Tales from the Trail

Obama campaign looks for dollars to help retire DNC debt

WASHINGTON – The 2008 campaign is over and while President-elect Barack Obama shattered pretty much every fundraising record in the book, he’s still looking for a buck or two.

Obama’s campaign sent out an appeal on Monday, almost a week after the election, seeking to help retire debt incurred by the Democratic National Committee. As a thank you, the campaign offered to throw in a commemorative 2008 victory t-shirt for contributors who give $30 or more.

“The Democratic National Committee poured all of its resources into building our successful 50-state field program. And they played a crucial role in helping Barack win in unlikely states like North Carolina and Indiana. We even picked up an electoral vote in Nebraska,” said the e-mail appeal sent to millions of Obama supporters.

The DNC has about $15 million in debt to retire, according to a party official. Democrats ended up picking up 22 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, with three still too close to call. In the Senate, Democrats picked up six seats so far, with three races not yet decided.

Click here for more Reuters political coverage.

- Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama on his flight to Washington to meet President George W. Bush.)

Bush to make rare fundraising appearance for McCain, but without McCain

rtx68cn.jpgWASHINGTON – President George W. Bush will make a rare appearance on the campaign trail on Friday, attending a closed-door fundraiser in Oklahoma City to benefit Republican hopeful John McCain and the Republican National Committee – but the candidate will not be there.

Despite being a prolific fundraiser during his first seven years in office, Bush has only attended a handful of events this year and almost all of them have been closed to the press, which experts have attributed to his low job approval ratings. His last appearance was in Gates Mills, Ohio, near Cleveland, in late July.

Bush attended three closed-door fundraisers during a fundraising swing for McCain in late May, but they only appeared together at one event and then in public for a brief minute afterwards at the airport before Bush departed.

Freight Train sleeps through McCain’s whistle-stop tour

DES MOINES, Iowa – Republican presidential candidate John McCain conducted a whistle-stop tour through the Iowa State Fair on Friday but Freight Train was unimpressed.
The Arizona senator did what all politicians do at the fair. He pressed the flesh. He mounted a soapbox, actually a microphone placed behind bales of straw, and munched on some pork chops on a stick.
He may have won some votes when he praised the fair and its 1 million-plus visitors as true to the heartland of America. But he didn’t win over Freight Train.
The prize boar — all 1,259 pounds of him — stayed resolutely asleep throughout his visit, resting his enormous bulk on a bed of sand.
“I saw the new champion and world record-breaker boar, Freight Train. He’s in good health. I can tell you that,” McCain later said at a fund-raiser.
“I lament and had thought with some nostalgia about last year’s winner Big Red who is no longer with us. But perhaps I had part of him in a pepperoni pizza — who knows,” he said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Ilya Naymushin (A wild boar stands in an open cage at a zoo in the Siberian city of Krasnoyark in 2006)

Bush makes rare public campaign fundraising appearance

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush, despite record low job approval ratings, made a rare public appearance on Wednesday to help Michigan Republicans raise money for the November campaign and he used it to mock the campaign themes of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.bush-michigan.jpg
Bush never mentioned Obama’s name but used the Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s name 11 times throughout his 22 minutes of remarks to about 300 supporters in Livonia, Mich.
Obama has repeatedly used the words “hope” and “change” as themes of his campaign and to bash the Bush administration in his bid capture the White House in November. But Bush tried to turn the tables on Obama using his own words against him.
“The other side talks a lot about ‘hope,’ and that sums up their Iraq policy pretty well: They want to retreat from Iraq and hope nothing bad happens,” Bush said. “But wishful thinking is no way to fight a war and to protect the American people.”
On change, Bush said Democrats once favored lower taxes, believed in “common sense American values” and that “America should pay any price and bear any burden in the defense of liberty — but they have changed.”
“This isn’t the kind of change the American people want,” Bush said. Americans want change that make their lives better, their country safer. That requires changing the party control of the Congress.”

Republicans face an uphill battle retaking control of the House of Representatives because numerous lawmakers are retiring or seeking another office, while in the Senate they must defend 23 seats and Democrats have only 12 seats to guard.

Bush has made numerous appearances on the campaign trail to help Republican candidates raise money, but almost all of them in the last few months have been behind closed doors (the White House says their policy is to keep fundraisers at private residences closed to the press). Last week Bush made a public appearance in Washington to help the Republican congressional and Senate campaign committees raise some $21.5 million.

Knives, guns? Obama says ready for a good brawl

PHILADELPHIA - Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, who regularly uses language to reinforce his modern-guy credentials, seems to have set  that aside when he explained how he won’t be cowed by Republican attacks. knives.jpg“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Obama said at a fund-raiser in Philadelphia on Friday, employing a phrase that could have been lifted from a gangster movie. ”Because from what I understand, folks in Philly like a good brawl. I’ve seen Eagles fans,” he said, referring to the city’s  football team. The Republican Party quickly responded that the comment undermined Obama’s claim to represent change. ”Why is Barack Obama so negative? In the last 24 hours, he’s completely abandoned his campaign’s call for ‘new politics’, equating the election to a ‘brawl’ and promising to ‘bring a gun’,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant. ”It’s clear Obama is going on the attack to distract from the fact that since winning the nomination, his friend and fund-raiser, Tony Rezko, was convicted, and his vice presidential vetter, Jim Johnson, was forced to resign,” Conant said. The punch and counterpunch suggest another tough-guy phrase that has slipped into the political dialogue: “Bring ‘em on.”Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.Photo credit: Reuters /Luke MacGregor (Knives are on display at New Scotland Yard in London on May 29, 2008)

Power of presidency brings in dollars for Kansas hopeful

rtx69ml.jpgBUCYRUS, Kan. – Ah, the power of the presidency on the campaign trail.

President George W. Bush swooped in on Thursday to help Kansas State Sen. Nick Jordan roughly double the amount of money he has raised for his campaign to knock off Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore.

Jordan has raised about $388,000 through the end of March according to Federal Election Commission records. That’s in contrast to the almost $1 million that four-term Moore has raised in an effort to keep his seat in a fairly moderate district that includes numerous suburbs of Kansas City.

Bush helped Jordan and the Kansas Republican Party raise at least $435,000, with the lion’s share of the money going to the candidate, according to his campaign manager Dustin Olson.

Bush on campaign trail – McCain’s secret?

PARK CITY, Utah – Republican White House hopeful John McCain wants help from President George W. Bush to raise money for his campaign, but has done plenty to downplay the unpopular president’s presence on the trail.
Bush headlined three closed-door fundraisers in Arizona and Utah on Tuesday and Wednesday, hauling in millions of dollars for McCain but there was only a brief public glimpse of the two men together, for less than a minute. Plus, McCain skipped two of the events.
Bush’s fundraiser in Arizona with McCain was originally scheduled to be open to  reporters, but McCain’s campaign keeps its fundraisers closed to the press so the event was moved to a private home to keep it out of the public eye.
rtx68cn.jpgMcCain’s campaign also refused to release any details about how much Bush was helping raise at the three events, but the one with McCain present brought in roughly $2.5 million, according to sources close to the campaign who declined to be identified.
Details from the other two fundraisers were scarce, though the one Wednesday evening in the posh ski resort area of Park City, Utah, was hosted by Mitt Romney, a former investment banker who had been a McCain rival in the hunt for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
Democrats have tried to paint McCain as no different than the current White House occupant, arguing that the Arizona senator would represent a “third term” of Bush if elected to the White House in November, citing his steadfast support of Bush’s plan for the Iraq war and making tax cuts permanent.
In addition to limiting public exposure with Bush, McCain has differed with him on how to address climate change and said he would pursue nuclear arms reduction talks with Russia and China as part of a foreign policy that brings back “broad-minded internationalism and determined diplomacy.”
The growing distance between the two brings up the question of how McCain will handle Bush at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul in early September.

- Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (McCain sees Bush off at the Phoenix airport after a private fundraiser.)

Bush money train to hit the road, nary a sighting

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush will hit the campaign trail next week to rustle up some badly needed cash for Republican candidates — including presidential hopeful John McCain — but catching a glimpse of him in action will be fleeting.

rtr1zmjx.jpgBush will crisscross the Rocky Mountains Tuesday through Thursday from New Mexico to Arizona to Utah to Kansas raising money for McCain at three events and Republican congressional candidates at two others. They are all closed to the media.

“The reason that they’re closed is that the McCain campaign has a practice of having their fundraisers as closed press,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. Bush has permitted the media attend fundraisers at hotels and other similar venues but not at private residences (like the other two fundraisers on the trip).

Romney returns to the campaign scene

WASHINGTON – Former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who disappointed some conservatives earlier this year for unexpectedly dropping his White House bid, jumped back on to the political scene over the last 24 hours.rtr1ytqq.jpg

First we found out on Wednesday that the ex-Massachusetts governor and investment banker was taking a sojourn out to Arizona to meet with former rival and the presumed Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain — along with others who have been mentioned as possible vice presidential running mates.

And now Romney on Thursday announced he has formed a political action committee – Free and Strong America PAC — to help struggling Republicans running for Congress this year as well as his now-close friend McCain who has lagged the Democratic presidential hopefuls in fund-raising.

Clinton sees $$ in protestors’ wake

WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton got a rapturous response from a mostly female audience at a fundraiser on Wednesday evening. Many in the audience urged her to stay in the race for the Democratic White House nomination against rival Barack Obama. 

But at least two demonstrators dissented, standing and interrupting her speech before being led out of the room. 

Clinton, a senator from New York, was not thrown off.  “I welcome that,” she said, saying strong opinions were part of the American birthright. “It’s who we are.”