Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Long day

The longest day of the year probably seemed even longer for some.

Jon Huntsman started the day in New Jersey to formally throw his hat into the ring against the picturesque backdrop of the Statue of Liberty. Here’s the thing about backdrops and TV… Huntsman made it into every shot, but not Lady Liberty. And then he was off to New Hampshire for a rally.

At the Capitol, it was scheduled as a two-hour meeting, but the issues seem never-ending as Vice President Joe Biden and lawmakers negotiate on the deficit and debt limit. Some speculation swirling that perhaps a short-term increase in the debt limit may be an option if agreement is out of reach.

Not exactly a sunny day for the economy. Data out today point to a housing market still struggling to regain footing.

And tomorrow promises to be an extra long day for Afghanistan watchers waiting for President Barack Obama to lay out details of a U.S. troop drawdown in a White House address at 8 p.m.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Obama finalizes plan for Afghan troop cuts

President Obama made his final decision on the scale and pace of a troop drawdown in Afghanistan and will announce his plan in a prime-time speech to Americans on Wednesday. Obama is expected to present a blueprint for bringing home thousands of troops in the initial phase starting in July and also unveil a broader withdrawal strategy for the remainder of the 30,000 extra “surge” troops he ordered deployed in late 2009, a U.S. official said.

Huntsman’s big day out

Jon Huntsman knew coming into Tuesday that low name recognition was a problem.

But the former Utah governor might not have expected it in the heart of his campaign on the day he announced a run for the White House.

Media traveling with the just-hatched candidate in New Jersey were handed press passes which touted the “John Huntsman for President Announcement Tour” (that’s an extra H in the first name). Staff quickly scrambled to retrieve and replace the errant IDs.

By Huntsman’s second stop of the day, a rally in Exeter, New Hampshire, aides had opted instead for the generic tag of  “Governor Huntsman.” Less chance of a blunder.

Senate candidate Al Franken’s tax goof bites

CHICAGO – Comedian, author and former radio talk show host Al Franken, the likely Democratic Senate candidate for Minnesota, is paying $70,000 in back taxes and penalties to 17 states to make up for what he says were mistakes by his accountant.

State Republicans say Franken, who was expected to pose rtr1n2zo.jpga strong challenge to incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman in the November election, is at fault. 

“Al Franken’s business activities must have a full, and complete public airing if he is to retain any credibility as a candidate for public office,” Ron Carey, chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, said in a statement.