Tales from the Trail

McCain hails Palin power in the mid-term elections

Arizona Senator John McCain says his former running mate former Alasaka governor Sarah Palin is a “visionary” for the United States.

“She has had a tremendous impact on this election cycle, as you well know, by supporting certain candidates,” McCain said in an interview on ABC’s “Nightline. “It is really a remarkable thing to observe.”

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee again defended his decision to pick the then relatively unknown Palin for the number-two spot on the ticket.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the campaign she waged,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of her or her performance and her continued performance. So, I think, you begin to think about legacy and I think that Sarah Palin will play a very big role in the American political scene for a very long time.” Here’s more of the interview.

McCain, a war hero who ran against Barack Obama for president in 2008, has represented Arizona in the U.S.  Senate since 1986.

No record turnout in U.S. election

WASHINGTON – The anticipated record turnout of voters in Tuesday’s U.S. election did not materialize, with the percentage of eligible Americans casting ballots staying virtually the same as 2004, a report said on Thursday. 

The number of Americans voting is projected to reach between 126.5 million and 128.5 million, meaning the percentage who cast a ballot will be between 60.7 percent and 61.7 percent — roughly the same as in 2004, according to Curtis Gans of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate.
    
The lower-than-expected turnout was the result of a downturn in the number and percentage of Republican voters going to the polls, he said.
    
Predictions of high turnout were fueled by an increase in voter registrations and long lines at polling booths.
 
“But we failed to realize that the registration increase was driven by Democratic and independent registration and that the long lines at the polls were mostly populated by Democrats,” Gans said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

- Photo credit: Reuters/Danny Moloshok (Voters fill their ballots at St. Jerome Parish in Los Angeles on Nov. 4)

Obama distances himself from campaign’s criticism of Palin

MONACA, Pennsylvania – Barack Obama distanced himself on Friday from his campaign’s initially critical statement about his rival John McCain’s choice of first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.
 
McCain, a 72-year-old veteran Republican senator from Arizona, picked a political unknown and self-described “hockey mom” who will become the first woman Republican vice presidential candidate.
 
When the surprise decision was announced, Obama was on the tarmac at a Denver airport preparing to depart for a bus tour in the industrial Midwest with his running mate, Joe Biden. The Democratic candidate had just made history by becoming the first black to accept a major-party presidential nomination.
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His spokesman, Bill Burton, issued a statement suggesting Palin was too inexperienced to be vice president. “Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” it  said.
 
The McCain campaign quickly shot back that it was “audacious” for aides to the 47-year-old first-term Illinois senator to accuse Palin of inexperience.
 
Later in the day, Obama told reporters that the campaign’s early statement was “hair-trigger” and did not reflect his sentiments.
 
“I haven’t met her before. She seems like a compelling person. Obviously, a terrific story, personal story,” he said while touring a biodiesel plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania.
 
Obama said the choice of Palin was “one more indicator of this country moving forward” and a hit against the glass ceiling that has limited women’s advancement.
 
In a phone call to Palin, Obama told her he thought she would be a terrific candidate and wished her luck “but not too much luck,” according to Robert Gibbs, his senior adviser.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

- Photo credit: Reuters/John Gress (McCain stands with his vice presidential running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in Dayton, Ohio, Aug. 29, 2008)

Half-sister of Cindy McCain says she feels excluded, angry

NEW ORLEANS – A half-sister of Cindy McCain has emerged to speak in an interview with National Public cindy1.jpgRadio, complaining that she feels hurt when she hears the wife of Republican Sen. John McCain describe herself as an only child.

Cindy McCain’s father was the late Jim Hensley, founder of the Hensley & Co. beer distributorship, from his second marriage, while her half-sister Kathleen Portalski was Hensley’s daughter from his first marriage, NPR said in the exclusive report that aired on Monday.

Portalski, 65, is retired and lives in Phoenix.

Her son Nicholas Portalski contacted NPR after hearing the radio station’s profile of Cindy McCain last week  that described her as an only child.

McCain: ending offshore drilling ban eased oil price

ASPEN, Colo. – Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain said on Thursday the recent sharp fall in the price of oil had been helped by the end of the U.S. federal offshore drilling moratorium.

“I think several factors have contributed to the recent drop in the price of a barrel of oil. I think the practice of conservation and the reduction in our demand has probably been a major factor,” he told the Aspen Institute.

“I also don’t think it was entirely accidental that the day that the president announced lifting the federal moratorium on offshore drilling, the price of a barrel of oil dropped.”

Freight Train sleeps through McCain’s whistle-stop tour

DES MOINES, Iowa – Republican presidential candidate John McCain conducted a whistle-stop tour through the Iowa State Fair on Friday but Freight Train was unimpressed.
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The Arizona senator did what all politicians do at the fair. He pressed the flesh. He mounted a soapbox, actually a microphone placed behind bales of straw, and munched on some pork chops on a stick.
 
He may have won some votes when he praised the fair and its 1 million-plus visitors as true to the heartland of America. But he didn’t win over Freight Train.
 
The prize boar — all 1,259 pounds of him — stayed resolutely asleep throughout his visit, resting his enormous bulk on a bed of sand.
 
“I saw the new champion and world record-breaker boar, Freight Train. He’s in good health. I can tell you that,” McCain later said at a fund-raiser.
 
“I lament and had thought with some nostalgia about last year’s winner Big Red who is no longer with us. But perhaps I had part of him in a pepperoni pizza — who knows,” he said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Ilya Naymushin (A wild boar stands in an open cage at a zoo in the Siberian city of Krasnoyark in 2006)

Obama agrees to 3 debates with McCain

baracl.jpgORLANDO, Fla. – Democrat Barack Obama agreed on Saturday to a formal proposal for three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate, effectively scuttling Republican White House rival John McCain’s hopes for a series of one-on-one town hall meetings.
 
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe informed the Commission on Presidential Debates of the decision, which proposed the schedule, in a letter. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel will represent the campaign in talks on the format and details.
 
The late conventions and short period before the first debate — the Republican convention ends on Sept. 4 and the first debate is scheduled for Sept. 26 — made it “likely” the four debates proposed by the commission “will be the sole series of debates in the fall campaign,” Plouffe wrote.
 
McCain had suggested the two candidates could appear together at a series of town-hall meetings, but negotiations between the two sides never produced an agreement.
 
The McCain campaign used the decision to take another poke at Obama’s “celebrity” image.
 
“We understand it might be beneath a worldwide celebrity of Barack Obama’s magnitude to appear at town hall meetings alongside John McCain and directly answer questions from the American people, but we hope he’ll reconsider,” spokesman Brian Rogers said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Scott Audette (Obama laughs alongside Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League in Orlando, Florida, on Aug. 2, 2008)

Obama camp to superdelegates: “Read the newspapers”

CHICAGO – As Barack Obama celebrated his compelling win in North Carolina and the unexpected closeness of the Indiana race on Tuesday night, his senior strategist said one of the campaign’s top tasks now is to court influential Democratic Party figures.
 
The Democratic senator from Illinois was seen as showing resilience after a bumpy ride in which he has struggled with questions about his former pastor’s fiery sermons and efforts by Clinton to paint him as an “out of touch” elitist.
 
Analysts said his rival Hillary Clinton, who won only narrowly in Indiana where she had been favored to do well, was likely to face increased pressure to exit the race because her showing did little to advance her argument that she would be more electable than Obama in a matchup against Republican Sen. John McCain.
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Asked by reporters whether there would be a slew of new endorsements from the party stalwarts and officials known as the “superdelegates,” Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, was careful not to reveal too much.
 
“We’re going to be reaching out to them,” Axelrod told reporters as Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, flew back home to Chicago from his evening rally in North Carolina.
 
The Obama strategist said the message in these conversations would be a simple one: “Read the newspapers.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Chris Keane (Obama waves to supporters at his North Carolina and Indiana primary election night rally in Raleigh.)

As politicians come to North Carolina, Edwards goes to Disneyworld

While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton criss-cross North Carolina hunting for votes ahead of the May 6 Democratic primary election, one prominent resident of the state is missing: John Edwards.rtr1wh8r.jpg

He’s gone to Disneyworld, for a long-planned vacation with his family.

Edwards, who withdrew from his second presidential race in January, has not yet endorsed a candidate, though both Clinton and Obama have wooed him.

Though they’re supposedly away from the political infighting while at Disneyworld, Edwards’ wife Elizabeth is keeping her feet wet.

Obama returns a compliment to Colin Powell

INDIANAPOLIS – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday returned a compliment to Colin Powell after the former Bush administration secretary of state told an interviewer that he was impressed with Obama.

Obama, a first-term Illinois senator, has been criticized by Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. John McCain, as lacking experience on foreign policy.

Powell told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Obama seemed to be a quick study.