Tales from the Trail

A Palin goes for Gingrich

Newt Gingrich may have been hoping for a Palin endorsement, but the one he announced Monday was probably not the one he was expecting.

The aspiring Republican presidential nominee said he received a call from former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s husband saying he would endorse him for president.

“Honored to be endorsed by Todd Palin.” Gingrich tweeted, though he did not mention anything about the more powerful Palin and if she had chosen whom to support in the 2012 campaign.

Gingrich’s campaign released a short press release later in the day quoting Todd Palin — a former snow machine champion who was introduced throughout the 2008 campaign by his wife as the “First Dude” of Alaska — calling Gingrich a “true leader.”

Palin even drew comparisons of the 68-year-old former speaker of the House with his 47-year-old wife who was the first Republican woman to run for vice president.

FBI releases files on ex-Senator Stevens, little on corruption case

The FBI released some of its expansive files on former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens who died last year in a plane crash, offering tidbits about threats against him, accusations of corruption and some correspondence he had with the FBI.

FINANCIAL-BAILOUT/There was very little in the thousands of pages about the federal corruption investigation into Stevens beyond press clippings and court filings previously made public. The senator was initially convicted by a jury in October 2008 but the case was later dropped after a federal judge found that federal prosecutors withheld critical evidence from Stevens’ defense team.

Still, there were a few interesting tidbits, including details of contacts with foreign officials, several threats against him and also his work dating back to the 1950s when was a federal prosecutor in Alaska.

Murkowski rates write-in campaign courageous or crazy

“Political courage or just plain crazy.”

That’s the explanation Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski gives for why, against her party’s wishes, she waged a write-in campaign to hang on to her U.S. Senate seat.lisa

The ballots are still being counted but Murkowski looks set to make history as the first senator to be elected in a write-in campaign since Strom Thurmond in 1954.

“This is a whole new world for me and a whole new world for my colleagues,” Murkowski said in an interview with Katie Couric on CBS on Monday.

Washington Extra – Northern Exposure

Strange characters, quirky storylines and weird happenings out in Alaska.

Anyone hoping for a remake of Northern Exposure would have been disappointed by Sarah Palin’s Alaska, her new television series that aired last night and delivered a much straighter diet of “family adventure” and “flippin’ fun.”sarah3

The reality show, which drew a record five million viewers to TLC, showed the human side of a politician who is among the most polarizing in American politics today. It is the kind of positive media exposure money can’t buy, and got everyone talking again this morning about whether the former vice presidential nominee will run for the top job in 2012.

Washington Extra is not taking a position on that question. But after watching some of the shots of Alaska, I know where we are planning our next family vacation in 2011.

Will spelling count in Alaska write-in ballot count?

vote3They’re counting write-in ballots in Alaska to decide the winner of the last undecided U.S. Senate race of the 2010 elections.

It’s write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski versus Sarah Palin protege and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller in a Republican family feud where spelling counts.

Incumbent  Murkowski lost  to Miller in the Republican Senate primary. But she mounted a write-in campaign to keep the seat she’s held for eight years.

Campaign’s over, so start campaigning

OBAMA/Finally get some shut-eye after Tuesday’s election? Well, rise and shine. 2012 is just around the corner and the presidential campaign is already getting under way.

Folks at the White House may be asking themselves if the humbled, chastened President Barack Obama will face a primary challenge from the Left.

That bit of speculation got churning after newly unemployed Senate Democrat Russ Feingold conceded defeat with the decidedly unchastened message: “It’s on to the next fight. It’s on to the next battle. It’s on to 2012. And it is on to our next adventure — forward!” FEINGOLD

Media relations eclipse rhetoric as bare-knuckle politics

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The campaign rhetoric couldn’t be harsher, what with the talk about who’s a whore and who’s a nut job and who cheated on who’s ex-wife. (Remember when ‘who’ was just the guy on first?)

But nowadays the real bare-knuckle politics appears to be between the candidates and the news media.

Take the Senate campaign in Alaska. Tea Party Republican Joe Miller won’t talk to the press about his past as a public official. And when a journalist wouldn’t stop asking about it over the weekend, Miller’s private security team intervened.

Washington Extra -The audacity of hope?

If rescuing the U.S. economy from the Slough of Despond wasn’t enough, President Barack Obama took a stab at finding peace in the Middle East today. Obama is determined to forge a new relationship with the Muslim world, and presumably would like to unquestionably earn the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded last year.obama_middleast But getting embroiled in the Middle East is a risk for the president, not least because failure to reach an accord could set back his efforts to win over Muslims and achieve solidarity over Iran. Ordinary Israelis and Palestinians are not optimistic about this latest peace effort, and experts say the one-year deadline to reach a deal does not appear very realistic. Nevertheless, it is hard to argue with Obama’s opening remarks today, and his hope that “extremists and rejectionists” should not be allowed to derail the peace process.

It is often interesting when high-ranking officials leave office and get the chance to unburden themselves. White House economist Christina Romer was no exception today, issuing an impassioned plea for more economic stimulus measures, even if they push up the fiscal deficit in the short term. “The only sure-fire ways for policymakers to substantially increase aggregate demand in the short run are for the government to spend more and tax less. In my view we should be moving forward on both fronts,” she said in a speech at the National Press Club. “I desperately hope that policymakers on both sides of the aisle will find a way to finish the job of economic recovery,” she added. WashingtonExtra won’t be holding its metaphorical breath.

Finally today, another win by a Tea Party favorite in Alaska this week underlines that the movement is not just a passing fad, and has the staying power to be  a significant factor in November’s Congressional elections. What’s more, Democratic hopes that radical Tea Party candidates will alienate moderate voters and energize Democrats are not being realized. In fact, Tea Party favorites are already ahead of Democratic rivals in the opinion polls in Colorado, Kentucky and Florida, and only slightly behind in Nevada.

Florida, Arizona contestants set, still waiting on Alaska…

The contestants are set in Florida’s three-way race for the U.S. Senate and John McCain holds on to pursue a fifth term. USA/PALIN

But most of the chatter this morning is about the Alaska surprise where Joe Miller, an underdog candidate backed by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, edged into the lead over incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski. It may take a week or more to determine the winner of the primary as rural and absentee votes are tallied. 

How Miller fares will be seen as a test of Palin’s clout in the Republican Party. She has backed a number of candidates in this primary season and her results are mixed.

Senate honors Ted Stevens with moment of silence, summer recess

The Senate honored Ted Stevens, the former Senator from Alaska who was killed in a plane crash this week, with a moment of silence, a resolution and an end-of-summer recess.

Stevens, who served in the Senate for 40 years until he lost the 2008 election amid a corruption scandal, was on a fishing trip with a small group of  friends when their small plane crashed in a remote area of Alaska.

The Senate returned to session on Thursday to give final approval to legislation to provide $600 million to strengthen security along the border with Mexico in the latest measure aimed at fighting illegal immigration, a highly politically sensitive issue in this midterm election year.