Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
Since last week when Ann Romney, wife of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney slyly leaked the fact that her husband may be considering a female running mate, the talking heads have been breathless with possible vice-presidential picks of the female persuasion. (more…)
Everyone has been waiting with bated breath for days for the June jobs report, (more…)
Wikileaks is at it again, this time releasing more than 2 million “embarrassing” emails from Syrian government and business officials.
The emails, which date from August 2006 to March 2012, are coming to light as Syria remains embroiled in 16-month violent rebellion.
“The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s opponents. It helps us not merely to criticize one group or another, but to understand their interests, actions and thoughts. It is only through understanding this conflict that we can hope to resolve it,” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said in a statement on the group’s website.
Bain Capital is quickly becoming the bane of Mitt Romney’s existence. (more…)
Immigration reform is certainly a hot- and hugely divisive- topic in the heated debates running up to the 2012 election. (more…)
There are reasons for the fact that every state in the United States has made statutory provisions to keep the people’s business from taking place behind closed doors. (more…)
Over the weekend the dust began to settle over President Barack Obama’s surprise move to change immigration policy to closely resemble the Dream Act (more…)
The conservative organization Judicial Watch announced Monday that it was suing the ATF for Fast and Furious records of communications between the agency and the White House.
Specifically, the group said that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, seeking Fast and Furious records showing conversations between ATF officials and Kevin O’Reilly, the former White House Director of North American Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.
In previous congressional testimony, ATF special agent in charge of the Phoenix office Bill Newell – who played a leading role in the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation – said he had shared information about the operation with O’Reilly, but did not go into further detail about their interactions.
“The Obama administration has clammed up on Fast and Furious. We’re having trouble getting almost anything out of them. No wonder, as the Fast and Furious lies and killings makes it one of the worst scandals in recent American history. The American people deserve to know what White House officials knew and when they knew it,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, in a press release Monday detailing the lawsuit, which was filed June 6
On May 9, 2012, President Obama made history by affirming to reporter Robin Roberts that he supports Marriage Equality. (more…)
Throughout my adult life I’ve had the privilege (and often the punishment) of working with a pot full of politicians. (more…)
As some of you celebrate the anniversary of American independence in a few weeks, I’ll be grieving over her demise. (more…)
The United States Republican Party has been waging a war on women and our bodies since Roe vs. Wade gave women the right to choose to terminate pregnancies. (more…)
Until recently, North Carolina was the one speck of blue in a sea of red. (more…)
CAM RANH BAY, VIETNAM – From the flight deck of the USNS Richard E. Byrd, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta could look out across Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay towards the South China Sea.
A day after laying out details of the Pentagon’s new focus on the Asia-Pacific region, Panetta pn Sunday used a visit to Vietnam to restate the United States’ intent to help allies in the region develop and enforce maritime rights in the sea, a waterway largely claimed by China. And he reflected on the significance of the harbor, which represents both a painful past for the American military, and a challenging but hopeful future.
“The new defense strategy that we have put in place for the United States represents a number of key elements that will be tested in the Asia-Pacific region,” Panetta told reporters gathered Sunday under a blazing sun on the deck of the cargo vessel. He said the U.S. would “work with our partners like Vietnam to be able to use harbors like this as we move our ships from our ports on the West Coast towards our stations here in the Pacific.”
Panetta never mentioned China as he spoke to crew members on the Byrd and later to reporters. But with the South China Sea as a backdrop, he made it clear that the U.S. will maintain a strong presence in the region and wants to help allies protect themselves and their maritime rights.
His visit here, however, is likely to irritate Chinese leaders who are unhappy with any U.S. buildup in the region and view it as a possible threat. Panetta, in remarks Saturday to a defense conference in Singapore, rejected such claims. But U.S. officials are clearly wary of China’s increased military buildup and expanding trade relations with other countries in the region.
“Access for United States naval ships into this facility is a key component of this relationship [with Vietnam] and we see a tremendous potential here for the future,” he said.
This is Panetta’s first visit to Vietnam, and his stop at the harbor made him the most senior U.S. official to go to Cam Ranh Bay since the Vietnam War ended in the 1970s.
Right now U.S. warships do not go into the harbor, but other Navy ships, like the Byrd do. The Byrd is a cargo ship operated by the Navy’s Military Sealift Command and it has a largely civilian crew. It is used to move military supplies to U.S. forces around the world. Navy warships go to other Vietnam ports, such as Danang.
While Panetta suggested the United States may want to send more ships to Cam Ranh Bay in the future, he and other defense officials did not detail what requests he may make in meetings with Vietnamese leaders.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Secretary of State Colin Powell declined Tuesday to renew the presidential endorsement he gave Barack Obama four years ago, saying he wasn’t ready “to throw my weight behind someone” at this time.
The former chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and Cabinet member under President George W. Bush demurred when asked if he was backing Obama again this time around. Four years ago, Powell caused a stir in Republican political circles when the longtime GOP figure endorsed Obama over war hero Sen. John McCain, calling Obama a “transformational figure.”
Not so this time, Powell said in an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show. At least, not yet.
If the passing of Amendment 1 in North Carolina had two positive results whose sparkle is covered by the tragedy they are: (more…)
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
NEW YORK (AP) — It’s on.
Independent groups favoring Mitt Romney already are launching TV advertisements in competitive states for the November general election, providing political cover against President Barack Obama’s well-financed campaign while the Republican candidate works to rebound from a bruising and expensive nomination fight. Some conservative organizations also are planning big get-out-the-vote efforts, and Romney backers are courting wealthy patrons of his former GOP rivals.
Taken together, the developments underscore how dramatically the political landscape has changed since a trio of federal court cases – most notably the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling – paved the way for a flood of campaign cash from corporations and tycoons looking to help their favored candidates.
“Citizens United has made an already aggressive anti-Obama movement even more empowered,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington. “There’s now a regular Republican line of attack on Obama, even when the Romney campaign is taking a breather, raising money and preparing for the general election.”
The general election spending – and advertising – has only just begun. Voters in roughly a dozen hard-fought states will be inundated with TV ads, direct mail, automated phone calls and other forms of outreach by campaign staff members and volunteers pleading for their votes. While Obama and Romney both will spend huge amounts of money in the coming months, an untold additional amount will come from outside organizations called super PACs that can collect unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and individuals.
Already, Obama’s campaign has spent $3.6 million on commercials in key battlegrounds in the weeks since Romney became the presumptive Republican nominee.
Its latest ad depicts Romney, a wealthy former private equity executive, as a corporate raider who once maintained a Swiss bank account. The president had $104 million on hand at the end of March, giving his campaign a 10-1 advantage over Romney who had just $10 million his campaign bank at the same time.
But Obama is unlikely to receive anywhere near the kind of financial backup Romney is already getting from outside groups. The pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action has raised just $10 million since its inception, and few other Democratic-leaning groups have signaled they plan to compete with the pro-Romney efforts.
The latest of these comes from Restore Our Future, a super PAC run by former Romney advisers.
The group announced Wednesday it will go up with $4.3 million in ads this week in nine states that will be key to winning the White House. The ad, “Saved,” describes Romney’s efforts that helped lead to the rescue of the teenage daughter of a colleague after she disappeared in New York for three days.
ROF was by far the biggest advertiser during the Republican nominating contest, spending $36 million on ads attacking Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. The group has raised more than $51 million since its inception.
Its initial general election push follows a $1.7 million, three-state ad buy from Crossroads GPS. That group’s spot attacks Obama’s energy policies. And it is an arm of American Crossroads, a super PAC with ties to President George W. Bush’s longtime political director Karl Rove and one of the most prolific spenders in the 2010 cycle that put the House in Republican hands. The two Crossroads groups have already raised $100 million collectively for 2012 and plan to spend as much as $300 million to defeat Obama and other Democrats.
Americans for Prosperity, a conservative-leaning independent group backed by the billionaire energy tycoons Charles and David Koch, dropped $6.1 million on ads in eight general election swing states last week hitting Obama for allowing millions in federal stimulus money to be directed to green energy companies overseas. The group spent $6.5 million earlier this year on ads criticizing Obama over Solyndra, a California-based solar energy company that went bankrupt despite a $535 million federal loan guarantee.
AFP president Tim Phillips said the group planned to raise $100 million and that slightly less than half would go to advertising. Much of the remaining amount, he said, would be used for field operations like rallies, bus tours, canvassing, phone banks and micro-targeting.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
WASHINGTON (AP) — As slogans go, President Barack Obama’s promise of the “light of a new day” in Afghanistan isn’t nearly as catchy as the “Mission Accomplished” banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln the day President George W. Bush announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq in 2003.
One was jubilant, conveying triumph – prematurely so, as more than 4,000 U.S. combat deaths over the next several years demonstrated. The other, more restrained, optimistically cites progress toward an ultimate victory over the terrorists who attacked the United States more than a decade ago.
Yet the take-away messages fit the political circumstances of the president in office at the time. Then it was Bush prosecuting an Iraq war that was intensely controversial from the outset.
Now it’s Obama seeking re-election in a campaign against Mitt Romney that is anything but certain, polishing his credentials as commander in chief.
The polls all say the economy will be the overarching issue this fall, but Obama can hardly be blamed for wanting the singular triumph of his term – Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. special operations forces – to gain plenty of attention.
After all, the death of the terrorist leader got equal billing with the slowly recovering economy in Vice President Joe Biden’s own suggested campaign slogan: “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”
As a political strategy after three years in office, blaming Bush for the war in Afghanistan is probably not any better than trying to saddle him with responsibility for the economy.
Still, Obama chose to reprise his 2008 campaign criticism of Bush’s war policy in his brief 10-minute address from Bagram Air Field on Tuesday night.
“Despite initial success, for a number of reasons, this war has taken longer than most anticipated,” he said, beginning his account neutrally before pivoting.
“In 2002, (Osama) bin Laden and his lieutenants escaped across the border and established safe haven in Pakistan,” this president said, referring to the battle at Tora Bora. “America spent nearly eight years fighting a different war in Iraq.”
But over the past three years, he said, referring to his own time in office: “The tide has turned. We broke the Taliban’s momentum. We’ve built a strong Afghan security force. We devastated al-Qaida’s leadership, taking out 20 of their top 30 leaders. And one year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.”
Romney decided he wanted no part of it.
In a written statement issued as Air Force One carried Obama homeward, he said he was pleased the president had returned to Afghanistan, and that the troops and the American people deserved to hear from him what is at stake in the war. “Success in Afghanistan is vital to our nation’s security,” he said.
It was a different Romney earlier in the week, struggling to outmaneuver Obama in the run-up to the anniversary of the bin Laden’s death.
In fact, Obama and Biden had set him up over the course of a week.
“We know what President Obama did,” Biden said in New York last week, referring to the decision to send Navy SEALs to bin Laden’s lair in Pakistan. “We can’t say for certain what Gov. Romney would have done.”
An Obama campaign web video soon followed, including a quote from a 2007 Romney interview in which he said it was not worth “moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”
Environmental Regulation & Political Controversy
No one really knows how the Supreme Court will rule on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) later this year and the consequent affects this ruling will have on healthcare. (more…)
AP Photo/Bill Haber
ARBUTUS, Md. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tried Wednesday to shake accusations that he’s an inconsistent conservative after a top adviser compared the campaign’s shift from primary fight to general election to an Etch A Sketch.
When Romney should have been enjoying the spoils of his convincing win in the Illinois primary and a coveted endorsement from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the off-handed comment about the draw, shake and draw again toy put him on the defensive instead.
His Republican rivals and Democrats were positively giddy over the remark, which gave them an opening to resurrect a familiar story line that the former Massachusetts governor will take any position on an issue to get elected.
The episode, likely to dog Romney in the coming days, began when adviser Eric Fehrnstrom was asked on CNN if the extended primary fight might force Romney so far to the right that it would hurt him with moderate voters in the fall.
Fehrnstrom responded: “I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”
Fehrnstrom did not try to take back his words when he was asked to clarify them. He said only that the general election is “a different race, with different candidates, and the main issue now becomes” exclusively President Barack Obama.
Romney has long battled the perception of being a flip-flopper, and to hear one of his most trusted advisers compare the campaign’s shift from primary fight to general election to a toy that, when shaken, clears its screen for another image was too good for his critics to pass up.
Political Marketing and the Politicians
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
WILLOUGHBY, Ohio (AP) — This state’s Super Tuesday primary is proving to be the perfect microcosm of the nation’s unruly race for the Republican presidential nomination: Mitt Romney is spending lots of money, Rick Santorum is aggressively courting conservatives and Newt Gingrich is counting on big ideas to swing votes his way.
Of the 10 states weighing in on Tuesday, Ohio offers the hottest contest. And with its diverse population, reputation as a presidential battleground and preoccupation with the same economic worries that nag the nation at large, Ohio seems destined to foreshadow the shape of the campaign as it heads toward November.
“You seem to always be the center of the political universe in America,” Santorum declared Friday night during a packed campaign stop in this northeastern Ohio town set along Lake Erie.
And despite the vast territory in play across the country, from Alaska and Idaho to Vermont, Virginia and Georgia, Romney will sleep in Ohio every night until Tuesday. It’s that important to him.
Even so, the race was playing out in similar fashion in the other states with contests Tuesday. The former Massachusetts governor and his allies were flooding the airwaves, outpacing his rivals in every Super Tuesday state except in North Dakota, where Santorum was alone on the air but spending less than $8,000. Romney campaigned in Washington on Friday, the day before the state’s caucuses, as he closed a Western swing.
Romney has much of Ohio’s Republican establishment behind him after years of courting the party’s county chairmen and donors.
“When a party chairman gets a call early on from someone perceived as the front-runner and they ask you to sign on as a county chairman, it’s easy to say yes and it’s hard to say no,” said Mark Munroe, the Mahoning County GOP chief who is leading Romney’s efforts in the northeastern Ohio county. “We’ve seen the Romney campaign in action since late last year. He was able to start early and that makes such a huge difference.”
Romney’s camp insists he does not need to win Ohio to get the presidential nomination or even to keep alive the expectation that he eventually will. Losing here, however, would drive persistent doubts about the strength of Romney’s candidacy after a closer-than-expected race in Michigan and a string of comments that have drawn attention to his personal wealth.
Campaigning Friday night in Cleveland, Romney delivered his standard speech and kept his focus on the economy, though he cited trade – a critical issue in a manufacturing state that’s been hurt by foreign competition
“When we have trade with other nations it’s good for us … we do better as a society. We’re able to have more stuff and have a more prosperous life,” he said. “But that’s only the case as long as the people we trade with don’t cheat. And in the case of China, they’re cheating.” The crowd cheered, with many nodding their heads.
AP Photo/Eric Gay
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A wrinkle in his early campaign filings could leave Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum without almost a third of the available Ohio delegates even if he wins Super Tuesday’s primary election.
Santorum, who took a campaign swing through the state Friday, has already forsaken nine delegates by not being on ballots in three Ohio congressional districts. Each district merits three delegates.
Party officials said Friday the problem goes deeper.
Santorum failed to file a full complement of delegates in six additional districts, said central committee member Bob Bennett. The holes add up to another nine delegates, for a total of 18 out of the 63 up for grabs. Santorum also did not file all 18 of his at-large delegates.
“He may very well leave delegates on the sidelines,” Bennett said. “Say he would win 70 percent of the state. He doesn’t have that many delegates.”
Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Maloney says party rules call for appointing a three-member Committee on Contest to decide what to do with the unallocated delegates. That panel’s recommendation would go back to the GOP’s state central committee for a final ruling.
“The leftover delegates will be considered unallocated, and the presidential campaigns will be able to file a contest with the GOP to claim them,” Maloney said.
An email was not immediately answered seeking comment from the Santorum campaign.
Bob Kerrey took a lonely position against banning gay marriage in the 1990s. He opposed a ban on flag desecration, voted against welfare reform and ran up high Americans for Democratic Action scores while serving as the senator from one of the most conservative states in the nation.
But when he announced his plans to run for his old Senate seat earlier this week, it was greeted with boos, hisses and expletives from the left.
Welcome back to Washington, senator.
While the Democratic establishment in D.C. is thrilled by his prospective return — the former two-term senator, after all, gives the party a shot at winning a Nebraska seat that was considered all but lost to the party — progressives responded to the news by sharpening their knives.
In the liberal blogosphere, the most energetic quarter of the party, Kerrey’s comeback bid was lambasted as the return of yet another mushy moderate. The online left says it won’t lift a finger for him — and in some cases, it’s even rooting against Kerrey.
It’s a reaction that’s emblematic of the new normal in Washington, a place where there’s no room for committed centrists like Maine GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe, who announced Tuesday she’ll retire after three terms — and perhaps even for members with a record of orbiting the center, such as Kerrey.
“I hope he gets carpet bombed. The more Republicans spend in Nebraska, the less they’ll have to go after Democratic Senate candidates who actually act like Democrats,” said Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the influential blog Daily Kos. “And if it turns out he needs the help, then too bad. F—- him.”
The political world Kerrey is returning to after a decade out of politics looks nothing like the one he left in 2001, when he declined to run for a third term.
Just days after President Barack Obama announced he would buy a Chevrolet Volt once he left office, General Motors has announced it will temporarily lay off 1,300 employees as the company stops production of the electric car for five weeks.
Production at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant will be shut down from March 19-April 23 due to poor sales of the electric car, The Associated Press reported on Friday.
“We’re taking a temporary shutdown,” GM spokesman Chris Lee said. “We’re doing it to maintain our proper inventory levels as we align production with demand.”
Obama told a crowd of United Auto Workers activists on Feb. 28 that he would buy the electric car in “five years.”
“I got to get inside a brand-new Chevy Volt fresh off the line,” Obama said, referring to a recent visit to a Detroit Chevy factory. “Even though Secret Service wouldn’t let me drive it. But I liked sitting in it. It was nice. I’ll bet it drives real good. And five years from now when I’m not president anymore, I’ll buy one and drive it myself.”
GM had hoped to sell 10,000 Volts last year, but ended up selling just 7,671. It sold 1,023 in February and 603 in January, the AP reported. The company tweeted later on Friday that “the @ChevyVolt had a great Feb (1k+ sales). We stand behind the vehicle & tech. We’re adjusting for market demand and see great potential.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) slammed the suspension and layoffs in a statement, saying that the Obama administration’s promotion of electric vehicles “has failed.”
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
WASHINGTON (AP) — Mitt Romney’s come-from-behind win in his native Michigan, and his easy victory in Arizona, are obviously good news for the former Massachusetts governor. But they won’t resolve the knottiest problems vexing the Republican Party’s presidential race, which has become angrier in recent weeks.
Romney landed no knock-out punch on Rick Santorum, the fiery social conservative who loves to remind everyone how difficult Romney finds it to excite and unify the party’s base. Nor is it likely the GOP contest will ease its emphasis on social issues, such as Catholic birth-control doctrine, which gives President Barack Obama a clearer lane to highlight the slightly improving economy.
Romney’s victories Tuesday avert a huge embarrassment and offer some comfort to Republicans who think he has the best chance to attract independent voters and disaffected Democrats this fall. Romney, however, is far from able to start saving his campaign money and focusing fully on Obama.
Santorum has made high-profile visits to Ohio, Tennessee and other states voting in next week’s Super Tuesday primaries. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich didn’t compete in Michigan, but he also remains in the race, appealing to his own slice of Republicans who crave more conservative red meat than Romney dishes out.
Gingrich, bolstered by another big contribution from Las Vega casino owner Sheldon Adelson, hopes to do well in Tennessee and Oklahoma, and to win Georgia, which he represented in Congress for 20 years. Like Santorum, he routinely denigrates Romney’s Massachusetts record.
Gingrich this week called Romney a “pro-choice, pro-gun-control, pro-tax-increase governor.”
“I don’t believe a moderate can beat President Obama,” Gingrich said.
Libertarian-leaning Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is still running, too.
Romney remains the strongest, best-organized and best-financed Republican in the race. Many GOP insiders find it hard to envision anyone else winning the nomination. But he continues to underwhelm, and campaign reporters can search for days without finding a voter truly passionate about Romney.
Romney’s landslide Arizona victory handed him 29 delegates in that winner-take-all state. He was expected all along to win Arizona, however, where a sizeable Mormon electorate helped him, and Santorum made only modest efforts.
Romney’s Michigan win, meanwhile, prevented a likely panic among his backers. Partisans will argue whether his margin was impressive, with fans noting that he trailed Santorum in early polls. Still, Romney was born and raised in Michigan, where his father was a top auto executive and three-term governor.
As he did against Gingrich in Iowa and Florida, Romney undercut his toughest challenger – this time, Santorum – with brutal TV attack ads financed by a super PAC that raises millions of dollars. The ads aren’t exceptional by modern campaign standards. But they indulge in the sort of fact-fudging hyperbole that infuriates the target’s supporters and makes the entire campaign sometimes seem petty and joyless.
To his credit Rick Santorum doesn’t leave anything to doubt regarding his views, at least when considering moral issues. (more…)
AP Photo/John Amis
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum says President Barack Obama’s apology for the burning of Qurans in Afghanistan was a mistake that demonstrates the president’s “weakness.”
Santorum says that rather than saying he was sorry, Obama should have only acknowledged it was wrong.
The former senator from Pennsylvania says to apologize for something that was not an intentional act “is something the president of the United States should not have done.”
Obama has come under fierce criticism from Republicans for apologizing for the burning of Qurans at a military base in Afghanistan. Military officials say the incident was a mistake. It has sparked days of violent riots in Afghanistan, was a mistake.
Santorum was interviewed Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Intrade.com has been predicting a slightly better than fifty percent chance (59% as of February 7, 2012) that President Barack Obama will win reelection in November of 2012. (more…)
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
DALLAS (AP) — In just the past few days, she’s danced with cheering school kids, chatted with troops, swapped ideas with busy parents and engaged in a friendly cooking competition with stars from “Top Chef.”
Michelle Obama is on a national tour to promote the second anniversary of her campaign against childhood obesity. The images have been disarming, intriguing and non-political – just the type of thing her husband’s re-election campaign can’t get enough of.
Five years to the day after Sen. Barack Obama announced he was running for president, Mrs. Obama’s travels this week offer fresh evidence of what an out-sized role she’s assumed in the public eye and how powerful a political asset a first lady can be.
And, make no mistake, Mrs. Obama says she’s “incredibly enthusiastic” about making the case for her husband’s re-election.
Simply put, “I want him to be my president for another four years,” she said in a 40-minute interview Friday with a handful of reporters.
In recent weeks Mrs. Obama has seemingly been everywhere: Doing pushups with Ellen DeGeneres. Serving veggie pizza to Jay Leno. Playing tug-of-war with Jimmy Fallon in the White House. And now making a rare four-state tour – Arkansas, Florida, Iowa and Texas – to mark the two-year-point for her “Let’s Move” initiative.
The first lady draws a line between her policy efforts on childhood obesity and her political activities. But such distinctions often are lost on the public.
In an election year, it’s all to the good for Barack Obama that his popular wife is traveling the country promoting can’t-miss issues like healthy living.
“This is a bit of a two-fer,” Mrs. Obama acknowledged in her interview on Friday, “because it’s an issue that I care about, and it’s an issue that’s important to the country. … I want to make sure that what I do enhances him.”
The first lady added that she knew from the beginning of her husband’s presidency that she had to choose issues that were important to her personally because “if you’re just doing it for political reasons or there’s some ulterior, people smell that out so easily and it’s hard to sustain.”
To a more limited extent, Mrs. Obama also fills a more overtly political role by headlining private fundraisers that raise millions for her husband’s campaign, reaching out to supporters through conference calls to various states and shooting out periodic emails to campaign backers around the country.
That part of her labors will increase considerably in the months to come.
Who Are These Guys? A Closer Look at Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum (Oh…and Ron Paul Too!)Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
Politics – “A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” – Ambrose Bierce
MF Global was founded in 1870 by a barrel maker named James Man who became a successful supplier of rum to the navy. In 2007 the Man Group came to be MF Global. (more…)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Newt Gingrich is defending himself after a questioner at the GOP presidential debate criticized him for calling Palestinians an invented people.
A questioner of Palestinian descent asked Gingrich how he could say Palestinians are “invented.”
President Barack Obama has left unanswered a major question about his Buffett Rule tax on millionaires: Just how much money would it raise?
Administration officials are not releasing projected revenues from the much-hyped plan named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett. During the State of the Union address, Obama tied his proposal — which would tax those earning $1 million at a minimum of 30 percent — to cutting a deficit estimated to top $1.1 trillion for the fourth straight year.
But for the moment, the White House wants to keep the attention focused on Obama’s argument that it’s unfair to tax Buffett’s secretary at a higher rate than her boss.
“I’m not going to give you a schedule of how broad individual tax reform would break down and what impact it would have,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said at the Wednesday briefing. “The president simply believes that as a matter of principle that unfairness ought to be changed.”
Republican lawmakers — noting the absence of real numbers — attacked the plan as a political charade, an attempt to score points in the November election instead of a serious policy to reduce federal debt. One outside analysis by the non-partisan Tax Foundation indicates the rule would generate another $36.7 billion a year in revenue — far from enough to make a serious dent in a national debt of $15 trillion.
“It’s a smokescreen,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) told POLITICO. “Barack Obama just wants to pit one group against another so he can raise more money to spend on a bloated government.”
Most Americans want the government to step in and help stop housing foreclosures, according to a new poll Thursday.
A majority of Americans – 58 percent – said they want the federal government to take further actions this year to prevent Americans from losing their homes through bank foreclosures, the Gallup poll found. Just 34 percent said they want the housing market to resolve its problems on its own.
Along partisan lines, a whopping 76 percent of Democrats said they believed it would be better for the economy if the government takes action, while just 31 percent of Republicans agreed. For independents, 61 percent said they also favored the government playing a larger role.
Over half of Republicans – 64 percent – said they do not want the federal government to take additional steps this year to help stop foreclosures.
President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address Tuesday night that he’s sending Congress a proposal that “gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage.”
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Polling shows Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich locked in a tight race for Florida on Tuesday as the Republicans prepared for the final pre-primary debate.
Bouncing off his South Carolina victory, Gingrich has surged to match Romney in polls in Florida, a state in which 50 delegates are at stake in the winner-take-all contest. Romney once led the former House speaker by double-digit margins in Florida, and his campaign and its allies have been blanketing the airwaves in recent days with ads that are highly critical of Gingrich.
A CNN/Opinion Research Center poll released Wednesday found Romney leading Gingrich by two points, 36 to 34 percent, among likely voters. That’s within the polls margin of error. Rick Santorum — who may not even be in Florida on primary night — finished with 11 percent to Ron Paul’s 9 percent, while 7 percent were undecided.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday also found likely voters favoring Romney over Gingrich, 36 percent to 34 percent. The survey, conducted Jan. 19 to 23, also showed Gingrich receiving the most support from evangelical Christians and those who identify themselves as part of the tea party.
Public Policy Polling found Gingrich further ahead among likely primary voters – with 38 percent support – and Romney in second place with 33 percent. That poll, released Monday, represented a 12-point gain for Gingrich, and an 8-point drop for Romney in just one week.
That survey also showed Gingrich and Romney running even when respondents were asked about electability, something that is central to Romney’s argument. Respondents were equally divided at 37 percent each when asked who had the best chance of beating President Barack Obama in a general election.
Only one survey — done by the American Research Group from Jan. 23 to 24 — found Romney leading Gingrich by a wider margin of seven points. The survey of likely Republican primary voters showed Romney with 41 percent and Gingrich with 34 percent.
The candidates have also been trying to win the Hispanic vote, which could make the difference in a tight race. The one million Cuban-Americans concentrated in South Florida tend to vote Republican.
Technology has changed our lives completely. This is particularly evident now the world is following with a various range of feelings the decisions of the American Congress about the SOPA and PIPA bills. (more…)
There exist today countries that are connected by fear of the future. Yet they are hopeful that past transgressions and poor decisions will not destroy the struggles of generations. (more…)
House Republicans have called Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify as early as next week on the Obama administration’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton formally sent a request to Clinton to come and testify at a hearing as early as next Wednesday, the day after President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress.
Upton is required to give members of his panel a week’s notice before a hearing occurs. “So as much as I’d like to do it tomorrow, or Friday or Monday, we can’t ask her before Wednesday,” he told reporters Wednesday.
Upton added he had not heard back from the State Department but “we expect to hear back very shortly.” He said Clinton is the only witnesses he has asked for so far.
In the meantime, Republicans continue to weigh their legislative options.
“All options are on the table,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters. “This fight is not going to go away, you can count on it.”
That includes Republicans trying to include language in the next extension of the payroll tax holiday that will need to occur by the end of February.
“I could have possibly beaten Senator McCain in the primary. Then I could have been the candidate who lost to Barack Obama.” – Mitt Romney (more…)
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
BLUFFTON, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina may be fertile ground for attacks on Mitt Romney’s corporate takeover record.
The state has suffered a long string of shuttered textile plants and other workplaces. At 9.9 percent, it has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates. And like its fellow Deep South states, its Republican electorate has a disproportionate number of blue-collar workers and noncollege graduates.
That combination could make South Carolina a good test of efforts by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry to paint the GOP presidential front-runner as a heartless venture capitalist who fired workers while reaping big profits during his time at Bain Capital in the 1980s and `90s. Those attacks may be starting to resonate.
“I don’t like it,” said Rhonda Jones, 50, a Republican who showed up here Friday to see Perry at the Squat ‘n ‘Gobble cafe. The stay-at-home mom talked about how Romney’s record at Bain “is what concerns me” and said she will vote for either Perry or Gingrich. Romney is a nonstarter.
“He was money-hungry himself,” Jones said, adding that she knows several unemployed people. “He wasn’t looking out for people.”
South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primary may mark the last real chance for his rivals to stop Romney’s drive to the nomination.
President Barack Obama’s aides have made it clear they will hammer Romney on Bain if he becomes the nominee. Obama won’t try to win GOP-heavy South Carolina in November. But independent voters’ reaction to the Bain-related attacks may give his campaign some hints of the issue’s potency nationwide.
An array of conservative leaders and party officials are denouncing Gingrich and Perry for the Bain attacks, saying they sound like Democrats attacking free enterprise. Stung, the two candidates softened their criticisms in campaign stops throughout South Carolina this week.
But they didn’t drop them altogether. And a well-financed group backing Gingrich is airing a foreboding TV ad here that shows displaced workers blaming Romney and Bain Capital for their job losses.
If enough GOP voters like Jones see it, Romney may face rougher sledding here than he did in Iowa and New Hampshire, says Merle Black of Emory University, who has written extensively on Southern politics.
“This is really going to be a challenge for him,” Black said. When low-income and low-education Republicans hear the criticisms of Bain’s record, he said, “it might repel them from Romney.”
Generally speaking, Republicans are far more inclined than Democrats to accept capitalism’s rough edges. These can include the so-called “creative destruction” of plant closings and fired workers in the drive for greater efficiency, which can lead to long-term growth and eventual hiring.
“Capitalism without failure isn’t capitalism,” said former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, another presidential hopeful, as he defended Romney’s record at Bain this week.
AP Photo/MICHAEL JUSTUS
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — In mailboxes across South Carolina in 2007, likely Republican voters received a Christmas card signed by “The Romney Family” with a quotation from a 19th century Mormon leader suggesting God had several wives.
Mitt Romney’s campaign, just a few weeks away from the 2008 presidential primary in a state where evangelicals look skeptically on the former Massachusetts governor’s Mormon faith, condemned the bogus card as politics at its worst. The sender never took credit. And it was just another anonymous shot in the endless volleys of nasty campaigning in South Carolina.
While attack politics happen in every state, South Carolina’s reputation for electoral mudslinging and bare-knuckled brawling is well-earned.
Why there? Largely because of the high stakes. South Carolina has always picked the GOP’s eventual nominee since the primary’s inception in 1980. And money, nerves and time are usually running out for almost everyone but the front-runner after Iowa and New Hampshire, often leading challengers to go for the jugular.
“The ghost of Lee Atwater hangs over South Carolina like a morning fog and permeates every part of the state’s politics,” says Scott Huffmon, a Winthrop University political science professor. Atwater, who died 20 years ago, was South Carolina’s most famous political operative and a master of slash-and-burn politics.
Given the dynamics of this year’s Republican presidential race, it’s safe to expect under-the-radar attacks over the next week as challengers work to derail front-runner Romney before the Jan. 21 primary. The rise of super PACs – outside groups aligned with but independent from the candidates – means some of the attacks could be more public this time, but still nasty.
“You’ve got four guys that are make or break,’ said Warren Tompkins, a veteran South Carolina political consultant advising Romney. “Desperate men do desperate things.”
Romney says he’s ready for whatever comes his way.
“Politics ain’t beanbags, and I know it’s going to get tough,” the GOP front-runner said as he headed south after his New Hampshire victory. “But I know that is sometimes part of the underbelly of politics.”
The lore of negative attacks here includes a whisper campaign against Republican John McCain in 2000 that included rumors that the daughter his family adopted from Bangladesh was the Arizona senator’s illegitimate black child.
Those were desperate times for George W. Bush’s campaign. McCain had just stunned the establishment’s choice with a blowout win in New Hampshire, and Bush had just 18 days to turn the momentum around in South Carolina. Publicly, Bush took a few shots at McCain, but mostly stressed he was the true conservative. But plenty of ugliness was happening behind the scenes.
People who attended rallies or debates found flyers on their car windshields with the accusations about McCain’s daughter and raising questions about his mental stability. Callers, pretending to be pollsters, would ask loaded questions of voters about whether they could support a man who had homosexual experiences or a Vietnam hero who was really was a traitor. The sponsors of the false attacks were careful to leave no trail.
AP Photo/(AP PHOTO/DARREN HAUCK)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Unemployment is higher than it’s been going into any election year since World War II.
But history shows that won’t necessarily stop President Barack Obama from reclaiming the White House.
In a presidential election year, the unemployment trend can be more important to an incumbent’s chances than the unemployment rate.
Going back to 1956 no incumbent president has lost when unemployment fell over the two years leading up to the election. And none has won when it rose.
The picture is similar in the 12 months before presidential elections: Only one of nine incumbent presidents (Gerald Ford in 1976) lost when unemployment fell over that year, and only one (Dwight Eisenhower in 1956) was re-elected when it rose.
Those precedents bode well for Obama. Unemployment was 9.8 percent in November 2010, two years before voters decide whether Obama gets to stay in the White House. It was down to 8.7 percent in November 2011, a year before the vote. It fell to 8.5 percent in December and is expected to fall further by Election Day.
Obama can take comfort in President Ronald Reagan’s experience. In November 1982, the economy was in the last month of a deep recession, and unemployment was 10.8 percent, the highest since the Great Depression. A year later, unemployment was down to 8.5 percent. By November 1984, it was still a relatively high 7.2 percent, but the downward trend was unmistakable. Reagan was re-elected that month in a 59-41 percent landslide.
“A sense that things are on the mend is really important to people,” says Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. The trend holds up even when the changes in unemployment are slight. President Bill Clinton was re-elected handily even though the unemployment rate was only 0.2 percentage points lower in November 1996 than it had been two years earlier and was the same as it had been a year before.
Under Obama, unemployment peaked at 10 percent in October 2009, nine months into his presidency, before it began coming down in fits and starts. Along the way it stayed above 9 percent for 21 straight months.
But unemployment has now dropped four months in a row. And the economy added 1.6 million jobs in 2011, the most since 2006.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s government on Saturday welcomed the U.S. Navy’s rescue of 13 Iranian fishermen held by pirates, calling it a positive humanitarian gesture.
U.S. officials announced Friday that the fishermen had been rescued by a U.S. Navy destroyer on Thursday, more than 40 days after their boat was commandeered by suspected Somali pirates in the northern Arabian Sea. The rescue came just days after Tehran warned the U.S. to keep the same group of warships out of the Persian Gulf in a reflection of Iran’s fear that American warships could try to enforce an embargo against Iranian oil exports.
“The rescue of Iranian sailors by American forces is considered a humanitarian gesture, and we welcome this behavior,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, according to state TV’s Al-Alam Arabic channel.
Iran’s hard-line Fars News Agency had a different take, calling the rescue operation a Hollywood dramatization of a routine event.
The Fars report noted that attacks by Somali pirates in the region are common and said Iran’s navy has itself freed many mariners held by pirates in recent years without seeking to highly publicize it.
Amid escalating tension with Iran over its nuclear program, the Obama administration reveled in delivering Friday’s announcement and highlighted the fact that the rescuing ships were the same ones Iran’s army chief had just said were no longer welcome in the Persian Gulf.
For all the differences between the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses, one stands out: Two of New Hampshire’s Capitol Hill Republicans didn’t hesitate to endorse Mitt Romney.
No one in Iowa’s Hill delegation endorsed anyone.
The New Hampshire lawmakers’ willingness to weigh in reflects a simple reality: Mitt Romney is a virtual lock to win there, presenting Republicans looking to protect their own political interests with a safe, easy choice.
But it goes further than that. Win or lose, backing Romney won’t come back to haunt them. There were no such safe choices in Iowa, and plenty of strong incentives not to endorse.
Two of the three Republicans in New Hampshire’s delegation, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Rep. Charlie Bass, are backing Romney. A third, freshman Rep. Frank Guinta, has said he is still weighing his options and could endorse in the final days before the primary.
It’s a stark contrast from Iowa, where, after months of pleading and lobbying from White House hopefuls, ultimately not one of the state’s three delegation members endorsed for fear of alienating the voters who were deeply split among those in the field. In the final caucus tally, none of the top three finishers won more than 25 percent.
President Barack Obama hailed improving job-creation numbers Saturday in a weekly address devoid of the usual caveats that the latest statistics might be just a blip and that a distressing number of Americans are still hurting economically.
“We just learned that our economy added 212,000 private sector jobs in December. After losing more than 8 million jobs in the recession, we’ve added more than 3 million private sector jobs over the past 22 months. And we’re starting 2012 with manufacturing on the rise and the American auto industry on the mend,” Obama said in the pre-recorded statement broadcast on radio and TV stations and via the Internet. “We’re heading in the right direction. And we’re not going to let up.”
In a speech Friday afternoon, just hours after the release of a Bureau of Labor Statistics report showing unemployment dipped to 8.5 percent in December, Obama tempered his remarks with a series of statements showing his sensitivity to the ongoing economic pain.
“There are a lot of people that are still hurting out there,” the president said in remarks at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The bureau’s director, Richard Cordray, got a recess appointment from Obama earlier in the week.
“The American people I think rightly understand that there are still a lot of struggles that people are going through out there. A lot of families are still having a tough time. A lot of small businesses are still having a tough time. But we’re starting to rebound,” Obama said at the CFPB.
Go Daddy got a well deserved Christmas present this year. Between Monday December 19th and Friday, two days before Christmas 2011, Go Daddy lost 72,354 Hosting Accounts. People are leaving in troves! The reason every one is jumping ship is even better! Ever heard of SOPA?
On December 29th the GoDaddy boycott begins in earnest, and if your hosting with Godaddy read on to see if you’ve had similar experiences.
Go Daddy’s unparalleled losses equals payback for notorious cyber-bully.
Here’s the scoop GoDaddy, kissing up to Capital Hill, appeared on a list of corporations that supportSOPA, along with the likes of Time Warner, MasterCard and Viacom.
SOPA, is actually an acronym for ‘Stop Online Piracy. However, as you’ll discover a more suitable alternative would be “Stop Online Private Association”
What SOPA really is, is an insidious attempt by Multi-National Corporations and their political pundits to control the internet in the same way that they control the main stream global media.
“Imagine a world in which any intellectual property holder can, without ever appearing before a judge or setting foot in a courtroom, shut down any website’s online advertising programs and block access to credit card payments.” Nate Anderson
SOPA is dressed up in the righteous speak of America Nazi styled nationalism, the same kind of hyperbola that pours out of Washington daily, and then goes on to fill the corroded sewers of main stream media with the waste that they would like us to believe is news.
Here’s an example straight from the horses mouth. Many people can now see through this kind of blatant manipulation. As you’ll see, it’s little more than a rallying words, psychologically loaded sound bites. The same terms in the following quote are endlessly reppeaed by the corporate media and politicians so that they can be drilled into our subconscious minds and influence our beliefs and actions.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.): “As a co-chair of the Congressional Anti Piracy Caucus, I know how hard it is to safeguard our Intellectual Property from foreign rogue websites, and as a Representative from Los Angeles, I know what it costs us in terms of well-paying jobs.”Committee on the Judiciary
The problem is that we’re just not buying it anymore. The exodus of customers from GoDaddy is a sign that people, the 99% of us are waking up. The multi-national robber barons are getting desperate, they’re shaking in their boots, because we have the power to hit them where it counts, in the bank and in the streets.
In fact, we should be grateful that GoDaddy was spotted on the list the corporate elite who back the bill, because it has brought to our collective attention, something that was never meant to happen.
You know, general protocal goes something like this; corporations see a threat or opportunity. Then theymobalize the monkeys in Congress, who are told what to bury, what to hide in cryptically worded sections of Legislative bills that make Oxford Dictionary look like an afternoon read.
The cats out of the bag and we all need to join together to occupy the airways and get this bogus piece of legislation defeated, because if we don’t who knows what could:
“Sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, Wikipedia, or any sites that allow user generated content CANNOT exist under these laws. Immediately after this bill is passed, you will see the media mafia (MPIAA, RIAA, etc) replacing websites like Wikipedia with commercialized encyclopedia software. Mainstream media outlets will not cover this bill because they are the ones lobbying for it…
This bill isn’t designed to eliminate piracy, it is designed to give them control of the internet, the pesky free speech tool that has crippled their obsolete business model.” SOPA for Dummies
Go Daddy got what it deserves, and showed it’s true colors that’s why they’re going to see many more of their clients move to better hosting companies. After Go Daddy realized how much this was going to hurt their one and only, their precious profit, they withdrew their support and initiated a PR campaign to neutralize the fall out.
GoDaddy’s Bag of Crooked Tricks
I have to admit that I have a particular grudge against hosting corporations like GoDaddy. They have their own built in system to take advantage of the unwary, and that includes all but the techno savy.
Who want’s to have to learn Mysql or deal with phpmyadmin just to have their website function properly? Well I certainly didn’t and that’s what happened to me.
What generally occurs is that Hosting providers like GoDaddy, reel in you in with cheap prices on your first hosting package. Then you get hit by the control panel, which often isn’t designed to help you, no is designed to up-sell you on slew of things you don’t don’t really need.
Now that they got your money they don’t care what happens to your website. This isn’t conjecture. I’ve had more than my fair share of bad hosting companies like ipage, StartLogik, Nine Dot Systems to deal with.They actually torment their users with outsourced, undertrained and scripted customer support, whose real job it seems to waste your time, and frustrate you to the point of giving up.
The reason chose not to ever, excuse the pun, go with GoDaddy, is because I heard about how bad their support is. Actually GoDaddy is renowned for it’s horrific customer service. If you want to find out for your self, just do a Google search on “bad web hosting +go Daddy”. You’ll end up with more than 1,940,000 results.
Here’s a couple of fairly recent reviews that I picked out to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:
“This host is terrible. Just search in Google for Godaddy Complaints and see for yourself how many others have complaints about them. We wanted to leave them after we heard that they outsource their support to low salary countries, which is one of the many Godaddycomplaints.” Godaddy Complaints
“This post is about another bad customer service experience I had with GoDaddy support. Every time I asked for the support expert (ha) to check to see if something had gone wrong on their end he said, “nothing has gone wrong, your site is scripted wrong.”
Even after explaining that I had not touched my site in ages and the other was install by GoDaddy… he continued to disregard any my suggestion/queries has to what might have gone wrong. In the end all I wanted was the sites up and not to point a finger…After writing this I will still keep the sites mention with them because moving the sites will be such a hassle and their prices are one of the lowest for Windows hosting.” Thuan V. Ngugen
“GoDaddy sucks… their dashboard is completely un-navigable, their shared hosting has repeated errors, their VPS hosts are so poorly configured that they can’t even run updates on themselves, their CEO murders elephants for his own amusement, and they think that a few Superbowl ads featuring Danica Patrick will somehow make us forget how bad they suck.” Evert Tipfor.us
Granted GoDaddy does have a large number of positive reviews, and they also have a huge PR budget. Actually it wouldn’t even cost that much to hire a virtual army of Amazon Turks to spam the net with phony reviews. The best place to look for real reviews is on professional forums like WordPress of Warrior, because the online pro’s see through the smoke and mirrors.
Once these Hosts’ from hell have you in their clutches, they realize that most people are stuck with them. They know it’s not easy for non-technical perople to migrate their website to another hosting company. It can be a royal pain the preverbal arse to move your website. Don’t you think it’s odd in a funny kind of way, that their terrible customer support works in their favor, making it nearly impossible for most people to move their website?
After suffering through nearly a dozen horrific Hosting companies I learned the ropes and found one company that is absolutely awesome. I actually found two, one Tiger Technologies is apparently whoGoogle’s Matt Cuts uses to host his personal blog. They are fantastic. However, because they’re geared towards more advanced users, I’d only recommend them to you know what your doing and what you want.
The Hosting Company that I recommend for everyone, is a perfect alternative to GoDaddy. You may have guessed it, I’m talking about Hostgator. From my experience they offer the best customer support I’ve ever had. I’ve even had their technicians call me on two occasions to help solve a couple sticky problems. The reson that I like them so much is that, their customer support won’t quite, or cop out until helped solve your problem. I believe that this is what a corporation should be like, for the people.
Hostgator not only helps migrate a site, they do it for you, and for free. So if you’ve been stuck withGoDaddy or any other hosting company, Hostgator makes it easy to move. The’ll do all the work for you. Now, keeping with the spirit of transparency if you use this Hostgator link to set up you account, I make a commission.
However, that’s not why I’m recommending them, it does help me continue writing, but if for some reason you find find this troubling then just use this Hostgator link instead, and I won’t make a dime. Either way you’ll be glad you did.
No matter what you decide, if you enter this coupon code gowiththebest when you sign up with Hostgator you’ll get 25% off the package that you choose. All you have to do is look for the coupon field when your setting up your account, and type in gowiththebest Its valid until January 31st 2012
I could write a book about the do’s and don’ts of Hosting but I won’t bore you any longer with my war stories. But to really help defeat SOPA and take your power back from corporations like GoDadddy, then keep keep up with the latest and join in Twitters Protest.
Banking is inarguably the most prominent component of a country’s economic construct. (more…)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, facing a recall election, ducked the question Thursday of which Republican presidential candidate he supports.
Walker refused to get pinned down on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” but told the hosts there are three candidates he thinks could beat President Barack Obama in November. The Republican governor pointed to Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich as the three candidates who have best articulated plans to boost jobs.
“My hope is that there are candidates who stand up and say, ‘I’ve got a plan to get people off of the government payrolls and more on the private sector payrolls,’” Walker said.
“Certainly, Gov. Romney has private sector experience and has done that, Gov. Perry has done that in Texas,” Walker added. “Certainly, Speaker Gingrich has talked about that in the past. Which of them can break through, not only in this caucus but in the upcoming primary season, I think will be largely dependent on which makes the best case for the issue.”
When pressed to narrow down his choice to one candidate who best fit his criteria, Walker balked.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, hot off a seven-year run as California governor, went underground in May after it was revealed he had fathered a child with a household employee.
The White House, which worked with him on events like Solyndra’s factory groundbreaking in 2009, cut off contact. A “world tour” to promote green policies was derailed. Polls showed that most of the support he had left among his former constituents was gone.
But in recent weeks, Schwarzenegger has begun to return to the spotlight, making public appearances at renewable energy and climate change events, advocating for green technology and touting his energy achievements in the Golden State.
“I promise you I will be your cheerleader and carry our message around the world. I will do everything in my power to make this happen,” Schwarzenegger told the American Council On Renewable Energy on Dec. 5 in Washington, D.C. “I feel as passionate about this as I did about bodybuilding, about fitness and weight training, all those things.”
Having spent six months out of the spotlight, Schwarzenegger is easing back into public life.
Besides his energy-related activities, Schwarzenegger is penning a memoir and starring in a sequel to the 2010 action flick “The Expendables,” as well as a Western.
Whether his shift back into the world of policy will ingratiate him again with the public is unclear.
Schwarzenegger — the star of Hollywood hits such as “The Terminator” and “Total Recall” — is both enigmatic and appealing, strategists say.
“The normal rules that you would apply to a politician just really have never applied to him because he’s an iconic figure beginning with sports and then entertainment and then politics,” said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist who worked in the White House counsel’s office during President Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal.
“He’s just never been perceived — even as governor — as a politician. He was his own separate brand that transcended politics, that transcended entertainment, that was a very unique brand,” Lehane added.
Schwarzenegger was well-known in politics, inside and outside of California, for his energy and environmental efforts, including: passing a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, fostering the solar industry and mandating that utilities have energy storage capacity for when the wind doesn’t blow.
He even converted two of his Hummers to run on biofuel and hydrogen.
But any post-gubernatorial plans were postponed when news broke in May that he had fathered a child with an employee and kept it secret for more than a decade. Schwarzenegger’s wife, Maria Shriver, left him and has filed for divorce.
A June poll found that three-quarters of California voters said they viewed their former governor unfavorably, while 20 percent expressed support.
AP Photo/Chris Carlson
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Regardless of whether Mitt Romney wins the Iowa Republican caucus Tuesday, he has enjoyed a remarkably easy presidential race so far.
When his rivals have stopped battering each other long enough to criticize him, they’ve often done so tentatively and ham-handedly. Romney’s injury-free journey is all the more surprising because, despite some obvious campaign skills, he has well-known vulnerabilities ripe for attack.
The turn of events has astonished campaign pros in both parties, who expected Romney to be more bloodied. And it has dismayed President Barack Obama’s allies, who assumed Republicans would at least soften up the man they viewed as the likeliest nominee from the start.
“By all rights, Romney should have spent the last six months with a target painted on his back,” said Dan Schnur, a former GOP adviser who teaches politics at the University of Southern California. “But he has been able to keep his head low,” Schnur said, while a series of rivals have taken turns quarreling, surging and falling.
New polls show Romney heading into Tuesday’s caucus as the front-runner in a state that seems ill-suited to his background, and which snubbed him four years ago. The Iowa Republican caucus is usually dominated by evangelical voters, home-schoolers and other social conservatives. Yet his rivals have done little here to turn those dynamics against Romney, a Mormon who supported legalized abortion and mandatory health insurance as governor of liberal Massachusetts.
Romney began this year’s campaign de-emphasizing Iowa. But his rivals’ inability to produce a clear leader has opened a possible path for him to seize the prize.
A Romney win in Iowa, which is far from certain, would make him the clear favorite to win the nomination. Next up is the Jan. 10 primary in New Hampshire. Romney has a second home there, and the GOP voters’ greater emphasis on financial matters is better suited to his politics.
Romney’s luck stems largely from his opponents’ early conclusion that he had enough money and experience to go deep into the nominating contest, and only one viable alternative could emerge. They’ve been competing for that spot, and attacking each other, ever since.
“If you have modest resources, you’re going to spend your time differentiating yourself from the rest of the non-Romney crowd,” said GOP lobbyist and strategist Mike McKenna.
Campaign attack ads in Iowa underscore the point. When former House Speaker Newt Gingrich surged in polls earlier this month, he was quickly pilloried by TV ads and mailings financed by groups associated with Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
In two weeks in Iowa, a PAC that supports Romney dumped $2.6 million into the effort, according to records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Having little money to respond, Gingrich has plummeted in the polls.
A far smaller sum was spent on anti-Romney ads, mostly by a pro-Obama group trying to fill the vacuum.
Campaign veterans say Perry had the best chance to establish himself early as the Romney alternative. That could have positioned him to hammer away at his Massachusetts rival. A proven fundraiser with 10 years as Texas governor, Perry rocketed to the top of GOP polls when he announced his candidacy in mid-August.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
KEENE, N.H. (AP) — The stars may be aligning for Mitt Romney – and at just the right time.
Four years after his failed White House bid, the former Massachusetts governor’s strategy in the 2012 Republican presidential race has long been premised on a respectable finish in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses followed by a decisive New Hampshire victory to drive momentum heading into South Carolina, Florida and beyond.
To be sure, no one has voted yet. The outcome in Iowa will shape the race, the contest has been mercurial and Romney still faces hurdles, not the least of which is his failure to become the chosen one in GOP circles after running for president for the better part of five years.
Still, his preferred scenario is looking more plausible now, thanks to Ron Paul’s helpful ascent, Newt Gingrich’s slide and fractures among conservatives who have not rallied behind an alternative to Romney. There’s a growing sense inside and outside of Romney’s campaign that his path to the nomination is clearer than it has been in weeks.
“Barring a tornado, things are starting to line up for Romney at the right time,” said Dave Roederer, an unaligned Republican who served as Sen. John McCain’s Iowa campaign chairman in 2008.
Indeed, with voting set to begin in just 12 days, polling suggests that the latest candidate to challenge Romney’s place atop the field, Gingrich, is slipping in Iowa and elsewhere under the weight of negative advertising fueled by Romney allies and other campaigns. And Romney has begun to display a confidence of sorts as he expands what is already a mammoth political machine in early voting states and other places across the country.
Perhaps illustrating his newfound optimism after weeks of concern inside his campaign, Romney went after Gingrich in uncharacteristically sharp language Wednesday for complaining of repeated attack ads.
“If you can’t stand the relatively modest heat in the kitchen right now, wait until Obama’s Hell’s Kitchen shows up,” Romney told supporters in Keene, the first stop in a multi-day bus tour showcasing his growing bench of New Hampshire political backers.
Among them: two of the three Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation as well as former Sen. Judd Gregg and former Gov. John H. Sununu. More than 100 current and former elected officials are backing Romney in New Hampshire.
In a later campaign stop in the state’s largest city, Gingrich shot back, shortly after having announced the support of state House speaker Bill O’Brien, who declared that Romney was taking New Hampshire for granted.
“If he wants to test the heat, I’ll meet him anywhere in Iowa next week,” Gingrich said. “If he wants to try out the kitchen, I’ll be glad to debate him anywhere. We’ll bring his ads and he can defend them.”
Political observers suggest that even if Romney doesn’t win Iowa – which has never warmed to him, and dealt him a blow in 2008 – he’s on safer ground in New Hampshire’s Jan. 10 primary.
Newt Gingrich, scrambling to regain ground in Iowa, has worked to keep his crusade against federal judges alive — talking up the issue for the fourth straight day in an appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor” on Tuesday night.
In a field of judicial-branch haters, Newt Gingrich has become the courts’ loudest and fiercest critic — a distinction that has angered some establishment Republicans but is playing well in socially conservative Iowa, a state with a well-known disdain for activist judges.
Gingrich received a robust response to a lengthy tirade against courts in last week’s debate in Sioux City, Iowa, and since then has gone full-speed ahead with his anti-judge rhetoric. He doubled down on his critiques on a Saturday conference call, and in a Sunday appearance on “Face the Nation,” in which he suggested sending U.S. marshals to arrest certain judges and haul them before Congress to explain their positions. He kept going when he hit the trail on Monday, telling Iowa voters why he thinks judges are overstepping their bounds. He fended off critiques on his stance in a Tuesday interview from Iowa with Bill O’Reilly.
Gingrich’s suggestions for reining in the judiciary have drawn fire from his fellow candidates, including Rick Perry, who has urged imposing term limits on judges but said Gingrich’s ideas were a bridge too far.
“Just because Congress doesn’t agree with a ruling, I don’t agree that you snatch them up and bring ’em up in front of Congress,” Perry told The Wall Street Journal this week.
Mitt Romney also expressed uneasiness with Gingrich’s proposals to the Journal. They would, Romney said, “change the very constitutional rule-of-law basis of our nation, and, by the way, encourage enterprises of all kinds to see America without the rule of law and not worthy of investment.”
In provoking his rivals, Gingrich might have established himself as the most conservative candidate when it comes to the courts, a title that can help him in Iowa, where a PPP poll released earlier this week found support for his candidacy slipping. Iowa ousted three of its own state Supreme Court judges in 2010 after they ruled in favor of gay marriage — an effort Gingrich helped secure financial backing for — and many conservatives there are cheering on his latest anti-court offensive.
Five battleground states are among the nation’s fastest growing, according to newly released Census data.
Colorado, Florida, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina all expanded their populations by more than 1 percent from July 2010 to July 2011, the Census bureau estimated.
All are states that will play large roles in determining the winner of the 2012 presidential election. All but Georgia are included in five possible electoral paths outlined earlier this month by President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, Jim Messina.
Though Republican John McCain won his home state of Arizona in 2008, Democrats contend it will be in play this time around.
“There are a variety of pathways to 270 electoral votes and Arizona is definitely in the mix,” Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said at a fundraiser earlier this month.
Republicans, meanwhile, believe Obama’s sliding poll numbers in Florida, Colorado and North Carolina will be key to their candidate’s march to the White House.
The numbers provide a glimpse at where new voters will most shape 2012, and where campaigns’ efforts to reach first-timers can have maximum impact in next year’s election.
Population growth drives both voter registration and ballots cast. Since 2000, states with surging populations — including Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Florida — have seen double-digit growth in the number of ballots cast in successive presidential cycles.
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Continuing the push to gain support from tea party members, four of the Republican presidential candidates participated in a tele-forum Sunday night.
Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum were each featured separately for an equal amount of time — about 10 minutes — and were asked the same set of questions on debt reduction and undoing the health care bill.
In a poll of audience participants, Bachmann generated the most enthusiasm as a potential nominee, with 36 percent saying they would be “very enthusiastic” if she were the nominee. Gingrich won the second-highest level of enthusiasm. The poll was conducted after the candidates spoke and was conducted using an automatic touch process.
Faring the worst were two candidates who didn’t participate in the forum — Ron Paul, whom 64 percent of participants said they wouldn’t be enthusiastic about at all, and Jon Huntsman, who received that reaction from 65 percent of participants.
The group that hosted the forum, the Tea Party Patriots, will release straw poll preference numbers Monday morning.
There was little disagreement among the candidates, who all railed against “ObamaCare,” and promised to balance the federal budget and axe federal regulations.
On reversing health care legislation, Bachmann and Santorum attempted to distinguish themselves from Romney, contending that it wouldn’t be enough to issue an executive order to stop its implementation.
“The only way we can get rid of it is repealing it,” Bachmann said. “Don’t count on the Supreme Court taking care of it, we need to do it in Congress.”
The candidates and tea party members who questioned them all focused on the theme of “consistency.”
Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin described the forum as an opportunity for tea party members to learn more about the candidates and decide for themselves who to support.
Republican congressional leaders are squaring off for one last battle of the year against President Barack Obama and the Democrats, with both House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging House-Senate negotiations on the payroll tax cut.
But the White House and top Senate Democrats show no inclination for compromising on the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and federal unemployment benefits passed by the Senate on Saturday. Democrats have, for now, taken on the GOP’s my-way-or-the-highway approach used during much of this first session of the 112th Congress.
The Senate passed the bipartisan measure in an 89-10 vote on Saturday with McConnell and the rest of Senate GOP leadership backing the agreement. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), now says House Republicans should accept the bill and further negotiations can come only after the House adopts it.
All of which means in Washington, the week before Christmas will go as the rest of year has — with each party angrily blaming the other for Congress’s failure to act and Obama blaming everybody else.
The House will return to session on Monday, following a rebellion over the weekend by rank-and-file House Republicans against the Senate proposal.
During a GOP conference call on Saturday, Boehner initially praised the Senate’s inclusion of language calling on Obama to make a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days. Boehner said the Senate package “isn’t perfect, but Keystone is a victory.” The House should pass it, the Ohio congressman said, adding that Republicans will live to fight another day, GOP sources said.
But his members angrily shot that down. They raged against the Senate for failing to take up a yearlong extension and vowed to vote against the measure on the House floor. By Sunday morning, Boehner had changed his position, and he now rejects the Senate bill.
“I believe that two months is just kicking the can down the road,” he said during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“What I’m suggesting is this: The House has passed its bill; the Senate has passed its bill,” Boehner added. “Under the Constitution, when we have these disagreements, there could be a formal conference between the House and Senate.” The House package, which includes a provision on Keystone and other high-profile policy riders, calls for a full-year extension of the payroll cut.
At the White House, Boehner’s remarks drew a harsh response.
“It’s time House Republicans stop playing politics and get the job done for the American people,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement.
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Mitt Romney is mocking Newt Gingrich’s long record in Washington and says conservative tea party voters eventually will reject the former House speaker who’s Romney chief presidential rival.
Romney tells reporters in South Carolina that he thinks the state’s tea party voters will turn on Gingrich because of his work for the mortgage company Freddie Mac and his consulting time in Washington.
Romney, who’s been endorsed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, isn’t sure whether the work Gingrich did after he left the House is considered lobbying. But Romney says that “when it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, typically it’s a duck.”
South Carolina holds its first-in-the-South primary Jan. 21. Gingrich leads Romney in South Carolina polls and has emphasized his tea party support.
AP Photo/Chris Carlson
URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) — In a presidential campaign marked by sharp rises and falls, Republican Rick Santorum has experienced neither.
“I’m counting on the people of Iowa to catch fire for me,” the former Pennsylvania senator, who described himself as a “strong conviction conservative,” said Thursday during a debate with his rivals. “Iowans are beginning to respond.”
His dogged courting of Iowans the old-fashioned way – campaigning in living rooms, coffee shops and town squares – may be starting to pay off and at just the right time, as Iowa’s Jan. 3 presidential caucuses approach.
“Rick Santorum is the best-kept secret in the campaign,” said Tom Clark, a West Des Moines Republican and one of about 150 people who came to hear the candidate at a suburban Des Moines restaurant this past week. Clark left the event as a Santorum supporter prepared to volunteer for him, despite this concern: “I just don’t know if he can win.”
That worry could be why Santorum remains near the back of the pack in national GOP surveys. He also trails former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul in Iowa even though he has been the most aggressive campaigner in the leadoff caucus state. He’s visited all 99 counties and held 350 campaign events.
Santorum acknowledges that not all gatherings have been as lively as the recent one at the Machine Shed restaurant in Urbandale.
He recalls the September day in quiet Red Oak when exactly one GOP activist, the Guthrie County chairwoman, showed up to meet him. He compared his Iowa effort to his underdog campaign in 1990 for the U.S. House, when he knocked on thousands of doors. He won.
“I’m sort of the guy at the dance, when the girls walk in they sort of walk by, and they take a few turns at the dance hall with the guys that are a little better looking, a little flashier, a little more bling,” he told about 300 Nationwide Insurance employees in Des Moines this past week. “But at the end of the evening, old steady Eddie’s there. He’s the guy you want to bring home to mom and dad.”
Steady is right. Santorum has survived where others have not.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, once viewed as a serious candidate to win the caucuses, and businessman Herman Cain, who led in Iowa polls in October, have dropped from the race. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry enjoyed sharp rises in support upon entering the contest, only to plummet later. They’re now trying to claw their way back up.
Santorum’s struggle has been to expand his steady base.
It’s not been easy.
He lacks the national standing of Romney, who ran unsuccessfully for the nomination in 2008, and the grass-roots libertarian-leaning network that’s backing Paul.
There has been a great deal of uproar and outcry regarding SB (Senate Bill) 1867, officially referred to as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012. (more…)
“flawed in its concept and flawed in its execution” – Eric Holder
Operation Fast and Furious was a program run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) designed to track gun sales to Mexican criminal organizations. (more…)
In 2004 Martha Stewart was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements. Though her sentence was light, the conviction wore all of the appearances of bigotry based on a random act of genetics. She was born female. (more…)
SAN FRANCISCO — Newt Gingrich’s story is well-known — the “Contract with America” and the rise to power, then the adultery, the ethics rap and the fall from grace before the recent comeback.
But how about the “Newt Skywalker” chapter?
Some of his futuristic predictions were — and still are — far out. On Saturday, Mitt Romney pointed to one of Gingrich’s Jetsonian ideas to underscore their differences: “We can start with his idea to have a lunar colony that would mine minerals from the moon.”
Gingrich earned the Star Wars-era nickname in the 1980s and ’90s — back when his high-tech, futuristic proselytizing landed his face, bathed in electric lime, on the cover of Wired. He was often compared to Al Gore as an Internet evangelist; he enlisted Alvin Toffler, author of “Future Shock,” as his tech adviser; and he held conferences through a think tank with the likes of John Perry Barlow and Esther Dyson.
Gingrich is still seen by some as a visionary on tech issues. Those geek credentials may help in his assault on Romney, who so far has cornered the market on key Republican names in Silicon Valley — such as HP CEO Meg Whitman and Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy.
“Newt is brilliant,” said Tim Draper, a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley who helped to raise money this week for Romney. “He has a deep understanding of many technologies, but more importantly, he studied Silicon Valley and I believe he has a good understanding of why it works.”
Gingrich defended his lunar notions Saturday. “I grew up in a generation when the space program was real, when it was important.”
Twenty years ago, Gingrich’s appreciation of technology was more novel among Republicans, showing that there was a conservative libertarian interest in preserving the burgeoning Internet from efforts to regulate it. The 1995 Wired magazine cover interview was headlined “Friend and Foe.” At the time, Gingrich talked up the transformative power of the Internet and a world where schools and hospitals would be wired.
Media in his home state dubbed him “Newt Skywalker.”
As House speaker, Gingrich marshaled forces on issues such as data scrambling technologies, freedom of speech on the Internet and securities litigation reform. He helped launch Thomas, the Library of Congress website that provides information about bills. He started the High Technology Working Group, now the Technology Working Group, composed of Republican leaders involved in a wide swath of tech issues.
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
WASHINGTON (AP) — When Michele Bachmann accused Newt Gingrich in the latest Republican debate of once supporting a cap-and-trade program to curb global warming, he huffily denied it and told her she should get her facts straight.
Actually, she did.
As recently as 2007, Gingrich “strongly supported” the idea.
Viewers did not always get the straight goods Saturday night from other presidential hopefuls, either.
Mitt Romney erred in saying Barack Obama was the only president to cut Medicare. If Rick Perry had been a betting man, he probably would have lost the $10,000 wager Romney wanted to make with him to settle competing assertions.
A look at how some of the claims from the Saturday night debate and Sunday talk show aftermath compare with the facts:
BACHMANN: “If you look at Newt-Romney, they were for cap-and-trade.”
GINGRICH: “Well, Michele, a lot of what you say just isn’t true, period. I have never – I oppose cap-and-trade. I testified against it the same day that Al Gore testified for it. I helped defeat it in the Senate through American Solutions. It is simply untrue. … You know, I think it’s important for you, and this is a fair game and everybody gets to pick fights. It’s important that you be accurate when you say these things. Those are not true.”
THE FACTS: Bachmann’s suggestion that Gingrich and Romney are in lockstep was oversimplified. But she was right that Gingrich once backed the idea of capping carbon emissions and letting polluters trade emission allowances.
Asked in a 2007 PBS “Frontline” interview about President George W. Bush’s endorsement of mandatory carbon caps in his 2000 campaign, Gingrich said: “I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there’s a package there that’s very, very good. And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.”
To be sure, Gingrich opposed a Democratic version of cap-and-trade when it was adopted by the House. It died in the Senate. Many Republicans considered it a market-distorting cap-and-tax plan.
Although most candidates disavow the idea now, cap-and-trade once enjoyed substantial Republican support because it sought to use market mechanisms, not the heavy hand of government, to control pollution. Congress in 1990 passed a law with overwhelming bipartisan support that set up a trading system for sulfur dioxide, the main culprit behind acid rain.
ROMNEY: “Let’s not forget, only one president has ever cut Medicare for seniors in this country and it’s Barack Obama. We’re going to remind him of that time and time again.”
THE FACTS: Obama is at least the third president to sign cuts in Medicare that were passed by Congress.
The 1990 budget law signed by Republican President George H.W. Bush raised premiums paid by Medicare beneficiaries and cut payments to hospitals, doctors and other providers.
The 1997 balanced budget law signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton scaled back Medicare payments to hospitals, home health agencies, nursing homes and other providers, as well as raising monthly premiums paid by older people. It reduced projected payment rates for doctors, putting in place automatic cuts that Congress routinely has waived ever since.
The law signed by Obama strengthens traditional Medicare by improving preventive care and increasing payments to primary care doctors and nurses serving as medical coordinators, but reduces subsidies to private insurance plans that have become a popular alternative to Medicare.
A war among the five commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission broke into the open Friday night when Republican Rep. Darrell Issa released a letter in which four of the commissioners said they have “grave concerns” about NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko.
In the letter — which was sent to the White House in October but not made public until Friday night — the four NRC members say Jaczko, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is a bully who is “causing serious damage” to the commission with “increasingly problematic and erratic” behavior.
The letter from Democratic Commissioners William Magwood and George Apostolakis and Republicans Kristine Svinicki and William Ostendorff says Jaczko “intimidated and bullied” staff, told staff to withhold information and ignored the views of the other members of the five-person commission.
In turn, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) released a report late Friday — originally set for a rollout Monday — charging that those four commissioners had “conspired to delay and weaken nuclear reactor safety” after Japan’s Fukushima disaster in March, including by resisting Jaczko’s efforts to implement new safeguards.
“The actions of these four Commissioners since the Fukushima nuclear disaster has caused a regulatory meltdown that has left America’s nuclear fleet and the general public at risk,” Markey said in a statement. “Instead of doing what they have been sworn to do, these four Commissioners have attempted a coup on the Chairman and have abdicated their responsibility to the American public to assure the safety of America’s nuclear industry.”
Markey’s report cites thousands of pages of emails, meeting minutes, voting records and other documents in charging that Magwood, Svinicki, Ostendorff and Apostolakis attempted to delay or undermine creation of the commission’s Near-Term Task Force on the Fukushima disaster.
But a statement from Issa’s office laid the problems clearly at Jaczko’s feet.
“Congressman Markey’s report is an obvious retaliatory move against commissioners — three of whom were appointed by President Obama — for their efforts to raise concerns about abuse and mismanagement to White House officials,” an Issa committee spokesman said.
Europe’s newly reinforced $1 trillion firewall might not be strong enough to stem a sovereign debt crisis that could yet plunge the United States back into recession, a senior administration official said Friday.
It’s an open question if the financial markets will find the scale and capacity of the financial commitment credible, the official said, adding that European leaders had made some progress at a summit ending Friday.
As part of the summit, European Union members agreed to raise as much as 200 billion euros, or $267 billion, for loans the International Monetary Fund could offer to debt-wracked nations on the continent. But European officials failed to increase the 500 billion euro, or $689 billion, cap on their own bailout lending funds.
Initial signs from the U.S. stock market were positive, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up 187 points, or 1.55 percent.
All of this came as conservative groups ramped up pressure to limit U.S. involvement in settling the crisis. Rooted in the debt loads of Greece, Italy and elsewhere, the problems have intensified despite austerity budgets, and bulwarks such as Germany and France are now also showing signs of distress.
Americans for Prosperity and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform on Thursday called on Congress in a joint letter with 18 other organizations to rescind a special borrowing arrangement worth more than $100 billion that the federal government provided to the IMF in 2009.
The United States joined 37 other countries in providing a total of $500 billion in supplemental backing for the IMF.
Using the special arrangement would require approval of the IMF board, which counts the United States — with a 17 percent stake — as its largest shareholder, the administration official said.
Eliminating the $100 billion would hurt the ability of the IMF to fix economic crises and stop them from spreading globally, the administration has said.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The family of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished years ago in Iran, issued a plea to his kidnappers Friday and, for the first time, released a hostage video they received from his unidentified captors.
The video message released on the Levinson family’s website publicly transformed the mysterious disappearance into an international hostage standoff. Despite a lengthy investigation, however, the U.S. government has no evidence of who is holding the 63-year-old father of seven.
“Please tell us your demands so we can work together to bring my father home safely,” says Levinson’s son David, seated beside his mother, Christine.
The video plea represents a sharp change in strategy in a case that, for years, the United States treated as a diplomatic issue rather than a hostage situation. Christine Levinson, who lives in Coral Springs, Fla., has issued many public statements over the years, but she typically directed them to her missing husband or to the government of Iran.
In the hostage video, which the family received in November 2010, Levinson pleaded with the U.S. government to meet the demands of the people holding him, whom he did not identify.
The 54-second hostage video showed Levinson looking haggard but unharmed, sitting in front of what appeared to be a concrete wall. He had lost considerable weight, particularly in his face, and his white shirt hung off him. There were no signs of recent mistreatment. But Levinson, who has a history of diabetes and high blood pressure, implored the U.S. to help him quickly.
“I have been treated well. But I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three and a half years,” Levinson says. “And please help me get home.”
His voice weakens and breaks as he speaks of “my beautiful, my loving, my loyal wife, Christine,” as well as his children and his grandson.
“I am not in very good health,” he says. “I am running very quickly out of diabetes medicine.”
The Associated Press saw the video soon after it arrived last year but did not immediately report it because the U.S. government said doing so would complicate diplomatic efforts to bring Levinson home.
Now, those efforts appear to have stalled, U.S. relations with Iran have worsened and Levinson’s family has stepped out of diplomatic channels to appeal directly to the kidnappers.
“We are not part of any government and we are not experts on the region,” David Levinson says. “No one can help us but you. Please help us.”
In the nearly five years that Levinson has been missing, the U.S. government has never had solid intelligence about what happened to him. Levinson had been retired from the FBI for years and was working as a private investigator when he traveled to the Iran in March 2007. His family has said an investigation into cigarette smuggling brought him to Kish, a resort island where Americans need no visa to visit.
A legislative aide to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) will keep his job after charges were dropped following his arrest this summer for allegedly running an illegal strip club, Wicker’s spokesman said Friday.
Saleem Baird, who’s worked in Wicker’s Washington office since February 2009, was placed on leave after he and three women were taken into custody Sept. 3 at Level 3 nightclub in downtown Jackson, Miss., when vice and narcotics police officers discovered the females stripping on stage without proper licenses.
A Jackson police report stated: “A male who identified himself as Saleem Baird advised that he was the manager and in charge. He was also placed under arrest for Violation of City Ordinance.”
Baird’s arrest was first reported by the Mississippi politics blog, Jackson Jambalaya. LegiStorm’s Caught Our Eye blog reported Thursday that the charges against Baird had been dropped.
“The charges against Mr. Baird were dismissed, and he remains an employee of this office,” Wicker spokesman Rick Curtsinger told POLITICO.
Curtsinger declined to say whether the arrest had reflected poorly on the senator, a former House member who was appointed in December 2007 to fill the seat of Sen. Trent Lott after his resignation. In an email, Baird referred questions to his attorney, who was traveling and not immediately available.
Baird, 30, earns about $50,000 a year as a legislative correspondent for Wicker, according to LegiStorm.
AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt
NEW YORK (AP) — The special political action committees that can raise and spend unlimited campaign money while operating independently of candidates have jumped into the presidential contest with an unmistakable message: Game on.
A super PAC supporting Mitt Romney is out with a hard-hitting ad against Newt Gingrich. Another has run ads for weeks for Rick Perry. Spending by a super PAC in New Hampshire may be the only thing keeping Jon Huntsman’s struggling campaign afloat.
Nearly two years after the Supreme Court eased restrictions on corporate money in political campaigns, super PACs have become a major force in the presidential contest. They can attack or support individual candidates as long as they don’t coordinate directly with the campaigns themselves.
Conservative-leaning groups spent millions to help Republicans wrest control of the House and pick up several Senate seats in 2010. The 2012 campaign is the first to test the groups’ influence on presidential politics.
Anthony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College who studies campaign finance, said super PACs are likely to outspend the candidates themselves in the early contests.
“They have substantial amounts of money, they can raise money quickly, and they have every incentive to spend it in the early states,” Corrado said. “For a super PAC supporting a particular candidate, now is the time to spend money. It doesn’t do any good to wait until April.”
Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is set to start running a harsh attack on Gingrich as part of an enormous, $3.1 million advertising buy in Iowa less than four weeks before the state’s kickoff caucuses.
The 60-second ad says Gingrich’s “baggage,” including $1.6 million he took in fees from the mortgage company Freddie Mac before the 2008 housing meltdown, would make him an easy target for President Barack Obama in the general election.
Make Us Great Again, which backs Perry, has spent more than $2 million on ads over several weeks in Iowa, supplementing the campaign’s own substantial advertising buy there. The group has also run ads supporting Perry in South Carolina.
The pro-Perry spending hasn’t helped the Texas governor much. He still lags badly in Iowa, trailing Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul in recent polls.
The pro-Huntsman Our Destiny PAC has spent about $1.3 million in New Hampshire. They’ve been the only TV ads airing that support the former Utah governor, whose cash-strapped campaign has lacked the money to run its own ads.
The pro-Romney PAC started soft.
Restore Our Future’s first ad, which debuted Thursday, goes after Obama while stressing Romney’s background as a governor and successful businessman. But the new, negative ad aims to slow Gingrich’s surging momentum in Iowa and elsewhere.
Newt Gingrich has only been president for two hours, but he’s already roiling the Middle East: He will — in those first two hours, he promised Wednesday — order the U.S. Embassy in Israel moved to Jerusalem.
Secretary of State John Bolton will handle the details.
If you thought the U.S. had a roller coaster ride through the Middle East in the wild days of the Arab Spring, just wait until the Republicans retake the White House. In a series of addresses to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington on Tuesday, Republican presidential candidates laid out a series of specific and deliberately provocative moves aimed at reasserting American strength and the American alliance with Israel in a region whose stunning changes the Obama administration has handled with extreme care and caution.
The candidates’ promises were real and symbolic, and often quite specific. On the hardest-line end, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum virtually promised military strikes on Iran.
Iran’s nuclear push “increasingly leaves only two options: a military strike or a nuclear Iran,” Perry said, indicating his preference for the former.
Gingrich took only a slightly softer line, promising to switch to a policy of “regime replacement” toward Tehran, and, specifically, that he would covertly (if, apparently, not secretly) sabotage the country’s main oil refinery.
“It’s better to stop them early than to stop them late,” he said.
But the other candidates offered an array of symbolic moves that also would set an entirely new tone toward a region in which Obama has sought to welcome new, fledgling democratic regimes and to hope that flashes of Islamist leanings represent mere growing pains.
It’s a storyline their party hates but here it is again at the end of a long year: John Boehner and Eric Cantor are on opposite sides of key issues.
They’re not at war, but as Congress heads into its final stretch of the year, the No. 1 and No. 2 House Republicans are in different places on a whole host of things, further complicating a tenuous year-end plan.
The latest drama: the year-end extender’s package.
Aides to both men try to downplay the distance, but interviews with about a dozen close aides and confidants in leadership paint a picture of leaders traveling on disparate tracks.
Cantor sees himself — and others see him — as playing a role as the rank and file’s lobbyist at the leadership table. He has been meeting with GOP lawmakers in an attempt to uncover what will get them to support an extension of a payroll tax holiday their party doesn’t like and a jobless benefits program they see as broken.
Boehner is trying to balance Republican desires with the eventuality of creating a package that could pass the Senate by next Friday.
In the next few days, they need to come together to decide what they can tack onto the bill to ensure its passage — and maintain some unity within the ranks.
They’ve also been on opposite sides on the issue of repatriation — corporations bringing foreign profits back to the U.S. at lower tax rates. Cantor has been vocal in his support for the process, it’s a favorite of K Street and roughly a quarter of the Republican Conference has signed a letter supporting the idea.
But Boehner is staunchly opposed to tacking it onto the year-end agreement — the optics would be terrible, he thinks, since the Congressional Budget Offices says it adds tens of billions of dollars to the budget. Suddenly, a bill that cuts money would become one that adds to the deficit.
Senate Republicans are trying to find a way to fight back against White House attacks that they’re out to raise taxes on the middle class, with some weighing whether to float an income tax credit.
Senators have been discussing replacing the payroll tax cut extension favored by Democrats with the tax credit, several senators told POLITICO on Wednesday.
It’s highly unlikely Republicans would offer the tax credit proposal as an alternative this week to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s revised payroll tax-cut extension plan. But the idea has been batted around in hallway discussions and closed-door meetings this week as they try to fend off a barrage of attacks from President Barack Obama and shore up divisions in their conference over the payroll tax cut.
Rival Democratic and Republican payroll tax holiday plans failed in the Senate last week over GOP objections that it raids money from the Social Security Trust Fund. Republicans also opposed the Democratic plan because it was paid for with a permanent surtax on millionaires.
The income tax credit would provide an extra $120 billion to $150 billion next year for families making under $200,000 — roughly the same dollar amount as the payroll tax cut, which amounts to about $1,000 for the average family, said senators familiar with the plan. The credit would come out of the general fund as opposed to the Social Security fund.
“I think that is a smart idea. It’s a way to provide tax relief without raiding the Social Security trust fund. That appeals to me too because I’ve been trying for years to fix Social Security,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told POLITICO. “The problem with the payroll tax holiday is it’s coming out of Social Security, so you shouldn’t be robbing seniors to pay for tax cuts that can be done with a tax credit.”
Graham has joined several colleagues who have been pushing for the tax credit, including Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Richard Burr of North Carolina, senators said. Portman and Toomey’s participation is significant since both served on the deficit-cutting supercommittee, and the tax credit was part of the panel’s negotiations to reform the Tax Code.
“Of the two, [the income tax credit] would be the better things to do. It’s cleaner,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told POLITICO. “I don’t know that I’d vote for it, but I think it’s the better of the two solutions.”
Added fellow freshman Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.): “I’m open minded to it. I want to look at it and see what the proposal is.”
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AP Photo/Jim Cole
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — With the implosion of Herman Cain’s campaign amid accusations of adultery and sexual harassment, the once-crowded 2012 Republican presidential field appears to be narrowing to a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
GOP voters have one month before the leadoff Iowa caucuses. Gingrich is showing strength in the latest Iowa poll, while Romney is strong in New Hampshire, site of the first primary.
Romney has maintained a political network since his failed 2008 presidential bid, especially in New Hampshire. Gingrich, whose campaign nearly collapsed several months ago, is relying on his debate performances and the good will he built up with some conservatives as a congressional leader in the 1980s and 1990s.
Gingrich’s efforts appear to be paying off in Iowa. A Des Moines Register poll released late Saturday found the former House speaker leading the GOP field with 25 percent support, ahead of Ron Paul at 18 percent and Romney at 16.
Cain’s suspension of his campaign Saturday, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s continued struggles to make headway with voters, have focused the party’s attention on Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, and Gingrich, a one-time congressman from Georgia. They offer striking contrasts in personality, government experience and campaign organization.
Their political philosophies and differences are a bit harder to discern. Both men have changed their positions on issues such as climate change. And Gingrich, in particular, is known to veer into unusual territories, such as child labor practices.
Romney has said he differs with Gingrich on child labor laws. Gingrich recently suggested that children as young as nine should work as assistant school janitors, to earn money and learn work ethics.
Cain’s announcement in Atlanta offered a possible opening for Romney or Gingrich to make a dramatic move in hopes of seizing momentum for the sprint to the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus. Neither man did. They appear willing to play things carefully and low-key for now.
At a town hall meeting in New York sponsored by tea party supporters, Gingrich declined to characterize the race as a direct contest between himself and Romney. Any of the remaining GOP contenders could stage a comeback before the Iowa caucuses, he said. “I’m not going to say that any of my friends can’t suddenly surprise us,” Gingrich said.
But once high-flying contenders such as Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota have not managed to bounce back so far, despite weeks of trying.
In an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Bachmann said she was the “consistent conservative” in the race and her campaign would benefit most from Cain’s departure.
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
HOUSTON (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney met with former President George H.W. Bush Thursday, but Romney aides say no endorsement is coming.
The former Massachusetts governor ventured onto the turf of a rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, to meet with Bush and his wife, Barbara, in the living room of their Houston home.
Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said Romney and the nation’s 41st president are friends, but added that the visit doesn’t mean Bush will endorse Romney.
Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said the meeting was a courtesy visit, noting that Bush has met with other GOP presidential hopefuls, including Jon Huntsman.
Bush endorsed Perry during a tight race for lieutenant governor in 1998, giving Perry a winning boost.
Bush’s son George won the governor’s race that year.
In a 354-word, front-page editorial Sunday, the New Hampshire Union Leader finally did what no Republican presidential candidate has yet been able to accomplish: make the case against Mitt Romney.
The former Massachusetts governor’s name did not appear in the editorial, which urged New Hampshire voters to cast their GOP primary ballots for Newt Gingrich.
But the argument that the Union Leader made for Gingrich cut at the heart of the message Romney has been delivering all year: that the 2012 campaign will hinge on the economy, and Republican primary voters should swing behind the candidate best prepared to win a debate with President Barack Obama over jobs.
The Union Leader editorial didn’t even use the words “jobs,” “economy,” “employment” or “growth.” Instead, it focused on the more subjective qualities of leadership and character, recommending Gingrich as an “innovative” thinker to address the nation’s woes.
“We look for conservatives of courage and conviction who are independent-minded, grounded in their core beliefs about this nation and its people and best equipped for the job,” publisher Joseph McQuaid wrote. “In this incredibly important election, that candidate is Newt Gingrich. He has the experience, the leadership qualities and the vision to lead this country in these trying times.”
In an apparent allusion to Romney, the publisher acknowledged that Gingrich is not “perfect” but explained: “We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear.”
In a Sunday CNN appearance, Union Leader editorial page editor Drew Cline put a sharper point on that criticism of Romney, calling the on-and-off Republican front-runner a “play-it-safe” candidate more suited for the presidency in the “late 19th century.”
What the country needs now, Cline said, is a “candidate that is bold in his leadership — that has a vision for where he wants to take us as a country and knows how to get there.”
That argument will test Romney’s basic assumption that in a time of economic misfortune, primary and general-election voters will ultimately embrace him as the candidate with the most compelling message on jobs.
An amazing turn of global events is happening in the Euro Zone that is threatening to infect the world. (more…)
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
WASHINGTON (AP) — New Hampshire’s largest newspaper on Sunday endorsed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 2012 GOP presidential race, signaling that rival Mitt Romney isn’t the universal favorite and potentially resetting the contest before the state’s lead-off primary Jan. 10.
“We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing,” The New Hampshire Union Leader said in its front-page editorial, which was as much a promotion of Gingrich as a discreet rebuke of Romney.
“We don’t back candidates based on popularity polls or big-shot backers. We look for conservatives of courage and conviction who are independent-minded, grounded in their core beliefs about this nation and its people, and best equipped for the job,” the editorial said.
Romney enjoys solid leads in New Hampshire polls and remains at the front of the pack nationally. A poll released last week showed him with 42 percent support among likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire. Gingrich followed with 15 percent in the WMUR-University of New Hampshire Granite State poll.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas posted 12 percent support and former Utah Gov. John Huntsman found 8 percent support in that survey.
Those numbers could shift based on the backing of The Union Leader, a newspaper with a conservative editorial stance that proudly works to influence elections, from school boards to the White House, in the politically savvy state.
The endorsement, signed by publisher Joseph W. McQuaid, suggested that the only state-wide newspaper in New Hampshire was ready to again assert itself as a player in the GOP primary.
“We don’t have to agree with them on every issue,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial that ran across the width of the front page. “We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear.”
While Romney enjoys solid support in national polls, the large pack of Republicans has shifted all year from candidate to candidate in search of an alternative to the former Massachusetts governor. That led to the rise, and fall, of potential challengers such as Huntsman, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Yet with six weeks until the primary, The Union Leader’s move could shuffle the race and further boost Gingrich. In recent weeks, he has seen a surge in some polls as Republicans focus more closely on deciding which candidate they consider best positioned to take on President Barack Obama.
But a Gingrich rival, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, said the endorsement points to how changeable the New Hampshire contest is.
“A month ago for Newt Gingrich to have been in the running to capture the Manchester Union Leader endorsement would have been unthinkable,” Huntsman told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it reflects, more than anything else, the fluidity, the unpredictability of the race right now.”
As voters started focusing more on the race, Gingrich has turned in solid debate performances and found his stride on a national stage. He has rebuilt his campaign after a disastrous summer that saw many of his top aides resign en masse and fundraising summaries report million in debt.
In New Hampshire, he brought on respected tea party leader Andrew Hemingway to lead his efforts and his team has been contacting almost 1,000 voters each day.
Hemingway’s team of eight paid staffers in New Hampshire has been adding more than 100 volunteers each day, campaign officials said. Gingrich’s team has lined up leaders in the major cities and has started identifying representatives in each ward in the state.
Gingrich has opened offices in Manchester, New Hampshire’s biggest city, along with Dover in the eastern part of the state and in the North Country’s Littleton. He plans two more.
Gingrich hasn’t begun television advertising and has refused to go negative on his opponents.
Yet The Union Leader’s backing could give him a nudge in New Hampshire and provide a steady stream of criticism.
Four years earlier, the newspaper threw its support to Arizona Sen. John McCain’s bid and used front page opinion columns and editorials to boost him and criticize chief rival Romney. In the time since, Romney has worked to court Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid, who often runs columns on the newspaper’s front page under his signature.
“The Union Leader’s style is we don’t just endorse once,” McQuaid told The Washington Post in 1999. “We endorse every damn day. We started endorsing Reagan in 1975 and never stopped.”
Romney and his wife, Ann, had dinner with the McQuaids at the Bedford Village Inn near Manchester, hoping to reset the relationship earlier this year. Yet it didn’t prove enough and McQuaid’s newspaper seemed not to appreciate the outreach.
“Newt Gingrich is by no means the perfect candidate,” McQuaid wrote. “But Republican primary voters too often make the mistake of preferring an unattainable ideal to the best candidate who is actually running.”
MOSCOW – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sternly warned the West not to interfere in Russia’s elections, as he formally launched his campaign to reclaim the presidency in a speech Sunday before thousands of flag-waving supporters.
Putin stepped down in 2008 after two presidential terms, but kept his hold on power. He announced in September that he intended to return to the top job next year and on Sunday was formally nominated by his United Russia party.
“All our foreign partners need to understand this: Russia is a democratic country, it’s a reliable and predictable partner with which they can and must reach agreement but on which they cannot impose anything from the outside,” Putin told his audience.
The boisterous party congress, which was televised live, was aimed at boosting support for Putin and his party ahead of parliamentary elections one week away.
Increasingly seen as representing the interests of a corrupt bureaucracy, United Russia has watched its public approval ratings plummet in recent months. The party is still certain to win the Dec. 4 election, but is expected to lose the current two-thirds majority that has allowed it to change the constitution at will.
Putin’s decision to swap jobs with President Dmitry Medvedev after the presidential vote in March, presented as a done deal at the party congress in September, also has soured the public mood. Many Russians are afraid that Putin will strengthen his authoritarian tendencies and remain in power for 12 more years to become the longest-serving leader since Communist times.
Sunday’s congress began with a steel worker, a businessman, a farmer, a decorated special services officer and a noted film director standing up one after another to praise Putin as the only man capable of leading the country. The 11,000 delegates filling the Moscow sports arena chanted “Putin, Putin” and “The people trust Putin!”
Putin promised Russians stability, a word he repeated often throughout his speech. In countering criticism that he has tightened his control at the expense of democracy, Putin insisted that Russia needs a “stable political system” to guarantee “stable development” for decades to come.
“This is an extremely important task for Russia with its history of upheavals and revolutions,” he said.
He used the occasion to lash out at opposition leaders, saying they had brought the country to ruin when they served in the government in the 1990s.
WASHINGTON (AP) — A year from Election Day, Democrats are crafting a campaign strategy for Vice President Joe Biden that targets the big three political battlegrounds: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, states where Biden might be more of an asset to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign than the president himself.
The Biden plan underscores an uncomfortable reality for the Obama team. A shaky economy and sagging enthusiasm among Democrats could shrink the electoral map for Obama in 2012, forcing his campaign to depend on carrying the 67 electoral votes up for grabs in the three swing states.
Obama won all three states in 2008. But this time he faces challenges in each, particularly in Ohio and Florida, where voters elected Republican governors in the 2010 midterm elections.
The president sometimes struggles to connect with Ohio and Pennsylvania’s white working-class voters, and Jewish voters who make up a core constituency for Florida Democrats and view him with skepticism.
Biden has built deep ties to both groups during his four decades in national politics, connections that could make a difference.
As a long-serving member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden cemented his reputation as an unyielding supporter of Israel, winning the respect of many in the Jewish community. And Biden’s upbringing in a working class, Catholic family from Scranton, Pa., gives him a valuable political intangible: He empathizes with the struggles of blue-collar Americans because his family lived those struggles.
“Talking to blue-collar voters is perhaps his greatest attribute,” said Dan Schnur, a Republican political analyst. “Obama provides the speeches, and Biden provides the blue-collar subtitles.”
While Biden’s campaign travel won’t kick into high gear until next year, he’s already been making stops in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida this fall, speaking at events focused on education, public safety and small businesses and raising campaign cash. Behind the scenes, he’s working the phones with prominent Jewish groups and Catholic organizations in those states, a Democratic official said.
Biden is also targeting organized labor, speaking frequently with union leaders in Ohio ahead of last week’s vote on a state law that would have curbed collective bargaining rights for public workers. Voters struck down the measure, and Biden traveled to Cleveland Tuesday to celebrate the victory with union members.
AP Photo/Andy Dunaway
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — They are barely blips in presidential polls and their campaign cash is scarce. Some are running on empty, fueled mainly by the exposure that comes with the blizzard of televised debates in this election cycle and interviews they eagerly grant to skeptical reporters.
Yet the second-tier candidates for the Republican presidential nomination soldier on. They argue that the race is far from over and that anything can happen with polls showing a wide-open race in Iowa five weeks before the Jan. 3 caucuses.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum is typical when he resists the conventional wisdom that only candidates with a lot of cash and a big campaign can win.
“I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing and I feel like I’m making a difference in the race,” said Santorum, who barely registers in state surveys despite having campaigned in Iowa for more than a year. “I absolutely believe our time will come and we’ll have the opportunity to have the spotlight turned on us.”
Santorum, who represented Pennsylvania in Congress for 16 years, frankly acknowledges the possibility of a different outcome.
“If it doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t,” he said.
Even more than energy and determination, also-ran candidates rely on particular issues, free media and prospects for the future to drive them to keep their small-scale operations going.
With polls and money putting candidates like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain atop the field of Republican rivals, there’s a crop of others likely to remain in the race until voters have their say. One force in that dynamic is the fluidity of this year’s contest.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman, was among the many candidates who surged when they got into the race but then plummeted in the polls. She’s gotten feistier as her fortunes have sagged.