Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: Tuesday, Dec 2

Today’s the deadline for the Big Three auto makers to present their recovery plan proposals to Congress in order to get a $25 billion bailout.

All eyes will be on Capitol Hill to see the reaction of top lawmakers after the plans are in place. GM, Ford and Chrysler hope to convince lawmakers to approve the $25 billion in low-cost loans to help them survive the current downturn.  The deadline comes as auto companies are due to release their November sales figures, which are expected to be low.

We all knew the economy had been in a slump, but stocks tumbled around the world after confirmation that the United States had entered recession in December 2007. The confirmation by the U.S. arbiter of recession plus a warning from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke triggered a sell-off on Wall Street which in turn sparked a domino-effect around the world.

Overseas the yen rallied to a five-week high against the dollar due in part to shaky stock markets.  Stocks in the U.S. were pegged to recover a bit on Tuesday, in part because of hopes for an auto industry bailout.

The economy will be on the minds of President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden as they take part in a meeting in Philadelphia of the National Governors Association.

No record turnout in U.S. election

WASHINGTON – The anticipated record turnout of voters in Tuesday’s U.S. election did not materialize, with the percentage of eligible Americans casting ballots staying virtually the same as 2004, a report said on Thursday. 

The number of Americans voting is projected to reach between 126.5 million and 128.5 million, meaning the percentage who cast a ballot will be between 60.7 percent and 61.7 percent — roughly the same as in 2004, according to Curtis Gans of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate.
    
The lower-than-expected turnout was the result of a downturn in the number and percentage of Republican voters going to the polls, he said.
    
Predictions of high turnout were fueled by an increase in voter registrations and long lines at polling booths.
 
“But we failed to realize that the registration increase was driven by Democratic and independent registration and that the long lines at the polls were mostly populated by Democrats,” Gans said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

- Photo credit: Reuters/Danny Moloshok (Voters fill their ballots at St. Jerome Parish in Los Angeles on Nov. 4)

from FaithWorld:

Muslims and the U.S. election — two sobering reminders

Muslims protest against Iraq war at Republican convention in St. Paul 1 Sept 2008/Damir SagoljTwo Reuters colleagues in the United States have written sobering accounts of the place of Muslims and Islam in the U.S. presidential election campaign.

"These are uneasy times for America's Muslims, caught in a backwash from a presidential election campaign where the false notion that Barack Obama is Muslim has been seized on by some who link Islam with terrorism," writes Chicago religion writer Mike Conlon in "Sour note for American Muslims in election campaign."

"Incidents during the U.S. presidential election campaign, now in its final sprint towards November 4, show that fear and suspicion of Muslims persist undiminished and are being used as a political weapon," writes Washington columnist Bernd Debusmann in "In U.S. elections, fear of Muslims."

McCain, Palin doing less well with younger evangelicals

DALLAS – Republican presidential contender John McCain still retains strong support from white evangelical Protestants, but the 72-year-old Arizona senator’s appeal fades with younger voters from this flock.

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That is the findings of a survey that was just done for Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

It found that McCain has the support of 71 percent of white evangelical Christians versus 23 percent for his Democratic rival Barack Obama.

Inside the Tent: Winning trust on the Middle East

In the hours before Barack Obama‘s acceptance speech at Invesco Field in Denver, Yoel Lefkowitz talks about what he wants to hear the candidate, and what it will take to win the support of Brooklyn’s Hasidic community.

Reuters Inside the Tent has more than 40 delegates and other attendees in Denver and St. Paul, equipped with video cameras to capture the conventions from the ground up. Adam Pasick is the U.S Consumer Media Editor for Reuters.com.

Click here for a full list of contributors at the Democratic National Convention. We’ll be moving to St. Paul for the Republican National Convention next week.

Inside the Tent: Hillary supporters and PUMA

Nancy Kivlen of PUMA (“Party Unity My Ass”) explains why she plans to vote for John McCain if Hillary Clinton doesn’t receive the Democratic nomination. This video is from Mike Smith, one of the contributors to Reuters Inside the Tent.

Reuters Inside the Tent has more than 40 delegates and other attendees in Denver and St. Paul, equipped with video cameras to capture the conventions from the ground up. Smith is not a Reuters employee and any opinions expressed are his own.

Click here for a full list of contributors at the Democratic National Convention. We’ll be moving to St. Paul for the Republican National Convention next week.

Germans would give Obama landslide win – poll

BERLIN – If Germans could vote in the U.S. presidential election, Barack Obama would win a staggering 72 percent of their vote, according to an opinion poll by the respected Emnid institute published on Sunday in Bild am Sonntag newspaper. Republican John McCain would get 11 percent.berlin.jpg
 
Germans have no say, of course, in the U.S. presidential election. But they have long wished they did. 
 
And because the American influence on their country has been so pervasive and their fate so intertwined with Washington’s in the six decades since the end of World War Two (see everything from Care packages to the Airlift, the Cold War, their central bank and Pershing missiles), Germans may well follow U.S. politics and especially presidential elections closer than in any other country in the world.
 
With a feared “World War Three” looming in the middle of their divided country for more than 40 years before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, it should come as little surprise that they care a lot about who’s in the White House and have an amazingly thorough understanding of the candidates’ positions.
 
The ties between the two countries sometimes became even a little too intense. One former chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, kept warning U.S. President Jimmy Carter to stop treating West Germany like a “51st state.”
 
So the Emnid poll is worth taking a closer look at — even if Germans won’t be able to cast their ballots in November.
 
Obama, who is rumored to be mulling a trip to Berlin later in the summer, would win an even more lopsided 86 percent of Germans with high school diplomas and an even higher 77 percent of those living in the formerly communist east.
 
The results are all the more astonishing against the backdrop that Germany has a conservative chancellor, Angela Merkel, whose popularity far surpasses that of the leader of the Social Democrats, Kurt Beck, the more natural ally to Obama’s Democrats.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Tobias Schwarz.  Fireworks illuminate the sky next to a U.S. national flag at the new U.S. embassy during its opening ceremony in Berlin July 4, 2008.

Huckabee not going for VP job — or is he?

huckabee.jpgTOKYO – Mike Huckabee is not running — or maybe he is.

The marathon man, who lost 110 pounds (50 kg) by hitting the road and advocating healthy living after he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2003, has a painful inflammation of the heel known as plantar fasciitis, and he is walking around the Imperial Palace in the Japanese capital gingerly.
    
Whether he will take a walk with presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, as vice presidential nominee is another question requiring equally careful footwork.
  
Speaking with Reuters less than five months before the U.S. presidential election and three months ahead of the Republican convention, the former Arkansas governor was interested but self-deprecating when asked if he would be the party’s No. 2.
    
“I don’t truly believe that’s probably going to happen and I’ve moved on to doing other things.”
    
Those projects include the trip to Japan and lectures at Tohoku University in northern Miyagi Prefecture, as well as Fox News, which hired the former Republican presidential hopeful as a political commentator leading up to the national election.
    
But Huckabee quickly noted that did not preclude being on the other side of the camera in November.
     
“I’m very happy and proud to be able to do some commentary and develop a programme with the Fox News Channel,” he said.
    
“But that doesn’t mean if there was an opportunity to run somewhere out in the future, if not this year some other time — I’m not going to take myself completely off the stage.”

Huckabee has called the vice presidential spot an offer no one could refuse, but says he doesn’t expect to be running to the phone anytime soon.
    
“It would be a real surprise if I got that call.”

- Reporting by Dan Sloan    

- Photo credit: Reuters/John Gress (Huckabee pauses during a news conference in Appleton, Wisconsin in February, 2008)

Campaign debates over sexism, racism, ageism rage on

obama5.jpgNEW YORK – One thing seems certain in the race for the White House — the debate that the campaigns have sparked on sexism, racism and ageism in the United States is nowhere near resolved.

The media’s handling of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain – each running a groundbreaking campaign — has drawn attention to the way women, blacks and older people are seen in America, according to a panel of experts that met on mccain2.jpgclinton2.jpgTuesday at the Paley Center for Media.

 ”I think it’s time for journalists to stop and look back at what they did and not say, ‘Well, we’re not covering Hillary Clinton any more so gender is no longer an issue,’” said panelist Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.