Tales from the Trail

RNC posts 2004 video of Obama calling the deficit under Bush “an enormous problem”

As Republicans this week extend their attacks on President Obama for the increasing federal debt, the RNC’s “rapid response” team has dredged up old video of then-Senate candidate Obama elaborating his views about the federal deficit during a 2004 debate.

In the course of his response to a moderator’s question about the “monstrous federal deficit,” Obama says it’s “an enormous problem” brought about by the Bush White House, which he calls “the most fiscally irresponsible administration in certainly my memory.”

“We have gone from trillion-dollar surpluses to trillion-dollar deficits in the blink of an eye,” Obama said. “Not all of those costs are the fault of the administration — obviously, 9/11 occurred and the decline in the economy. But what is also true is that it was aided and abetted by a set of fiscal policies that I think were on the wrong course.”

Watch, via the RNC (and h/t Buzzfeed):

Man of Steele seems to have avoided kryptonite for now

After a weekend of some prominent Republicans calling for his resignation — Liz Cheney among them — and a round of phone calls trying to explain himself, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele appears likely to hold onto his job through the election. USA-POLITICS/REPUBLICANS

Washington Whispers has a look at how Steele’s gaffe on Afghanistan does not affect Republican fundraising, which is obviously key to the November elections when Republicans are hoping to gain seats and possibly control of Congress from President Barack Obama’s Democrats.

After the election will be quite another story for the RNC chairman, with Republicans probably looking to replace Steele. Hotline has a piece on possible candidates in the next go-around. (Sarah Palin is not considered to be a serious contender).

Republican party chief says he’s staying put despite spending furor

Under fire for the Republican National Committee’s  free-wheeling spending on posh hotels, private jets and a party at a Los Angeles nightclub, committee Chairman Michael Steele said Monday he will not resign despite the controversy.

“No,” he said flatly on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked whether he would step down. It was his first television interview since the controversial spending came to light. “When I first heard about this behavior going on, I was very angry and we dealt with it.”

Steele has been excoriated over the last week, including by some members of his own party, for spending that included $2,000 at a sex-themed nightclub as well as tens of thousands of dollars spent on luxury hotels, private  planes and limousines in the month of February.

Steele’s abortion comments anger fellow Republicans

Michael Steele has gone and put his foot in his mouth again. USA-POLITICS/REPUBLICANS

In an interview with GQ magazine, the Republican National Committee chairman described abortion as an “individual choice” and said individual states should decide its legality.

Those comments, predictably, have drawn a sharp rebuke from other Republican leaders who say he should stick to the party’s core position that abortion should be outlawed nationwide.

“Chairman Steele, as the leader of America’s pro-life conservative party, needs to re-read the Bible, the U.S. Constitution, and the 2008 GOP Platform. He then needs to get to work — or get out of the way,” said former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a former rival for the RNC job.

Bush gives Republicans a little pep talk ahead of election

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush dropped by the Republican National Committee headquarters unannounced to give the staff a little pep talk Tuesday amid polls showing Republicans trailing in the presidential contest and scores of key congressional races one week out from the general election.

Bush, with record low popularity ratings, has largely been unseen on the campaign trail this year, relegated to participating in private fundraisers for Republican presidential hopeful John McCain and congressional candidates.

“He encouraged them to work hard for John McCain and keep turning out the vote until the final ballot is cast next week,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said after the 20-minute visit.  “He also took the opportunity to thank the staff for all of their efforts during this election cycle and for their support of him over the last eight years.”

Who needs foreign tourists? Luxury chains have Palin!

palin11.jpgAlaska Gov. and hockey mom Sarah Palin, who’s not only John McCain’s vice presidential pick, but a luxury fashion maverick.

The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 since late August to outfit Palin and her family in the fanciest of duds from department stores like Saks and Neiman Marcus, says politico.com.

The financial disclosure records, included under the line item “itemized coordinated expenditures,” show RNC expenditures at Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York of $49,425.74 in September. Based on Saks’  September comparable-store sales of $273.2 million,  Palin accounted for .018 percent of sales.

Game On: Republican convention ends, tell us your thoughts…

rtx8f6n.jpgThe Republican convention is over, a whirlwind event interrupted by a hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast and energized by the pick of a woman vice presidential candidate. And with it comes the home stretch of the (seemingly interminable) 2008 presidential election.

Did presidential hopeful John McCain finally win over the conservative base by picking the conservative Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his No. 2? Does he run the risk of alienating the independents drawn to him in the past with her selection? Did he lay out enough policy specifics to refute charges by rival Democratic candidate Barack Obama that details were lacking?

What else do voters want and need to hear now that the conventions are over?  Game on, bring on the debates!

Why does Sarah Palin’s biopic sound so familiar?

ST. PAUL – “Mother. Moose hunter. Maverick.” As a film on vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin began at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night, a strangely familiar melody played in the background.

The swelling strings triggered associations of family, oil and … J.R. Ewing? Yes, the song bore a striking similarity to the theme song from “Dallas.”

Listen for yourself:

Sarah Palin bio (from about 0:35) YouTube Preview Image

Dallas opening credits (from about 0:10) YouTube Preview Image

Inside the Tent: On the verge of violent protests

Sarah Miller of Eagan, Minnesota, a single mom and college student, talks about goals of protesters at the Republican National Convention, and the likelihood of further violence as the convention draws to a close.

After this video was filmed on Thursday afternoon, several hundred anti-war protestors had hoped to march to the convention hall to confront Republicans, but were blocked by police clad in riot gear on a bridge several blocks away.

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.

Inside the Tent: Twin Cities residents on protests and security

The Twin Cities have been the scene of sometimes violent protests and a heavy security presence during the Republican National Convention. Kelly Nuxoll of Huffington Post’s Off the Bus talked to two residents about what they think and how they’ve been affected.

Jonathan Hunter, St. Paul

“This is not the world I live in.”

Rick Engman, Minneapolis

“I don’t mind a non-violent protest,  but when people start threatening other people’s freedom of speech like the Republican National Convention’s meeting … then there’s a problem.”

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. Nuxoll is not a Reuters employee and any opinions expressed are her own.