Tales from the Trail

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?”

The New York Times says the ad will run this weekend while Romney visits South Carolina.

Pundits view the ad as evidence that Democrats have locked on Romney as the GOP frontrunner, at least for now.

As for Elizabeth Warren? Barney Frank says: “Let’s fight!”

RTXQB96_Comp1-150x150Is President Obama up for a Senate confirmation fight over Elizabeth Warren? Maybe not right now. But that’s just the sort of rhetorical rumble Barney Frank would like to see.

The former Democratic chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who co-authored the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill, tells MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Warren might survive a confirmation battle.

His reasoning? “This is not just the left and the right. The Republican Party is united against healthcare and united against the environment. They’re not united against financial reform.”

CPAC victory in hand, Ron Paul takes on Tea Party

USA-POLITICS/REPUBLICANSLibertarian Ron Paul, a godfather of the Tea Party movement, isn’t altogether happy with his political progeny these days.

Fresh from victory in last week’s CPAC presidential straw poll, the Republican congressman from Texas laments to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that some Tea Partiers aren’t measuring up when it comes to the tough defense and entitlement program cuts he believes are needed to save the United States from economic cataclysm.

“They don’t want you to touch Social Security. They don’t want you to touch anything but Obamacare,” Paul says. “Some of them are real Republicans and they wouldn’t dare touch Bush’s increase in medical care costs, you know, prescription health programs.”

Trump accepts high marks for CPAC

USA-POLITICS/Donald Trump went to CPAC this week and aced his performance as a prospective White House Wannabe. Any doubts? Just ask him.

“I tell the truth. I tell it like it is, and people understand what I’m saying, and the place did go crazy,” The Donald tells MSNBC’s Morning Joe today.  ”That’s what I said in the speech. And that’s why I got 10 standing ovations.”

Remarks like that, taken out of context, might sound like the words of a talking ego.

As Obama speaks, Democrats target GOP’s Ryan

RTXCDYH_Comp-150x150President Barack Obama may grab all the headlines with his State of the Union address. But Democrats want the GOP’s chosen responder, Paul Ryan, to share the spotlight — as poster boy for politically unpopular ideas that could be used against Republicans in 2012.

Here’s New York Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer’s take on Ryan on that electorally tender topic, Social Security. “What Paul Ryan suggests — privatization — is really a dismantling of Social Security,” he tells MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

More than that, Schumer says Ryan epitomizes policies that are straight out of the 1920s, those heady days of flappers, speakeasys and laissez-faire good times that preceded the Great Depression.

Would Congress swing its spending ax at the war in Afghanistan?

AFGHANISTAN/You’d think the war in Afghanistan would be the sacred cow of  federal spending. The Republicans now in charge of the House have always embraced “Support Our Troops” and “Defeat Terrorism” as two of the most serious ”Thou Shalts” of their political playbook.

But could the times be a-changing? Two influential conservative voices suggest they might be, as lawmakers search for the right balance between spending cuts and their own job preservation.

Grover Norquist, the influential political hierophant at Americans for Tax Reform, says in a Newsmax interview that the time has come for a serious cost-benefit discussion about Afghanistan.

Could there be two John Pistoles?

USA/RTXUQYN_Comp-150x150Could John Pistole have an identical twin who helps him run the Transportation Security Administration — a John Pistole and a John Pistole, maybe?

Here’s why…

John Pistole appeared over the weekend on CNN’s State of the Union to say that TSA’s highly invasive airport security screening procedures are here to stay. Those would be the ones that give travelers the choice of having their physical accouterments inspected either by sight or by hand — but always by complete strangers.

“No, we’re not changing the policies,” he told CNN.

Then on Monday, John Pistole showed up on NBC’s Today show and ABC’s Good Morning America with the news that TSA is rethinking its methods of operation.

Will she? Won’t she? Palin’s still a maybe

OBAMA/Republican celebrity, best-selling author, reality TV star and self-proclaimed mama grizzly Sarah Palin is thinking about adding another title to her ever-growing resume: U.S. president.

Not exactly news, except that the forthcoming issue of the New York Times Magazine says she’s now thinking seriously, right down to the need for new advisers and the means to prove herself on the issues.

Palin, whose titles also include 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor, acknowledges that much in an interview with the magazine, according to a preview published by Politico.

White House Intrigue: Could Hillary Replace Joe?

OBAMA/Could Hillary replace Joe as Barack’s main squeeze in 2012? That’s the juicy bit of palace intrigue enlivening today’s U.S. political melodrama.

It started when author Bob Woodward told CNN that the idea of a Clinton-Biden switch was “on the table” — at least among some Clinton advisers. A switch would mean Hillary becoming President Obama’s vice presidential running mate and Joe taking up her State Department chores.

“President Obama needs some of the women, Latinos, retirees that she did so well with during the 2008 primaries. And so they switch jobs,” explained the veteran journalist whose new book, “Obama’s Wars,”  offers an inside look at the administration. 

White House adviser says Obama to energize his base for November

USA/President Barack Obama adds a new item to his first-term to-do list: energize his most loyal supporters in a national get-out-the-vote campaign for the November congressional midterm elections.

That’s the message Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett delivered on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, where she predicted a robust White House campaign to encourage voters including blacks and Hispanics to get to the polls next month.

Obama has already been out trying to stir up enthusiasm among the younger voters. But that was just for starters.