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Inside the Beltway: The Bible is America’s favorite read

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Just so you know: The Bible is America's favorite book "of all time." So says a Harris Poll released Tuesday that asked 2,300 "unprompted" respondents to volunteer their answers. Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind" was in second place, followed by J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series, and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" round out the top five.

"There is sort of a political divide. First, there is something that Republicans, Democrats and independents actually agree on. 'Gone with the Wind' is their second favorite book. However, while conservatives and moderates say the same, liberals' second favorite book is the 'Harry Potter' series," points out pollster Regina Corso.

'133 DAYS ABROAD'

Ah, the well-traveled White House. The National Taxpayers Union Foundation has done all the math and figured out that President Obama's recent eight-day journey through Asia cost the public $8.7 million just to keep Air Force One aloft. The magnificent albeit pricey aircraft was airborne for a total of 38 hours at $228,288 an hour in operating costs.

The organization already has proclaimed Mr. Obama to be the most traveled president ever; this is his third international trip this year. All told, the president has now spent 133 days abroad on 34 total trips since he took office.

"Presidential travel entails substantial planning, logistical support, security provisions, and therefore presents significant costs for taxpayers," says Michael Tasselmyer, the foundation's policy analyst.

"The $8.7 million price tag of operating Air Force One offers perspective on what some of those costs can be, even though the full extent of the fiscal impact remains unclear. Given that diplomacy is a vital part of the chief executive's duties, this is only the latest reminder that taxpayers would benefit from greater transparency and disclosure of travel expenditures no matter who occupies the White House," Mr. Tasselmyer adds.

PIPE DREAMS

Well, this is one way to do it. Though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has actually alluded to the potential of including a Keystone XL pipeline amendment on upcoming energy efficiency legislation next week, his peers are getting restless.

Republican Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have co-sponsored legislation introduced by fellow GOP Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota more than a year ago to remove the requirement for presidential approval of the pipeline. The decision has been delayed for years; the State Department has yet to approve construction of the final sections, which, if completed, will transfer 800,000 barrels of oil daily from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.

"After extensive environmental reviews over the last five years, the president still refuses to approve the Keystone XL pipeline without any logical reason, despite the many benefits to our economy and energy security," says Mr. Corker. "This bill will allow us to move ahead with construction on the pipeline so we can expand access to North American energy, create jobs and promote economic growth, all while providing a safer and more environmentally friendly method of transporting oil."

YOUNG DEMOCRATS GROW WEARY

The young and restless have a case of Obama fatigue, according to Harvard University. Wait, what? Harvard says this? Indeed.

A new national poll of America's 18- to 29- year-olds by Harvard's Institute of Politics finds that a paltry 23 percent of young Americans say they will "definitely be voting" in November, down 11 percentage points from five months ago.

"Among the most likely voters, the poll also finds traditional Republican constituencies showing more enthusiasm than Democratic ones for participating in the upcoming midterms," the pollsters say.

The survey of more than 3,000 young Americans finds that 32 percent of the self-identified conservatives will definitely vote in upcoming elections, compared to 22 percent of the liberals. Among those who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, the number is 44 percent, compared to 35 percent of the "Barack Obama voters," the poll states.

The pollsters themselves appeared melancholy with the overall findings from the disenchanted sector.

"Their cynicism toward the political process has never been higher," says Trey Grayson, director of the institute. "To inspire the next generation to public service — and to improve our communities — our elected officials need to move past the bitter partisanship and work together to ensure progress and restore trust in government."

EVOLVING POLITICS

Republicans are mulling "big tent" thinking that suggests the party court an expanded set of demographic targets as competitive midterms loom and the 2016 presidential race lumbers into focus. Consider Carl DeMaio, a Republican candidate for California's 52nd congressional district who says he "happens" to be gay. Though he supports gay marriage issues that have proved divisive within the party, he also tells Fox News that his greater focus is on the economy, fiscal sanity, job creation and government reform.

This thinking has brought him much criticism from gay rights groups — and some surprising support from other quarters.

"I've found more tolerance, acceptance and inclusion from social conservative groups," Mr. DeMaio recently told Fox News host Dana Perino, a former White House press secretary for George W. Bush.

"DeMaio has been the target of homophobic attacks. But where are those attacks coming from? It's not always from the far-right social conservatives you'd expect; rather, it's been from DeMaio's left — the liberal and Democrat-affiliated groups that you'd think would be proud that an openly gay successful businessman has decided to run for office," Ms. Perino wrote in an editorial for the network on Monday.

She notes that similar experiences often await Republican candidates who are black or female.

"Most of the Republican Party has moved, however incrementally, beyond the parochial issues of race, gender and sexuality. Will the Democrats and liberal groups manage to do the same?" Ms. Perino asks.

The Log Cabin Republicans, meanwhile, have joined the fray. The organization represents "gay and lesbian conservatives and allies," they say.

"The animus from the gay left against Carl — and the Log Cabin Republicans — has been staggering, but expected," says executive director Gregory T. Angelo. "Democrats see the writing on the wall, and they will do anything to maintain their stronghold on the gay vote, even if it means sacrificing their sacred cow of equality at the altar of power."

POLL DU JOUR

68 percent of U.S. voters say they are "certain" to vote in the 2014 midterms; 15 percent will probably vote.

66 percent say they are "inclined to look around" when voting for a member of Congress; 22 percent will re-elect the incumbent.

66 percent say the nation is on the "wrong track."

62 percent blame both parties for that trend; 27 percent blame Democrats, 9 percent Republicans.

52 percent disapprove of the job President Obama is doing.

45 percent trust Republicans more than Mr. Obama to balance government spending; 38 percent trust the president more.

Source: An ABC News/Washington Post poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted April 24-27.

Murmurs and asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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