Tales from the Trail

Obama has 19-point lead with early voters — Pew

DALLAS – According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has a 19-point lead over Republican rival John McCain among U.S. voters who have already cast their ballots.

The Pew poll, released on Tuesday, gels with other reports of a Democratic surge to the polls in states that allow early voting.

Obama holds a 53 percent to 34 percent lead among the sizable minority of voters (15 percent) who say they have already voted. Among those who plan to vote early but have not yet voted (16 percent of voters), 56 percent support Obama, while 37 percent support McCain,” Pew said.

The election will be held a week from today and most national polls give Obama a commanding lead, although not by the margins suggested by Pew’s survey of early voters. This could well be a sign of energized and enthusiastic Democrats heading to the early polls.

Obama’s lead over McCain has narrowed from 12 points just five days ago to four points, according to the latest Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll. You can see our report on this  here

A taxing question on Palin’s clothing allowance

Sarah Palin’s $150,000 clothing allowance from the Republican National Committee raises questions about whether John McCain’s vice presidential pick will have to pay federal income taxes for the items she bought with the money.  palin2.jpg

Maybe, according to one congressional tax expert.

The McCain campaign says the clothing, which according to Politico.com was purchased at stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks, will go to charity after the campaign.

If everything is handed over to charity once the last ballot is cast, Palin could argue that she never actually owned the clothes and that they were more like costumes or uniforms used for work, the tax expert said.

In debates, McCain loses blinking contest to Obama

mccain-semi-blink.jpgWASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate John McCain may not have blinked first in his debates with Barack Obama — but he certainly blinked more often, which is not a good thing.

Candidates who blink more than their opponents in debates tend to lose presidential elections, says Boston College psychology professor J.J. Tecce, and McCain outblinked Obama during the their three debates this fall.

“People are picking up McCain’s rapid blinking and saying, ‘There’s something about him that’s awfully twitchy and nervous and I don’t think I want to vote for that guy,’” said Tecce, who has presented a paper on blinking in debates.

Clinton: Not just any woman will do for the White House

palin-vertical.jpghillary-vertical.jpgCracked. Shattered. Whatever. Forget the glass ceiling, policy trumps gender in the race for the White House as far as Hillary Clinton is concerned.

“Of course it’s exciting to have a woman on the ticket,” Clinton said in a CNN interview when asked about the vice presidential candidacy of Republican Sarah Palin.

“But that in and of itself is not enough reason … and really no one will shatter that ceiling until we have a woman serving as president or vice president,” she said in the interview broadcast on Tuesday.

In apparent shift, Cindy McCain invokes sons in criticism of Obama

cindy.jpgBETHLEHEM, Pennsylvania – Republican John McCain’s military history is famous, but the service of his sons is less well known. And until recently, that’s exactly how the presidential candidate and his wife, Cindy, wanted it.
But on Wednesday, Mrs. McCain made a rare reference to her sons when criticizing the Illinois senator for his 2007 vote against a war funding bill. McCain has two sons in the military, and one has served in Iraq.  “The day that Sen. Obama decided to cast a vote to not fund my son when he was serving sent a cold chill through my body,” McCain told a crowded rally in Pennsylvania, an electoral battleground state.
“I would suggest that Sen. Obama change shoes with me for just one day and see what it means … to have a loved one serving in the armed forces and more importantly, serving in harm’s way,” she said. “I suggest he take a day and go watch our fine young men…and women deploy, get on those buses and leave with a smile.”
McCain also invoked vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s son, who recently deployed to Iraq.
 ”We have a lot in common, the McCain family and the Palin family,” she said. “We represent between us the Army, the Navy and the United States Marine Corps.”
Obama voted against the funding bill in 2007 but supported a version that included a timetable for withdrawal for U.S. troops from Iraq.
The son of Obama’s vice presidential running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, has just been sent to Iraq with the Army National Guard, and will be there for about a year. Obama has two young daughters. 

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

A comic book look at McCain and Obama

comic.jpgIn a bruising campaign, John McCain’s unfaithfulness during his marriage to his first wife, Carol, and Barack Obama’s drug use as a young man have occasionally come up.
So when IDW Publishing set out to create biographical comics about McCain and Obama, it included those scandals.
In one panel from Obama’s youth, he is shown playing basketball and driving to the basket. A narration box says that “He was experimenting with tobacco, alcohol, pot and cocaine.” The comic helpfully explains that Obama was trying “to figure out where he belonged” at the time.
McCain’s former hard-partying lifestyle is also put on display in the comics. In one panel, he is seen dancing on a table with a woman in a skirt, from his days in the Navy. In another panel from the same time period, McCain is seen in a red convertible with a woman. The narration box reads that “He began seeing other women. Rumors flew around the base. Before long Carol knew, but kept silent.”
Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin has sought this week to paint Obama as a man who was “palling around” with terrorists by in the past associating with William Ayers, a former member of the radical group the Weather Underground. That connection doesn’t merit a mention in the Obama comic book. There is, however, a panel on Obama arriving at the Democratic National Convention in 2000 and not being able to get a floor pass.
The comics hit stands and bookstores on Wednesday. 

Photo credit: Reuters/Mike Blake.

Gores host post-debate fundraiser for Obama

obamas.jpgNASHVILLE, Tenn. - Democrat Barack Obama wasn’t quite ready to call it a night after his debate on Tuesday night with Republican John McCain.

Obama stopped by the home Al and Tipper Gore in Belle Meade, just outside of Nashville, where the former vice president and his wife were holding a fundraiser on his behalf.

The soiree raised more than $900,000 for Obama’s campaign coffers.

Gore said he didn’t want to take anything for granted but introduced Obama as the “next president of the United States.”

Hagel questions Palin experience

Sarah Palin has energized the Republican base since John McCain picked her as his vice-presidential running mate, but one prominent Republican is not impressed.hagelobama.jpg

Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, is questioning whether Palin has enough foreign-policy experience to serve as the country’s second-in-command. “She doesn’t have any foreign policy credentials,” Hagel told the Omaha World-Herald. “You get a passport for the first time in your life last year? I mean, I don’t know what you can say. You can’t say anything.”

“I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, ‘I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia,” he added. “That kind of thing is insulting to the American people.”

Palin offers to play “stump the candidate,” but game doesn’t happen

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said on Wednesday she would be ready to deal with foreign policy if she and John McCain win the White House and offered to play “stump the candidate” to test herself on specific policy issues.

In their first joint “town hall meeting” with Palin taking questions from voters, an audience member asked Palin to dispel concerns that she lacked foreign policy experience. She responded by saying she expected critics to look for things to attack. “I think because I’m a Washington outsider that opponents are going to be looking for a whole lot of things that they can criticize,” she said.

palin.jpg“As for foreign policy, you know, I think that I am prepared and I know that on Jan. 20, if we are so blessed as to be sworn into office as your president and vice president, certainly we’ll be ready,” Palin said.

Never mind polls, McCain says he’s still the underdog

mccain16.jpgMIAMI – The polls may show him advancing past Democrat Barack Obama, but Republican John McCain is still holding on to one of his favorite titles: underdog.

The Arizona senator told a Republican fundraising event that raised some $5.1 million on Monday that he and running mate Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, were still coming from behind in the race toward the Nov. 4 presidential election.

“We’ve got a strong headwind and we’ve got a lot to do,” he said to a group of donors. “No matter what you see in the polls recently, Governor Palin and I are the underdogs. We’re the underdogs. That’s where we like to be.”