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Associated Press/Photo by David Duprey

Magic magnet

Campaign 2012 | and other news briefs

Issue: "The GOP and Hispanics," May 19, 2012

President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton campaigned together for the first time in 2012 on April 29 at a Washington reception (tickets starting at $1,000) and dinner (tickets starting at $20,000). Obama has now attended 61 fundraisers this year and 127 since filing for reelection on April 4, 2011.

By contrast, George W. Bush attended a total of 97 fundraisers during his entire 2004 reelection campaign, from May 2003 to November 2004. Obama, who talked about the "corrosive influence of money in politics" during his State of the Union speech on Jan. 24, has $104 million cash on hand-10 times the cash on hand for rival Mitt Romney. As Obama's schedule gets more crowded with campaign events, the Republican National Committee filed an official complaint on April 25 with the Government Accountability Office over Obama's use of official resources for campaign travel. "This president and Air Force One seem to have a magic magnet that only seem to land in battleground states in this country," said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus alluding to Obama's recent "official event" trips to such key states as Iowa, Colorado, and North Carolina (see "Carolina blues").

End of the road

Newt Gingrich's long goodbye from the presidential race was set to become official May 2, one week after he lost five contests by an average of more than 48 points and nearly one year after announcing his White House bid. It was a wild, sometimes bizarre, year for Gingrich, who survived the en masse resignation of 16 of his top aides last June to emerge as the winner of the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary. But Gingrich only won one more state (Georgia) as his campaign racked up over $4 million in debt. Along the way he talked of moon colonies, made trips to eight zoos, and held numerous book signings for the four books he and his wife Callista published during the campaign. Gingrich told supporters he would "stay very, very active. ... I am committed to defeating Obama."

Tom White, 1947-2012

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Tom White, for 20 years the head of Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), was discovered dead last month of possible suicide. "Allegations were made to authorities this week that Tom had inappropriate contact with a young girl. Rather than face those allegations, and all of the resulting fallout for his family and this ministry and himself, Tom appears to have chosen to take his own life," read an April 20 statement from the Bartlesville, Okla.-based organization. But state authorities are investigating the death after police discovered his body at VOM headquarters, according to the Associated Press. White was well known for unflagging support for the persecuted church. In 1979 a plane from which he was dropping leaflets over Cuba crashed, and Fidel Castro imprisoned White for over a year.

Precedent

An incumbent president with a 50 percent approval rating just before an election has never lost in his reelection bid-and President Obama's current Gallup approval rating, based on a survey done April 22-24, is 50 percent. A president with a 50 percent approval rating six months out (May before November elections), according to the polling data, has about a 75 percent likelihood of reelection.

Running out

Less than two months before South Sudan is set to mark its first anniversary of independence on July 9, the country remains on the brink of war with neighboring Sudan over disputed borderlines and oil fields. It also continues to absorb thousands of refugees fleeing Sudanese bombing in the Nuba Mountains.

But South Sudan has another looming crisis: It could run out of money by June. The nation that derives more than 90 percent of its budget from oil fields halted production in January. Officials said that once the oil traveled north to Sudan via the only pipeline in the country, Sudanese officials sold the oil, but sent meager payments back to South Sudan.

South Sudanese authorities vowed to build a new pipeline running south to Kenya, predicting such a project would take a year. But that timeline seems deeply unrealistic in a country with only a few paved roads and intermittent services like water and electricity.

If South Sudanese officials are worried about running out of funds, they aren't showing it yet. President Salva Kiir traveled to China in late April, seeking investment for the Kenya pipeline. China's involvement may be a long shot since the country has closer relations with Sudan, but during the trip Kiir had even bigger problems than cash flow: The president cut short his visit after news broke that Sudanese forces had bombed South Sudanese territory again.

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