Tales from the Trail

Obama distances himself from campaign’s criticism of Palin

MONACA, Pennsylvania – Barack Obama distanced himself on Friday from his campaign’s initially critical statement about his rival John McCain’s choice of first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.
 
McCain, a 72-year-old veteran Republican senator from Arizona, picked a political unknown and self-described “hockey mom” who will become the first woman Republican vice presidential candidate.
 
When the surprise decision was announced, Obama was on the tarmac at a Denver airport preparing to depart for a bus tour in the industrial Midwest with his running mate, Joe Biden. The Democratic candidate had just made history by becoming the first black to accept a major-party presidential nomination.
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His spokesman, Bill Burton, issued a statement suggesting Palin was too inexperienced to be vice president. “Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” it  said.
 
The McCain campaign quickly shot back that it was “audacious” for aides to the 47-year-old first-term Illinois senator to accuse Palin of inexperience.
 
Later in the day, Obama told reporters that the campaign’s early statement was “hair-trigger” and did not reflect his sentiments.
 
“I haven’t met her before. She seems like a compelling person. Obviously, a terrific story, personal story,” he said while touring a biodiesel plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania.
 
Obama said the choice of Palin was “one more indicator of this country moving forward” and a hit against the glass ceiling that has limited women’s advancement.
 
In a phone call to Palin, Obama told her he thought she would be a terrific candidate and wished her luck “but not too much luck,” according to Robert Gibbs, his senior adviser.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

- Photo credit: Reuters/John Gress (McCain stands with his vice presidential running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in Dayton, Ohio, Aug. 29, 2008)

Freight Train sleeps through McCain’s whistle-stop tour

DES MOINES, Iowa – Republican presidential candidate John McCain conducted a whistle-stop tour through the Iowa State Fair on Friday but Freight Train was unimpressed.
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The Arizona senator did what all politicians do at the fair. He pressed the flesh. He mounted a soapbox, actually a microphone placed behind bales of straw, and munched on some pork chops on a stick.
 
He may have won some votes when he praised the fair and its 1 million-plus visitors as true to the heartland of America. But he didn’t win over Freight Train.
 
The prize boar — all 1,259 pounds of him — stayed resolutely asleep throughout his visit, resting his enormous bulk on a bed of sand.
 
“I saw the new champion and world record-breaker boar, Freight Train. He’s in good health. I can tell you that,” McCain later said at a fund-raiser.
 
“I lament and had thought with some nostalgia about last year’s winner Big Red who is no longer with us. But perhaps I had part of him in a pepperoni pizza — who knows,” he said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Ilya Naymushin (A wild boar stands in an open cage at a zoo in the Siberian city of Krasnoyark in 2006)

Obama agrees to 3 debates with McCain

baracl.jpgORLANDO, Fla. – Democrat Barack Obama agreed on Saturday to a formal proposal for three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate, effectively scuttling Republican White House rival John McCain’s hopes for a series of one-on-one town hall meetings.
 
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe informed the Commission on Presidential Debates of the decision, which proposed the schedule, in a letter. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel will represent the campaign in talks on the format and details.
 
The late conventions and short period before the first debate — the Republican convention ends on Sept. 4 and the first debate is scheduled for Sept. 26 — made it “likely” the four debates proposed by the commission “will be the sole series of debates in the fall campaign,” Plouffe wrote.
 
McCain had suggested the two candidates could appear together at a series of town-hall meetings, but negotiations between the two sides never produced an agreement.
 
The McCain campaign used the decision to take another poke at Obama’s “celebrity” image.
 
“We understand it might be beneath a worldwide celebrity of Barack Obama’s magnitude to appear at town hall meetings alongside John McCain and directly answer questions from the American people, but we hope he’ll reconsider,” spokesman Brian Rogers said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Scott Audette (Obama laughs alongside Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League in Orlando, Florida, on Aug. 2, 2008)

Talk about timing for McCain’s trip south of the border

WASHINGTON – Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, who often invokes former President Ronald Reagan, had an almost Reaganesque moment this week — a hostage rescue.
 
rtx7jmk.jpgHours after McCain left Colombia, where he had spent the day pushing free trade, that country’s president Alvaro Uribe revealed the military had freed several hostages, including three Americans, long held captive by the militant group FARC.
 
Just minutes after Reagan took office in 1981, coincidentally, the American hostages in Iran were released.
 
Sadly for those conspiracy theorists wondering whether McCain had a role in the Colombia rescue or was tipped off about it before he arrived in the country, signs suggest otherwise.
 
McCain said in a statement that he had been briefed by Uribe the day before the operation and that the two later spoke about it.
 
“He told me some of the details of the dramatic rescue of the people who were held hostage,” McCain said.
 
While the United States helped with some aspects of the operation, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino denied any suggestion that McCain was advised by his fellow Republicans in the Bush administration.
 
“I think this was long in the planning stages,” she told reporters. I’ve heard nothing to suggest that there was any connection,” she told reporters. “I just think it was coincidence.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.  

Photo credit: Reuters/Jose Gomez (McCain and Uribe at news conference July 1)

McCain, Obama on pocketbook issues — their own

WASHINGTON – If the way someone runs their household accounts is any indication of how they would run the federal government’s, voters might want to look at rtx6ung.jpgthe financial disclosure statements released Friday by White House contenders John McCain and Barack Obama.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee McCain has earned a reputation in the U.S. Congress as a conservative fiscal watchdog.

Yet he and his wife, Cindy, racked up at least $210,000 in credit card debt last year, according to his Senate financial disclosure form.

McCain raises money, praises Romney, thanks lobbyists

WASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate John McCain spent a marathon day raising money on Monday, and it went well: after events in Virginia and Washington, D.C., the campaign and the Republican Party pulled in more than $2 million.
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“We won’t raise as much money as our opponent but we certainly will raise (a) sufficient amount of money to win this election,” the Arizona senator told a gathering at a Ritz Carlton hotel in Northern Virginia.
 
His opponent, of course, is Democrat Barack Obama, who has consistently broken records with his fundraising in the primary contests.
 
McCain congratulated Obama on his victory over rival Hillary Clinton in the Democratic nominating battle but needled the Illinois senator for a lack of experience by saying the White House was not a place for on-the-job training.
 
McCain was certainly on the job bringing in cash. One event included tickets to a “victory dinner” and two receptions for a contribution — raised or donated — of $50,000. Whew.
 
And even those lobbyists out there got a thank-you.
 
“I’m going to thank some corrupt unscrupulous lobbyists that are destroying America as we speak, everything we stand for and believe in,” McCain joked at one fundraiser. 
 
Right.
 
Finally, there was praise for his opponent-turned-supporter, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
 
“There’s nobody who represents me better today than Mitt Romney,” McCain said.
 
Are you listening, governor? That could be the sound of a vice presidential offer coming down the road …

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria. McCain talks at a news conference after visiting the Everglades Safari Park in Miami, Florida, June 6, 2008.

If it’s Tuesday, this must be North Carolina

rtr20881.jpgWINSTON-SALEM -  Republican John McCain had a “where-am-I?” moment Tuesday during a busy day on the campaign trail.

“I appreciate the hospitality of the students and faculty of West Virginia,” McCain told the audience at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
 
The audience laughed and McCain quickly corrected himself before launching in to a speech on judicial appointments.

With hectic campaign schedules that take them from town to town and state to state, the candidates sometimes stumble over where they are.

McCain meets human face of “earmark” spending

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Republican presidential candidate John McCain frequently rails against “earmarks,” the special spending projects that members of Congress procure for thmccainthis.jpgeir home districts, often with little or no oversight. 

But Wednesday he admitted he sometimes admired the results. 

On a visit to an Allentown hospital during a week-long campaign swing featuring health care issues, the Arizona senator met a woman with ovarian cancer who was treated in a $80 million clinical trial program funded by an earmark. 

McCain praised the woman’s treatment and later said some earmarks were clearly worthy.