Tales from the Trail

Tea Party flavors Republican debate in Tampa

Maybe it was the Tea Party Express influence or maybe it was just being in Tampa where Republicans hold their presidential nominating convention next year.

But the atmosphere at Monday’s  Republican debate had the festive feel of a major sporting event and the stars of the game were the eight candidates vying for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination.

The pregame show began with a video introduction of “tonight’s players”…

    Michele Bachmann: The Firebrand Mitt Romney: The Early Front-Runner Rick Perry: The Newcomer Jon M. Huntsman Jr.: The Diplomat Ron Paul: The Libertarian Herman Cain: The Businessman Newt Gingrich: The Big Thinker Rick Santorum: The Fighter

The audience was packed with Tea Party conservatives cheering them on and the action began on stage after singer Diana Nagy sang the national anthem.

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.

Gingrich debt ceiling advice: make Obama responsible

Newt Gingrich says he “deeply opposed” to the proposal by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for resolving the debt ceiling impasse because it cedes too much power to President Obama.

“It’s basically a surrender,” Gingrich said Tuesday on the Fox News Channel, imploring congressional Republicans to stand firm in the standoff with Obama.

Obama said on CBS that he could not guarantee Social Security checks would go out early next month if there’s no deal to raise the debt ceiling before Aug. 2nd.

from The Great Debate:

Does Gingrich actually want to be President?

Newt Gingrich, May 13, 2011

By Ben Adler

The opinions expressed are his own.

There is a well-established template for a politician who has ascended to the pinnacle of national politics, tumbled off of it, and wants to return to run for president. You get out of Washington. You occupy yourself in private or charitable endeavors, maybe write anodyne books and studiously avoid making controversial proclamations that might come back to haunt you.

Richard Nixon, after losing his 1960 presidential bid and his ill-advised 1962 run for Governor of California followed this script and was elected in 1968. But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who recently announced his candidacy for president, hasn’t merely detoured from this path in recent years, he’s gone completely in the other direction. In fact, everything he has done since he was Speaker suggests he never planned to run for president, and he hasn’t made the appropriate preparations.

After Gingrich famously miscalculated and cost his party seats in the 1998 midterms by impeaching Bill Clinton for a brief episode of philandering, Gingrich left his own wife -- who had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis -- for his mistress. That was his first mistake; well, actually his second, since he had previously left his first wife while she was in the hospital with cancer for his second wife. (Gingrich’s personal history was the subject of a devastating profile in Esquire last year.)

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.”

Fiscal conservative Gingrich had at least $250,000 debt with Tiffany’s

Politicians are in heated debate about the $14.3 trillion national debt ceiling. But their personal debt can also be eye-popping.

Politico reports that Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich owed at least $250,000 and as much as $500,000 to luxury jewelry company Tiffany & Co.

We checked the store website but couldn’t find any one item for that amount, although a few baubles here, a few watches there, and it all adds up.

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.

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.