Tales from the Trail

Obama to middle class: Who loves you?

The middle class is back.

Amid the din of Republican cries of class warfare, the Occupy Wall Street movement and a fresh economic report that America’s rich are getting much, much richer, one phrase punctuated weekend remarks from President Barack Obama and his campaign strategists: the middle class.

As the Democratic president struggles to reconnect with his base — liberals, black Americans and younger voters — he is taking up the middle class mantra to target the crucial voting bloc.

This weekend there was no escaping who the Obama team’s message was aimed at.

Obama used “middle class” five times in his radio broadcast on Saturday that cited a new report on U.S. income inequality from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

In acknowledging the country’s growing income gap: “In fact, the average income for the top 1 percent of Americans has risen almost seven times faster than the income of the average middle-class family.”

The “people” Washington helps most: big corporations

By John F. Wasik
The opinions expressed are his own.

If corporations are people, as GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently declared, they are very special people indeed.

As you know, big corporations are treated by the courts as if they are people, yet can contribute infinite amounts of money to purchase politicians, legislation and tax breaks.

Megacorporations’ access to tax breaks and loopholes has gotten so out of control that even General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt says that the U.S. corporate tax code should be reformed. The $150-billion company managed to have a negative 61 percent tax rate last year.

Clinton’s happy to be out of the running

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seen here in a Nov. 9, 2009 file photo of an event marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  REUTERS/Christian Charisius

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seen here in a Nov. 9, 2009 file photo of an event marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. REUTERS/Christian Charisius

Former U.S. senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she is done seeking votes.

Clinton, who is secretary of state under President Barack Obama, said on Sunday she is not planning to run again for president or any other political office.

Are Obama’s approval ratings that bad? Maybe not, relatively speaking

USA-ELECTIONS/OBAMA

President Obama’s approval rating has been below 50 percent for most of 2010. But are things really so bad? Gallup suggests they’re not, relatively speaking.

In fact, Democratic incumbents who’ve shunned or tried to avoid associating with Obama may have denied themselves the chance to firm their own party base for an election contest that’s all about turnout.

The Obama approval rating, at the moment, stands in the mid- to low-40s and foreshadows stiff losses for congressional Democrats on Nov. 2. 

GOP, conservatives seen dominating November turnout

USA-POLITICS/Bad news, Democrats.

The crowd most likely to vote on Nov. 2 is a lot more Republican and a lot more conservative than the one that gave Congress to the GOP in 1994.

So says a new Gallup survey that forecasts Republican and conservative majorities at polling stations for the congressional mid-term elections.

Fifty-seven percent of people who call themselves likely voters are Republican or lean Republican, while 54 percent are conservative, according to Gallup.

White House Intrigue: Could Hillary Replace Joe?

OBAMA/Could Hillary replace Joe as Barack’s main squeeze in 2012? That’s the juicy bit of palace intrigue enlivening today’s U.S. political melodrama.

It started when author Bob Woodward told CNN that the idea of a Clinton-Biden switch was “on the table” — at least among some Clinton advisers. A switch would mean Hillary becoming President Obama’s vice presidential running mate and Joe taking up her State Department chores.

“President Obama needs some of the women, Latinos, retirees that she did so well with during the 2008 primaries. And so they switch jobs,” explained the veteran journalist whose new book, “Obama’s Wars,”  offers an inside look at the administration. 

Lawyer promises new bombshell in Whitman housekeeper flap

USA-ELECTIONS/WHITMAN

The political flap over what California Republican Meg Whitman knew about her former housekeeper’s illegal immigration status — and when she knew it — appears to be heading for a new climax.

The woman’s lawyer says she will release evidence today that Whitman lied when she denied knowing her ex-employee was an undocumented worker.
    
Nicky Diaz, who worked for Whitman from 2000 to 2007, emerged this week to air tearful allegations that the Republican gubernatorial nominee knowingly employed her illegally and treated her poorly.

Whitman supporters say the allegations are a political smear timed to surface in the closing weeks of her campaign against Democratic rival Jerry Brown.
    
Whitman says Diaz is lying and maintains the former housekeeper provided a Social Security card and other documents to show she could work legally in the United States when she was hired. 
    
The former eBay executive says she first learned of Diaz’ illegal status in 2009, after she had begun her run for governor, and fired the woman on the spot.

Obama sounds note of optimism about Democrats and November

AFGHANISTAN/OBAMAPresident Barack Obama sounded an optimistic note about the Democratic Party’s prospects in upcoming congressional midterm elections, saying in an NBC interview  that Democrats would “do just fine” if they could keep the focus on issues of substance.   

“The question for voters over the next five weeks is: Who is putting forward policies that have a chance to move our country forward so that our schools have improved, so that we have a world-class infrastructure, so that we’re serious about helping small business, we’re serious about getting a handle on our spending, and who’s just engaging in rhetoric?” the president said near the end of a half-hour interview devoted mainly to education issues.

“And I think that if that debate is taking place over the next five weeks, we are going to do just fine,” he said. 

Obama’s security tweaks unlikely to quiet political opponents

President Barack Obama will tighten airline security today in a bid to thwart any future attack like last month’s plot to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner. But will that silence his political opponents? Not likely. With congressional elections looming in November, the stakes may be too high.

Take Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, for example. He’s running for governor of Michigan and criticizing Obama’s handling of the bomb plot in hopes of making Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, look soft on security.

“If you agree that we need a governor who will stand up the Obama/Pelosi efforts to weaken our security, please make a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 to my campaign,” he said in a widely quoted letter to prospective supporters.
USA
The letter caused an uproar among critics who accused Hoekstra of playing politics with national security. But the security issue seems destined to become a leading theme for Republicans in this year’s election battle for control of Congress, which they hope to turn into a referendum on Obama’s policies.

The First Draft: Limbo Day

It’s the day before the all-important employment report for October. (Expectation is for a 175,000 drop in payrolls and an uptick in the unemployment rate to 9.9 percent, which would be a 26-year high).

BASEBALL/It’s the day after the New York Yankees won the World Series. (Condolences Phillies fans).

It’s the day before the House of Representatives might send healthcare overhaul legislation to the floor for debate with the goal of a Saturday vote. (Have learned never to bet on the timing of legislation on the Hill).