Tales from the Trail

U.S. Republican Senator Specter in tough race

specter5Republican U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, 79, of Pennsylvania appears to face a tough run next year for reelection to a sixth term.
    
And he can blame his problems largely on his decision last month to break ranks with fellow Republicans and vote for President Barack Obama’s $787 economic stimulus package.
    
Those are the findings of a Quinnipiac University poll of about 1,000 Pennsylvania voters released on Wednesday.
 
The Connecticut-based university found that Specter, viewed as a moderate, trails former conservative congressman Pat Toomey, his likely Republican primary challenger, by a margin of 41 percent to 27 percent. Specter narrowly defeated Toomey in a 2004 primary battle.
 
Another and somewhat smaller poll by Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania was a mixed bag for Specter.
 
While the survey showed Specter leading Toomey 33 percent to 18 percent, it found that 49 percent of respondents were undecided or favored others.
    
That survey of 662 people also found that less than half — 40 percent — believe Specter deserves another term, with 46 percent saying it is “time for a change.”
    
The Quinnipiac survey showed Democrats and independents backed Specter’s support of Obama’s stimulus package. But Republicans opposed it — 70 percent to 25 percent.
 
Both surveys were conducted in recent days and had a margin of error between plus or minus of three to four percentage points.
 
“Pennsylvania Republicans are so unhappy with Sen. Specter’s vote for President Barack Obama’s stimulus package and so-called pork barrel spending that they are voting for a former congressman they hardly know,” said Clay Richards, assistant director of Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
 
Richards added, however, if Specter survives the primary, he would have a lot going for him in the general election since there currently seems to be no strong Democratic contender.
 
But Specter faces other problems.
 
He stepped into a political hornet’s nest on Tuesday when he opposed a bill to make it easier for workers to unionize, a top legislative goal of organized labor but anathema to many in the business community and his own party.
 
So if Specter wins the Republican primary, he can expect to be opposed by energized union supporters in the general election. 
 
Click here for more Reuters political coverage

He’s In…

For everyone wondering whether John McCain would run for re-election to the U.S. Senate after that grueling presidential campaign — wonder no more.

 He’s in.  And he’s asking for help.

The Arizona Republican sent an email to supporters on Tuesday, making clear his intention to defend his Senate seat in 2010.

 ”The magnitude of the financial crisis that many American families are facing makes it clear to me that I want to continue to serve our country in the Senate,” McCain wrote.

U.S. stimulus to cost more than Iraq, Afghan war so far

US/WASHINGTON – Republican critics of the Democratic-backed landmark stimulus package are pointing out that its 800-billion-dollar-plus price tag would — “in one fell swoop,” as Republican Representative Todd Akin put it — consume more resources than have been laid out for two wars, so far.

The Pentagon says the United States has committed $524.6 billion to the nearly six-year-old conflict in Iraq and $120.9 billion to the fighting in Afghanistan since 2001.

“I almost have to pinch myself, gentlemen, to think that just standing here a couple of hours ago, we just voted to spend $800 billion, more than the cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the Republican Akin declared Wednesday after the House of Representatives passed the stimulus without a single Republican vote in favor.

Another Senate Republican calling it quits

WASHINGTON – Kit Bond has become the third U.S. Senate Republican in three months to announce plans to retire, creating another challenge in his party’s effort to gain seats in the Democratic-led chamber. 
The 69-year-old, four-term senator from Missouri disclosed his intentions with a touch of levity in a speech in his state capital of Jefferson City. 
“In 1972, I became Missouri’s youngest governor,” Bond said, according to a transcript. “Ladies and gentlemen, I do not aspire to become Missouri’s oldest senator. 
Bond’s decision to leave the Senate at the end of his current term in 2010 followed earlier such announcements by Mel Martinez of Florida and Sam Brownback of Kansas. 
Each is a blow to Republican efforts to rebound from the poundings they took in the past two elections that saw Democrats gain seats in the Senate and House of Representatives. 
“These retirements put Republicans in the defensive mode at the start of the new (election) cycle,” said Nathan Gonzales of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. “The more open seats there are the more difficult it is to make gains.” 
Incumbents traditionally have a number of advantages against challengers, including name recognition and the ability to raise money. 
While three Senate Republicans plan to retire, four Democrats from last year’s Senate have or intend to step down to join the new administration — beginning with Barack Obama. He recently gave up his seat from Illinois to prepare to move into the White House. 
Joe Biden of Delaware will soon resign from his Senate seat to be sworn in on Jan. 20 as Obama’s vice president. 
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Ken Salazar of Colorado intend to resign once they win anticipated Senate confirmation as Obama’s secretary of state and interior secretary, respectively. 
The governors of New York, Delaware and Colorado are expected to replace Biden, Clinton and Salazar with fellow Democrats. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has named a Democrat to replace Obama. But there’s been a battle over the appointment since Blagojevich has been engulfed by a corruption scandal.

Palin says she was “exploited” by Fey, Couric

USA-POLITICS/FEY

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin says TV doppelganger Tina Fey and CBS News anchor Katie Couric have her to thank for the career boost they are getting.

In fact, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee says, the pair of TV stars exploited her.

Fey, who has an uncanny resemblance to Palin, played a loopy version of the Alaska governor in “Saturday Night Live” skits on NBC during the campaign season.

from FaithWorld:

U.S. ideology stable, “culture trench warfare” ahead?

The U.S. Democratic Party has gained a larger following over the past two decades but America's ideological landscape has remained largely unchanged over the past two decades, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. You can see the analysis here.

What is of interest for readers of this blog may be the implications of this "cultural trench warfare" -- with neither side gaining much ground from the other -- for red-hot social issues such as abortion rights and the future prospects for both the Republicans and the Democrats.

"The Democratic Party's advantage in party identification has widened over the past two decades, but the share of Americans who describe their political views as liberal, conservative or moderate has remained stable during the same period. Only about one-in-five Americans currently call themselves liberal (21 percent), while 38 percent say they are conservative and 36 percent describe themselves as moderate. This is virtually unchanged from recent years; when George W. Bush was first elected president, 18 percent of Americans said they were liberal, 36 percent were conservative and 38 percent considered themselves moderate," the report, released late on Tuesday, says.

McCain says he wants people to ‘get wealthy’

johnmc.jpgGREEN, Ohio – John McCain wants Americans to get rich.

That was the message from the Republican presidential hopeful Wednesday as he focused again on the differences in his tax proposals and those of Democratic rival Barack Obama.

The Arizona senator has hammered Obama in recent days for a philosophy of spreading Americans’ wealth around, articulated by the Illinois senator in a now famous exchange with an Ohio man dubbed Joe the Plumber.

McCain promised at an outdoor rally with an enthusiatic crowd he and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, would not make people or businesses send more money to the federal government.

Maverick family to McCain: No way are you one of us!

PHOENIX – “He’s a maverick.” “He’s the consummate maverick.” “We’re a team of mavericks.” – You’ve all heard it time and again in recent weeks as Republican John McCain and fresh-faced running mate Gov. Sarah Palin slap on the maverick label to differentiate themselves from the GOP herd corralled inside the beltway in Washington.

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But the New York Times reported on Sunday that the real Mavericks – a storied south Texas family with a long tradition in progressive politics – are not too happy about what they say is the misappropriation of their family name.

“I’m just enraged that McCain calls himself a maverick,” the Times reported Terrellita Maverick, 82, saying. The San Antonio resident is the scion of a family which has been outspoken about liberal causes for generations, and has otherwise bucked conventions.

McCain, Palin doing less well with younger evangelicals

DALLAS – Republican presidential contender John McCain still retains strong support from white evangelical Protestants, but the 72-year-old Arizona senator’s appeal fades with younger voters from this flock.

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That is the findings of a survey that was just done for Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

It found that McCain has the support of 71 percent of white evangelical Christians versus 23 percent for his Democratic rival Barack Obama.

Inside the Tent: Ralph Reed

Republican strategist Ralph Reed talks about what John McCain can do to get out the vote among social conservatives — starting with his pick of Sarah Palin as the vice presidential nominee. This video was shot by Inside the Tent contributor John Steward.

Inside the Tent has more than 40 delegates and other attendees in Denver and St. Paul, equipped with video cameras to capture the conventions from the ground up. Steward is not a Reuters employee and any opinions expressed are his own.

Click here for a full list of contributors at the Republican National Convention.