Tales from the Trail

Clinton to Obama: How about a debate on a flatbed truck?

rtr1zt7f.jpgWILMINGTON, N.C. – Hillary Clinton, invoking the drama of a lusty street fight, repeated her challenge to Barack Obama for a debate free of moderators or a set agenda.

“We could even do it on the back of a flatbed truck. It doesn’t even need to be in some fancy studio somewhere,” she told a campaign rally on the banks of the Cape Fear River.

Her rival for the Democratic Party presidential nomination has deflected the request and said he would debate her after primary votes in Indiana and North Carolina on May 6.

“We need a president on day one ready to be our commander in chief, ready to turn our economy around. That is why I have to say I am very, very regretful that my opponent will not agree to a debate in North Carolina, because I think these issues are worth debating,” she said, goading her opponent for not being ‘tough’ enough.

“Tough questions in a debate is nothing like the tough decisions you’ve got to make in the White House…no moderators, just the 2 of us on a stage for 90 minutes.”

On field of dreams, Clinton mangles metaphor

hillary-in-south-bend.jpgSOUTH BEND, INDIANA – Sports are a natural metaphor for political campaigns — both have winners and losers, competing teams, and a final score.

In basketball-mad Indiana, Democrat Hillary Clinton held a rally on Indiana University’s basketball court in Bloomington on Friday, while rival Barack Obama played a three-on-three game with supporters later that night.

On Saturday, Clinton headed to South Bend, best known as home to Notre Dame‘s Fighting Irish football team. Former president Ronald Reagan, a Republican, laid claim to that franchise long ago, thanks to his portrayal of Irish football player George “the Gipper” Gipp in the 1940 film “Knute Rockne: All American.”

Bowling on the Clinton plane

Journalists and staffers “bowl” tennis balls down the aisle of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign plane as it takes off from Gary, Indiana, on Friday night.

Handshake not enough to win over bar patrons

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stopped in a sports bar in Gary, Indiana, on Friday, but these two customers who shook her hand said that wasn’t necessarily enough to win their votes.

Clinton challenges Obama to more debates

hillary.jpgEAST CHICAGO, Ind. – Democratic presidential candidates have held more than 20 debates. Evidently that’s not enough for Hillary Clinton.

Clinton is pressing her final rival, Barack Obama, to debate her in Indiana and North Carolina, which hold their primary contests on May 6.

Either state would be fine, but both would be better, Clinton said on Friday.

“I’ll go anywhere and anytime. And we’ll have that debate as long as Senator Obama will agree to actually meet me,” Clinton said Friday morning in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Obama again refutes pastor’s comments, emphasizes roots

INDIANAPOLIS – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama refuted controversial comments by his Chicago pastor again on Friday and sought to play up his own origins in an effort to combat perceptions that he is an “elitist”.

rtr1zvwz.jpgRev. Jeremiah Wright, who is semi-retired from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago which Obama joined 20 years ago, has called the Sept. 11 attacks retribution for U.S. policies and condemned America’s failings on race.

Wright said in an interview this week that Obama’s criticism of those comments was “what he has to say as a politician.”

Hillary Clinton declares war on paperwork

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Say goodbye to the FAFSA form if Hillary Clinton is elected president.

Reducing student loan paperwork may not qualify as a marquee issue like ending the Iraq war and establishing a universal health-care system. But it’s one way Clinton can portray herself as a detail-oriented policy wonk who will make voters’ lives easier.

While her rival Barack Obama delivers a broad message of hope and change, Clinton’s speeches are so laden with specifics you can almost see the bullet points.

Democrats, Republicans agree McCain is a ‘natural’

WASHINGTON – In a rare display of political harmony, Democrats and Republicans on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee came together on behalf of presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.rtr1ik2w.jpg

On a 19-0 vote on Thursday, they approved a sense of the Senate resolution that declares McCain is indeed a “natural born” U.S. citizen and thus eligible under the Constitution to be president.

Questions have been raised because McCain was born outside of the United States — to Americans parents on a military base in 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone, then under U.S. control.

Obama: You don’t have to talk tough to be tough

NEW ALBANY, Ind. – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Wednesday brushed aside Hillary Clinton’s attempts to portray him as someone who lacked toughness and could not stand the heat of the media glare.obamatough.jpg

Clinton, who depicts herself as a fighter in her campaign speeches, has pounced on the Illinois senator’s critique of a television debate last week in which he was put on the defensive about issues such as whether he wears a flagpin and the fiery rhetoric of his pastor. She accused him of not being able to handle media scrutiny.

But Obama said it was the New York senator and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who have been thin-skinned about press questions.

Pennsylvania Democratic voters see U.S. recession already

rtr1z301.jpgWASHINGTON – One interesting tidbit that came out of the exit polling from Pennsylvania Democratic voters is that a large majority believe the U.S. economy is already in recession — contrary what the current president said on Tuesday.
    
A whopping 88 percent of voters in Pennsylvania — a state trying to transition from steel and coal industries to high-tech and medical research — said the U.S. economy was in a recession, with 42 percent saying it was a serious recession and 47 percent said it was a moderate contraction, according to exit poll data on CNN’s Web site (page 5 of data).
 
On Tuesday, President George W. Bush cited the most recent economic data showing small growth in the fourth quarter of 2007. But he also acknowledged that the first quarter figures had not yet been released.
 
“We’re not in a recession.  We’re in a slowdown,” Bush said after meetings with leaders of Canada and Mexico. “We haven’t had first quarter growth statistics yet. But there’s no question we’re in a slowdown.”
 
Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have both said the economy was in a recession as has Republican presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain.
 
But White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said on Wednesday such pronouncements were a little early in the game. 
    
“We don’t have data yet and it’s a little premature to declare it so definitively as a recession because the data isn’t in,” she told reporters.
 
The Commerce Department is due to release the GDP figures for the first quarter on April 30, which is also when the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rate-setting committee will announce whether it is cutting rates again. 

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- Photo credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni (shoppers browse food aisles at discount retailer Wal-mart.)