Tales from the Trail

First Draft: no break

It’s Friday, but no break from dismal economic news.

The employment report showed a whopping 598,000 decline in jobs in January, the most severe slashing in 34 years. The unemployment rate jumped to 7.6 percent to its highest level in more than 16 years.

The latest economic data shock gives more ammunition to President Barack Obama as he tries to sell reluctant Republicans on the economic stimulus package.OBAMA/

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a prominent Republican, said on NBC’s “Today” show that Obama should be careful in how he handles the stimulus legislation or he risks being seen as more of a Jimmy Carter than a Ronald Reagan.

Obama is set to unveil members of his new economic recovery advisory board this morning – they certainly have their work cut out for them. Later, he meets with families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and the USS Cole bombing about plans for closing Guantanamo Bay.

Everyone could learn a thing or two about handling stress from Capt. Chesley Sullenberger who safely landed a US Airways jetliner disabled by birds into the Hudson River last month. Newly released tapes have him calmly telling air traffic controllers that the plane won’t make it to the airport. “We’re unable. We may end up in the Hudson,” he says in a voice as calm and cool as can be.

Rove, Gingrich weigh in with advice for McCain

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How can John McCain win?
    
The Republican presidential candidate trails Democratic rival Barack Obama in opinion polls and time is running out before the Nov. 4 election. The Web site FiveThirtyEight, which uses statistical modeling to predict the outcome, gives the Arizona senator only a 5.3 percent chance of victory.

It’s third and long for the Maverick, but  two prominent Republican strategists see a path to victory.
    
Here’s what they say:
    
THREAD THE NEEDLE. McCain should focus on a handful of states that voted Republican in 2004 but could go Obama’s way this time out — Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado and Nevada, said Karl Rove, President Bush’s former political advisor. He can lose Iowa and New Mexico, which also voted for Bush in 2004, and still squeak by with 274 Electoral College votes, enough for a win.
 
“It’s threading the needle, but it’s come to that,” Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
    
TAXES, TAXES, TAXES. Forget on-the-ground tactics — McCain and running mate Sarah Palin should hammer Obama for wanting to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000, tapping into Americans’ instinctive mistrust of politicans, said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
    
If the message catches on, all those swing states will swing McCain’s way, Gingrich said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
 
The way Gingrich sees it, Obama could have another Bittergate on his hands after telling Joe the Plumber that he wants to “spread the wealth around” to create a healthier economy.
    
“If Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin spend the rest of this campaign focused on whether or not politicians want to take money away from you and decide how much you’re allowed to keeep, I suspect they win the election,” he said.
 
“What Sen. Obama said the other night was a Freudian slip,” he added. 
    
There’s another prominent politician who’s not ruling out a McCain victory: Obama himself. 
 
“Don’t underestimate the capacity of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” he said at a fundraiser Thursday night. “Don’t underestimate our ability to screw it up.”
    
What do you think? Who’s got the better roadmap for McCain — Rove or Gingrich?

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young (McCain arrives at the Alfred E. Smith dinner in New York, Oct. 16)

US House Republican leader shrugs off Gingrich advice

WASHINGTON - House Minority Leader John Boehner on Wednesday shrugged off a warning that his fellow Republicans are facing peril in the fall elections unless they change course, a prediction made by a former Republican House speaker. 
 
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich warned on Tuesday that Republicans must immediately “chart a bold course of real change” otherwise they will “suffer decisive losses this November.”
   
rtr20ahg.jpgThat apparently didn’t sit too well with Boehner as he faces an uphill battle to reclaim control of the U.S. House of Representatives since more than two dozen fellow House Republicans are leaving this fall or running for another office. And last weekend, they lost a Republican seat in Louisiana in a special election.
 
“Listen a lot of people have a lot of ideas and advice for me and our leadership team about what it is that we should do,” Boehner told reporters after a meeting with President George W. Bush at the White House.
 
“I tell our colleagues every week, if you stand up and do the right things for the right reasons, the right things will happen,” Boehner said. “And frankly, we have been standing up for the right things that the American people want us to.”
 
The Ohio Republican argued that their efforts to cut taxes and expand exploration for oil and gas in the United States served as evidence that they were on the right path for the November elections. 
 
“There’s a whole array of issues that I think where we’re representing the interests of the American people,” Boehner said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Boehner after a meeting with Bush at the White House)

Gingrich: Obama is ‘far left’ with the right smile

 INDIANAPOLIS – Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich says Barack Obama remains the best bet to become the Democratic presidential nominee and would be a formidable opponent for Republican John McCain.
   

Speaking to the French Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, Gingrich said McCain had benefited from Obama’s recent difficulties, including controversial comments by the Illinois senator’s longtime pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. 
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“But Obama remains a formidable opponent. He is also the most probable Democrat nominee, even if he is not as untouchable as he was before,” said Gingrich, who led his party’s takeover of the House of Representatives in what was known as the Republican Revolution of 1994.