Tales from the Trail

Newt goes back to school

Newt Gingrich may not have thrilled a crowd of Iowa school kids with all of his answers on Tuesday, but he cannot be accused of pandering to them.

Gingrich didn’t score points with the 200 or so middle and high schoolers  in Osage, Iowa, with his answer to the U.S. falling behind in the brain race with China.

“You’ve got to study more,” he told the kids, who stared back. “Scores in the end aren’t the teacher’s problem; they are the student’s problem.”

The kids were quiet and attentive for the 45 minutes the former US House Speaker spent with them in the gym at Osage Middle School, but their reactions afterward were decidedly mixed.

Some were thrilled with Gingrich’s visit, including Alexandra Burns, 14, the daughter of a local Republican legislator who invited Gingrich after meeting him with her father.

Obama says biggest task left for him is to fix U.S. politics

President Barack Obama has lots of reasons he wants to hold on to the White House in 2012.

There’s energy policy, for example, which he would like to revamp. There’s immigration reform, which he hopes to “implement.”

But at a fundraiser on Monday night, the president said the real challenge he had left to handle was “fixing” the political atmosphere in Washington.

Obama to middle class: Who loves you?

The middle class is back.

Amid the din of Republican cries of class warfare, the Occupy Wall Street movement and a fresh economic report that America’s rich are getting much, much richer, one phrase punctuated weekend remarks from President Barack Obama and his campaign strategists: the middle class.

As the Democratic president struggles to reconnect with his base — liberals, black Americans and younger voters — he is taking up the middle class mantra to target the crucial voting bloc.

This weekend there was no escaping who the Obama team’s message was aimed at.

Some ‘Occupy DC’ protestors not happy with Obama either

By Lily Kuo

Protestors in the Washington arm of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement have another message for the 1 percent: Listen up, President Obama.

Several Republican presidential candidates have criticized the movement as anti-American, divisive, and “in search of scapegoats.” But many members of what has become known as Occupy DC are not warming up to the Democratic president either, a fact that could frustrate what analysts say are Obama’s hopes to co-opt a burgeoning movement representing average Americans.

“[Obama and Biden] may be making a bet that this thing will get real traction among the middle class and young people, who have largely checked out of politics,” said Paul Light, a political science professor at New York University.

Netanyahu on Obama ties: Under the bus? What bus?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to take the bait on Sunday when asked if he agreed with Republican presidential candidates that President Barack Obama is not pro-Israel enough.

He was asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s recent comment that the Democratic president “threw Israel under the bus.”

“You are trying to throw me under the bus of American politics and, guess what, I’m not going to be thrown there,” Netanyahu joked.

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.

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 .

Republicans warm up in Iowa debate

Things got a little heated between Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty during the Republican debate in Ames, Iowa.

Early on in the two-hour debate, the former Minnesota governor tried to knock the Minnesota congresswoman down a peg, saying her record of accomplishment and results “is nonexistent.”

Bachmann took aim at his record as governor, blasting his support for a cap and trade environmental plan and individual mandates in healthcare. “That sounds more like Barack Obama if you ask me,” she said.

Palin’s take on S&P downgrade

“Many commonsense Americans like myself  saw this day coming,” Sarah Palin says of the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and the fallout in the markets.

In what reads like an economic policy statement, the former Alaska governor and possible presidential candidate says she is “surprised that so many people seem surprised by S&P’s decision.”

“Weren’t people paying attention over the last year or so when we were getting warning after warning from various credit rating agencies that this was coming?” she said in a lengthy posting on her Facebook page.