Tales from the Trail

Why did Romney quote Thomas Paine?

When White House seeker Mitt Romney told Obama to get out the way in his Florida primary victory speech on Tuesday, he evoked the words of Thomas Paine, an early American revolutionary who is in many ways a far cry from the archetypal role model for modern-day conservatives.

After beating his Republican rivals by a wide margin, an exuberant Romney told a crowd of cheering supporters: “In another era of American crisis, Thomas Paine is reported to have said, ‘Lead, follow, or get out of the way.’ Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it’s time for you to get out of the way!”

There is debate over whether the quote can accurately be attributed to Paine, but Romney’s intention is clear. Since the beginning of his campaign, Romney has been courting adherents of the grassroots conservative Tea Party movement, many of them constitutional purists who glorify the founding fathers. But Paine doesn’t fit in neatly with some of the other 18th century political leaders who pushed for American independence from England.

Paine, famous for his pamphlet Common Sense, repudiated Christianity, denounced concentrations of wealth and proposed an early form of social security. He left America after the American revolution and eventually became a French citizen. He returned to America after years of imprisonment in France and later died alone and poor in New York City after years of poverty, ailing health, and alcoholism.

Paine wrote the Age of Reason, a deist doctrine in which he argues against institutionalized religion and the idea that the Bible is the word of God. In another pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, he called for “a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling” and provisions for the poor.

Washington Extra – End in sight

President Obama didn’t bite when asked by a White House reporter today if he still thought the U.S. war in Iraq was “a dumb war.” Back in 2002, he could get away with such a blunt statement. As president, and with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at his side, he needed to be more subtle.

Up the two men went to Arlington Cemetery, their motorcade driving past the white grave stones of wars past and present, canon shots firing in the background, until they arrived at the Tomb of the Unknowns. A military band played both countries’ anthems, Obama stood with his hand over his heart for both songs while Maliki stood erect with his hands by his sides.

Obama said it was Maliki who wanted to go to Arlington, but it turned out to be a fitting, if somber way for Obama to close this chapter. By going to a place where the costs of war are so much in evidence, he was able to answer the “dumb war” question in a serene, statesman-like way.

Team Bachmann lays out “Path to Victory”

From victory in the Iowa straw poll to lesser rival in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Michele Bachmann may be down but don’t count her out.

The Minnesota Representative is right on track on her “Path to Victory” that began with her win in Iowa, Team Bachmann Campaign Manager Keith Nahigian says in a video outlining the campaign strategy.

From Iowa, the campaign’s path to the nomination winds through New Hampshire and South Carolina, the crucial early states in the presidential primary races.

2012 candidates woo voters on Labor Day

Labor Day is no day off for President Barack Obama and the Republicans who want his job. The holiday to pay tribute to American workers traditionally marks the start of the general election campaign. And although 15 months remain before the 2012 election, you’ll find the 2012 White House hopefuls on the road Monday hoping to score points with voters.

Democrat Obama travels to Detroit on Labor Day to talk about how to create jobs and strengthen the economy, the White House said. With U.S. unemployment steady at 9.1 percent, Reuters’ Jeff Mason writes  Obama’s on the spot to boost hiring and economic growth as he campaigns for a second term in the White House.

Obama also spoke in Detroit on Labor Day 2008 as his general election race heated up against Republican presidential rival Senator John McCain.

Tea party boosts Perry to top of GOP polls

Texas Governor Rick Perry has vaulted into the lead among Republicans vying for the nomination to oppose  President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election bid, according to several new  polls. And he may have the Tea Party to thank for it.

A CNN/ORC International poll released  Monday showed Perry strongly favored by Republicans and independent voters who lean Republican. Among the declared candidates, Perry has 32 percent support, followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 18 percent, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann at 12 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 7 percent, Texas Congressman Ron Paul at 6 percent and the rest of the field in the low single digits.

This could reflect shifting allegiances among Tea Party supporters, according to Gallup, which released its own poll last week also showing that Perry had replaced Romney as the early front-runner.

Bachmann sits out Newsweek photo debate

Sexist, biased or just a bad editorial decision?

Whatever it is,  White House hopeful Michele Bachmann is not engaging in the debate  (at least publicly) over the appropriateness of a Newsweek cover photo of her that has generated a lot of buzz.

The only woman in the crowded field of candidates vying for the 2012   Republican presidential nomination, Bachmann has remained focused on her mission, stomping in  Iowa  ahead of  the state’s Republican Straw Poll on Saturday.  (She  announced more local endorsements on Tuesday.)

When the Minnesota Congresswoman and Tea Party star — whom even many of her opponents agree is photogenic — was asked about the controversial magazine cover on Monday, she simply said she had not seen it  and moved on.

Washington Extra – Her Waterloo

It takes some political derring-do to launch a presidential campaign from a town named Waterloo.

After all, in another time, on another continent, that was the locale of Napoleon’s final defeat, from which sprang the term “met his Waterloo.”

Tea Party conservative Michele Bachmann chose Waterloo, Iowa, her birthplace, to announce a run for the Republican presidential nomination. And she wasted no time in going on the offensive.

GOP presidential field – looking Perry promising?

With polls showing President Barack Obama beating any current 2012 Republican presidential hopeful, some party leaders are casting around for additional contenders, especially those who are well-known and might appeal more to the party’s most conservative wing.

One name that has come up repeatedly is Texas Governor Rick Perry, a conservative Republican and rising star in the Tea Party movement who fueled speculation last year that he might run for the White House by going on a national tour to publicize his book “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington,” which takes aim at what he sees an intrusive and expansive federal government.

Perry has in the past emphatically said he will not run, but he more recently has seemed to be leaving the door slightly open by saying for now he is focused on Texas’ legislative session, which ends on May 30.

4 Republican hopefuls in New Hampshire find tepid Tea Party turnout

Four potential Republican presidential hopefuls showed up, but the turnout for the New Hampshire Tea Party tax day rally was rather tepid.

USA-CAMPAIGN/TEAPARTYOn a brilliant spring day in Concord, perfect for a rally, only about 300 came to protest taxes and the Obama Administration, a far cry from the robust rallies held ahead of the 2010 elections.

Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum — who have declared they are exploring a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 — and Herman Cain and Buddy Roemer — who are considered potential hopefuls — joined state politicians in an attempt to get the crowd fired up.

As Tea Party cranks up heat on Congress, poll shows public support waning

The Tea Party is coming to Washington to turn up the heat on the Congress — just as a new poll finds that public support for it has waned.

Members of the conservative Tea Party movement plan to hold a rally on Thursday outside the U.S. Capitol, urging Republicans to stand firm in their showdown with Democrats over proposed spending cuts.

While the Tea Party helped Republicans win power in last year’s elections, nearly half of all Americans now have an USA-POLITICS/unfavorable view of it, according to CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released on Wednesday.