Tales from the Trail

Let’s fight…

The overnight news of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s resignation sets up a global battle over who will succeed him in the IMF’s glass-and-steel headquarters in Washington. But, of course, that’s not the only fight in town.

The bipartisan group of budget negotiators now known as the Gang-of-Six-Minus-One is expected to meet today to try to salvage hopes of a budget compromise after a shouting match over Medicare sent Republican Senator Tom Coburn to the exit door.

Medicare is the third-rail political issue that recently had Republicans showing signs of retreating from House Budget Chief Paul Ryan’s Republican reform plan. Critics call it a blueprint for privatizing the federal government’s healthcare program for the elderly.

But all politics is local. And the national Medicare litmus test is likely to take place far from Washington.

A proxy war over Medicare-as-2012-campaign-issue is shaping up around next week’s special congressional election in one of New York’s most conservative districts, where the Ryan plan has given Democrats the chance for an upset.  Conservative groups are pouring tons of money into the contest and veteran Capitol Hill staffers are expected to parachute in soon to help get out the vote.

And the GOP favorite is…

Top establishment Republicans are getting more desperate about the GOP’s current presidential line-up all the time.  Care to guess why?

Newt Gingrich, once among the most prominent voices in the GOP, appears to be on the ropes only a week after declaring his candidacy – and even before his first official campaign trip to the early voting state of Iowa.

He has apologized to House Budget chief Paul Ryan for calling his Medicare plan “right wing social engineering” in a national interview and admitted making “a mistake.”

No Trump in GOP deck

Was it something they said? Or purely a financial calculation for New York’s celebrity real estate magnate?

In any case, Donald Trump disappointed just about anyone hoping his brashness would offer some entertainment in the race for the Republican nomination in 2012: He declared himself off the campaign trail. Well, technically he was never on it.

In the statement notifying his public of the decision not to run for president, Trump was not shy about his prospects if he had decided to throw his hat into the ring.  “I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election.”

Will Obama be a $1 billion man? Democrats say not so fast

A persistent theme of President Barack Obama’s nascent re-election bid has been an expectation that the Democratic incumbent – who amassed a $750 million war chest when he won the White House in 2008 — will break his record this time and become the first candidate to raise $1 billion in campaign funds for 2012. 

The logic behind that figure? One bit of reasoning is that Obama and his then-rival Hillary Clinton together raised far more than $1 billion in 2008, showing there are plenty of Democratic wallets out there waiting to be opened this time.

Democratic Party officials have issued repeated dire warnings about Republicans’ fund-raising prowess, especially in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision that allowed unlimited spending by corporations, labor unions and other groups. Democrats say secret donations allowed under Citizens United helped fuel the Republicans’ huge success in the 2010 mid-terms.

Your credit payment is due now…

CORRECTS POLL NUMBER ON OBAMA’S HANDLING OF ECONOMY

The United States is due to hit its $14.3 trillion debt limit today, and tensions are understandably on the increase with Republicans and Democrats wide apart on the budget deal the GOP wants in exchange for increasing the ceiling.

World markets and America’s economic future could be jeopardized if negotiators still have no deal when the Treasury Department runs out of tricks to stave off default.

But do those fears a crisis make?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggests not. “Rather than thinking of this as a crisis, I think of it as an opportunity to come together and those talks are under way led by the vice president.”

Un-Common culture war over rapper’s visit to White House

The White House is standing by its rapper.

Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., who raps under the name Common, will appear Wednesday night as scheduled at a celebration of American poetry and prose at the White House, despite criticism from Sarah Palin and other conservative political figures about  some of his lines, including a song praising a man convicted for killing a police officer and this 2007 rhyme about former Republican President George W. Bush: “Burn a Bush ’cause for peace he no push no button/Killing over oil and grease/no weapons of destruction.”

The former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate linked to an article on the conservative “Daily Caller” website and tweeted “Oh lovely, White House…”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama does not approve of all of the Grammy-winning rapper’s violent or vulgar lyrics, but believes there is much more to the work of the  ”socially conscious hip-hop artist.”

Reuters/Ipsos poll: Republicans trail Obama

President Barack Obama comes out ahead against the field of potential Republican hopefuls for the 2012 presidential election, with more than a 10-point lead over the closest of the pack — Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

When Obama was pitted against each possible Republican candidate, he scored more than 50 percent. His highest rating came against Donald Trump with 57 percent saying they would vote for Obama versus 30 percent for the New York real estate magnate.

All the Republicans were in the 30-percent range, led by former Arkansas governor Huckabee at 39 percent and former Massachusetts governor Romney at 38 percent, compared with 51 percent who said they would vote for Obama.

Republicans seek more “skin” to tax

When it comes to reaching a deal to reduce the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt, Republicans say they won’t go along with raising taxes — except maybe for the 50 percent of Americans who they say pay no federal income taxes.

Two senior Republicans said this week that those folks on the lower end of the income scale need to have “skin in the game” and should pay their fair share of federal income taxes.

“I would not impose a significant tax on the lower half or certainly not the lower 10 percent,” explained Senator Jon Kyl in a Senate speech. “But I think it’s important for all Americans to know that we all have a stake in this and that more than half of the people can’t just expect the so-called wealthy to bear all of the burdens of government.”

URL mischief crops up on the campaign front

It’s early in the 2012 presidential election campaign, but dirty tricks are alive and well, at least on the Internet.

In the days after President Barack Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden, someone bought a new Internet URL, “GutsyCall.com,” and set it to redirect to Obama’s BarackObama.com campaign re-election website. The reference was to reports that John Brennan, a White House counterterrorism adviser, had characterized Obama’s order to send troops after bin Laden as “one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.”

The connection was seized upon by conservative-leaning media, which portrayed it as an attempt by campaign officials to politicize bin Laden’s death despite their assertions that they did not intend to do so. The problem with that assertion? The campaign and the Democratic National Committee insisted they had nothing to do with the URL and knew nothing about it.

Bipartisanship on the White House menu

At a White House dinner with Senate and House leaders from both parties and their spouses, President Barack Obama got a standing ovation when he mentioned the demise of Osama bin Laden in his welcome.

“Last night, as Americans learned that the United States had carried out an operation that resulted in the capture and death of  Osama bin Laden…” Obama said.

At that point, he was interrupted by the standing ovation.

“We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for and what we can achieve that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics,” Obama continued after the applause subsided.