Archive for ‘Poltics’

May 31, 2011

Barack Obama president’s re-election campaign might hinge on re-registration of voters that moved …

Obama prospects might hinge on voter registration
May 30, 2011, 8:23 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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WASHINGTON (AP) — In 2008, Barack Obama tapped into a record of nearly 15 million voters who cast ballots for the first time, a surge in registration that may be difficult to replicate next year.

Recent voter registration data show that Democrats have lost ground in key states that Obama carried in 2008, an early warning siren for the president’s re-election campaign. While Republican numbers have also dipped in some states, the drop in the Democrats’ ranks highlights the importance of the Obama campaign‘s volunteer base and the challenge they could have of registering new voters.

“When you look back at 2008 there has to be a recognition that it was a historic election, a historic candidate, a historic moment in time and potentially some type of a ceiling — I’m not sure there is ever a hard ceiling — in terms of voter registration,” said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane. He said the political map in 2012 will likely look more like it did going into the close contests of 2000 and 2004, which hinged on swing states like Florida and Ohio, respectively, than in 2008, when Obama won traditionally Republican states like Indiana and North Carolina.

Obama will have to re-ignite the passions of some Democrats who had high hopes going into his presidency and may be ambivalent about him now. Several states with Republican governors have tried to reduce the number of early voting days and required photo IDs, a move that Democrats say will disenfranchise poor and minority voters. Polls have shown some political independents drifting away from Obama since 2008, meaning Democrats need to register and turn out more Hispanic and black voters, college students and women.

While Democratic registrations ballooned prior to the 2008 election, the numbers have declined in several important states, including:

— Florida: Democrats added more than 600,000 registered voters between 2006 and 2008, giving Obama about 4.8 million registered Democrats to help his cause. Registered Democrats now number 4.6 million in the Sunshine State. Republican registrations have slipped from 4.1 million in 2008 to about 4.05 million in mid-March, the most recent data available. Nearly 2.6 million voters in Florida are unaffiliated.

— Pennsylvania: Democrats maintain a 1.5 million voter advantage in registrations over Republicans, but their numbers have dwindled since Obama’s election. There were 4.15 million registered Democrats through mid-May, compared with about 4.48 million in 2008. Democrats added about a half-million voters to their rolls in the two years prior to the 2008 election. Republicans currently have more than 3 million registered voters, compared with 3.2 million in 2008. About 500,000 Pennsylvania voters are unaffiliated.

— Iowa: Republicans have gained ground in the state that launched Obama’s presidential bid. GOP registrations increased from about 625,000 voters in 2008 to nearly 640,000 in early May. Democrats, meanwhile, have fallen from about 736,000 voters in 2008 to about 687,000 in May. Nonpartisan voters remain the largest bloc in the Hawkeye State, representing more than 762,000 voters.

Democrats’ numbers have also fallen in North Carolina, where Obama became the first Democratic nominee to carry the state since 1976, and Nevada, a high-growth state that has been battered by the recession.

Several Democratic-friendly cities have not been immune, either. Philadelphia had 880,000 registered Democrats in 2008; that number has fallen below 800,000. Denver, where Democrats held their 2008 convention, had about 200,000 registered Democrats in November 2008 — that’s now down to about 120,000. In Mecklenburg County, N.C., whose county seat, Charlotte, is the site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Democrats’ numbers have fallen after major gains leading up to the 2008 election.

Obama officials said voter registration will be a top priority. Obama adviser David Axelrod said the campaign would “mount a major effort and it’s not just about registering new voters but it’s also re-registering people who have moved because there is a high degree of transiency among young people and often among minority voters. We want to make sure that not only new voters but people who have moved are registered again.”

Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman, said the president “has demonstrated a consistent ability to reach new voters and voters who don’t identify as Democrats, so party affiliation isn’t the only factor to evaluate. The campaign’s efforts to expand the electorate to new voters and voters with less consistent voting histories was one reason why the president was elected in 2008, and as we continue our organizing efforts it’s certainly something we’ll take into consideration.”

Finding new voters has been a longstanding goal of Obama, who ran a successful voter registration drive in Chicago when Bill Clinton sought the White House in 1992. Sixteen years later, Obama’s campaign was fueled by a massive grassroots campaign and advocacy groups who registered millions of new voters and then turned them out in record numbers.

In a strategy video released in April, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina noted that Democrats registered about two-thirds of the new voters in 2007 and 2008 in states that allow for party registration. Obama, in turn, won nearly 70 percent of the nearly 15 million first-time voters in 2008.

“That made real differences in very close states across this country. We’ve got to do that again in 2012,” Messina said.

Both political parties maintain private voter databases that allow them to closely monitor registration changes, but public data is more difficult to ascertain. Nationally, more than half the states allow registered voters to indicate a party preference when registering while many states in the South and Midwest don’t provide for a party preference.

Voter registration and turnout were critical to the last president running for re-election — George W. Bush in 2004. Bush’s operation registered an estimated 3 million new voters, helping it drive up vote totals in the areas straddling key suburban regions in Florida and Ohio.

Blaise Hazelwood, who ran the Republican National Committee’s voter registration effort in 2004, said campaign officials pored over Excel charts tracking new registrations on a daily basis and used the mail, door knocking and supermarket stands to find voters in places more inclined to support Bush. She said it would be difficult for Obama’s operation to replicate 2008.

“There’s no way they can get all those voters back,” Hazelwood said.

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Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

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Ken Thomas can be reached at http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas

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May 26, 2011

Jubilant Democrats demanded Republicans abandon their sweeping plans to remake Medicare on …

Dems rejoice over NY; will Medicare redo 2012?
May 26, 2011, 2:59 a.m. EDT
Associated Press
Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,
Hello Reader, What Party Do You Want Running The US Government 2013? Selection Poll B.O.Page!WASHINGTON (AP) — Jubilant Democrats demanded Republicans abandon their sweeping plans to remake Medicare on Wednesday after casting a House race in upstate New York as a referendum on the popular program and emerging victorious.

“The top three reasons for the election of a Democrat in one of the most conservative Republican districts in America are Medicare, Medicare and Medicare,” declared New York Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the party’s congressional campaign committee.

House Republicans made little if any attempt to demonstrate widespread support for their controversial proposal during the day. And the National Republican Congressional Committee offered no explanation for having let hundreds of thousands of dollars in Democratic-funded attacks on the proposed Medicare overhaul go unchallenged in its own television advertising.

GOP officials said the presence of a third-party contender and other factors contributed to their unexpected defeat in New York.

They accused Democrats of campaign scare tactics, while the Medicare plan’s author, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released a five-minute video defending his work.

Under Ryan’s plan, for anyone younger than 55 the basic Medicare program for medical and hospital care would be replaced by a system in which insurance companies would offer coverage while the government contributed toward the cost of premiums. The program would remain unchanged for anyone 55 or older, including millions who currently receive benefits.

Kathy Hochul’s victory over Republican Jane Corwin in a multi-candidate race was the best political news in months for Democrats, who were voted out of power in the House and lost seats in the Senate last year in what President Barack Obama memorably dubbed a shellacking. She gained 47 percent of the vote, to 43 percent for her rival and 9 percent for Jack Davis, a former Democrat who ran as a tea party contender.

At the same time, Democrats stressed they did not view the race as a reason to walk away from high-profile bipartisan deficit-reduction talks being led by Vice President Joe Biden.

For Republicans, the New York race provided fresh evidence of turbulence for a Medicare remake they tout as a long-term answer to the program’s financing. In the weeks since they unveiled it, the proposal has been less than enthusiastically received by the public, judging from polls.

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich criticized it, and while he later apologized to Ryan he has not recanted his opposition. A second contender, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said during the day he will have an alternative that differs in unspecified areas from the one in the party’s budget in the House.

Israel and other Democrats said Hochul’s victory showed that the Medicare-overhaul proposal would prove a political dead weight for Republicans in dozens of races in the 2012 congressional elections.

It also is likely to embolden liberals who are not generally supportive of deficit cuts now under negotiation on the order of trillions of dollars.

Yet public opinion polls show strong support for reining in deficits, particularly among independent voters. And Obama, readying for his own re-election campaign, has dispatched Biden and other top officials to negotiations aimed at reaching a compromise with Republicans.

“Budget talks are proceeding in good faith and will continue,” said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

The party’s second-in-command in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, has said repeatedly that changes to Medicare should be on the table as part of deficit reduction talks, although he and others in his party remain implacably opposed to the Republicans proposal.

In an interview, Israel said Democrats would work with Republicans to strengthen Medicare “but not to do away with it.”

Republicans want “to end Medicare as we know it,” the president told an audience of invited guests last month, Ryan and other GOP lawmakers among them.

Democratic strategists have privately urged the party’s leaders to criticize the overhaul plan, in part to try and regain the allegiance of older and independent voters who helped Republicans in the 2010 elections.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, chair of the Senate Democratic campaign organization, said she, too, intended to make use of the issue in the fall.

“I’m confident that Senate Democrats will be able to play offense in races across the country by remaining focused on the Republican effort to end Medicare in order to” cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations, she said.

In the race in New York, Hochul injected the GOP Medicare plan into the campaign weeks ago. Running in a conservative district, she aired ads saying she wanted to reduce government spending while accusing Corwin of favoring Medicare cuts to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Corwin quickly counterattacked, accusing Hochul of wanting to cut Social Security as well as Medicare.

Both the Democratic campaign committee and the House Majority PAC, an outside group aligned with the Democrats, also aired ads critical of the GOP Medicare plan.

But the National Republican Congressional Committee did not mention the issue in running as much as $400,000 worth of television advertising in the district around Buffalo and Rochester. Instead, the group ran a commercial linking Hochul to Pelosi, an echo of the type of ad that proved effective in the 2010 campaigns.

Paul Lindsay, a spokesman, declined to say whether the organization wished it had acted differently. But in the future, he said, “Republicans will take this result as a call to action to challenge Democrats at every turn on their irresponsible plan to bankrupt Medicare.”

American Crossroads, an organization aligned with Republicans, spent more than $600,000 on television ads without seeking to counter the Democratic attacks.

Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman, said polling showed Medicare was the largest policy issue in the campaign “by a superslim and superlow plurality of 21 percent.”

He said one out of five voters said it was the most important issue, yet five out of ten voted for Hochul. “When you look at it that way, it’s really not the big deal that everyone made it out to be.”

Hochul will be sworn in within days, the first Democrat to represent the district in four decades. She replaces Chris Lee, who resigned after shirtless photos he sent to a woman he’d flirted with on Craigslist surfaced online.

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May 26, 2011

A no-new-taxes philosophy guided Tim Pawlenty’s budget approach …

Pawlenty: An economic pro or crafty budget setter?
May 25, 2011, 4:25 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A no-new-taxes philosophy guided Tim Pawlenty‘s budget approach as Minnesota governor.

Accounting tricks, a well-timed infusion of stimulus money from Washington and word games kept the Republican mostly on that course.

The newly minted presidential candidate hopes Republican primary voters will see him as an economic pro accustomed to dealing with red ink and capable of confronting the nation’s colossal fiscal problems.

“We balanced the budget every two years in my state without question,” Pawlenty said Wednesday at a conservative think tank in Washington. “We have a constitutional requirement, as almost every other state does.

It must be balanced, it has to be balanced, it always will be balanced. In fact, the last budget that I finished ends this summer, here in about two months. And it’s going to end in the black.”

On the campaign trail, the Republican eagerly highlights his many tax-increase vetoes. And he boasts of enduring a partial government shutdown as well as a workers’ strike to contain costs.

But his record also carries vulnerabilities for foes to exploit.

There’s the carefully crafted “health impact fee” on cigarettes. It’s a euphemism for a tax increase in the eyes of some allies and most opponents.

Minnesota lurched from one deficit to another under his eight-year tenure. The state’s books technically balanced when he left office in January, but by then a mammoth deficit was forecast for the first budget his successor would need to craft.

When asked about that legacy, Pawlenty said the analysis is off-base: “It’s based on a big increase in projected spending — 20-some percent increase — that I never would’ve allowed.”

Pawlenty distances himself from that projected $5 billion shortfall, but it’s partly attributable to temporary fixes he either proposed or consented to. Schools are owed more than $1.4 billion in state IOUs, one-time stimulus dollars used to prop up ongoing state expenses are drying up and short-lived spending curbs Pawlenty first enacted using his executive powers are expiring.

His defenders, including former Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum, say Pawlenty had to work within the confines of a politically split state government and wanted to be more aggressive than Democrats in the Legislature would permit.

“It took some patchwork, no doubt,” Sviggum said. “But the fact is, we were able to meet the constitutional charge of balancing the budget without raising taxes.”

Taxes did rise in the Pawlenty era, although his fingerprints aren’t on them.

His veto of a gas tax increase was overridden and voters raised the sales tax through a ballot measure. Property taxes shot up in the Pawlenty years, mostly those enacted by city, county or school governments as they coped with stagnant or falling state aid. The year he entered the governor’s office, Minnesota land owners paid about $5.1 billion in property taxes; the total take topped $8 billion when he departed.

“Tim Pawlenty consistently passed the buck — onto local governments, onto the Legislature, onto anyone he could,” said state Rep. Paul Thissen, the top House Democrat. “His budgets were filled with shifts, tricks and gimmicks that created perpetual state deficits and set Minnesota behind the rest of the nation.”

Then there are fees.

The state slapped higher surcharges on everything from speeding tickets to marriage licenses. None was more controversial than the 75 cent-per-pack levy on cigarettes, which helped break the stalemate that pushed Minnesota to a government shutdown in 2005.

Pawlenty insists the cigarette “fee” is directly linked to health costs attributable to smoking, and the state Supreme Court vouched for that terminology when tobacco companies sued to block it.

Anti-tax groups, including the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, regard it as clear blemish on Pawlenty’s record.

“I still call it a tax increase even though the Supreme Court blessed it as a fee, not a tax,” said Phil Krinkie, the league’s president and a former Republican legislative colleague of Pawlenty.

GOP primary voters looking for a Pawlenty scorecard will find a mixed appraisal from conservative groups.

The conservative Club for Growth gave Pawlenty a less-than-flattering review Tuesday, saying his ideological moorings may not be as strong as he’s projecting.

“A President Pawlenty, we suspect, would fight for pro-growth policies, but would be susceptible to adopting ‘pragmatic’ policies that grow government,” the group concludes in a report it prepared on him.

But the Cato Institute, which advocates for smaller government and hosted him, gave Pawlenty one of four “A” grades for governors in its latest rankings.

He wasn’t always in the group’s good graces.

Chris Edwards, Cato’s director of tax policy studies, said Pawlenty’s frequent vetoes, ready use of executive budget-cutting powers and advocacy of corporate tax cuts account for his high marks now.

“In the last four or five years, he has followed very much of a small-government approach on fiscal policy,” Edwards said. “Perhaps he knew he was going to run for president.”

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May 23, 2011

Tim Pawlenty on Monday cast himself as the Republican candidate willing to tell the country hard truths …

Pawlenty launches bid, delivers tough talk in Iowa
May 23, 2011, 3:26 p.m. EDTAssociated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP)Tim Pawlentyon Monday cast himself as the Republican candidate willing to tell the country hard truths as he seeks the presidency, bluntly announcing in corn-dependent Iowa that its prized federal subsidies for ethanol should be phased out.

“The truth about federal energy subsidies, including federal subsidies for ethanol, is that they have to be phased out,” Pawlenty told about 200 Republican activists and supporters in Des Moines in his first public appearance since officially kicking off his White House bid Sunday. “We simply can’t afford them anymore.”

The former Minnesota governor is using his first week of campaigning as an announced candidate to try to cast himself as a straight-talking Midwesterner, unafraid to consider drastic changes to sensitive spending programs in order to solve the nation’s fiscal problems. He faces several obstacles in pursuing the GOP nomination; he isn’t well-known nationally, ranks low in popularity polling and has been tagged by comedians and the chattering class as boring.

Pawlenty’s announcement came hours after Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ decision against a bid jolted the GOP race and brought the field into clearer focus.

Pawlenty made fiscal overhaul the centerpiece of his announcement speech, and planned to not just challenge politically influential Iowans, but swing-voting seniors in Florida and wealthy bank executives on Wall Street.

“Conventional wisdom says you can’t talk about ethanol in Iowa or Social Security in Florida or financial reform on Wall Street,” Pawlenty said. “But someone has to say it. Someone has to finally stand up and level with the American people. Someone has to lead.”

Pawlenty plans to outline a Social Security plan that raises the retirement age for seniors and requires means-testing for wealthier retirees.

The proposals are aimed at establishing Pawlenty as a candidate who levels with the American people, which he said President Barack Obama, whom he hopes to challenge next year, has not done.

“President Obama’s policies have failed,” Pawlenty said, delivering a speech and answering questions from the audience but not reporters. “But more than that, he won’t even tell us the truth about what it’s really going to take to get out of the mess that we’re in.”

Pawlenty acknowledged the political sensitivity of changing Social Security and eliminating ethanol subsidies.

“I’m not some out-of-touch politician from some other part of the country,” he said. “But even in Minnesota, when we faced fiscal challenges, we reduced ethanol subsidies. That’s where we are now in Washington, but on a much, much larger scale.”

As governor, Pawlenty played both sides of the ethanol issue. He angered farmers by pushing to trim subsidy payments to ethanol producers early in his first term. But he won their favor later by spearheading a drive to boost the amount of the fuel additive blended into each gallon of gasoline sold in the state. It must be 20 percent by 2013.

While the challenge to ethanol was a risk, Pawlenty made clear what Iowa means to his candidacy.

The setting for Pawlenty’s appearance — a sun-splashed rooftop terrace overlooking the Iowa Capitol — underscored how important the state’s leadoff presidential caucuses are to his bid as he tries to take advantage of Daniels’ absence to position himself as the principal challenger to Mitt Romney.

The former Massachusetts governor lost his first bid in 2008 and again is seeking the nomination of a party that historically has nominated a candidate who had run previously.

Given an opportunity to go after Romney in a Monday morning appearance on network television, Pawlenty demurred, saying he’d prefer to talk about his own presidential traits than criticize others. He did acknowledge he probably wouldn’t be able to compete with the former private equity investment firm executive in terms of fundraising.

However, while criticizing Obama’s candidness about the depths of the nation’s fiscal crisis, he also subtly called on his would-be GOP rivals to be honest about the problems.

“It’s time for America’s president — and anyone who wants to be president — to look you in the eye and tell you the truth,” he said.

The appearance was one in a highly scripted, multi-format campaign roll-out that began Sunday evening with an internet video and continued Monday morning with Pawlenty’s appearances on all the network news morning programs. It is part of an 18-month ramp-up that began with Pawlenty’s first Iowa trip as a possible candidate, and is aimed at branding him as the fresh-faced, but tough-minded executive able to take on an incumbent Democratic president.

Pawlenty, who must win the party nomination before getting the chance to take on Obama, virtually ignored his GOP rivals in an announcement video, a column published in USA Today and his speech.

Pawlenty’s Monday visit was his 14th to Iowa since the 2008 election, more than any candidate except former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

The little-known Midwesterner hopes an Iowa victory will give him a boost into next-up New Hampshire and beyond, a strategy that carries potential benefits and risks.

If he wins Iowa, as he says he must, Pawlenty could emerge as the chief rival to Romney, who lost the GOP nomination in 2008 and ranks higher in polls this year. If Pawlenty falls short, however, he’ll have to reevaluate the viability of his bid for the Republican nomination, despite the two years’ groundwork he’s laid in his neighboring state.

“In Iowa, he is all in. All his cards are right out on the table,” said Bob Haus, a veteran Iowa GOP strategist who managed Fred Thompson’s 2008 caucus campaign and is uncommitted for 2012.

Pawlenty has used his visits to appeal to many of the sometimes fractious segments of Iowa’s GOP base, seeking to compete for all parts of the party.

“He fits with the social conservatives, has the background of a budget cutter, and he’s strong with national security conservatives. Plus, he’s a good guy, and he’s here, working it,” said Richard Schwarm, a confidant of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and a former state GOP chairman who so far hasn’t chosen a candidate to back in the caucuses.

Pawlenty appeared Monday on NBC’s “Today” show and CBS’s “The Early Show.”

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Online link to “Today” show interview: http://on.today.com

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May 23, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Republican Tim Pawlenty is betting it all on Iowa.

Republican Pawlenty betting it all on Iowa
May 23, 2011, 6:28 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Republican Tim Pawlenty is betting it all on Iowa.

The former Minnesota governor will make his first campaign appearance Monday since announcing his candidacy for president in an Internet video. The setting for his visit — one block away from the Iowa State Capitol — underscores how important the state’s leadoff presidential caucuses are to his political future.

“My first campaign stop will be in Iowa, and that’s where I’m going to begin a campaign that tells the American people the truth,” Pawlenty said in the two-minute video released Sunday night. He challenged President Barack Obama to level with the American people about the depth of the nation’s challenges and to confront them.

The little-known Midwesterner hopes an Iowa victory will give him a boost into next-up New Hampshire and beyond, a strategy that carries potential benefits and risks.

If he wins Iowa, as he says he must, Pawlenty could emerge as the chief rival to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who lost the GOP nomination in 2008 and ranks higher in polls this year.

If Pawlenty falls short, however, he’ll have to reevaluate the viability of his bid for the Republican nomination, despite the two years’ groundwork he’s laid in his neighboring state.

“In Iowa, he is all in. All his cards are right out on the table,” said Bob Haus, a veteran Iowa GOP strategist who managed Fred Thompson’s 2008 caucus campaign and is uncommitted for 2012. “Pawlenty is trying to set himself as the main challenger to Mitt Romney.”

Pawlenty’s visit Monday will be his 14th to Iowa since the 2008 election, more than any candidate except former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Pawlenty has used his visits to appeal to many of the sometimes fractious segments of Iowa’s GOP base. He has spoken to chambers of commerce, Christian conservative forums and tea party rallies with equal comfort, although some GOP strategists in Iowa say he doesn’t have an advantage with any of them.

“Pawlenty is competing for all parts of the party,” said Richard Schwarm, a confidant of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and a former state GOP chairman who so far hasn’t chosen a candidate to back in the caucuses. “He fits with the social conservatives, has the background of a budget cutter, and he’s strong with national security conservatives. Plus, he’s a good guy, and he’s here, working it.”

Strategically, Pawlenty has lined up an all-star team of consultants deeply rooted in Iowa Republican campaigns, winning presidential campaigns or, in some cases, both.

They include Iowa natives Terry Nelson and Sara Fagen, former political aides to President George W. Bush, who began working in the 1990s on statewide and caucus campaigns. Also on Pawlenty’s team are state GOP operatives with strong ties to John McCain’s 2008 campaign, as well as some former aides to Romney’s 2008 caucus campaign.

Such heavy staffing early in the campaign has sparked warnings from some Republicans that Pawlenty risks repeating some of McCain’s 2008 mistakes. The Arizona senator had lined up a dream team of national and Iowa advisers only to let several of them go when the campaign went broke the summer before the nominating contests began.

“You would assume they would have taken some strong lessons, learned what not to do and be pretty confident about how to raise enough money to keep the operation going,” said Haus, the consultant.

Pawlenty also has hired staff in New Hampshire and courted the powerbrokers in the nation’s first primary state. But he has less riding there than he does in Iowa, where he has said he has a cultural kinship and where fewer candidates may compete aggressively.

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May 22, 2011

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said early Sunday that he won’t run in 2013 U.S. presidental race because …

Ind. Gov. Daniels not running for president
May 22, 2011, 7:06 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said early Sunday that he won’t run for president because of family concerns, a development that narrowed the Republican nomination field though made the wide-open race even more uncertain.

“In the end, I was able to resolve every competing consideration but one,” the Republican said, disclosing his decision in a middle-of-the-night e-mail to supporters. “The interests and wishes of my family, is the most important consideration of all. If I have disappointed you, I will always be sorry.”

A two-term Midwestern governor, Daniels had been considering a bid for months and was pressured by many in the establishment wing of the party hungering for a conservative with a strong fiscal record to run. He expressed interest in getting in the race partly because it would give him a national platform to ensure the country’s fiscal health would remain part of the 2012 debate.

But he always said his family — his wife and four daughters — was a sticking point.

Had he run, Daniels would have shaken up the still evolving race that lacks a front-runner and has been unpredictable in its early stages.

If the governor would have decided to run, a crop of GOP donors and grass-roots supporters had been ready to pull the trigger on a national fundraising and political organization that some aides privately said would rival those of others already in the race. And outside Republican observers had long said that he would be a serious contender for the party nod as a candidate.

Instead, Daniels becomes the latest Republican to opt against a bid as the GOP searches for a Republican to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012.

The Indiana governor‘s close friend, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, surprised much of the GOP when he pulled the plug on a candidacy in April; he privately had encouraged Daniels to run instead. A week ago, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the 2008 Iowa caucus winner, bowed out, followed quickly by celebrity real estate developer Donald Trump.

They came after others who decided to sit this one out as well, even as polls show Republican primary voters wanting more options in a race that includes former Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, as well as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and a handful of others.

In the wake of the decisions by Barbour and Huckabee to skip the race, the clamoring among establishment Republicans for Daniels to run — including from the Bush family circle — had become ear-shattering.

“The counsel and encouragement I received from important citizens like you caused me to think very deeply about becoming a national candidate,” Daniels said in the e-mail message.

“If you feel that this was a non-courageous or unpatriotic decision, I understand and will not attempt to persuade you otherwise,” he added. “I only hope that you will accept my sincerity in the judgment I reached.”

Daniels, himself, had sounded more optimistic about a run in the past week than he had in months, though he never had sounded particularly enthused. And his advisers had been quietly reaching out to Republicans in Iowa and other early nominating states for private conversations.

But, as he talked about a candidacy, he always pointed back to his family as the primary issue that would hold him back.

And as he weighed a bid, the spotlight shown on his unusual marital history as well as his record as governor.

His wife, Cheri, filed for divorce in 1993 and moved to California to remarry, leaving him to raise their four daughters in Indiana. She later divorced, and she and Daniels reconciled and remarried in 1997.

Mrs. Daniels had never taken much of a public role in her husband’s political career.

So it raised eyebrows when she was chosen as the keynote speaker at a major Indiana fundraiser earlier in May.

Both husband and wife were said to be pleased with the reception they got, and advisers privately suggested that the outcome could encourage Daniels to run for president. Even so, Republicans in Washington and Indiana with ties to Daniels put the odds at 50/50.

A former budget director under George W. Bush, Daniels used his time considering a run to also shine a spotlight on rising budget deficits and national debt — even though his former boss grew the scope of government and federal spending during his tenure.

Daniels, a one-time senior executive at Eli Lilly & Co., caused a stir among cultural conservatives by saying the next president facing economic crisis “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues.”

He is looked with admiration in GOP circles for being the rare Republican who won office in a Democratic year — 2008 — in a state that Obama had won. And, since being re-elected, he has leveraged Republican majorities in the state Legislature to push through a conservative agenda.

Daniels made his intentions clear in a characteristically understated e-mail.

It was sent by the governor through Eric Holcomb, the Indiana Republican Party chairman and one of Daniels’ closest advisers, and confirmed by others close to the governor on the condition of anonymity to avoid publicly pre-empting his announcement.

It ended: “Many thanks for your help and input during this period of reflection. Please stay in touch if you see ways in which an obscure Midwestern governor might make a constructive contribution to the rebuilding of our economy and our Republic.”

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May 21, 2011

Herman Cain: Now the Tea party favorite wants to be president; grass-roots enthusiasm …

Businessman Cain enters 2012 GOP presidential race
May 21, 2011, 9:24 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

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ATLANTA (AP)Herman Cain has run a pizza chain, hosted a talk radio show and sparred with Bill Clinton over health care. He’s never held elected office. Now the tea party favorite wants to be president.

“In case you accidentally listen to a skeptic or doubting Thomas out there, just to be clear … I’m running for president of the United States, and I’m not running for second,” he told a crowd at Centennial Olympic Park on Saturday. Chants of “Herman” erupted from the crowd of thousands in downtown Atlanta.

The announcement by the businessman, author and radio talk show host that he was joining the expanding Republican field came after months of traveling around the country to introduce himself to voters.

Now the 65-year-old will see if he can use that grass-roots enthusiasm to turn a long-shot campaign into a credible bid.

Cain supports a strong national defense, opposes abortion, backs replacing the federal income tax with a national sales tax and favors a return to the gold standard. He said President Barack Obama “threw Israel under the bus” because he sought to base Mideast border talks partly on the pre-1967 war lines, and criticized the Justice Department for challenging Arizona’s tough crackdown on illegal immigration.

“We shouldn’t be suing Arizona,” he said to cheers. “We ought to send them a prize.”

Cain lost a three-way Republican U.S. Senate primary bid in Georgia in 2004 with one-quarter of the vote. His “Hermanator” political action committee has taken in just over $16,000 this year. He said he’s running “a bottoms-up, outside-the-box campaign.” Supporters say he taps into the tea party-fueled desire for plain-speaking citizen candidates.

Born in Memphis, Tenn., and raised in Atlanta, Cain is the son of a chauffeur and a maid. He attended historically black Morehouse College, earned a master’s degree from Purdue University and worked as a mathematician for the Navy before beginning to scale the corporate ladder.

He worked at Coca-Cola, Pillsbury and Burger King before taking the helm of the failing Godfather’s Pizza franchise, which he rescued by shuttering hundreds of restaurants.

He burst onto the political stage when he argued with President Clinton over the Democrat’s health care plan at a 1994 town hall meeting.

“On behalf of all of those business owners that are in a situation similar to mine,” asked Cain, “my question is, quite simply, if I’m forced to do this, what will I tell those people whose jobs I will have to eliminate?”

The late Jack Kemp, the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996, once described Cain as having “the voice of Othello, the looks of a football player, the English of Oxfordian quality and the courage of a lion.”

In 2006, Cain was diagnosed with liver and colon cancer. He says he’s been cancer-free since 2007 and credits the nation’s health care system with keeping him alive. He says it’s one reason he’s so opposed to the health overhaul championed by Obama.

At the speech, Cain tried to build a foundation for his run for the White House. He said the American dream is under attack from runaway debt, a stagnant economy, a muddled foreign policy and an influx of illegal immigrants. He said Americans should be infuriated because the Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus program “didn’t stimulate diddly.”

“It’s time to get real, folks. Hope and change ain’t working,” he said. “Hope and change is not a solution. Hope and change is not a job.”

___

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May 20, 2011

Tim Pawlenty: A laid-back Midwestern Republican is running for president and will declare his candidacy on …

APNewsBreak: Aide: Pawlenty running for president
May 20, 2011, 2:49 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a laid-back Midwestern Republican who governed a Democratic-leaning state, is running for president and will declare his candidacy on Monday in the leadoff caucus state of Iowa, an adviser told The Associated Press.

The adviser, who disclosed the plans on the condition of anonymity in advance of next week’s announcement, said Pawlenty will formally enter the race during a town hall-style event in Des Moines, Iowa.

He’s choosing to make his long-expected bid official in a critical state in his path to the GOP nomination. Advisers acknowledge that Pawlenty, 50, must win or turn in a strong showing during next winter’s caucuses in the neighboring state of Iowa to have any chance of becoming the Republican who will challenge President Barack Obama, a Democrat, next November.

After Monday’s announcement, he will head to Florida, New Hampshire, New York and Washington, D.C.

The move is no surprise.

Pawlenty been laying the groundwork for a national campaign since John McCain passed him over in 2008 as his vice presidential nominee. He has worked to boost his national profile, assemble a staff, travel the country and build a fundraising network, all while positioning himself as a Republican with a record of resisting increases in taxes and government spending. He left the governor’s post in January and he took the first step toward the presidency two months later by setting up an exploratory committee.

In the early stages of the campaign, he has struggled to raise his standing in polls or attract a niche constituency as Republicans with more star power — former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and celebrity businessman Donald Trump — dangled themselves as possible candidates, only to opt out of bids.

Pawlenty has some big obstacles as he seeks the GOP nomination in a wide-open field.

He is not nearly as well known nationally as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and even libertarian-leaning Texas Rep. Ron Paul. And others with even bigger names — Sarah Palin — still may enter the fray. So too may a fellow Minnesotan, Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is a darling of the tea party and has indicated she’s likely to launch a campaign soon.

The low-key Pawlenty also is fighting an impression at least within the GOP establishment that he’s too bland to excite voters. He also has no personal wealth and isn’t uniquely aligned with any one Republican faction — like social conservatives or fiscal Republicans — as are other candidates.

But in a GOP field with no clear favorite, Pawlenty hopes that he can cobble together a winning coalition of voters by attracting a wide array of Republicans, from religious conservatives to tea party adherents to establishment figures. As he travels the country, he boasts of reining in state spending and blocking tax hikes during two terms as Minnesota’s governor, as well as stressing his working-class roots and evangelical Christian faith.

“I’m the only candidate in the field who can unite the whole Republican Party, not just one part of it, in a genuine and authentic way, and then go out an appeal to the whole country,” Pawlenty said this week before a fundraiser in Minnesota.

He points to his record in Minnesota as proof that he can have appeal across the ideological spectrum.

Pawlenty, who passed up an opportunity to run for a third term as governor to seek the presidency, won the governors’ office twice without a majority of the vote in races that included third-party candidates. During his tenure, Pawlenty had to contend with a Legislature that was partly or fully controlled by Democrats the eight years he was governor.

Minnesota’s divided government led to repeated legislative battles and a partial government shutdown one year. Pawlenty also frequently vetoed tax and spending bills, earning a reputation in the GOP as a fiscal conservative. He pleased social conservatives as well by signing new abortion restrictions and laws favored by pro-gun groups.

But some of his past actions also have drawn tea party skepticism.

Even some Republicans flinched when he used billions in federal stimulus dollars and once agreed to hike state cigarette charges to balance Minnesota’s budget. And Democrats pound him frequently over the $5 billion deficit his Minnesota successor is coping with for the upcoming state budget, although the state will turn a small surplus this summer when the last fiscal year under Pawlenty’s direct control ends.

Pawlenty’s former embrace of energy policies scorned by conservatives — such as a cap-and-trade system to limit emissions of greenhouse gases — have also been problematic. Pawlenty has disavowed his former stance and apologized for the “clunker” in his record.

Even so, it’s not his record that’s likely to be his biggest challenge. It’s being heard in a crowded field.

Part of the reason: unlike others, he typically shies from the caustic comments and headline-grabbing issues. It’s part of a strategy to come off as a serious-minded candidate in sober times. But his approach has also played into the characterization of him as dull.

Advisers hope that Pawlenty’s ability to connect with small crowds in diners and living rooms will help him win over skeptics in the places where he needs to shine — Iowa and New Hampshire, where voters demand their candidates engage in that type of retail politics. He’s somewhat of a natural at it. He’s good with small talk, often makes goofy poses in keepsake photos and sticks around to shake all hands, helping explain why he’s notoriously behind schedule.

In those settings, he discusses not just what he’d do for the country but also much about his personal story: his boyhood in a blue-collar household in a meatpacking town, his mother’s death of cancer in his teen years. As an adult, he went on to a white-collar job as a lawyer and set down a political path took him from a suburban city hall to a seat in the state Legislature to, eventually, the governor’s post.

“He is doing the soft sell and the soft sell works in the long run,” said Andy Brehm, a Republican strategist in Minnesota. “This is an entirely self-made guy. I don’t think you could ask for a better spokesman for the free market ideas. He’s worked himself up really from nothing.”

Pawlenty and his wife, Mary, a former judge, have two teenage daughters, Anna and Mara.

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May 19, 2011

President Barack Obama: Pushing Congress to overhaul the immigration system …

Obama puts immigration in Congress’ court
May 19, 2011, 3:22 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

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WASHINGTON (AP) — With a re-election campaign looming, President Barack Obama is pushing Congress to overhaul the immigration system, but lawmakers seems to have little appetite to take on the issue.

In recent speeches at the Mexican border in El Paso, Texas, and the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Obama said his administration has followed through on demands to secure the border, and now it’s time for Congress to put revamping immigration back on the agenda and make something happen.

“Comprehensive immigration reform is not only an economic imperative or a security imperative, it is also a moral imperative,” Obama told the prayer breakfast.

But Republicans say any effort to allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country or any effort that doesn’t address the inadequacies they see in border security is doomed to fail.

Although legislation has yet to be introduced, many lawmakers agree the most likely first step toward immigration legislation is a requirement that all businesses use E-Verify. The E-Verify program lets businesses know whether employees have the necessary papers to work in the U.S. Such legislation could give Democrats political cover by addressing immigration requirements that preclude tough crackdowns on immigrants, and give Republicans an opportunity to say they provided a new enforcement tool to stop illegal immigration.

The president’s recent push, which started in April with a White House meeting on immigration issues and other events involving Latino celebrities, prompted Senate Democrats this month to reintroduce the DREAM Act. The bill would give a path to legal status for law-abiding young people who were brought into the United States without documents as children and who either plan to attend college or join the military.

“Our immigration laws prevent thousands of young people from fully contributing to our nation’s future,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement announcing the bill he drafted. “These are honor roll students, star athletes, talented artists and valedictorians. These children are tomorrow’s doctors, nurses, teachers, firefighters, soldiers and senators, and we should give them the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., has introduced a similar bill in the House.

Republicans, who control the House, insist the DREAM Act will never pass.

“It’s amnesty for up to 2 million people,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has some jurisdiction over immigration legislation. “I just don’t see it when you are still talking about amnesty.” Smith said the bill rewards the undocumented parents and is “an open invitation to fraud.”

But GOP House members have pledged to introduce an E-Verify bill for employers.

Some Democrats have suggested a compromise bill incorporating elements of both DREAM and E-Verify, even as they acknowledge the prospects for such a deal are dim.

“We are at a stalemate, but I am willing to sit down and work through issues to accomplish something in the interest of the country,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. “But it takes two to do that.”

Smith said there is no room for compromise with any bill that includes a path to legalization.

The DREAM Act passed the House last year before falling five votes short in the Senate in December. While three Republicans supported it, five Democrats opposed it.

What support it had among Republicans has eroded as some face primary challenges from the right. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, dropped his support of the DREAM Act last year because he said Americans are more concerned with border security. And Indiana’s Sen. Richard Lugar backed away from the most recent version because the president’s speeches turned immigration into a “divisive election issue,” said his spokesman, Andy Fisher. Lugar is facing a Tea Party primary challenge.

Smith said the reintroduction of failed legislation doesn’t seem like a serious effort and chided Obama for focusing on the issue again in hopes of scoring campaign points with Hispanic voters.

Winning the Hispanic vote is thought to be critical in Obama’s bid for re-election. In 2008, Latinos made up more than 7 percent of voters, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, and their numbers are greater in swing states such as Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida.

The Obama administration has made a point of highlighting enforcement efforts, though they differ dramatically from those of former President George W. Bush’s administration.

The current administration has shied away from the high-profile immigration raids at businesses that routinely yielded large numbers of arrests of illegal workers. Instead, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has shifted strategies, focusing instead on audits of the documents employers must maintain that show their workers are eligible to work in the United States. The audits, officials have said, put the focus on employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.

Speaking in El Paso, Obama said his administration had done what Republicans in Congress have asked by adding Border Patrol agents, intelligence analysts and unmanned aerial vehicles.

“We’ve gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement,” Obama said from a national park not far from the violent Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez. “All the stuff they’ve asked for, we’ve done.”

___

Alicia A. Caldwell can be reached at http://twitter.com/acaldwellap

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May 19, 2011

Rep. Peter King: Head of the U.S. House Homeland Security panel open for a possible presidential bid.

NY Rep. King leaves door open for presidential bid
May 18, 2011, 5 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

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GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (AP) — Rep. Peter King, whose national profile has climbed as head of the U.S. House Homeland Security panel, is leaving the door open for a possible presidential bid.

The New York congressman, responding to a powerful hometown Republican’s suggestion that he run for president, said he was taking a wait-and-see approach.

“Let’s see what happens,” King told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. “This is something out of the blue. It is a great honor, but right now I am focused on getting re-elected to the House next year.”

Joseph Mondello, the longtime chairman of the Nassau County Republican Committee — once considered among the most powerful GOP organizations in the country — drew widespread applause from 1,100 fellow Long Island Republicans at a dinner Tuesday night when he suggested King consider a “favorite son” candidacy.

“If he were to run, I would support him,” Mondello said in a statement. “Voters know that Peter King respects them, doesn’t speak from a pollster’s cue card and understands the twin threats facing this nation: the debt and the ongoing war on terror.”

Mondello, a former state GOP chairman, added: “Pete has been pilloried by the liberal press because he doesn’t play by their rules of political correctness. He sees a threat, he speaks to it and whether you agree with his position or not, he is honest, candid and direct.”

King, 67, held hearings earlier this year on what he termed the radicalization of homegrown Islamic terrorists in America. He is serving his 10th term in Congress and, despite being a favorite of conservative groups, has also worked to build bi-partisan relationships with political foes. He has easily won re-election from his suburban Long Island district.

He has become a leader in advocating for more anti-terrorism funding for New York City and noted he was having dinner with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former Democrat and Republican who is now an independent, when he learned of the county chairman’s comments Tuesday night. He also has supported Long Island Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy on some of her gun-control initiatives and was one of only two New York Republicans to vote against impeaching President Clinton.

King said his office receives 15 to 20 telephone calls or e-mails each week from constituents and others urging him to run for president.

“People mention it, but I am focused on running for the House,” he said, but added he would consider running as for president if he were convinced it would help Nassau County Republicans.

Lawrence Levy, executive director of the Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University and an expert on Long Island politics, said a King presidential candidacy should be taken seriously.

“Considering all the different conservative and Republican power centers he appeals to? Why not?” Levy said. “I think he could raise the money. Does he have votes in his record that could alienate him to some Republicans? Yes. But he is as much a national figure as any member of Congress, on Long Island or elsewhere, and that has to be taken seriously, at least for a while.”

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