Tales from the Trail

Gingrich offers “dream team” to supporters

For a $100 donation, this free poster of Newt Gingrich and his conservative “Dream Team” can be yours.

The poster — featuring the Republican presidential candidate flanked by endorsers of his White House bid  — was offered to supporters Tuesday in a new fundraising appeal.

The Dream Team photo was unveiled at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington last week. The Gingrich campaign said it was hit, and now conservatives across the  country are clamoring for a copy of their own.

We wondered whether the Gingrich folks were inspired by the reported success of rival Rick Santorum’s sweater vest campaign.  But there was no immediate response to an email inquiry about the initial poster offering.

By its own account, the Santorum campaign’s  “thank you” gift to small donors — supporters without SuperPAC money — has been a hit too.

Not all smooth sailing for Romney in Maine

Republican Mitt Romney found it was not all smooth sailing in Maine on Friday night when he was heckled repeatedly at a town hall meeting in Portland at a marine storage and repair facility.

Romney jetted in from Washington to fire up his base a day before the Maine Republican Party announces the results of a week-long caucusing process. But the well-attended meeting wasn’t without some unexpected drama that showed the candidate’s testy side.

The event’s second question centered on “stashing your money away in Cayman Islands,” based on investment strategies revealed when Romney recently released his 2010 tax returns. “ First of all, first of all, I’ll have to take a look at what the trustee says,” Romney said, adding that his fortune — estimated to be as high as $250 million — has been managed in a blind trust for ten years.

Maybe it’s better not to get that big endorsement

One staple of the U.S. political scene is the quest for endorsements, and Republican front-runner Mitt Romney seems to be leading in the race for support from the GOP establishment.

He picked up the support of Arizona Senator John McCain, who was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, who also was a member of the U.S. presidential field until August.

He may not be part of the party “establishment,” but Romney even got the backing of a high-profile party figure — albeit one who declared himself an independent in December — reality television star and real estate mogul Donald Trump, who called the former Massachusetts governor “tough, sharp and smart.”

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.

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.

Ron Paul meets mayhem at morning campaign stop

Tensions were high at Ron Paul’s first campaign stop in Manchester, New Hampshire, today, a day before the state votes in its first-in-the-nation Republican primary. At a breakfast visit to Moe Joe’s Family Restaurant, few actual primary voters were in attendance. Instead, the restaurant was packed with a group of a hundred high school students from Franklin, Massachusetts (hometown of U.S. Sen. Scott Brown), out-of-state activists from the nonpartisan Americans Elect, more than a hundred journalists, fringe candidate Vermin Supreme, and a convertible with two people in pig costumes promoting the website www.taxmeat.com.

It proved a combustible mix for a tiny space. Prior to Paul’s arrival, a teacher from the Massachusetts high school dressed down about four dozen journalists as if they’d been caught shooting spitballs or smoking in the bathroom. “You’re going to ruin it for all these kids,” he shouted.

Television cameras on tripods and reporters standing in front of his breakfasting students would spoil their view of the Texas congressman when he arrived, the teacher said. He threatened to pack the kids back on their two buses and leave if the reporters didn’t heed his plea.

162 New Hampshire visits later, Huntsman hopes for late surge

Jon Huntsman Jr. has dedicated his entire campaign to doing well in New Hampshire. That’s meant multiple visits to small places like the northern town of Littleton, pop. 6,000, where Huntsman appeared for a photo opportunity at the local diner.

Unfortunately for Huntsman there were only four people (reporters aside) at the restaurant when he arrived — and none of them knew he was coming. One couple waved off his approach, saying, “We’re from Vermont.”

The second couple, John and Arlyne Kimball, had attended a Huntsman event earlier in the campaign in the nearby town of Whitefield and were annoyed that Huntsman had interrupted Arlyne in the midst of a question there about the Federal Reserve.

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.

Paul trumpets small-town newspaper endorsements in N.H.

In a tight campaign, even the smallest bit of good news counts. Ron Paul’s campaign is claiming three recent newspaper endorsements in New Hampshire’s scarcely populated “north country.” A local newspaper chain that owns weeklies in Littleton (pop. 6,000), Lancaster (pop. 3,300) and Berlin (pop. 9,300) decided to back the Texan following his third place finish in Iowa.

“[Paul's] prediction that the United States can no longer afford the economic cost of our overseas commitments makes many Republicans uncomfortable, possibly by the very truth of the assertion,” the editors of the Salmon Press wrote.

“Powerful leaders like Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan change the political landscape,” the editors concluded. “This is what Ron Paul would do for our country and why we support him.”

Bachmann’s former Iowa chair denies taking money from Paul

Michele Bachmann didn’t want this to be the dominant story about her campaign less than a week out from the Iowa caucuses. After Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson, Bachmann’s Iowa campaign chairman, resigned and switched his allegiance to Ron Paul, Bachmann accused Sorenson of selling out for money. She told reporters:

I had a conversation with Kent Sorenson, and in the direct conversation that I had with him, he told me that he was offered money, he was offered a lot of money by the Ron Paul campaign to go and associate with the Ron Paul campaign. No one else knows about that conversation other than Kent Sorenson and myself.

Sorenson responded in an interview with CNN:

That conversation never happened. As much respect as I have for Michele, the fact of the matter is it just didn’t happen and I think it’s unfortunate they’re resorting to these type of tactics.