Tales from the Trail

Be careful when talking age with old Joe about young Barack

biden3.jpg DENVER — Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, 65, admits he’s getting a little touchy about the fact that he’s so much older than running mate Barack Obama , 47.

“If I hear one more time he was 11 years old when I went to the Senate, I’m going to smack somebody,” Biden joked, drawing laughter and applause at a breakfast meeting with convention delegates from Biden’s native state of Pennsylvania.

A smiling Biden, first elected to the Senate 35 years ago, noted there are just four senators in the 100-member chamber with more senority than him.

“But there are still 44 older than me,” Biden said, prompting more laughter.

On a serious note, Biden said he and Obama must capture Pennsylvania on Election Day to take the White House in their battle against Republican John McCain.

McCain wants to do better with the youth vote

YORK, Pa. – John McCain, teased as “that wrinkly, white-haired guy” by Paris Hilton, said on Tuesday he knew he wasn’t connecting with young voters but urged them to give him a hearing.

“I need to do a better job … with young voters in America and I want to reach out to them,” he told a former Sen. Hillary Clinton supporter now pondering whether to support him or his Democratic presidential opponent Barack Obama.

The questioner said during the town hall meeting in York, Pennsylvania he wasn’t sure what McCain stood for on issues like education that mattered to young voters.

Pennsylvania governor says he drank Obama Kool-Aid

rendell.jpgPHILADELPHIA – One of the most ardent supporters of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination has disclosed the secret behind his now public support of Barack Obama: he drank the Kool-Aid.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who often accused reporters of having “drunk the Obama Kool-Aid” during the nominating process, said he now has had some of the sweet drink himself.
At a fund-raising event on Friday, just a week after Clinton pulled out of the Democratic race, Rendell said that Obama supporters had brought him a big carton of Kool-Aid and told him to “drink up” when Obama became the nominee.
“I gave Senator Clinton $1,500 in the primary so I thought just for old-time sake I’d give Senator Obama $1,499,” Rendell said, sparking scattered boos from the crowd.
Rendell calmed them by saying “that was before I drank the Kool-Aid.” He said he has a check for $2,300 to give to the Obama campaign. 

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Tim Shaffer (Clinton and Rendell share a laugh during a campaign event in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in March)

Pennsylvania Democratic voters see U.S. recession already

rtr1z301.jpgWASHINGTON – One interesting tidbit that came out of the exit polling from Pennsylvania Democratic voters is that a large majority believe the U.S. economy is already in recession — contrary what the current president said on Tuesday.
A whopping 88 percent of voters in Pennsylvania — a state trying to transition from steel and coal industries to high-tech and medical research — said the U.S. economy was in a recession, with 42 percent saying it was a serious recession and 47 percent said it was a moderate contraction, according to exit poll data on CNN’s Web site (page 5 of data).
On Tuesday, President George W. Bush cited the most recent economic data showing small growth in the fourth quarter of 2007. But he also acknowledged that the first quarter figures had not yet been released.
“We’re not in a recession.  We’re in a slowdown,” Bush said after meetings with leaders of Canada and Mexico. “We haven’t had first quarter growth statistics yet. But there’s no question we’re in a slowdown.”
Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have both said the economy was in a recession as has Republican presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain.
But White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said on Wednesday such pronouncements were a little early in the game. 
“We don’t have data yet and it’s a little premature to declare it so definitively as a recession because the data isn’t in,” she told reporters.
The Commerce Department is due to release the GDP figures for the first quarter on April 30, which is also when the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rate-setting committee will announce whether it is cutting rates again. 

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni (shoppers browse food aisles at discount retailer Wal-mart.)

Bill Clinton takes on Obama, media on race comments

Bill Clinton is making news again.

Campaigning for his wife Hillary in Pennsylvania, the former president accused the Obama campaign of “playing the race card” and later lashed out at a reporter who asked him about his comments.billclinton

Could this hurt Hillary’s prospects in the must-win Keystone state, which holds its nominating contest today?

Bill Clinton was so popular among African Americans during his time in the White House that he was sometimes known as “the first black president,” but much of that goodwill evaporated after the racially charged South Carolina primary in January.

‘Why can’t I just eat my waffle?’

obama-in-pa.jpgSCRANTON, Pa. – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama kicked off a day of campaigning in Pennsylvania by dropping by a Scranton diner for a breakfast of waffles, sausage and orange juice.
But the press corps went hungry — hungry for an answer that is.
The Illinois senator brushed aside a question from one reporter on his reaction to former President Jimmy Carter’s description of a positive meeting with leaders of the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas.
“Why can’t I just eat my waffle?” Obama replied.
Reporters traveling with the Illinois senator, fighting with his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton over Pennsylvania ahead of its vote on Tuesday, are venting frustration over a lack of access to the candidate lately. Obama has not held a press availability in 10 days, though he has given dozens of interviews to local press in Pennyslvania.
Republicans have pounced on Obama’s “waffle” comment, suggesting he is evading tough questions.
“Today, Obama continued to dodge questions from the media, responding that he just wanted to eat his waffle,” the Republican National Committee said in an email sent to reporters that included press accounts of the waffle incident at the Glider diner.
Both Obama and Clinton are far less accessible to the media than presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, known for holding lengthy question-and-answer sessions with reporters on his Straight Talk Express bus.
The sessions last so long that some reporters say they run out of questions.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Tim Shaffer (Obama greets Pennsylvania supporter)

Feds to keep an eye on Pennsylvania primary

WASHINGTON – As Democrats go to the polls on Tuesday to pick between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as their presidential nominee, the Bush administration said on Monday they will be keeping a close eye on the voting.
rtr1zn5o.jpgCiting previous allegations that the city of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, had violated voting rights laws, the Bush administration’s Justice Department announced it would monitor the primary contest.

A year ago, the city settled with the government over the allegations, agreeing to provide additional Spanish-speaking poll officials, to give additional training for election workers, and to ensure better access for disabled voters, among other things.
“Philadelphia has an obligation to provide all election information, ballots and voting assistance information in Spanish pursuant to Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act,” the department said. “The monitors will gather information concerning compliance with this requirement and other federal voting rights statutes.”
The Justice Department said it had almost 1,600 monitors watching 119 elections in 24 states during the 2006 election year.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Bradley Bower (Obama at a rally outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia)

Financial Times backs Obama in Democrats’ nominating battle

WASHINGTON – Britain’s Financial Times newspaper, which has bigger paid circulation in the United States than its home country, weighed into the bitter Democratic nominating contest– offering its endorsement to Sen. Barack Obama.rtr1zo49.jpg

The backing of the financial newspaper in Monday’s edition comes just a day before voters in Pennsylvania go to the polls, a state that could offer some salvation for his opponent Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has been clinging to a narrow lead in the state but trails in the delegate count. 

The FT points to Obama’s well-run campaign and cross-party appeal for putting him over the top of his rival. It also cites Clinton’s unpopularity and questions her campaign strategy, arguing it has been re-tooled several times.

Clinton says: just tell them I’m nice!

rtr1zkjz.jpgHAVERFORD, Penn. – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, trying to shore up support in Pennsylvania ahead of next week’s hotly-contested nominating vote, had some simple advice on Thursday for how to win over undecided voters.

Asked by one audience member what to say when going door-to-door in support of the New York senator, Clinton responded: “Just knock on the door and say, ‘you know, she’s really nice.’”

“Or you can say it another way,” Clinton added. “‘She’s not as bad as you think!’”

Sen. Specter vows to battle cancer, seek 2010 reelection

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, 78, managed to crack a few jokes and talk about his faith on Wednesday as he vowed to fight a recurrence of cancer and seek reelection in 2010.

rtr1th1j.jpg“I consider it another bump in the road,” the Pennsylvania Republican told a Capitol Hill news conference called to discuss a recurrence of Hodgkin’s disease. “I’ve had a lot of bumps, and I’ve got good shock absorbers.”

Specter, who successfully battled the illness in 2005, disclosed this week he had been diagnosed with a recurrence of the cancer. His doctor said he had an “excellent chance of achieving a complete remission.”