Tales from the Trail

Palin camp limits media from her own supporters

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Political rallies are usually ideal for reporters to chat with party activists, but the campaign of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin took an unusual step by appearing to limit access to her supporters.

clearwater-rally.jpgAt Monday’s rally in the battleground state of Florida, reporters were barred from wandering around the area where the Alaska governor’s supporters had gathered. 

About 20 seconds into an interview I attempted with Brent McDonald, 52, I was stopped by a Palin campaign worker in mid-sentence. “The press is not allowed out here,” she said. 

I asked why. “I”m just telling you what they are telling me,” she replied.

A St. Petersburg Times reporter wrote that a campaign worker said that in the past negative things had been written.  “The campaign wanted to avoid that possibility Monday,” the reporter wrote on the newspaper’s “This Just In” blog.

New state polls show shift towards Obama

rtx93zk.jpgWASHINGTON – A slew of new state polls released on Wednesday showed some shift in momentum toward Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama and away from Republican rival John McCain.

CNN/Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corp. released polls for five battleground states — Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada and Virginia — that showed Obama ahead among likely voters in all of them, though still within the margin of error in four.

Obama held a 51 percent to 47 percent lead in both Florida and Nevada, a 53 percent to 44 percent lead in Virginia, a 54 percent to 43 percent advantage in Minnesota and a narrow 49 percent to 48 percent edge in Missouri.

Young Jews urged to ask Florida grandparents to vote for Obama

DALLAS – Talk about a swing vote in a swing state — or is it a battleground faith in a battleground state?rtr21v1z.jpg

The Great Schlep is an online campaign urging young U.S. Jews to urge their grandparents in Florida to vote for the Democratic presidential ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the Nov. 4 election against Republican John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin.

To do so it has enlisted the aid of comedian Sarah Silverman who does a sometimes foul-mouthed plea for Jews to fly to Florida to visit grandma and grandpa and sell the idea of Obama in the White House to them.

Joe Biden says Sarah Palin deserves respect

SARASOTA, Fla. – Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden said on Wednesday Republican rival Sarah Palin deserves respect.
 
Biden said he assumes that the first-term Alaska governor is qualified to be second in command of the United States, but has not yet made a decision.
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“She is governor of a state. She warrants respect,” Biden told a town-hall style meeting in Sarasota, Florida, shortly before Palin was to address the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.
 
“The only thing that I have to find out and you have to find out is what are her views,” said Biden, a member of the Senate for 35 years who faces Palin in a debate next month.
 
“I have made no judgment about whether or not she is qualified … (but) I’m assuming as governor of a state, even though she’s only be there a couple (of years) that she’s qualified.”
 
He said that will be determined by her views and what she would do as vice president.
 
Looking ahead to their debate, Biden said, “I will walk in with respecting her significant accomplishments and we will make our differences known and that is what we will debate. at least that is what my expectation is.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/John Gress

‘Gaffe Machine’ says election is so about the issues

biden3.jpgFORT MYERS, Florida – Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, mocked by Republicans as a “gaffe machine,” took a swipe Wednesday at a remark by John McCain’s campaign manager that “this election is not about issues.”
 
“This election is not about issues?” Biden asked rhetorically, drawing hoots and hollers at a town-hall style meeting with several hundred people in Fort Myers, Florida. Noting Americans have difficulty paying for such basics as health insurance and gasoline for their cars, Biden said, “Where I come from, that’s an issue.”
 
Campaign manager Rick Davis, in an interview with The Washington Post, said, “This election is not about issues.” He said, “This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.” He predicted that the more voters get to know McCain and Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama, the more they will like the Republican ticket.
 
Biden bristled. “You have the greatest character in the world, but you are not going to give me a fighting chance that would keep my job. I love ya, but I don’t want you as president,” he said.
 
During 35 years in the Senate, the fast-talking, often long-winded Biden has earned a reputation for gaffes. Republicans count two since last week’s Democratic National Convention — when he referred to Obama as “Barack America” and put himself on the top of the ticket by saying he was “running for president.”
 
On Wednesday, Biden made another slip of the tongue. In promising to help Americans if elected, he said, “the Biden, excuse me, the Obama-Biden administration.” Amid laughter, he added, “Believe me, you all got it right: Obama-Biden.” 

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young 

Country star John Rich performs for McCain

military.jpgPANAMA CITY, Florida – Republican presidential candidate John McCain, whose musical tastes are known to include the disco band Abba, took in some country music on Friday — courtesy of Nashville star John Rich.
 
Rich, half of the star duo “Big and Rich,” staged a waterside concert for McCain in the Florida Panhandle, a traditional Republican part of the battleground state.
    
McCain’s rallies earlier this year included the tune, Johnny B. Goode, and once he got tired of that, Abba’s 1977 hit “Take a Chance on Me” was his song of choice. 
    
Music at his events are now an eclectic mix from the Rolling Stones to Tina Turner and Brooks and Dunn.
    
Rich, in between songs, declared himself a west Texas conservative who gets frustrated when he turns on the television because “I always see the other side” of the political spectrum represented.
    
So, he said, he wrote a song called “Raising McCain,” which he performed.
    
“We’re all just raising McCain,” he sang. “You can get on the train, or get out of the way, we’re all just raising McCain.”
 
At that point, McCain pulled up in his Straight Talk Express bus with his wife, Cindy, and Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and his fiance.
    
Noting the military veterans in the crowd, McCain said: “We will not surrender, not in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.” 
    
Rich’s musical partner, Big Kenny Alphin, was not at the Country First concert, and is reported to have given money to the campaign of Democrat Barack Obama.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain speaks July 21 outside Maine Military Museum in South Portland)

Protest at McCain’s Senate office leads to arrest of dozens

WASHINGTON – U.S. Capitol Police arrested dozens of protesters, many in wheelchairs, at the Senate office of  presidential candidate John McCain on Tuesday while to Arizona Republican was in Florida campaigning about health care as well as raising money.rtr1zyqk.jpg

The activists demanded to talk to McCain about his lack of support for legislation that would help poor handicapped people stay in their homes and out of nursing facilities.

McCain is the only presidential aspirant who has not endorsed the bill, said Bob Kafka, a spokesman for ADAPT, an activist group that staged the protest. Democratic contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton support the bill, he said.