Tales from the Trail

Obama backer takes musical aim at Palin as VP pick

ROANOKE, Va. – Warming up a crowd for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama in the Blue Ridge mountain region of Virginia, Sen. Jim Webb on Friday took aim at Republican vice presidential pick Sarah Palin’s qualifications.

Webb, who has deep roots in the Appalachian region, invoked a popular country music song about a romantic encounter gone bad to suggest that John McCain may regret his selection of the Alaska governor as his running mate.

rtx9nve.jpgAt a convention center before 8,000 supporters, Webb praised the judgment of Obama, a first-term Illinois senator.

Then he asked rhetorically, “What is the one decision that a candidate makes before he or she is elected that clearly indicates what their judgment is?”

Webb responded that it was the pick of a running mate and went on to laud Obama’s choice of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as his No. 2.

McCain’s October surprise? Humor from the candidate and candy from his wife

NEW YORK – With just a few weeks to go before the U.S. election, the John McCain campaign is still full of surprises.

rtx9nt9.jpgCindy McCain, the Arizona senator’s wife, visited the campaign plane’s press section after taking off from New York on Friday to give Halloween candy to startled reporters.

So what, some may ask? Well it was the first time Mrs. McCain, who is generally wary of reporters, has ever ventured to the back of the plane.

Rove, Gingrich weigh in with advice for McCain


How can John McCain win?
The Republican presidential candidate trails Democratic rival Barack Obama in opinion polls and time is running out before the Nov. 4 election. The Web site FiveThirtyEight, which uses statistical modeling to predict the outcome, gives the Arizona senator only a 5.3 percent chance of victory.

It’s third and long for the Maverick, but  two prominent Republican strategists see a path to victory.
Here’s what they say:
THREAD THE NEEDLE. McCain should focus on a handful of states that voted Republican in 2004 but could go Obama’s way this time out — Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado and Nevada, said Karl Rove, President Bush’s former political advisor. He can lose Iowa and New Mexico, which also voted for Bush in 2004, and still squeak by with 274 Electoral College votes, enough for a win.
“It’s threading the needle, but it’s come to that,” Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
TAXES, TAXES, TAXES. Forget on-the-ground tactics — McCain and running mate Sarah Palin should hammer Obama for wanting to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000, tapping into Americans’ instinctive mistrust of politicans, said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
If the message catches on, all those swing states will swing McCain’s way, Gingrich said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
The way Gingrich sees it, Obama could have another Bittergate on his hands after telling Joe the Plumber that he wants to “spread the wealth around” to create a healthier economy.
“If Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin spend the rest of this campaign focused on whether or not politicians want to take money away from you and decide how much you’re allowed to keeep, I suspect they win the election,” he said.
“What Sen. Obama said the other night was a Freudian slip,” he added. 
There’s another prominent politician who’s not ruling out a McCain victory: Obama himself. 
“Don’t underestimate the capacity of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” he said at a fundraiser Thursday night. “Don’t underestimate our ability to screw it up.”
What do you think? Who’s got the better roadmap for McCain — Rove or Gingrich?

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young (McCain arrives at the Alfred E. Smith dinner in New York, Oct. 16)

Senator, can you spare a million?

WASHINGTON – If you want a recession-proof job, maybe being a member of Congress is the way to go.
With the U.S. economy tanking, the 535 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate appear well-positioned to weather the storm, according to an analysis of their personal wealth by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics. rtx9mpc.jpg
In 2007, the U.S. economy grew at 2.2 percent, the slowest pace in five years, with only 0.6 percent growth in the last quarter of that year, according to government statistics.
Things were rosier for those sitting on Capitol Hill.
According to CRP’s survey, the net worth for members of Congress grew 11 percent in 2007, “despite indications last year that the economy was headed south.”
In that year, senators had a median net worth of about $1.7 million, according to CRP, with 61 percent of senators considered millionaires.
For House members, median net worth was about $684,000, with 39 percent in the millionaire club. That compares to about 1 percent of all Americans reaching that status.
rtx9mpt.jpgDemocratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, a senator from Illinois, had a fabulous year in 2007, when he became the 31st richest senator, up from 70th richest in 2006, thanks mostly to royalties from two best-selling books, CRP said. His net worth grew from about $800,000 in 2006 to $4.7 million.
Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain went the other direction, but don’t feel too sad. He was the 12th richest senator, with a net worth of $28.5 million last year, thanks mostly to wife Cindy’s family fortune. That was down from 10th place in 2006.

In picking Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware as his running mate, Obama went out of his way to achieve a balanced ticket, at least when it comes to money. Biden is near the very bottom of  the list of “poorest” senators with a net worth of $215,997 at most, CRP said.

CRP noted that 2008 might not be so kind to lawmakers’ bank accounts however, given the nosedive in stocks and other investments.

Missouri voter sues over McCain campaign “hate speech”

(UPDATED – adds McCain spokesman comment)

KANSAS CITY – Missouri voter Mary Kay Green has had enough.

The supporter of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama filed a lawsuit this week over what she claims is dangerous “hate speech” coming from the rival campaign of Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

rtx9mpk.jpgGreen, a 66-year-old grandmother and “semi-retired” civil rights attorney, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Kansas City this week accusing McCain, his running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and their campaign manager Rick Davis of “intentionally, recklessly and irresponsibly” portraying Obama “as un-American, a terrorist by association,   and ‘not like us,’ a non-white individual.”

Palin, Green alleges in her lawsuit, has at her rallies used false statements to work supporters “into a frenzy causing them to make death threats” against Obama.

In debates, McCain loses blinking contest to Obama

mccain-semi-blink.jpgWASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate John McCain may not have blinked first in his debates with Barack Obama — but he certainly blinked more often, which is not a good thing.

Candidates who blink more than their opponents in debates tend to lose presidential elections, says Boston College psychology professor J.J. Tecce, and McCain outblinked Obama during the their three debates this fall.

“People are picking up McCain’s rapid blinking and saying, ‘There’s something about him that’s awfully twitchy and nervous and I don’t think I want to vote for that guy,’” said Tecce, who has presented a paper on blinking in debates.

Obama, McCain take on each other’s VP picks at debate

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – They weren’t part of the debate, but vice presidential candidates Sarah Palin and Joe Biden did get some time in the spotlight on Wednesday.
At their final debate before the November 4 election, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain were each asked to rate the other’s vice presidential pick.
vps.jpgObama, when asked whether Palin, the governor of Alaska, was qualified to be president, demurred.
“You know, I think it’s — that’s going to be up to the American people,” the Illinois senator said. “I think that, obviously, she’s a capable politician who has, I think, excited the — a base in the Republican Party.”
Notice he did not mention her level of experience. 
McCain, when asked about Biden, said he disagreed with his Senate colleague but declared him qualified to be in the White House. “I think that Joe Biden is qualified in many respects. But I do point out that he’s been wrong on many foreign policy and national security issues, which is supposed to be his strength,” McCain said.
“In Iraq, he had this cockamamie idea about dividing Iraq into three countries,” the Arizona senator continued. “There are several issues in which, frankly, Joe Biden and I open and honestly disagreed on national security policy, and he’s been wrong on a number of the major ones.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young

Last presidential debate ends, will the spread narrow?

The third and final presidential debate is over after intense sparring between Republican hopeful John McCain and rtx9lnj.jpgDemocratic contender Barack Obama.

Have voters heard enough from the two candidates? McCain has been falling behind in recent polls, was he able to close the gap or was Obama able to solidify his lead?

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Does Joe the Plumber know Joe Six-Pack?

(Corrects third paragraph to say Joe about to buy a business) 

Joe the Plumber was the surprise star of the third and final presidential debate, getting no less than 13 mentions in the opening minutes.

So who is this guy? His full name is Joe Wurzelbacher, and it turns out he had a close encounter with Barack Obama a few days ago. John McCain adopted Joe’s cause as a way to tar his opponent as a tax-and-spend liberal. rtx9llq.jpg

The apparent problem is that Joe is about to buy a company that makes a little over $250,000 a year, and under Obama’s proposal that would put him into a higher tax bracket. Obama told Joe that he wasn’t trying to punish his success, only to spread the wealth around.

McCain, Obama tussle over backing Bush’s policies

President George W. Bush is not running for office in November but he was a big topic of conversation in the final presidential debate between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.
rtx9l0n.jpgObama often says that his rival would represent a continuation of the policies of the unpopular current president, and at the debate pointed to McCain’s support for four of the last five Bush budgets, which he argued have led to record deficits.

“Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush you should have run four years ago,” the Arizona lawmaker said. “I’m going to give a new direction to this economy in this country.”

Obama acknowledged that McCain had broken with Bush on some important issues but argued that on economic matters, McCain was closely allied with the unpopular president.