Tales from the Trail

Who’s afraid of Mitt and T-Paw…

It turns out that Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are the scariest pair of presidential prospects in the GOP field today, judging from a new Democratic ad and remarks by some Democratic Party hierophants.

Priorities USA Action, a political group founded by two former aides to President Barack Obama, targets Romney as a flip-flopper in a South Carolina TV ad that wields Republican Paul Ryan’s Medicare reforms like a political cudgel.

The 30-second black-and-white spot begins with Newt Gingrich’s “Meet the Press” remarks opposing what he called radical right-wing social engineering on Medicare. The ad then recounts Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s defense of Ryan before turning finally to Romney: “Mitt Romney says he’s ‘on the same page’ as Paul Ryan … but with Mitt Romney, you have to wonder: which page is he on today?”

The New York Times says the ad will run this weekend while Romney visits South Carolina.

Pundits view the ad as evidence that Democrats have locked on Romney as the GOP frontrunner, at least for now.

Bachmann is tops in GOP “intensity”

RTR2JTAS_Comp-150x150House Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann may not rate highly with Republican hierophants like George Will. But some Republicans seem to have an intense liking for her none the less, according to a new Gallup poll.

The Gallup survey of more than 1,500 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents shows Bachmann with a 20 percent “positive intensity” rating among 12 potential GOP White House wannabes. That’s second only to Mike Huckabee’s 25 percent rating. And it’s worth noting that Bachmann was recognized by only 52 percent of the respondents, so there may be room for improvement.

Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor with a disarming nice-guy persona, has polled strongly among Republican voters for some time. But the results seem encouraging for Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican who has only recently emerged from relative obscurity on the back of the Tea Party movement.

As GOP regroups on healthcare, new poll questions its priority

USA-HEALTHCARE/The new House Republican majority may be about to do what President Barack Obama did a year ago — assign the top priority to healthcare at a time when Americans really really want action on the economy and jobs.

That’s what a new Gallup poll suggests. Pollsters found that a clear majority of U.S. adults (52 perecent) think it is “extremely important” for Congress and Obama to focus on the economy in the new year. Next in importance come unemployment (47 percent), the federal budget deficit (44 percent), and government corruption (44 percent).

Healthcare and education are tied at 40 percent. But when Gallup looked more broadly at what people said USA/were either “extremely important” or ”very important,” education edged ahead of healthcare.

Washington Extra – Making nice (or not)

It was President Obama’s day for showing the business community he cares. He invited CEOs to Blair House across the street from the White House to discuss ideas for creating jobs and revving up the economy.

USARepublicans tried to turn the olive branch into an inconsequential twig. House Speaker-to-be John Boehner (who wasn’t invited) tweeted while the meeting was underway that it amounted to a “nothingburger.”

Honeywell CEO David Cote, who attended the meeting, had some sympathy for Obama: “We avoided a depression largely because of the actions of the president … I think he gets zero credit for it in the business or political community, because it seems like you get zero credit for the problem you avoid, even though that may be the biggest thing that you do.”

Congress hits new low in public opinion

USA-HEALTHCARE/PELOSIThe American public’s opinion of Congress has hit a new low, with only 13 percent of adults saying they approve of the job the national legislature is doing.

That’s according to a new Gallup survey, which finds an 83 percent disapproval rating for Congress — the worst the polling organization has seen in more than 30 years of congressional performance tracking.

The ‘good’ news is that Congress’ rating slipped only 1 percentage point  from last time.

Rising above politics … in Washington

RTXVGWL_Comp1-150x150President Barack Obama seems to want to rise above politics in the tax debate. Good luck with that.

When Obama announced the White House’s tentative tax deal with congressional Republicans, he said he had agreed to compromise rather than “play politics” at a time when Americans want problems solved.

The president gave every impression of bowing to the verdict that voters delivered on Nov. 2, when they evicted so many Democrats from their lodgings in the House of Representatives and handed the time-share keys to the Republicans.

Did GOP victory boost economic optimism?

USA-TAX/It’s not exactly a tsunami of euphoria. But Republican victories in the midterm elections may have helped goose economic optimism, at least among …well… Republicans.

A new Gallup survey finds that Republicans grew more optimistic during the first week of November, as Tea Party candidates led a GOP charge that captured the House and narrowed the Democratic majority in the Senate.

Republicans grew 13 points rosier on the Gallup Economic Confidence Index, compared with October, and that change appeared strong enough to drive an increase in optimism across the board.

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 adviser says Obama to energize his base for November

USA/President Barack Obama adds a new item to his first-term to-do list: energize his most loyal supporters in a national get-out-the-vote campaign for the November congressional midterm elections.

That’s the message Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett delivered on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, where she predicted a robust White House campaign to encourage voters including blacks and Hispanics to get to the polls next month.

Obama has already been out trying to stir up enthusiasm among the younger voters. But that was just for starters.