Tales from the Trail

Republican “blank page” challenges Obama

OBAMA/The next U.S. presidential election is more than 2-1/2 years away. But pollsters are already asking how President Barack Obama would stack up against a Republican challenger.

The results are favorable. But for whom? No one can say.

Obama is in a statistical dead heat against an unnamed Republican candidate, leading the challenger 44 percent to 42 percent, according to a Gallup poll with a 4-percentage-point margin of error. Gallup surveyed 1,025 adults Feb. 1-3.

Media pundits are divided about what the findings mean, or don’t mean.

Some say the data are meaningless except as a gauge of 2010 voter anger toward Washington and incumbents generally.

OBAMA/Others argue that the poll is good news for Obama if it means angry voters would give him the edge over an ideal Republican candidate.

Donny Deutsch, an advertising expert and TV personality who worked for the 1992 Clinton/Gore presidential campaign, says the numbers could spell opportunity for a Scott Brown-style political newcomer  in 2012.

A film classic ripe for a Washington-style update?

USA/It’s Oscar nomination day, which means some in snow-covered Washington DC — Hollywood for ugly people, if you believe the old saying — are daydreaming about what it would be like to make a blockbuster film. “Avatar” seems to have the inside track in this year’s Academy Award race, but isn’t there an old classic movie ripe for a Washington-style remake?

USA-POLITICS/BROWNHow about “Meet John Doe”? It’s a Frank Capra morality piece made in 1941, where a soda jerk can speak basic truth and a rail-riding hobo is played by Gary Cooper, the George Clooney of his day. Everybody’s scrounging for a job and a buck, they’re laying off the old pros at the local newspaper and a cigar-chomping oil magnate wants to get into politics. Barbara Stanwyck plays a hard-driving columnist who fakes a letter from a mythical “John Doe” who says he’s going to leap off the city hall roof on Christmas Eve to protest widespread corruption and the state of the world in general.

USA/But that’s all background. What makes it made-to-order for a 2010 remake is what happens when Gary Cooper a.k.a. “John Doe” speaks to a big gathering, reading remarks written by the columnist, who’s now in cahoots with the oil magnate: the crowd loves him so much they go out and form grassroots John Doe Clubs, just to be neighborly. No politicians allowed. They’re not partisan, they just want to make things a little better.

Tea Party ‘warriors’ take aim at Florida Senate race

TEA PARTYConservative Tea Party activists had loads of fun in Boston last month helping Scott Brown chuck Teddy Kennedy’s forever-Democratic Senate seat into Republican waters.

Now the painted warriors hope to stage a reenactment of Florida’s Dade Massacre, with Republican Gov. Charlie Crist playing the ill-fated Maj. Dade.

A new Rasmussen Reports poll shows Crist 12 percentage points behind former state House Speaker and Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio in Florida’s Republican primary contest for the U.S. Senate. Rubio leads Crist 49 percent to 37 percent.

Now a U.S. senator, Scott Brown is ready to take on Obama

USA-POLITICS/MASSACHUSETTSFresh from a stunning election victory that shook the confidence of the national Democratic Party, Scott Brown says he’s ready for a showdown with President Barack Obama — on the basketball court.
    
Brown, known only a few weeks ago as a dude with a truck, says he challenged Obama to hoops when the two spoke by telephone on the night the Massachusetts Republican won Teddy Kennedy’s dyed-in-the-wool-Democratic-blue seat in the U.S. Senate.
    
“The only time I spoke to him was election night and I did challenge him to pick his best, and I’ll take my daughter Ayla who plays for Boston College, and we’d challenge him to a little 2-on-2. I think we’d have the upper hand,” Brown said in an interview with TV comedian Jay Leno. TELEVISION-LENO/
    
“He looks like he’s in great shape. It’d certainly be a tough game,” he said.
    
Brown didn’t mention how the president responded.
    
Obama, a hard-core hoophead, has shot baskets on the campaign trail, with U.S. troops in the field and with kids on the South Lawn of the White House. At 48, he would have a two-year advantage over the 50-year-old Brown. But as Sports Illustrated magazine notes, the president can’t dunk and doesn’t have a hoopster nickname. 
    
USA-OBAMA/Brown does have a nickname. At Tufts University, he was known as “Downtown Scotty Brown,” possibly for his long-distance jumpshots.  And that’s not all. In a given week, Brown told Leno, he swims close to 2 miles, bikes about 95 and runs 15 or 20 miles. 

If Obama’s really looking for ways to reach out to Republicans, a friendly game of basketball might make a nice change from all the ankle-tripping, elbow-jabbing, floorboard-thumping contests on Capitol Hill. 

Photo Credits: Reuters/Brian Snyder (Brown Victory); Reuters/Mario Anzuoni (Leno); Reuters/Jim Young (Obama and Young Hoopster)

Most Americans want Republican input on healthcare – poll

Most Americans want President Obama and the Democrats to jettison the healthcare bill they almost got together before USA-HEALTHCARE/WELLNESSthis week’s political earthquake in Massachusetts and instead look for something Republicans can support.

That’s according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll which says 55 percent of Americans want work stopped on a House-Senate compromise between Democrats, while 39 percent want the Democrats to press on.

In fact, a sizable minority — 46 percent of the 1,010 adults surveyed — say healthcare reform is important but should not be Obama’s top legislative priority. Nineteen percent say healthcare shouldn’t be a major priority at all.
USA-POLITICS/BROWN
The poll was conducted the day after Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s dyed-in-the-wool-Democratic-blue Senate seat in Massachusetts. The findings have a 4 percentage point margin of error.

Brown shows rare trait on Capitol Hill: humility

The man who shook up Washington came to Capitol Hill on Thursday and demonstrated a trait rarely associated with the nation’s marble halls of power and giant egos: humility.

USA-POLITICS/BROWN“I’ve got a lot to learn,” Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown said repeatedly during a series of visits with members of the Senate — a chamber often referred to as “the world’s most exclusive club.”
 
“I’m stepping into big shoes,” Brown said.

By tapping into voter anger aimed at a grid-locked Congress, a double-digit jobless rate and an unpopular plan to revamp the U.S. healthcare system, Brown won the Senate seat formerly held by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, a Democratic icon.
 
Once sworn in in the next week or so, Brown will be the 41st Republican in the 100-seat Senate — and could provide the vote to block much of President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda, including healthcare reform.
 
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell flashed a big grin and told Brown that he has already begun calling him “forty-one.”
 
Brown thanked senators for taking time to meet with him. “I really appreciate it,” he said again and again.
 
He even voiced appreciation to reporters, photographers and TV crews following him. “Thanks for coming out here,” Brown said. “I guess it’s a slow news day.”

Mindboggling in Massachusetts

The Republicans are coming, the Republicans are coming… to Massachusetts. USA-POLITICS/MASSACHUSETTS

The Senate seat comfortably held by Edward Kennedy for nearly half a century has gone to Republican Scott Brown. 

We can only imagine what the late “Liberal Lion” of the Senate would have thought if he were still alive.

Democrats politely congratulated Brown, who defeated Democrat Martha Coakley, knowing full well that the dynamics have changed. Democrats no longer have a 60-vote filibuster-proof Senate — and that can affect their plans for healthcare reform.