Presidential races

Presidential races

Pawlenty heads to Iowa, N.H. on book tour

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is the latest rumored 2012 hopeful to take his book tour through some key Republican primary states.

According to a schedule released by Pawlenty's Freedom First PAC, the governor will kick off the tour for his book Courage to Stand in early January.

After launching the tour, Pawlenty has planned stops in New Hampshire and Iowa, along with Florida, Ohio and Texas during the first month of 2011.

The website for Pawlenty's political action committee features the first excerpt from the book, in which Pawlenty recounts a story of how he "tossed my cookies" due to the stench of rotting beef while helping his father earn some extra cash by cleaning truck trailers at the age of 12.

The book tours of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) also included swings through Iowa and some other early primary states.

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White House hopefuls take aim at arms pact

Republican likely presidential hopefuls have united in opposition to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which could make the agreement with Russia a 2012 campaign issue.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune (R) was the latest to offer his criticism.

"First and foremost, missile defense remains a major point of disagreement between the United States and Russia, and this treaty only makes the situation worse," he wrote in an opinion piece for National Review Online.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) predicted it would be an issue for voters in 2012.

"This will be a big issue because as a consequence of this treaty, President Obama will continue to undermine missile defense," Gingrich told The Associated Press. "It's an obsolete approach that's a holdover from the Cold War and a bilateral treaty without taking into account multilateral threats."

Gingrich and Thune join Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin as critics of the agreement.

The treaty would see the United States and Russia eliminate hundreds of nuclear weapons from their aging stockpiles. Obama has urged the Senate to pass the agreement during its lame-duck session, but some Republicans have complained there isn't enough time for that to happen.


--Updated at 6:18 p.m.

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Gravel mulls primary challenge to Obama in '12

Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel is contemplating a primary challenge to President Obama.

Gravel, who ran for president in 2008, won't rule out a primary challenge to Obama in 2012.

"Both are possible," he told the Daily Caller.

Obama has been taking heat recently from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which was angered by his compromise with the GOP over extensions of the Bush-era tax rates for top income earners. 

While Gravel mulls his challenge, he made it clear he doesn't think Sarah Palin has a chance of defeating the president.

Gravel called the former Alaska governor a "very talented politician," but added: "Policy wise and intellectually, I think she leaves a great deal to be desired."

"I don't think she could beat Obama," he said.

Since his bid for the White House ended in 2008, Gravel has spoken increasingly about conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11 and called for an investigation into the attacks. He defended his suspicions in the interview.

"Individuals in and out of government may certainly have participated with the obviously known perpetrators of this dastardly act," Gravel told the website. "Suspicions abound over the analysis presented by government. Obviously an act that has triggered three wars, Afghan, Iraqi and the continuing War on Terror, should be extensively investigated, which was not done and which the government avoids addressing."

Should Gravel decide to run, his supporters would expect an unconventional campaign similar to the one that produced the famous "Rock" video below. 


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Liberal group launches new ad blasting Obama

A second TV ad designed to pressure President Obama from the left over the extension of Bush-era tax cuts is set to run in Washington, D.C., and Indiana starting Friday.

The spot is funded by the liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and it recycles footage of Obama telling voters on the campaign trail in 2008 that former President George W. Bush's economic policies "offend my conscience." 

The spot ends with a message in white text over video of a cheering crowd at an Indiana campaign rally that reads, "If Obama won't fight for his promise, Congress needs to."

An earlier spot launched by the group also used footage of Obama on the '08 campaign trail railing against tax cuts for the top two percent of income earners. That ad ran on D.C. cable and in Iowa.

According to the group, the new ad will start running on D.C. cable starting Friday and be up through early next week. In Indiana, the group has purchased time in both the Indianapolis and Evansville markets on local broadcast and cable, with the spot launching Friday. 

"As a candidate, Obama took his message to red states like Indiana and won by promising that we would not have four more years of tax cuts for the wealthy," said PCCC co-founder Adam Green. "If Obama's deal passes, his presidency will represent four more years of those unconscionable tax cuts — a broken campaign promise born not out of necessity but out of a failure to fight."

Obama carried Indiana by the narrowest of margins over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008.

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Bloomberg calls for 'middle way,' sparking more 2012 talk

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's (I) presidential denials appear less convincing by the day. 

On Wednesday, Bloomberg laid out a platform for job creation in remarks that could easily double as a campaign stump speech.

While touting New York City's economic progress under his leadership, Bloomberg slammed "ideologues" on both the left and the right for pursuing partisan solutions rather than coming together to solve economic problems. 

"The economic policies that we have pursued to drive this growth have been neither left nor right, liberal nor conservative," Bloomberg said in prepared remarks. "Despite what ideologues on the left believe, government cannot tax and spend its way back to prosperity, especially when that spending is driven by pork barrel politics."

He continued: "At the same time, despite what ideologues on the right believe, government should not stand aside and wait for the business cycle to run its natural course. That would be intolerable, given the enormous unemployment we face and the worsening job prospects for the 15 million people who are trying to find work." 

The mayor called for state and federal lawmakers to chart "a middle way" in setting economic policy. 

"We need our federal and state governments to chart a middle way — between a government that would wash its hands of the problem and one that seeks to supplant the private sector; between a government that would stand on the sidelines and one that would take over the game." 

Bloomberg's remarks came at a breakfast hosted by a New York business group and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. 

A recent poll showed a Bloomberg candidacy in 2012 could actually aid President Obama's reelection effort as the independent mayor continues to deny any interest in a presidential bid. 

The perfect scenario for Bloomberg, according to one Democratic consultant: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin runs in 2012 and somehow manages to win the nomination, while a still stagnant economy keeps Obama's approval ratings, particularly among independents, in the tank. 

That could mean a gaping hole in the center of the electorate that Bloomberg can spend hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money courting with an independent White House bid. 

Bloomberg's also not the only New York billionaire mulling a presidential run. Real estate mogul Donald Trump said again Tuesday that he's "seriously considering" a 2012 bid. 


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Dem pollster: Obama needs to show some toughness

Longtime Democratic pollster Peter Hart on Wednesday said President Obama's tax cut deal with Republican leaders came "too early" and "too easily," leaving American voters wondering when he'll show his backbone.   

Speaking at a breakfast with reporters sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, Hart panned Obama's Tuesday news conference defending the deal, saying the president appeared "more petulant than he did inspired."  

"What the American public is looking for and what they're trying to understand is his backbone," said Hart. "Where will this man stand up and where will he fight?"   

While Hart conceded that he thought Obama ultimately made the right decision in opting for compromise on an extension of Bush-era tax cuts, he said Obama's posture is emblematic of the president's problem connecting with voters.

"The difficulty with what happened here is that instead of being eyeball to eyeball [with Republicans] and blinking, they probably saw him at 40 yards and blinking," said Hart, who also said he thinks the American public is still trying to understand "how firm, how tough he is — and two years in, unlike other presidents, they don't have a good measure of that."  

What has come through loud and clear in Hart's famed focus groups with voters, though, is that while most like the president personally, they don't view him as relatable.   

"People did not see him as connecting, communicating, relating to the average person," said Hart. "This is a person who has great communication skills, but that sense of closeness, that sense of relationship was all missing." 

Ultimately, Hart said the president's prospects for reelection hinge largely on the economy, noting that he isn't sure whether an 8 percent unemployment rate come 2012 will translate to an Obama loss, but "if it's 10 percent, he will not be reelected." 

Hart also thinks Obama is in store for a tougher two years than former President Clinton endured after massive Republican gains in the 1994 midterm elections. 

"Clinton was a survivor," said Hart, noting that after the '94 election the former president made the decision that he would do whatever it took to win reelection. 

"If [Clinton] had been on the Titanic, he would have been in Life Boat One," he joked. "I don't care what the wig looked like or how the dress fit, he would have been in Life Boat One and he would have been out of there."

It's a stark contrast to Obama, whom Hart called "an adapter" — a quality he thinks makes it much harder for the current president to successfully navigate the new political environment. 

"Being an adapter just makes it that much tougher in this period of time," said Hart. "I think what he did this week on tax cuts was adapting to what his situation was." 

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Kennedy still tops approval ratings of modern presidents

Former President John F. Kennedy has the highest job approval rating of the past nine U.S. presidents, according to a Gallup Poll.

Kennedy leads the list with a strong 85 percent approval rating. In second place, President Ronald Reagan boasts a 74 percent approval rating. The two presidents had close to the same numbers when the survey was taken in 2006.

Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton moved up the list, coming in at third.

In Gallup's first retrospective approval measure since he left office, former President George W. Bush came in eighth with an approval rating of 47 percent. His father, George H.W. Bush came in fourth, receiving a 64 percent rating.

Richard Nixon came in last with a 29 percent approval rating.

According to Gallup, those surveyed were asked to comment on whether they approve or disapprove of each president’s time in office, based on what they remember.

Kennedy has ranked No. 1 since the poll began in 1990. Nixon has almost always come in last.

“Six of the nine presidents are now more highly regarded than they were at the end of their presidencies,” Gallup's Lydia Saad wrote in her analysis. “These include Kennedy, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Carter, and George W. Bush.”

She notes attitudes toward former presidents tend to soften with amount of time out of office, although that cannot be guaranteed.

The poll surveyed 1,037 adults with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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Bush's book tops Palin's on New York Times best seller list

Former President George W. Bush's memoir tops Sarah Palin's new book on the New York Times' best-seller list.

Bush's book, Decision Points, is at the No. 1 spot on the nonfiction best-seller list. Palin's America by Heart is right behind it in the No. 2 spot.

Bush's book came out Nov. 9 and Palin's was released Nov. 23.

The only other political book in the top ten was Edmund Morris' Colonel Roosevelt, which sat in the No. 10 spot. The tome is the third and concluding volume of Morris’s trilogy on former President Theodore Roosevelt.

Bush's book was also on top of Amazon.com's best-seller list Monday afternoon while Palin's sat at No. 27.

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