Tales from the Trail

Bush to spend last campaign weekend at Camp David

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush, who said in March he would find ample time to campaign for Republican White House contender John McCain, is going to spend the last weekend of the 2008 race at, well, Camp David.

Bush has record low job approval ratings due to the prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the sour economy. He will leave Friday for the U.S. presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland and will remain secluded until Sunday, according to his public schedule released late Tuesday evening.

“The president is pretty focused on the activities that we have here, especially getting this economy back in order,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. “As we’ve said for a while, the president was going to be focusing on this.”

When the economic crisis unfolded and Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast, Bush canceled plans to attend several fundraisers around the country and sometimes sent surrogates in his place, including his wife Laura Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

And as rival White House contender Democrat Barack Obama sought to paint McCain as an extension of the current president, McCain went to great lengths to distance himself from Bush.

McCain daughter blogs plea for support for her dad

WASHINGTON – As Meghan McCain has traveled the country campaigning for her father, Republican hopeful John McCain, she has been writing a blog sharing her thoughts and behind-the-scenes photos from campaign stops as well as from book signings for her new children’s book.

With her father behind in the latest polls, Meghan on Tuesday offered an impassioned plea for votes for her father over Democratic rival Barack Obama. At the same time, she acknowledged the country’s thirst for change and the fact that she and the Republican party do not always see eye to eye.

“I know there are people who are so desperate for change they will do anything to get what they think is a better deal,” McCain’s 24-year-old daughter wrote on her blog, McCainBlogette.com.

Bush gives Republicans a little pep talk ahead of election

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush dropped by the Republican National Committee headquarters unannounced to give the staff a little pep talk Tuesday amid polls showing Republicans trailing in the presidential contest and scores of key congressional races one week out from the general election.

Bush, with record low popularity ratings, has largely been unseen on the campaign trail this year, relegated to participating in private fundraisers for Republican presidential hopeful John McCain and congressional candidates.

“He encouraged them to work hard for John McCain and keep turning out the vote until the final ballot is cast next week,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said after the 20-minute visit.  “He also took the opportunity to thank the staff for all of their efforts during this election cycle and for their support of him over the last eight years.”

Sen. Lugar won’t join Cabinet of new president

WASHINGTON – Sen. Richard Lugar, a heavyweight in U.S. foreign policy, intends to stay in the Senate despite speculation the Indiana Republican may be the next secretary of state, said a spokesman on Monday.
    
“He’s been very clear that he won’t be serving in any administration, that he likes his current job and will stay put,” Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher said in an email.
 
Lugar, 76, has been mentioned as a  possible secretary of state for Democrat Barack Obama as well as previous candidates. He is the Republican leader on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, is the chairman.

The Indiana lawmaker also was mentioned as a possible Cabinet member or running mate for Republican presidential hopeful John McCain.
 
Lugar has worked for years on nuclear nonproliferation and visited Georgia after its brief war with Russia in August. He briefly ran for the 1996 Republican nomination for president. He was elected to his sixth term in the Senate in 2006.

- Photo credit: Reuters/Adrees Latif (Lugar in Tbilisi, Georgia in August.)

Is internal strife rippling through McCain-Palin campaign?

WASHINGTON – As the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign enters its final week, reports are bubbling up about internal strife within the Republican ticket that suggest vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is trying to distance herself from the top of the ticket, John McCain.

Palin over the last few weeks has publicly expressed her differences with McCain on issues such as a constitutional ban on gay marriage, the campaign’s decision to no longer contest Democrats in Michigan and her distaste for automated calls that have drawn scrutiny.

Politico.com reported this weekend that Palin has also cast aside advice from former George W. Bush aides assigned to help her on the campaign trail, citing their handling of her debut. She was roundly criticized for her poor performance in her initial national media interviews.

Palin grabs her own coat on the trail

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Republican vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin took a shot at her own party while campaigning solo in the battleground state of Iowa on Saturday.

Poking fun at the Republican National Committee for buying her and her family over $150,000 worth of clothing for the campaign, she said when she stepped off the plane in a chilly Iowa that she’d grabbed “my own jacket”.

Her reference to the controversy drew applause and whistles from the crowd.

In Des Moines Palin argued that her running mate John McCain, was more “worthy” of the presidency, saying he was “someone who inspires us with heroic and trustworthy deeds and not just words.” 

Predictor of who will win Nov. 4, or just scary Halloween masks?

WASHINGTON – As Halloween approaches, the quadrennial exercise has begun to determine whether the presidential candidate mask that sells the best will predict the actual winner on Nov. 4.

The Web site buycostumes.com says it has accurately predicted the outcome of the last two presidential elections based on which mask sold the best, and so far 2008 sales are roughly in line with current opinion polls.

Its initial tally is trending towards Democratic hopeful Barack Obama versus rival John McCain, 54 percent to 46 percent. Of course the Web site encouraged shoppers to buy as many masks as they like, and so the scientific nature is in question. The masks go for 99 cents.

Democracy at work: $5.3 billion or priceless?

WASHINGTON – Outfitting a vice presidential candidate: more than $150,000. Contributions raised by all candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives: over $1.5 billion. Presidential election cost: almost $2.4 billion. Democracy at work: priceless.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan watchdog group, issued an estimate on Thursday that said the U.S. election would cost $5.3 billion, the first time to cross the $5 billion threshold.

By the time Nov. 4 rolls around, Democrats will have seen donations soar 52 percent over their efforts in the 2004 congressional and presidential election, the Center forecast.  In contrast, Republicans, saddled in part by the unpopular President George W. Bush, will see their donations inch up 2 percent since four years ago, it predicted.

McCain discovers Garden of Eatin in Florida

PLANT CITY, Florida – Republican John McCain was taking advantage of the what the land provided to eat his way across Florida while on a bus tour on Thursday.

In Altamonte Springs, the Straight Talk Express made a beeline for Mi Viejo San Juan restaurant where McCain declared to the owner, “We’re hungry.”

Joined by his wife, Cindy, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, McCain tucked into heaping plates of chicken, beef, mounds of rice and fried plaintains.

Bush working the campaign ropeline draws to an end

WASHINGTON – George W. Bush has worked his last campaign ropeline as president.

Bush, with historically low job approval ratings, made only an occasional public appearance on the trail this year, preferring to build support and raise campaign cash behind closed doors for Republican presidential hopeful John McCain and congressional candidates.

Bush also had to cancel or send stand-ins for a few private fundraisers while he stayed in Washington to work the telephones and lobby for the financial bailout legislation that passed earlier this month. His last fundraiser was on Tuesday for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.