Tales from the Trail

Down to the wire…

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan expects his fellow Republicans to wait until the “last minute” to strike a deal that averts national default by raising the $14.3 trillion limit on the U.S. debt.

Failure to reach a deal could trigger a new global financial crisis, according to analysts and Democrats including President Barack Obama. But on Monday, the day the U.S. debt reached its current statutory limit, Ryan told an Illinois AM radio station that “we’re going to negotiate this thing probably up through July, that’s how these things go.”

“That’s how these things go” could place negotiations at the very doorstep of an Aug. 2 deadline, which is when the Treasury Department believes it will exhaust its bag of tricks for staving off a financial apocalypse.

Ryan’s comments came a day after Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell advised CNN’s viewers to see the approaching default deadline as a source of opportunity.

Meanwhile, inflation worries buttressed by still-way-high gas prices are driving U.S. states to consider making silver and gold coins legal tender.  South Carolina is the latest to consider legislation to that effect, joining over two-dozen others in a trend that began this month in Utah.

Reuters/Ipsos poll: Republicans trail Obama

President Barack Obama comes out ahead against the field of potential Republican hopefuls for the 2012 presidential election, with more than a 10-point lead over the closest of the pack — Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

When Obama was pitted against each possible Republican candidate, he scored more than 50 percent. His highest rating came against Donald Trump with 57 percent saying they would vote for Obama versus 30 percent for the New York real estate magnate.

All the Republicans were in the 30-percent range, led by former Arkansas governor Huckabee at 39 percent and former Massachusetts governor Romney at 38 percent, compared with 51 percent who said they would vote for Obama.

And then there were two… Republicans exploring presidential bid

Two Republicans have now stepped up to the plate! Well, technically they have stepped up to the plate to consider stepping up to the plate. USA-POLITCS/REPUBLICANS

Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are the first to declare their intentions to explore a possible run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Opinion polls show they have their work cut out for them.

The two Republicans who topped the list of potential candidates that Republicans would likely support for the party nomination were not Romney or Pawlenty in a new  CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll.

Bachmann is tops in GOP “intensity”

RTR2JTAS_Comp-150x150House Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann may not rate highly with Republican hierophants like George Will. But some Republicans seem to have an intense liking for her none the less, according to a new Gallup poll.

The Gallup survey of more than 1,500 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents shows Bachmann with a 20 percent “positive intensity” rating among 12 potential GOP White House wannabes. That’s second only to Mike Huckabee’s 25 percent rating. And it’s worth noting that Bachmann was recognized by only 52 percent of the respondents, so there may be room for improvement.

Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor with a disarming nice-guy persona, has polled strongly among Republican voters for some time. But the results seem encouraging for Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican who has only recently emerged from relative obscurity on the back of the Tea Party movement.

Obama up, Palin down in 2012 poll

President Barack Obama’s reelection prospects seem to be rosier, while former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s chances of being the Republican nominee were souring for 2012, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. But it’s early yet.

USA-ELECTION/Obama is expected to run again in 2012, and CNN said the poll suggests that his tax-cut deal with Republicans, pushed through at year-end, did not hurt him with Democrats.

Among Democrats, 78 percent said Obama should be renominated as the party’s presidential candidate, while 19 percent said they wanted a different candidate. Those readings were the highest and lowest respectively since March 2010, when the poll first asked the question.

Reuters/Ipsos poll: Obama steady, Republicans get higher marks on economy

President Barack Obama’s job approval rating held steady at 45 percent since late October despite last month’s “shellacking” of Democrats in the midterm elections, a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Dec. 2-5 showed.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scored the highest favorability rating on a list of prominent officials and politicians, followed by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a potential Republican presidential contender, and General David Petraeus. USA-TAXES/

At the bottom of the list were conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh with the lowest favorability rating, followed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Barbara Bush says Sarah Palin should stay in Alaska

barbaraFormer President George W. Bush has carefully steered around the subject of Sarah Palin during interviews about his memoir. But his mother, Barbara Bush, aka the “Silver Fox,” is showing no restraint.

“I sat next to her once,” Mrs. Bush told CNN’s “Larry King Live” in an interview that also included her husband, former President George H.W. Bush. “Thought she was beautiful. And I think she’s very happy in Alaska — and I hope she’ll stay there.”

Palin is weighing a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination,telling ABC’s Barbara Walters last week that she thinks she could defeat President Barack Obama. She has a book, “America by Heart,” coming out Tuesday and is starring in a reality TV show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

Bill Clinton emerges as leading U.S. political favorite — poll

OBAMA/

CLINTON/Nearly a decade after his presidency ended in scandal and disgrace, Bill Clinton has emerged as the most popular figure in the U.S. political firmament, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.   Except he’s not running for office.

Fifty-five percent of the 1,000 adults who responded to the survey reported having positive feelings about the Arkansas Democrat, vs. only 23 percent who harbored negative feelings. (When he left office in early 2001, his ratings were 34 percent positive and 52 percent negative.)RACING/

The poll, which has a 3.1 percentage point margin of error, comes at a time when many voters are angry about the country’s economic straits, including high unemployement and an exploding fiscal deficit. Clinton’s two-term presidency was marked not only by impeachment and the Monica Lewinsky scandal but also by buoyant growth and a balanced budget.

Bennet, Buck score wins in Colorado

In a primary drama that might have been subtitled “two presidents and a party,” incumbent Colorado Senator Michael Bennet won the battle for the state’s Democratic Senate nomination on Tuesday.

Bennet’s win was  a welcome victory for President Barack Obama who backed the incumbent who battled both anti-incumbent fever and a challenger, Andrew Romanoff, who had the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton.

On the Republican side, Tea Party-backed candidate Ken Buckbuck narrowly defeated former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton. Buck, a former prosecutor, won despite being caught on tape complaining about Tea Party “dumb-asses” who question whether Obama was born in the United States. He will face Bennet in November.

Gingrich once again at head of Republican pack

Once, a first-term Democratic president failed to deliver on healthcare reform and found his party USA-POLITICS/swept from office by a wave of voter anger that brought Republican Newt Gingrich to the forefront of American politics. Could this history lesson from the Clinton era be repeated?

Healthcare reform is stalled, voters are angry and Gingrich — who rose to prominence as House speaker after Republicans won Congress in 1994 — is again leading the pack, this time among  potential White House hopefuls for 2012.

The Washington-based political news outlet, Politico, says Gingrich’s political action committee is raising money far faster than those of 2008 campaign veterans including Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.