Tales from the Trail

Could Sandy blow away the election? Don’t hold your breath

Deadly Superstorm Sandy left millions of Americans snowed in, flooded out or stranded without power – and the federal government itself in Washington closed – just a week before voters across the country head to the polls. But if anyone is wondering whether Election Day will be put off, the answer is almost certainly no.

Local U.S. elections have been postponed before – in one relatively recent example, New York put off voting that had been set for Sept. 11, 2001, because of the attacks on the country that day. But presidential balloting has always gone on, even during the Civil War in 1864 (President Abraham Lincoln was re-elected).

Federal law mandates that the national vote must take place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November every four years.

Some sources say a state might have the authority to put off voting in a national election within its border in case of a terrorist act or natural disaster. But election law experts said that might not be legal, and would definitely be disruptive, especially in a close election like this year’s and more so in a swing state like Virginia, where two days of early voting have already been cancelled because of Sandy. Changing the federal law – through an act of Congress – is extremely unlikely, given the country’s bitter partisan divisions in the midst of a tightly contested election.

“I feel pretty safe in saying the likelihood of an amendment of this federal statute is right around zero,” said Daniel Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University and an expert on election law and voting rights.

GOP presidential field – looking Perry promising?

With polls showing President Barack Obama beating any current 2012 Republican presidential hopeful, some party leaders are casting around for additional contenders, especially those who are well-known and might appeal more to the party’s most conservative wing.

One name that has come up repeatedly is Texas Governor Rick Perry, a conservative Republican and rising star in the Tea Party movement who fueled speculation last year that he might run for the White House by going on a national tour to publicize his book “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington,” which takes aim at what he sees an intrusive and expansive federal government.

Perry has in the past emphatically said he will not run, but he more recently has seemed to be leaving the door slightly open by saying for now he is focused on Texas’ legislative session, which ends on May 30.

Haley Barbour not running, lacks ‘absolute fire in the belly’

Scratch Republican Haley Barbour off the list of presidential hopefuls for 2012.

The Mississippi governor made it official, he’s not running. It’s apparently all about that ”fire in the belly,” or lack thereof.

“A candidate for president today is embracing a ten-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else.  His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate.  I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required,” Barbour said in a statement.

Republican Pawlenty hoping he got his money man for 2012

Tim Pawlenty, who is exploring a run for president in 2012 and is sometimes lampooned as somebody nobody knows, has created a buzz in political circles by hiring Nick Ayers as campaign manager for his exploratory committee. USA-POLITICS/REPUBLICANS

The former Minnesota governor, known to supporters as “T-Paw”, announced the hiring of Ayers, the former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, on his website and on Twitter, where he asked followers to follow his new guy @nick_ayers .

Pawlenty praised Ayers’ fundraising prowess. “In 2010 alone, the RGA shattered all previous fundraising records, and Ayers managed a $112 million budget, deploying $102 million directly into independent expenditures and campaigns.”

2012 White House race may lose one tradition: candidates from the Senate

Barack Obama did it. So did Joe Biden, John McCain, Hillary Clinton and scores of others. They all ran for the White House while sitting members of the U.S. Senate.

The 2012 presidential campaign, however, may feature for the first time in more than a half-century no U.S. senators. USA/

John Thune had been the only current senator openly considering a run. But he announced on Tuesday that he’s decided instead to stay put.

Palin for President? Someone’s gotta do it

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. And if no one else wants to do it, Sarah Palin says she would step in.

The former Republican vice presidential candidate, who has been stirring the pot this year with her backing for Tea Party candidates for the midterm elections, has been hard to pin down on whether she plans to run for president in 2012. Well, until now.

In an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight, to air tonight, Palin let the moose out of the bag.

Leaked e-mail fuels Palin for president speculation

A leaked e-mail is providing more grist for speculation that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is seriously pondering a run for president in 2012.

USA/In the e-mail, Palin’s husband, Todd Palin, complained to Alaska Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller and Tim Crawford, treasurer for Palin’s SarahPAC political organization, after Miller declined to endorse the possibility of a Palin presidential candidacy.

Sarah Palin had endorsed Miller in his successful Senate Republican nomination fight against incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, and it is clear from the e-mail that Todd Palin expected some loyalty in return.

Palin talks abortion and newspapers — sort of — in Couric interview

palin30.jpgKANSAS CITY, Missouri – Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is happy to discuss her views on social issues like abortion and homosexuality, but reluctant to list what she usually reads to keep up on world events.
 
That’s the takeout from a series of interviews the Alaska governor did with CBS anchor Katie Couric, which aired on Tuesday night.
 
Palin, whose opposition to abortion rights has ignited support among social conservatives, some of whom were wary of presidential nominee John McCain, discussed whether rape or incest victims should be allowed to have an abortion.
 
“Personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in,” she said. “If you’re asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an … abortion, absolutely not.”
 
When asked about her views on homosexuality, Palin talked about a close friend who is gay.
 
“One of my absolute best friends for the last 30 years happens to be gay, and I love her dearly,” Palin said. “She is one of my best friends, who happens to have made a choice that isn’t a choice I would have made. But I am not going to judge people.”
 
Palin has faced criticism for lacking experience in foreign policy. Before becoming governor some two years ago she was the mayor of a small town.
 
Couric asked Palin what newspapers and magazines she read regularly before becoming McCain’s running mate “to stay informed and to understand the world.”
 
Here is her response, according to a transcript provided by CBS:
 
Palin: I’ve read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media. 
 
Couric: What, specifically?
 
Palin: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years. 
 
Couric: Can you name a few? 
 
Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn’t a foreign country, where it’s kind of suggested, “Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?” Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage. 

Photo credit: REUTERS/Stephen Mally

These little piggies went to St. Paul

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By Lea Radick and Ashley Sears

ST. PAUL – Take a walk through downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, while the Republican National Convention is in town and you can expect to see roving bands of policemen with riot gear, keeping the peace.

What you might not expect to see is a dozen or so police posing with two fuzzy pink pigs.

The police and the pork were all smiles for a camera-wielding crowd Wednesday morning – the third day of the GOP convention – after one of the passing cops suggested they pose with the pigs for a photo.

Obama takes shirt off again, goes body surfing in Hawaii

HONOLULU – Look out, ladies. Barack Obama has taken his shirt off in public again.

The 47-year-old senator from Illinois, who created a minor sensation with a shirtless photo on his last trip to Hawaii, stripped down to his trunks on Thursday for an impromptu body surfing excursion.

Obama and a few friends waded into the water and sportily rode a few waves to the delight of other beach revelers. Earlier in the day he went snorkeling with his family.