Tales from the Trail

A battleground is a battleground is a battleground – or is it?

It isn’t really surprising that there are widely varying theories for the best way to win the battleground states – those considered neither firmly Democratic nor Republican – in the Nov. 6 election. After all, if they were easy to win, they wouldn’t be battlegrounds.

But what is surprising is the extent of the disagreement over which should be defined as battlegrounds – or swing states, toss-ups or “purple” (as in something between Republican red and Democratic blue).

A new study by the University of Minnesota found that news outlets that publish election maps vary widely in their assessments of which states are up for grabs in 2012.

Using data collected on August 2, researchers looked at the electoral projection maps of 12 news outlets and found the number of states deemed toss-ups ranged from a low of three – the Huffington Post’s Florida, North Carolina and Virginia – to a high of 16 at the National Journal, which puts Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin in the purple column.

Residents of battleground states can expect to have a busy autumn. Their telephones will ring with political surveys, push polls and election-related announcements. Their radio and television programs will overflow with advertisements. Their mailboxes and online accounts (Facebook ads, anyone?) will bulge with messages, and pleas for money, from candidates, committees and political parties. And their doorbells will very likely ring with visits from what both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s teams promise will be “armies” of volunteers espousing candidates and causes.

Blunt says to keep an eye on Virginia

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican who is Mitt Romney’s point person in Congress, doesn’t think Ohio or Florida will be the main states to watch on election night. He will have his eyes on Virginia.

In an interview at the annual Reuters Washington Summit, Blunt was asked which state was the one to monitor in the run-up to the Nov. 6 election between President Barack Obama and Romney.

“Virginia,” he said. “If I was watching one state on election night, it would be a state I’d [watch].”

Fan-in-chief Obama draws popular basketball coach for Virginia rally

President Barack Obama’s big re-election campaign rally in Virginia on Saturday will feature a speaker who could be the most popular man in the battleground state.

It’s not a politician, like Tim Kaine, the former governor now running for the U.S. Senate, who will also be at Virginia Commonwealth University for the event. Two other Democratic Virginia politicians, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, will not be there.

It is Shaka Smart, VCU’s basketball coach, who will host the rally before Obama speaks.  

Romney casts “Virginia” Gingrich as Lucille Ball

Republican White House hopeful Newt Gingrich has termed his failure to make it onto the presidential primary ballot in Virginia, the state where he lives and is leading in the polls, in pretty grandiose terms, comparing the weekend events to Pearl Harbor. That allowed rival Mitt Romney to get off a zinger on Monday as he prepared to leave the friendly confines of New Hampshire for three days of tough campaigning in Iowa.

On Saturday, Gingrich’s national campaign director Michael Krull put out a statement after his candidate was knocked off the Virginia ballot for failing to garner enough verifiable signatures from residents: “Newt and I agreed that the analogy is December 1941: We have experienced an unexpected setback, but we will re-group and re-focus with increased determination, commitment and positive action,” Krull said on Facebook.

Campaigning at a lobster-and-chowder shack in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Romney was asked about Gingrich’s ballot woes. “I think he compared that to Pearl Harbor. It’s more like Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory,” Romney said to laughter, evoking a classic scene from U.S. television history. The 1952 episode of “I Love Lucy” had the red-headed comedian and her BFF Ethel trying to hold down jobs at a candy factory while their husbands subbed in to do the housework. Ineptitude, and hilarity, ensues.

Webb’s retirement could loosen Democratic grip on U.S. Senate

Things just got a lot harder for Democrats.

First-term Senator James Webb announced on Wednesday he will not run for re-election in Virginia next year, making Republicans the early favorite to recapture the seat the Democrat narrowly won in 2006. MYANMAR-USA/

The decision by Webb, an author and a former secretary of the Navy, set off a celebration among Senate Republicans and a scramble to find a replacement among Democrats with no clear good options.

The name most frequently mentioned was former Governor Tim Kaine, head of the Democratic National Committee, who says he has no interest in the seat. Other possibilities among Democrats include former Congressman Tom Periello, who lost in November after one term, former Congressman Rick Boucher and former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

Former Senator Allen trying for a comeback, but he’s got competition

Former Republican Senator George Allen is trying for a comeback for the Senate seat from Virginia that he narrowly lost to Democrat Jim Webb in 2006, following comments that critics said were racist.

USA ELECTIONS“Friends, it’s time for an American comeback,” Allen said in a video on his website. “Today, I’m announcing my candidacy for the U.S. Senate. You know me as someone willing to fight for the people of Virginia and I would like the responsibility to fight for you again.”

He promised a campaign for the 2012 election based on “foundational” principles that included reining in government spending and creating jobs.

Traffic complaint? You travel by motorcade!

USA-POLITICS/OBAMA

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine was surprised on his “Ask the Governor” monthly radio show on Tuesday when caller “Barry from DC” turned out to be a particularly well-known “Barry” from Washington, D.C. — U.S. President Barack Obama, not a listener he was told was telephoning to complain about traffic, a laughable suggestion given the president cuts through Washington’s notorious gridlock with the assistance of a multi-vehicle motorcade and heavily armed security detail.

The president’s call to Kaine had been arranged in advance as a surprise to the governor, who is also chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to mark his last time on the show, which airs on Washington radio station WTOP.  Virginia’s constitution limits its governors to one four-year term in office and Kaine will be succeeded next month by Republican Bob McDonnell.

“Governor Kaine, this is actually the president of the United States calling,” Obama said and congratulated Kaine on his service as governor. With Kaine’s help, Obama won the state of Virginia in the 2008 presidential election, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to take the state since 1964.

The First Draft: off-year election day could spell trouble for Obama

It’s been a year since Americans have gone to the polls, but as they do on Tuesday President Barack Obama may be less excited than he was last year, particularly in Virginia and New Jersey where his fellow Democrats are facing trouble.

Republicans are hoping to capture the governors’ mansions in those two states to rebuild some momentum after being trounced by Democrats last year. They also are trying to make it a referendum against Obama’s agenda to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system and financial regulatory structure as well as his plans to address climate change.OBAMA/

In Virginia where Obama won narrowly in 2008, Republican Bob McDonnell has built a sizable lead over Democrat Creigh Deeds while in traditionally Democratic-leaning New Jersey Republican Chris Christie is neck and neck with Democratic incumbent Governor Jon Corzine.

The First Draft: Preparing for a fall?

Are Democrats trying to soften the blow for President Barack Obama if the Democratic candidate for Virginia governor, Creigh Deeds, loses in the November elections?OBAMA/

The Washington Post thinks so. It says in a front page story that top Democrats sense that Deeds is likely to lose in the key swing state so they’re trying to distance Obama from him.

The article cites senior administration officials who are frustrated with the way Deeds has handled his campaign, saying he refused some strategic advice. They also say he did not reach out to some key constituencies that helped Obama win Virginia in the 2008 presidential race — the first time in decades that a Democrat won in that state.

The First Draft: Showdown in Virginia

No major events are on the calendar today in the Federal City, but on the other side of the Potomac River there’s plenty to chew over.

Virginia Democrats on Tuesday night picked State Sen. Creigh Deeds, an unpolished moderate from the rural Shenandoah Valley, over better-funded rivals in the state’s gubernatorial primary.

This normally wouldn’t be big news, but the Virginia governor’s race is sure to get lots of national scrutiny as one of only two major electoral contests this year (along with the New Jersey governor’s race).