Tales from the Trail

Not expecting a call from the president? Try the second line

A warning to those who are sometimes slow to pick up the phone: you may miss a call from the president.

President Barack Obama stopped by a local campaign office in Port St. Lucie, Florida, on Sunday to visit with supporters, and he placed a call to Barney Roberts, a volunteer in Jacksonville.

“Hopefully he’ll answer,” Obama said as excited volunteers listened in.

Roberts didn’t answer.

“Hey Barney, this is Barack Obama,” the president said to the man’s voice mail. “I’m going to try you at the other number.”

Lucky for Roberts, Obama had a backup number to dial, and this time the volunteer picked up.

Obama gets a surprising ‘lift’ in Florida pizza joint

President Obama is hugged by Scott Van Duzer at a pizza shop in Florida

President Barack Obama met his match in the fitness category at an impromptu campaign visit on Sunday.

Stopping by a pizza place — the Big Apple Pizza & Pasta Italian Restaurant — in Ft. Pierce, Florida, the president, a workout fanatic, was welcomed by the 6-foot-3, 260-pound, big-muscled owner, Scott Van Duzer.

“If I eat your pizza, will I look like that?” Obama asked, marveling at the man’s physique.

Republicans shoot for “Super Saturday”

 

Hoping to echo the Democratic Party’s successful use of volunteer armies to engage – and turn out – voters, Republicans are mounting their first “Super Saturday” volunteer day of the 2012 campaign this weekend. On July 7, the party says it will dispatch an army of volunteers to knock on doors and make telephone calls to voters in swing states across the country.

Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said the Romney/RNC operation would be in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa.

President Barack Obama won all 12 of those states when he won the White House in 2008, aided by an army of volunteers. Romney will need to swing a large number of them back to the Republican column to defeat Obama on Nov. 6. 

Obama sings again, this time blues with B.B. King, Mick Jagger

President Barack Obama gave what appeared to be an impromptu performance of “Sweet Home Chicago” during a blues concert Tuesday night at the White House in celebration of Black History Month.

At the end of an evening of performances from the likes of B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, Derek Trucks, Shemekia Copeland and others, Obama grabbed a mic from the stage and crooned, “Come on, baby don’t you wanna go,” part of the popular blues standard.

A month ago, Obama sang a little Al Green — a moment captured on video and viewed thousands of times over. It was seen as having added cool points to the president. Afterwards First Lady Michelle said Obama sings to her all the time.

Perry attacks more conservative rivals, ignores Romney

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s latest ads don’t even bother attacking Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney. With polls showing him in fifth place among Republicans in Iowa and seventh in New Hampshire, Perry’s aim is now to emerge as one of the top two conservative options to Romney.

To get there, he needs to knock off some of the other candidates polling immediately in front of him — which is why his latest TV ad in Iowa attacks Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and ex-Sen. Rick Santorum, but doesn’t mention Romney.

“The fox guarding the hen house is like asking a congressman to fix Washington,” the ad’s narrator says. “Bad idea. Their years in Congress left us with debt and bailouts.”

Gingrich attacks Romney, a week after promising a positive campaign

A week ago, Newt Gingrich vowed to follow Ronald Reagan’s famed “11th Commandment” and withhold attacks on fellow Republican candidates for president.

But last night his campaign e-mail blasted reporters a lengthy opposition sheet on former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, ripping Romney’s latest television ad, “Conservative Agenda.”

In the oppo sheet, the Gingrich campaign calls Romney “Mitt the Massachusetts Moderate” and highlights a number of his past, more moderate positions that may be at odds with his current stances. These include Romney’s health care reforms in Massachusetts, his support for universal health insurance and abortion rights, his vote for Democrat Paul Tsongas in his 1992 bid for president and his renunciation of the Reagan/Bush era.

Huntsman goes after the media

For months, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign has arguably been kept afloat by the media. Fundraising has lagged and his national poll numbers are still at about 2 percent — the same as when he entered the race in June. Yet Huntsman has received lengthy and favorable profiles by the New York Times magazine, Newsweek, Esquire and Vogue — coverage that Buddy Roemer or Gary Johnson, who have registered similar poll numbers, or Ron Paul, who has much better ones, could only dream of.

But that didn’t keep Huntsman from lashing out at the media today while campaigning in Nashua, N.H. “My hot button is when the media have me come across as cool and collected, because I’m not,” said Huntsman, in response to a question about what makes him angry. “When I’m placed on the end of the debate stage and get three minutes of time because everyone is focused on who lights their hair on fire in the debate.”

Huntsman praised his “Lincoln-Douglas” debate in New Hampshire last week with Newt Gingrich as a model of civilized discourse because neither he nor Gingrich were asked any “gotcha questions.” But he lamented the media’s analysis of the debate. “There wasn’t any blood on the floor, how come you didn’t kill each other?” he said. “This is what we’ve come to.”

Best of the debate: Ron Paul v. Michele Bachmann

Presidential debates allow voters to hear how candidates differ, and there are few policy differences as great as that between Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Michele Bachmann on Iran. Take this exchange from last night:

Bachmann:

“Without a shadow of a doubt, Iran will take a nuclear weapon, they will use it to wipe our ally Israel off the face of the map and they’ve stated they will use it against the United States of America.”

For what it’s worth, Politifact has looked into Bachmann’s claim and rated it “false.”

Notes from West Liberty, Iowa

(View an in-depth look at scenes from Iowa and New Hampshire in a downloadable pdf format here and a look ahead to the primaries here)

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West Liberty is Iowa’s first Hispanic-majority city. Fifty-two percent of the people in this town of about 3,700 are Hispanic, according to the latest U.S. Census. It’s a number that would be impressive in any state. But it’s especially noteworthy in Iowa, an overwhelmingly white corner of the America Heartland where just 5 percent of the population statewide is Hispanic.

The town, located between Davenport and Iowa City, has long had a sizable and growing Hispanic population. The reason? The major employer here is West Liberty Foods, a 260,000-square-foot food processing plant that employs about 850 workers.

Notes from Independence, Iowa

(View an in-depth look at scenes from Iowa and New Hampshire in a downloadable pdf format here and a look ahead to the primaries here)

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The motto of Independence, Iowa is “America’s fame is in our name.” But Mike Anderson, the pastor of Baptist Bethel Church in Independence, says some of the problems besetting the country are on display in this town of 6,000, as well. “People around here don’t work as hard as they used to,” Anderson, 48, said. “Even farmers don’t do a lot of physical work anymore.”

The change — a function of the mechanization of agriculture and the demise of the small family farms he grew up on — has “not been a good thing” for the community, Andersen said.