Archive for the ‘AP-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…)
Bain Capital is quickly becoming the bane of Mitt Romney’s existence. (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…)
On May 9, 2012, President Obama made history by affirming to reporter Robin Roberts that he supports Marriage Equality. (more…)
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
AP Photo/Dave Weaver
WASHINGTON (AP) — They are fuzzy about some issues but the Republican presidential candidates leave little doubt about where they stand on gun rights.
Rick Perry and Rick Santorum go pheasant hunting and give interviews before heading out. Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain speak to the National Rifle Association convention. Michele Bachmann tells People magazine she wants to teach her daughters how to shoot because women need to be able to protect themselves. Mitt Romney, after backing some gun control measures in Massachusetts, now presents himself as a strong Second Amendment supporter.
President Barack Obama, on the other hand, is virtually silent on the issue.
He has hardly addressed it since a couple of months after the January assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., when he promised to develop new steps on gun safety in response. He still has failed to do so, even as Tucson survivors came to Capitol Hill last week to push for action to close loopholes in the gun background check system.
Democrats have learned the hard way that embracing gun control can be terrible politics, and the 2012 presidential election is shaping up to underscore just how delicate the issue can be. With the election likely to be decided largely by states where hunting is a popular pastime, like Missouri, Ohio or Pennsylvania, candidates of both parties want to win over gun owners, not alienate them.
For Republicans, that means emphasizing their pro-gun credentials. But for Obama and the Democrats, the approach is trickier.
Obama’s history in support of strict gun control measures prior to becoming president makes it difficult for him to claim he’s a Second Amendment champion, even though he signed a bill allowing people to take loaded guns into national parks. At the same time, he’s apparently decided that his record backing gun safety is nothing to boast of either, perhaps because of the power of the gun lobby and their opposition to anything smacking of gun control.
WASHINGTON (AP) — TITLE: “Believe in America”
LENGTH: 60 seconds
AIRING: In New Hampshire through Sunday
KEY IMAGES: The ad opens with grainy footage from a Barack Obama rally in Londonderry, N.H., in the midst of his 2008 presidential campaign against Sen. John McCain. Obama proclaims “I am confident that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis.” Text is then shown on the screen: “He promised to fix the economy. He failed.”
The ad then cuts between footage from Obama’s rally and stock video of shuttered businesses, foreclosed homes and shuffling workers. On screen, text declares: “Greatest Jobs Crisis Since Great Depression. Record Home Foreclosures. Record National Debt.”
The imagery then shifts to blue skies and Mitt Romney’s name on the side of a barn. As Romney promises to change government, the ad shows video of him speaking in Iowa, meeting with a voter – with his book “No Apology” on the table between them – and stock video of factory workers.
“I’m going to do something to government. I call it the `Smaller, Simpler, Smarter’ approach to government. Getting rid of programs, turning programs back to states and, finally, making government itself more efficient,” Romney says, using video from a Nov. 7 appearance in Dubuque, Iowa. “I’m going to get rid of Obamacare. It’s killing jobs and it’s keeping our kids from having the bright prospects they deserve.”
He then turns to the economy, voters’ top concern.
“We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in. I’ll make sure that America is a job creating machine like it has been in the past. It’s high time to bring those principles of fiscal responsibility to Washington, D.C.”
The ad closes with a photograph of Romney’s campaign announcement event in New Hampshire this spring. His campaign poster hangs on the barn behind him.
ANALYSIS: Romney’s first ad of the presidential campaign takes Obama out of context and gives the impression that the president is talking about his time in office, not that of his predecessor.
“Who’s been in charge of the economy?” Obama asked the crowd in 2008, criticizing Republicans including President George W. Bush.
The ad shows Obama saying: “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose,” giving viewers with the impression that Obama does not want to talk about the dire economy.
In fact, Obama was quoting his opponent’s campaign: “Sen. McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, `If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose'”, he said.
Romney aides acknowledge they were using video of Obama quoting an anonymous aide McCain. Romney’s top communications aide Gail Gitcho disclosed that Obama is quoting someone else in a blog post and later defended the ad.
“Three years ago, candidate Obama mocked his opponent’s campaign for saying, `If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose,'” Gitcho said in an email. “Now, the tables have turned. President Obama is doing exactly what candidate Obama criticized. The White House doesn’t want to talk about the economy and continues to attempt to distract voters from President Obama’s abysmal economic record.”
AP Photo/Winslow Townson
WASHINGTON (AP) — With new trouble appearing in the Middle East and the Pentagon facing possible budget cuts, the Republican White House contenders are debating for the second time in as many weeks how they would do better than President Barack Obama in protecting and extending America’s national security.
Six weeks to the day before the first nominating contests in Iowa, the candidates were looking to use the pre-Thanksgiving holiday debate to build or – for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at the head of the pack – sustain momentum in the battle to pick a 2012 election challenger for Obama.
Businessman Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Reps. Ron Paul of Texas and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania also were meeting in Tuesday night’s forum put together by CNN, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.
With unemployment stubbornly high and the economy sluggish to recover from recession, the candidates also were likely to drive the foreign policy discussion back to pocketbook issues at home.
A day earlier, the congressional deficit supercommittee declared an impasse, and that could trigger deep cuts in 2013 spreading across military as well as domestic spending.
Many of the presidential candidates have called the nation’s $15 trillion government debt a national security threat, especially since China is the single largest creditor. Obama’s own defense secretary, Leon Panetta, has said big Pentagon cuts “would lead to a hollow force incapable of sustaining the missions it is assigned.”
The GOP contenders also were ready to criticize Obama on the Middle East. The administration ordered new sanctions this week aimed at forcing Iran to halt a suspected nuclear weapons program, and protests are under way again in Cairo against the military government.
The Iran sanctions target that country’s oil industry as well as companies linked to nuclear activity and Iran’s banking system.
They, however, were unlikely to satisfy the GOP contenders who are far more hawkish than Obama and have pledged to carry out military strikes against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities to defend U.S. ally Israel.
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Most of the Republican presidential candidates, with the notable exception of Mitt Romney, set their sights on early-voting Iowa for a discussion on the role of religious faith in public life, along with hot-button social issues such as marriage and abortion.
The setting was a forum Saturday night hosted by a new evangelical group trying to leave its mark on the campaign in a state where influential social conservatives have struggled to rally behind an alternative to Romney. While the former Massachusetts governor has stayed near the top of national polls, some Republican activists have misgivings about his record on cultural issues.
Romney’s six more socially conservative challenges are actively competing in Iowa to emerge as the preferred candidate among Christian conservatives with just six weeks to go until the Jan. 3 caucuses.
“People are getting close to decision time,” former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told The Associated Press at a campaign stop in Des Moines. “I think you’re going to see some coalescing in the next couple of weeks.”
Jobs, the economy and the deficit are voter priorities in Iowa and nationally, but it was a focus on social issues that drew the 2012 hopefuls to the event sponsored by The Family Leader, an organization started last by a former Republican candidate for governor, Bob Vander Plaats.
AP Photo/Jim Cole
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Bashing the United Nations seldom fails as an applause line for Republican presidential candidates.
Mitt Romney says the U.N. too often becomes a forum for tyrants when it should promote democracy and human rights. Newt Gingrich pledges to take on the U.N.’s “absurdities.” Herman Cain says he would change some of its rules. Rick Perry says he would consider pulling the United States out of the U.N. altogether.
All that U.N. bashing has raised questions about whether a Republican victory could strain the relationship between the United Nations and its host country, the United States.
President Barack Obama’s Democratic administration considers the U.N. critical to the country’s interests, while Republicans traditionally have been disenchanted with the world body over America’s inability to reliably win support for its positions. It doesn’t help that U.N. members often criticize American policies, especially as they relate to Israel and the Palestinians.
That was reinforced last month when the U.N. cultural agency voted to approve a Palestinian bid for full membership in that body, and the U.S. responded by cutting off funding.
Yet history shows that any American president learns to get along with the United Nations “simply because there’s a lot of stuff the U.N. does that is useful to the United States,” said David Bosco, who writes the Multilateralist blog for Foreign Policy magazine.
Case in point: Even the harshest American critics were silent earlier this month when the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog concluded that Iran was probably developing nuclear arms.
Bosco, also an assistant professor at American University’s School of International Service, noted that the Republican administration of George W. Bush supported a major expansion in U.N. peacekeeping despite regular sniping about the world body.
But the relationship wasn’t a smooth one. Tensions ran high between the U.S. and the world body during the Bush presidency, especially when outspoken John Bolton was the U.S. ambassador.
U.N. officials have declined to comment on the possibility that a Republican win could strain the United Nations’ relationship with the U.S.
“The United States is an important state at the United Nations and we would expect that relationship would continue under any administration,” said Martin Nesirky, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The presidential race has been dominated by the economy and other domestic issues, but foreign affairs are taking on greater importance and will be the subject of a debate by the Republican candidates Tuesday, giving them another chance to air their views on the U.N.
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
WASHINGTON (AP) — Newt Gingrich is schlepping some supersized luggage along as his Republican presidential campaign takes off: He’s got trunkloads of personal and political baggage.
This week’s disclosure that a sweetheart consulting deal with housing giant Freddie Mac earned Gingrich at least $1.6 million over the past decade is only the latest potential liability to surface for the former House speaker.
Negatives that didn’t get much attention when Gingrich was an asterisk in the polls are getting a fresh look now that he’s risen to the top tier of GOP presidential candidates. Among them: policy flip-flops, inopportune moments of candor, two failed marriages, admissions of adultery, fits of petulance and a tendency to suggest he’s the smartest person in the room.
“Everybody will dig up everything they can dig up,” Gingrich said Wednesday, resigned to what’s ahead.
Businessman Donald Trump allowed of Gingrich on CNN, “Got some baggage, but everybody has some baggage.”
True, but sometimes size matters.
When Gingrich went on Fox News this week in his new role as a poll leader, he was asked about fliers distributed by evangelicals in Iowa, the leadoff caucus state, that pointed to adultery in his first two marriages. Gingrich dismissed that as old news.
“I’m very open about the fact that I’ve had moments in my life that I regret,” Gingrich said. He spoke of his current “close marriage” to third wife Callista. He offered himself as an older and wiser 68-year-old grandfather.
A day later, Gingrich’s financial dealings were in the spotlight, with reports of the huge sums he’d collected from Freddie Mac for consulting work when the federally backed housing agency was fending off attacks from the right wing of the Republican Party.
Gingrich tried to spin that as a positive, saying: “It reminds people that I know a great deal about Washington. We just tried four years of amateur ignorance and it didn’t work very well. So, having someone who actually knows Washington might be a really good thing.”
He tried a different tack last summer to explain away a six-figure shopping spree at Tiffany’s. When word surfaced that Gingrich and his wife had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at the luxury jeweler, Gingrich said he and his wife were “very frugal” and lived within their budget. But he refused to say what they’d bought, insisting it was “my private life.”
AP Photo/RICHARD SHIRO
WASHINGTON (AP) — After years of Republicans dominating the politics of national security, this year’s GOP presidential candidates are struggling to find a coherent national security argument against President Barack Obama.
In the first debate dedicated to security and foreign policy, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took issue with Obama’s plan for drawing down troops in Afghanistan but the dispute amounted to whether some forces should stay an extra few months. Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for sanctions against the Iranian central bank. Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman debated whether the World Trade Organization should investigate Chinese currency practices.
All of the candidates offered only incremental criticism of the Democrat who has racked up a string of security successes, a stark contrast to the with-us-or-against-us politics Republicans have used since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. If the debate made anything clear, it’s that Republicans have lost-their go-to national security talking points, with Osama bin Laden’s body somewhere in the Indian Ocean, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq drawing to a close and Obama expanding the use of unmanned spy planes to hunt terrorists.
“I don’t think there’s a very strong narrative,” said Tony Fratto, who served as a White House and Treasury Department spokesman during the Bush administration. “Is it a significant issue for a majority of Republican voters? No. It’s not.”
And it’s not hard to understand why.
The sluggish economy is at the top of voters’ concerns and, thus, dominating the campaign conversation. National security and foreign policy issues have been all but absent from the Republican primary contest and, given that the 9 percent unemployment rate is showing no sign of significant improvement, it no doubt will shape the general election, as well.
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Key moments in Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney warned that only his administration could prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon,” Romney said. “And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you’d like me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon.”
Herman Cain said he supports regime change in Iran, but stopped short of threatening military action. He favors moving warships to the region to deter Iran and would support the resistance to Tehran to overthrow the regime.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said America should sanction the Iranian central bank to “shut down that country’s economy. And that’s what the president needs to do.”
And rival Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas, says any use of force against Iran would require approval from Congress.
Perry poked fun at himself again for forgetting about the Department of Energy during the last debate when he tried to name the three agencies he’d cut.
On this night, Perry said he was glad that moderator Scott Pelley of CBS News remembered to ask him about the Energy Department. The moderator said he’s had some time to think about it.
“Me too,” Perry cracked back, drawing laughs from the knowing audience.
DON’T BAIT NEWT:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich – who is rising in polls – refused to take the bait when asked to evaluate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who leads the GOP field in polls.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Rick Perry and Herman Cain have chosen far different weapons in their race to recover first and best from the crises that have rocked their presidential campaigns. Humor is Perry’s choice. For Cain, defiance.
The assignment for both men: Fit the response to the predicament, with no margin for error.
Perry rushed to the talk circuit in a bid to persuade Republican voters not to take his forgetful Wednesday night debate “oops” so seriously.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about — I think things went well,” the Texas governor joked the next evening on David Letterman’s “Late Show.” “I wanted to help take the heat off my buddy Herman Cain.”
He certainly did, at least for a day, with the stunning 54-second brain freeze in which Perry tried and failed to recall a third Cabinet agency he would abolish.
Cain, a week-and-a-half into denying at least four sexual harassment accusations, finally was able to talk about something else. Facing serious allegations, he hasn’t been laughing about any of it – with the brief exception of his reaction Thursday to a question about Anita Hill, who had accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during Thomas’ confirmation hearing.
“Is she going to endorse me?” Cain replies on camera, bursting out laughing.
By Friday, he was back to explaining himself.
“He said it in a humorous way, I gave back a humorous response,” Cain said on Fred Dicker’s radio show in Albany, N.Y. “It was no way intended to be an insult to Anita Hill or anybody else.”
Cain, the former CEO of Godfathers Pizza, has opted for defiance, firmly denying all allegations as pushes his insurgent campaign toward the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.
“Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been through hell,” Cain told his supporters in Kalamazoo, Mich. “But here’s the good news: It didn’t kill me or slow me down one bit.”
Private polling suggests the harassment controversy has taken a bite out of Cain’s once-solid lead in Iowa. And a new nationwide CBS News poll out Friday indicates he has lost support among women.
The CBS News poll, conducted Nov. 6-10 during the span of both crises, suggests a three-way tie for the nomination between Cain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and a resurgent Newt Gingrich among GOP primary voters.
The other candidates are doing what they can to manage their rivals’ crises, too.
Romney’s technique? Raise his profile in Iowa, stay on message – and let advocates in Congress and elsewhere make an argument that particularly resonates now.
AP Photo/John Paul Filo
MAULDIN, S.C. (AP) — Mitt Romney didn’t win in South Carolina in 2008, but he’s back in the state and looking to capitalize on his strong position atop this year’s field of Republican presidential candidates. He hopes to sway voters who were cool to him four years ago.
Romney spent part of Veterans Day with military veterans at a barbecue restaurant near Greenville. He said the best way to help service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is to fix the economy so they can find jobs once they’re home.
Romney also suggested he was open to the possibility of introducing a voluntary voucher program to the Veterans Affairs health care system. He says such a system could give veterans money to buy private insurance instead of getting care from the government.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is preparing for a higher profile in Iowa, where he possibly could land a knockout punch if two top rivals don’t quickly fix their campaign problems and back-of-the-pack contenders such as Newt Gingrich don’t move quickly to energize voters.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, recently recorded a TV campaign ad at a sheet-metal plant in Dubuque, in eastern Iowa. It’s not shocking that he would prepare such ads. But every Romney step in Iowa intrigues GOP activists.
After a crushingly disappointing loss there in 2008, he sharply lowered expectations in Iowa, whose caucus is less than two months away. If Romney airs ads soon and heavily in the state, it could signal a new strategy built on calculations that his weakened opponents handed him too tempting an opportunity.
AP Photo/Matt York
ROCHESTER, Mich. (AP) — Rampant foreclosures, high unemployment and a volatile auto industry create a grim backdrop as the Republican presidential candidates debate in a state hit hard by the 2009 recession and longer-term changes in the American economy.
When they meet late Wednesday, the GOP contenders inevitably will have to contend with fallout from the furor surrounding businessman Herman Cain, who in recent days has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior by at least four women during the 1990s.
But with Detroit – the Motor City whose fortunes have fallen with the decline of the American auto industry – just a few miles away, Mitt Romney, Cain and their rivals also will have little choice but to explain their opposition to a government bailout that saved Chrysler and General Motors and the tens of thousands of jobs they provide, all on President Barack Obama’s watch.
AP Photo/Chris Carlson
NEW YORK (AP) — A woman says Republican presidential contender Herman Cain reached under her skirt for her genitals and pushed her head toward his crotch in July 1997.
Sharon Bialek told reporters Monday in New York that she met with Cain to ask about getting her old job back at the National Restaurant Association when the incident happened in Washington. At the time, Cain was chief of a restaurant trade group.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
ATLANTA (AP) — Presidential candidate Herman Cain says he never changed his story about sexual harassment allegations against him in the 1990s.
In a Tuesday interview, Cain told Headline News that he didn’t contradict himself when he said a day earlier that he was unaware of a settlement between a woman and the National Restaurant Association, where he worked at the time, over allegations against Cain. He said he was aware of an agreement, but not a settlement.
Cain says — quote — “So it looked like I had changed my story. I didn’t change my story.”
In a series of appearances Monday, Cain first insisted he was unaware of any financial arrangements between the trade association and his accuser. In an interview with PBS NewsHour later that night, Cain acknowledged he was aware of an “agreement” but not of a settlement.
AP Photo/Chris Usher
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said Monday he was “falsely accused” of sexual harassment while he led the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
Cain was responding to a Politico report that said the trade group settled complaints from at least two women that Cain had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior.
Cain told Fox News he has never sexually harassed anyone and that he was “falsely accused.” He said investigations into any complaints found that they were “baseless.”
“I’ve never sexually harassed anyone,” he said. “And yes, I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association, and I say falsely because it turned out after the investigation to be baseless.”
But he also said he had no idea whether the trade association provided financial settlements to the women who complained, as Politico reported. “I hope it wasn’t for much, because I was never aware of it,” Cain said.
Cain said he has not been accused of sexually inappropriate behavior in any other context. “Absolutely not,” he said when asked if more reports of harassment could surface.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
WASHINGTON (AP) — Looking for a big-name speaker?
Now may be the time to send President Barack Obama an invitation, especially if your group represents a key political constituency.
Obama has been making the rounds of Washington’s awards dinners and black-tie galas this fall, donning a tuxedo or dark suit and heading to ballrooms across the nation’s capital to speak to organizations representing blacks, Hispanics, Jews, women and gays. This weekend, he adds Italian- Americans to that list.
With the 2012 campaign picking up steam and Obama struggling to recapture the enthusiasm of 2008, the president’s role as headline speaker has plenty of political undertones. He needs the well-connected, politically active leaders of these groups to help him motivate their members, raise money for his re-election and get people to show up to vote in next year’s election.
And the president’s remarks give him a chance to address specific criticism from some supporters, and tout lesser-known administration actions that target their needs.
Since September, Obama has been the featured speaker at dinners for the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a forum on American Latino Heritage, and the annual gala for the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights group. The president will speak Saturday at a black-tie dinner for the National Italian American Foundation, and in early November, at an awards dinner for the National Women’s Law Center. The Union for Reform Judaism also says Obama will speak at its December conference.
Obama is following the path of many of his predecessors, who have also tried to curry favor with influential Washington-based organizations, particularly those with similar political leanings.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
WASHINGTON (AP) — Tens of thousands of people who together gave millions of dollars to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign have gone missing this time around. Their failure to give so far may signal that some of the president’s earliest supporters have lost enthusiasm.
At the same time, Republican rivals like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have been gaining financial strength in parts of the country that were instrumental in swinging the last election for Obama, according to an Associated Press analysis of new campaign finance data.
The president’s re-election effort is hardly hurting for cash: His campaign and the Democratic Party raised more than $70 million combined since July, outstripping all Republicans combined by millions. But some supporters who wrote Obama larger checks early in the 2008 campaign haven’t done so this time, representing more than $10 million in missing donations.
The AP’s analysis suggests that Obama, beleaguered by a struggling economy, will have to work harder to win back party stalwarts and swing voters alike. His approval ratings have slumped to 41 percent in a recent Gallup poll, as steadfast supporters have found themselves less able or less willing to open their wallets again.
“He was our state senator, and when I looked at the Republican side, I thought, `We need some fresh blood in the campaign,'” said Janet Tavakoli, 58, a financial analyst from Chicago who gave $1,000 to Obama in 2008. “But I was dead wrong about it,” she said, and isn’t supporting any candidate this time.
AP Photo/Al Behrman
CINCINNATI (AP) — Mitt Romney gingerly distanced himself from a labor issue on the Ohio ballot one day. The next, he embraced the initiative “110 percent.”
The reversal not only highlights his record of equivocations but also underscores the local political minefields national candidates often confront in their state-by-state path to the presidency.
Candidates visiting Nevada often wade into the debate about where nuclear waste should go. They’re pressed in South Carolina to take a stand on an aircraft maker’s labor dispute. In New Hampshire, they face questions about right-to-work issues. And then there are the perennials, such as ethanol subsidies in Iowa and the Confederate battle flag in South Carolina.
Such local issues aren’t of concern to most voters across the nation, but these topics can matter greatly to voters wanting to hear the thoughts of candidates soliciting support ahead of presidential primaries. Candidates often work to strike a balance between addressing issues local voters care about without staking out hardline positions that could hurt them elsewhere.
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval says he is working on a compromise deal with national Republican leaders over the state’s mid-January caucus date.
Several Republican presidential candidates and the state of New Hampshire are furious over Nevada having scheduled its contest for Jan. 14. They argue that would wedge New Hampshire’s primary too close to Nevada’s voting and Iowa’s caucuses, which are slated for Jan. 3.
Party leaders in Nevada are considering changing the date.
Sandoval told reporters in Nevada on Thursday that he hopes GOP leaders can find a solution that will equally benefit Nevada, the candidates and the Republican Party.
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
NEW YORK (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry on Tuesday criticized the Palestinian Authority’s effort to seek formal recognition by the U.N. General Assembly and assailed the Obama administration’s broader policies in the Middle East.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a blunt rejoinder to congressional Republicans, President Barack Obama called for $1.5 trillion in new taxes Monday, part of a total 10-year deficit reduction package totaling more than $3 trillion. “We can’t just cut our way out of this hole,” the president said.
The president’s proposal would predominantly hit upper income taxpayers but would also reduce spending in mandatory benefit programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, by $580 billion. It also counts savings of $1 trillion over 10 years from the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama’s recommendation to a joint congressional committee served as a sharp counterpoint to Republican lawmakers, who have insisted that tax increases should play no part in taming the nation’s escalating national debt. Obama’s plan would end Bush-era tax cuts for top earners and would limit their deductions.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Savoring the unlikeliest of victories, Republicans called their triumph in a New York City congressional race a repudiation of President Barack Obama’s policies on the economy and Israel on Wednesday as public and private polls showed his approval ratings plummeting in a district he carried handily in 2008.
“We’re not going to sugarcoat it, it was a tough loss,” conceded the House Democratic Campaign Committee. Yet party officials and the White House insisted the race was not a referendum on the president as he seeks re-election with the economy stagnant and unemployment stuck at 9.1 percent.
In New York, Rep.-elect Bob Turner, outpolled state Assemblyman David Weprin in a light-turnout election. He will replace former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, who resigned in disgrace earlier this year in a sexting scandal. Represented by Democrats since the 1920s, the district includes portions of Brooklyn and Queens, is home to three times as many registered Democrats as Republicans and is nearly 40 percent Jewish.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
ATLANTA (AP) — President Barack Obama’s jobs pitch is already playing well with blacks, who had grown plenty irked with him over what they perceived as his indifference to their needs.
A day after Obama laid out before Congress his plan to kick-start job growth, many blacks hoped it would translate into reduced misery for them over the coming months. While the country’s unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent, black unemployment has hit 16.7 percent, the highest since 1984. Unemployment among male blacks is at 18 percent, and black teens are unemployed at a rate of 46.5 percent.
The early signs of their reaction were positive.
Social media sites were abuzz with highlights from the president’s plan. Amid the comments were excited responses to the proposal, especially from the black community. Twitter was full of similar bursts of excitement over the plan, with some black Tweeters defending the president and applauding his message. One user tweeted: “Taking a sharp tone `cause the NumbersDontLie! Pass this bill and put America back to work.”
Prominent African-Americans like Kenneth Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express and Michael Nutter, mayor of Philadelphia, quickly applauded the plan. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., has been one of the most vocal advocates for dealing more effectively with black unemployment, but she was enthusiastic.
For the president, it was a welcome change in tone after a steady drumbeat of criticism from members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who held their own job fairs and town hall meetings while protesting that Obama’s jobs tour across America last month bypassed black communities.
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
WASHINGTON (AP) — In the early days of the Obama administration, organized labor had grand visions of pushing through a sweeping agenda that would help boost sagging membership and help revive union strength.
Now labor faces this reality: Public employee unions are in a drawn-out fight for their very survival in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states where GOP lawmakers have curbed collective bargaining rights.
Also, many union leaders are grousing that the president they worked so hard to elect has not focused enough on job creation and other bold plans to get their members back to work.
“Obama campaigned big, but he’s governing small,” said Larry Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
Labor remains a core Democratic constituency and union leaders will stand with Obama in Detroit this Labor Day, where he will address thousands of rank-and-file members during the city’s annual parade Monday.
But at the same time, unions have begun shifting money and resources out of Democratic congressional campaigns and back to the states in a furious effort to reverse or limit GOP measures that could wipe out union rolls.
The AFL-CIO’s president, Richard Trumka, says it’s part of a new strategy for labor to build an independent voice separate from the Democratic Party.
Union donations to federal candidates at the beginning of this year were down about 40 percent compared with the same period in 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Last month, a dozen trade unions said they would boycott next year’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., over frustration on the economy and to protest the event’s location in a right-to-work state.
“The pendulum has swung a long way,” said Ross Eisenbrey, a vice president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute. “In the next year, I think all unions can really hope for is to keep more bad things from happening and to get as much of a jobs program enacted as possible.”
Unions fell short last month in their recall campaign to wrest control of the Wisconsin Senate from Republicans. That fight was a consequence of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public-employee unions as a part of a cost-cutting effort. Now they are spending millions more in Ohio, where they hope to pass a statewide referendum in November that would repeal a similar measure limiting union rights.
It’s a far cry from the early optimism unions had after Obama came into office. Back then, unions hoped a Democratic-controlled Congress would pass legislation to make it easier for unions to organize workers. But business groups fought that proposal hard, and it never came to a vote.
Union leaders grew more disappointed when the president’s health care overhaul didn’t include a government-run insurance option. Then Obama agreed to extend President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy.
Obama came out in favor of trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that most unions say will cost American jobs. Despite campaigning in favor of raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50 an hour, Obama hasn’t touched the issue since taking office.
It didn’t help that Obama declined union invitations to go to Wisconsin, where thousands of protesters mobilized against the anti-union measure. Candidate Obama had promised to “put on sneakers” and walk a picket line himself when union rights were threatened.
Obama has handed labor smaller victories that didn’t have to go through Congress, like granting the nation’s 44,000 airport screeners limited collective bargaining rights for the first time. The National Labor Relations Board and other agencies filled with Obama’s appointees have made it easier for unions to organize workers in the airline, railroad and health care industries.
The NLRB has taken a beating from Republicans after filing a lawsuit that accuses Boeing of opening a new plant in South Carolina in retaliation against union workers in Washington state.
“The field has tilted against labor so that whatever small victories they get are just tinkering around the edges and get tremendous pushback by conservatives,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
But labor’s frustration with Obama reached new heights this summer as Trumka accused him of working with tea party Republicans on deficit reduction instead of “stepping up to the plate” on jobs.
Labor unions and other liberal groups want Obama to push a major stimulus bill with hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending on infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and transit systems. Even if it’s rejected in the GOP-controlled House, unions want to see Obama show more leadership and take a bold stand in favor of stimulus spending.
That’s not likely to happen. Constrained by budget cuts and a tight debt ceiling, Obama is expected to propose a limited package worth far less than the $787 billion stimulus passed in 2009.
The plan will call on Congress to extend current payroll tax cuts and jobless benefits, spend money for new construction projects and offer incentives to businesses to hire more workers.
James Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said Obama should challenge businesses with healthy bottom lines to spend more in the U.S. by hiring new workers, building plants and expanding operations. If they don’t, Hoffa said, Obama should call them out as disloyal.
“I think the president should challenge the patriotism of these American corporations that are sitting on the sidelines,” Hoffa said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
He added, “We’ve got to turn this around and say, `Hey, we are an American company. We owe an obligation to America. Let’s put America back to work.'”
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis defended Obama from liberal critics, saying the administration has established many programs to create jobs, worked to extend unemployment insurance benefits and helped save the auto industry.
“The president is very concerned about job creation,” Solis told reporters at the National Press Club. “That been our priority from day one.”
Union face a tougher challenge in the states.
Walker wanted to patch the state’s budget shortfall by requiring state workers to pay more for their health care and pension benefits. He said curbing bargaining rights was important in the long term to prevent unions from reversing the move in future negotiations.
Republican Wisconsin state Rep. Robin Vos said the big money spent by pro-labor forces in the recall elections shows “that they’re not about protecting workers rights, they’re about protecting political power.”
“This is the last grasp of those political bosses to be able to showcase why they need to have the political power, and they lost,” he said.
Conservatives say Walker’s measure has done just what it promised, closing budget shortfalls without laying off teachers and other workers.
“As the changes have had time to sink in, people appear to be accepting it, and it appears to be part of the new status quo,” said James Sherk, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.
A measure passed in Tennessee this year ended collective bargaining for teachers unions in the state. In Oklahoma, lawmakers repealed a law that had required large municipalities to collectively bargain with municipal employees.
“The fact that you didn’t see much pushback in those states, I think, is significant,” Sherk said.
Union leaders see a more sinister plan not only to cut union benefits, but to crush unions altogether, along with their political largesse to Democrats. The Wisconsin law, for example, bans automatic withdrawal of union dues and requires public unions to hold annual votes to avoid decertification.
In Ohio, unions are more hopeful that they can win a November referendum to undo the state’s collective bargaining law that passed this spring. A Quinnipiac University poll in July found that 56 percent of Ohio voters say the new collective bargaining law should be repealed, compared with 32 percent who favor keeping it in place.
“A victory in Ohio would be a tremendous shot against the bow of Republicans to not mess with the unions,” Lichtenstein said.
It could also help unions show they are still a political force to be reckoned with at both the state and national level.
Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., and Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Mitt Romney is trying to appeal to tea party activists by presenting himself as an outsider with less political experience than the rest of the Republican presidential field.
Speaking Sunday evening in New Hampshire, the former Massachusetts governor said career politicians cannot fix the nation’s problems.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama faces a long re-election campaign having all but given up on the economy rebounding in any meaningful way before November 2012. His own budget office predicts unemployment will stay at about 9 percent, a frightening number for any president seeking a second term.
Obama’s prospects aren’t entirely grim, however. The GOP, heavily influenced by the tea party, may nominate someone so deeply flawed or right-leaning that, Democrats hope, Obama can persuade Americans to give him a second chance rather than risk the alternative.
Democrats say the man who ran on hope and change in 2008 will have to claw his way toward a second term with a sharply negative campaign.
The strengths and weaknesses of his prospects seem clear.
AP Photo/Jim Cole
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Brushing off bad poll numbers, presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman predicts he’ll win New Hampshire’s Republican primary.
The former Utah governor set high expectations Thursday at the popular Politics and Eggs discussion series. His comments came in the same week he earned just 1 percent in two national polls.
He says polls are meaningless this early.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
WASHINGTON (AP) — As the nation prepares for the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – a date al-Qaida has cited as a potential opportunity to strike again – security is intensifying at airports, train stations, nuclear plants and major sporting arenas around the country.
“At this point there is no specific credible threat, but that doesn’t mean we are relaxing at all in terms of our vigilance,” said John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser.
“We are concerned about the lone actors that are out there, we are concerned that al-Qaida or others may try to take advantage of the 9/11 anniversary events,” Brennan told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
“We’re looking at all different angles – what might have been planned for a while, we’re still looking for indications that there might be something out there, but we are very interested in seeing whether or not there’s any indication whatsoever of a lone actor and that’s much more difficult to pick up.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — Al-Qaida’s second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, has been killed in Pakistan, delivering another big blow to a terrorist group that the U.S. believes to be on the verge of defeat, a senior Obama administration official said Saturday.
The Libyan national who was the network’s former operational leader rose to al-Qaida’s No. 2 spot after the U.S. killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden during a raid on his Pakistan compound in May.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month that al-Qaida’s defeat was within reach if the U.S. could mount a string of successful attacks on the group’s weakened leadership.
“Now is the moment, following what happened with bin Laden, to put maximum pressure on them,” Panetta said, “because I do believe that if we continue this effort we can really cripple al-Qaida as a major threat.”
AP Photo/Stew Milne
WASHINGTON (AP) — Whites and women are a re-election problem for President Barack Obama. Younger voters and liberals, too, but to a lesser extent.
All are important Democratic constituencies that helped him win the White House in 2008 and whose support he’ll need to keep it next year.
An analysis of Associated Press-GfK polls, including the latest survey released last week, shows that Obama has lost ground among all those groups since he took office. The review points to his vulnerabilities and probable leading targets of his campaign as he seeks to assemble a coalition diverse enough to help him win re-election in tough economic times.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Vice President Dick Cheney says he has “no regrets” about the harsh interrogation policies the Bush administration pursued in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
The often controversial Cheney also says “I don’t know why” former President George W. Bush should feel betrayed by insider information he reveals in his new memoir.
Asked in an NBC interview if he still embraces waterboarding, Cheney says, “I would strongly support using it again if circumstances arose where we had a high-value detainee and that was the only way we could get him to talk.”
The new book will be published next week by Simon & Shuster. Cheney was a lightning-rod for criticism during Bush’s presidency, accused by opponents of often advocating a belligerent U.S. stance in world affairs.
VINEYARD HAVEN, Mass. (AP) — The White House is announcing plans Tuesday to end or cut back hundreds of government regulations, an effort the Obama administration says will save businesses $10 billion over five years.
The administration says many of the regulatory reforms focus on small businesses. Those include accelerating payments to as many as 60,000 small businesses that have contracts with the Department of Defense, and requiring the Small Business Administration to adopt a single electronic application in order to reduce paperwork burdens.
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
WASHINGTON (AP) — Laid-off workers and aging baby boomers are flooding Social Security’s disability program with benefit claims, pushing the financially strapped system toward the brink of insolvency.
Applications are up nearly 50 percent over a decade ago as people with disabilities lose their jobs and can’t find new ones in an economy that has shed nearly 7 million jobs.
The stampede for benefits is adding to a growing backlog of applicants – many wait two years or more before their cases are resolved – and worsening the financial problems of a program that’s been running in the red for years.
New congressional estimates say the trust fund that supports Social Security disability will run out of money by 2017, leaving the program unable to pay full benefits, unless Congress acts. About two decades later, Social Security’s much larger retirement fund is projected to run dry as well.
AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday will make his first explicit call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to resign, a senior administration official said, as international pressure mounted for the embattled leader to leave power over the brutal repression of his people.
Obama will issue his call in a written statement on Thursday morning, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will echo the language soon after in an on-camera appearance. The administration will also slap new sanctions on Syria to bolster Obama’s move.
AP Photo/Hannah Foslien
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — President Barack Obama began a three-day bus tour Monday that will give him a chance to hear directly from a public frustrated with Washington even as energized Republican presidential hopefuls mount counterattacks at every turn.
Air Force One landed midmorning at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and Obama disembarked under sunny skies and greeted a small crowd at a rope line. He then boarded an unmarked black bus for a 40-minute drive south to Cannon Falls, Minn., for a town hall event. Eager to get out of Washington, Obama struck a casual tone, ditching his suit and tie for a sports coat and khakis.
Obama’s first bus trip as president will take him through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, a region that helped launch him to the White House in 2008, and where Republican presidential hopefuls are now battling it out. It comes on the heels of Republican Michele Bachmann’s weekend victory in the Iowa Straw Poll – and after the president spent much of the summer holed up in the nation’s capital enmeshed in bitterly partisan negotiations on the debt crisis that cratered his approval ratings and those of Congress amid a faltering economy and high unemployment.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Monday that he has the best economic record and executive experience in government of any rival in the Republican presidential field, contrasting his credentials with those of his top two opponents, Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann.
“I respect all the other candidates in the field but there is no one that can stand toe-to-toe with us,” Perry told The Associated Press in an interview at the start of his first full day campaigning in the leadoff caucus state of Iowa.
Perry also offered up his first policy proposal as a candidate, calling for a six-month moratorium on federal business regulations that he said were holding back job growth nationally. Perry brought the proposal forward just as President Barack Obama was traveling to the Midwest for a bus tour and speeches on the economy.
It was nothing short of an attempt by Perry to establish himself as the strongest Republican able to challenge Obama on jobs – and lay claim to Romney’s mantel of jobs candidate.
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials suspect that Pakistan allowed the Chinese military to see secret new U.S. technology – the U.S. helicopter that crashed in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann says her experience running a small business gives her the qualifications to tackle the nation’s economic troubles.
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Ron Paul, once seen as a fringe candidate and a nuisance to the establishment, is shaping the 2012 Republican primary by giving voice to the party’s libertarian wing and reflecting frustration with the United States’ international entanglements.
The Texas congressman placed second in a key early test vote Saturday in Ames, coming within 152 votes of winning the first significant balloting of the Republican nominating contest. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota won the nonbinding Iowa straw poll, but Paul’s organizational strength and a retooled focus on social issues set him up to be a serious player in the campaign.
“I believe in a very limited role for government. But the prime reason that government exists in a free society is to protect liberty, but also to protect life. And I mean all life,” he told a raucous crowd on Saturday.
“You cannot have relative value for life and deal with that. We cannot play God and make those decisions. All life is precious,” he said, opening his remarks with an anti-abortion appeal to the social conservatives who have great sway here in Iowa’s leadoff caucuses.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
WASHINGTON (AP) — The 12 lawmakers appointed to a new supercommittee charged with tackling the nation’s fiscal problems have received millions in contributions from special interests with a stake in potential cuts to federal programs.
AP Photo/RODRIGO ABD
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — International military forces worked on Monday to recover every last piece of a Chinook helicopter that crashed over the weekend, killing 30 American troops, seven Afghan soldiers and an Afghan interpreter, NATO said.
German Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, told reporters that troops had secured the crash site in a rugged area of eastern Wardak province and nobody was being allowed in or out of the area while the investigation was ongoing.
Jacobson said the coalition still had not yet determined the exact cause of the crash, but some officials have said the heavy and lumbering transport helicopter was apparently shot down. Officials said the helicopter was hit as it was flying in and approaching the area.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee says the biggest reason the United States is seeing its credit downgraded is that it spends too much money being “the military policemen of the world.”
Rep. Barney Frank tells CBS’s “The Early Show” that reining in defense spending is “going to be my mantra” for the next few months.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Associated Press has learned that more than 20 Navy SEALs from the unit that killed Osama bin Laden were among those lost in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
The operators from SEAL Team Six were flown by a crew of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. That’s according to one current and one former U.S. official. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because families are still being notified of the loss of their loved ones.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said Saturday that the deaths of Americans in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan are a reminder of the “extraordinary” price the U.S. military is paying in the decade-long Afghan war.
Obama’s statement did not confirm the number killed or other details of the crash. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the crash killed 31 U.S. special operation troops and seven Afghan commandos.
Five people, places, and things everyone’s wagging their fists at as the markets crash.
BY CAMERON ABADI | AUGUST 5, 2011
There will be plenty of blame to go around if the global economy tips into a double-dip recession. U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, Aug. 5, spread the responsibility widely, citing a “tumultuous year” that has included the Arab revolts, the earthquake in Japan, the crisis in Europe, and partisan battles over spending in Washington.
But many of the leading global players in the ongoing financial drama have already begun casting stones at more specific targets. Here’s a look at the world’s favorite scapegoats.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Unemployment remains stubbornly high at just over 9 percent, but it’s the alarming number of long-term jobless that is causing fresh concern for Democratic lawmakers….
WASHINGTON (AP) — A fledgling company dissolved shortly after making a $1 million contribution to an independent political committee supporting Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, leaving the source of the money unclear….
WASHINGTON (AP) — Rushing to help the rising number of troops with alcohol problems, the army is increasing its staff of substance abuse counselors by about 30 percent….
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday overturned the conviction and monthlong jail sentence of a former government whistle-blower protector who pleaded guilty to keeping information from congressional investigators….
WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 15 years after a fertilizer bomb was used to blow up a government building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, the federal government is proposing to regulate the sale and transfer of the chemical ammonium nitrate….
WASHINGTON (AP) — A new “super” political action committee supportive of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has raised more than $12 million, drawing on big-dollar donations to help the former Republican governor in his bid for the White House….
WASHINGTON (AP) — He calls himself Sen. Tea Party….
WASHINGTON (AP) — There is no changing how Washington works. It doesn’t….
WASHINGTON (AP) — The fight over the debt ceiling has turned into a dramatic leadership test for President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, opponents in a divided government who’ve gone from negotiating in secret to facing off in public at a watershed moment for the country and their own political careers….
CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh says a newspaper report that he’s being sued for more than $100,000 in unpaid child support is a “hit piece.”…
WASHINGTON (AP) — An assistant secretary at the Department of Labor has resigned after an internal investigation found that he improperly steered federal contracts to friends and former colleagues….
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Former New York Gov. George Pataki (pa-TAH’-kee) says the Republican presidential field isn’t taking the nation’s debt and deficit seriously enough….
WASHINGTON (AP) — A freshman House Republican says he still can’t vote for the deficit-reduction proposal pushed by Speaker John Boehner, although he calls it “a step in the right direction.”…
WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 40 Americans have been recruited and radicalized by al-Qaida-linked terrorists in Somalia and have gone to the war-torn country to fight, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says….
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional budget analysts say a Senate Democratic plan to cut spending and increase the nation’s borrowing authority would save $2.2 trillion over 10 years….