Tales from the Trail

Union chief takes on a ‘Mama Grizzly’ — Sarah Palin

The head of the largest U.S. labor federation went to Alaska, “The Last Frontier,” to address local members Thursday and take on a self-proclaimed “Mama Grizzly” — Sarah Palin.

RACING/AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka mocked the former Alaska governor, a 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee who is seen as a conservative power broker and potential 2012 White House hopeful.

“Sometimes — about Sarah Palin — you just have to laugh. But it’s not really funny,” Trumka said.

Citing her use of the phrase “don’t retreat – reload,” Trumka said, “She’s getting close to calling for violence.”

“Some of her fans take that stuff seriously. We’ve got legislators in America who have been living with death threats” since their votes in Congress in support of President Barack Obama’s overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system, he said.

Washington Extra – Slipping poll numbers

It’s more bad news for President Barack Obama with the release of our latest Reuters/Ipsos national poll today. The headline number is that, for the first time since he took office, more Americans now disapprove of his performance than approve. After a long period where his approval rating was stable at just over 50 percent, the last three months have seen a steady deterioration, matching the economy’s faltering performance.
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Just like Ronald Reagan in 1982, Obama’s mid-term poll ratings are suffering from the economy’s woes. Faith in Obama’s ability to tackle the crisis was a key factor that swung the presidential race his way in 2008, but his performance on the economy is fast becoming his Achilles heel in the face of a concerted Republican assault. As Ipsos pollster Cliff Young told us, many voters had long been giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, but now patience has “basically vanished.”

Last month’s Reuters/Ipsos poll found Obama’s approval rating for his economic leadership was lower — and was deteriorating faster — than on any other issue.  This month’s poll gives some more clues as to why this is the case. Unemployment and government spending topped voters’ economic concerns, with 72 percent and 67 percent of respondents saying they were very worried over those issues respectively.

Republicans have been trying to convince voters that last year’s deficit-financed economic stimulus was not effective in reducing unemployment and ending the recession, and this argument may be striking home.

Reuters/Ipsos poll: Obama approval hits new low, but Republicans catch blame too

President Barack Obama’s approval rating sank to a new low of 45 percent, while his disapproval rating rose to 52 percent, according to a Reuters-Ipsos  poll. It was the first time more Americans disapproved than approved of Obama in an Ipsos poll since he became president.

But Republicans had little to crow about because they were blamed more than Democrats for Washington being broken, according to the August national poll. OBAMA/

Among registered voters the readings were about even when looking ahead to the November midterm elections, with 46 percent  likely to vote for Republican candidates and 45 percent for Democrats.

Washington Extra – summer reading

While President Barack Obama went book shopping on Martha’s Vineyard and bought a novel about a family from the Midwest –“Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen — Vice President Joe Biden was out in the Midwest talking the talk in St. Louis. OBAMA/

VPOTUS assured Democratic Party leaders that they would retain control of Congress in November because Republicans were out of touch.  ”They are going to look at what the Republican Party is really offering — more of the past, but on steroids,” Biden said.

That brings us to the State Department press corps ALMOST asking George Mitchell about baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, but refraining and sticking to the news at hand – a fresh attempt to jumpstart Middle East peace talks with a meeting in Washington next month.

Washington economic indicator: political finger-pointing

How do you know the economy is souring?

One indicator that doesn’t come wrapped in a government report is political finger-pointing.

It’s an election year with a sluggish economy and so Republicans and Democrats want to make sure voters know it’s the other’s fault — or at the very least not their own fault.

Take a look at the response to the jobless data today which showed weekly unemployment benefit claims reached a nine-month high. OBAMA/

Twitter opinion analysis shows midterm ‘enthusiasm gap’

In order to gauge the mood of voters as the midterms approach, Reuters has joined with market research company Crimson Hexagon to conduct a detailed assessment of the political mood as expressed by Twitter users. As a first step in this process we’re taking a look at the feeling expressed by Twitter users toward the Democratic and Republican parties in general.

This analysis is similar to one we conducted during the British general election earlier this year that showed changes in Twitter sentiment immediately following television debates and candidate gaffes that were echoed in opinion polls conducted days after the events.

In life, it often seems that people are more likely to speak up with criticism rather than praise. Our numbers show this is true on Twitter as well, with negative tweets about parties more common than positive ones. As you can see from the graph below, over the last nine days, roughly similar numbers of Twitter users have had something bad to say about both political parties:

Slurpees and an economy car for Obama on the campaign trail

What is it about a Slurpee?

The frozen beverage so popular at 7-Eleven convenience stores has become the biggest laugh line of President Barack Obama’s campaign speech for Democrats running in the midterm election. 

The thirst quencher became entwined with Obama’s analogy of the U.S. economy as a car that Republicans drove into a ditch when they ran government. Here is how he told the story on Tuesday at a fundraiser in Milwaukee for Mayor Tom Barrett who is running for Wisconsin governor.

“It’s as if they drove a car into the ditch and then we had to put on our boots and go down there in the mud, and we’ve been pushing and shoving.  And they’ve been standing aside and watching us, and saying, ‘you’re not pushing right, you’re not pushing fast enough’,” he said to loud laughter from the crowd. ”You know, they’re drinking on a Slurpee or something and…”  he said to even louder laughter and cheers from the audience.

Democrats try turning mosque debate against GOP

Democrats were stunned and somewhat speechless last August when Republicans accused them of proposing “death panels” as part of  their healthcare reform initiative.

This August,  it’s the proposed construction of a Muslim cultural center and mosque near lower Manhattan’s “Ground Zero” that is dominating the end-of-summer doldrums.  Once again,  Democrats are struggling to gain the upper hand in the debate. AFGHANISTAN/

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighed in on Wednesday, saying, “Where a place of worship is located is a local decision.” The Democrat may have been tweaking Republicans from across the U.S. who are railing about the New York City mosque all the while complaining about the long, intrusive arm of the federal government.

Democrats disagree on NY mosque, White House says no problem

Barack Obama and Harry Reid agree on most things.

They both favored stimulus measures to boost the economy. They both want climate change and comprehensive immigration reform to pass the Senate — at least someday.

OBAMABut the U.S. president and the top Democrat in the Senate disagree about an issue that could become a flashpoint in the November elections: whether or not a Muslim cultural center in New York should be built near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Obama has come out forcefully in favor of the rights of the builders to put the center, which would include a prayer room and an auditorium, near the site known as “Ground Zero.”

Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Republican Rand Paul leading in Kentucky Senate race

Republican Rand Paul, a Tea Party favored candidate, is leading his Democratic opponent Jack Conway by 5 points among likely voters,  45 percent to 40 percent, in the Kentucky race for a U.S. Senate seat, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said. USA-POLITICS/

Many voters in Kentucky, 53 percent, were unaware of the recent reports about Paul’s involvement in apparent pranks while he was a student. A GQ headlined “Rand Paul’s Kooky College Days” article described escapades including trying to force a woman to bow at a creek to a god called “Aqua Buddha” and smoke marijuana.

A small number of Republicans, 12 percent, said those stories made them MORE likely to vote for the son of two-time Republican presidential contender Ron Paul.