Tales from the Trail

Reform-minded Angus King says he’s had warm Senate welcome

Senator-elect Angus King came to Washington preaching bipartisanship and fearing that many of his new colleagues wouldn’t go near him, figuring he’s “a strange creature.”

But to King’s delight, a number of Democrats and Republicans stepped forward to say that they share his desire to end congressional gridlock.

“I was a little apprehensive coming down here,” King told Reuters TV on Thursday (video above), his third day in Washington after last week’s congressional and presidential elections.

“I was afraid they would say all say, ‘Forget it. We’re not going to talk to this strange creature from Maine who’s an independent,’” King said.

“But I have been pleasantly surprised. There’s been a lot of positive, I think genuinely warm words of – ‘Hey, let’s get together. Let’s talk. Let’s see if we can work on some of these problems together.’”

Married v. unmarried could be the new election “gender gap”

Despite the American obsession with voting differences between men and women – the famed U.S. election “gender gap” – there is a far bigger “gap” dividing likely voters in 2012 - the yawning divide between marrieds and unmarrieds.

Fifty-seven percent of likely voters who are unmarried support Democratic President Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 general election, including those who have never been married, live with a partner or are widowed, divorced or separated.

Thirty-three percent of those unmarried likely voters back Republican challenger Mitt Romney, giving Obama a 24-point edge among the 910 respondents, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling data for the week ended Oct. 21.

Obama shows Biden some love after debate mention

President Barack Obama broke from his standard campaign speech on Tuesday to show his running mate Joe Biden some love, heaping praise onto the vice president less than 24 hours after he put Biden under a harsh spotlight during the final presidential debate.

When explaining his decision to kill Osama bin Laden, Obama said in the debate to his Republican opponent Mitt Romney that “even some in my own party, including my current vice president, had the same critique as you did.”

“But what the American people understand is, is that I look at what we need to get done to keep the American people safe and to move our interests forward, and I make those decisions,” he continued.

Foreign policy issues rank low among voter priorities

Hype for the third and final presidential debate tonight has been considerably less than for the two previous face-offs — perhaps for good reason. The debate is focused on foreign policy, and Americans don’t seem to care that much about it.

“War/foreign conflicts” and “terrorism/terrorist attacks” tied for a spot near the bottom of a list of issues from which respondents were asked to identify the most important, in Reuters/Ipsos polls conducted since January. Only 2 percent of likely voters saw each of those two as issues of top importance.

In October, 43 percent of likely voters said the economy was the most important issue and 25 percent pointed to “unemployment/lack of jobs,” followed by healthcare (7 percent), morality (5 percent), “other” (5 percent), education (4 percent) and immigration (3 percent).

Vice presidential candidates by the numbers

The vice presidential candidates who will take the stage for a debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky this week are just as polarizing as their running mates, according to Reuters/Ipsos polls. “Very unfavorable” was the most commonly held view of both men.

According to data collected last week, Vice President Joe Biden is seen “very unfavorably” by 22 percent of respondents, in line with President Barack Obama’s “very unfavorable” score of 27 percent.

U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, the Tea Party darling and Republican budget master, has a corresponding figure of 25 percent. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s “very unfavorable” score is, like the president’s, 27  percent.

Obama heads to Florida for re-election fundraising effort

President Barack Obama on Thursday will travel to Florida for a fundraiser at a hotel in Miami with hundreds of guests that could raise at least $1 million for the Democratic incumbent and Democrats’ re-election coffers, according to a major donor.

“People are enthusiastic about how the race is going — the danger of a Romney administration is less likely — but this election is far from over,” said Kris Korge, a Florida businessman helping to organize the event.

Romney enjoyed a jump in several opinion polls after a strong debate performance last week against an strikingly tepid Obama. A positive jobs report on Friday gave Obama some positive news, but poll aggregator RealClearPolitics showed the presidential race tightening in Florida and other key swing states.

Romney’s strong debate draws cheers and relief from Republicans in Congress

Mitt Romney’s strong debate performance eased concerns by fellow Republicans in Congress that his recent struggles could be a problem for all of them on Election Day.

“His first debate was very important – and he delivered,” said Congressman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a member of the House Republican leadership.

“He established himself as a person who can be president of the United States – and that will make everyone feel positive,” said Republican Senator Mike Johanns.

The “likability” factor

Is Mitt Romney “likable enough”? The eve of the first 2012 presidential debate is a good time to revisit that concept, made famous in an exchange between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during a primary debate in 2008.

The answer, based on Reuters/Ipsos polls, is bad news for the Republican nominee.

It’s not just that, as anyone who has followed this race knows, President Obama claims a majority of respondents on the question, “Which candidate is more likable?” – 52 percent among men and 51 percent among women. What must concern the Romney campaign is how low the favorable response to that question is for their candidate. At 24 percent for men and women, it is lower even than the combined number of “neithers” and “don’t knows.”

Rock band The National to headline Obama fundraiser in Ohio

Music group The National and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz will headline a fundraiser benefiting President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in Cincinnati on October 5, a donor to the campaign said.

The early-evening event in downtown Cincinnati will feature an acoustic concert by the alternative rock group, which is known for brooding songs like “Bloodbuzz Ohio.” The Brooklyn-based band, which formed in Cincinnati, has been Obama’s opening act a number of times since his first White House run in 2008.

The event will also feature remarks and a question and answer session with Schultz, a Florida lawmaker who has ripped Republicans for proposed austerity measures and changes to government-run healthcare for the elderly.

Pelosi confident Democrats will win back House, says Obama will “win big”

U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Friday that despite predictions by so-called experts to the contrary, she’s confident her party will win back the chamber in the Nov. 6 election.

“The momentum is with us,” Pelosi said. “Our motto is don’t agonize, organize.”

Pelosi declined to say, however, if she would remain as her party’s House leader if Republicans retain control of the chamber.