Tales from the Trail

McCain’s houses: hard work, or his wife’s wealth?

fiorina.jpegJohn McCain adviser Carly Fiorina is offering a new defense of the Republican candidate’s ownership of multiple homes , suggesting that it is due to his hard work rather than his wife’s money.

McCain’s wife Cindy is a wealthy heiress and the couple own between eight and 11 properties depending on how they are counted, according to the Talking Points Memo political blog. McCain responded to a question on the subject last week by saying he wasn’t sure how many properties he owned.

Cue criticism from his Democratic rival Barack Obama, who said it showed McCain was out of touch with millions of Americans struggling to pay mortgage costs.
Fiorina told CNN on Monday: “He is a man who has these blessings and these assets because he’s worked hard all his life. That’s part of the American dream.”

She also pointed out that McCain had a plan to address the home mortgage crisis, noted that Cindy McCain’s investment portfolio was managed by others and argued that Obama, who owns a house in Chicago, was in no position to judge when it came to house purchases.

“Obama got the opportunity to buy a house that he couldn’t afford through his associations with a gentleman named Tony Rezko who’s now in jail,” she said. “If we want to talk about houses and who’s out of touch with the American people we ought to be balanced in that.”

McCain: always ready with a quip about his age

mccain3.jpgBURBANK, Calif. – Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who turns 72 on Friday, is used to jokes about his age, so when he appeared on NBC’s Tonight Show on Monday he had no trouble countering suggestions he was around for some of the big moments in history.

Host Jay Leno suggested McCain saved Washington, D.C. from British forces in 1814.

“A lot of people think I shouldn’t have,” the Arizona senator joked, playing on widespread disillusionment with all branches of U.S government.

He’s the Daddy

daddy-yankee.jpegJohn McCain’s campaign has mocked Democratic rival Barack Obama as a celebrity, but the Republican candidate stepped into the world of show business himself on Monday with an endorsement from Daddy Yankee, a Reggaeton star from Puerto Rico. McCain introduced Daddy Yankee , 31, at a high school in the senator’s home city of Phoenix, ArizonaThe star, in a black shirt and sporting sparkling earrings and dark sunglasses, hugged some of the female students, prompting screams from the audience.

Some reporters covering McCain (including this correspondent) had not heard of Daddy Yankee and had at best a hazy understanding of Reggaeton, a style of urban music which mixes hip hop, reggae and other influences. But the 71-year-old senator seemed to have at least a passing familiarity with Daddy Yankee’s work. He praised the star, real name Ramon Ayala, as a “great American success story”.

McCain said the singer had come from a very poor family and a part of Puerto Rico where people often make wrong choices. He noted Ayala had been married for 15 years and had three children. Later, aboard McCain’s plane, the singer said he supported McCain because the senator had fought for immigration reform. “He’s always been a fighter for the Hispanic community,” he told reporters.

Ever the diplomat, Rice offers praise for Biden

rtr21oot.jpgCRAWFORD, Texas – Condoleezza Rice, ever the sharp diplomat, found some nice — and some would even say effusive — comments about the man who was just picked to be the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket for the November election.
Rice, a Republican who plans to back John McCain, offered the kind words about Sen. Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as she traveled again to the Middle East to try to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“I am not going to comment on the politics of it. I’ll just say that Sen. Biden is obviously a very fine statesman,” she told reporters aboard her plane as she flew to Israel.
“I’ve known him for a long time. He’s been a really very supportive committee chair for — and before that, ranking member for the State Department and for our diplomatic efforts,” she said. “And so he’s a — you know, he’s a true, true patriot.”
The White House was a bit more circumspect. Spokesman Tony Fratto said that it was an honor for anyone to be a presidential or vice presidential nominee but that was really about as far as he went.
“It’s a great honor for anyone who has that opportunity to run in a national election like that, to aspire to represent the country; and so a very personal thing for him and his family,” Fratto told reporters in Crawford, Texas. “Obviously, we’re — we would be happy for him.”
Asked about Rice’s proclamation that Biden was a “great stateman” and “true patriot”, Fratto replied that, “He’s done tremendous work over a long period, and I know he has been supportive of Secretary Rice’s State Department.”  

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Ho New (Rice arrives in Tel Aviv.)

McCain camp tries to rub salt on Clinton-Obama wound

With many Democrats upset that Hillary Clinton was not their party’s presidential or vice presidential nominee, rival Republican John McCain’s campaign tried to rub a little salt into the wound.

McCain’s campaign launched a new television ad using clips of the New York senator criticizing Democratic hopeful Barack Obama during their bitter primary contest, including about his policy proposals and negative attacks. 
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Clinton’s team quickly responded, reiterating her strong backing for Obama and laying into McCain.
“She has said repeatedly that Barack Obama and she share a commitment to changing the direction of the country, getting us out of Iraq, and expanding access to health care,” said her spokeswoman Kathleen Strand. “John McCain doesn’t. It’s interesting how those remarks didn’t make it into his ad.” 

Obama, in slip-up, refers to Biden as “next president”

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – Of all the gaffes Democratic White house hopeful Barack Obama probably hoped to avoid, he accidentally introduced Joe Biden as the presidential candidate rather than the No. 2 man on the ticket.rtr21mtc.jpg

He quickly corrected himself but the McCain campaign quickly pounced on the mistake to suggest that Biden, a veteran Delaware senator, might wield the real power in an Obama administration.

As Biden stepped to the podium at his first joint rally with Obama, the Democratic White House candidate said, “Let me introduce to you, the next president — the next vice president of the United States of America: Joe Biden.”

Will Biden help Obama with the Catholic vote?

biden1.jpgDALLAS – With Delaware Senator Joe Biden on the ticket, will Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama make inroads with wavering Catholics in the race for the White House? 
In an election year that has seen both Obama’s campaign and that of his Republican rival John McCain try to woo voters of various faiths it is sure to be a question that pundits will ask in coming days.
Obama on Saturday chose Biden, 65, as his vice presidential running mate, ending days of frenzied speculation.  
Biden, originally from the battleground state of Pennsylvania, will bring not only foreign policy expertise to the ticket — he chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — but strong working-class roots and his Catholic faith.
Catholics had strongly supported Hillary Clinton in her failed bid for the Democratic nomination and a number of polls have shown a fairly close race among Catholics with Obama leading nationally by a small margin.
Conservative Catholics tend to line up with evangelicals on issues like abortion but there are also many liberal Catholics in America who like the Democratic Party on economic issues. 
Almost one-quarter of U.S. adults are Catholic but their electoral clout is somewhat diluted by their distribution.
According to a June report by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, nearly four in 10 U.S. Catholics reside in New York, California and Texas, none of which are closely contested. The first two are solidly Democratic and Texas is Republican.
The report said states “where the Catholic vote could make a real difference are Florida, Ohio and Louisiana.”
Pennsylvania is widely seen as another battleground for the Catholic vote.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage
(Photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed. Biden at a Democratic Party Debate in December)

Does Biden help Obama or raise experience questions?

rtr21kzo.jpgDemocratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s pick of former rival Joe Biden to be his vice presidential running mate taps his experience as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but drew quick critiques.

Almost instantly questions were raised about whether the selection opens Obama up to criticism that he is weak on foreign policy — and rival Republican John McCain’s campaign quickly seized on that point by launching an new television advertisement (see below).

Meanwhile, while news that former rival Hillary Clinton was not vetted by Obama for his short-list of vice presidential contenders was probably going to irk her supporters already bitter that she is not the nominee, Clinton was one of the first to issue a supportive statement of the ticket.

Somebody please buy this candidate a coffeemaker

coffee.jpgSEDONA, Arizona – Taking a few days off from the presidential race, Sen. John McCain nonetheless keeps the media on its toes with a daily, early morning trip for coffee.

The Republican presidential candidate, who is staying at his comfortable home in the hills near Sedona, has been driven with staff, Secret Service, reporters, photographer and a television crew in tow to a Starbucks.

There, he quickly gets a cup to go and returns home.

On Friday, the six-vehicle motorcade — four SUVS and two vans– drove him 19 miles roundtrip to a Starbucks in Sedona.

Does Obama get too much media coverage?

obama-media.jpgNEW YORK - Few would doubt that Barack Obama has attracted more media coverage than his Republican rival John McCain, fueling suspicion that journalists are biased towards Obama. 

A Rasmussen Reports survey in July found that 49 percent of voters believe most reporters are trying to help Obama. Just 14 percent believed most reporters were trying to help McCain and 24 percent said most reporters tried to be objective.

Obama’s seventh appearance this year on the cover of Time magazine, compared to two for McCain, renewed those charges this week. Read our story on that here.