Tales from the Trail

Check one, two? Obama likes knowing when microphone is on

 

The microphone was hot, and this time, President Barack Obama was happily aware that he was being recorded.

During the opening of a speech he gave to news editors in Washington, Obama took a light jab at the media for reporting sideline discussions he had with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Seoul that were, unbeknownst to the pair, picked up by press microphones.

“It is a pleasure to speak to all of you — and to have a microphone that I can see,” Obama said to laughter from the audience of news executives.

“Feel free to transmit any of this to Vladimir if you see him.”

That was a sendup on Medvedev’s response to Obama during their exchange in Korea. The outgoing Russian leader said he would pass on or “transmit” Obama’s message to Vladimir Putin, who takes over his job as president in May.

In a nod to an already rich set of campaign one-liners and missteps, Obama said there would be more fodder for political banter to come.

Skipping Super PAC, Santorum backer Friess spends on his own

By Alina Selyukh and Alexander Cohen

Republican Rick Santorum’s main financial backer has gone rogue on the pro-Santorum “Super PAC” with his own, personal spending in support of the U.S. presidential hopeful.

Wyoming millionaire investor Foster Friess has given $1.6 million to the independent political action committee (PAC) backing Santorum – the Red, White and Blue Fund – as its largest donor.

Now he has bypassed the Super PAC and spent $1,176 on a pro-Santorum radio ad entirely on his own, according to a report with the Federal Election Commission posted online on Thursday.

Who’s out of touch? Biden takes aim at Romney on economy

Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday accused Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney of disregarding the importance of the manufacturing sector as a source of jobs for middle class Americans and said the former Massachusetts governor had offered “consistently wrong” remedies for the U.S. economy.

In a campaign speech in Davenport, Iowa, a key battleground state in the general election, Biden also said Romney showed a lot of “chutzpah” by suggesting President Barack Obama was “out of touch” with ordinary Americans.

“Out of touch? Romney?” Biden said to laughter from his audience at an Iowa factory. “I mean, pretty remarkable, pretty remarkable.”

Washington Extra – Etch A Sketch

Ah, if life were only like an Etch A Sketch, a little shake would allow us to erase those mistakes and messy parts. But to invoke the magical toy to explain Mitt Romney’s presidential hopes might have been a mistake, one worth erasing with a shake.

It seems that every Romney win is followed by a Romney gaffe. This time, after his Illinois victory last night, it was not the candidate who stepped in it, but rather his adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, who wanted to talk about what Romney would be like in a general election against President Obama.

“I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again,” Fehrnstrom told CNN.

Rick Santorum makes appeal to women, new campaign strategy?

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum hailed the influence of strong, independent women on Tuesday night, a turnaround from his past statements that critics have called sexist or anti-women.

In a concession speech given just as rival Mitt Romney won the Republican presidential primaries of Arizona and Michigan, Santorum took the chance to tell voters “a little more about who Rick Santorum is” and sang the praises of his 93-year-old grandmother, his wife Karen, a former lawyer who gave up work to raise their family, and their daughter Elizabeth who campaigns for her dad on her own.

“I grew up with a very strong mom, someone who was a professional person who taught me a lot of things about… balancing work and family, and doing it well, and doing it with a big heart and commitment,” he said.

Washington Extra – Gasoline alley

President Obama may have his facts right on what’s behind higher gasoline prices and he might be correct in saying that the causes are largely beyond his control. But even his strong arguments won’t stand a chance with Americans if a gallon of gas heads up to $5 in coming months.

Nevertheless, the president clearly understood the importance of getting his message out there early and his speech today in Florida was well timed. Rising gas prices are leading the nightly news shows this week and Republican presidential candidates are squarely placing the blame on Obama and his energy policies. Last night, right out of the debate gate, Newt Gingrich said he would give Americans $2.50 gas if he won the White House.

“You can bet that since it’s an election year, they’re already dusting off their three-point plans for $2 gas,” Obama said. “I’ll save you the suspense: Step one is drill, step two is drill and step three is keep drilling.”

Contraception question booed at Republican debate

A question about contraception caused a flareup in the culture wars during the last Republican presidential debate before next week’s Arizona and Michigan primaries and “Super Tuesday.”

The question drew boos from the audience and impassioned statements from the four candidates on the stage in Mesa, Arizona, last night.

“Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why?” was the question posed via cnnpolitics.com.

Washington Extra – Tax time

If President Obama did indeed schedule the release of his corporate tax revamp Wednesday to steal the spotlight from Mitt Romney’s tax plan rollout – as some critics charge – it just might have worked. The Obama plan was the top story of the day.

But perhaps more importantly, Obama neutralized corporate taxes as an election year issue by aligning himself with Republican positions.

Sure, there may be differences in the tax rates each candidate backs – Obama at 28 percent, Romney 25 percent, Santorum 17.5 percent and Gingrich 12.5 percent.

Obama sings again, this time blues with B.B. King, Mick Jagger

President Barack Obama gave what appeared to be an impromptu performance of “Sweet Home Chicago” during a blues concert Tuesday night at the White House in celebration of Black History Month.

At the end of an evening of performances from the likes of B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, Derek Trucks, Shemekia Copeland and others, Obama grabbed a mic from the stage and crooned, “Come on, baby don’t you wanna go,” part of the popular blues standard.

A month ago, Obama sang a little Al Green — a moment captured on video and viewed thousands of times over. It was seen as having added cool points to the president. Afterwards First Lady Michelle said Obama sings to her all the time.

Santorum explains “phony theology” comment

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum says he wasn’t questioning Barack Obama’s faith on Saturday when he said the Democratic president’s agenda was based on “some phony theology.”

Santorum explained his comments during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, saying he was questioning the president’s world view — not his faith.

“I accept the fact that the president’s Christian,” Santorum said. “I just said that when you have a world view that elevates the earth above man says that, you know, we can’t take those resources because we’re going to harm the earth by things that are frankly just not scientifically proven.”