Tales from the Trail

New Obama ads highlight auto bailout, claim moderate recovery

President Obama’s re-election campaign on Thursday released three television ads — two focusing on the auto bailout and a third noting moderate economic improvements since Obama took office — all part of the campaign’s $25 million May marketing blitz.

The ads were a follow-up to what the campaign’s senior adviser David Axelrod called a “foundational” ad called “Go,” airing across nine battleground states and painting a portrait of an America on the economic mend, safer without Osama bin Laden, and relieved that its troops are finally home from Iraq. A nation whose Democratic incumbent simply needs more time.

“Different communities have different interests, or come at some of these issues in different ways, and we want to make sure that we’re getting to them information that is most germane and most relevant,” Axelrod, a former White House aide, said on a recent call with reporters.

A new, 30-second spot that aired in Ohio features an interview with a young autoworker heading back to work after losing his job. “Obama stuck his neck out for us, the auto industry, he wasn’t going to let it just die. And I am driving in this morning because of that, because of him,” the man, Brian Slagle, says.

A second ad airing in Ohio and elsewhere — titled “Succeed” — shows the Democratic incumbent speaking about the “more than one million jobs” the auto bailout saved.

Ignoring polls, Santorum says he’s best GOP chance to beat Obama

You have to give him points for chutzpah. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has spent most of the GOP primary positioning himself as the candidate of the GOP’s conservative evangelical wing. With polls showing him running as high as third in Iowa, Santorum is out with a new ad in New Hampshire and Iowa making the case that he can win swing voters and is the Republicans’ best bet to win the general election.

Here’s the narrative:

Who has the best chance to beat Obama? Rick Santorum. A full spectrum conservative, Rick Santorum is rock solid on values issues. A favorite of the tea party for fighting corruption and taxpayer abuse. More foreign policy credentials than any candidate. And Rick’s ‘Made in the USA’ jobs plan will make America an economic superpower again. Rick Santorum, a trusted conservative who gives us the best chance to take back America.

Santorum has spent most of the campaign so far back in the pack pollsters have rarely surveyed him in head-to-head match-ups with the president. In fact there have been just three polls since July measuring how Santorum would fair against Obama. All three are by the Republican firm Rasmussen Reports and all three show Obama ahead by 10 points or more. Overall, polling has generally shown that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman Jr. and Ron Paul would all fare better against Obama in a head-to-head match-up.

Bachmann’s former Iowa chair denies taking money from Paul

Michele Bachmann didn’t want this to be the dominant story about her campaign less than a week out from the Iowa caucuses. After Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson, Bachmann’s Iowa campaign chairman, resigned and switched his allegiance to Ron Paul, Bachmann accused Sorenson of selling out for money. She told reporters:

I had a conversation with Kent Sorenson, and in the direct conversation that I had with him, he told me that he was offered money, he was offered a lot of money by the Ron Paul campaign to go and associate with the Ron Paul campaign. No one else knows about that conversation other than Kent Sorenson and myself.

Sorenson responded in an interview with CNN:

That conversation never happened. As much respect as I have for Michele, the fact of the matter is it just didn’t happen and I think it’s unfortunate they’re resorting to these type of tactics.

New Hampshire paper, Huntsman launch fresh attacks on Ron Paul

New Hampshire’s largest newspaper, the Union Leader, suspended its attacks on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Thursday to turn its editorial fire on Texas Rep. Ron Paul.  The newspaper, which helped fuel Newt Gingrich’s rise in the polls in late November after it endorsed the former House speaker, published a front page editorial, titled “Ron Paul is truly dangerous,” criticizing Paul’s dovish views on Iran and the treatment of captured terror suspects. Paul’s views, in the words of publisher Joe McQuaid, are “warped” and “nuts.”

McQuaid writes:

Never mind Paul being the favored candidate of the lunatic fringe (see white supremacists, anti-Semites, truthers, etc.). Never mind his refusal to disavow a third-party run (which would only help President Obama’s reelection). His defenders say they admire Ron Paul’s “consistency.” It is true, Paul has been consistently spouting this nonsense. It is about time New Hampshire voters showed him the door.

Meanwhile, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has staked his entire campaign on the Granite State but has seen Paul surge ahead of him in polls there, is out with a hard-hitting new ad highlighting some loony statements contained in Paul’s newsletters. Among them: a claim that Martin Luther King was a “pro-communist philanderer,” another claim suggesting “90 if not 95 percent of black males in [Washington, D.C.] are semi-criminal if not entirely criminal” and the suggestion of a “federal-homosexual cover-up of AIDS.” Paul has said he wasn’t the author of the controversial statements, which appeared in letters with names like  Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Survival Report and the Ron Paul Investment Letter.

Old film shows Paul warning of UN plot

Conspiracy theories are nothing new to Ron Paul. Witness his lengthy appearance in this 1998 John Birch Society documentary, in which he predicts that the United Nations “would confiscate our guns’ and the rest of Americans’ private property. The United States, he says in the video, “will become nothing more than a pawn of the United Nations.”

“The election process will become the task of world government monitors,” the documentary’s narrator says at the 2:16 mark. “The U.S. Congress, president, judicial system and state and local government shall exist only as a facade to assure American citizens that they still have a voice in government.”

The documentary goes on to suggest the UN could disband and even burn down U.S. churches that don’t submit to its control, and throw their ministers in jail (3:15). Paul chimes in: “If the United Nations has their way, there will be curtailment of our right to practice religion,” he is shown saying (4:12).

Ron Paul attacks Gingrich and Romney in new ad

Republican Ron Paul has unveiled a hard-hitting new attack ad in Iowa and New Hampshire. As violins play anxiously in the background and washed-out images of the Capitol and other Washington landmarks flash across the screen, a voice-over warns that the “Washington machine” is “strangling” the American economy.

The implication: Washington is a conspiracy of insider politicians — politicians like Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney — working against the people.

“Serial hypocrites and flip-floppers can’t clean up the mess,” the narrator says ominously, as images of Gingrich and Romney flash on the screen. “Ron Paul,” the voice says in closing, is “the one we’ve been looking for.”

New DNC ad questions Romney’s claim that “any president would have” killed bin Laden

In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Saturday, Mitt Romney said he was “delighted” that President Obama “gave the order to take out Osama bin Laden.” It was something, Romney told Wallace, “any president would have done.”

Not so, according to a new ad from the Democratic National Committee. The video compiles praise from prominent conservatives, all of whom commend Obama for bin Laden’s death.

“I worked with a lot of these guys, and this is one of the most courageous calls, decisions, that I think I’ve ever seen a president make,” says former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Ron Paul quits CNN interview after questions about racist newsletters

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul abruptly ended an interview with CNN’s Gloria Borger yesterday after she asked him about racist newsletters published under his name in the 1980s and 1990s.

When Borger questioned Paul about profit he reportedly made from the newsletters, some of which contained prejudiced statements about African Americans and conspiracy theories about AIDS, Paul protested that he “never read that stuff.”

“I was probably aware of it ten years after it was written,” he said. “It’s been going on 20 years that people have pestered me about this and CNN does it every single time. So when are you going to wear yourself out?”

Romney on his work as a Mormon missionary: “We didn’t convert one person”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday, where co-host Joe Scarborough asked him about his experience as a Mormon missionary in France in the 1960s. “Talk about your rejections as a missionary knocking on door, after door, after door in a hostile environment,” Scarborough asked.

Romney recalled five months he spent in one French city, where he said near-constant brush-offs built his resilience:

“We knocked on doors from morning until quite late in the evening,” he said. “We didn’t convert one person in five months. So, you understand the rejection, you know that’s a pretty high level of rejection and you get used to it. You say, ‘okay, what do I believe, what’s important to me,’ and you don’t measure yourself and your success by how other people react, but instead by how you’re doing and how you feel about the things you care about.”

Battered by negative ads, Gingrich calls for Republican truce


A still from “Selling Access,” a recent ad released by the Ron Paul campaign.

Newt Gingrich is waving a white flag in the ad wars. As the most recent Republican frontrunner, he’s become the target of attacks from Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and the the pro-Romney group Restore Our Future.

Many of the attacks have focused on Gingrich’s consulting work for Freddie Mac in the run up to the financial crisis and the collapse of the housing market. Today his campaign announced a petition urging Republicans to stop attacking each other–and presumably to stop bringing up his work for Freddie.