Tales from the Trail

Obama to fainting supporter: Eat!

obama-oct-2.jpgEAST LANSING – With a little over a month to go until the Nov. 4 U.S. presidential election, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has no time for fainters. At an outdoor rally on Wednesday at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, the Democrat was all business.

Interrupted during his speech by a signal from someone in the crowd that a person may have fainted, Obama pointed medics to the area and had this advice for their potential patient — “Next time, if you come to a 20,000-person rally, remember to eat something before you get here.”

Back in January on the morning of the New Hampshire primary, another Obama supporter fainted as the U.S. senator from Illinois spoke at Dartmouth College. Back then Obama waited a full 15 minutes for medics to arrive and treat the patient before continuing with his speech. 

(Reporting by Mark Egan)

PICTURE: REUTERS/Jason Reed (Obama waves on stage at the end of his campaign rally at Michigan State University in East Lansing October 2, 2008)

New state polls show shift towards Obama

rtx93zk.jpgWASHINGTON – A slew of new state polls released on Wednesday showed some shift in momentum toward Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama and away from Republican rival John McCain.

CNN/Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corp. released polls for five battleground states — Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada and Virginia — that showed Obama ahead among likely voters in all of them, though still within the margin of error in four.

Obama held a 51 percent to 47 percent lead in both Florida and Nevada, a 53 percent to 44 percent lead in Virginia, a 54 percent to 43 percent advantage in Minnesota and a narrow 49 percent to 48 percent edge in Missouri.

Musing with McCain: ‘If I were dictator…’

WASHINGTON – Sometimes it’s hard to tell when John McCain is joking.
 
Take his interview Tuesday with journalists at The Des Moines Register.
 
The Republican presidential candidate acknowledged the financial bailout measure before Congress was not perfect, but he said it was unacceptable to do nothing and admonished lawmakers for failing to pass a rescue plan.
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Then, without cracking a smile or missing a beat, he added this little nugget: “I’m not saying this is the perfect answer. If I were dictator, which I always aspire to be, I would write it … a little bit differently.”
 
With the Treasury secretary likely to have a huge amount of power under any bailout scheme, McCain was asked what sort of person he was looking for to fill that job. He said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had been doing admirably.
 
“I think a person along Paulson’s lines,” McCain said. Given the fragility of Wall Street, he added, any candidate “probably has to have a sound grounding in the financial markets and that aspect of America’s economy.”
 
The Arizona senator said if elected he would recruit the brightest and the best for his Cabinet, Democrat or Republican, in government or in business.
 
“I’ll go out and ask them to serve the country for a dollar a year,” he said.
 
He mused aloud about who might be enticed into government service: billionaire Iowa businessman Warren Buffett, eBay founder Meg Whitman, or Fed-Ex chief Fred Smith.
 

McCain strongly objected when a questioner suggested his running mate, Sarah Palin, was not as experienced as others he named as potential government servants.
 
“She’s been a mayor. She’s been an overseer of billions — I don’t know how many billions of dollars of natural resources. She’s been a member of the PTA (Parent Teacher Association). She’s been a governor,” McCain said.
 
He express skepticism when told many people, including now some conservative Republicans, questioned her level of experience.
 
“Really? I haven’t detected that,” he said.
 
“Now, if there’s a Georgetown cocktail party person who quote calls himself a conservative and doesn’t like her, good luck, good luck, fine,” McCain added.
 
“I think that the American people have overwhelmingly shown their approval. Are there people who will be detractors of her? That’s fine. That’s fine. That’s what politics is all about.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain speaks at Truman Presidential Library  in Independence, Missouri, on Wednesday)

Amid inaction on financial bailout, blame game continues in McCain ad

PHOENIX  – U.S. lawmakers have yet to back a plan to try and stem the global financial crisis. But the vigorous round of finger-pointing over who is to blame for it continued on the campaign trail on Tuesday as John McCain’s camp singled out Democratic rival Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton in a new ad.

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The 60-second spot argued that, while the veteran Arizona senator sought to rein in excesses by troubled mortgage titans Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – which were rescued by the government earlier this month – Obama, an Illinois senator, did nothing.

“John McCain fought to rein in Fannie and Freddie,” a voiceover says. It then quotes The Washington Post saying McCain “pushed for stronger regulation … while Mr. Obama was notably silent.”

McCain, Palin doing less well with younger evangelicals

DALLAS – Republican presidential contender John McCain still retains strong support from white evangelical Protestants, but the 72-year-old Arizona senator’s appeal fades with younger voters from this flock.

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That is the findings of a survey that was just done for Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

It found that McCain has the support of 71 percent of white evangelical Christians versus 23 percent for his Democratic rival Barack Obama.

‘SNL’ votes for political satire

tinafey.jpgPolitics and comedy collided once again on “Saturday Night Live” with Tina Fey reviving her dead-on Sarah Palin impression while Fred Armisen’s Barack Obama debated Darrell Hammond’s rendition of John McCain.

The NBC comedy show opened with Fey, wearing a pink jacket and turned out in Palin-esque eyeglasses and her trademark up-do, being interviewed by a a faux Katie Couric. Fey, who first portrayed the Republican vice presidential nominee on “SNL’s” season premiere, offered up titteringly silly answers to questions on foreign policy and her trip to New York City. She was especially disturbed during her visit to the United Nations by the high presence of foreigners there — jobs that she vowed would go to Americans in a McCain administration.

The recreation of Friday’s McCain-Obama debate featured a running gag in which McCain repeatedly proposed that he and Obama suspend their campaigns to either “hold a series of pie-eating contests,” “town hall meetings where you and I appear nude of semi-nude” or for the candidates to be air-dropped so they can search for Osama bin Laden.

McCain “disappointed” that media declared debate a tie

mccain3.jpgWASHINGTON – Republican White House hopeful John McCain, fresh from his first debate with Democratic rival Barack Obama in Mississippi, expressed regret on Saturday that his performance didn’t win over all the pundits in the press.
 
“I was a little disappointed the media called it a tie but I think that means, when they call it a tie, that means we win,” McCain said during a telephone call that was caught by cameras filming him at his campaign headquarters.
 
Both camps claimed victory after the 90-minute debate on Friday.
 
Meanwhile, Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, sought to lower expectations for the next debate in Tennessee on Oct. 7. It will be conducted in a town-hall style with questions from an audience.
 
“We will be a decided underdog in that encounter, and John McCain is the undisputed town hall champion,” Plouffe told reporters on a conference call, noting that McCain — who is fond of the format — had challenged Obama to do joint town hall meetings throughout the summer.
 
“He clearly feels, even more than the foreign policy debate, this is his home turf. So if we can just escape relatively unscathed against the undisputed town hall champion in Tennessee, we’ll be thrilled.”
 
Obama has held regular town halls of his own throughout the 2008 campaign and does not appear to struggle with the format.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain talks on the phone at his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, on Sept. 27)
 

“He doesn’t understand” and “Bush” references pepper debate

rtx8ysz.jpgWASHINGTON – There wasn’t a “You’re no Jack Kennedy” moment at the first presidential debate of 2008. But there were several lines both White House hopefuls kept using throughout the evening as a way of getting in subtle and not-so-subtle digs at each other.
 
By our count, Democratic contender Barack Obama mentioned the unpopular President George W. Bush 10 times over the course of the 97-minute debate, trying to suggest Republican rival John McCain would represent the same as the last eight years.
 
“John mentioned me being wildly liberal. Mostly that’s just me opposing George Bush’s wrong headed policies since I’ve been in Congress,” the Illinois senator said.
 
McCain had his own way of using words to undercut his rival, focusing on Obama’s four years in the U.S. Senate versus his 22 years in the legislative body. 

He said seven different times that Obama just didn’t understand a range of issues, from strategy in Iraq to the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia.
 
“Well, I was interested in Senator Obama’s reaction to the Russian aggression against Georgia.  His first statement was, ‘Both sides ought to show restraint,’” McCain said. “Again, a little bit of naivete there. “He doesn’t understand that Russia committed serious aggression against Georgia.”
 
Obama on nine occasions said that McCain was right on various issues — sometimes in praising him but also sometimes just agreeing with a comment.  He agreed that McCain was correct about the surge of troops in Iraq dramatically cutting down violence, and he agreed that presidents had to be prudent in what they said.

Obama also said McCain was wrong on at least three occasions.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Bourg (McCain and Obama pass each other on stage at debate)

At debate, McCain needles Obama over faux White House seal

OXFORD, Miss. – It’s the seal that just keeps on giving.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain needled White House rival Barack Obama again on Friday for using a seal earlier in his campaign that mirrored the one used by the U.S. president.

original.jpgThe exchange was prompted by ribbing from Obama over McCain’s refusal to commit to a meeting with the prime minister of Spain if he wins the November 4 election.

“(McCain) even said the other day that he would not meet potentially with the prime minister of Spain, because he — you know, he wasn’t sure whether they were aligned with us. I mean, Spain? Spain is a NATO ally,” Obama said.

McCain, Obama fight over soldiers’ bracelets

WASHINGTON – Republican White House hopeful John McCain tried to use a bracelet of a fallen U.S. soldier given on the campaign trail to drive home his point that he would not withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq based on an arbitrary timeline.

rtx8yrl.jpgThe mother of a soldier gave him a bracelet and asked him to promise “that you will do everything in your power to make sure my son’s death was not in vain,” McCain said in the first presidential debate, contrasting his views with Democratic rival Barack Obama, who has said he would withdraw forces within 16 months.

Obama shot back that he too had a bracelet from the mother of a soldier who asked that no other mother endure the loss she was experiencing.