Tales from the Trail

from Political Theater:

Five must-see moments from the GOP foreign policy debate

The Republican presidential candidates assembled in Spartanburg, South Carolina, last night for a primary debate, the first to focus entirely on foreign policy and national security. In a dialogue that spanned assorted geopolitical challenges -- including Iran's quest for nuclear weapons, America's strategic relationship with Pakistan, and trade with China -- the eight Republicans outlined the approaches they would take to diplomacy if elected head of state. Here are five of the most notable exchanges:

1. Is torture acceptable under any circumstances? And is water boarding torture?

"I served on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War," wrote a veteran in a question submitted via email that was posed to the candidates. "I believe that torture is always wrong in all cases. What is your stance on torture?"

The question was directed first to Herman Cain, who said he opposed torture but would "trust the judgement of our military leaders" to determine what constitutes it, although in his view water boarding was not torture but rather an "enhanced interrogation technique."

Michele Bachmann said that she too "would be willing to use water boarding," which she called "very effective," adding that she believes Obama is "allowing the ACLU to run the CIA."

Cain’s ’9-9-9′ plan in focus at Republican debate

The buzz word was definitely “9-9-9″ in Tuesday’s Republican debate at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire that focused on economic issues.

During the debate, the catchphrase 9-9-9 was mentioned 25 times (including 16 times by the man who conceived it — Herman Cain).

“I think it’s a catchy phrase. In fact, I thought it was the price of a pizza when I first heard about it,” said Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and former ambassador to China.

Team Bachmann lays out “Path to Victory”

From victory in the Iowa straw poll to lesser rival in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Michele Bachmann may be down but don’t count her out.

The Minnesota Representative is right on track on her “Path to Victory” that began with her win in Iowa, Team Bachmann Campaign Manager Keith Nahigian says in a video outlining the campaign strategy.

From Iowa, the campaign’s path to the nomination winds through New Hampshire and South Carolina, the crucial early states in the presidential primary races.

Tea party boosts Perry to top of GOP polls

Texas Governor Rick Perry has vaulted into the lead among Republicans vying for the nomination to oppose  President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election bid, according to several new  polls. And he may have the Tea Party to thank for it.

A CNN/ORC International poll released  Monday showed Perry strongly favored by Republicans and independent voters who lean Republican. Among the declared candidates, Perry has 32 percent support, followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 18 percent, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann at 12 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 7 percent, Texas Congressman Ron Paul at 6 percent and the rest of the field in the low single digits.

This could reflect shifting allegiances among Tea Party supporters, according to Gallup, which released its own poll last week also showing that Perry had replaced Romney as the early front-runner.

Huntsman in the ‘middle’ in 2012 Republican field

Jon Huntsman is counting on right-of-center politics to give him an advantage  in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination,   despite polls showing him trailing far behind  the favorites in a crowded field.

He says Democrat Barack Obama is too far to the left and the president’s other Republican opponents are too far to the right.

“This country is crying out for a sensible middle ground. This is a center-right country; I am a center-right candidate,” the former Utah governor said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour.”

Bachmann mixes up Elvis tribute

Right day. Wrong message.

As fans of  Elvis Presley were observing the 34th anniversary of  his death Monday, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann joined those paying tribute to the late king of rock and roll.

At the start of a stump speech in  Spartanburg, South Carolina, the Minnesota congresswoman’s tribute message was just a tad off.

With the sound of Presley’s   “Promised Land”  drifting from the loudspeaker,  Bachmann gave Elvis a shout-out with a “happy birthday” greeting.

Perry, Bachmann shine star power at Iowa dinner

Newly-minted Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry (and his black campaign bus)  rolled into Waterloo Sunday, where the Texas governor made a  campaign pitch to Iowa voters.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann showed up at the same event. They weren’t on stage together but Perry ending up sharing the spotlight.

Perry spoke first at the Black Hawk County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner and acknowledged another Republican presidential hopeful in the room, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum .

Republicans warm up in Iowa debate

Things got a little heated between Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty during the Republican debate in Ames, Iowa.

Early on in the two-hour debate, the former Minnesota governor tried to knock the Minnesota congresswoman down a peg, saying her record of accomplishment and results “is nonexistent.”

Bachmann took aim at his record as governor, blasting his support for a cap and trade environmental plan and individual mandates in healthcare. “That sounds more like Barack Obama if you ask me,” she said.

Bachmann sits out Newsweek photo debate

Sexist, biased or just a bad editorial decision?

Whatever it is,  White House hopeful Michele Bachmann is not engaging in the debate  (at least publicly) over the appropriateness of a Newsweek cover photo of her that has generated a lot of buzz.

The only woman in the crowded field of candidates vying for the 2012   Republican presidential nomination, Bachmann has remained focused on her mission, stomping in  Iowa  ahead of  the state’s Republican Straw Poll on Saturday.  (She  announced more local endorsements on Tuesday.)

When the Minnesota Congresswoman and Tea Party star — whom even many of her opponents agree is photogenic — was asked about the controversial magazine cover on Monday, she simply said she had not seen it  and moved on.

Washington Extra – Breaking glass

The new IMF chief is an accomplished negotiator, an international relations expert and a European finance minister.

The newly elected managing director also made history, and it had nothing to do with credentials. Christine Lagarde in 2011 becomes the first woman to head the IMF.

This is also the year when two women might start vying for the 2012 Republican nomination for president — Michele Bachmann is running, Sarah Palin has yet to reveal her intentions.