Tales from the Trail

Palin says tour is “not about me”

Is Sarah Palin running for president or isn’t she?

If  the former Alaska governor and Republican superstar knows the answer  to that question, she’s not saying.

And her silence has  speculation running rampant  over the meaning of her  family’s East Cost  bus tour of historic sites.

Is it  a dry-run for the 2012 campaign or just a brilliant burnishing of the Sarah Palin brand?

“It’s not about me. It’s not a publicity-seeking tour. It’s about highlighting the great things about America,” Palin  said in an interview with Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren  aboard the bus on Tuesday.

Wherever the tour lands,  Palin has been swamped by media even though her exact schedule has been something  of a mystery.

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.

Washington Extra – T-Paw power

Right off the starting line, Republican Tim Pawlenty is fashioning himself as the Chevy of presidential candidates. “We will not be the money champion in the race to start with. My friend, Mitt Romney, will be the front-runner in that regard,” he told NBC’s Today show. His nomination bid, he added, “may not be the BMW or the Mercedes campaign.”

Sounds like T-Paw is calling Mitt a Mercedes. But what Pawlenty isn’t saying is that he is running the Cadillac of campaigns in Iowa. The former Minnesota governor has put more troops on the ground in that early voting state than any of the other candidates combined, according to the Iowa Republican website.

A political scientist in his native Minnesota called it a big and costly operation, “a Napoleonic army sort of thing.” With potent paychecks, Pawlenty has drawn in some of Iowa’s best campaign talent.

Pawlenty is in the race for Republican presidential nomination

Tim Pawlenty upstaged Tim Pawlenty  on Sunday.

The former Minnesota governor said he is in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, revealing the news in a polished, campaign-ready  video posted on his website.

The surprise announcement came in a preview of the official announcement he was set to make Monday in Iowa. In the video,  he says Des Moines  is his first campaign stop. But he was already campaigning.

“We need a president who understands that our problems are deep, and has the courage to face them. President Obama does not. I do,” Pawlenty says in the video.

Who’s afraid of Mitt and T-Paw…

It turns out that Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are the scariest pair of presidential prospects in the GOP field today, judging from a new Democratic ad and remarks by some Democratic Party hierophants.

Priorities USA Action, a political group founded by two former aides to President Barack Obama, targets Romney as a flip-flopper in a South Carolina TV ad that wields Republican Paul Ryan’s Medicare reforms like a political cudgel.

The 30-second black-and-white spot begins with Newt Gingrich’s “Meet the Press” remarks opposing what he called radical right-wing social engineering on Medicare. The ad then recounts Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s defense of Ryan before turning finally to Romney: “Mitt Romney says he’s ‘on the same page’ as Paul Ryan … but with Mitt Romney, you have to wonder: which page is he on today?”

Washington Extra – The choice

President Barack Obama wants the “Arab spring” to bloom.

And that means having choice. The United States supports “the right to choose your own leaders — whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran,” he said in a much awaited Middle East speech.

For Syria: “President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way.”

In Libya, Obama didn’t think leader Muammar Gaddafi would be left with much choice. “When Gaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.”

Let’s fight…

The overnight news of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s resignation sets up a global battle over who will succeed him in the IMF’s glass-and-steel headquarters in Washington. But, of course, that’s not the only fight in town.

The bipartisan group of budget negotiators now known as the Gang-of-Six-Minus-One is expected to meet today to try to salvage hopes of a budget compromise after a shouting match over Medicare sent Republican Senator Tom Coburn to the exit door.

Medicare is the third-rail political issue that recently had Republicans showing signs of retreating from House Budget Chief Paul Ryan’s Republican reform plan. Critics call it a blueprint for privatizing the federal government’s healthcare program for the elderly.

Washington Extra – Au contraire

Who knew what when about where?

That is the persistent question about Pakistan after al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was found practically in the backyard of the country’s military and its capital.

Top U.S. defense officials tried to calm the fury today by saying they had no evidence that anyone in the senior Pakistani leadership had knowledge of bin Laden’s location.

“I have seen no evidence at all that the senior leadership knew. In fact, I’ve seen some evidence to the contrary,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

And the GOP favorite is…

Top establishment Republicans are getting more desperate about the GOP’s current presidential line-up all the time.  Care to guess why?

Newt Gingrich, once among the most prominent voices in the GOP, appears to be on the ropes only a week after declaring his candidacy – and even before his first official campaign trip to the early voting state of Iowa.

He has apologized to House Budget chief Paul Ryan for calling his Medicare plan “right wing social engineering” in a national interview and admitted making “a mistake.”

Fiscal conservative Gingrich had at least $250,000 debt with Tiffany’s

Politicians are in heated debate about the $14.3 trillion national debt ceiling. But their personal debt can also be eye-popping.

Politico reports that Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich owed at least $250,000 and as much as $500,000 to luxury jewelry company Tiffany & Co.

We checked the store website but couldn’t find any one item for that amount, although a few baubles here, a few watches there, and it all adds up.