Tales from the Trail

Romney targeted over plans for growth — of his house

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney,  who has criticized President Barack Obama for taking a nine-day vacation at a time of high unemployment, filed for permits to almost quadruple the size of his oceanfront home in La Jolla, California.

The former Massachusetts governor and his wife bought the house three years ago for $12 million. They want to knock down the one-story, 3,009-square-foot home overlooking the Pacific Ocean and replace it with an 11,062-square foot place in its stead, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

Romney says he needs a bigger place to have room for his five sons, their wives and his 16 grandchildren. The Union Tribune said the plans would keep the house’s existing pool and spa.

Romney has fought a reputation as being somewhat out of touch, an impression that will not be enhanced by undertaking a massive renovation while campaigning for president. The super-rich candidate raised eyebrows earlier this month when he told a heckler in Iowa that “Corporations are people, my friend,” and a remark in June to unemployed workers in Florida that he was “also unemployed”  fell flat and was jeered by the Democrats.

Critics have seized on the project to scoff at Romney. Jess Durfee, chairman of the San Diego County Democratic Party, used the house project to joke about Romney’s residency. “Let’s hope he hires a contractor that provides union-equivalent wages and helps to stimulate the local economy,” Durfee told the Union Tribune. “He also could register to vote here and help out the Republicans, whose numbers are dwindling.”

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.

Mitt Romney launches 2012 presidential campaign

It was supposed to be Mitt Romney’s day in New Hampshire, but the presidential hopeful ended up sharing the spotlight with a potential rival.

Sarah Palin’s “One Nation” family bus tour just happened to roll into the Granite State on Thursday — the same day  as Romney’s  big announcement.  The former Alaska governor  says the timing of her arrival was just a coincidence.

Romney  formally tossed his hat into the ring to compete for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination under clear blues skies at a New Hampshire farm. The main event was an informal cook-out where the candidate  served up chili and charges that “Barack Obama has failed America.” The former Massachusetts governor blamed the Democratic president for high unemployment,  home  foreclosures and other economic woes, highlighting Obama’s main weakness.

Washington Extra – T-Paw power

Right off the starting line, Republican Tim Pawlenty is fashioning himself as the Chevy of presidential candidates. “We will not be the money champion in the race to start with. My friend, Mitt Romney, will be the front-runner in that regard,” he told NBC’s Today show. His nomination bid, he added, “may not be the BMW or the Mercedes campaign.”

Sounds like T-Paw is calling Mitt a Mercedes. But what Pawlenty isn’t saying is that he is running the Cadillac of campaigns in Iowa. The former Minnesota governor has put more troops on the ground in that early voting state than any of the other candidates combined, according to the Iowa Republican website.

A political scientist in his native Minnesota called it a big and costly operation, “a Napoleonic army sort of thing.” With potent paychecks, Pawlenty has drawn in some of Iowa’s best campaign talent.

Who’s afraid of Mitt and T-Paw…

It turns out that Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are the scariest pair of presidential prospects in the GOP field today, judging from a new Democratic ad and remarks by some Democratic Party hierophants.

Priorities USA Action, a political group founded by two former aides to President Barack Obama, targets Romney as a flip-flopper in a South Carolina TV ad that wields Republican Paul Ryan’s Medicare reforms like a political cudgel.

The 30-second black-and-white spot begins with Newt Gingrich’s “Meet the Press” remarks opposing what he called radical right-wing social engineering on Medicare. The ad then recounts Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s defense of Ryan before turning finally to Romney: “Mitt Romney says he’s ‘on the same page’ as Paul Ryan … but with Mitt Romney, you have to wonder: which page is he on today?”

Let’s fight…

The overnight news of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s resignation sets up a global battle over who will succeed him in the IMF’s glass-and-steel headquarters in Washington. But, of course, that’s not the only fight in town.

The bipartisan group of budget negotiators now known as the Gang-of-Six-Minus-One is expected to meet today to try to salvage hopes of a budget compromise after a shouting match over Medicare sent Republican Senator Tom Coburn to the exit door.

Medicare is the third-rail political issue that recently had Republicans showing signs of retreating from House Budget Chief Paul Ryan’s Republican reform plan. Critics call it a blueprint for privatizing the federal government’s healthcare program for the elderly.

And the GOP favorite is…

Top establishment Republicans are getting more desperate about the GOP’s current presidential line-up all the time.  Care to guess why?

Newt Gingrich, once among the most prominent voices in the GOP, appears to be on the ropes only a week after declaring his candidacy – and even before his first official campaign trip to the early voting state of Iowa.

He has apologized to House Budget chief Paul Ryan for calling his Medicare plan “right wing social engineering” in a national interview and admitted making “a mistake.”

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.

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.

Republican wannabes edge toward GOP primary race

Don’t look now, but some of those Republican White House wannabes are finally getting ready to run for the GOP presidential nomination. But whether any of the current crop gets further than the latest deficit talks is another question.

Newt Gingrich announces his candidacy today. But don’t expect his lackluster ratings to improve automatically. That, according to Karl Rove, who says people know Gingrich already. But the thrice-married former House speaker, who got blamed for the Clinton-era government shutdown, could “earn” his way into the top tier before the Iowa Caucuses next February, Rove tells NBC’s Today show.

Gingrich would not be alone among top GOP “earners,” either.

There’s the septuagenarian Ron Paul, who’s spent years waiting for his long-held views on government to become du jour under the U.S. Capitol dome. He may announce within the week, according to The Hill.