Tales from the Trail

Colbert bumps Huntsman in South Carolina

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman finished a disappointing third on Tuesday in the presidential primary in New Hampshire, despite focusing his campaign on the state and attending some 150 events there. But things are, arguably, worse for him in South Carolina, where a new poll ahead of the state’s Jan. 21 primary put him behind comedian and late-night talk show host, Stephen Colbert.

The survey, by the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling, had Colbert in sixth place, with just 5 percent support, in South Carolina’s primary, behind Mitt Romney (27 percent), Newt Gingrich (23 percent), Rick Santorum (18 percent), Ron Paul (8 percent) and Rick Perry (7 percent). But he was ahead of Huntsman’s 4 percent and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (1 percent).

It is not completely surprising that Huntsman would trail Colbert, who is from South Carolina and had even offered to sponsor the state’s primary. The Emmy- and Peabody-winning comedian also has name recognition because of his popular Comedy Central Show, the Colbert Report.

“Even if Huntsman finishes second in New Hampshire tonight it doesn’t speak well for his prospects down the line that he’s running behind Stephen Colbert,” Public Policy Polling said in a blog posted on Tuesday before the primary.

Colbert’s key, the company said, would have been to attract Democratic voters to the South Carolina primary, which is open. Thirty-four percent of Democrats who planned to vote in the GOP contest supported Colbert, compared with 15 percent for Romney.

Washington Extra – Keeping it positive, not

It’s a cruel world out there, what with these Super PACs. Just ask Newt Gingrich, the candidate who promised to stick to the positive message. Battered by weeks of negative ads from a Super PAC and plummeting poll numbers, Gingrich took a sharp detour off the high road in the final hours of campaigning in Iowa.

Gingrich called putative Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney a liar because he tries to distance himself from the ad-spewing PAC created by Romney staff and funded by his millionaire friends. “It’s baloney,” Gingrich said.

Romney in turn mocked Gingrich, telling him to toughen up and get some broader shoulders. “If you can’t stand the heat of this little kitchen, wait for the hell’s kitchen that’s coming from Barack Obama,” he responded.

Four and a half Romney men


Josh, Joe (Tagg’s son), Craig, Tagg and Matt in Manchester.

The impossibly handsome, all-American foursome that walked into the Windham Restaurant on Thursday morning might have meant that a Ralph Lauren photo shoot was getting under way. Or it could have just meant that the Romney boys were back in town.

With Papa Romney busy campaigning in Iowa, four of his five sons — Tagg, Matt, Josh and Craig — as well as his grandson, Joe, stumped for the candidate in New Hampshire, regaling voters with stories of Mitt and his various exploits as family man extraordinaire, legendary household tightwad, savior of the Salt Lake City Olympics, and so on.

In their almost-matching outfits, down to the white checked shirts often favored by their famous father, the Romney boys seemed eerily reminiscent of that other good-looking Mormon group, the Osmonds.

Gingrich attacks Romney, a week after promising a positive campaign

A week ago, Newt Gingrich vowed to follow Ronald Reagan’s famed “11th Commandment” and withhold attacks on fellow Republican candidates for president.

But last night his campaign e-mail blasted reporters a lengthy opposition sheet on former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, ripping Romney’s latest television ad, “Conservative Agenda.”

In the oppo sheet, the Gingrich campaign calls Romney “Mitt the Massachusetts Moderate” and highlights a number of his past, more moderate positions that may be at odds with his current stances. These include Romney’s health care reforms in Massachusetts, his support for universal health insurance and abortion rights, his vote for Democrat Paul Tsongas in his 1992 bid for president and his renunciation of the Reagan/Bush era.

Washington Extra – A man and his dog

Here’s a modern-day twist on Harry Truman’s quip “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” If you, the president, have called John Boehner and urged him to compromise on extending the payroll tax deal by two months, then all that’s left to do is go out Christmas shopping with your dog.

That’s what President Obama did today, taking Bo, the only family member who hasn’t gone to Hawaii, to a pet store in a Virginia strip mall.

Bo made friends with a brown poodle named Cinnamon, prompting a warning from his master “Okay, Bo, don’t get too personal here.” Aw, Mr President, let the First Dog enjoy his time out in the real world.

Washington Extra – Black box

For the past week or so, we’ve watched Democrats and Republicans playing chess on the payroll tax cuts, trying to outmaneuver each other and gain the upper hand in this final bitter budget battle of 2011. Today, it looks like the match moved off the chessboard and into the unknown.

In this vacuum, people are struggling to know what happens next. Eric Lascelles, chief economist at RBC Global Asset Management in Toronto, told us his confidence that the tax cut will be extended in 2012 “is beginning to waver.”

“As usual,” he added, “the political process is such a black box it’s hard to credibly put odds on this.”

Mitt Romney’s Late Show Top 10 Redux

It was like deja vu with Mitt Romney when the Republican presidential candidate presented the “Top Ten” list on the “Late Show with David Letterman” Monday night.

The script was different, and so were the clothes – but Romney’s latest late night TV performance looked and sounded a lot like the the previous one he gave  back in February.

This time, the former Massachusetts governor revealed the “Top Ten Things Mitt Romney Would Like to Say to the American People.”

Omen for Huntsman in Brady-Tebow duel?

There was a twist on the Tim Tebow relationship with the presidential race on Sunday.

Mary Kaye Huntsman, wife of Republican White House hopeful Jon Huntsman, wore a Tom Brady New England Patriots jersey to her husband’s “town hall” meeting in Plaistow, NH.

As for whether the Florida native really loves the Boston-area team? The wife of the former Utah governor and Chinese ambassador was diplomatic: “We’re spending so much time in New England that I’ve grown to love New England.”

As Iowa finishline nears, Perry compares self to Tebow

In the final debate before the Iowa caucuses, Rick Perry compared himself to Tim Tebow, the most-talked about quarterback in the NFL.

At the debate in Sioux City, the Texas governor said he was hoping to stage a late-game comeback — just like the Denver Broncos quarterback who has thrilled fans (and defied critics) with a string of wins after trailing in the fourth quarter.

“You know, there are a lot of people out there — I understand it. There are a lot of folks that said Tim Tebow wasn’t going to be a very good NFL quarterback.

Gingrich faces down protests at brain science event

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich defended himself against attacks from his rivals on Wednesday when he ran into a sustained protest at what was supposed to be a low-key event about the human brain.

Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is trying to hang on to a lead in Iowa to score a victory in the state’s Jan. 3 caucuses, the first U.S. nominating contest in the Republican race to choose a 2012 presidential candidate.

But to do it he will have to overcome sustained negative ads and daily attacks from his rivals, such as a comment Mitt Romney made to The New York Times on Wednesday calling him “zany.”