Tales from the Trail

The question that left Newt Gingrich speechless — briefly — in New Hampshire

A young New Hampshire voter left Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, 68, speechless on Thursday night when he essentially confronted the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives — and other older voters in the room — with their mortality.

“I’m curious what hope you can give America in these dire times,” the 22-year-old man asked. “I know that many people in this room are on their way out. I say that in a respectful way — that in maybe ten years a lot of these people in this room will have passed away.”

“Don’t try to defend that [comment] because this could get worse,” Gingrich said at a campaign event in Meredith as the crowd gasped, laughed and applauded the young voter’s remarks.

But the man continued. “I noticed that in my age bracket no one cares about politics because it’s something for old people,” he said. “What can be done in eight years [in the White House] that will affect the life that I have yet to live, that you have already lived.”

“There are moments in this business where I am just left speechless,” said Gingrich, before going on to explain why most political issues, such as the threat of a nuclear Iran and crippling student loans, were not just an “old person’s concern.”

Santorum sees “harm” to children with same-sex parents

A Rick Santorum town hall meeting in New Hampshire turned heated on Thursday when the conservative candidate was asked to explain why he, personally, would be affected if same-sex marriages were legalized, and how his opposition squared with his long riff about the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The meeting ended with Santorum getting booed by much of the crowd in Concord, which included many college and high-school students, after suggesting that children raised by same-sex parents are being “harmed.”

“How does it affect you personally if two men or two women get married?” Santorum was asked at the College Convention 2012, to broad applause and cheers.

“Newtie” panders on local issues in New Hampshire

With less than a week until the New Hampshire primary, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich spent a full day campaigning in the state’s lightly populated North Country. While there he opened his stump speech by jumping into a local controversy over a proposed $1.1 billion plan to build a giant transmission line from the Canadian border to southern New Hampshire.

The plan, known as the Northern Pass, would connect a Quebec electricity producer with the population centers of southern New England. The plan is controversial in northern New Hampshire, which is heavily reliant on tourism, because it involves the construction of 120-foot-high towers through pristine parts of the White Mountain National Forest and surrounding forests.

“As I understand it the president has the ability to sign or not sign the document that authorizes the transmission from Quebec of energy,” Gingrich told voters in the town of Lancaster.  “I would not sign an authorization that would allow large towers that would destroy the scenic beauty of northern New Hampshire.”

Romney quizzed by Occupy protesters at N.H. town hall meeting

Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney got off to an awkward start back in New Hampshire on Wednesday when the first question he took at a town hall meeting was from an Occupy protester.

Fresh off his narrow win in Iowa, Romney was making his first campaign appearance ahead of the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 10 when the questioner – who said he was from both the Occupy New Hampshire and Occupy Boston protest groups against economic inequality – raised his hand and asked a question about corporate greed.

“You have said that corporations are people, but in the last two years corporate profits have surged to record highs directly at the expense of wages,” the man said. “It seems that the U.S. is a great place to be a corporation, but increasingly a desperate place to live and work.”

How did Tim Pawlenty spend Iowa caucus day?

Ah, Tim Pawlenty.

The onetime Minnesota governor seemed for a little while like a promising candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. And then came the deadly Iowa straw poll last August, a contest whose meaninglessness has been confirmed by the fact that Michelle Bachmann won it, only to come in basically last–in her home state!–yesterday when the votes actually mattered (as much as they ever do in Iowa).

It’s safe to say that, while CNN sought the wisdom of departed candidate Herman Cain, and Fox the wisdom of not-quite-candidate Sarah Palin, T-Paw was not exactly overexposed on TV during the voting and counting.

So what exactly did Tim Pawlenty do yesterday? Reuters Opinion senior editor Chadwick Matlin has imagined the day, in this piece for nymag.com.

Washington Extra – Keeping it positive, not

It’s a cruel world out there, what with these Super PACs. Just ask Newt Gingrich, the candidate who promised to stick to the positive message. Battered by weeks of negative ads from a Super PAC and plummeting poll numbers, Gingrich took a sharp detour off the high road in the final hours of campaigning in Iowa.

Gingrich called putative Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney a liar because he tries to distance himself from the ad-spewing PAC created by Romney staff and funded by his millionaire friends. “It’s baloney,” Gingrich said.

Romney in turn mocked Gingrich, telling him to toughen up and get some broader shoulders. “If you can’t stand the heat of this little kitchen, wait for the hell’s kitchen that’s coming from Barack Obama,” he responded.

“Mittens” Romney? Americans don’t know Republican frontrunner’s real name

Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney’s real first name is not Mitt – and it’s not Gromit or Mittens either.

According to a new 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll released on Tuesday, only 6 percent of respondents knew that the former Massachusetts governor’s first name is actually Willard. Mitt is his middle name.

About 20 percent of voters thought Romney’s first name was Mitt, 18 percent thought it was Mitchell and 8 percent picked Milton, while Gromit and Mittens received 2 percent each. Forty four percent said they didn’t know what his real name was.

Mitt Romney says Obama breaks vows, just like Kim Kardashian

President Barack Obama and reality television celebrity Kim Kardashian have something in common, according to Mitt Romney – they don’t know how to keep a promise.

“I’ve been looking at some video clips on YouTube of President Obama, then-candidate Obama, going through Iowa, making promises,” Romney said during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Sunday.

“I think the gap between his promises and his performance is the largest I’ve seen, well, since the Kardashian wedding and the promise of until death do we part,” said the Republican presidential candidate.

Ignoring polls, Santorum says he’s best GOP chance to beat Obama

You have to give him points for chutzpah. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has spent most of the GOP primary positioning himself as the candidate of the GOP’s conservative evangelical wing. With polls showing him running as high as third in Iowa, Santorum is out with a new ad in New Hampshire and Iowa making the case that he can win swing voters and is the Republicans’ best bet to win the general election.

Here’s the narrative:

Who has the best chance to beat Obama? Rick Santorum. A full spectrum conservative, Rick Santorum is rock solid on values issues. A favorite of the tea party for fighting corruption and taxpayer abuse. More foreign policy credentials than any candidate. And Rick’s ‘Made in the USA’ jobs plan will make America an economic superpower again. Rick Santorum, a trusted conservative who gives us the best chance to take back America.

Santorum has spent most of the campaign so far back in the pack pollsters have rarely surveyed him in head-to-head match-ups with the president. In fact there have been just three polls since July measuring how Santorum would fair against Obama. All three are by the Republican firm Rasmussen Reports and all three show Obama ahead by 10 points or more. Overall, polling has generally shown that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman Jr. and Ron Paul would all fare better against Obama in a head-to-head match-up.

Occupy New Hampshire Primary

Two Occupy protesters braved freezing temperatures in Laconia, New Hampshire, on Thursday to stand silently outside a Rotary lunch meeting where Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman made his 130th campaign appearance in the state. They held a sign that read “Occupy NH Primary” and also a large mock ballot with a tick next to a “We the People” option instead of the Republican or Democrat options.

While it’s not clear what role protesters plan to play in the 2012 U.S. elections, they are already making themselves heard. Occupy protesters have interrupted campaign speeches by President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. They have also targeted New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as he campaigned for Mitt Romney, the current frontrunner in the Republican White House race.

Protesters in the national movement, which grew from an initial Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York City on Sept. 17, are upset that billions of dollars in bailouts were given to banks while “average” Americans are still suffering financially, and accuse politicians of being swayed by large campaign donations from big businesses.