Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Gift of the gas

 

Gasoline drips off a nozzle during refueling at a gas station in Altadena, California in this March 24, 2012 file photo. Picture taken March 24, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

After negotiating a tricky stretch of road, the Obama campaign may be easing into the straightaway in the gas-driven presidential race.

News on Monday of a delay in the planned closure of the largest refinery on the East Coast could mean an end to skyrocketing gas prices. And that would effectively take the wind out of a forceful Republican line of attack — that the president is to be blamed for $4 a gallon gas, arguably the most visible price in the American economy today.

The narrative was working against the president, who currently gets some of his lowest poll marks for his handling of energy prices, even though the causes of higher prices are largely beyond his control. Even so, we shouldn’t expect the Republicans to simply drop the rhetoric.

“Until we are at the point where people don’t feel like they’re squeezing their entire paychecks into the gas tank, it’s an issue that Republicans are going to keep talking about,” said a Senate Republican aide.

No privilege for most stay-at-home moms -poll

Mothers relax on the grass with their babies at Central Park during a warm day in New York, March 22, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The recent flap over women voters — especially stay-at-home mothers — has sent both Republican and Democratic pundits scrambling and with good reason: many stay-at-home moms aren’t affiliated with either party and are a ripe target for swing votes, a new poll shows.

The survey from Gallup Inc also finds that moms who don’t work aren’t exactly a pampered lot, despite Ann Romney – the wife of a multi-millionaire businessman – being portrayed as their standard bearer. It found most moms who stay home are more economically disadvantaged than their working peers.

Washington Extra: Sayonara Santorum

Former presidential candidate and Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is featured on a button by a supporter who also wore the politician's trademark vest in this January 14, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Reed

It began and ended at a kitchen table in Pennsylvania. Rick Santorum’s improbable and surprisingly long run for the White House is over. But the Republican Party will feel the effects of this game-changing gambit cooked up in a kitchen for some time to come.

Santorum offered disgruntled voters true conservative credentials. He brought social issues and religious freedom to the forefront of the national debate. He made Mitt Romney work much harder for the nomination than expected, and lurch to the right in the process. His supporters may not go away quietly or fall behind Romney in lockstep.

The tunnel to political prominence

NJ Gov. Chris Christie

A new government report shines the spotlight again on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, see here at a presidential campaign event for Republican candidate Mitt Romney on December 30, 2011. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

A new report on the controversy that helped launch New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to national prominence – and make him a vice-presidential contender – has reignited debate over one of the country’s most popular and polarizing Republicans.

A General Accounting Office report on Tuesday examined the impact of Christie’s decision in October 2010 to cancel a multibillion-dollar rail tunnel linking commuters in his state of New Jersey to midtown Manhattan.

Perry attacks more conservative rivals, ignores Romney

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s latest ads don’t even bother attacking Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney. With polls showing him in fifth place among Republicans in Iowa and seventh in New Hampshire, Perry’s aim is now to emerge as one of the top two conservative options to Romney.

To get there, he needs to knock off some of the other candidates polling immediately in front of him — which is why his latest TV ad in Iowa attacks Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and ex-Sen. Rick Santorum, but doesn’t mention Romney.

“The fox guarding the hen house is like asking a congressman to fix Washington,” the ad’s narrator says. “Bad idea. Their years in Congress left us with debt and bailouts.”

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.

Gingrich attacks Romney, a week after promising a positive campaign

A week ago, Newt Gingrich vowed to follow Ronald Reagan’s famed “11th Commandment” and withhold attacks on fellow Republican candidates for president.

But last night his campaign e-mail blasted reporters a lengthy opposition sheet on former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, ripping Romney’s latest television ad, “Conservative Agenda.”

In the oppo sheet, the Gingrich campaign calls Romney “Mitt the Massachusetts Moderate” and highlights a number of his past, more moderate positions that may be at odds with his current stances. These include Romney’s health care reforms in Massachusetts, his support for universal health insurance and abortion rights, his vote for Democrat Paul Tsongas in his 1992 bid for president and his renunciation of the Reagan/Bush era.

Huntsman goes after the media

For months, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign has arguably been kept afloat by the media. Fundraising has lagged and his national poll numbers are still at about 2 percent — the same as when he entered the race in June. Yet Huntsman has received lengthy and favorable profiles by the New York Times magazine, Newsweek, Esquire and Vogue — coverage that Buddy Roemer or Gary Johnson, who have registered similar poll numbers, or Ron Paul, who has much better ones, could only dream of.

But that didn’t keep Huntsman from lashing out at the media today while campaigning in Nashua, N.H. “My hot button is when the media have me come across as cool and collected, because I’m not,” said Huntsman, in response to a question about what makes him angry. “When I’m placed on the end of the debate stage and get three minutes of time because everyone is focused on who lights their hair on fire in the debate.”

Huntsman praised his “Lincoln-Douglas” debate in New Hampshire last week with Newt Gingrich as a model of civilized discourse because neither he nor Gingrich were asked any “gotcha questions.” But he lamented the media’s analysis of the debate. “There wasn’t any blood on the floor, how come you didn’t kill each other?” he said. “This is what we’ve come to.”

Best of the debate: Ron Paul v. Michele Bachmann

Presidential debates allow voters to hear how candidates differ, and there are few policy differences as great as that between Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Michele Bachmann on Iran. Take this exchange from last night:

Bachmann:

“Without a shadow of a doubt, Iran will take a nuclear weapon, they will use it to wipe our ally Israel off the face of the map and they’ve stated they will use it against the United States of America.”

For what it’s worth, Politifact has looked into Bachmann’s claim and rated it “false.”

Just what is a “Lincoln-Douglas” debate?

Republican frontrunner Newt Gingrich and long-shot Jon Huntsman say they’ll hold a “Lincoln-Douglas” debate in New Hampshire on Monday. So how will it be different from the usual debates?

During the 1858 race for U.S. Senate in Illinois, incumbent Democrat Stephen Douglas and upstart Republican lawyer Abraham Lincoln held a series of seven three-hour debates in towns throughout the state on the day’s hottest topic: slavery.

The debates had no moderator, and the candidates spoke in paragraphs rather than today’s rehearsed 45-second sound bites. In each of the debates, the first candidate was given 60 minutes to make opening remarks. His opponent was given 90 minutes to respond, and the first candidate was allowed a final 30-minute rebuttal.