Tales from the Trail

Down to the wire…

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan expects his fellow Republicans to wait until the “last minute” to strike a deal that averts national default by raising the $14.3 trillion limit on the U.S. debt.

Failure to reach a deal could trigger a new global financial crisis, according to analysts and Democrats including President Barack Obama. But on Monday, the day the U.S. debt reached its current statutory limit, Ryan told an Illinois AM radio station that “we’re going to negotiate this thing probably up through July, that’s how these things go.”

“That’s how these things go” could place negotiations at the very doorstep of an Aug. 2 deadline, which is when the Treasury Department believes it will exhaust its bag of tricks for staving off a financial apocalypse.

Ryan’s comments came a day after Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell advised CNN’s viewers to see the approaching default deadline as a source of opportunity.

Meanwhile, inflation worries buttressed by still-way-high gas prices are driving U.S. states to consider making silver and gold coins legal tender.  South Carolina is the latest to consider legislation to that effect, joining over two-dozen others in a trend that began this month in Utah.

Obama fundraising watch: debt, progressives, and women on the Court

President Barack Obama stayed close to the White House for another round of fundraising on Monday, attending events in Washington where tickets went for $44 to $35,800.

Here are a few highlights from his remarks:

1.    Progressives should care about the debt and deficit. “It’s… as critical for progressives as it is for anybody, because if we want to have a strong foundation for us to provide opportunity in the future, we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got our deficit and our debt under control.”

2.   The president is pleased about having more “strong” women on the Supreme Court. “You can never have enough women on the Supreme Court.”

No Trump in GOP deck

Was it something they said? Or purely a financial calculation for New York’s celebrity real estate magnate?

In any case, Donald Trump disappointed just about anyone hoping his brashness would offer some entertainment in the race for the Republican nomination in 2012: He declared himself off the campaign trail. Well, technically he was never on it.

In the statement notifying his public of the decision not to run for president, Trump was not shy about his prospects if he had decided to throw his hat into the ring.  “I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election.”

Will Obama be a $1 billion man? Democrats say not so fast

A persistent theme of President Barack Obama’s nascent re-election bid has been an expectation that the Democratic incumbent – who amassed a $750 million war chest when he won the White House in 2008 — will break his record this time and become the first candidate to raise $1 billion in campaign funds for 2012. 

The logic behind that figure? One bit of reasoning is that Obama and his then-rival Hillary Clinton together raised far more than $1 billion in 2008, showing there are plenty of Democratic wallets out there waiting to be opened this time.

Democratic Party officials have issued repeated dire warnings about Republicans’ fund-raising prowess, especially in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision that allowed unlimited spending by corporations, labor unions and other groups. Democrats say secret donations allowed under Citizens United helped fuel the Republicans’ huge success in the 2010 mid-terms.

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CORRECTS POLL NUMBER ON OBAMA’S HANDLING OF ECONOMY

The United States is due to hit its $14.3 trillion debt limit today, and tensions are understandably on the increase with Republicans and Democrats wide apart on the budget deal the GOP wants in exchange for increasing the ceiling.

World markets and America’s economic future could be jeopardized if negotiators still have no deal when the Treasury Department runs out of tricks to stave off default.

But do those fears a crisis make?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggests not. “Rather than thinking of this as a crisis, I think of it as an opportunity to come together and those talks are under way led by the vice president.”

Why keep bin Laden images secret? Have you seen the situation room pictures…

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says friends have sent him humorous versions of the iconic photo of  President Barack  Obama in the situation room with his national security team watching the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Versions with everyone wearing elaborate royal-wedding-style hats.

Versions with extra politicians added in.

Versions with football players.

“This is all harmless and humorous stuff,” he said.

But it is also a lesson in how easily photos can be altered.

Gates says he agrees with Obama’s decision not to publicly release death photos of bin Laden.

Gates told U.S. Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina he hoped the images would never be made public, and he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had recommended as much to the president.

Washington Extra – In pursuit

Osama bin Laden is gone, but plenty of questions remain about how the al Qaeda leader evaded an intense decade-long manhunt that ended in a dramatic U.S. raid on a house in Pakistan.

The real breakthrough that led to bin Laden came from a mysterious CIA detainee, Hassan Ghul, according to a Reuters special report published today. It was Ghul who, after years of tantalizing hints from other detainees, finally provided the information that prompted the CIA to focus intensely on finding Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti, pseudonym for the courier who would lead them to bin Laden.

Fresh from the victory of finding the world’s most wanted man, President Barack Obama wants no let-up in the pursuit of terrorism suspects and surprised everyone by seeking a two-year extension of FBI Director Robert Mueller’s 10-year term.

Reuters/Ipsos poll: Republicans trail Obama

President Barack Obama comes out ahead against the field of potential Republican hopefuls for the 2012 presidential election, with more than a 10-point lead over the closest of the pack — Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

When Obama was pitted against each possible Republican candidate, he scored more than 50 percent. His highest rating came against Donald Trump with 57 percent saying they would vote for Obama versus 30 percent for the New York real estate magnate.

All the Republicans were in the 30-percent range, led by former Arkansas governor Huckabee at 39 percent and former Massachusetts governor Romney at 38 percent, compared with 51 percent who said they would vote for Obama.

Republican wannabes edge toward GOP primary race

Don’t look now, but some of those Republican White House wannabes are finally getting ready to run for the GOP presidential nomination. But whether any of the current crop gets further than the latest deficit talks is another question.

Newt Gingrich announces his candidacy today. But don’t expect his lackluster ratings to improve automatically. That, according to Karl Rove, who says people know Gingrich already. But the thrice-married former House speaker, who got blamed for the Clinton-era government shutdown, could “earn” his way into the top tier before the Iowa Caucuses next February, Rove tells NBC’s Today show.

Gingrich would not be alone among top GOP “earners,” either.

There’s the septuagenarian Ron Paul, who’s spent years waiting for his long-held views on government to become du jour under the U.S. Capitol dome. He may announce within the week, according to The Hill.

Texans see red in controversy over federal aid for wildfires

When President Barack Obama stepped off  Air Force One in El Paso, Texas, Tuesday, one politician who was conspicuously absent was the state’s governor, Rick Perry.

The outspoken Republican stayed away from Obama’s welcoming ceremony amidst some intimations that the Democratic president was bringing politics into the way his administration authorizes aid to states facing natural disasters.

Texas has been suffering from severe drought and has been fighting wildfires that have consumed more than two million acres. While Obama has issued federal disaster declarations for many states hit by severe weather in recent weeks – tornadoes and floods have besieged much of the U.S. south – he has not done so for Texas, which has inspired some critics to question whether Obama has shunned the state because it is very strongly Republican.