Tales from the Trail

Shaq throws in support for Obama in 2012

NBA star Shaquille O’Neal said on Monday he believes President Barack Obama is doing a ”fabulous job” and will win the 2012 presidential election.

O’Neal, who retired from pro basketball this year, joined a handful of celebrities endorsing the Democratic president, ranging from singer Lady Gaga and actor Tom Hanks to Basketball hall-of-famer Magic Johnson.

“It’s a hard job … You can’t please everybody but I think he’s doing a fabulous job,” O’Neal told CNN host Piers Morgan. ”The world is in a little bit of turmoil right now — the economy’s down — but … he’s going to pick it back up and I think he’s going to win this next election.”

A group of current and former NBA stars are due to play in a fundraising game in Washington on Dec. 12, the Obama campaign website says. Confirmed players include Johnson, Carmelo Anthony, Vince Carter, Alonzo Mourning and Jerry Stackhouse.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Scott Audette (Shaq waves to fans at an exhibition game), REUTERS/Larry Downing (Obama compares his shoe with a basketball sneaker belonging to O’Neal)

Tea party boosts Perry to top of GOP polls

Texas Governor Rick Perry has vaulted into the lead among Republicans vying for the nomination to oppose  President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election bid, according to several new  polls. And he may have the Tea Party to thank for it.

A CNN/ORC International poll released  Monday showed Perry strongly favored by Republicans and independent voters who lean Republican. Among the declared candidates, Perry has 32 percent support, followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 18 percent, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann at 12 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 7 percent, Texas Congressman Ron Paul at 6 percent and the rest of the field in the low single digits.

This could reflect shifting allegiances among Tea Party supporters, according to Gallup, which released its own poll last week also showing that Perry had replaced Romney as the early front-runner.

from Photographers' Blog:

President Obama takes the White House to the Midwest

By Jason Reed

600 miles of ice cream stops, cornfields and cow judging contests – a glimpse inside the traveling white house circus.

The scene in Washington DC, 2011 - U.S. debt ceiling negotiations, unemployment figures that wont improve, congressional deadlock – it’s enough to make you want to get out of town. President Barack Obama did just that this week, jumping on a shiny new bus and heading out to the Midwest to spend time with pretty much anyone who wasn’t wearing a business suit.

It was surely a nice change of scenery for Obama and definitely for photographers assigned to the White House who have been fed a steady diet of presidential remarks in front of all the familiar Washington backgrounds for weeks on end. The message was however, the same. Getting the nine per cent of unemployed Americans back to work.

Notes from West Liberty, Iowa

(View an in-depth look at scenes from Iowa and New Hampshire in a downloadable pdf format here and a look ahead to the primaries here)

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West Liberty is Iowa’s first Hispanic-majority city. Fifty-two percent of the people in this town of about 3,700 are Hispanic, according to the latest U.S. Census. It’s a number that would be impressive in any state. But it’s especially noteworthy in Iowa, an overwhelmingly white corner of the America Heartland where just 5 percent of the population statewide is Hispanic.

The town, located between Davenport and Iowa City, has long had a sizable and growing Hispanic population. The reason? The major employer here is West Liberty Foods, a 260,000-square-foot food processing plant that employs about 850 workers.

Notes from Unity, New Hampshire

(View an in-depth look at scenes from Iowa and New Hampshire in a downloadable pdf format here and a look ahead to the primaries here)

Unity, New Hampshire, is not known for much. The town of 1,671 sits in the western fringe of Sullivan County, a few miles from the Vermont border.

At the one general store are T-shirts that riff off the famous Las Vegas motto. “What happens in Unity stays in Unity — But nothing really happens here.”

Notes from Independence, Iowa

(View an in-depth look at scenes from Iowa and New Hampshire in a downloadable pdf format here and a look ahead to the primaries here)

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The motto of Independence, Iowa is “America’s fame is in our name.” But Mike Anderson, the pastor of Baptist Bethel Church in Independence, says some of the problems besetting the country are on display in this town of 6,000, as well. “People around here don’t work as hard as they used to,” Anderson, 48, said. “Even farmers don’t do a lot of physical work anymore.”

The change — a function of the mechanization of agriculture and the demise of the small family farms he grew up on — has “not been a good thing” for the community, Andersen said.

Notes from Freedom, New Hampshire

(View an in-depth look at scenes from Iowa and New Hampshire in a downloadable pdf format here and a look ahead to the primaries here)

MANY STILL WAITING FOR THE RIGHT REPUBLICAN

It’s no secret that many Republican voters — the ones who are even paying attention at all — are not crazy about this year’s crop of presidential candidates. Surveys have showed the enthusiasm level running low.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul has passionate followers, though, and drew a sizable crowd in iconically-named Freedom, New Hampshire, population 1,489, on Friday.

Hint of politics creeps in to rare Obama church appearance

Barack Obama is not shy about discussing his Christian faith, but the U.S. president and his family do not attend church regularly in Washington.

So a presidential visit is a rare happening among the city’s churches, and Easter is one Sunday when one regularly occurs.

This year the Obamas chose Shiloh Baptist Church — one of the oldest African-American congregations in the city, according to the White House — for their Easter service, drawing applause from members decked out in Sunday suits and fancy dresses.

As Tea Party cranks up heat on Congress, poll shows public support waning

The Tea Party is coming to Washington to turn up the heat on the Congress — just as a new poll finds that public support for it has waned.

Members of the conservative Tea Party movement plan to hold a rally on Thursday outside the U.S. Capitol, urging Republicans to stand firm in their showdown with Democrats over proposed spending cuts.

While the Tea Party helped Republicans win power in last year’s elections, nearly half of all Americans now have an USA-POLITICS/unfavorable view of it, according to CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released on Wednesday.