Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Moonshot no more

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich bows his head in prayer before speaking at First Redeemer Church while on a campaign tour in Cumming, Georgia, February 26, 2012. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Earth calling Newt: When the biggest news of your presidential campaign is the penguin biting your hand at the zoo, it’s probably time to pack it in.

Even though Newt Gingrich’s odds of winning the Republican nomination were about as long as those of realizing his dream for a moon colony, the 68-year-old seemed to enjoy himself to the end. “I never got the sense that he was quote-unquote down,” said adviser Charlie Gerow. “I got the sense on a couple of occasions that he was tired. Really tired.” And really in debt. His campaign spent $4.3 million more than it brought in.

For all his offbeat ideas, Gingrich did bring a dose of seriousness to this campaign. With some stellar debate performances and a deep knowledge of politics and history, he probably made Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum study more and work harder to win support.

Members of the media, targets of some of his most vicious attacks, may not miss Newt much. But there’s no denying that, for the world of news, Gingrich was the gift that kept on giving, right up to his encounter with a penguin.

Washington Extra – The bench’s backstories

As the Supreme Court justices convene Wednesday to hear arguments in the case Arizona v United States, will their thoughts drift to Italy, Ireland, Poland and Puerto Rico? 

The challenge to Arizona’s tough immigration law may have the justices thinking about their own families’ origins and journeys to America. As Reuters reports today, nearly all of them, like their countrymen, descend from people who came looking for a better life (the notable exception is Justice Clarence Thomas whose great-grandmother was a slave).

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court seen in a October 8, 2010 group portrait. Seated from left to right in front row are: Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Standing from left to right in back row are: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Washington Extra – Gift of the gas

 

Gasoline drips off a nozzle during refueling at a gas station in Altadena, California in this March 24, 2012 file photo. Picture taken March 24, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

After negotiating a tricky stretch of road, the Obama campaign may be easing into the straightaway in the gas-driven presidential race.

News on Monday of a delay in the planned closure of the largest refinery on the East Coast could mean an end to skyrocketing gas prices. And that would effectively take the wind out of a forceful Republican line of attack — that the president is to be blamed for $4 a gallon gas, arguably the most visible price in the American economy today.

No privilege for most stay-at-home moms -poll

Mothers relax on the grass with their babies at Central Park during a warm day in New York, March 22, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The recent flap over women voters — especially stay-at-home mothers — has sent both Republican and Democratic pundits scrambling and with good reason: many stay-at-home moms aren’t affiliated with either party and are a ripe target for swing votes, a new poll shows.

The survey from Gallup Inc also finds that moms who don’t work aren’t exactly a pampered lot, despite Ann Romney – the wife of a multi-millionaire businessman – being portrayed as their standard bearer. It found most moms who stay home are more economically disadvantaged than their working peers.

Washington Extra – Pump It Up

If you had to pick a name for a deli sandwich in honor of Washington, D.C., there’s one clear choice: “The Ruckus.” In the city’s super-charged atmosphere, politicians, lobbyists and hired aides can barely let anything go by without a fight. 

Today it was rising gasoline prices that have Republicans and Democrats at each other’s throats. Both parties realize they really cannot do very much about retail prices, but they’re scrambling in hopes that voters don’t blame them for a pocketbook issue in an election year.

“Every time prices go up, there’s some sort of ruckus,”  Marc Spitzer, an-ex energy regulator appointed by former President George W. Bush, told Reuters.

Washington Extra – The Romney Doctrine?

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop in Warwick, Rhode Island April 11, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

When it comes to U.S. presidents and foreign policy, it’s always been a matter of what they do during crises, rather than what they say on the campaign trail.

Running for president in 2000, George W. Bush campaigned against “nation building.” But the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, changed everything, and Bush wound up launching an invasion of Iraq that led to a decade-long war and redefined U.S. foreign policy.

Washington Extra – Tea Party poopers

A man holds a sign during a March 24 Tea Party Patriots rally in Washington calling for the repeal of the 2010 healthare law. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

All that Tea Party support in 2010 for the 87 House Republican freshmen seems to have come with a price — and now it’s time to collect.

Representative Michael Grimm found his office filled with activists wanting to know why he hadn’t done more to slash government spending and why he had voted to raise the U.S. debt limit. He too is frustrated, the former Marine told them, but you just can’t shut down government and stop paying the soldiers.

Lawyer behind Super PAC ruling launches his own

The lawyer behind the case that opened the door to U.S. "Super PACs" and more campaign cash now has one of his own. Thousands of U.S. dollars are seen here in this November 3, 2009 file photo at a Westminster, Colorado bank. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The conservative lawyer who helped end political spending limits for corporations has now taken advantage of new campaign finance rules that allow “Super PACs” by launching one of his own.

Republican James Bopp, who advised Citizens United in its case to eliminate restrictions on campaign contributions by companies and unions, filed paper work last week with the U.S. Federal Election Commission to create his USA Super PAC.

Washington Extra: Sayonara Santorum

Former presidential candidate and Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is featured on a button by a supporter who also wore the politician's trademark vest in this January 14, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Reed

It began and ended at a kitchen table in Pennsylvania. Rick Santorum’s improbable and surprisingly long run for the White House is over. But the Republican Party will feel the effects of this game-changing gambit cooked up in a kitchen for some time to come.

Santorum offered disgruntled voters true conservative credentials. He brought social issues and religious freedom to the forefront of the national debate. He made Mitt Romney work much harder for the nomination than expected, and lurch to the right in the process. His supporters may not go away quietly or fall behind Romney in lockstep.

The tunnel to political prominence

NJ Gov. Chris Christie

A new government report shines the spotlight again on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, see here at a presidential campaign event for Republican candidate Mitt Romney on December 30, 2011. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

A new report on the controversy that helped launch New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to national prominence – and make him a vice-presidential contender – has reignited debate over one of the country’s most popular and polarizing Republicans.

A General Accounting Office report on Tuesday examined the impact of Christie’s decision in October 2010 to cancel a multibillion-dollar rail tunnel linking commuters in his state of New Jersey to midtown Manhattan.