Tales from the Trail

Inside the Tent: Rally for the Republic

Former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul drew thousands of supporters to his “Rally for the Republic” event this week in Minneapolis,  across the river from the mainstream Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Jennifer Riley from North Dakota, who attended the rally and the Republican convention, talks about the differences between the two gatherings, and the emerging struggle between the “classic conservatives” and “neo-conservatives.” This video was shot by Inside the Tent contributor Ginny Saville, who is a Ron Paul supporter.

Reuters Inside the Tent equipped more than 40 delegates and other attendees in St. Paul and the Democratic National Convention last week in Denver with video cameras to capture the conventions from the ground up. Saville is not an employee of Reuters, and any views expressed are her own.

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McCain: ending offshore drilling ban eased oil price

ASPEN, Colo. – Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain said on Thursday the recent sharp fall in the price of oil had been helped by the end of the U.S. federal offshore drilling moratorium.

“I think several factors have contributed to the recent drop in the price of a barrel of oil. I think the practice of conservation and the reduction in our demand has probably been a major factor,” he told the Aspen Institute.

“I also don’t think it was entirely accidental that the day that the president announced lifting the federal moratorium on offshore drilling, the price of a barrel of oil dropped.”

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.
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)

Attacks give McCain a taste of celebrity: Now he’s back for more

John McCain got his own taste of celebrity last week and evidently liked it — he’s back with a new ad ridiculing Barack Obama‘s fame. rtr20efd.jpg

The Republican candidate got a huge boost from accusing Obama of being a big celebrity like Paris Hilton and acting like some sort of political messiah.
Until his spate of negative attacks, McCain had been languishing ignored by the media while Obama triumphantly toured the world.
But last week McCain nearly tied Obama in the battle for media coverage — the first time that has happened since the start of the general election, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
So the Arizona senator is returning ahead of Obama’s weeklong vacation in Hawaii with another advertisement ridiculing his fame. It also paints him as a big-tax Democrat.
“Life in the spotlight must be grand,” an announcer says as a camera pans over images of a smiling Obama on the covers of GQ, Vanity Fair and other magazines.
“But for the rest of us, times are tough,” the announcer says. “Obama voted to raise taxes on people making just $42,000. He promises more taxes. On small business. On seniors. Your life savings. Your family.”
“Painful taxes. Hard choices for your budget. Not ready to lead. That’s the real Obama.”
Scary stuff, but…
A study in mid-July by the Tax Policy Center — a venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution — found that Obama’s tax proposals would lift the after-tax income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans by 5.5 percent.
McCain’s plans would provide the poor with “virtually no benefit,” it said.
Nearly everyone else does better under Obama’s tax proposals as well.

Only the top 20 percent of U.S. wage earners would do better under McCain than Obama. The richest Americans would see after-tax income rise by 5.9 percent under McCain’s plans, while under Obama their after-tax income would drop by 2.8 percent, the study found.Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

McCain gets taste of freedom at biker convention

john-m.jpgSTURGIS, S.D. – Republican presidential candidate John McCain attempted to harness a powerful engine of heartland conservatism on Monday — addressing a giant rally of motorcycle enthusiasts.

Hundreds of thousands of people converge on the remote town of Sturgis, South Dakota, each year for a week-long festival of rock music, wild, good times and American biker culture.

“I recognize that sound,” McCain said as dozens of bikers revved their engines as he walked on stage in a sustained growl of approval. “It’s the sound of freedom.”

Country star John Rich performs for McCain

military.jpgPANAMA CITY, Florida – Republican presidential candidate John McCain, whose musical tastes are known to include the disco band Abba, took in some country music on Friday — courtesy of Nashville star John Rich.
Rich, half of the star duo “Big and Rich,” staged a waterside concert for McCain in the Florida Panhandle, a traditional Republican part of the battleground state.
McCain’s rallies earlier this year included the tune, Johnny B. Goode, and once he got tired of that, Abba’s 1977 hit “Take a Chance on Me” was his song of choice. 
Music at his events are now an eclectic mix from the Rolling Stones to Tina Turner and Brooks and Dunn.
Rich, in between songs, declared himself a west Texas conservative who gets frustrated when he turns on the television because “I always see the other side” of the political spectrum represented.
So, he said, he wrote a song called “Raising McCain,” which he performed.
“We’re all just raising McCain,” he sang. “You can get on the train, or get out of the way, we’re all just raising McCain.”
At that point, McCain pulled up in his Straight Talk Express bus with his wife, Cindy, and Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and his fiance.
Noting the military veterans in the crowd, McCain said: “We will not surrender, not in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.” 
Rich’s musical partner, Big Kenny Alphin, was not at the Country First concert, and is reported to have given money to the campaign of Democrat Barack Obama.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain speaks July 21 outside Maine Military Museum in South Portland)

McCain says he’s opposed to raising taxes

comics.jpgKANSAS CITY, Missouri – Republican presidential candidate John McCain is tangling with taxes again.
The Arizona senator found himself in hot water with conservatives after telling ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday that “nothing is off the table” in trying to protect the Social Security benefits system for seniors.
At a town hall meeting in Aurora, Colorado, McCain said: “I want to look you in the eye: I will not raise your taxes nor support a tax increase. I will not do it.”
He added, “I am opposed to raising taxes on Social Security. I want to fix the system without raising taxes.”
That statement earned the praise of the conservative Club for Growth organization in Washington, whose president, Pat Toomey, called it “exactly what the country needed to hear.”
McCain, at a fundraising event for his campaign, returned to the subject. “I am opposed to raising taxes. I am opposed to raising taxes,” he said.
“And any negotiation that I might have when I go in, my position will be that I’m opposed to raising taxes. But we have to work together to save Social Security.”
“This young man standing right in front — Social Security beneifts won’t be there for him when he retires. Is this right for us to lay off to the next generation of Americans a burden that we imposed on them? No. And it’s not America, it is not America,” he said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Mike Blake (covers of McCain and Obama biographies at ComicCon covention in San Diego)

As Obama heads to Germany, Republicans appeal to U.S. Berliners

WASHINGTON – With Democrat Barack Obama trying to look presidential abroad and soon to face friendly crowds in the German capital, the Republican National Committee has decided to strike back by appealing to Berliners closer to home.
The party will air radio advertisements Thursday in Berlin, Pa., Berlin, Wis., and Berlin, N.H., bashing Obama’s voting record on defense issues, accusing him of choosing “Washington politics over the needs of our military.”
“Obama said that nobody wanted to play chicken with our troops on the ground,” an announcer intones. “But when it came time to act, he voted against critical resources: no to individual body armor, no to helicopters, no to ammunition, no to aircraft.”

The ad is a rehash of claims made in a television spot being aired by Obama’s rival Republican presidential candidate John McCain. FactCheck.org, in reviewing those claims, said the statements “are literally true but paint an incomplete picture.”
It is true Obama voted against a war-funding bill last year after President George W. Bush initially vetoed a version that contained a date for withdrawal from Iraq, the independent monitoring group said. Before that, Obama had cast at least 10 votes for war-funding bills, it said.

Obama’s campaign dismissed the ad as “distasteful and misleading.”
The RNC attacks are unlikely to dampen enthusiasm for Obama when he arrives Thursday in Berlin, Germany. A recent poll by the Bild newspaper found 72 percent of Germans would vote for Obama over McCain if they had a vote in U.S. elections.
Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a Bush friend who expressed displeasure over electioneering ahead of Obama’s visit, professed herself an admirer, telling reporters she thought the Democratic presidential candidate was “well-equipped — physically, mentally and politically.” 

Gingrich: Obama is ‘far left’ with the right smile

 INDIANAPOLIS – Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich says Barack Obama remains the best bet to become the Democratic presidential nominee and would be a formidable opponent for Republican John McCain.

Speaking to the French Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, Gingrich said McCain had benefited from Obama’s recent difficulties, including controversial comments by the Illinois senator’s longtime pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. 

“But Obama remains a formidable opponent. He is also the most probable Democrat nominee, even if he is not as untouchable as he was before,” said Gingrich, who led his party’s takeover of the House of Representatives in what was known as the Republican Revolution of 1994.

McCain’s Veep? The clear favorite is … nobody

WASHINGTON — Speculation about who would make a good vice presidential running mate for Republican John McCain ranges all the way from party also-rans Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney to Democrat Bill Richardson. But a new Gallup survey shows the largest bloc of rank-and-file Republicans — 31 percent — are those who cannot name a candidate for the job.

mccainflagThe next biggest group, 21 percent, prefer the choice marked “other.”

Huckabee and Romney, who were both defeated by McCain in the Republican presidential primary race, led the pack of named choices with 18 percent and 15 percent, respectively, in the telephone survey conducted March 24-27.