Tales from the Trail

Rick Perry lags in home state of Texas

Tuesday only got worse for Texas Governor Rick Perry whose comments about Turkey in a debate last night got him lambasted by foreign policy experts, the Turkish press, and the Turkish government in Ankara.

Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history, polled only third in a survey of his fellow Longhorn Republicans, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Less than a fifth of those polled by the Democratic polling firm, Public Policy Polling said they would choose Perry over his rivals. He lagged frontrunner Mitt Romney  as well as former Speaker of the House Gingrich.

Romney polled at 24 percent and Gingrich at 23 percent, compared to Perry’s 18 percent.

Perry’s conservative credentials once endeared him to Republicans looking for a candidate other than Romney, suspected of moderate leanings. He shot to the top in August when he first entered the race but fell back after consistently fumbling debates and interviews.

Reuters Washington Extra – Behind the numbers

At last night’s debate, Mitt Romney said he’d be happy to release his tax returns in April. But today he disclosed a crucial piece of information as the clamor grew for him to come out with his returns. The frontrunner to clinch the Republican nomination has a tax rate that “is probably closer to 15 percent than anything.”

That’s a low rate, but it is in line with what is paid by wealthy Americans who earn much of their income from capital gains, which are taxed at 15 percent. So, now the number is out and we will see how American voters (and wage earners) react.

Another interesting number from Romney today concerned speaker fees, which he says he collects “from time to time, but not very much.”  Campaign financial disclosure forms indicate that Romney was paid more than $374,000 in speaker fees from February 2010 to February 2011. Not very much, if you are Mitt Romney.

Huntsman’s face still on Republican “Mt Rushmore” sand sculpture

The city of Myrtle Beach went all out for Monday’s Republican debate, even getting sand sculpture artists to build a mini Mount Rushmore of Republican presidential candidates out of sand.

The only problem?

The 1,175,100-pound horseshoe-shaped sand sculpture has the face of Jon Huntsman smack in the middle. His decision to pull out of the race came after the Myrtle Beach area Chamber of Commerce unveiled the sculpture.

Apparently there were no plans to pour water on his image or erase him from the sculpture. After he formally pulled out of the race and endorsed frontrunner Mitt Romney, Huntsman’s face was still there with a big toothy grin smiling at all who walked by.

Oops again? Rick Perry revises his list of three departments to cut

Lagging Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry can’t seem to catch a break. The Texas governor is facing criticism across the blogosphere for again flubbing the federal departments he would eliminate if elected.

On a radio show on WTKS in Savannah, Georgia, a listener asked Perry how many and which federal departments he would cut.

“Three right off the bat. You know, commerce, interior, and energy are three that you think of right off…” Perry said, making a point not to miss a beat.

Stephen Colbert: Exploring run for president of USA of South Carolina

Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert announced on his show Thursday night that he is forming an exploratory committee for a “possible candidacy for the president of the United States of South Carolina.”

“This is a difficult decision. I’ve talked it over with my money. I’ve talked it over with my spiritual adviser,” said the comedian who puts on the persona of an ultra-conservative news anchor on his late-night show “The Colbert Report.”

Colbert said he would try to compete in the Republican primary in South Carolina, his home state, on Jan. 21. The filing deadline is long past but Colbert may be able to participate as a write-in candidate.

Colbert bumps Huntsman in South Carolina

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman finished a disappointing third on Tuesday in the presidential primary in New Hampshire, despite focusing his campaign on the state and attending some 150 events there. But things are, arguably, worse for him in South Carolina, where a new poll ahead of the state’s Jan. 21 primary put him behind comedian and late-night talk show host, Stephen Colbert.

The survey, by the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling, had Colbert in sixth place, with just 5 percent support, in South Carolina’s primary, behind Mitt Romney (27 percent), Newt Gingrich (23 percent), Rick Santorum (18 percent), Ron Paul (8 percent) and Rick Perry (7 percent). But he was ahead of Huntsman’s 4 percent and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (1 percent).

It is not completely surprising that Huntsman would trail Colbert, who is from South Carolina and had even offered to sponsor the state’s primary. The Emmy- and Peabody-winning comedian also has name recognition because of his popular Comedy Central Show, the Colbert Report.

Gingrich discusses pantyhose airlift at defense contractor

Newt Gingrich took a break from attacking Mitt Romney today to visit with workers at defense contractor BAE Systems in Nashua, N.H., where he spent much of his stump speech praising the importance of technology and the military. To illustrate his point, he described a problem special forces soldiers found themselves in after being airlifted into Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

When they first got there and started meeting, the Northern Alliance said: ‘We’ll ride in the morning.’ And our guys stared at them, and they said: “What do you mean, we’ll ride in the morning?” And they said we’re going on horseback. So it turned out that the special forces field uniforms have very large inseams which when you ride a horse create a real problem. And they immediately realized that this is going to be physically painful. So they got on the sat phone, called home and found out that if you got extra large, super heavy pantyhose, that three pair provided a buffer when you were riding a horse.”

Gingrich wasn’t telling the story only to conjure images of L’eggs-wearing commandos. “Here’s the deeper point I want to make about this,” he said. “Think about the capacity to encounter a problem you never thought of in the middle of nowhere, and this is Central Asia, pick up the phone, make an order and within 36 hours have an airdrop and not have a clue going in which thing you’ll need this time.”

Huntsman wouldn’t be the only U.S. president to speak Chinese

 

Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman’s language skills have been in the spotlight since Saturday, when he said during a presidential candidates’ debate that his rival Mitt Romney does not understand U.S. relations with China — underscoring his point by saying so in Mandarin.

Huntsman is a former U.S. ambassador to China who learned the language as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan in the late 1980s. His campaign says the former governor of Utah also speaks Hokkien, a Chinese dialect used in Taiwan. 

Polls give Huntsman only a slim chance of making it to the White House, perhaps because some Republican voters view him as too moderate for serving as Democratic President Barack Obama’s emissary in Beijing. He has only about 3 percent support in the race for the Republican nomination to oppose Obama’s re-election bid, according to polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.com.

162 New Hampshire visits later, Huntsman hopes for late surge

Jon Huntsman Jr. has dedicated his entire campaign to doing well in New Hampshire. That’s meant multiple visits to small places like the northern town of Littleton, pop. 6,000, where Huntsman appeared for a photo opportunity at the local diner.

Unfortunately for Huntsman there were only four people (reporters aside) at the restaurant when he arrived — and none of them knew he was coming. One couple waved off his approach, saying, “We’re from Vermont.”

The second couple, John and Arlyne Kimball, had attended a Huntsman event earlier in the campaign in the nearby town of Whitefield and were annoyed that Huntsman had interrupted Arlyne in the midst of a question there about the Federal Reserve.

RuPaul to Republicans — don’t be a drag

Drag queen RuPaul crashed New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary scene on Saturday to clear up a possible case of mistaken identity for voters who might not have been paying close attention.

Most would not mistake the notorious celebrity — singer, actor, reality TV star and the first drag queen supermodel — for Ron Paul, the crusty, 76-year-old Congressman and former obstetrician. But just in case…

“I am NOT Ron Paul, and I’m not running for President!” RuPaul exclaimed during a high-energy visit to the tiny Red Arrow Diner in downtown Manchester, which has hosted more than its fair share of celebrities and political luminaries. A large number of local gays and lesbians, as well as adoring fans of all stripes, came out for the occasion.