Tales from the Trail

Ron Paul is all action

Republican some-time folk hero Ron Paul has been mostly missing in action in Florida, a winner-take-all primary state that votes next Tuesday. Currently pulling down only about 10 percent support in the Sunshine State, the Texas Congressman has opted to seek out more fruitful pastures in his quest to assemble delegates for the 2012 convention. Paul’s yard sign elves remain busy, though, and Paulite insurgents have shown up at a number of other events, sometimes jostling with supporters of, for example, Rick Santorum.

But fear not, fans in Florida or elsewhere. A new, virtual version is only a few clicks away, thanks to the pro-Paul RevolutionPAC.

Two talking action figures — the “Commander in Chief” Paul and the “Super Hero” Paul — are now available at ronpaulactionfigures.com. They don’t come cheap, at $94.95 plus shipping and handling. The “Super Hero” version, in standard super-hero bodysuit ensemble with white cape (or is it really an obstetrician’s coat?), is 12 inches tall, speaks a message when a button is pushed, has moveable limbs, and comes equipped with a mini U.S. Constitution. All proceeds go to support efforts to elect Ron Paul, although the figurines are not endorsed by the candidate.

The sunshine and warm temperatures make Florida a perfect place for a late-January political campaign. Especially for reporters. But in keeping with Paul’s unorthodox style, where better to spend the next few days than…Maine?

Ron Paul will make six stops in the Pine Tree State Friday and Saturday, kicking his campaign off in Bangor, where the forecast is for freezing rain in the morning, changing to rain, with significant icing possible and a winter weather advisory in place. A world away from, say, Orlando, Florida, currently reporting in at 81 degrees and sunny. Perhaps the candidate needs to pick up some gear at the L. L. Bean flagship store…

Presidential candidates take on Castro in Florida

Republican White House contenders took the race to win their party’s nomination to Florida this week, where they tried to outdo each other on topics important to Floridians–including what to do about Cuba, the small, Communist, Spanish-speaking island that has long frustrated U.S. foreign policy.

In a debate on Monday in Tampa, the candidates took turns lambasting Castro and current U.S policy toward Cuba, striving to curry favor with conservative Cuban Americans who make up the majority of Florida’s 400,000-some Hispanic Republican voters.

Florida votes next in a primary race that has already had three different winners and is home to the country’s largest Cuban-American community–many of them former refugees who escaped the communist dictatorship under Fidel Castro. A 2011 poll by the University of Florida showed that 80 percent of Cuban Americans believe a decades-long U.S. trade embargo on the country has been ineffective.

Santorum staffer questions whether God wants women presidents

A staffer in Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign is under fire for an email suggesting a female commander-in-chief could be at odds with the Bible’s teachings.

The Des Moines Register last week reported that Santorum’s Iowa coalitions director, Jamie Johnson, sent an email over the summer asking, ‘Is it God’s highest desire, that is, his biblically expressed will … to have a woman rule the institutions of the family, the church, and the state?”

Michele Bachmann, a social conservative who campaigned heavily in Iowa, competed with Santorum over the conservative evangelical vote in the Iowa caucuses. She dropped out of the race after a dismal finish in the Iowa race.

Santorum’s blinking problem

Insurgent Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum might have a blinking problem, according to an analysis by a research associate at the University of Minnesota.

Eric Ostermeier, a political scientist who writes the non-partisan Smart Politics blog, said that Santorum blinked at more than twice the rate of the rest of the Republican field during Saturday night’s ABC News presidential debate in Manchester.

’While research may not be settled regarding whether people who lie blink more often than those who tell the truth, potential voters are no doubt more at ease with a candidate who looks them straight in the eyes and does not pepper their speech with repetitive non-verbal tics,” Ostermeier wrote.

RuPaul to Republicans — don’t be a drag

Drag queen RuPaul crashed New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary scene on Saturday to clear up a possible case of mistaken identity for voters who might not have been paying close attention.

Most would not mistake the notorious celebrity — singer, actor, reality TV star and the first drag queen supermodel — for Ron Paul, the crusty, 76-year-old Congressman and former obstetrician. But just in case…

“I am NOT Ron Paul, and I’m not running for President!” RuPaul exclaimed during a high-energy visit to the tiny Red Arrow Diner in downtown Manchester, which has hosted more than its fair share of celebrities and political luminaries. A large number of local gays and lesbians, as well as adoring fans of all stripes, came out for the occasion.

Santorum sees “harm” to children with same-sex parents

A Rick Santorum town hall meeting in New Hampshire turned heated on Thursday when the conservative candidate was asked to explain why he, personally, would be affected if same-sex marriages were legalized, and how his opposition squared with his long riff about the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The meeting ended with Santorum getting booed by much of the crowd in Concord, which included many college and high-school students, after suggesting that children raised by same-sex parents are being “harmed.”

“How does it affect you personally if two men or two women get married?” Santorum was asked at the College Convention 2012, to broad applause and cheers.

Santorum momentum doesn’t transfer to New Hampshire

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has seen his star rise in Iowa, where polls show him moving into third place behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. But in New Hampshire he’s still mired in the fourth tier of Republican candidates. Two new polls out today show Romney with a wide lead in the Granite State and Ron Paul running second with Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich tied for fourth.

Santorum is buried at 3 percent in one of the polls, by Suffolk University, and at 4 percent in the second, by Magellan Strategies–about even with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Still, Santorum is making a push in the state with a release today claiming he has 23 endorsements from New Hampshire state legislators and the announcement yesterday that he would buy television time for a new ad making the case that he is the Republican most likely to defeat President Obama in the general election.

Ignoring polls, Santorum says he’s best GOP chance to beat Obama

You have to give him points for chutzpah. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has spent most of the GOP primary positioning himself as the candidate of the GOP’s conservative evangelical wing. With polls showing him running as high as third in Iowa, Santorum is out with a new ad in New Hampshire and Iowa making the case that he can win swing voters and is the Republicans’ best bet to win the general election.

Here’s the narrative:

Who has the best chance to beat Obama? Rick Santorum. A full spectrum conservative, Rick Santorum is rock solid on values issues. A favorite of the tea party for fighting corruption and taxpayer abuse. More foreign policy credentials than any candidate. And Rick’s ‘Made in the USA’ jobs plan will make America an economic superpower again. Rick Santorum, a trusted conservative who gives us the best chance to take back America.

Santorum has spent most of the campaign so far back in the pack pollsters have rarely surveyed him in head-to-head match-ups with the president. In fact there have been just three polls since July measuring how Santorum would fair against Obama. All three are by the Republican firm Rasmussen Reports and all three show Obama ahead by 10 points or more. Overall, polling has generally shown that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman Jr. and Ron Paul would all fare better against Obama in a head-to-head match-up.

Roemer camp pressures networks, pollsters in search of “Roementum”

Former Louisiana governor and Republican presidential hopeful Buddy Roemer is turning up the heat on his opponents: polling companies and national television networks. Roemer, who was in Congress longer than Michele Bachmann and was a governor for as long as Mitt Romney, has yet to be invited to a single Republican debate. That’s because the national television networks determine who gets invited to their debates based on a shifting set of polling criteria, and they have yet to

Perry attacks more conservative rivals, ignores Romney

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s latest ads don’t even bother attacking Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney. With polls showing him in fifth place among Republicans in Iowa and seventh in New Hampshire, Perry’s aim is now to emerge as one of the top two conservative options to Romney.

To get there, he needs to knock off some of the other candidates polling immediately in front of him — which is why his latest TV ad in Iowa attacks Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and ex-Sen. Rick Santorum, but doesn’t mention Romney.

“The fox guarding the hen house is like asking a congressman to fix Washington,” the ad’s narrator says. “Bad idea. Their years in Congress left us with debt and bailouts.”