Tales from the Trail

A battleground is a battleground is a battleground – or is it?

It isn’t really surprising that there are widely varying theories for the best way to win the battleground states – those considered neither firmly Democratic nor Republican – in the Nov. 6 election. After all, if they were easy to win, they wouldn’t be battlegrounds.

But what is surprising is the extent of the disagreement over which should be defined as battlegrounds – or swing states, toss-ups or “purple” (as in something between Republican red and Democratic blue).

A new study by the University of Minnesota found that news outlets that publish election maps vary widely in their assessments of which states are up for grabs in 2012.

Using data collected on August 2, researchers looked at the electoral projection maps of 12 news outlets and found the number of states deemed toss-ups ranged from a low of three – the Huffington Post’s Florida, North Carolina and Virginia – to a high of 16 at the National Journal, which puts Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin in the purple column.

Residents of battleground states can expect to have a busy autumn. Their telephones will ring with political surveys, push polls and election-related announcements. Their radio and television programs will overflow with advertisements. Their mailboxes and online accounts (Facebook ads, anyone?) will bulge with messages, and pleas for money, from candidates, committees and political parties. And their doorbells will very likely ring with visits from what both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s teams promise will be “armies” of volunteers espousing candidates and causes.

What does Obama want for his birthday? Florida would be nice

President Barack Obama, whose birthday is Saturday, has at least one big idea for a birthday present – and it comes with 29 electoral votes.

A crowd of more than 2,000 people sang “Happy Birthday” to Obama during a campaign stop in Orlando, prompting Obama to joke that he ought to have brought a cake so that he could blow out the candles and make an electoral wish. “Winning Florida wouldn’t be a bad birthday present,” Obama said.

The Democrat, who regularly jokes about his graying hair, had another wry comment as he faces his 51st birthday, noting that first lady Michelle Obama thinks he looks 50.

Scott Brown’s latest channels poet Langston Hughes

Scott Brown, locked in a tight race to hold onto his Senate seat from Massachusetts, has become the second Republican in the current election cycle to channel Langston Hughes, the African American social activist poet with Communist sympathies who is also regarded as a literary hero by many in the gay community.

A new video from Brown, soliciting donations for his neck-and-neck campaign against Democrat Elizabeth Warren, is headlined “Let America Be America Again” – the title of Hughes’ well-known 1935 poem, first published in Esquire magazine, that suggests the American dream never really existed for many Americans, including the lower classes, blacks, Native Americans, and other minority groups.

“There’s never been equality for me/Nor freedom in this ‘homeland of the free,’” Hughes writes in an aside between verses. “America never was America to me.”

Republicans shoot for “Super Saturday”

 

Hoping to echo the Democratic Party’s successful use of volunteer armies to engage – and turn out – voters, Republicans are mounting their first “Super Saturday” volunteer day of the 2012 campaign this weekend. On July 7, the party says it will dispatch an army of volunteers to knock on doors and make telephone calls to voters in swing states across the country.

Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said the Romney/RNC operation would be in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa.

President Barack Obama won all 12 of those states when he won the White House in 2008, aided by an army of volunteers. Romney will need to swing a large number of them back to the Republican column to defeat Obama on Nov. 6. 

2012 Election? In hot summer, it’s leaving Americans cold

A long spell of brutally hot weather is not the only thing making Americans cranky this summer.

With four months still to go before the presidential election on Nov. 6, Americans seem to be experiencing the 2012 campaign more like studying for a big math test than watching an exciting neck-and-neck horse race, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. More Republicans in particular are bored with the campaign.

The poll 0f 2,013 adults conducted June 7-17 found that most Americans find the presidential election campaign between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney to be important and informative – but also exhausting, annoying, too negative, too long and dull.

Obama campaign goes on the attack ahead of bus tour

President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign used Tuesday to pave the rhetorical road for the president’s two-day trip through the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania beginning on Thursday.

In a new television advertisement and during a conference call with reporters, the campaign and its allies tore into Republican challenger Mitt Romney for pushing policies and practices they say cost middle-class jobs and netted the former private equity executive millions.

The 30-second television advertisement, “Believes,” is airing in Ohio and Pennsylvania ahead of the President’s trip, as well as in several other states — such as Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Virginia — the campaign sees as crucial to winning another term in the White House.

DNC to GOP on healthcare: Bring it on

 

The Democrats have an answer for the Republicans if the Supreme Court throws out President Barack Obama’s healthcare law on Thursday: Good luck with that.

It may be bravado in the face of what would seem to be huge disappointment, but some Democrats insist they relish the prospect of watching congressional Republicans grapple with how to deal with the massive and troubled industry. Annual U.S. spending on healthcare already totals $2.6 trillion a year. Skyrocketing costs are expected to make spending balloon to $4.8 trillion, or one-fifth of U.S. gross domestic product over the coming decade, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“It will be time for the Republicans to say what they are going to do. This is on them,” Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said on Wednesday at the Reuters Washington Summit.

Mitt Romney still a blank slate, Democrat says

Americans don’t know much about Mitt Romney, except that he’s rich and once offered to make a $10,000 bet in a Republican debate, former White House spokesman Bill Burton said at the Reuters Washington Summit on Wednesday.

Burton, who left the White House to co-found a Super PAC to raise money and create ads aimed at making sure Romney doesn’t defeat President Barack Obama in November, said people need to learn more about the presumptive Republican nominee.

“He’s a blank slate to the American people. People know very little about him -  to the extent that they know anything it’s what they’ve heard on Saturday Night Live or Jon Stewart or the things that they pass around on Facebook,” he said.

Lead a Super PAC, lose your friends

It’s not like the old days with his former colleagues at the White House and friends from the Barack Obama campaign anymore for Bill Burton.

The co-founder of the Priorities USA Action Super PAC, which is prevented by campaign finance rules from collaborating with the Obama campaign, told the Reuters Washington Summit he may spend his days raising money to get Obama re-elected, but he has very little contact with his old friends who are actually working in the administration or the re-election campaign.

Asked if he and White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer were limited to talking about sports if they get together for a beer, Burton just laughed.

This time, some Democrats are embracing “Obamacare”

 

Fierce opposition to President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill helped propel Republicans to big victories in the 2010 mid-term elections, when they won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives and cut into the Democratic majority in the Senate.

But this year, at least some Democrats are embracing the healthcare plan – touting their support for its popular provisions and attacking Republicans for opposing measures that polls show big majorities of Americans supporting.

North Dakota’s former Democratic attorney general, Heidi Heitkamp, who is running for the Senate, responded to a wave of attack advertisements against her over the healthcare law by creating an emotional advertisement of her own relating her own recovery from breast cancer to her support for the law.