Tales from the Trail

Candidate Obama touts working class credentials

obama_phillyEvery political candidate has a tale of his hard-working origins — even sitting presidents with Harvard Law degrees who have made millions by writing best-selling books. And President Barack Obama is no exception, as he showed during a road trip on Wednesday in which he tested out what will likely be themes of his newly launched 2012 re-election campaign.

At a stop at a wind turbine company outside Philadelphia, Obama stood before a giant American flag and pledged to keep fighting for policy priorities like promoting the use of renewable energy. He took off his suit jacket, joked with questioners in the crowd and paced casually on the stage away from the presidential podium.

“Here’s what I said (in 2008). I said I am not a perfect man and I will not be a perfect president, but I can promise you this … . I will be honest with you about the challenges we face and how we can solve these problems and I will take what I hear from you,” he said.

“I have kept that promise. I’m thinking about you guys every single day when I’m in the White House, and I’m going to keep pushing, I’m going to keep fighting for you.”

obama_stevieAt an evening civil rights award gala in New York, he reminded the audience that he may be president, but it was not that long ago that he and first lady Michelle Obama faced many of the same struggles of many working American families.

Obama to fainting supporter: Eat!

obama-oct-2.jpgEAST LANSING – With a little over a month to go until the Nov. 4 U.S. presidential election, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has no time for fainters. At an outdoor rally on Wednesday at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, the Democrat was all business.

Interrupted during his speech by a signal from someone in the crowd that a person may have fainted, Obama pointed medics to the area and had this advice for their potential patient — “Next time, if you come to a 20,000-person rally, remember to eat something before you get here.”

Back in January on the morning of the New Hampshire primary, another Obama supporter fainted as the U.S. senator from Illinois spoke at Dartmouth College. Back then Obama waited a full 15 minutes for medics to arrive and treat the patient before continuing with his speech. 

Barack Obama’s hoppin’ mad over “brew ha ha”

beer.jpgST. PAUL – Barack Obama wants the country to know that he’s a regular, beer-drinking guy. But don’t count on him to throw the first punch in a bar brawl.

During an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday, the Democratic presidential nominee bristled when his interviewer implied that he had recently sipped a beer to gain favor with blue-collar voters. CBS’s Steve Kroft added, “I know you don’t particularly like…”

Obama cut off Kroft, saying, “Steve, I had a beer last night. I mean, where do these stories come from man?”

Obama says odds of winning White House ‘very good’

ARLINGTON, Va. – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama likes his chances in the White House battle with Republican John McCain, telling a fundraising reception the odds of his winning are “very good.”
“Let’s face it, there weren’t too many people who thought we were going to pull this off,” Obama told a fundraiser attended by about 40 people on Monday in Arlington, Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington.
“We are now in a position where the odds of us winning are very good. But it is still going to be difficult.”
Obama said he was pleased with his trip to Europe and the Middle East — “we executed very well” — but did not expect it to give him a big bump in polls.
He said people were still evaluating his candidacy because he was a new face in national politics.
“I don’t look like any presidential candidate America has ever seen,” said Obama, the son of a black African father and white mother from Kansas who spent part of his youth in Indonesia.
“It’s not just a function of race, it’s background, experience, resume — this is new for them, and new for us as a country,” he said. He expects a close race to the end.
“We’re not going to see some huge gap develop, some huge separation develop between now and Nov. 4,” he said. “This is going to be a close election for a long time because I’m new on the national scene. 

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage:  

German politicians feud over possible Obama visit

BERLIN – Barack Obama may be itching to tell the world ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ in the same city that fell in love with John F. Kennedy for his famous 1963 address to frightened West Berliners in freedom’s most famous outpost.rtx7r7a.jpg
But Obama’s possible trip to the German capital later this month has provoked a German domestic free-for-all — drawing page one headlines and putting new strains on the governing coalition.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany’s No. 1 conservative, sent her spokesman out on Wednesday to say she’s against any “electioneering” in Berlin, while Vice Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, leaders from the center-left Social Democrats, said the exact opposite — that Obama would be warmly welcomed to speak in the German capital.
From the protocol perspective, Merkel has no say about who visits or speaks at the Brandenburg Gate — it’s the Berlin’s mayor decision. Neither does Steinmeier, who is the SPD’s likely candidate to run against Merkel in next year’s federal election.
So it’s remarkable that the two German heavyweights have waded into the debate with their different points of view on Obama.rtx7rvo.jpg
Their disagreement surfaced in a tense government news conference Wednesday in Berlin where the respective spokesmen openly contradicted each other
Obama reportedly wants to come to the heart of Berlin — just a few weeks after the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-led Air Lift — while U.S. President George W. Bush spent only a few brief minutes in Berlin airport getting off his plane and into his helicopter on a two-day visit with Merkel to an isolated village 60 miles north of Berlin.
Bush never returned to Berlin after facing 10,000 anti-war protesters on his one visit to the German capital in 2002. Still very unpopular in Germany, Bush went to the provinces on his four other trips. A German opinion poll, showed recently that Obama would win 72 percent of the vote in Germany if Germans could vote in the U.S. election.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Top: Reuters/Tami Chappell (Obama speaks in Georgia on Tuesday) ; Bottom: Reuters/Ho New (Merkel with Bush at G8 meeting on Wednesday)

Obama’s faith initiative stirs left, right and academia

obamajuly2.jpgDALLAS - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s promise on Tuesday of a more robust approach to faith-based social programs has been blasted from the left and the right — and raised some pointed questions from academia.

But it has also won support from the religious left and centrists, the groups it is aimed at as the Obama campaign seeks to woo wavering evangelicals.

Obama unveiled the plan in Ohio, pledging to beef up the faith-based community programs pioneered by President George W. Bush.

Dems acting like GOP toward Florida, Michigan – Bill Clinton

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – Democrats are acting more like Republicans by not counting the results of the Florida and Michigan primaries and by not seating those states’ party delegates, former President Bill Clinton said on Tuesday.cafe.jpg

“The Republicans are supposed to be the people that don’t count votes in Florida, not Democrats,” said Clinton, campaigning with his wife Sen. Hillary Clinton at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, where she chatted with voters and he held an impromptu news conference.

The January votes in Michigan and Florida were deemed invalid by the national Democratic Party because both states moved their election dates forward in defiance of party rules.

Obama says he’s not ‘obsessing’ over setbacks

Barack Obama says his campaign for U.S. president clearly has suffered damage from a series of controversies over the past few weeks, but he is trying to move forward without “obsessing” over the setbacks.rtr203y4.jpg

Obama says public comments by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, calling the Sept. 11 attacks retribution for U.S. policy and blaming the U.S. government for the spread of AIDS would no doubt be a factor in some voters minds.

But he said he would leave it to pollsters to analyze the extent of the impact.

“We’ve had a rough couple of weeks. I won’t deny that,” Obama told reporters. “I don’t think that what happened with Rev. Wright was helpful,” said the Illinois senator who forcefully denounced the minister’s rhetoric earlier this week.

Obama shoots hoops with UNC basketball team

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Talk about a workout. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, a basketball fan who takes to the court to stay in shape, got a run for his money on Tuesday during a scrimmage with the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

rtr1zw8w.jpgThe U.S. presidential candidate, 46 and 6’2″, played ball with students half his age and seemingly twice his height in an early morning match-up that sent him off to the sidelines for a break halfway through the game.

“These guys are a lot better than me,” he breathed to reporters while jogging down the court after one play.

Publisher apologizes for ‘Obama bin Laden’ gaffe

WASHINGTON – White House hopeful Barack Obama often says his “funny name” is one of the things that makes his status as the Democratic frontruobama4.jpgnner so unexpected.
    But at a luncheon with U.S. newspaper publishers and editors on Monday, a publisher made an embarrassing gaffe when asking the Illinois senator a question about the Taliban and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden — but accidentally said “Obama” instead of “Osama.”
    “I think that was Osama bin Laden,” Obama corrected him.
    Realizing he had made an error, the publisher, Dean Singleton, chairman of the board of the Associated Press and founder of the NewsMedia Group newspaper company, apologized.
    “If I did that, I’m so sorry,” Singleton said.
    Obama made light of the mistake, drawing a mixture of laughter and some relief in the audience, which had been taken aback by the gaffe.
    “No, no, this is part of the exercise I’ve been going through for the last 15 months,” Obama said. “Which is why it’s pretty impressive that I’m still standing here.”

- Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Cohn (Obama addresses members of the Alliance for American Manufacturing)