Tales from the Trail

Air Obama: President’s re-election campaign goes Dream Team

President Barack Obama’s campaign fundraising “Win a date with a celebrity” lottery has gone Dream Team.

The campaign is offering donors who give at least $3 the chance to enter a lottery to attend the “Obama Classic,” a night of basketball with some of the sport’s greats — Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, Sheryl Swoopes, Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irvin — and the player many consider its greatest, Michael Jordan.

“Imagine shooting hoops with Carmelo Anthony, Patrick Ewing, Sheryl Swoopes, Kyrie Irving, and Alonzo Mourning. Oh, and you’ll get to meet President Obama and Michael Jordan over dinner, too,” Obama campaign staffer Marlon Marshall said in an email to supporters.

“Hit the court with Patrick Ewing and Melo? Trade stories with the President? This is the kind of stuff your kids will tell their kids, and no one will believe it until you show them a photo,” the email said.

Obama’s campaign has raised millions of dollars, and increased its small-donor base, with lotteries offering dinners or parties with the president, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton or Hollywood stars – and Democratic supporters – like Sarah Jessica Parker and George Clooney.

A battleground is a battleground is a battleground – or is it?

It isn’t really surprising that there are widely varying theories for the best way to win the battleground states – those considered neither firmly Democratic nor Republican – in the Nov. 6 election. After all, if they were easy to win, they wouldn’t be battlegrounds.

But what is surprising is the extent of the disagreement over which should be defined as battlegrounds – or swing states, toss-ups or “purple” (as in something between Republican red and Democratic blue).

A new study by the University of Minnesota found that news outlets that publish election maps vary widely in their assessments of which states are up for grabs in 2012.

Obama ad on Romney’s tax plan: he pays less, you pay more

President Barack Obama’s campaign on Thursday released a new television advertisement hitting Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney for paying what it considers to be a low tax rate in 2010 and for pushing a tax plan that could most benefit Americans earning more than $1 million per year.

The 30-second spot features a montage of ostensibly “average” Americans — one comparing prices at the grocery store, another scrutinizing a work report, another sifting through bills at the kitchen table — and then flashes to a grinning Romney.

“You work hard, stretch every penny, but chances are you pay a higher tax rate than him,” the narrator says, referring to Romney’s 2010 tax rate of 13.9 percent and 2011 estimated tax rate of 15.4 percent.

What does Obama want for his birthday? Florida would be nice

President Barack Obama, whose birthday is Saturday, has at least one big idea for a birthday present – and it comes with 29 electoral votes.

A crowd of more than 2,000 people sang “Happy Birthday” to Obama during a campaign stop in Orlando, prompting Obama to joke that he ought to have brought a cake so that he could blow out the candles and make an electoral wish. “Winning Florida wouldn’t be a bad birthday present,” Obama said.

The Democrat, who regularly jokes about his graying hair, had another wry comment as he faces his 51st birthday, noting that first lady Michelle Obama thinks he looks 50.

Business comments taken out of context, Obama says in new ad

President Barack Obama’s campaign released a new television advertisement on Tuesday pushing back against a wave of attacks that followed remarks the Democratic incumbent made that Republicans deemed anti-business.

The 30-second advertisement — “Always” — will air in six battleground states and is the second in as many days featuring a regal Obama speaking directly into a camera — a far cry from the campaign’s hard-hitting ads, marked by ominous narrators and elaborate graphic design, portraying Mitt Romney as a ruthless former private equity executive whose personal finances are shrouded in secrecy.

In the ad, the president is seen fighting back — calmly, authoritatively — against a barrage of attacks by Romney, his campaign, and wider Republicans who seized on a fragment of Obama’s speech in Virginia on July 13 when he said, “If you own a business, you didn’t build that.”

Scott Brown’s latest channels poet Langston Hughes

Scott Brown, locked in a tight race to hold onto his Senate seat from Massachusetts, has become the second Republican in the current election cycle to channel Langston Hughes, the African American social activist poet with Communist sympathies who is also regarded as a literary hero by many in the gay community.

A new video from Brown, soliciting donations for his neck-and-neck campaign against Democrat Elizabeth Warren, is headlined “Let America Be America Again” – the title of Hughes’ well-known 1935 poem, first published in Esquire magazine, that suggests the American dream never really existed for many Americans, including the lower classes, blacks, Native Americans, and other minority groups.

“There’s never been equality for me/Nor freedom in this ‘homeland of the free,’” Hughes writes in an aside between verses. “America never was America to me.”

Scott Brown jabs Elizabeth Warren’s Hollywood supporters

Republican Scott Brown, in a close race to keep his Senate seat in Massachusetts, is mounting a new fundraising drive using donations to rival Elizabeth Warren by a bevy of Hollywood talent as catnip for potential donors.

“What do actresses Charlize Theron, Sally Field, Kyra Sedgwick, Kate Capshaw, and Reese Witherspoon have in common? ” Brown asked rhetorically in an email to supporters on Thursday. “They’re all big bankrollers for Professor Elizabeth Warren who raises money like she wants to be the first United States Senator to represent Hollywood.”

The Brown campaign is smarting after trailing Warren in the second quarter. For April-June, Warren, a Harvard Law School professor and former Obama administration official, raised $8.67 million to Brown’s $5 million. Brown still holds a $2 million advantage in cash on hand for the final months of the closely watched Senate campaign.

A Number Cruncher could add up to become Romney running mate

Washington number crunchers are finally getting some respect.

Just take a look at Mitt Romney’s search for a Republican vice presidential running mate.

With the economy the top issue in the Nov. 6 elections, Romney’s short list of his possible picks features two of Congress’s most wonkish guys.

One, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, served as President George W. Bush’s budget director, and is now viewed as a top contender.

Scott Brown trails Elizabeth Warren in Q2 donations

The race for the Senate seat from Massachusetts is shaping up as one of the marquee Congressional contests of the year, and likely the most expensive, as both candidates keep up a frenetic fundraising pace.

On Thursday, the campaign of Republican Senator Scott Brown said it hauled in $5 million for his re-election campaign in the second quarter – a strong result, but well short of his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, who on Monday announced she had pulled in $8.67 million for the quarter.

Warren raised $3.1 million for June alone, suggesting a weeks-long controversy over whether she had claimed Native American heritage to further her academic career did little to dent her popularity.

Romney touts tourism in fire-ravaged Colorado

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a message for what Americans can do to help a section of Colorado hit hard by recent wildfires – come to the state on vacation to help out the local economy.

Romney’s point, made during a visit to a food bank that has been supplying people uprooted by the wildfires, was that most of the region has been unaffected by the devastation and that the forests and lakes remain as beautiful as ever.

“What’s happened is people are staying away because they think the whole area has been burned out. It’s not. It’s as beautiful as it’s always been and tourists need to come back and stay in hotels, go to restaurants and purchase local merchandise,” he said.