate position on illegal immigration.