Tales from the Trail

Romney goes after Obama on healthcare, contraception

Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney on Monday joined a battle over a part of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law that has outraged Catholic bishops.

Under new provisions outlined by Obama’s administration, Catholic hospitals, schools and charities will be required to provide health insurance for their employees covering contraception even if though it violates the church’s teachings.

Catholic bishops’ complaints about the law have filtered onto the Republican campaign trail to find a challenger to Obama in the presidential election next Nov. 6.

Newt Gingrich has declared the policy a war on America’s religious freedom and Rick Santorum has spoken out against it as well.

Romney told a large crowd in Centennial, Colorado:

“Think what that does to people who are in faiths that do no share those views. This is a violation of conscience. We must have a president who is willing to protect America’s first right, our right to worship God.”

Make way for Clegg, Fizz and Kiss Romney

Most American voters now know Mitt Romney and some also know Tagg Romney, the presidential candidate’s oldest son. But how about Clegg Romney, Tuff Romney and Fridge Romney?

Chicago-based comedian and freelance writer Daniel Kibblesmith and his friend, webmaster John Holdun, have created the “Romney Family Name Generator” website, romneyfamilynamegenerator.com. Visitors can click through to see a variety of fictional Romney family and staff, such as “Girth Romney,” Mitt’s daughter, and “Fizz Romney,” Mitt’s live-in gardener.

The kicker? The sparse-looking site contains a pop-up advertisement from “Romney for President, Inc,” inviting visitors to click through to make a donation to the Romney campaign and make Barack Obama a “one-term president.”

Newt’s moon colony — the gift that keeps on giving

Comedians everywhere surely could not have been more thrilled last week when Republican White House hopeful Newt Gingrich laid out his plans for a permanent colony on the moon, with the long-term goal of making it the 51st U.S. state. “By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the moon,” Gingrich said to thundering applause at the NASA stronghold of Cocoa, Florida.

That includes the copywriters at Team Mitt Romney, for whom Gingrich’s proposed moon program is the gift that keeps on giving. Following up on an email over the weekend entitled “Earth to Newt: Tell the Truth,” the Romney Press Shop sent out the following missive on Thursday: “Ground Control to Major Newt: Nevada needs jobs, not a moon colony,” which reminded the former U.S. House speaker that unemployment in the Silver State is still running at 12.6 percent and nearly six in ten mortgaged homes in the state are under water.

Predictably, Comedy Central political satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were quick to ridicule the moon colony. Stewart accused Gingrich of wanting to be “Lunar Trump” by starting a colony the size of a condo development. “And like Earth Trump, you will not be President,” he said. Colbert mocked Gingrich’s idea that the moon could become a manufacturing hub. “America will bring manufacturing to the moon. Ohio? Out of luck.”

More grief for “The Mitt” with backing from The Donald?

Mitt Romney, Donald Trump said in a surprise endorsement from Las Vegas this afternoon, would make a “tough” and “smart” president who wouldn’t “allow bad things to continue to happen to this country we all love.”

But it wasn’t clear that backing from Trump, a real estate mogul who cultivates an aura of glitz and glamour, would help Romney, the former private equity executive who has a net worth estimated at some $270 million and fights charges by critics that he is out of touch with the concerns of average Americans.

Democrats pounced on the opportunity to draw parallels between Romney and the television personality, claiming in a video that alluded to Trump’s starring role on the reality television program, “The Apprentice,” that Romney nabbed Trump’s endorsement because “they both like firing people.”

Why did Romney quote Thomas Paine?

When White House seeker Mitt Romney told Obama to get out the way in his Florida primary victory speech on Tuesday, he evoked the words of Thomas Paine, an early American revolutionary who is in many ways a far cry from the archetypal role model for modern-day conservatives.

After beating his Republican rivals by a wide margin, an exuberant Romney told a crowd of cheering supporters: “In another era of American crisis, Thomas Paine is reported to have said, ‘Lead, follow, or get out of the way.’ Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it’s time for you to get out of the way!”

There is debate over whether the quote can accurately be attributed to Paine, but Romney’s intention is clear. Since the beginning of his campaign, Romney has been courting adherents of the grassroots conservative Tea Party movement, many of them constitutional purists who glorify the founding fathers. But Paine doesn’t fit in neatly with some of the other 18th century political leaders who pushed for American independence from England.

Is Romney too rich and out of touch?

Mitt Romney ran into a wall of criticism during what should have been his Florida victory lap when he said live on CNN this morning that he is “not concerned about the very poor” and the country has a safety net to protect them.

Democrats leaped onto the remark as yet another sign that the wealthy Republican frontrunner is out of touch with average Americans. Whether or not that is true, it was another gaffe by a candidate who is becoming increasingly known for misspeaking on the campaign trail, especially on issues related to wealth and poverty, even as he blasts Democratic President Barack Obama for waging “class warfare.”

Last month, Romney said he had made “not very much” in speaking fees — and the total turned out to be $375,000. In December, he blundered in a debate by offering Texas Governor Rick Perry a $10,000 bet on healthcare policy. Earlier in the campaign, Romney came under fire for saying he liked to fire people, telling jobless workers in Florida that he, too, was unemployed. And he famously told a questioner at the Iowa State Fair that “corporations are people.”

Romney says he’s “not concerned about the very poor”

You have to wonder just what Mitt Romney was thinking this morning when he told CNN host Soledad O’Brien that he’s “not concerned about the very poor” because, he said, they’re protected by “a safety net.”

Romney was, by all appearances, trying to portray himself as a champion of the middle class — “the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling,” as he put it. And, to be fair, he also said he’s “not concerned about the very rich.” But the statement still, O’Brien pointed out, might sound “odd” to poor Americans who are also struggling.

“Finish the sentence, Soledad,” Romney responded. “I said I’m not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net. But if it has holes in it, I will repair them.”

First lady likes Obama’s voice; rates Romney singing ‘beautiful’

Michelle Obama might have been one of the few people in the United States who knew President Barack Obama could actually carry a tune before he surprised an Apollo Theater audience this month.

In her debut appearance on NBC “The Tonight Show” as first lady, Mrs. Obama told host Jay Leno that her husband sings to her all the time.  She said she even knew what song it would be when she heard about his singing a line from Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” Mrs. Obama gave a very tiny demonstration before conceding that the president was the better singer. Obama said her husband has a beautiful voice.

Asked about the performance turned in by Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney singing “America the Beautiful” on the campaign trail in Florida, Mrs. Obama said “its beautiful.”

Washington Extra – Driver’s seat

The day the Congressional Budget Office forecast that the United States is headed for its fourth straight year with a $1 trillion-plus budget deficit, President Obama touted the benefits of big government spending.

His venue? The Washington auto show. His tools? Shiny new American cars, preferably those from General Motors and Chrysler. Those were the two companies that received billions in a 2009 taxpayer funded bailout that has obviously paid off, both for the automakers and the Obama administration.

The president got behind the wheels of muscle cars, SUVs, trucks, and fuel efficient and electric models and proclaimed “The U.S. auto industry is back.” But he couldn’t just leave it at that, for there were more political points to score. He did so by taking a veiled swipe at his most likely opponent in the November election – Mitt Romney – for having opposed the bailout that helped bring Detroit back from the brink.

Hard to believe there’s room for TV programs in Florida

For those voters in Florida who have felt overwhelmed by political advertisements this primary season — you have been.

By January 25, Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney and his supporters had aired almost 13,000 advertisements on broadcast television in the state, compared with only about 200 spots from Romney’s main rival, Newt Gingrich, and outside groups supporting his presidential aspirations, according to data from Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan University media project.

And that was six days before Florida holds its primary on Tuesday.

With the blizzard of ads, Romney has seen his place in the polls leap upward in Florida. He went from trailing Gingrich by 5-9 percent in polls of the state taken a week ago, to leading by an average of 12.5 percent. A week ago, Gingrich was fresh off his upset victory in on Jan. 21 in South Carolina, where he defeated Romney by 12 percentage points.