Tales from the Trail

Colbert bumps Huntsman in South Carolina

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman finished a disappointing third on Tuesday in the presidential primary in New Hampshire, despite focusing his campaign on the state and attending some 150 events there. But things are, arguably, worse for him in South Carolina, where a new poll ahead of the state’s Jan. 21 primary put him behind comedian and late-night talk show host, Stephen Colbert.

The survey, by the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling, had Colbert in sixth place, with just 5 percent support, in South Carolina’s primary, behind Mitt Romney (27 percent), Newt Gingrich (23 percent), Rick Santorum (18 percent), Ron Paul (8 percent) and Rick Perry (7 percent). But he was ahead of Huntsman’s 4 percent and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (1 percent).

It is not completely surprising that Huntsman would trail Colbert, who is from South Carolina and had even offered to sponsor the state’s primary. The Emmy- and Peabody-winning comedian also has name recognition because of his popular Comedy Central Show, the Colbert Report.

“Even if Huntsman finishes second in New Hampshire tonight it doesn’t speak well for his prospects down the line that he’s running behind Stephen Colbert,” Public Policy Polling said in a blog posted on Tuesday before the primary.

Colbert’s key, the company said, would have been to attract Democratic voters to the South Carolina primary, which is open. Thirty-four percent of Democrats who planned to vote in the GOP contest supported Colbert, compared with 15 percent for Romney.

Sarah Palin says “first dude went rogue” with Gingrich endorsement

When Todd Palin announced on Monday that he was backing Newt Gingrich for president, some speculated he was acting as a proxy for his wife. Not so, said Sarah Palin on FOX last night.

“First dude went rogue,” Sarah Palin told FOX Business Network’s Eric Bolling when asked whether her husband had consulted her before making the endorsement. “And I respect him for doing that.”

“Todd is all about hard hats and steel-toed boots and getting people to work,” she said. “Todd obviously believing that Newt Gingrich represents more of that connectivity to the working class and to what it’s going to incentivize the private sector to create jobs for the skilled workforce.”

Gingrich discusses pantyhose airlift at defense contractor

Newt Gingrich took a break from attacking Mitt Romney today to visit with workers at defense contractor BAE Systems in Nashua, N.H., where he spent much of his stump speech praising the importance of technology and the military. To illustrate his point, he described a problem special forces soldiers found themselves in after being airlifted into Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

When they first got there and started meeting, the Northern Alliance said: ‘We’ll ride in the morning.’ And our guys stared at them, and they said: “What do you mean, we’ll ride in the morning?” And they said we’re going on horseback. So it turned out that the special forces field uniforms have very large inseams which when you ride a horse create a real problem. And they immediately realized that this is going to be physically painful. So they got on the sat phone, called home and found out that if you got extra large, super heavy pantyhose, that three pair provided a buffer when you were riding a horse.”

Gingrich wasn’t telling the story only to conjure images of L’eggs-wearing commandos. “Here’s the deeper point I want to make about this,” he said. “Think about the capacity to encounter a problem you never thought of in the middle of nowhere, and this is Central Asia, pick up the phone, make an order and within 36 hours have an airdrop and not have a clue going in which thing you’ll need this time.”

A Palin goes for Gingrich

Newt Gingrich may have been hoping for a Palin endorsement, but the one he announced Monday was probably not the one he was expecting.

The aspiring Republican presidential nominee said he received a call from former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s husband saying he would endorse him for president.

“Honored to be endorsed by Todd Palin.” Gingrich tweeted, though he did not mention anything about the more powerful Palin and if she had chosen whom to support in the 2012 campaign.

Gingrich sheds doubt on Romney’s business past

Newt Gingrich raised questions about Mitt Romney’s private sector past at two back-to-back debates over the weekend in New Hampshire, returning to an allegation he made last month that Mitt Romney made a fortune at Bain by “bankrupting companies and laying off employees.”

A new report by the New York Times, Gingrich said, showed that Bain, the private equity firm co-founded by Romney, had “looted” one particular company (although it turns out he was actually referring to a Reuters story, written by Andy Sullivan and Greg Roumeliotis, about Bain’s investment in a Kansas City steel mill).

At Saturday night’s debate, moderator George Stephanopoulos asked Gingrich to address a new, “very scathing attack” by a pro-Gingrich Super PAC against Romney’s work at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he co-founded. The video, Stephanopoulos said, calls Romney’s “tenure ‘a story of greed’…saying that Bain made spectacular profits by ‘stripping American businesses of assets, selling everything to the highest bidder and often killing jobs for big financial rewards.’”

The question that left Newt Gingrich speechless — briefly — in New Hampshire

A young New Hampshire voter left Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, 68, speechless on Thursday night when he essentially confronted the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives — and other older voters in the room — with their mortality.

“I’m curious what hope you can give America in these dire times,” the 22-year-old man asked. “I know that many people in this room are on their way out. I say that in a respectful way — that in maybe ten years a lot of these people in this room will have passed away.”

“Don’t try to defend that [comment] because this could get worse,” Gingrich said at a campaign event in Meredith as the crowd gasped, laughed and applauded the young voter’s remarks.

“Newtie” panders on local issues in New Hampshire

With less than a week until the New Hampshire primary, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich spent a full day campaigning in the state’s lightly populated North Country. While there he opened his stump speech by jumping into a local controversy over a proposed $1.1 billion plan to build a giant transmission line from the Canadian border to southern New Hampshire.

The plan, known as the Northern Pass, would connect a Quebec electricity producer with the population centers of southern New England. The plan is controversial in northern New Hampshire, which is heavily reliant on tourism, because it involves the construction of 120-foot-high towers through pristine parts of the White Mountain National Forest and surrounding forests.

“As I understand it the president has the ability to sign or not sign the document that authorizes the transmission from Quebec of energy,” Gingrich told voters in the town of Lancaster.  “I would not sign an authorization that would allow large towers that would destroy the scenic beauty of northern New Hampshire.”

Paul trumpets small-town newspaper endorsements in N.H.

In a tight campaign, even the smallest bit of good news counts. Ron Paul’s campaign is claiming three recent newspaper endorsements in New Hampshire’s scarcely populated “north country.” A local newspaper chain that owns weeklies in Littleton (pop. 6,000), Lancaster (pop. 3,300) and Berlin (pop. 9,300) decided to back the Texan following his third place finish in Iowa.

“[Paul's] prediction that the United States can no longer afford the economic cost of our overseas commitments makes many Republicans uncomfortable, possibly by the very truth of the assertion,” the editors of the Salmon Press wrote.

“Powerful leaders like Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan change the political landscape,” the editors concluded. “This is what Ron Paul would do for our country and why we support him.”

Washington Extra – Keeping it positive, not

It’s a cruel world out there, what with these Super PACs. Just ask Newt Gingrich, the candidate who promised to stick to the positive message. Battered by weeks of negative ads from a Super PAC and plummeting poll numbers, Gingrich took a sharp detour off the high road in the final hours of campaigning in Iowa.

Gingrich called putative Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney a liar because he tries to distance himself from the ad-spewing PAC created by Romney staff and funded by his millionaire friends. “It’s baloney,” Gingrich said.

Romney in turn mocked Gingrich, telling him to toughen up and get some broader shoulders. “If you can’t stand the heat of this little kitchen, wait for the hell’s kitchen that’s coming from Barack Obama,” he responded.

Santorum momentum doesn’t transfer to New Hampshire

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has seen his star rise in Iowa, where polls show him moving into third place behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. But in New Hampshire he’s still mired in the fourth tier of Republican candidates. Two new polls out today show Romney with a wide lead in the Granite State and Ron Paul running second with Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich tied for fourth.

Santorum is buried at 3 percent in one of the polls, by Suffolk University, and at 4 percent in the second, by Magellan Strategies–about even with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Still, Santorum is making a push in the state with a release today claiming he has 23 endorsements from New Hampshire state legislators and the announcement yesterday that he would buy television time for a new ad making the case that he is the Republican most likely to defeat President Obama in the general election.