Tales from the Trail

Lighting a fire off the campaign trail

Politicians rarely take a break from the campaign trail, but when they do they tend to choose mainstream R&R, unwinding on the golf course or tucked away on a private estate.

Not so John Mertens, a third-party candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Chris Dodd of Connecticut. Attendees of the annual Burning Man festival parade around a 50-foot effigy of a man at the annual event held in the Nevada desert August 30. The festival is an 'anything goes' event that's been described as "Mad Max meets Woodstock" and is expected to draw 20,000 free-sprited people.

The engineering professor turned candidate is off to Burning Man, a counterculture festival held each summer in the Nevada desert that ends with the burning of a 40-foot tall wooden sculpture. It will be his sixth time at the festival, which features extensive art exhibits but is also known for drug use and nudity.

“This year will be an abbreviated stay, because I don’t want to spend too much time away from the campaign. There’s no cell phone or Internet service. It’s going to be a nice break,” Mertens said in an e-mailed statement, adding that the trip to the festival — which in recent years has drawn more than 40,000 participants — fulfills a promise to his 22-year-old son.

Connecticut voters will have a choice of colorful candidates when they head to the ballot box in November. The Republican nominee is Linda McMahon, the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, who sometimes made appearances in the ring among the muscle-bound  performers.

Bennet, Buck score wins in Colorado

In a primary drama that might have been subtitled “two presidents and a party,” incumbent Colorado Senator Michael Bennet won the battle for the state’s Democratic Senate nomination on Tuesday.

Bennet’s win was  a welcome victory for President Barack Obama who backed the incumbent who battled both anti-incumbent fever and a challenger, Andrew Romanoff, who had the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton.

On the Republican side, Tea Party-backed candidate Ken Buckbuck narrowly defeated former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton. Buck, a former prosecutor, won despite being caught on tape complaining about Tea Party “dumb-asses” who question whether Obama was born in the United States. He will face Bennet in November.

“Blumenthal mistake” – the birth of a catchphrase?


Joe Biden may have coined a new one.

Will ”Blumenthal mistake” – to claim service in the Vietnam War, while having served stateside in the National Guard – end up in some future dictionary of American political slang?

The U.S. vice president hosted a poolside barbecue on Tuesday night for wounded troops at his home at the U.S. Naval Observatory. During his remarks, Biden alluded to the experiences of troops coming home from Vietnam and joked: “I didn’t serve in Vietnam. I don’t want to make a Blumenthal mistake here. Our attorney general from Connecticut, God love him.”

Later on, he added,  “I have a bad habit of saying exactly what I think,” an acknowledgment of his own reputation for making verbal gaffes.