Tales from the Trail

Democrats, Republicans claim gains in “Obama referendum”

pointDemocrats and Republicans each claim bragging rights in a U.S. congressional race billed as a referendum on President Barack Obama.
But political analysts said the special election to fill a vacant seat from New York in the House of Representatives was so close — and yet to be decided — no one has much cause to celebrate.
“It’s basically a tie. It’s like kissing your sister,” said Charlie Cook of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which tracks congressional and presidential races.
As of Wednesday, a day after the election, Democrat Scott Murphy, a venture capitalist, held a lead of fewer than 70 votes over Republican New York Assemblyman Jim Tedisco.
The race likely will be decided by absentee ballots.
“Regardless the final outcome, the fact that we closed a 21-point margin (in the polls) in eight weeks is a testament to the fact that the economic message that Scott Murphy carried resonated with voters and his message was support the president’s economic recovery plan,” said Congressman Chris Van Hollen, head of the House Democratic campaign committee.
Republicans said the congressional district, though long Republican, went Democrat in recent years, including last November when Obama won it by 3 percentage points.
“Jim Tedisco has closed the gap in a district that has come to exemplify Democratic dominance,” said Pete Sessions, chairman of the House Republican campaign committee.
“That is a testament to the strength of Jim’s campaign and the effectiveness of the Republican message of fiscal responsibility and accountability,” Sessions said.
Nathan Gonzales of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, said, “Both sides have reasons to be happy, but also reason to be a little disappointed.”
The seat has been open since January, when New York Governor David Paterson appointed Kirsten Gillibrand to the U.S. Senate.

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Photo credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts (Obama points after signing the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, March 30 )

Clinton finds the jazz in her job, honors King and Gandhi

With jazz great Herbie Hancock and Congressman John Lewis at her side, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted a State Department ceremony on Thursday to mark the departure of a cultural delegation to India to commemorate civil rights leader Martin Luther King’s trip therhancocke 50 years ago.

King and his wife, Coretta, traveled to India in 1959 to study the life and works of India’s legendary nonviolent independence leader Mahatma Gandhi. King adopted many of Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence to the U.S. civil rights movement in the early 1960s.
Clinton said she was “jealous” of the trip by the delegation, which includes Hancock, civil rights veteran Lewis, King’s son, Martin Luther King III, and Alabama Congressman Spencer Bachus. The group will travel to New Delhi and other sites associated with Gandhi.

Hancock said the philosophy of cooperation, communication and harmony espoused by King and Gandhi “are also essential elements of every jazz band.”

Mrs. Obama’s Neighborhood

michellehugFirst Lady Michelle Obama’s “new neighborhood tour” landed at a community health center a short distance from the White House on Tuesday.

 She has stopped by a few federal agencies in the three weeks since Barack Obama became president. The nearly hour-long visit to Mary’s Center was Mrs. Obama’s first solo venture into a Washington neighborhood.

“Why did you want to come out and meet us?” asked one of the teens who sat with her. 

Obama to shivering Washingtonians: Toughen up

President Barack Obama, steeled by Chicago’s harsh winters, had some unsolicited advice for shivering Washingtonians on Wednesday — toughen up.
Obama took a joking dig at residents of Washington, his new adopted home, after his daughters’ school was closed because of icy streets and sidewalks in the nation’s capital.
“My children’s school was canceled today, because of what? Some ice,” he said to laughter as he spoke to reporters while sitting down with corporate executives to discuss his economic recovery plan.
As one of his girls, who both attend the private Sidwell Friends school, pointed out, Obama added, “in Chicago, school is never canceled. … You’d go outside for recess. You wouldn’t even stay indoors.”
“We’re going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness,” he said in an amused tone.
Asked whether was calling Washingtonians wimps, Obama — who moved his family from Chicago before his presidential inauguration last week — said, “I’m saying when it comes to the weather, folks in Washington don’t seem to be able to handle things.”

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Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama meets business leaders)

McCain says wishes he were taking oath, promises Obama support

mccain1WASHINGTON – Former Republican White House candidate John McCain said on Monday he wished he were taking the presidential oath of office but pledged his support to former rival Barack Obama instead.

McCain, speaking at a dinner in his honor on the eve of Obama’s swearing-in, reflected on his own career of military and public service when mentioning Tuesday’s inauguration.

“I would have preferred to have sworn again tomorrow the oath I first took more than 50 years ago,” he said.

Inauguaral clampdown on cars

2WASHINGTON – The million or more people expected in Washington for Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration might want to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a whole lot of walking.

Private vehicles will not be able to get anywhere near the action on Jan. 20, when Obama is sworn in as president, under a plan to help with crowd management detailed by the U.S. Secret Service on Wednesday. 

Cars will be banned on major bridges connecting Virginia to Washington.
Streets will be closed
across a broad section in the middle of the city.  Visitors’ best bets for getting around will be public transportation, bicycles or walking. 

Not to be a kill-joy, but …

USA-OBAMA/A decision by the city council to extend the hours Washington bars and restaurants can serve alcohol for the week around Inauguration Day on Jan. 20 has stumbled into a wall of opposition from church leaders, police and top U.S. lawmakers.

In a letter to D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Council Chairman Vincent Gray, U.S. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin asked them to reconsider a decision to allow bars and restaurants to stay open all night and serve alcohol until 5 a.m. during the period Jan. 17-21.

Durbin, who served as co-chairman of President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign, said he shared the concerns of police and church groups worried that the extended drinking hours will invite alcohol-induced misbehavior and encourage drunk driving on clogged D.C. streets.

D.C. drinking hours expanded during Obama inauguration

(UPDATED to include legislation passage)

WASHINGTON – Unable to snag a hotel room for President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration? Fear not, bars will be open late so you might not need one.

The U.S. capital has a bit of a reputation for being an “early to bed” city full of government bureaucrats, but for a few days surrounding Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration they could carouse a little bit later if they wanted to do so.

D.C. City Council member Jim Graham offered legislation that would enable restaurants, bars and other places that serve alcohol to do so until 5 a.m. between Jan. 17 and Jan. 21. That’s three hours longer than current rules allow for weekdays and two hours for weekends.