Tales from the Trail

Obama heads to Florida for re-election fundraising effort

President Barack Obama on Thursday will travel to Florida for a fundraiser at a hotel in Miami with hundreds of guests that could raise at least $1 million for the Democratic incumbent and Democrats’ re-election coffers, according to a major donor.

“People are enthusiastic about how the race is going — the danger of a Romney administration is less likely — but this election is far from over,” said Kris Korge, a Florida businessman helping to organize the event.

Romney enjoyed a jump in several opinion polls after a strong debate performance last week against an strikingly tepid Obama. A positive jobs report on Friday gave Obama some positive news, but poll aggregator RealClearPolitics showed the presidential race tightening in Florida and other key swing states.

Fundraisers in Florida reached their third quarter goal to give at least $5 million to the campaign, said Korge, who has himself raised hundreds of thousands. Obama’s campaign and its Democratic allies raised $181 million in September, the largest total announced this election cycle.

In August, Obama and the DNC raised more than $114 million, narrowly beating Romney’s $111 million haul. Before that, Romney and Republicans had outraised Obama and the Democrats for the preceding three months.

Not expecting a call from the president? Try the second line

A warning to those who are sometimes slow to pick up the phone: you may miss a call from the president.

President Barack Obama stopped by a local campaign office in Port St. Lucie, Florida, on Sunday to visit with supporters, and he placed a call to Barney Roberts, a volunteer in Jacksonville.

“Hopefully he’ll answer,” Obama said as excited volunteers listened in.

Obama gets a surprising ‘lift’ in Florida pizza joint

President Obama is hugged by Scott Van Duzer at a pizza shop in Florida

President Barack Obama met his match in the fitness category at an impromptu campaign visit on Sunday.

Stopping by a pizza place — the Big Apple Pizza & Pasta Italian Restaurant — in Ft. Pierce, Florida, the president, a workout fanatic, was welcomed by the 6-foot-3, 260-pound, big-muscled owner, Scott Van Duzer.

“If I eat your pizza, will I look like that?” Obama asked, marveling at the man’s physique.

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.

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.

Presidential candidates take on Castro in Florida

Republican White House contenders took the race to win their party’s nomination to Florida this week, where they tried to outdo each other on topics important to Floridians–including what to do about Cuba, the small, Communist, Spanish-speaking island that has long frustrated U.S. foreign policy.

In a debate on Monday in Tampa, the candidates took turns lambasting Castro and current U.S policy toward Cuba, striving to curry favor with conservative Cuban Americans who make up the majority of Florida’s 400,000-some Hispanic Republican voters.

Florida votes next in a primary race that has already had three different winners and is home to the country’s largest Cuban-American community–many of them former refugees who escaped the communist dictatorship under Fidel Castro. A 2011 poll by the University of Florida showed that 80 percent of Cuban Americans believe a decades-long U.S. trade embargo on the country has been ineffective.

Biden welcomes Navy ship home for the holidays

MAYPORT, Fla. – Vice President Joe Biden made an unscheduled stop during a visit to Florida on Thursday to greet 350 sailors from the USS Gettysburg as they came home after seven months at sea.

A brass band played and happy families waved flags and held up signs as a grinning Biden helped them welcome home loved ones just in time for the holidays. Seven of the sailors who had babies born while they were at sea were allowed to get off the ship first.


Sophia Perfida, 11 months, waits to see her father.

One sailor dressed up as Santa Claus in honor of the ship’s arrival, drawing thrilled shouts from some of the children waiting for their mothers and fathers.

Reuters-Ipsos poll: Tea Party favorite Rubio ahead in Florida Senate race

The Tea Party’s on a roll and it’s a wake-up and smell the coffee moment for anyone who had dismissed the movement as a passing fad.

Tea Party backed Christine O’Donnell shook the political cognoscenti by winning the Delaware Republican primary over  longtime congressman Michael Castle last night. USA-POLITICS/FLORIDA

Another Tea Party favorite, Marco Rubio, is leading in the Senate race in Florida, according to a Reuters-Ipsos poll on Wednesday.

Florida, Arizona contestants set, still waiting on Alaska…

The contestants are set in Florida’s three-way race for the U.S. Senate and John McCain holds on to pursue a fifth term. USA/PALIN

But most of the chatter this morning is about the Alaska surprise where Joe Miller, an underdog candidate backed by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, edged into the lead over incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski. It may take a week or more to determine the winner of the primary as rural and absentee votes are tallied. 

How Miller fares will be seen as a test of Palin’s clout in the Republican Party. She has backed a number of candidates in this primary season and her results are mixed.

Palin shops reality show as RNC fear campaign stalks Obama

USA-ELECTION/

Sarah Palin may be about to add another high-profile credential to her resume by taking TV viewers moose hunting in Alaska.

She can already boast about being a mayor, a governor, a vice presidential nominee, a bestselling author — she’s also writing a new book about American virtues and strengths — a TV political pundit and a Big Name campaigner for candidates in the 2010 congressional elections.

Now she wants to be a reality show TV star, too.

One of the most visible Republican figures on the White House wannabe stage, Palin is teaming up with TV producer Mark Burnett to shop a proposal for a reality show based on her family and their life in picturesque Alaska to at least three major broadcast networks.