Tales from the Trail

Notes from Freedom, New Hampshire

(View an in-depth look at scenes from Iowa and New Hampshire in a downloadable pdf format here and a look ahead to the primaries here)

MANY STILL WAITING FOR THE RIGHT REPUBLICAN

It’s no secret that many Republican voters — the ones who are even paying attention at all — are not crazy about this year’s crop of presidential candidates. Surveys have showed the enthusiasm level running low.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul has passionate followers, though, and drew a sizable crowd in iconically-named Freedom, New Hampshire, population 1,489, on Friday.

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The visit stirred an otherwise peaceful morning at the century-old Freedom Village Store, which sells an assortment of coffee, crafts and antiques and is staffed by volunteers.

John Hogan, 77, a retired Navy intelligence officer, caused a ripple when he brought in a life-size cut-out of President Barack Obama shortly before Paul’s arrival.

Washington Extra – Swallows and Democrats

In the words of Aristotle: “one swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”

Nevertheless, Democrats might not be feeling quite so down in the dumps today, as evidence comes in that in early voting (allowed at election offices and satellite locations in 32 states) the Democrats are off to a stronger-than-expected start. It is impossible to tell how people actually voted, but Democrats do appear to be showing up in greater numbers in some key states than some had feared. But things are still not going as well for them as in 2008.

The “enthusiasm gap” is expected to be one of the Democrats’ biggest handicaps in the midterms, this early evidence, and rallies next weekend by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, notwithstanding.

Republican, Democratic party chiefs see victory in battle for the House

In dueling appearances on the Sunday morning news shows, the heads of the Democratic and Republican parties made the same  prediction — After the Nov. 2 elections, our guys will control the House.

mike_sarahRepublican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says his party’s going into the final campaign stretch on a winning combination of momentum, excitement and energy.

“There is a vibration out here that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, Steele said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Pelosi takes on Chamber of Commerce over campaign spending

The phrase “Buy American”  may be taking on a new connotation in the rough-and-tumble battle over corporate financing and the midterm congressional elections.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been pumping lots of cash into the campaign, received multimillion dollar donations from some major companies as it fought against government policies, the New York Times reported Thursday.

pelosi“They give new meaning to the term “Buy American”…  they want to buy these elections,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said when asked about the article in an MSNBC interview.

McCain hails Palin power in the mid-term elections

Arizona Senator John McCain says his former running mate former Alasaka governor Sarah Palin is a “visionary” for the United States.

“She has had a tremendous impact on this election cycle, as you well know, by supporting certain candidates,” McCain said in an interview on ABC’s “Nightline. “It is really a remarkable thing to observe.”

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee again defended his decision to pick the then relatively unknown Palin for the number-two spot on the ticket.

Michelle Obama joins stump on behalf of Democratic hopefuls

michelle_2010First Lady Michelle Obama shook off the rust and hit the campaign trail – at least the campaign fundraising circuit – ahead of the November midterm elections.

Praising her husband’s accomplishments in just a year-and-a-half in office, she urged supporters to “have his back” by getting out the vote for fellow Democrats so he can pursue promised change with a friendly Congress.

Republicans are expected to make inroads in the November mid-term election.

“This is my first day out on the campaign trail. In fact, I haven’t been on the trail since a little campaign a couple of years ago,” Obama told a well-heeled crowd attending a $750-a-plate fundraiser for U.S. Senate hopeful Alexi Giannoulias.

Washington Extra – Slipping away

congress1The Democrats’ chances of retaining control of the House of Representatives are slipping away. Our latest Reuters/Ipsos poll suggests that Republicans are poised to win around 227 seats and Democrats about 208 seats in next month’s election. Unemployment is top of the agenda for voters, and there is no good news coming on that front between now and November 2 (the next reading on the jobless rate doesn’t even come until the Friday after the election). That means there is very little chance that Democrats can pull off a late surge.

Also slipping away is President Barack Obama’s approval rating, to a new low in our poll, with much of the decline coming from his own Democratic supporters. His handling of the economy remains a leading cause of the drop. Again, any hope of energizing the Democratic base now looks slim.

More interesting is the race for control of the Senate. Ipsos says the poll numbers suggest Democrats will win 52 seats to 48 seats for the Republicans, the same margin predicted by the poll of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. But a number of races are still very close.

Boxer votes early, like a good Californian

POLITICS-USA/Election day may be nearly a month off, but U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer wasn’t confused, or cheating, when she went to the polls on Tuesday to vote (presumably for herself).  The three-term Democrat was just following what has become something of a time-honored practice for many Californians: early voting.

In fact, more than 41 percent of California voters voted by mail, or absentee, during the 2008 general election, a number that has risen nearly every year since the 1978, and Boxer’s camp says the Senator — who is facing the toughest reelection fight of her career against former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina – was using it as a tool to increase voter participation.

Boxer, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, lives with her husband in Rancho Mirage, California, near Palm Springs, and cast her ballot at the Riverside County Registrar’s Office.

Feingold trails in new Reuters-Ipsos poll

USALiberal stalwart Russ Feingold trails his Republican challenger by 7 percentage points in a new Reuters-Ipsos poll of Wisconsin’s Senate race released on Tuesday.

With less than a month to go before the Nov. 2 elections, Republican Ron Johnson leads Feingold, a Democrat, 51 percent to 44 percent among likely voters.

That’s good news for Republicans, who are counting on a Wisconsin victory to help win control of the Senate. Not so good for Democrats, who could see the three-term incumbent swept out of office due to worries about the economy.

Obama campaigning tactic: bash Bush years

President Barack Obama has apparently decided that the way to win voters’ hearts is to warn them against a return to the Bush years.

He’s been in campaign mode this week trying to drum up enthusiasm for Democrats worried about losing their majority in Congress with just one month left until the Nov. 2 election. OBAMA/

In a backyard in Iowa, Obama told voters the election was a choice between going back to the Bush years or moving ahead (although he never uttered his predecessor’s name).