Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Looking for love

Is three a crowd?

Republican candidates wooing voters are hoping for a “Yes” in three nominating contests tonight.

Mitt Romney went looking for votes in Loveland, hoping Colorado will give him an early Valentine.

The walls were lined with stuffed animals including a bobcat and raccoon and the candidate kept ‘em waiting.

Our Steve Holland was on-site and reports the following exchange.

“What are we 15, 20 minutes late?” Romney asked on arrival. “An hour,” a woman shouted back. (Doesn’t sound like much love lost there).

Whoever wins the Missouri “beauty contest” doesn’t get a real commitment because the results are non-binding.

Washington Extra – Slipping away

congress1The Democrats’ chances of retaining control of the House of Representatives are slipping away. Our latest Reuters/Ipsos poll suggests that Republicans are poised to win around 227 seats and Democrats about 208 seats in next month’s election. Unemployment is top of the agenda for voters, and there is no good news coming on that front between now and November 2 (the next reading on the jobless rate doesn’t even come until the Friday after the election). That means there is very little chance that Democrats can pull off a late surge.

Also slipping away is President Barack Obama’s approval rating, to a new low in our poll, with much of the decline coming from his own Democratic supporters. His handling of the economy remains a leading cause of the drop. Again, any hope of energizing the Democratic base now looks slim.

More interesting is the race for control of the Senate. Ipsos says the poll numbers suggest Democrats will win 52 seats to 48 seats for the Republicans, the same margin predicted by the poll of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. But a number of races are still very close.

Washington Extra – A moratorium on moratoriums

It’s official. Moratoriums are out (as are moratoria if you prefer the Latin plural). On the day the White House rejected calls for a nationwide moratorium on home foreclosures, it also lifted its own moratorium on deepwater drilling for oil and gas. Some Democrats, especially those like Harry Reid facing tough election races in November, had been calling for a foreclosure ban. But President Barack Obama, who doesn’t face voters directly for a couple more years, has accepted the longer-term argument that a broad halt to evictions would slow a recovery in the housing market and the economy.

Nevertheless, the scandal over how banks and other companies processed foreclosure documents and the uncertainty surrounding it is going to hang over the market, especially with 40 state attorneys general (many of whom are up for re-election) expected to announce their own investigation into the issue.

Obama, of course, rejected a similar economic argument when he imposed the deepwater drilling ban back in May, this time for the greater environmental good. Now, the White House says it can lift the ban on drilling because stricter rules are in place to prevent a repeat of BP’s massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Again, even without the ban, the drilling business will be slow to bounce back as companies adapt to the new safeguards.

Aide to rival calls California’s Whitman a ‘whore’

USA-ELECTIONS/CALIFORNIAUSA-ELECTIONS/CALIFORNIACalifornia’s personal and unpleasant governor’s race just took another step toward the bottom as a tape emerged in which an aide to Democrat Jerry Brown calls Republican Meg Whitman a “whore” for her attempts to get endorsements from law enforcement.

The Los Angeles Times was given the tape of an answering machine message from Brown to a law enforcement group. Brown apparently didn’t hang up, and so a private conversation was captured on tape. The Times’ blog is here, with the audio tape is at the bottom or here.

The governor’s race is nearly tied — Brown’s taken a small lead recently — and it is nasty, thanks to a fight over Whitman’s hiring of an illegal immigrant housekeeper. Brown, the maverick and former governor running for another try at the top job, says she’s not taking the type of responsibility that she should, given her position that employers should be held accountable for hiring illegal workers. She calls that a lie and says she didn’t know her housekeeper was in the United States illegally until the woman confessed — and Whitman says she’s willing to take a lie detector test.

Washington Extra – Painful choices

When it comes to framing economic policy, it looks increasingly as though Republicans are winning the debate. Not only have they made “stimulus” almost a dirty word but there seems to be a growing feeling that deficit-financed spending is not a great way to pull the economy out of a recession.jobless Forget the conclusions of the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office about how the bailouts and stimulus of 2008 and 2009 saved millions of jobs. Forget the global consensus around the need for coordinated stimulus after the financial crisis. The American public is simply not convinced.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll released today found 57 percent of Americans believe that, when economic times are tough, cutting the deficit is a better way to create jobs than deficit-financed stimulus.

With the U.S. congressional elections just six weeks away, this finding is bad news for President Barack Obama as he struggles to convince people that Republicans drove the economy into a deep ditch and Democrats are hard at work pulling it out.

Washington Extra – Whose party?

As a Brit I never like to write too much about the Tea Party, but today I have no choice.
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Every week that goes by the movement seems to gain more momentum. On Tuesday, our poll showed Democratic heavyweight Harry Reid clinging to a narrow lead in Nevada against Tea Party insurgent Sharron Angle. That night, Republican establishment favorite Michael Castle was knocked off his perch in the Delaware primary by upstart Christine O’Donnell. Today, our Reuters/Ipsos poll shows one of the Tea Party’s most well-known favorites, Marco Rubio, opening a clear lead in the race for a Senate seat from Florida. With just six weeks to go until the elections, Rubio leads state Governor Charlie Crist, now running as an independent, by 40 percent to 26 percent, with Democrat Kendrick Meek trailing behind.

But who is going to benefit?

Republicans are hoping the surge in enthusiasm for a right-wing agenda will get their supporters to the polls, and right now there is a definite “enthusiasm gap” between Republicans and Democrats in terms of their likelihood to vote.

Democrats are still hoping that “Tea Partiers” will simply be too right-wing for voters to accept in many states. The contest in Nevada is a critical one, with Reid hoping he can cling to his slightodonnell lead against Angle, a lead he might not have against a more centrist candidate. More to the point, some Dems could scarcely contain their glee this morning after O’Donnell’s victory, calling her an “ultra right-wing extremist” who will be rejected by Delaware voters, and arguing they might now just keep control of the Senate as a result.

Washington Extra – Foot in mouth

alan_simpsonSuggestion of the day. Encourage top officials to undertake some basic training in what to say and write in public. Specifically, try and avoid insulting and tactless remarks in print, on camera, in public or in front of journalists.

Alan Simpson, the Republican co-chairman of the president’s deficit commission, has a reputation for blunt speaking, but obviously was not paying much attention when Gen. Stanley McChrystal lost his job earlier this year. Simpson has already apologized for his email, to the executive director of the Older Women’s League, in which he compared the handing out of government retirement benefits to “milking a cow with 310 million tits.”

“When I make a mistake,” Simpson said, “it’s a doozy.” Which at least got me consulting the online dictionary. Nevertheless, there have already been calls for him to fall on his sword.

Reuters/Ipsos poll on Colorado races: Democrat Hickenlooper, Republican Buck leading

A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Colorado races shows a mixed picture for Democrats and Republicans ahead of the November election, reflecting the mountain state’s status as a hard-fought battleground where neither party holds a clear advantage.

Democrat John Hickenlooper has a substantial lead in the Colorado governor’s race in which a third-party candidate is splitting the Republican vote, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll. USA-POLITICS/

But the Democrat in Colorado’s Senate race, incumbent Michael Bennet, trails Republican challenger Ken Buck 40-49 percent, the poll found.

Washington Extra – Tragedy in Alaska

ted_stevensThere were three big stories competing for our attention in Washington today. The first was the tragic death of former Senator Ted Stevens in a small plane crash in his home state of Alaska. Stevens, the longest serving Republican senator ever, was on a fishing trip with Sean O’Keefe, the North American chief of European aerospace giant and Airbus maker EADS, who was among the survivors.

Dominating eyeballs in the financial markets was the Federal Reserve’s surprise decision to move back in the direction of what it calls “quantitative easing.” The Fed will use cash from maturing mortgage bonds it holds to buy more government debt. So for now, there is no more talk of an “exit strategy” from the extraordinary monetary stimulus the central bank delivered during the financial crisis. It is a significant policy shift for the Fed, and a sign it does not view the recent slowing in the economy as simply a soft patch.

The third is our exclusive Reuters/IPSOS poll from Ohio, which showed Republican Rob Portman holding a narrow lead over Democrat Lee Fisher in a race marked by, guess what, concerns over the economy and unemployment. Interesting nuggets in the survey too about who voters blame for the economic mess. Bankers and Wall Street were identified by 93 percent of voters as mostly or partially to blame for the economic downturn, while Bush’s administration was blamed by 86 percent. Obama, though, did not get off scot-free, with 69 percent of voters also holding his administration at fault.

Washington Extra

The special relationship has been upgraded. It is now “extraordinary”, “truly special” and “absolutely essential”.
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President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, both repeatedly calling each other by their first names, were at pains today to demonstrate the warmth of ties between their two nations, despite an embarrassing row about BP, the oil spill and Lockerbie.

Joking about the temperature beer should be served and the tidiness of their children’s bedrooms, the two men, both left-handers we now realize, clearly wanted to show they enjoyed a personal rapport. A deliberate contrast to the businesslike tone of the relationship with Gordon Brown?