Tales from the Trail

McConnell sees 2012 presidential race wide open, no Republican heir apparent

Who will lead the Republican Party in the 2012 presidential race?

USA/Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says plenty of Republicans will throw their hat into that ring, especially if Democratic President Barack Obama’s popularity stays on the low side.

What about Sarah Palin? The Tea Party favorite appears to be positioning herself for a possible run — she’s endorsing candidates in this year’s midterm elections and taking on Democrats when there’s an opening.

“I think she’s going to be one of a number of Republican leaders who are going to be looking at the presidential contest after the election,” McConnell said in a Reuters interview. “They’re all viable.”

He wouldn’t name names since he didn’t want to accidentally leave someone out, but he said: “It’s going to be a wide open contest, I don’t think there’s any particular heir apparent.”

McConnell refused to be drawn out specifically on Palin. When asked how valuable she had been for the midterm elections coming up in November, he responded: “They’re all out there making endorsements.”

Washington Extra

The Obama administration admitted today that the economy was facing “strong headwinds” and that government finances were on an unsustainable path. Not a great backdrop as we head into November’s elections, as the White House is only too well aware.

OBAMA-ECONOMY/JOBSBut at least the president is trying to set a good example himself. Yesterday we heard how the Obama family was putting its vacations to work for the good of the economy, visiting the Florida Gulf Coast where tourism has been savaged by the oil spill. Now we learn that the First Daughters are getting lessons in managing their money wisely. Not only do Malia and Sasha have their own savings accounts, but they are nearly ready to start earning money babysitting. While those are valuable lessons for a 12 and nine-year-old girl, I am not sure how the $10 an hour they might earn would cover the costs of their driver and armed guard.

Otherwise, today’s highlights include an analysis of the resurgent fortunes of Sarah Palin and her increasingly influential role in the run up to the November mid-terms. And take a look too at our examination of what might be in store when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveils a stripped down energy bill next week.

Obama may want to cover his eyes, poll numbers not good

A standard public line for presidents is that they don’t make policy based on opinion polls.

But we’re fairly certain no president likes to see his poll numbers drop. Well, President Barack Obama may want to cover his eyes for this one.

OBAMA/The latest Quinnipiac University National Poll found that Obama’s approval rating has dropped to a net low, with 44 percent saying they approve compared with 48 percent who disapprove of how he’s doing his job.

Sarah Palin, the Bard of Wasilla

USA/PALINWashington’s Emma Ashburn had some thoughts today on Sarah Palin’s latest literary stylings:

Sarah Palin: former Alaska governor, ex-vice presidential candidate, bard.

The media-savvy Republican introduced a new term over the weekend, using the word “refudiate” on her Twitter feed at SarahPalinUSA when she opined on plans to build a mosque at the site of the 9/11 attacks in Manhattan. Later, she suggested she wasn’t doing anything William Shakespeare hadn’t done.

Her first tweet on Sunday read:

* Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate

Mixing it up: Race, Tea Party, NAACP, Palin

The NAACP’s resolution calling on leaders of the Tea Party movement to repudiate “racist elements” within its ranks has set off a political firestorm. The civil rights group illustrated its accusations with photographs taken at rallies that show supporters carrying controversial signs criticizing President Barack Obama.

USA/Sarah Palin, a star of the Tea Party movement, responded with a missive on Facebook saying she was saddened by the NAACP’s charge of racism and accused the group of using “the divisive language of the past.”

Critics of the conservative Tea Party movement have questioned whether it is a racist movement, citing the largely white turnout at rallies and some of the signs carried by supporters. Conservatives say the liberals are using a low blow to counter genuine criticism of Obama’s policies.

Is Palin fundraising a path to 2012?

sarah_buttonIs 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin  laying the groundwork for a 2012 presidential run?

Some experts reading the tea leaves, or pages from her fundraising reports, think the answer may lie in the numbers.

The former Alaska governor’s political action committee, Sarah PAC, tells the Federal Election Commission it raised more than $865,000 in the last quarter. About half the money came from small donors, people who gave $200 or less.

Palin seeks to harness power of “Mama Grizzlies”

Sarah Palin is out with a new video today and she clearly is attempting to position herself as the leader of Republican conservative women.

She’s had some success this campaign season, promoting Republican women candidates such as South Carolina’s Nikki Haley and California’s Carly Fiorina who have gone on to win primary votes.

And how she is declaring women conservatives as part of a den of “Mama Grizzlies” eager to stampede Washington in Nov. 2 congressional elections and take on President Obama and his Democrats.

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).

Is time off allowed during a mammoth oil spill crisis? Depends…

BP CEO Tony Hayward takes time off to watch his yacht race in British waters, President Barack Obama goes golfing over the Father’s Day weekend. OIL-SPILL/

Is that acceptable when the BP oil spill, the worst in U.S. history and a huge environmental disaster, is entering a third month in the Gulf of Mexico?

Well, depends on who you talk to.

The White House on Monday made a cutting remark about Hayward’s yacht trip: “Look, if Tony Hayward wants to put a skimmer on that yacht and bring it down to the Gulf, we’d be happy to have his help,” White House spokesman Bill Burton said at the daily media briefing. 

Sarah Palin endorses Carly Fiorina for Senate

PalinFormer vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in California on Thursday, a potentially key endorsement in an election that could hinge in part on the candidates’ conservative and outside-the-beltway credentials.

Fiorina is battling formerU.S. Representative Tom Campbell  and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore in a tight race to challenge Senator Barbara Boxer,  a liberal Democrat who is considered vulnerable in a year when incumbents are proving unpopular with voters. 

Palin  has become an icon of the Republican party’s right wing and Tea Party activists and her endorsement of  Fiorina must be especially painful for DeVore, who had courted members of that movement and paints himself as having the support of true grass-roots conservatives.