Tales from the Trail

Meek stays in Florida Senate race despite Clinton overtures

This much is clear. Democrat Kendrick Meek is not dropping out of Florida’s three-way Senate race.

What’s not so clear is what happened before Meek summoned reporters to his campaign headquarters for a late evening news conference Thursday to deny reports former President Bill Clinton had asked him to quit the race.

Singling out a report by Politico.com, the Florida congressman said, “Any rumor or any statement by anyone that says that I made a decision to get out of the race is inaccurate, at best.”

Politico.com reported that Clinton nearly succeeded in talking Meek out of the race before the candidate changed his mind.

According to Politico, Meek would have agreed to drop out and endorse Governor Charlie Crist, who might then have a better shot at winning in a two-way contest with former state House speaker Marc Rubio, a Tea Party favorite.

Washington Extra – Shuffling the pack

cabinetWe hear the White House is not wildly pleased with former budget chief Peter Orszag for abandoning the party line on tax policy this week. Now Democrats in Congress are beginning to distance themselves from President Barack Obama’s push to let taxes rise for the wealthiest Americans. We are unlikely to see this resolved before the mid-terms anyway, and there are still several different ways this could pan out. One possible compromise would be a short extension of the tax cuts for the rich and a longer extension for the middle classes, keeping any crucial decisions as far away from the 2012 campaign season as possible.

More today on the potential for a reshuffle in Obama’s inner circle after the November elections, especially if Rahm Emanuel departs for Chicago. Democratic sources tell us Larry Summers, never that happy in his role, might be among those who leave, but that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is likely to stay the course.

One administration official who is flagging his own retirement is Defense Secretary Robert Gates. As we report from our Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington this week, Gates used to be viewed by the defense industry with apprehension, but these days many industry executives see his efficiency drive as both sensible and as the best way to protect the overall defense budget. It seems he will be missed.

Washington Extra – Stormy weather on economic front

A new round of extremely violent thunderstorms rolled through Washington this morning and brought with it more stormy economic news. The latest hiccup to what President Barack Obama had hoped would be a “recovery summer” was the news that filings for unemployment benefits rose by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 484,000 in the week ended Aug. 7.

USA/WEATHERExperts had expected a drop in claims and the unwelcome surprise indicated that hiring is still weak and employers may return to cutting staff.

The grim data came two days after the Fed warned that the pace of the recovery had slowed and the trade deficit widened, sending economists back to their drawing boards to revise growth forecasts. China’s economy also showed signs of going off the boil.

Washington Extra – Economy hits Obama’s poll numbers

It’s still “the economy, stupid.”

Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign slogan, famously pinned up on the wall of their Little Rock headquarters by James Carville, never seemed more appropriate than it does today.

Our first Reuters/IPSOS national poll dramatically illustrates how the parlous state of the economy is undermining confidence in President Barack Obama and his Democratic colleagues ahead of November’s mid-term elections. OBAMA/

Americans clearly identified the economy and jobs as the main problems facing the country today. Even more overwhelmingly, they said that Obama was not focusing on the issue enough.

House Democrats fret over Rangel case

rangelTwo top Democrats met with Rep. Charles Rangel on Monday, an aide said, while their colleagues fretted about whether his ethics woes will hurt them in the November election.

Rangel had separate meetings with Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, and Jim Clyburn, the House Democratic whip, the Democratic Party aide said.

The aide declined to elaborate on the talks, other than to confirm that Van Hollen shared with Rangel some of his “observations.” Many Democrats fear that if Rangel’s case goes to trial before a congressional panel in September it could become a “political circus” and undermine Democrats’ chances to retain control of the House.

Man of Steele seems to have avoided kryptonite for now

After a weekend of some prominent Republicans calling for his resignation — Liz Cheney among them — and a round of phone calls trying to explain himself, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele appears likely to hold onto his job through the election. USA-POLITICS/REPUBLICANS

Washington Whispers has a look at how Steele’s gaffe on Afghanistan does not affect Republican fundraising, which is obviously key to the November elections when Republicans are hoping to gain seats and possibly control of Congress from President Barack Obama’s Democrats.

After the election will be quite another story for the RNC chairman, with Republicans probably looking to replace Steele. Hotline has a piece on possible candidates in the next go-around. (Sarah Palin is not considered to be a serious contender).