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History > 2012 > USA > Politics (V)


Barack Obama is re-elected president of the United States


Full elections results


FACTBOX - How the U.S. Electoral College works





Barack Obama's Victory Speech Full - Election 2012

Watch President Barack Obama's full speech

after his victory over Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.


YouTube > Published on Nov 6, 2012 by WSJDigitalNetwork
















As Tallies Confirm

Results of Arizona Races,

Many Call for a Faster Way to Count


November 22, 2012
The New York Times


PHOENIX — It took until 15 days after the election, but all valid votes in Arizona have now been counted, including a record number of provisional ballots that fueled suspicions of voter suppression among Latino voters and raised questions about the integrity of the electoral process in the state.

The tallies ended on Wednesday after officials gave the state’s most populous counties — Maricopa, which encompasses Phoenix, and Pima, which includes Tucson — permission to extend their counts past last Friday’s deadline so that they could get through the tens of thousands of provisional ballots cast in both places.

Results announced on or just after election night remained unchanged, though it took days for three Congressional races to be decided. All of them were won by Democrats, who will replace Republicans as a majority in the state’s Congressional delegation come January. It was only on Wednesday afternoon that one of the winners, Kyrsten Sinema, was able to find out the number of votes that put her ahead of her opponent, Vernon Parker, a Republican, in the race for Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District — “10,251,” she announced on Twitter. “Thank you.”

In an interview, the secretary of state, Ken Bennett, insisted “the system is not broken,” saying it took just as many days to count the votes four years ago as it did this time. Still, he acknowledged that the state could do better, joining a growing chorus of elected officials, civil rights advocates and community organizers calling for a faster way to tally the ballots.

“Speed is not our No. 1 goal. Accuracy is our No. 1 goal. But that doesn’t mean we can’t think of a way to speed up the process,” Mr. Bennett said.

Ideas and plenty of criticism have been floating around in meetings, e-mail and letters since the exact number of ballots left to be counted after the polls closed — 631,274 — came to be known. This week, Democrats called for a bipartisan investigation to scrutinize some of the issues raised by voters and campaigns, like the fragmentation of the election process — run independently by each of the state’s 15 counties — and the difficulties some voters who signed up to vote by mail seemed to have had in differentiating sample ballots from real ones.

“We need the process to be better explained to voters, especially because we had so many new voters registered ahead of the election,” said Luis Heredia, the executive director of the state’s Democratic Party.

In Maricopa County, which has roughly 60 percent of all registered voters in the state, 115,000 votes were cast through provisional ballots, a 15 percent increase from 2008, based on state records. Some 59,000 people who requested early ballots also went to the polls on Nov. 6, accounting for almost half of all provisional ballots cast. According to complaints logged by grass-roots groups working to mobilize Latino voters, many were first-time voters who signed up to get their ballots by mail and claimed not to have received them.

The county’s recorder, Helen Purcell, said it was possible that some voters tossed their ballots, not knowing what they were. Advocates countered that the state should have run a more comprehensive voter-education campaign.

Instead, there was confusion, they said, particularly with outreach to Spanish-speaking voters in Maricopa County, where leaflets listed the wrong date for the election. Petra Falcón, executive director of Promise Arizona, part of a coalition that says it has registered almost 35,000 voters this year, said that based on the complaints, language barriers also kept many Spanish-speaking voters in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods from understanding poll workers.

“We need certain skill sets to address the changing electorate, and one of them is language,” Ms. Falcón said.

She and her counterparts are nonetheless celebrating small victories. They supported Paul Penzone, a Democrat, who came closer than anyone to defeating Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Republican elected to a sixth term. (Mr. Arpaio won by 80,639 votes.) Also, in a state where registered Republicans hold a plurality, Latino voters helped Richard H. Carmona, a Latino and a Democrat, stay competitive against his Republican opponent, Jeff Flake, in the race for the Senate seat held by Jon Kyl, a Republican who is retiring. (Mr. Carmona lost by fewer than 68,000 votes.)

One of the questions that remains is whether provisional ballots were cast disproportionately by Latino and black voters. Though an analysis of where the provisional ballots came from could take some time, Ms. Falcón said, “Behind every provisional ballot was a determined voter who knew their vote needed to count that day.”

    As Tallies Confirm Results of Arizona Races, Many Call for a Faster Way to Count, NYT, 22.11.2012,






A Broken Election System


November 20, 2012
The New York Times


While President Obama was delivering his victory speech in the early hours of Wednesday, Nov. 7, people were still standing in line in Florida to vote. Thousands had waited hours to vote in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, some in the cold, some giving up wages to do so. In a spontaneous aside — “by the way, we have to fix that” — the president acknowledged the unnecessary hardship of casting a vote in the United States and established a goal that he now has an obligation to address.

The long lines can be shortened with commitments from Washington, as well as state and local governments, but they are just the most glaring symptom of a deeply broken democratic process. In too many states, it’s also needlessly difficult to register to vote. States controlled by Republicans continue to erect partisan impediments to participation. And the process for choosing a candidate remains bound to unlimited and often secret campaign donations that are bound to lead to corruption.

“Fixing that” can start with the following actions:

MAKE IT EASIER TO VOTE Voting in the United States is controlled by a widely varying patchwork of state, county and local laws. Many election boards are poorly financed or run by dysfunctional partisans, unable to quickly fix broken scanners or touch screens. Some state lawmakers have no interest in making the process easier, believing that too few polling places or other impediments make it harder for minorities or poor people to participate.

This is where Congress can play a role. It has the power to establish a nonpartisan federal elections board to maintain a national registration database, mandate the choice of voting machines and set standards for counting provisional ballots. A federal law, such as those proposed by Representatives George Miller of California and John Lewis of Georgia, could require a clear early-voting period, removing the issue as a political football in states like Florida and Ohio, and standards for absentee voting.

Congress also can provide financial incentives to the states to do the job right. A bill introduced recently by Senator Christopher Coons, a Democrat of Delaware, would give grants to states that make registration easy, including allowing same-day registration; allow early voting; require no excuses for voting absentee; properly train poll workers; and provide sufficient polling places.

But states don’t have to wait for a resolution to the inevitable partisan struggles over these bills. Seventeen states already send electronic registration data from motor vehicle departments to election agencies, and 10 allow people to register online. These paperless systems have the potential to enroll significantly more people.

REMOVE THE BARRIERS The Republican drive to keep Democratic-leaning groups from voting, through methods like voter ID requirements, failed miserably this year and may have produced a backlash among minority voters, who turned out in large numbers. It’s time for Republicans to give up this misguided and offensive effort. And, if they don’t, Mr. Obama should make a national effort to pressure them now that he has no personal stake in it.

DILUTE THE POWER OF MONEY Unlimited contributions aren’t going away, even though many outside Republican groups lost this year. A bill introduced by House Democrats would sever the informal relationships between “super PACs” and the candidates they support, and use federal matching money to encourage small contributions to presidential and Congressional candidates. It also remains vital for Congress to pass the Disclose Act and eliminate the use of secret campaign donations.

Ultimately, only a constitutional amendment can counter the misbegotten Supreme Court assertion that money is speech and thus can play an unlimited role in American politics.

    A Broken Election System, NYT, 20.11.2012,






Judicial Elections, Unhinged


November 18, 2012
The New York Times


This year’s round of state judicial elections broke previous records for the amounts spent on judicial campaigns around the country. The dominant role played by special-interest money — including money from super PACs financed by undisclosed donors — has severely weakened the principle of fair and impartial courts.

In Florida, for example, three respected State Supreme Court justices won their retention election battles, but only after they were forced to raise more than $1.5 million in total. They had put on expensive campaigns because they were targeted for defeat by moneyed conservatives who wanted to drive them off the bench for their supposed liberal views. The justices were absolutely right to fight back. Still, the bitter campaigns leave impressions of judicial partisanship and indebtedness to campaign donors.

Nationally, spending on television advertisements in state supreme court races reached nearly $28 million by Election Day, exceeding the $24.4 million in 2004, the previous record for a presidential election year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice and Justice at Stake, nonpartisan groups working for fair courts. Groups not connected to candidate campaigns paid for more than half of the TV ads run, compared with about 30 percent in 2010, making it much harder for candidates to control their own message.

In Michigan, where three of seven seats on the State Supreme Court were up for election, records were set for both spending and lack of accountability. The $3.2 million raised by candidates and reported to the Michigan Bureau of Elections was dwarfed by unreported spending by the political parties and outside groups interested in tilting the balance on the court. One ad run by an independent group against Bridget McCormack, a Democratic candidate for a seat on the court, featured the mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan and suggested that Ms. McCormack’s legal work for a detainee released from Guantánamo Bay in 2007 showed support for terrorism. Ms. McCormack won the race.

Of the $15 million or so spent for TV ads in Michigan, 75 percent cannot be attributed to identifiable donors, notes Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, which advocates changing Michigan law to bar undisclosed independent spending. That exceeds even the 2010 record, when half the total spending on Michigan Supreme Court races came from secret sources.

Regrettably, states that elect their top judges show no inclination to address these distressing trends by replacing judicial elections with systems of merit appointment that avoid retention votes. This year’s experience should at least hasten state efforts to revise rules for judicial recusal to take campaign contributions into account. Mandatory disclosure of all donations to a judicial race is also essential. Litigants cannot know when they should request that a judge step aside if they cannot tell whether their case involves a party that supported the judge’s campaign.

    Judicial Elections, Unhinged, NYT, 18.11.2012,






The Tarnish of the Electoral College


November 15, 2012
The New York Times


From the late-1960s through the ’80s, Republicans were convinced that they had a permanent lock on the Electoral College. The Sun Belt was rising, traditionally Democratic states were losing population, and Republicans won five of six presidential elections beginning in 1968. Democrats complained that this archaic system was a terrible and undemocratic way to choose the country’s executive. They were right, but they were ignored.

Now the demographic pendulum is swinging toward the Democrats. Young voters, Hispanics and a more active African-American electorate added states like Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia to President Obama’s winning coalition in the past two elections, and suddenly Republicans are the ones complaining about a broken system.

They’re right, too, just as the Democrats were a generation ago. The Electoral College remains a deeply defective political mechanism no matter whom it benefits, and it needs to be abolished.

We say that in full knowledge that the college may be tilting toward the kinds of candidates we tend to support and provided a far more decisive margin for Mr. Obama earlier this month than his showing in the popular vote. The idea that a voting method might convey benefits to one side or another, in fact, is one of the strongest arguments against it.

There should be no structural bias in the presidential election system, even if population swings might oscillate over a long period of decades. If Democrats win a string of elections, it should be because their policies and their candidates appeal to a majority of the country’s voters, not because supporters are clustered in enough states to get to 270 electoral votes. Republicans should broaden their base beyond a shrinking proportion of white voters not simply to win back Colorado, but because a more centrist outlook would be good for the country.

The problems with the Electoral College — born in appeasement to slave states — have been on display for two centuries; this page called it a “cumbrous and useless piece of old governmental machinery” in 1936, when Alf Landon won 36 percent of the popular vote against Franklin Roosevelt but received only 8 of the 538 electoral votes.

But 76 years later, the system continues to calcify American politics. As Adam Liptak of The Times recently wrote, this year’s candidates campaigned in only 10 states after the conventions, ignoring the Democratic states on the West Coast and Northeast and the Republican ones in the South and the Plains. The number of battleground states is shrinking, and turnout in the other states is lower. The undemocratic prospect of a president who loses the popular vote is always present (it’s happened three times), as is the potential horror show of a tie vote that is decided in Congress.

The last serious consideration of a constitutional amendment to abolish the college, in 1970, was filibustered by senators from small states who feared losing their disproportionate clout. The same thing would probably happen today, even though Republicans (who tend to dominate those states) are increasingly skeptical of the college.

The best method of moving toward direct democracy remains the National Popular Vote plan, under which states agree to grant their electoral votes to the ticket that gets the most popular votes around the country. Legislators in eight states and the District of Columbia (representing 132 electoral votes) have agreed to do so; the plan would go into effect when states totaling 270 electoral votes sign up.

Until then, new generations of voters will continue to find themselves appalled by the system left to them by their populist-fearing ancestors. An 18-year-old voter in California and one in Oklahoma will have much in common when they realize they are each being ignored, and when they realize there is something their lawmakers can do about it.

    The Tarnish of the Electoral College, NYT, 15.11.2012,






More Women,

but Not Nearly Enough


November 8, 2012
8:52 pm
The New York Times


THE Congress that convenes in January will include a record number of women: 20 senators and at least 81 representatives. Female candidates broke other barriers on Tuesday. New Hampshire will be the first state to send an all-female delegation to Congress. A woman was elected to the South Carolina Senate, currently the only all-male state legislative chamber.

Does this mean the next Congress will be more attentive to the needs of children, single mothers and Americans who are vulnerable because of low income, poor health and other disadvantages? Sadly, no. Our research shows that female lawmakers significantly reshape policies only when they have true parity with men. In other words, while Tuesday's electoral gains should be celebrated, we've got a very long way to go.

We recently conducted a study of women's participation in political decision-making groups. It is in these settings - committees, caucuses and delegate meetings - that women's presence matters, often profoundly.

Our experiment assembled 94 five-person groups and asked them to decide whether and how much to tax the more fortunate so as to provide for those with less means. We ran the study in two states: conservative Utah and liberal New Jersey.

Surveys have demonstrated that women of both parties are more likely than men to mention the needs of vulnerable populations when asked about the nation's problems. Women more frequently choose "caring" occupations and, within households, shift resources toward children more than fathers do. The most commonly accepted explanation is that women are more socialized than men to care for others.

To observe how and when women voice this "caring" - and when their voice matters - we randomly assigned 470 individuals to groups in which women made up zero, 20, 40, 60, 80 or 100 percent of participants. We assessed each member's views before and after the meetings, and recorded who said what.

On average, women make up about 20 percent of lawmakers in the United States and abroad. We found that when women constituted 20 percent of a decision-making body that operates by majority rule, the average woman took up only about 60 percent of the floor time used by the average man. Women were perceived - by themselves and their peers - as more quiescent and less effective. They were more likely to be rudely interrupted; they were less likely to strongly advocate their policy preferences; and they seldom mentioned the vulnerable. These gender dynamics held even when adjusting for political ideology (beliefs about liberalism and egalitarianism) and income.

In contrast, the men in our experiment did not speak up less or appear to lose influence when they were in the minority.

In our experiment, groups with few women set a minimum income of about $21,600 per year for a family of four - which is close to the federal poverty level for a family of four. But once women made up 60 to 80 percent or more of a group, they spoke as much as men, raised the needs of the vulnerable and argued for redistribution (and influenced the rhetoric of their male counterparts). They also encountered fewer hostile interruptions.

Significantly, they elevated the safety net to as much as $31,000. The most talkative participants in these majority-female groups advocated for even more government generosity: $36,000, enough to catapult many poor families into the ranks of the lower middle class.

In another study, we pored through a sample of minutes from more than 14,000 local school boards and found that the pronounced gender gap in participation shrank sharply when women's numbers reached parity - a real-world confirmation of our experimental findings.

When legislators vote, parties and constituencies matter most - but gender ratios matter too. For example, analyzing the 1990 confirmation hearings of the Supreme Court justiceDavid H. Souter, the political scientist Laura R. Winsky Mattei found that the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee, regardless of party, was twice as aggressive in questioning female witnesses as male ones.

Some scholars, like Mona Lena Krook and Beth Reingold, have argued that increasing female legislative representation does not consistently lead to better policies for women and the vulnerable. But they did not examine, as we did, the potential effects when women are half or more of the decision makers.

It's hard to know when, if ever, Congress will be half-female. But Professors Krook and Reingold and others have found that institutional reforms, like female caucuses, can help integrate women into decision making. We also found that committees that vote by consensus give female minorities a greater voice.

We haven't examined the impact of female executives on foreign policy and national security. As leaders likeIndira Gandhi, Golda Meir andMargaret Thatcher have shown, women in the vanguard sometimes act even more "masculine" than their male counterparts.

But when there are more women in legislatures, city councils and school boards, they speak more and voice the needs of the poor, the vulnerable, children and families - and men listen. At a time of soaring inequality, electing vastly more women might be the best hope for addressing the needs of the 99 percent.


Tali Mendelberg, an associate professor of politics at Princeton University,

is the author of "The Race Card: Campaign Strategy, Implicit Messages,

and the Norm of Equality."

Christopher F. Karpowitz is an assistant professor of political science

at Brigham Young University.

    More Women, but Not Nearly Enough, NYT, 8.11.2012,






None of Your Business


November 8, 2012
The New York Times


NEW YORK — Get out of our bedrooms.

If there was one unequivocal message delivered as the Republican candidate Mitt Romney was rejected and President Barack Obama re-elected, it was that Americans do not want politicians meddling with their sexual orientation, the right of gays to marry, or women’s choices over reproduction.

They particularly do not want white male Republicans invoking religious faith to theorize about the nature of rape or whether pregnancy following such violation might be God’s will. The country-club crowd, almost all white, who gathered around Romney at the last needs to learn a basic lesson of this vote: The United States has moved into the 21st century when it comes to sexual mores.

The shift has been rapid. In 2004, the Democratic candidate John Kerry lost as Republicans managed to fire up the evangelical turnout by using gay marriage ballot initiatives. Any candidate’s approval of gay marriage looked like political suicide. Eight years later Obama endorsed gay marriage in an election year and, despite a faltering economy, he won.

In the Facebook age, there was often no quicker way to get “unfriended,” than declaring support for Romney, even if that support was over economic rather than social issues. The choice, whatever its motive, could easily appear as a personal attack on the gay and lesbian community, as well as all the Generation Xers and Millennials for whom targeting someone’s sexual orientation just seems so 20th-century — an unacceptable holdover from another age.

But of course, Romney was more concerned about guns for the navy than the impact on the world of social media.

If, after this defeat, the Republicans cling to the extreme social conservatism of its loony right, they will be gazing at the White House with longing eyes for many years. The demographic trends are clear. Obama was backed by 6 in 10 Americans under 30, while Romney won a majority of voters 65 or older. Like the Democrats before the arrival of Bill Clinton, Republicans have lost touch with the dominant pulse of the country.

Romney, who lives near the city of Harvard and M.I.T and scientific innovation, threw away an election that was eminently winnable for the G.O.P. by hitching himself to social ideas from another age, ideas that often dress up intolerance in religious garb.

He had to do so to secure his base, or so the conventional thinking goes. But that base got him nowhere. The worst part is I am not sure Romney even believes those ideas himself. In any event, the repudiation from the American people was vehement.

It is absurd that anyone who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative has to look hard for a political home in the United States. The Republican Party has vacated that large terrain. Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, stands about there, but appears to have given up national political ambitions.

Social liberalism is ascendant and there is now no reason to believe the trend will stop. In Maine and Maryland, voters approved same-sex marriage. (Maine in 2009 had repealed a law allowing same-sex marriage.)

In Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin became the first openly lesbian senator. In Minnesota, voters rejected a bid to ban gay marriage in the state’s constitution.

In Indiana, which veered sharply toward Romney in the presidential vote, Representative Joe Donnelly took a Senate seat for the Democrats weeks after his opponent, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, said pregnancy resulting from rape was “something that God intended to happen” and life was always a “gift from God.”

In Ohio, Josh Mandel, the hawkish young Republican candidate for the Senate, crashed to defeat to the Democrat incumbent Sherrod Brown. Mandel had thought fit to call Mourdock a “class act” after the rape comment.

In Missouri, Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who had seemed vulnerable, defeated Representative Todd Akin, whose particular theory was that women who are victims of “legitimate rape” would somehow not get pregnant.

The white Republican males speculating in these ways about women’s bodies appear to have a problem — and the problem is not merely political.

In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, recaptured the Senate seat long held by Edward Kennedy, after a campaign in which she made a strong appeal to women. “To all the women across Massachusetts who are working your tails off,” she declared, “you better believe we’re going to fight for equal pay for equal work.”

The message to the Republican Party was clear: Come to terms with equal rights and freedom of choice for women, and with the different sexual orientations of Americans, or go on losing.

Another message to the G.O.P. was delivered by the vast majority of Latinos voting for Obama: Shift from a negative to a positive message about immigration. A third, to the Sheldon Adelsons of this world, was that money cannot buy everything.

The social tableau behind the Obamas in their moment of victory was an image of America today, an America that holds love to be personal. This declaration — our bedrooms are our own business — was one of the great national triumphs of the night.

    None of Your Business, NYT, 8.11.2012,






For Romney,

All His Career Options

Are Still Open. Except One.


November 8, 2012
The New York Times


BOSTON — They predict he will write a book, convinced that the daily diary he kept on the campaign trail would make for a compelling read.

They speculate that he will return to the corridors of finance, where his reputation as a savvy chief executive and investor remains unblemished.

They suspect that he could take on a major role in the Mormon Church, picking up where he left off two decades ago.

In conversations over the past 24 hours, friends, aides and advisers to Mitt Romney have begun turning their attention to an issue that until now they have never had to consider: his next move.

After three decades of remarkably seamless career hopping — from Bain Capital to the Olympic Games, from governor of Massachusetts to constant candidate for president — Mr. Romney is now a restless chief executive with no organization to run.

During a meeting at his campaign headquarters in the North End of Boston a few hours after conceding to President Obama, Mr. Romney told his staff members that they had just witnessed his last political campaign.

But he vowed, in the words of two people in the room, that “I will not fall off the map.”

For now Mr. Romney, 65, seems profoundly absorbed by the present, turning over in his head a public rejection whose depth caught him by surprise.

At a breakfast on Wednesday for top advisers and donors, Mr. Romney marveled at the Obama campaign’s ability to turn out such a large volume of voters on Election Day, though at times by using strategies that he said had unfairly maligned him.

He did little to hide his frustration and pique: he bemoaned attempts by the president and his allies to characterize him as an enemy of women, singling out advertisements that claimed he opposed contraception and abortion in all cases. That, Mr. Romney said, is simply untrue, according to those at the breakfast.

He even took a gentle swipe at the news media, mocking what he said were inaccurate articles suggesting that his oldest son, Tagg, had staged an intervention to fix a tottering campaign and was playing a heavy role in shaping political strategy.

“He will be sifting through this for quite a while,” said Kirk Jowers, a Romney friend. “The question is when the sifting takes a couple of hours a day instead of being all consuming.”

Even his own aides said it was hard to know precisely how Mr. Romney, an unsparing self-critic, would respond to a loss that had such a personal dimension. It was his second run for the White House and he had believed, until the very end, that he was ever so close to fulfilling the dream of his father, George, whose own presidential aspirations fell short in 1968.

Few of them can imagine him following the path of, say, Bob Dole, who traded in the title of Republican nominee to become a lobbyist and a pitchman for Viagra. Or Al Gore, who graciously accepted loss in public, then descended into a private slump, growing a beard and putting on weight before slowly finding his passion in environmental advocacy that won him a Nobel Peace Prize.

“The only door that is closed to Mitt Romney for the remainder of his life is being president of the United States,” said Steve Schmidt, a campaign adviser to Senator John McCain in 2008. “He can do whatever else he wants to do.”

He had a warning, though: “Losing a presidential campaign is something you never get over. The question is whether you can move forward without bitterness or rancor.”

Bitterness, of course, may be inevitable. Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain made some halfhearted efforts at postelection comity four years ago, with phone calls and meetings, but have subsequently kept a chilly distance. It is unclear whether the president’s election-night promise to sit down with Mr. Romney was anything more than a polite gesture.

Mr. Romney’s eagerness to work with the president is equally uncertain. Just after conceding, Mr. Romney told those close to him that he was anxious about the nation’s financial health under Mr. Obama.

There will probably be no shortage of lucrative job offers for Mr. Romney, who has not taken a steady paycheck since 1999, when he left Bain Capital to run the Salt Lake City Olympics, friends and colleagues said.

“He’s a hot commodity to me,” Julian H. Robertson, a hedge fund titan, said in an interview not long ago.

Just how hot became evident in 2008, shortly after Mr. Romney quit his first bid for the White House, when Mr. Robertson offered him $30 million a year to run his firm, Tiger Management, according to people familiar with the discussions. Mr. Romney, who had his eye on a second run, politely declined.

Friends and family members said he had turned down equally eye-popping pay packages from the heads of private equity firms.

Back then, several of Mr. Romney’s aides held an improvised career counseling session with Mr. Romney in his campaign office. They figured he would run for president again, but threw out a series of suggestions anyway.

Why not run an auto company like Ford or General Motors, they asked. Or start a research group devoted to energy independence, an issue about which he is obsessed.

Today, the car company option seems unlikely, given Mr. Romney’s opposition to the federal bailout of American car companies. But aides said that he would be receptive to a high-profile job in the private sector, the advocacy world or academia.

“I know he will do something,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a longtime Romney political adviser. “I just don’t know what it will be.”

Not on his list of likely jobs: punditry. Friends said Mr. Romney could not imagine following the well-worn path of defeated Republican candidates to Fox News.

But his friends can envision him pecking away at opinion articles for major newspapers, a passion for Mr. Romney, who is known to tap them out on his BlackBerry on the beach or on a plane whenever inspiration strikes.

Turning out a book has become a familiar ritual for Mr. Romney, a former English major who prides himself on his writing. He produced “Turnaround,” a look at his role turning around the Olympics, in 2004, and “No Apology,” a political manifesto, in 2010.

There will be a few vacations. During the brunch with donors and aides on Wednesday, Mr. Romney told an old friend, Fraser Bullock, that he was looking forward to skiing in Utah this winter.

For now, Mr. Romney has shown up at his campaign headquarters every day since the election, where he seems preoccupied with the futures of members of his campaign staff. He arranged for them to receive severance pay through the end of November.

His No. 1 priority, so far: establishing a system to organize the 400 résumés of those staff members whose paychecks will run out in 21 days.

    For Romney, All His Career Options Are Still Open. Except One., NYT, 8.11.2012,






For Obama,

Housing Policy

Presents Second-Term Headaches


November 8, 2012
2:27 pm
A Financial News Service of The New York Times
The New York Times


A second-term president may be just the person to tackle America's housing problems.

When President Obama first came into office, home prices were crashing, foreclosures were soaring and the previous Bush administration had just initiated the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed entities that agree to repay mortgages if the original borrower defaults.

With the market in shambles in 2009, the Obama administration pursued a tentative housing policy, for the most part avoiding big moves that might have further weakened the housing market or banks. Eventually, there were some bolder initiatives, like the national mortgage settlement with big banks as well as the Treasury Department's aid programs for homeowners.

But as President Obama's first administration comes to an end, the government is still deeply embedded in the mortgage market. In the third quarter, various government entities backstopped 92 percent of all new residential mortgages, according to Inside Mortgage Finance, a publication that focuses on the home loan industry.

Mr. Obama's economic team has consistently said it wants the housing market to work without significant government support. But it has taken few actual steps to advance that idea.

"I think Obama is absolutely committed to reducing the government's role," said Thomas Lawler, a former chief economist at Fannie Mae and founder of Lawler Economic and Housing Consulting, an industry analysis firm. "But no one's yet found a format to do that."

Housing policy is hard to tackle because so many people have benefited from the status quo. The entire real estate system - the banks, the agents, the home buyers - all depend on a market that provides fixed-rate, 30-year mortgages that can be easily refinanced when interest rates drop. That sort of loan is rare outside of the United States. And any effort to overhaul housing and the mortgage market could eventually reduce the amount of such mortgages in the country, angering many and creating a political firestorm.

In other words, the best person to fundamentally change how housing works may be a president who won't be running for office again.

Most immediately, the housing market has to be strong enough to deal with a government pullback. Some analysts think it's ready. "I think the housing recovery is far enough along that they can start winding down Fannie and Freddie," said Phillip L. Swagel at the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy, who served as assistant secretary for economic policy under Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr.

The administration can take smaller steps first. Mr. Lawler, the housing economist, thinks the government could start to reduce the maximum amount that it will guarantee for Fannie and Freddie loans. In some areas, like parts of the Northeast and California, it is as high as $625,000. Before the financial crisis, it was essentially capped at $417,000.

The big question is whether the private sector - banks and investors that buy bonds backed with mortgages - will pick up the slack when the government eases out of the market. If they don't, the supply of mortgages could fall and house prices could weaken.

Banks say their appetite depends on how new rules for mortgages turn out. In setting such regulations, some tough choices have to be made.

The new rules will effectively map the riskiness of various types of mortgages. In determining that, regulators will look at the features of the loans and the borrowers' income. Banks say they are unlikely to hold loans deemed risky, and their lobbyists are pressing for legal protection on the safer ones, called qualified mortgages.

The temptation will be to make the definition of what constitutes a qualified mortgage as broad as possible, to ensure that the banks lend to a wide range of borrowers. But regulators concerned with the health of the banks won't want a system that incentivizes institutions to make potentially risky loans.

One set of qualified mortgage regulations, being written by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, could be completed as early as January. Other regulators, like the Federal Reserve, are expected to take longer in finishing their mortgage rules.

Resolving the conflict between mortgage availability and bank strength may depend on the person who replaces Timothy F. Geithner as Treasury secretary. Mr. Geithner is stepping down at the end of Mr. Obama's first term.

The Obama administration faces other daunting decisions.

One is how to deal with the considerable number of troubled mortgages still in the financial system. Banks might be reluctant to make new loans until they have a better idea of the losses on the old loans. "If you don't ever deal with these problems, you may never get to where you want to go," said Mr. Lawler, the housing economist.

To help tackle that issue, the new administration might decide to make its mortgage relief programs more aggressive. It might even aim for more loan modifications, writing down the value of the mortgages to make them easier to pay. The Federal Housing Finance Agency, the regulator that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, has effectively blocked such write-downs on the vast amount of loans those entities have guaranteed.

A new Obama administration may move to change the agency's stance on write-downs, perhaps by replacing its acting director, Edward DeMarco. If that happened, it would be a sign that the White House had a taste for more radical housing actions. The agency declined to comment.

Then there's what to do with the Federal Housing Administration, another government entity that has backstopped a huge amount of mortgages since the financial crisis. The housing administration was set up to focus on lower-income borrowers, and it backs loans that have very low down payments. Its share of the market has grown since the crisis. The F.H.A. accounted for 13 percent of the market in the third quarter, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.

The new administration has to decide whether it wants the F.H.A. to continue doing as much business. The risk is that a big pullback by the F.H.A. could reduce the availability of mortgages to lower-income borrowers. Banks almost certainly won't want to write loans with minuscule down payments since they are considered riskier.

Ultimately, housing policy comes down to one question: Which borrowers should get the most subsidies?

Right now, the government largess encompasses a wide swath of borrowers. But most analysts believe government support should be focused on lower-income borrowers.

"We will know that the Obama administration is serious about housing finance reform when it comes up with a proposal for affordable housing," said Mr. Swagel, the University of Maryland professor.

    For Obama, Housing Policy Presents Second-Term Headaches, NYT, 8.11.2012,






The Party of Work


November 8, 2012
The New York Times


The American colonies were first settled by Protestant dissenters. These were people who refused to submit to the established religious authorities. They sought personal relationships with God. They moved to the frontier when life got too confining. They created an American creed, built, as the sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset put it, around liberty, individualism, equal opportunity, populism and laissez-faire.

This creed shaped America and evolved with the decades. Starting in the mid-20th century, there was a Southern and Western version of it, formed by ranching Republicans like Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Their version drew on the traditional tenets: ordinary people are capable of greatness; individuals have the power to shape their destinies; they should be given maximum freedom to do so.

This is not an Ayn Randian, radically individualistic belief system. Republicans in this mold place tremendous importance on churches, charities and families — on the sort of pastoral work Mitt Romney does and the sort of community groups Representative Paul Ryan celebrated in a speech at Cleveland State University last month.

But this worldview is innately suspicious of government. Its adherents generally believe in the equation that more government equals less individual and civic vitality. Growing beyond proper limits, government saps initiative, sucks resources, breeds a sense of entitlement and imposes a stifling uniformity on the diverse webs of local activity.

During the 2012 campaign, Republicans kept circling back to the spot where government expansion threatens personal initiative: you didn’t build that; makers versus takers; the supposed dependency of the 47 percent. Again and again, Republicans argued that the vital essence of the country is threatened by overweening government.

These economic values played well in places with a lot of Protestant dissenters and their cultural heirs. They struck chords with people whose imaginations are inspired by the frontier experience.

But, each year, there are more Americans whose cultural roots lie elsewhere. Each year, there are more people from different cultures, with different attitudes toward authority, different attitudes about individualism, different ideas about what makes people enterprising.

More important, people in these groups are facing problems not captured by the fundamental Republican equation: more government = less vitality.

The Pew Research Center does excellent research on Asian-American and Hispanic values. Two findings jump out. First, people in these groups have an awesome commitment to work. By most measures, members of these groups value industriousness more than whites.

Second, they are also tremendously appreciative of government. In survey after survey, they embrace the idea that some government programs can incite hard work, not undermine it; enhance opportunity, not crush it.

Moreover, when they look at the things that undermine the work ethic and threaten their chances to succeed, it’s often not government. It’s a modern economy in which you can work more productively, but your wages still don’t rise. It’s a bloated financial sector that just sent the world into turmoil. It’s a university system that is indispensable but unaffordable. It’s chaotic neighborhoods that can’t be cured by withdrawing government programs.

For these people, the Republican equation is irrelevant. When they hear Romney talk abstractly about Big Government vs. Small Government, they think: He doesn’t get me or people like me.

Let’s just look at one segment, Asian-Americans. Many of these people are leading the lives Republicans celebrate. They are, disproportionately, entrepreneurial, industrious and family-oriented. Yet, on Tuesday, Asian-Americans rejected the Republican Party by 3 to 1. They don’t relate to the Republican equation that more government = less work.

Over all, Republicans have lost the popular vote in five out of the six post-cold-war elections because large parts of the country have moved on. The basic Republican framing no longer resonates.

Some Republicans argue that they can win over these rising groups with a better immigration policy. That’s necessary but insufficient. The real problem is economic values.

If I were given a few minutes with the Republican billionaires, I’d say: spend less money on marketing and more on product development. Spend less on “super PACs” and more on research. Find people who can shift the debate away from the abstract frameworks — like Big Government vs. Small Government. Find people who can go out with notebooks and study specific, grounded everyday problems: what exactly does it take these days to rise? What exactly happens to the ambitious kid in Akron at each stage of life in this new economy? What are the best ways to rouse ambition and open fields of opportunity?

Don’t get hung up on whether the federal government is 20 percent or 22 percent of G.D.P. Let Democrats be the party of security, defending the 20th-century welfare state. Be the party that celebrates work and inflames enterprise. Use any tool, public or private, to help people transform their lives.

    The Party of Work, NYT, 8.11.2012,






Let’s Not Make a Deal


November 8, 2012
The New York Times


To say the obvious: Democrats won an amazing victory. Not only did they hold the White House despite a still-troubled economy, in a year when their Senate majority was supposed to be doomed, they actually added seats.

Nor was that all: They scored major gains in the states. Most notably, California — long a poster child for the political dysfunction that comes when nothing can get done without a legislative supermajority — not only voted for much-needed tax increases, but elected, you guessed it, a Democratic supermajority.

But one goal eluded the victors. Even though preliminary estimates suggest that Democrats received somewhat more votes than Republicans in Congressional elections, the G.O.P. retains solid control of the House thanks to extreme gerrymandering by courts and Republican-controlled state governments. And Representative John Boehner, the speaker of the House, wasted no time in declaring that his party remains as intransigent as ever, utterly opposed to any rise in tax rates even as it whines about the size of the deficit.

So President Obama has to make a decision, almost immediately, about how to deal with continuing Republican obstruction. How far should he go in accommodating the G.O.P.’s demands?

My answer is, not far at all. Mr. Obama should hang tough, declaring himself willing, if necessary, to hold his ground even at the cost of letting his opponents inflict damage on a still-shaky economy. And this is definitely no time to negotiate a “grand bargain” on the budget that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

In saying this, I don’t mean to minimize the very real economic dangers posed by the so-called fiscal cliff that is looming at the end of this year if the two parties can’t reach a deal. Both the Bush-era tax cuts and the Obama administration’s payroll tax cut are set to expire, even as automatic spending cuts in defense and elsewhere kick in thanks to the deal struck after the 2011 confrontation over the debt ceiling. And the looming combination of tax increases and spending cuts looks easily large enough to push America back into recession.

Nobody wants to see that happen. Yet it may happen all the same, and Mr. Obama has to be willing to let it happen if necessary.

Why? Because Republicans are trying, for the third time since he took office, to use economic blackmail to achieve a goal they lack the votes to achieve through the normal legislative process. In particular, they want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, even though the nation can’t afford to make those tax cuts permanent and the public believes that taxes on the rich should go up — and they’re threatening to block any deal on anything else unless they get their way. So they are, in effect, threatening to tank the economy unless their demands are met.

Mr. Obama essentially surrendered in the face of similar tactics at the end of 2010, extending low taxes on the rich for two more years. He made significant concessions again in 2011, when Republicans threatened to create financial chaos by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. And the current potential crisis is the legacy of those past concessions.

Well, this has to stop — unless we want hostage-taking, the threat of making the nation ungovernable, to become a standard part of our political process.

So what should he do? Just say no, and go over the cliff if necessary.

It’s worth pointing out that the fiscal cliff isn’t really a cliff. It’s not like the debt-ceiling confrontation, where terrible things might well have happened right away if the deadline had been missed. This time, nothing very bad will happen to the economy if agreement isn’t reached until a few weeks or even a few months into 2013. So there’s time to bargain.

More important, however, is the point that a stalemate would hurt Republican backers, corporate donors in particular, every bit as much as it hurt the rest of the country. As the risk of severe economic damage grew, Republicans would face intense pressure to cut a deal after all.

Meanwhile, the president is in a far stronger position than in previous confrontations. I don’t place much stock in talk of “mandates,” but Mr. Obama did win re-election with a populist campaign, so he can plausibly claim that Republicans are defying the will of the American people. And he just won his big election and is, therefore, far better placed than before to weather any political blowback from economic troubles — especially when it would be so obvious that these troubles were being deliberately inflicted by the G.O.P. in a last-ditch attempt to defend the privileges of the 1 percent.

Most of all, standing up to hostage-taking is the right thing to do for the health of America’s political system.

So stand your ground, Mr. President, and don’t give in to threats. No deal is better than a bad deal.

    Let’s Not Make a Deal, NYT, 8.11.2012,






Obama win

shows demographic shifts

working against Republicans


WASHINGTON | Thu Nov 8, 2012
1:21pm EST
By Susan Heavey


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tuesday's decisive win by Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential election highlighted how population shifts - ethnic and generational - have buoyed Democrats while forcing Republicans to rethink their message.

Without recasting their core message and actively trying to expand their base beyond older mostly white Americans, conservatives could struggle even more in future elections as the nation's population incorporates more Latinos, Asians and other minorities as well as young voters, analysts said.

First-time voters, including many young people and immigrants, favored the president by large margins, while older voters leaned to Republican Mitt Romney, Reuters/Ipsos Election Day polling showed.

Obama won an estimated 66 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to Reuters/Ipsos election day polling, at a time when the Latino population is growing rapidly in states such as Florida, one of eight or so politically divided states that were crucial in the presidential race. Other estimates put Obama's share of the Hispanic vote above 70 percent.

"The nonwhite vote has been growing - tick, tick, tick - slowly, steadily. Every four-year cycle the electorate gets a little bit more diverse. And it's going to continue," said Paul Taylor of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

"This is a very powerful demographic that's changing our politics and our destiny," Taylor said, adding that the number of white voters is expected to continue to decline a few points in each future election cycle.

Data has shown for years that the United States is poised to become a "majority minority" nation - with whites a minority of the country - over the next several decades. But Tuesday's results highlighted the political impact.(See link.reuters.com/hyd83t for a graphic.)

About 80 percent of blacks, Latinos and other nonwhite voters cast their ballots for Obama on Tuesday compared with less than 17 percent for Romney, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling. Obama also won about 63 percent of total voters age 18 to 34.

Overall, Romney won nearly 57 percent of the white vote compared with 41 percent for Obama, the polling data showed. The vast majority of votes cast for Romney came from white voters.

Demographer William Frey said that division is troubling.

The United States has long history of racial divide stemming from its roots in slavery and including the civil rights battles of the 1960s.

"We still are a country that's kind of divided, and a lot of that fissure in the population tends to be based in race and age and ethnicity," said Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. "There's kind of a dangerous result in this election when we see older whites moving in one direction and younger minorities moving in another direction."

Frey said he sees the gap less as racism and more as a cultural generation gap.

"It's a little bit of a warning sign that we need to pay attention to," he said.



U.S. data released earlier this year showed the number of ethnic minority births topping 50 percent of the nation's total births for the first time..

It will be years before those newest Americans will be old enough to vote, but the demographic shift is clear. Most analysts project whites to be the racial U.S. minority sometime between 2040 and 2050.

Latinos, the fastest-growing demographic in the United States, are a huge factor.

More than 70 percent voted for Obama compared with about 28 percent for Romney, according to Reuters/Ipsos data.

"We are a much more diverse country than we were" just a generation or two ago, said Pew's Taylor, who also oversees the center's Social and Demographic Trends project and the Pew Hispanic Center. The rising number of multiracial children are also likely to become more of a factor, he added.

Obama, whose historic win in 2008 made him the first ethnic minority U.S. president, had a black father and a white mother.

Aging baby boomers also are a key factor in the demographic transition, as older voters "leave the electorate," as Taylor delicately put it, and young voters more accepting of diversity and an active government are added to the rolls.

That could help drive certain civil rights ballot initiatives, like votes in Maryland and Maine on Tuesday to approve same-sex marriage. In each instance, support from younger voters helped put the measures over the top.

"It was an election in which the future won over the past," said Marshall Ganz, a Harvard University lecturer on public policy, said of Tuesday's various contests.



Tuesday's outcome poses big questions for Republicans as they seek new national leaders and prepare for the next congressional election in 2014 and beyond.

Conservatives' stance against immigration reform and gay marriage is "a recipe for extinction," said analyst Mike Murphy, a one-time adviser to prominent Republicans including Arizona Senator John McCain, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.

"The question is whether or not we're going to have an adult conversation inside the party about our need to attract more people than grumpy old white guys," Murphy told MSNBC. "Demographically, our time is running out."

Ted Cruz, a Latino Republican elected to the U.S. Senate from Texas, said on CBS that his party had to recruit candidates who connect with that community in a "real and genuine way."

Not all Republicans were willing to concede to demographics. Some highlighted tactical and strategic issues in their lost bid for the White House and their failed efforts to take control of the U.S. Senate.

And analysts said Democrats, too, have lessons to learn.

"It is a very powerful wake-up call to both political parties," said Pew's Taylor.

Brookings' Frey said Democrats still must keep the white vote in mind for at least the next couple of election cycles.

"Whites are not dead," he said. "They're still a big part of this population."


(Additional reporting by Ros Krasny and Gabriel Debenedetti in Washington;

and David Adams in Miami; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

    Obama win shows demographic shifts working against Republicans, R, 8.11.2012,






Reversing Trend,

Life Span Shrinks

for Some Whites


September 20, 2012
The New York Times


For generations of Americans, it was a given that children would live longer than their parents. But there is now mounting evidence that this enduring trend has reversed itself for the country’s least-educated whites, an increasingly troubled group whose life expectancy has fallen by four years since 1990.

Researchers have long documented that the most educated Americans were making the biggest gains in life expectancy, but now they say mortality data show that life spans for some of the least educated Americans are actually contracting. Four studies in recent years identified modest declines, but a new one that looks separately at Americans lacking a high school diploma found disturbingly sharp drops in life expectancy for whites in this group. Experts not involved in the new research said its findings were persuasive.

The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance.

The steepest declines were for white women without a high school diploma, who lost five years of life between 1990 and 2008, said S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the lead investigator on the study, published last month in Health Affairs. By 2008, life expectancy for black women without a high school diploma had surpassed that of white women of the same education level, the study found.

White men lacking a high school diploma lost three years of life. Life expectancy for both blacks and Hispanics of the same education level rose, the data showed. But blacks over all do not live as long as whites, while Hispanics live longer than both whites and blacks.

“We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling,” said John G. Haaga, head of the Population and Social Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging, who was not involved in the new study.

The five-year decline for white women rivals the catastrophic seven-year drop for Russian men in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity in London.

The decline among the least educated non-Hispanic whites, who make up a shrinking share of the population, widened an already troubling gap. The latest estimate shows life expectancy for white women without a high school diploma was 73.5 years, compared with 83.9 years for white women with a college degree or more. For white men, the gap was even bigger: 67.5 years for the least educated white men compared with 80.4 for those with a college degree or better.

The dropping life expectancies have helped weigh down the United States in international life expectancy rankings, particularly for women. In 2010, American women fell to 41st place, down from 14th place in 1985, in the United Nations rankings. Among developed countries, American women sank from the middle of the pack in 1970 to last place in 2010, according to the Human Mortality Database.

The slump is so vexing that it became the subject of an inquiry by the National Academy of Sciences, which published a report on it last year.

“There’s this enormous issue of why,” said David Cutler, an economics professor at Harvard who was an author of a 2008 paper that found modest declines in life expectancy for less educated white women from 1981 to 2000. “It’s very puzzling and we don’t have a great explanation.”

And it is yet another sign of distress in one of the country’s most vulnerable groups during a period when major social changes are transforming life for less educated whites. Childbirth outside marriage has soared, increasing pressures on women who are more likely to be single parents. Those who do marry tend to choose mates with similar education levels, concentrating the disadvantage.

Inklings of this decline have been accumulating since 2008. Professor Cutler’s paper, published in Health Affairs, found a decline in life expectancy of about a year for less educated white women from 1990 to 2000. Three other studies, by Ahmedin Jemal, a researcher at the American Cancer Society; Jennifer Karas Montez, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at Harvard; and Richard Miech, a professor at the University of Colorado Denver, found increases in mortality rates (the ratio of deaths to a population) for the least educated Americans.

Professor Olshansky’s study, financed by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on an Aging Society, found by far the biggest decline in life expectancy for the least educated non-Hispanic whites, in large part because he isolated those without a high school diploma, a group usually combined with high school graduates. Non-Hispanic whites currently make up 63 percent of the population of the United States.

Researchers said they were baffled by the magnitude of the drop. Some cautioned that the results could be overstated because Americans without a high school diploma — about 12 percent of the population, down from about 22 percent in 1990, according to the Census Bureau — were a shrinking group that was now more likely to be disadvantaged in ways besides education, compared with past generations.

Professor Olshansky agreed that the group was now smaller, but said the magnitude of the drop in life expectancy was still a measure of deterioration. “The good news is that there are fewer people in this group,” he said. “The bad news is that those who are in it are dying more quickly.”

Researchers, including some involved in the earlier studies that found more modest declines in life expectancy, said that Professor Olshansky’s methodology was sound and that the findings reinforced evidence of a troubling pattern that has emerged for those at the bottom of the education ladder, particularly white women.

“Something is going on in the lives of disadvantaged white women that is leading to some really alarming trends in life expectancy,” said Ms. Montez of Harvard.

Researchers offered theories for the drop in life expectancy, but cautioned that none could fully explain it.

James Jackson, director of the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan and an author of the new study, said white women with low levels of education may exhibit more risky behavior than that of previous generations.

Overdoses from prescription drugs have spiked since 1990, disproportionately affecting whites, particularly women. Professor Miech, of the University of Colorado, noted the rise in a 2011 paper in the American Sociological Review, arguing that it was among the biggest changes for whites in recent decades and that it appeared to have offset gains for less educated people in the rate of heart attacks.

Ms. Montez, who studies women’s health, said that smoking was a big part of declines in life expectancy for less educated women. Smoking rates have increased among women without a high school diploma, both white and black, she said. But for men of the same education level, they have declined.

This group also has less access to health care than before. The share of working-age adults with less than a high school diploma who did not have health insurance rose to 43 percent in 2006, up from 35 percent in 1993, according to Mr. Jemal at the American Cancer Society. Just 10 percent of those with a college degree were uninsured last year, the Census Bureau reported.

The shift should be seen against the backdrop of sweeping changes in the American economy and in women’s lives, said Lisa Berkman, director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. The overwhelming majority of women now work, while fertility has remained higher than in European countries. For women in low-wage jobs, which are often less flexible, this could take a toll on health, a topic that Professor Berkman has a grant from the National Institute on Aging to study.

    Reversing Trend, Life Span Shrinks for Some Whites, NYT, 20.9.2012,






A Record Latino Turnout,

Solidly Backing Obama


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


Defying predictions that their participation would be lackluster, Latinos turned out in record numbers on Tuesday and voted for President Obama by broad margins, tipping the balance in at least three swing states and securing their position as an organized force in American politics with the power to move national elections.

Over all, according to exit polls not yet finalized by Edison Research, Mr. Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote while Mitt Romney won 27 percent. The gap of 44 percentage points was even greater than Mr. Obama’s 36-point advantage over John McCain in 2008.

After waiting in long lines in countless places — more than four hours at some South Florida polls — Latinos had such a strong turnout that it lifted them to 10 percent of voters nationwide, an increase from 6 percent in 2000. Latino leaders said their voters had cast ballots that ensured Mr. Obama’s relatively narrow plurality — fewer than 2.8 million votes — in the popular count.

“Latino voters confirmed unequivocally that the road to the White House passes through Latino neighborhoods,” said Clarissa Martinez De Castro, a top official at NCLR, the Hispanic organization also known as the National Council of La Raza, which joined in an extensive campaign this year to register and turn out voters.

Latinos’ greatest impact was in several battleground states portrayed by polls as close contests before Election Day. In Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, Mr. Obama won the Hispanic vote by big percentages that well exceeded margins of victory, exit polls showed. In each of those states, Latinos significantly increased their share of total voters, gaining influence that could be decisive in future elections.

In Florida, where Mr. Obama held a narrow lead on Wednesday in a race that had not yet been called, the president won among Latinos by 60 percent to 39 percent for Mr. Romney, among a group that now makes up 17 percent of the state’s voters.

Mr. Romney’s weak showing prompted Latino leaders to warn that Republicans could no longer afford to ignore or alienate Hispanics in national races. But they also immediately laid out an ambitious agenda for Mr. Obama, saying they expected to see jobs programs tailored to Latinos and quick action on legislation to give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.

“The sleeping Latino giant is wide-awake and it’s cranky,” said Eliseo Medina, international secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, another group that played a central role in spurring Latinos to vote. “We expect action and leadership on immigration reform in 2013. No more excuses. No more obstruction or gridlock.”

In many states, Latinos did not wait for either the Democratic or the Republican campaigns to come to them. Instead they mounted coordinated voter registration and education efforts, giving them a degree of independence as a voting bloc and creating popular networks that they said they planned to mobilize again to bring pressure on the White House and Congress.

In Arizona, a conservative state known for tough immigration enforcement policies that Mr. Romney won handily, Latinos saw setbacks. A bid to unseat Joe Arpaio, the hard-line sheriff of Maricopa County, was declared to have failed. A Hispanic Democrat, Richard Carmona, apparently was defeated in a Senate race by Jeff Flake, a popular Republican who has served in the House of Representatives.

Records from the office of Secretary of State Ken Bennett showed Wednesday that there were 600,000 votes yet to be counted statewide.

Luis Heredia, the executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, said the outcome of many close races could not be determined without the counting of those ballots.

A crucial piece of Mr. Obama’s winning strategy among Latinos was an initiative he announced in June to grant temporary reprieves from deportation to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants here illegally. In a survey of 5,600 Latino voters on the eve of the election by ImpreMedia and Latino Decisions, a polling group, 58 percent said the reprieves had made them “more enthusiastic” about Mr. Obama.

Last month, Mr. Romney said that he would end the reprieves if he became president, a move that solidified the view among many Latinos that he was hostile to a program they liked. It gives young immigrants protection from deportation for two years and also work permits that allow them to be employed legally in this country for the first time.

A campaign led by young immigrants eligible for the deferrals was one of the most effective voter mobilization efforts.

“Even though we could not vote, we had many friends and family members who could,” said Lorella Praeli, advocacy director of the United We Dream network, a youth group that led a voter campaign.

In Arizona, a dozen groups teamed up to increase Latino voter registration and to add more Latinos to the state’s early-voting list, which entitles voters to receive ballots by mail at their homes. The number of Latinos on early-voting lists rose substantially, to 225,000 this year from 96,000 in 2008, said Petra Falcón, director of Promise Arizona, one of the groups in that effort.

On Tuesday, the groups dispatched monitors to poll sites where they knew many Latino voters would be casting ballots for the first time.

By midmorning, it had become clear that a lot of them were being forced to cast provisional ballots because officials could not find their names on the rolls. In a precinct in Tolleson, 300 out of 342 votes cast by 4 p.m. were provisional ballots, according to poll monitors assigned to the site. At Word of Abundant Life Christian Center in West Phoenix, 68 out of 123 voters had used provisional ballots by that hour.

Adilene Montesinos, a poll worker at Progressive Baptist Church in Mesa, said the problem had affected Latinos and also blacks. “There were so many, we almost ran out of provisional ballots,” Ms. Montesinos said.

Officials in Maricopa County, which accounts for more than half of the state’s voters, said the count of provisional ballots was not likely to begin until Monday. The officials said Wednesday that 344,000 ballots remained to be counted, among them 115,000 provisional ballots.

    A Record Latino Turnout, Solidly Backing Obama, NYT, 7.11.2012,






As Electorate Changes,

Fresh Worry for G.O.P.


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


A couple of decades ago, Prince William County was one of the mostly white, somewhat rural, far-flung suburbs where Republican candidates went to accumulate the votes to win elections in Virginia.

Since then, Prince William has been transformed. Open tracts have given way to town houses and gated developments, as the county — about a half-hour south of Washington — has risen to have the seventh-highest household income in the country and has become the first county in Virginia where minorities make up more than half the population.

If Prince William looks like the future of the country, Democrats have so far developed a much more successful strategy of appealing to that future. On Tuesday, President Obama beat Mitt Romney by almost 15 percentage points in Prince William, nearly doubling George W. Bush’s margin over Al Gore in 2000, helping Mr. Obama to a surprisingly large victory in Virginia.

He did it not only by winning Hispanic voters, but also by winning strong majorities of the growing number of Asian-American voters and of voters under age 40. A version of his coalition in Virginia — a combination of minorities, women and younger adults — also helped Mr. Obama win Colorado, Nevada and perhaps Florida, which remained too close to call. He came close in North Carolina, a reliable state for Republican presidential nominees only a few years ago that he narrowly won in 2008.

The demographic changes in the American electorate have come with striking speed and have left many Republicans, who have not won as many electoral votes as Mr. Obama did on Tuesday in 24 years, concerned about their future. The Republicans’ Southern strategy, of appealing mostly to white voters, appears to have run into a demographic wall.

“Before, we thought it was an important issue, improving demographically,” said Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union. “Now, we know it’s an essential issue. You have to ignore reality not to deal with this issue.”

The central problem for Republicans is that the Democrats’ biggest constituencies are growing. Asian-Americans, for example, made up 3 percent of the electorate, up from 2 percent in 2008, and went for Mr. Obama by about 47 percentage points. Republicans increasingly rely on older white voters. And contrary to much conventional wisdom, voters do not necessarily grow more conservative as they age; until the last decade, a majority of both younger and older voters both tended to go to the winner of the presidential election.

This year, Mr. Obama managed to win a second term despite winning only 39 percent of white voters and 44 percent of voters older than 65, according to exit polls not yet finalized conducted by Edison Research. White men made up only about one-quarter of Mr. Obama’s voters. In the House of Representatives next year, for the first time, white men will make up less than half of the Democratic caucus.

The Republican Party “needs messages and policies that appeal to a broader audience,” said Mark McKinnon, a former strategist for George W. Bush. “This election proved that trying to expand a shrinking base ain’t going to cut it. It’s time to put some compassion back in conservatism. The party needs more tolerance, more diversity and a deeper appreciation for the concerns of the middle class.”

Nothing in politics is permanent, and Republicans may soon find ways to appeal to minorities and younger voters. As Hispanic and Asian voters continue to move up the income scale, for example, more of them may turn skeptical about Democratic calls to raise taxes on the affluent.

And the Democrats may yet confront their own demographic challenges once they no longer have Mr. Obama and his billion-dollar campaign machine at the top of the ticket, guaranteeing record-breaking turnout among his new Democratic coalition. If turnout among blacks, Hispanics and younger voters — groups that have historically had comparatively low turnout rates — had declined slightly, Mr. Obama might have lost.

But the immediate question for Republicans, people in the party say, is how to improve their image with voters they are already losing in large numbers.

“You don’t have to sell out on the issues and suddenly take on the Democratic position on taxes to win the black vote or the Latino vote or the women vote,” said Corey Stewart, a Republican who is chairman of the Board of County Supervisors in Prince William. “But you do have to modulate your tone.”

Mr. Stewart, who is running for lieutenant governor next year, drew some criticism in 2007 by pushing for local crackdowns by the police on illegal immigrants. That has cost him support among many Hispanic voters in the county, but he says it helped him politically among blacks who felt threatened economically by the surge of newcomers.

“The changes are stark,” he said. “The minority population is increasing, and the white population is stagnant.”

Mr. Stewart said he had spent much time in the county’s minority areas and contrasted his political success with the failure of Mr. Romney, whose only planned visit to Prince William was in the western town of Haymarket, a wealthy, white part of the county.

“He did not go into the minority areas,” Mr. Stewart said. “They didn’t go into the areas where they didn’t feel comfortable. They tended to go to areas where they already had their votes, in heavily white areas.”

In Prince William, as elsewhere, the biggest challenge for Republicans may be among Hispanic voters, given their numbers. Mr. Obama’s victories in Colorado, Nevada and Virginia came in part because Hispanics turned out in droves and voted Democratic. In Colorado, 14 percent of the voters were Hispanic, and Mr. Obama won three-fourths of them. In Florida, Hispanic voters were almost one-fifth of the electorate, and Mr. Obama won about three-fifths of them.

Mr. Cardenas, a former chairman of the Florida Republican Party and a loyal supporter of Mr. Romney’s, says his party would never earn their support until it found a new to address of illegal immigration.

“We need to check off that box; we need to get immigration reform done in 2013,” he said. “We need to show that Republicans are willing to sit at the table and reach a compromise that is in keeping with what the Hispanic community wants and needs.”

Even that issue brings risks, though, because any immigration bill that passed in 2013 would be signed by and associated with a Democratic president. The harder challenge for Republicans will be developing proposals that minority and younger voters associate with the party — and support.

In Prince William, the Hispanic population tripled from 2000 to 2010, much of it along the Route 1 corridor in Dale City. But Tom Davis, who used to represent Dale City as a Republican member of Congress, said that the problem for his former colleagues goes beyond just Hispanic outreach.

The party’s coalition is contracting, not expanding, he says. It has to find a way to broaden its reach, in part by finding more minority and female candidates to run under the Republican banner, Mr. Davis argues. And he said the outreach had to be real: “It’s not just putting them into the photo-ops at the convention.”

Republicans like Mr. Davis — and some inside Mr. Romney’s campaign — are quick to point out that the election this week was close, not a blowout. Mr. Davis said that it was “not time to panic” for Republicans. But he said Republicans must be honest with themselves about the future.

“It is time to sit down practically and say where are we going to add pieces to our coalition,” he said. “There just are not enough middle-aged white guys that we can scrape together to win. There’s just not enough of them.”


Allison Kopicki contributed reporting.

    As Electorate Changes, Fresh Worry for G.O.P., NYT, 7.11.2012,






Little to Show

for Cash Flood by Big Donors


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


At the private air terminal at Logan Airport in Boston early Wednesday, men in unwrinkled suits sank into plush leather chairs as they waited to board Gulfstream jets, trading consolations over Mitt Romney’s loss the day before.

“All I can say is the American people have spoken,” said Kenneth Langone, the founder of Home Depot and one of Mr. Romney’s top fund-raisers, briskly plucking off his hat and settling into a couch.

The biggest single donor in political history, the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, mingled with other Romney backers at a postelection breakfast, fresh off a large gamble gone bad. Of the eight candidates he supported with tens of millions of dollars in contributions to “super PACs,” none were victorious on Tuesday.

And as calls came in on Wednesday from some of the donors who had poured more than $300 million into the pair of big-spending outside groups founded in part by Karl Rove — perhaps the leading political entrepreneur of the super PAC era — he offered them a grim upside: without us, the race would not have been as close as it was.

The most expensive election in American history drew to a close this week with a price tag estimated at more than $6 billion, propelled by legal and regulatory decisions that allowed wealthy donors to pour record amounts of cash into races around the country.

But while outside spending affected the election in innumerable ways — reshaping the Republican presidential nominating contest, clogging the airwaves with unprecedented amounts of negative advertising and shoring up embattled Republican incumbents in the House — the prizes most sought by the emerging class of megadonors remained outside their grasp. President Obama will return to the White House in January, and the Democrats have strengthened their lock on the Senate.

The election’s most lavishly self-financed candidate fared no better. Linda E. McMahon, a Connecticut Republican who is a former professional wrestling executive, spent close to $100 million — nearly all of it her own money — on two races for the Senate, conceding defeat on Tuesday for the second time in three years.

“Money is a necessary condition for electoral success,” said Bob Biersack, a senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending. “But it’s not sufficient, and it’s never been.”

Even by the flush standards of a campaign in which the two presidential candidates raised $1 billion each, the scale of outside spending was staggering: more than $1 billion all told, about triple the amount in 2010.

Mr. Obama faced at least $386 million in negative advertising from super PACs and other outside spenders, more than double what the groups supporting him spent on the airwaves. Outside groups spent more than $37 million in Virginia’s Senate race and $30 million in Ohio’s, a majority to aid the Republican candidates.

The bulk of that outside money came from a relatively small group of wealthy donors, unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed unlimited contributions to super PACs. Harold Simmons, a Texas industrialist, gave $26.9 million to super PACs backing Mr. Romney and Republican candidates for the Senate. Joe Ricketts, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, spent close to $13 million to bankroll a super PAC attacking Mr. Obama over federal spending.

Bob Perry, a Texas homebuilder, poured more than $21 million into super PACs active in the presidential race and the Senate battles in Florida and Virginia, where Democrats narrowly prevailed. A donor network marshaled by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and conservative philanthropists, reportedly sought to raise $400 million for tax-exempt groups that are not required to disclose their spending.

Mr. Adelson’s giving to super PACs and other outside groups came to more than $60 million, though in public Mr. Adelson did not seem overly concerned about the paltry returns on his investment.

“Paying bills,” Mr. Adelson said on Tuesday night when asked by a Norwegian reporter how he thought his donations had been spent. “That’s how you spend money. Either that or become a Jewish husband — you spend a lot of money.”

Flush with cash, Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic ones by an even greater margin than in 2010. But rather than produce a major partisan imbalance, the money merely evened the playing field in many races.

In several competitive Senate races, high spending by outside groups was offset to a large extent with stronger fund-raising by Democratic candidates, assisted at the margins by Democratic super PACs. For much of the fall, Mr. Obama and Democratic groups broadcast at least as many ads, and sometimes more, in swing states than Mr. Romney and his allied groups, in part because Mr. Obama was able to secure lower ad rates by paying for most of the advertising himself. Mr. Romney relied far more on outside groups, which must pay higher rates.

Haley Barbour, a former Mississippi governor who helped Mr. Rove raise money for American Crossroads and its sister group, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, said that without a blitz of coordinated anti-Obama advertising in the summer, the campaign would not have been as competitive.

“I believe that some of that money actually kept Romney from getting beat down by the carpet-bombing he underwent from the Obama forces,” Mr. Barbour said. “I did look at it more as us trying to keep our candidates from getting swamped, like what happened to McCain.”

Some advocates for tighter campaign financing regulations argued that who won or lost was beside the point. The danger, they argued, is that in the post-Citizens United world, candidates and officeholders on both sides of the aisle are far more beholden to the wealthy individuals who can finance large-scale independent spending.

“Unlimited contributions and secret money in American politics have resulted in the past in scandal and the corruption of government decisions,” said Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, a watchdog group. “This will happen again in the future.”

But on Wednesday, at least, the nation’s megadonors returned home with lighter wallets and few victories.

As the morning wore on at Logan Airport, more guests from Mr. Romney’s election-night party at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center trickled in, lugging garment bags and forming a small line at the security checkpoint.

“It’s going to be a long flight home, isn’t it?” said one person, who asked not to be identified.

The investor Julian Robertson, who held fund-raisers for Mr. Romney and gave more than $2 million to a pro-Romney super PAC, arrived with several companions. Mr. Robertson spotted an acquaintance: Emil W. Henry Jr., an economic adviser and a fund-raiser for Mr. Romney, to whom Mr. Robertson had offered a ride on his charter.

“Aww, group hug,” Mr. Henry said.


Ashley Parker contributed reporting.

    Little to Show for Cash Flood by Big Donors, NYT, 7.11.2012,






An Invigorated Second Term


November 7, 2012
The New York Times

Early Wednesday morning, as sleep-deprived supporters rallied for a final cheer, President Obama concluded his re-election campaign with a promising glimpse at what the fight was all about: a second-term agenda that can make real progress on issues neglected in the first.

Without question, the president intends to build on and improve the significant accomplishments of the last four years, particularly the full implementation of health care reform and the use of government policy to keep the economy growing. But the president went beyond that in his victory speech and added some less familiar words to his policy vocabulary.

Children should live in a world that is not burdened by debt or weakened by inequality, he said, but also one “that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” That suggests he knows he has an opportunity to address climate change with more vigor, going beyond auto-mileage standards and renewable-energy jobs to possibly advocating tougher carbon emissions standards.

The president also said he was looking forward to working with Republicans to fix the immigration system, giving him a chance to do more than promote the Dream Act for young immigrants. He could lead the way to comprehensive reform that combines strong enforcement with a path to citizenship for immigrants already here. He also hinted that combating poverty might move higher on his priority list.

And he spoke of tax reform, an issue that will immediately begin to grow louder with the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts at year’s end. Mr. Obama won re-election on an unambiguous promise not to renew those cuts for incomes of $250,000 or more, and his supporters expect him to stick to that vow. In coming months, after he persuades Congress to keep taxes from rising on the middle class, he should push to restore a fair estate tax and raise the low capital gains rate to the level of ordinary income.

He even mentioned the need to fix a balloting system that left thousands of people standing in long lines to vote this week, a tantalizing hint that electoral reform might become a priority.

All these agenda items require the same ingredient: ending his standoffish attitude toward Congress and working closely with any leader or lawmaker willing to make real progress. That may be easier now that Senate Democrats (and their independent allies) have expanded their majority by two seats to 55, many of them filled with newcomers more liberal and feisty than their predecessors, most notably Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

The new Democratic caucus’s first order of business should be a reform of the filibuster that prevents its routine abuse by Republicans, and the majority leader, Harry Reid, suggested Wednesday that he supported some modest changes. The newcomers, along with the White House, should forcefully advocate that he go as far as possible.

A newly energized Obama administration and Senate could have the effect of isolating the supply-side dead-enders in the House. John Boehner, the House speaker, announced Wednesday that nothing had changed; he and his caucus still oppose higher tax rates for the rich and still want to pursue Mr. Romney’s defeated goal of raising revenue by lowering rates and cutting unspecified loopholes. Standing up to Republican recalcitrance on this and many other issues will require bringing to bear political pressure from the coalition that gave Mr. Obama a commanding victory in the Electoral College on Tuesday.

The president’s victory was decisive, and many who didn’t support him nonetheless told pollsters that they agreed with his positions on taxes, health care and immigration. He now needs to use the power that voters have given to him to enhance and broaden his agenda.

    An Invigorated Second Term, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Back to Work,

Obama Is Greeted

by Looming Fiscal Crisis


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


Newly re-elected, President Obama moved quickly on Wednesday to open negotiations with Congressional Republican leaders over the main unfinished business of his term — a major deficit-reduction deal to avert a looming fiscal crisis — as he began preparing for a second term that will include significant cabinet changes.

Mr. Obama, while still at home in Chicago at midday, called Speaker John A. Boehner in what was described as a brief and cordial exchange on the need to reach some budget compromise in the lame-duck session of Congress starting next week. Later at the Capitol, Mr. Boehner publicly responded before assembled reporters with his most explicit and conciliatory offer to date on Republicans’ willingness to raise tax revenues, but not top rates, together with a spending cut package.

“Mr. President, this is your moment,” said Mr. Boehner, a day after Congressional Republicans suffered election losses but kept their House majority. “We’re ready to be led — not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans. We want you to lead, not as a liberal or a conservative, but as president of the United States of America.”

His statement came a few hours after Senator Harry Reid, leader of a Democratic Senate majority that made unexpected gains, extended his own olive branch to the opposition. While saying that Democrats would not be pushed around, Mr. Reid, a former boxer, added, “It’s better to dance than to fight.”

Both men’s remarks followed Mr. Obama’s own overture in his victory speech after midnight on Wednesday. “In the coming weeks and months,” he said, “I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil.”

After his speech, Mr. Obama tried to call both Mr. Boehner and the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, but was told they were asleep. The efforts from both sides, after a long and exhausting campaign, suggested the urgency of acting in the few weeks before roughly $700 billion in automatic tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts take effect at year’s end — the “fiscal cliff.” A failure to reach agreement could arrest the economic recovery.

Corporate America and financial markets for months have been dreading the prospect of a partisan impasse. Stocks fell on Wednesday, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closing down 2.4 percent. The reasons for the drop were unclear, given that stock futures did not drop significantly on Tuesday night as the election results became clear. Analysts cited fears about the economic impact of such big federal spending cuts and tax increases, but also about new economic troubles in Europe.

While Mr. Obama enters the next fray with heightened leverage, both sides agree, the coming negotiations hold big risks for both parties and for the president’s ability to pursue other priorities in a new term, like investments in education and research, and an overhaul of immigration law.

The president flew back to Washington from Chicago late on Wednesday, his post-election relief reflected in a playful race up the steps of Air Force One with his younger daughter, Sasha. At the White House, he prepared to shake up his staff to help him tackle daunting economic and international challenges. He will study lists of candidates for various positions that a senior adviser, Pete Rouse, assembled in recent weeks as Mr. Obama crisscrossed the country campaigning.

The most prominent members of his cabinet will leave soon. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner long ago said they would depart after the first term, and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, previously the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, has signaled that he wants to return to California in the coming year. Also expected to depart is David Plouffe, one of the president’s closest confidants.

Mr. Obama is expected to reshuffle both his inner circle and his economic team as he accommodates the changes. For example, Jacob J. Lew, Mr. Obama’s current White House chief of staff and former budget director, is said to be a prime candidate to become Treasury secretary. For the foreseeable future, the holder of that job is likely to be at the center of budget negotiations, and Mr. Lew has experience in such bargaining dating to his work as a senior adviser to Congressional Democrats 30 years ago in bipartisan talks with President Ronald Reagan.

“They’ve been thinking about this for some time and they’re going to have a lot of positions to fill at the highest levels,” said former Senator Tom Daschle, who has close ties to the White House.

Both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush ended up replacing about half of their cabinet members between terms, and Mr. Obama could end up doing about the same, especially since his team has served through wars and economic crisis. John D. Podesta, a chief of staff for Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama’s transition adviser, said, “There’s a certain amount of new energy you want to inject into any team.”

There is talk about bringing in Republicans and business executives to help rebuild bridges to both camps. The one Republican in the cabinet now, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, has said he will leave. One possible candidate, advisers say, could be Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a Republican moderate from Maine who is retiring.

A front-runner for secretary of state appears to be Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Democrats said worries about losing his Senate seat to the Republicans in a special election had diminished with Tuesday’s victories. Another candidate has been Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, but she has been a target of Republicans since she provided the administration’s initial accounts, which proved to be wrong, of the September terrorist attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

While no one in the White House blames her, “she’s crippled,” said one adviser who asked not to be named discussing personnel matters. Another possible candidate, Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, has told Mr. Obama he wants to stay in his current position, according to a White House official.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., once expected to leave, now seems more likely to stay for a while. Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, would like to be attorney general and is widely respected in the White House.

Among other cabinet officers who may leave are Ron Kirk, the trade representative; Steven Chu, the energy secretary; Ken Salazar, the interior secretary; Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, and Lisa P. Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency chief. But Valerie Jarrett, the president’s longtime friend and senior adviser, plans to stay, according to Democrats close to her.

It may be weeks before Mr. Obama starts making personnel announcements. His first priority is policy, and its politics — positioning for the budget showdown in the lame-duck session, to try to avoid the fiscal cliff by agreeing with Republicans to alternative deficit-reduction measures.

If Mr. Obama got a mandate for anything after a campaign in which he was vague on second-term prescriptions, he can and will claim one for his argument that wealthy Americans like himself and his vanquished Republican rival, Mitt Romney, should pay higher income taxes. That stance was a staple of Mr. Obama’s campaign stump speeches for more than a year. And most voters, in surveys of those leaving the polls on Tuesday, agreed with him.

Specifically, Mr. Obama has called — over Republicans’ objections — for extending the Bush-era income tax cuts, which expire Dec. 31, only for households with taxable income below $250,000 a year.

“This election tells us a lot about the political wisdom of defending tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of everything else,” a senior administration official said early on Wednesday.

But Mr. Boehner, in his public remarks on Wednesday, sought to avoid a White House tax trap that would have Republicans boxed in as defenders of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Speaking for Republicans after a conference call with his Congressional colleagues, Mr. Boehner said he was ready to accept a budget deal that raised federal revenues, but not the top rates on high incomes. And the deal, he said, also would have to overhaul both the tax code and programs like Medicare and Medicaid, whose growth as the population ages is driving projections of unsustainable future debt.

Instead of allowing the top rates to go up, which Republicans say would harm the economy, Mr. Boehner said Washington should end some deductions and loopholes to raise revenues. The economic growth that would result from a significant deficit reduction compromise would bring in additional revenues as well, he said.

Mr. Boehner entered the ornate Capitol room with none of his usual bonhomie, walked to a lectern and spoke in formal tones from two Teleprompters. He then hastened out of the room, ignoring shouted questions.


Jonathan Weisman contributed reporting.

    Back to Work, Obama Is Greeted by Looming Fiscal Crisis, NYT, 7.11.2012,






How a Race in the Balance

Went to Obama


November 7, 2012T
he New York Times


Seven minutes into the first presidential debate, the mood turned from tense to grim inside the room at the University of Denver where Obama staff members were following the encounter. Top aides monitoring focus groups — voters who registered their minute-by-minute reactions with the turn of a dial — watched as enthusiasm for Mitt Romney spiked. “We are getting bombed on Twitter,” announced Stephanie Cutter, a deputy campaign manager, while tracking the early postings by political analysts and journalists whom the Obama campaign viewed as critical in setting debate perceptions.

By the time President Obama had waded through a convoluted answer about health care — “He’s not mentioning voucher-care?” someone called out — a pall had fallen over the room. When the president closed by declaring, “This was a terrific debate,” his re-election team grimaced. There was the obligatory huddle to discuss how to explain his performance to the nation, and then a moment of paralysis: No one wanted to go to the spin room and speak with reporters.

Mr. Romney’s advisers monitored the debate up the hall from the Obama team, as well as at campaign headquarters in Boston. Giddy smiles flashed across their faces as their focus groups showed the same results.

“Boy, the president is off tonight,” said Stuart Stevens, the senior Romney strategist, sounding mystified, according to aides in the room. Russ Schriefer, a senior adviser, immediately began planning television spots based entirely on clips from the debate. As it drew to a close, Gail Gitcho, Mr. Romney’s communications director in Boston, warned surrogates heading out to television studios: “No chest thumping.”

The Oct. 3 debate sharply exposed Mr. Obama’s vulnerabilities and forced the president and his advisers to work to reclaim the campaign over a grueling 30 days, ending with his triumph on Tuesday. After a summer of growing confidence, Mr. Obama suddenly confronted the possibility of a loss that would diminish his legacy and threaten his signature achievement, the health care law. He emerged newly combative, newly contrite and newly willing to recognize how his disdain for Mr. Romney had blinded him to his opponent’s strengths and ability to inflict damage.

After watching a videotape of his debate performance, Mr. Obama began calling panicked donors and supporters to reassure them he would do better. “This is on me,” the president said, again and again.

Mr. Obama, who had dismissed warnings about being caught off guard in the debate, told his advisers that he would now accept and deploy the prewritten attack lines that he had sniffed at earlier. “If I give up a couple of points of likability and come across as snarky, so be it,” Mr. Obama told his staff.

As his campaign began an all-out assault on Mr. Romney’s credibility and conservative views, the president soon was denouncing Mr. Romney’s budget proposals as a “sketchy deal” and charging that the Republican nominee was not telling Americans the truth.

Mr. Obama recognized that to a certain extent, he had walked into a trap that Mr. Romney’s advisers had anticipated: His antipathy toward Mr. Romney — which advisers described as deeper than what Mr. Obama had felt for John McCain in 2008 — led the incumbent to underestimate his opponent as he began moving to the center before the debate audience of millions of television viewers.

But as concerned as the White House was during the last 30 days of the campaign, its polls never showed Mr. Obama slipping behind Mr. Romney, aides said. The president was helped in no small part by the tremendous amount of money the campaign built up, which had permitted him to pound his Republican rival before he had ever had a chance to fully introduce himself to the nation.

That was just one of several ways that Mr. Obama’s campaign operations, some unnoticed by Mr. Romney’s aides in Boston, helped save the president’s candidacy. In Chicago, the campaign recruited a team of behavioral scientists to build an extraordinarily sophisticated database packed with names of millions of undecided voters and potential supporters. The ever-expanding list let the campaign find and register new voters who fit the demographic pattern of Obama backers and methodically track their views through thousands of telephone calls every night.

That allowed the Obama campaign not only to alter the very nature of the electorate, making it younger and less white, but also to create a portrait of shifting voter allegiances. The power of this operation stunned Mr. Romney’s aides on election night, as they saw voters they never even knew existed turn out in places like Osceola County, Fla. “It’s one thing to say you are going to do it; it’s another thing to actually get out there and do it,” said Brian Jones, a senior adviser.

In the last days of the campaign, Mr. Romney cast himself as the candidate that he may have wanted to be all along: moderate in tone, an agent of change who promised to bring bipartisan cooperation back to Washington, sounding very much like Barack Obama in 2008.

But he could never overcome the harm that Mr. Obama’s advertising had done over the summer or the weight of the ideological baggage he carried from the primary. On Tuesday night, a crestfallen Mr. Romney and his family watched as the television networks showed him losing all but one battleground state.

Even as the networks declared Mr. Obama the winner, Mr. Romney, who had earlier told reporters he had written only a victory speech, paused before the walk downstairs from his hotel room in Boston. It was 11:30 p.m., and Romney field teams in Ohio, Virginia and Florida called in, saying the race was too close for the candidate to give up. At least four planes were ready to go, and aides had bags packed for recount battles in narrowly divided states. Bob White, a close Romney friend and adviser, was prepared to tell the waiting crowd that Mr. Romney would not yet concede.

But then, Mr. Romney quietly decided it was over. “It’s not going to happen,” he said.

As Ann Romney cried softly, he headed down to deliver his speech, ending his second, and presumably last, bid for the White House. Four decades earlier, his father and inspiration, George Romney, a former Michigan governor failed in his own such quest.

By the end of the 30 days, after Air Force One carried Mr. Obama on an almost round-the-clock series of rallies, the president had reverted back to the agent of change battling the forces of the status quo, drawing contrasts between himself and Mr. Romney with an urgency that had been absent earlier in the race. Mr. Obama had returned, if not to the candidate that he was in 2008, as a man hungry for four more years to pursue his agenda in the White House.


A Difficult September

As the summer came to a close, the Romney campaign was stuck in a tense debate over how to rescue a struggling candidacy. On some nights, it did not even bother with the daily tracking poll. Why waste money on more bad news? Mr. Obama’s attack on Mr. Romney’s role at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded, was in full swing, the Democratic convention had been an unequivocal boost for the president, and a videotape had surfaced that caught Mr. Romney at a private fund-raiser saying that 47 percent of the nation did not pay taxes, a line that reinforced Democrats’ efforts to portray him as an out-of-touch elitist.

“We had struggled pretty dramatically in September,” said Neil Newhouse, Mr. Romney’s pollster. “The 47 percent remark came out, and that was on top of the bounce that Obama got from his convention, so needless to say September was not our best month. It showed in our data. It was grim.”

There was, advisers decided, one last opportunity on the horizon: the presidential debate in Denver.

Mr. Stevens argued that Mr. Obama’s dislike of Mr. Romney would lead the president to underestimate him. “They think there’s something intellectually inferior there,” he said later. Mr. Romney’s advisers also believed that Mr. Obama had demonized Mr. Romney to such an extent that their candidate would benefit when judged against the caricature.

In August, Mr. Romney began testing out one-liners on friends flying with him on his campaign plane. On issue after issue, Mr. Romney led discussions on how to frame his answers, to move away from the conservative tone of his primary contests in front of the largest audience he would have as a candidate.

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio was recruited to play Mr. Obama, and he embraced the role, even anticipating how the president would open his first debate, which fell on his wedding anniversary. “I’ve got to tell you, tonight’s a really special night,” Mr. Portman said, playing Mr. Obama. “I see my sweetie out there, boy, 20 years ago.”

(Mr. Romney’s advisers broke out in laughter when the real Mr. Obama opened with a similar line, and nodded approvingly when a very prepared Mr. Romney countered with a gracious response that even Democrats said put Mr. Obama off balance.)

Nothing had been left to chance: Mr. Romney put on full makeup and did his final practice in a room set up to replicate, down to the lighting and temperature, the hall where he would meet Mr. Obama.

On the Sunday before the debate, a group of top advisers and elected Republican officials from across the country, calling themselves the War Council, gathered in Boston to reassure Mr. Romney after his rough month — essentially saying “this is a place in the race, but it isn’t a destiny” as Beth Myers, a senior adviser, put it — and to boost his confidence. George W. Bush phoned Mr. Romney, too. Pointing to his own history, he predicted that Mr. Obama would fumble, according to aides.

Democrats advising Mr. Obama saw the same peril for the president in the first debate that Mr. Romney’s aides did. Ronald A. Klain, a Democratic strategist who has overseen debate preparation for presidential candidates for nearly 20 years, warned Mr. Obama at his very first debate session, a PowerPoint presentation in the Roosevelt Room on a sweltering day in mid-July, that incumbent presidents almost invariably lose their first debate.

“It’s easier for a candidate to schedule the time to prepare; it’s easy for the challenger to get away; the president has competing needs,” Mr. Klain told Mr. Obama, according to aides who witnessed the exchange.

Ken Mehlman, who had managed Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004, ran into one of Mr. Obama’s advisers at a party, and warned him that presidents are not used to being challenged, and unlike candidates, are out of practice at verbal jousting. Mr. Romney had gone through 20 debates over the past year.

Mr. Obama showed no interest in watching the Republican debates. But his aides studied them closely, and concluded that Mr. Romney was a powerful debater, hard to intimidate and fast to throw out assertions that would later prove wrong or exaggerated. At one debate, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas criticized Mr. Romney for having praised Arne Duncan, the education secretary, days earlier. Mr. Romney flatly denied it, leaving Mr. Perry speechless.

At the White House, Mr. Obama’s communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, took note of that moment, intending to mention it to Mr. Obama. He would later fault himself for failing to fully understand “the magnitude of the challenge” Mr. Romney’s debate style presented.

Mr. Obama displayed little concern. When he went to a resort outside Las Vegas for several days of debate preparation in September, his impatience with the exercise was evident when he escaped for an excursion to the Hoover Dam.

Mr. Klain and David Axelrod, a senior strategist, told Mr. Obama that he seemed distracted, but he shrugged them off. “I’ll be there on game day,” he said. “I’m a game day player.”

Shortly after the debate began, Mr. Obama’s aides realized they had made their own mistakes in advising Mr. Obama to avoid combative exchanges that might sacrifice the good will many Americans felt toward him. In Mr. Obama’s mock debates with Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, Mr. Kerry drew Mr. Obama into a series of intense exchanges, and Mr. Axelrod decided that they were damaging to the president.

In 90 minutes, Mr. Obama crystallized what had been gnawing concerns among many Americans about the president. He came across, as Mr. Obama’s advisers told him over the next few days, as professorial, arrogant, entitled and detached from the turmoil tearing the nation. He appeared to be disdainful not only of his opponent but also of the political process itself. Mr. Obama showed no passion for the job, and allowed Mr. Romney to explode the characterization of him as a wealthy, job-destroying venture capitalist that the Obama campaign had spent months creating.

The voter-analysis database back in Chicago noted a precipitous drop in perceptions of Mr. Obama among independent voters, starting that night and lasting for four days, long before the public polls picked it up. Voters who had begun turning to Mr. Obama were newly willing to give Mr. Romney another look.

What was arguably the most dismal night of Mr. Obama’s political career could hardly have come at a worse time: Early voting was already under way in some states. Absentee ballots were on voters’ coffee tables that very night.

After the debate, Mr. Obama called Mr. Axelrod on his way back to the hotel room. He had read the early reviews on his iPad.

“I guess the consensus is that we didn’t have a very good night,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Axelrod.

“That is the consensus,” Mr. Axelrod said.

For the next 30 days, Mr. Romney and his advisers tried to capitalize on Mr. Obama’s mistakes. And Mr. Romney continued his drift toward the center, softening his language on abortion and immigration from the positions that had defined him during the Republican primaries. It was something that the White House had expected he would do. Perhaps most important, the debate gave him a swagger, confidence and presidential bearing that had been absent.

Mr. Romney soon recognized the scope of his accomplishment. He flew from Denver to Virginia for a rally the next day, and as the motorcade headed toward the event, there was so much traffic that Mr. Romney and his top advisers thought there must have been an accident. In fact, the roads were jammed with people on their way to see him.


A Storm’s Effect

It was clear that Hurricane Sandy was going to upend Mr. Obama’s final week of campaigning, but aides in Chicago were determined to squeeze in one more visit to Florida. It almost became a calamity.

To get ahead of the storm, the president flew to Orlando on Oct. 28, the evening before a morning event. But overnight, the storm intensified and accelerated. Well before dawn, the Air Force One crew told the president’s advisers that if he was going to beat the storm back to Washington, he had to leave at once. His aides blanched at the image of Mr. Obama stuck in sunny Florida as the storm roared up the Eastern Seaboard.

The White House announced the change of plans at 6:45 a.m. The president returned to the White House at 11:07 a.m. and went directly into the Situation Room, canceling his political events. The decision was costly to a campaign so dependent on organization: Mr. Obama used his rallies to collect supporters’ telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.

Once the storm struck, it was more of a problem for Mr. Romney. It put him in the position of struggling to explain the skepticism he had expressed during the Republican primaries about a federal role in disaster relief. Even worse, the hurricane pushed him off the stage at a crucial time.

In Boston, Mr. Romney’s aides broke out in a chorus of groans as they watched on television as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey offered effusive praise of the president’s handling of the disaster. They viewed it as a self-serving act of disloyalty from a man whom they had expected to deploy that very weekend on Mr. Romney’s behalf. The praise of Mr. Obama from a Republican governor came at the same time Mr. Romney had been portraying Mr. Obama as partisan and polarizing.

The same week, the president’s campaign released an advertisement in which another Republican, Colin Powell, a former secretary of state, endorsed Mr. Obama. The ad, Mr. Obama’s aides said, produced a spike of support from independent voters. (Mr. Obama’s aides grabbed the clip from a television interview with Mr. Powell, deciding not to chance asking him for permission).

Mr. Romney was finding Ohio, a state central to his victory, a stubborn target, as Mr. Obama benefited from the auto industry rescue he championed and that Mr. Romney had opposed. The Romney campaign sought to undermine Mr. Obama with an advertisement misleadingly implying that Jeep was moving jobs from Ohio to China. By every measure, the ad backfired, drawing attacks by leaders of auto companies that employed many of the blue-collar voters that Mr. Romney was trying to reach.

The futility of that effort was apparent outside the sprawling Jeep assembly plant in Toledo, which had just had a $500 million renovation for production of a new line of vehicles, a project requiring 1,100 new workers.

“Everyone here knows someone who works at Jeep,” Jim Wessel, a supply representative making a sales visit. He said no one would believe the ad. Speaking of Mr. Obama’s efforts to rescue the auto industry, he said,“I can just tell you I’m glad he did it.”

Mr. Romney was running out of states. He made an impulsive run on Pennsylvania, chasing what his aides said were tightening polls there. Mr. Romney had spent little time or money there before roaring in during the campaign’s final hours.

On the last weekend of the race, Mr. Romney scheduled a rally in Bucks County. Supporters began arriving at 2 p.m. But his plane was delayed, and as the hours rolled on — and the temperatures dropped — dozens of people were temporarily blocked by the Secret Service as they sought to leave. Mr. Romney arrived to an unpleasant scene: clusters of angry, cold supporters.

That Tuesday, Mr. Romney lost the state by 5 percentage points and watched Mr. Obama hold a 50,000-vote lead in Florida — a state that he had once been confident of winning.


Michael Barbaro, Michael D. Shear and Peter Baker contributed reporting.

    How a Race in the Balance Went to Obama, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Michelle Obama

Picked Kors for Election Night


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


NEW YORK (AP) — As Michelle Obama stepped on stage with her husband in Chicago early Wednesday morning, she accepted her role not only as first lady but fashion tastemaker for four more years — this time, wearing a Michael Kors magenta silk chine pin-tucked dress.

As Mrs. Obama joined President Barack Obama, she sported a dress pulled in at the waist, and she topped it with a black shrug that showed a peek of a vintage pink brooch from House of Lavande. She was surrounded by her trend-right daughters: Malia wore an electric-blue, A-line skirt with a pink studded belt that looks like the teen version of the first lady's signature Azzedine Alaia belt, and Sasha had on an abstract-print green skirt, gray bow-front top and mimicked her mom's shrunken cardigan look.

Mrs. Obama has been a reinvigorating force for the fashion industry, from her late-night online J. Crew purchases to her savvy courtship with up-and-coming designers, including Prabal Gurung and Jason Wu. Kors has been a consistent label in her wardrobe, with Mrs. Obama wearing a black, racer-back dress by the designer in her official White House portrait, as well as a hot-pink gown for a White House Correspondents' Dinner and a red halter gown at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards dinner.

"Mrs. Obama looked chic and elegant as always on Election Night," Kors said in an email to the Associated Press. "My dress, with its strong color, clean lines and feminine silhouette, has all the elements that have become a part of the trademark style of our first lady."

The Council of Fashion Designers of America gave Mrs. Obama its Board of Directors' Special Tribute award in 2009 for her influence in the industry.

Four years ago on Election Night, Mrs. Obama wore a straight-from-the-runway black sheath dress with splashes of red by Narciso Rodriguez.

    Michelle Obama Picked Kors for Election Night, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Abroad, Obama’s Victory

Brings Demands for Attention


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


LONDON — World leaders sought comfort from the familiar on Wednesday after President Obama’s re-election but, with the global political landscape substantially unchanged and crises on hold while the vote unfolded, many vied with new vigor for his attention and favor as he embarks on a second term.

In marked contrast to a euphoric surge four years ago when many hailed Mr. Obama’s victory as a herald of renewal, the mood was subdued, reflecting not only the shadings of opinion between the American leader’s friends and foes but also a generally lowered expectation of America’s power overseas.

Mr. Obama, one French analyst said, is “very far from the hopes that inflamed his country four years ago.”

Even in Kenya, where Mr. Obama’s father was from, the energy surrounding this election was just a shadow of what it had been in 2008, when it seemed like the entire African continent was cheering him on. Many Kenyans have been disappointed that Mr. Obama has yet to visit as president, part of a broader feeling on the continent that Africa has not been a priority, certainly not compared with the unfolding nuclear debate in Iran and the civil war in Syria.

Some were quick to list their conflicting requirements, signaling the diplomatic shoals ahead.

Iranian officials hinted that talks were possible between Iran and the United States. “If it benefits the system, we will negotiate with the U.S.A. even in the depths of hell,” Mohammad Javad Larijani, one of several brothers with key positions in the ruling elite, told the semiofficial Mehr news agency, saying bilateral talks were “not taboo.”

Last month, some Obama administration officials said such talks had been agreed to in principle, but that was later denied in Washington and Tehran.

Danny Danon, the deputy speaker of the Israeli Parliament who is regarded as a staunch ally of the Republicans, evoked “the existential threat posed to Israel and the West by the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.”

“Now is the time for President Obama to return to the wise and time-honored policy of ‘zero daylight’ between our respective nations,” Mr. Danon said.

Mr. Danon is a member of the conservative Likud Party led by Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has tense relations with Mr. Obama and who was widely perceived in Israel and the United States as having supported the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, said in a brief statement that he hoped Mr. Obama would press for peace in the Middle East.

That call seemed mirrored in Malaysia, where Prime Minister Najib Razak urged Mr. Obama to “continue in his efforts to foster understanding and respect between the United States and Muslims around the world.”

But, after the upheaval of the Arab Spring, such overtures now seem more complex. In Cairo, where Mr. Obama committed himself three years ago to “a new beginning” with the Arab world, Essam el-Erian, a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party said in an online posting as the results became clear: “We have to realize that, after the Arab revolutions, we can reduce foreign interference in our domestic affairs and our foreign policy — with American interference first on the list.”

Before the outcome was known, Chinese analysts had summed up what seemed to be a widespread calculation that the Chinese leadership, itself scheduled to change in two days’ time, favored Mr. Obama “because he’s familiar,” said Wu Xinbo, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai. A victory for Mr. Romney would have made China “a little nervous because he might bring new policies.”

President Hu Jintao of China, praised the “hard work of the Chinese and American sides” over Mr. Obama’s first term in creating “positive developments” in their relationship.

“With an eye toward the future, China is willing, together with the United States, to continue to make efforts to promote the cooperative partnership between China and the United States so as to achieve new and even greater development, bringing better benefits to the people of the two countries and the people of the world.”

China’s response was colored by a pre-election pledge from Mr. Romney to label Beijing a currency manipulator. “With Obama continuing,” said Poon Tsang, a street market vendor in Hong Kong, “there should be some stability in his relationship with China.”

Across Europe, many greeted news of Mr. Obama’s re-election with a sense of mild relief, though it was not immediately clear whether those feelings were accompanied by any enhanced expectation that, armed with a new mandate, the Obama administration would find solutions to the huge challenges still facing it in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and the Middle East.

Imran Khan, a prominent Pakistani politician, urged the re-elected Mr. Obama to “give peace a chance” after a first term marked by “increased drone attacks, a surge in Afghanistan, increased militancy in Pakistan as a result of that.”

Most Afghans appeared pleased by the election result, welcoming the continuity it offered in a country buffeted violently by change and conflict over the past few years, although many were worried that Mr. Obama could accelerate the withdrawal of American troops from the country, due for 2014.

Mr. Obama is also under pressure to increase his involvement in ending the Syrian war.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Jordan, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said early on Wednesday, “One of the first things I want to talk to Barack about is how we must do more to try and solve this crisis.”

On the ground in Syria, rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad seemed divided over the impact of a second term for Mr. Obama. A commander who asked to be identified only by his first name, Maysara, said he expected Washington to take a much clearer stance within 10 days. “If they don’t, Syria will become like Somalia,” he said.

By contrast, Fawaz Tello, an opposition figure living in Germany, referred to a Romney proposal to help the rebels while “Obama made no clear proposals.” A second term for Mr. Obama, he said, was “not a good sign.”

Some of the favorable responses to Mr. Obama reflected campaign blunders by Mr. Romney who drew barbs from both Britons and Spaniards for remarks about their countries.

“We in Spain wanted Obama to win because he is more like us, we still see him as a transformative leader,” said Manel Manchon, a political scientist. “Romney insulted Spain, and you can’t just blame Spain for this crisis.”

Like most western Europeans, Britons are broadly more liberal than Americans; even most British conservatives sympathize far more with Democrat than with Republican views on social issues like abortion, the death penalty and health care.

There is also a perception in Britain and elsewhere in Europe that a Romney government would have been parochial, suspicious of foreigners and untested in world affairs, while Mr. Obama’s victory, as the left-leaning Guardian newspaper put it, “is good for Americans, good for America, and good for the world.”

Mr. Obama’s standing elsewhere seemed more ambiguous.

After his election in 2008, for instance, Mr. Obama promised a “reset” with Moscow. But the United States and Russia took opposing positions on the Libyan and Syrian crises and the Kremlin has depicted the American response to antigovernment protests in Moscow as undermining the return to power of President Vladimir V. Putin.

But after Mr. Obama’s victory became clear, Russian officials issued the most optimistic comments to be heard in months about relations with the United States.

Dmitri S. Peskov, spokesman for Mr. Putin, said that “in general, the Kremlin took the news about Barack Obama’s victory in the elections quite positively.”

In Indonesia, where Mr. Obama spent some of his childhood, students at his former elementary school cheered his victory, as did elite Indonesians gathered at a party hosted by the American Embassy. On the streets, motorcycle taxi drivers raised their fists, shouting “Obama, Obama.”

For some Europeans, the victory offered an object lesson in the politics of economic hardship that has cost leaders in Britain, France, Spain and elsewhere their jobs.

“Obama has succeeded where Sarkozy, Zapatero and Brown failed — to be re-elected amid a major economic crisis,” deputy editor François Sergent wrote in a special edition of the leftist newspaper Libération in France.

The sense that Mr. Obama’s second term would be less constrained by electoral considerations offered analysts a rich theme. “For all the criticism of Obama, he now has the tail wind and the independence of not having to seek re-election,” said Claudia Schmucker, of the German Council on Foreign Relations. “He can use that for foreign policy, too.”

But there was unease in Germany that Mr. Obama’s focus on Asian issues, in particular the rise of China, had sapped transatlantic ties with Europe. “I hope he will not only be the Pacific president, but also the trans-Atlantic president,” Philipp Missfelder, a leading member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said in an interview.

In South Africa, whose prism is shaped by the decades of apartheid, Mathews Phosa, a senior member of the ruling African National Congress, said the outcome made Mr. Obama a potent symbol of the triumph of merit over race. “There is hope for the future if we all transcend racial patterns and look at people as people on their merits,” he said.

And Mr. Obama’s re-election brought relief and some economic concern in Brazil, where he is broadly popular and seen as more cautious in foreign policy than his Republican challengers.

“Everything that happens in the United States influences every other country, in both positive and negative ways,” said Rogério Antonio, 31, a salesman in an optical store in Rio de Janeiro. “It’s as though someone threw a pebble in the water and you sit waiting for the ripples to come out your way.”

Reporting was contributed by Jane Perlez and Keith Bradsher from Beijing; Hilda Wang from Hong Kong; Isabel Kershner and Jodi Rudoren from Jerusalem; Ellen Barry and Andrew Roth from Moscow; Sara Schonhardt from Jakarta, Indonesia; Scott Sayare from Paris; Dan Bilefsky from Barcelona, Spain; Tim Arango and Hwaida Saad from Antakya, Turkey; Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul; Sarah Lyall from London; Lydia Polgreen from Johannesburg; Nicholas Kulish and Chris Cottrell from Berlin; Jeffrey Gettleman from Nairobi, Kenya; Graham Bowley from Kabul, Afghanistan; Salman Masood from Islamabad, Pakistan; Ramtin Rastin from Tehran; Thomas Erdbrink from Amsterdam; Simon Romero and Taylor Barnes from Rio de Janeiro; and David D. Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheikh from Cairo.

    Abroad, Obama’s Victory Brings Demands for Attention, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Fiscal Impasse

and Europe Woes Weigh on Markets


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


Business leaders and investors on Wall Street reacted nervously to President Obama’s re-election Wednesday, as the focus shifted quickly from electoral politics to the looming fiscal uncertainty in Washington. A gloomy economic outlook in Europe also prompted selling in markets worldwide.

Stocks were sharply lower in afternoon trading in New York, with both the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the Dow Jones industrial average down 2.2 percent, as European shares sank and Asian stocks were mixed. While many executives on Wall Street and in other industries favored Mitt Romney, many had already factored in the likelihood of Mr. Obama winning a second term.

Still, continued divided government in Washington and little prospect for compromise unnerved traders.

“The bottom line is that this looks like a status quo election,” said Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays. “The problem with that is that it doesn’t resolve some of the main sources of uncertainty that are hanging over the economy.”

Companies in some sectors, like hospitals and technology, could see a short-term pop, said Tobias Levkovich, chief United States equity strategist with Citi. Other areas, like financial services as well as coal and mining, could be hurt as investors contemplate a tougher regulatory environment.

Shares of Alpha Natural Resources, a coal giant, were down 11.8 percent, while Arch Coal was off 11 percent. But HCA Holdings, a hospital operator, was up 8 percent, to $33.39 a share. As a result of Mr. Obama’s victory, Goldman Sachs said it upgraded its rating on HCA to buy from neutral, and raised its price target to $39 from $31. It also raised price targets for Tenet Healthcare and Community Health Systems, although both are still rated neutral.

Goldman downgraded shares of Humana, a leading managed care company, to sell, and its shares fell 9.9 percent. Goldman warned that Humana and other managed care providers could be hurt as health care reform moves forward, especially new rules for health insurers that become effective in 2014.

Mr. Levkovich predicted that the market would remain volatile between now and mid-January. If Congress and the president cannot come up with a plan to cut the deficit, hundreds of billions in Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire at the beginning of 2013 while automatic spending cuts will sharply cut the defense budget and other programs.

Known as the fiscal cliff, this simultaneous combination of dramatic reductions in government spending and tax increases could push the economy into recession in 2013, economists fear.

But it was not just the election results driving shares lower — there was more gloomy economic news out of Europe.

The European Union will experience only a very weak economic recovery during 2013 while unemployment will remain at “very high” levels, according to a set of forecasts issued Wednesday by the European Commission.

This year, gross domestic product will shrink by 0.3 percent for the 27 members of the union as a whole and by 0.4 percent for the 17 European Union countries that use the euro, the commission predicted. Growth in 2013 will be a meager 0.4 percent across the union and only 0.1 percent in the euro area, it said.

Not only is that level of growth far slower than even the tepid pace of the recovery in the United States, it also makes it more difficult for debt-burdened European economies to get their financial house in order. As markets neared the close in Europe, the Euro Stoxx 50 index, a barometer of euro zone blue chips, fell 2.2 percent, while the FTSE 100 index in London was 1.5 percent lower.

The S.&P./ASX 200 in Australia closed up 0.7 percent, as did the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong. The Nikkei 225 stock average in Japan ended trading little changed.

“There’s a huge question mark hanging over what happens in the next few weeks,” said Aric Newhouse, senior vice-president of policy and government relations at the National Association of Manufacturers. “The fiscal cliff is the 800-pound gorilla out there.”

“We can’t wait,” he said. “We think the idea of going over the cliff has to be taken off the table. We’ve got to get to the middle ground.”

For all the anticipation, some observers said the election still left plenty of unanswered questions.

“While we have clarity on the players now, we don’t have any more clarity on what will happen in terms of the fiscal cliff,” Mr. Maki said. “We still have a divided government and they haven’t been able to agree on what to do.”

If the full package of tax increases and spending cuts go into effect, that would equal a $650 billion blow to the economy, Mr. Maki said, equivalent to 4 percent of the gross domestic product.

Mr. Maki envisions a partial compromise, with $200 billion in tax increases and spending cuts. Partly because of that, he estimates, the annual rate of economic growth will dip to 1.5 percent in the first quarter of 2013 from 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter. He predicted that if the full fiscal cliff were to hit, the economy would contract in the first half of 2013.


James Kanter contributed reporting.

    Fiscal Impasse and Europe Woes Weigh on Markets, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Back to Bargaining Table,

With Fiscal Cliff Dead Ahead


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


President Obama tried to reach out to the Republican leaders in Congress by phone after his post-midnight victory speech on Wednesday, an aide said, but they were asleep. More failures to communicate likely lie ahead as the parties now turn to seeking a budget deal that would keep the nation from hurtling over a so-called fiscal cliff at year’s end.

Mr. Obama enters the next fray with heightened leverage, both sides agree, especially on what he sees as the most immediate issue: Whether Republicans will relent and extend the Bush-era income tax cuts, which expire Dec. 31, except for households with taxable income above $250,000 a year. But even before the votes were in, the Republican leaders — Speaker John A. Boehner and the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell — had restated their opposition to raising any taxes to reduce deficits.

An impasse could mean rates go up for everyone in 2013 and could also block action to avoid several hundred billion dollars in additional tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts that are scheduled to take effect in January unless the White House and Congress reach an alternative deficit-reduction agreement.

Yet if Mr. Obama received a mandate for nothing else after a campaign in which he was vague on second-term prescriptions, he can and will claim one for the proposition that the wealthiest Americans like himself and Mitt Romney should pay higher income taxes. That stance was a staple of Mr. Obama’s campaign stump speeches for more than a year. And in surveys of those leaving the polls on Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly agreed with him.

“This election tells us a lot about the political wisdom of defending tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of everything else,” a senior administration official said early on Wednesday.

In his victory speech, Mr. Obama offered what the White House intended as an early olive branch. “In the coming weeks and months,” he said, “I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil.”

Much pre-election speculation held that a result like what occurred — essentially maintaining the status quo with Mr. Obama in the White House; Democrats in control of the Senate, though now with an unexpectedly padded majority; and Republicans still leading the House — would make for continued gridlock and a fall off the fiscal cliff at some cost to the recovery.

Yet there are counter views. For one thing, had Mitt Romney won, the rough consensus in both parties was that he and Congress would have delayed the scheduled imposition of automatic tax increases and spending cuts for at least six months and up to a year to give Mr. Romney time to staff his administration and outline a plan. And that delay would have been compounded by an all but certain standoff between a new president dedicated to cutting taxes deeply, not raising them, and Democrats in Congress intent on getting tax increases on high incomes in exchange for their assent to future reductions in Medicare and Medicaid.

Also, as the administration and a few other optimists in both parties see it, with the same division of power, the two sides can immediately take up where they left off in 2011. That year, repeated efforts for a bipartisan budget deal ultimately collapsed on the tax issue and on Democrats’ refusal to consider reductions in the fast-growing entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid unless Republicans compromised.

Each side said the voters would decide in November 2012. Now they have, and Mr. Obama and the two parties in Congress can get back to the bargaining table, where their differences, but also some tentative agreements, remain on spending cuts. Had Mr. Romney won, the two sides would have faced months of start-from-scratch, get-acquainted bargaining, farther apart than ever on the matter of taxes and entitlement benefits.

The contrasting views of what lies ahead was reflected in a bipartisan panel at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., two months ago. Tom Daschle, a former Senate Democratic majority leader and Obama adviser, reflected the White House view that if Republicans failed in their goal of making Mr. Obama a one-term president, as Mr. McConnell had vowed, Republicans’ anti-Obama “fever” would break, making them more willing to accept a deal that raised taxes on high incomes.

Another panelist, the former Republican congressman and party strategist Vin Weber, disagreed. “I think Democrats have fooled themselves into believing Republicans’ opposition is all personal to Obama,” he said in a later interview. Instead, he told the audience, Republicans’ opposition to higher marginal tax rates is ideological and they believe increasing them will harm the economy

Mr. McConnell, in his statement congratulating Mr. Obama early Wednesday, said, “Now it’s time for the president to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely divided Senate.”

He added: “To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him halfway. That begins by proposing a way for both parties to work together in avoiding the ‘fiscal cliff’ without harming a weak and fragile economy, and when that is behind us, work with us to reform the tax code and our broken entitlement system.”

    Back to Bargaining Table, With Fiscal Cliff Dead Ahead, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Obama Wins a Clear Victory,

but Balance of Power

Is Unchanged in Washington


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


After $4 billion, two dozen presidential primary election days, a pair of national conventions, four general election debates, hundreds of Congressional contests and more television advertisements than anyone would ever want to watch, the two major political parties in America essentially fought to a standstill.

When all the shouting was done, the American people on Tuesday more or less ratified the status quo that existed at the start of the day: They returned President Obama to the White House for another four years, reaffirmed Republican control of the House and kept the Senate in Democratic hands. As of Wednesday morning, the margins in the House and Senate had each changed by just a seat or two.

The tie in effect went to the Democrats, who had more to lose but did not. Not only did they retain the presidency, they held off a concerted drive to take over the Senate and instead added slightly to their majority. The Republicans lost a signal opportunity to take Senate seats in states that by most measures should be their territory — Indiana, Missouri and apparently North Dakota — while losing seats they had held in Maine and Massachusetts.

For his part, Mr. Obama won a clear victory but less decisively than other re-elected presidents. He garnered just 50 percent of the popular vote, three percentage points lower than in 2008 and a sign of just how divided the country remains over his leadership. His margin in the Electoral College was stronger, but even if he wins Florida, which remained too close to call, he will be the first president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term with fewer electoral votes than his first election, suggesting the narrowing of his coalition.

But the bottom-line scorecard left Washington as divided as ever, with no resolution of most of the fundamental issues at stake. The profound debate that has raged over the size and role of government, the balance between stimulus spending and austerity and the proper level of taxation has not been settled in the least. The next two years could easily duplicate the last two as the parties battle it out.

In his victory speech around 1:30 a.m., Mr. Obama largely glossed over that result and presented himself as ready for compromise with Republicans over the so-called fiscal cliff looming at the end of the year, when a series of automatic tax increases and spending cuts are slated to take effect unless the president and Congress stop or amend them.

“Tonight, you voted for action, not politics as usual,” Mr. Obama told supporters in Chicago. “You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil.”

Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, offered words of conciliation while making it clear that he believed his party’s victory in keeping control of the House meant he had every bit as much of a mandate as Mr. Obama.

“The American people reelected the president and reelected our majority in the House,” Mr. Boehner said in a statement. “If there is a mandate, it is a mandate for both parties to find common ground and take steps together to help our economy grow and create jobs.”

Mr. Boehner scheduled a public appearance for 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday to address the deficit issues

If nothing else, one issue does seem resolved by the election. The president’s health care program, which Mitt Romney had vowed to begin dismantling on the first day of his presidency, now seems certain to survive. While House Republicans continue to oppose it and may find ways to attack it legislatively, they now know that they do not have the ability to overturn it.

It also may be possible for the two sides to come together on another big issue: immigration. In his victory speech, Mr. Obama specifically listed revamping the system as one of four specific goals. While he made little mention of it during campaign speeches, Democrats argue that Republicans may now be willing to find compromise given the election results and the growing power of the Latino vote in America. Some moderate Republicans agree, although it is not clear whether the party as a whole has come to that conclusion.

But it will be the fiscal issues that will play out in the short term and both sides quickly moved to define the election results as a validation of their viewpoint.

Neera Tanden, president of the liberal research group Center for American Progress, called the election “a decisive mandate for a fair tax system where the wealthy contribute to address our deficit challenges.”

Chris Chocola, president of the conservative antitax group Club for Growth, congratulated a series of House Republicans who had won and praised their “record of fighting to limit government and pass pro-growth policies.”

For now, uncertainty will probably continue for at least a few weeks as the newly re-elected president and re-elected Republicans circle warily and plot their next moves. Whether the talk of cooperation translates into action remains unclear, but many are already skeptical.

Dale Brown, president of the Financial Services Institute, cited the “closeness of the election results” in urging Mr. Obama to tread lightly on any new regulatory initiatives, a priority for his group. But looking at the enormous fiscal issues confronting the country, Mr. Brown noted that “the next 13 months are critical” because after then, “Congress will be back in re-election mode and will not tackle anything that could put their own re-elects in jeopardy.”

On that, at least, most everyone could agree.

    Obama Wins a Clear Victory, but Balance of Power Is Unchanged in Washington, NYT, 7.11.2012,






G.O.P. Factions

Grapple Over Meaning of Loss


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


It was the morning of the Republican hangover.

After four years in which the jobless rate never dipped below 7.8 percent, with millions of Americans still unemployed or underemployed and median household income falling, Republicans still failed to unseat President Obama and, for the second election in a row, fell short in their efforts to win control of a Senate that seemed within reach. The Wednesday-morning quarterbacking began quickly.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, captured the feelings of many Republicans when he said in a statement that “we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party.”

“While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other,” Mr. Cornyn said in a statement, “the reality is candidates from all corners of our G.O.P. lost tonight. Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead.”

There was no shortage of theories — sometimes contradictory — from inside and outside party in the first hours after the 2012 elections.

Some analysts and Republican strategists argued that the party could not win while alienating the growing Hispanic vote with its tough stance on immigration, could no longer afford to nominate candidates who fired up its conservative and Tea Party wings but turned off the more moderate voters in general elections, and that it had to find ways to win more support from women and young voters. But some conservatives took the opposite view, arguing that Mitt Romney had been essentially too moderate, a candidate who had won the minds if not the hearts of the party’s base.

But a number of Republican strategists who have worked on recent presidential campaigns argued that demography is destiny, and that the party was falling out of step with a changing country.

John Weaver, a Republican strategist who worked on the presidential campaigns of Senator John McCain and Jon M. Huntsman Jr., has long argued that the party’s reliance on the votes of older white men was putting it on a demographically unsustainable path.

“We have a choice: we can become a shrinking regional party of middle-aged and older white men, or we can fight to become a national governing party,” Mr. Weaver said in an interview. “And to do the latter we have to fix our Hispanic problem as quickly as possible, we’ve got to accept science and start calling out these false equivalencies when they occur within our party about things that are just not true, and not tolerate the intolerant.”

Matthew Dowd, who was a top adviser in the re-election campaign of President George W. Bush, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the Republican Party had become a “'Mad Men’ party in a ‘Modern Family’ America.”

And Mark McKinnon, another former strategist for President Bush and Mr. McCain, argued that the party “needs messages and policies that appeal to a broader audience.”

“This election proved that trying to expand a shrinking base ain’t gonna cut it,” Mr. McKinnon said in an e-mail. “It’s time to put some compassion back in conservatism. The party needs more tolerance, more diversity and a deeper appreciation for the concerns of the middle class.”

But not everyone was urging the party to run to the center. “No doubt the media will insist that Republicans must change, must sprint to the center, must embrace social liberalism, must accept that America is destined to play a less dominant role in the world,” Fred Barnes wrote on the blog of The Weekly Standard. “All that is hogwash, which is why Republicans are likely to reject it. Their ideology is not a problem.”

“But there is also a hole in the Republican electorate,” he continued. “There aren’t enough Hispanics. As long as two-thirds of the growing Hispanic voting bloc lines up with Democrats, it will be increasingly difficult (though hardly impossible) for Republicans to win national elections. When George W. Bush won a narrow re-election in 2004, he got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. If Romney had managed that, he would have come closer to winning. He might even have won.”

And Erick Erickson made this plea at RedState.com: “Just please, G.O.P., PLEASE — in four years let’s not go with the ‘he’s the most electable’ argument. The most electable usually aren’t.”

But there were bright spots for the party. Aided by redistricting, Republicans kept their hold on the House, and Speaker John A. Boehner announced that he would be speaking Wednesday afternoon about the “fiscal cliff and the need for both parties to find common ground.”

Republicans extended their dominance in state government, picking up at least one governor’s seat Tuesday night and increasing the number of Republican governors to 30, the most there have been in more than a decade. Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said that the state-level gains Republicans made in “provides optimism for the future.”

And of course, even two years in politics is a long time. Just after Mr. McCain lost the 2008 elections there was similar hand-wringing in the party. Two years later, Republicans made historic gains in the midterm elections.

    G.O.P. Factions Grapple Over Meaning of Loss, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Republicans Stand Firm

in Keeping Control of House


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


Deep disapproval of Congress and dissatisfaction with partisan division appeared no match for Congressional incumbency on Tuesday, as Republicans seemed to have retained a firm hold on the House of Representatives, assuring the continuation of divided government for at least another two years.

Democrats began the year with deep pockets and a plan to focus on scores of Republican freshmen, particularly those with a Tea Party imprimatur, in an effort to retake the House after losing it in 2010. But in the first Congressional election since decennial redistricting, Republicans — thanks to their control of many state legislatures — managed to shore up many incumbents by fashioning districts that Democrats had little chance of capturing.

Retirements by a large number of Democratic members, and a message on Medicare that more or less fizzled, were additional impediments. Blue Dog Democrats, a group of moderates whose numbers have been dwindling, were particularly endangered as they struggled to defend districts they had long held.

In the end, the bravado of Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, who earlier this year suggested that fights over Medicare and other issues would help deliver the House back to her party, was misplaced.

Republicans placed their greatest hopes on North Carolina, where their redistricting efforts targeted vulnerable Democrats more than just about anywhere else. In a seat left open by the retirement of one prominent Blue Dog, Representative Brad Miller, a former federal prosecutor, George Holding, easily defeated his Democratic opponent, Charles Malone. Another Democratic incumbent, Representative Larry Kissell, long used to fending off Republicans, lost to Richard Hudson, a former Republican staffer.

In Kentucky, Republicans got their wish and finally tossed Representative Ben Chandler, one of the last remaining Blue Dogs, from his seat. Andy Barr, who lost to Mr. Chandler by 647 votes in 2010, finally took out the incumbent, who had served since 2004.

There were some bright spots for Democrats. Alan Grayson, who lost his Florida seat in 2010 to Representative Daniel Webster, got a return ticket to Washington when he defeated the Republican Todd Long in the new Ninth District. Lois Frankel, another Democrat, prevailed in an open seat in that state, and the Democrat Joe Garcia beat Representative David Rivera, who was under federal investigation.

Illinois, where Democrats focused much of their effort, was a strong point for the party. Tammy Duckworth, a veteran who lost her legs in the Iraq war, easily defeated Representative Joe Walsh, a freshman and Tea Party favorite, and will become the first combat-injured woman to serve in Congress. Representative Bobby Schilling, a pizza parlor owner with no previous elected experience, joined a sea of one-termers when he was defeated by Cheri Bustos, and a long-serving Republican, Judy Biggert, fell to Bill Foster.

In New Hampshire, Ann Kuster defeated Representative Charles Bass, and in Georgia, where Republicans thought they would pick off the last white Democrat in the deep South, Representative John Barrow prevailed.

But Republicans began to count their wins Tuesday night as well. Representative Tom Latham of Iowa defeated Representative Leonard Boswell in a battle of incumbents, even though President Obama won the state. Also in Iowa, Representative Steve King handily beat back Christie Vilsack, the wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor. Republicans also picked up a seat in Pennsylvania,where Keith Rothfus picked off Mark Critz, a Democrat with a strong labor union following.

Democrats had a far better day over all in the Senate, maintaining their control there and ensuring that the two chambers would continue their contentious relationship through 2014.

Most immediately, with no undisputed mandate on either side of the aisle to manage fiscal policy, Congress will move to confront the so-called fiscal cliff, and simultaneous expiration of myriad tax provisions and drastic budget cuts.

It remains to be seen whether the tone and content of the bruising fight over the debt ceiling and other fiscal matters in the 112th Congress will continue into the next session, or if both parties will conclude that the only mandate lawmakers have is to finally work together and bridge the gap on those difficult issues.

“For two years, our majority in the House has been the primary line of defense for the American people against a government that spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much when left unchecked,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said Tuesday. “In the face of a staggering national debt that threatens our children’s future, our majority passed a budget that begins to solve the problem.”

He added “With this vote, the American people have also made clear that there is no mandate for raising tax rates.”

Many Democrats started the cycle off in strong position, particularly after high-profile fights in Congress over issues like the payroll tax extension and student loan rates. But the environment changed significantly as time went on, with voters divided over the disparate policy prescriptions offered by the two parties on the economy, entitlements and taxes.

As the leaves began to change and the temperatures dropped, what once seemed like a Democratic surge evaporated. There appeared to be no single issue that Democrats could turn to their advantage, like the health care debate that so dominated the 2010 Congressional elections and propelled Republicans back into the majority. President Obama’s coattails had little effect in many states he easily won.

The poor showing is likely to result in new questions about whether Ms. Pelosi will remain her party’s leader in the House.

    Republicans Stand Firm in Keeping Control of House, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Arkansas Republicans

make historic sweep in election


Wed Nov 7, 2012
3:15am EST

By Suzi Parker


LITTLE ROCK, Ark (Reuters) - Arkansas Republicans on Tuesday night took control of at least one chamber of the state legislature and captured all of the state's congressional seats for the first time since Reconstruction.

Republicans took the majority in the state Senate and will either have a one seat majority or be tied with Democrats in the state House of Representatives, according to election returns.

For decades, Arkansas has been a rare dot of Democratic blue amid Republican red across the legislatures of the South. Until Tuesday's elections, it was the only state in the South where both chambers of the legislature were controlled by Democrats.

"Obviously, this is historic for Arkansas and a real marker of the massive political change that has taken place in the South as a whole over the last several generations," Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas said Tuesday night.

When the legislative session starts in January, Democratic Governor Mike Beebe will have to work with a state Senate controlled for the first time since 1874 by Republicans. And the state House may have an even Republican-Democrat split rather than a Democratic majority, though votes were still being tallied early Wednesday.

It was not just the state legislature that made history. Republicans gained control of all four of the state's congressional seats after Republican Tom Cotton, an Iraq war veteran, defeated a Democrat on Tuesday to pick up a seat that had been vacated by a retiring Democrat.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney easily won Arkansas' six electoral votes, likely helping down-ballot Republicans.

Former President Bill Clinton, an Arkansas native, cut radio ads against the three Republicans running for the state legislature, all of whom lost on Tuesday night.

While other Southern states moved to Republicans over the last two decades, Clinton rise to the White House helped keep Arkansas a holdout state.

At the state level in 2010, Republicans picked up three statewide offices, including lieutenant governor. That year - when Republicans were swept into offices across the country - the number of Republican seats in the 100-member Arkansas House of Representatives increased from 28 to 45. In 2011, a Democratic representative switched parties, increasing that number to 46.

"I can only imagine what it would have been like to have had a majority in both houses instead of having a legislature that was 89 percent Democrat when I became governor," former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a Republican and former presidential candidate, told Reuters on Tuesday.


(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Greg McCune)

    Arkansas Republicans make historic sweep in election, R, 7.11.2012,






Controversial Arizona sheriff Arpaio

wins sixth term


PHOENIX | Wed Nov 7, 2012
2:34am EST
By Tim Gaynor


PHOENIX (Reuters) - Controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for targeting illegal immigrants, fended off a strong challenge from a Phoenix police veteran on Tuesday to win a sixth four-year term.

Republican Arpaio, the 80-year-old lawman who styles himself "America's Toughest Sheriff," claimed victory over Democratic challenger Paul Penzone to hold on to office as sheriff of Maricopa County. An unofficial county tally showed Arpaio nearly 11 points ahead with 596 of 724 precincts reporting.

The battle for the sheriff's badge in Arizona's most populous county highlighted bitter national divisions over illegal immigration.

"The president ... is going after me, but I will continue to enforce the laws, including illegal immigration. Nothing changes," Arpaio told cheering supporters late on Tuesday, vowing to continue his drive to lock up illegals.

The sheriff is the target of an ongoing Justice Department lawsuit alleging civil rights abuses by his office, including accusations of widespread racial profiling of Latinos in dozens of immigration "sweeps."

The sheriff won support from Phoenix area conservatives for tough measures, including locking up county inmates in a Spartan "Tent City" jail and mounting a probe of Democratic President Barack Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate.

Earlier this year, Arpaio dispatched a volunteer posse to Hawaii to investigate the authenticity of Obama's birth certificate at the request of local Tea Party activists - a key Arpaio constituency.

He ultimately declared the document a forgery even after most Republican critics of Obama had given up pursuing discredited claims that the president was born abroad.

Rival Penzone, who had a 21-year-career with the Phoenix police department, gave Arpaio his toughest race yet, drawing on support from Latinos in the Phoenix area angered by what they saw as the sheriff's relentless profiling of brown-skinned Hispanics in this sprawling metropolis. Arpaio has denied racial profiling.

There are also questions over what critics describe as the neglect of more than 400 sex-crime cases in a Phoenix suburb, some involving children.

Penzone told supporters that the scrutiny of Arpaio's actions will not stop with the sheriff's victory.

"He needs to know most importantly that the people of this community are going to be watching," Penzone said. "They're going to be holding him accountable."


(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Ciro Scotti)

    Controversial Arizona sheriff Arpaio wins sixth term, R, 7.11.2012,






Californians Back Taxes

to Avoid Education Cuts


November 7, 2012
The new York Times


SAN FRANCISCO — California voters decisively approved a ballot measure that will raise taxes by $6 billion annually over seven years, according to election results on Wednesday. Voters heeded the pleas of Gov. Jerry Brown, who said the new revenues were necessary to save the state’s public schools and balance the budget.

The vote — 54 percent to 46 percent, with 98 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday morning — brought an end to an acrimonious, $123 million battle between the governor and conservative opponents in and outside the state. It was a victory for Mr. Brown, who had staked his personal prestige on the initiative’s success and campaigned intensely for it.

Across the country, voters in 38 states considered more than 170 ballot measures on fiscal, political and social issues that, in many cases, resonated nationally.

Voters in Colorado and Washington made their states the first to legalize marijuana for recreational use. In Oregon, a similar measure appeared headed for defeat.

Supporters of Washington’s initiative said they hoped its passage would ultimately change federal law, which regards any possession or sale of marijuana as illegal.

“By sending this message, we can hopefully have a collaborative conversation with the federal government, and that they can see that their policy can be done differently and that prohibition is not working,” said Tonia S. Winchester, outreach director for the campaign behind the measure, Yes on I-502.

In Maryland, voters endorsed a ballot measure allowing in-state tuition at public colleges for illegal immigrants. Massachusetts was considering whether to legalize physician-assisted suicide for people with terminal illnesses. Though most of the votes were counted, the result was too close to call.

But nowhere was the fight over ballot measures fiercer than in California, where spending on campaigning for and against 11 measures totaled nearly $370 million, according to MapLight, an organization that tracks campaign spending.

Under Mr. Brown’s tax initiative, income tax rates for those earning more than $250,000 annually would be raised for seven years, and a one-quarter-cent increase in the state sales tax would be put in place for four years. Without the new revenue, Mr. Brown said, California would need to cut $6 billion a year in spending, mostly from the state’s already battered education system — a threat that appeared to have persuaded some voters on Tuesday.

“We need more funding for the schools,” said Omega Jules, 31, who lives in Oakland and works for United Parcel Service of America. “They keep taking money out of education, and that is where we need it most.”

Supported by California teachers’ unions, Mr. Brown was tenacious in seeking support for the initiative, but he encountered fierce and sometimes unexpected opposition.

“I know a lot of people had some doubts, had some questions, about ‘Can you really go to the people and ask them to vote for a tax?’ ” Mr. Brown, a Democrat, said in thanking supporters at a Sacramento hotel, The Associated Press reported.

“A core reason that brought people together in support of Proposition 30 was a belief in our schools and our university and the capacity of the state government to make an investment that benefits all of us,” he said.

Last month, an obscure Arizona group called Americans for Responsible Leadership donated $11 million, in part to defeat Proposition 30. Also, Molly Munger, a civil rights lawyer and the daughter of Warren E. Buffett’s partner at Berkshire Hathaway, Charles Munger, spent more than $44 million on a rival tax measure, Proposition 38, which was overwhelmingly defeated, with 72.4 percent.

About $135 million was spent in the battle over Proposition 32, which would have outlawed political donations by labor unions. The measure was soundly defeated.

Also in California, voters considered an initiative to end the death penalty. With about 98 percent of precincts partly reporting, the measure seemed headed for defeat, with opposition of52.7 percent, the semiofficial state results showed early on Wednesday.

Supporters, including law enforcement officials, argued that administering the death penalty was inefficient and that eliminating it would save the state money. And that argument appeared to have swayed some voters, even those who did not oppose the practice on moral grounds.

“It would be one thing if they said they were going to kill a criminal and then did it the next day,” said Lamarr Standberry, an Oakland resident who voted to repeal the death penalty. “If you’re going to do it, then just do it already. Instead it takes forever and costs a lot.”

Voters endorsed a measure that would make the state’s three-strikes law somewhat more lenient by imposing a life sentence only for a third felony conviction considered serious or violent, but they rebuffed another that would have made mandatory the labeling of genetically modified food.

Two crucial education measures put charter schools on state ballots. By a wide margin, Georgia voters approved an amendment to the State Constitution that will allow for the creation of a commission to authorize new charter schools, which are publicly financed but independently operated. The measure drew national attention and campaign contributions from Alice Walton, the daughter of Sam Walton, Walmart’s founder, and Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party organization founded by the billionaire Koch brothers.

In Washington, voters were asked to allow charters into the state for the first time. Similar measures had failed three times in the past 16 years.

Michigan voters rejected all six proposals on the ballot, including one that would have expanded the powers of emergency administrators to take over financially troubled local governments, and the ability of governors to appoint them, as well as another proposal that would have made collective bargaining a right for employees in the public and private sectors.


Motoko Rich, Malia Wollan, Ian Lovett and Rebecca Raney contributed reporting.

    Californians Back Taxes to Avoid Education Cuts, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Colorado is first state

to legalize recreational pot


DENVER | Wed Nov 7, 2012
1:59am EST
By Keith Coffman


DENVER (Reuters) - Colorado became the first state to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use on Tuesday, setting up a possible showdown with the federal government as backers of a similar measure in Washington state declared victory.

A third measure to remove criminal penalties for personal possession and cultivation of recreational cannabis was defeated in Oregon, where significantly less money and campaign organization was devoted to the cause.

Supporters of a Colorado constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana declared victory and opponents conceded defeat after returns showed the measure garnering nearly 53 percent of the vote versus 47 percent against.

"Colorado will no longer have laws that steer people toward using alcohol, and adults will be free to use marijuana instead if that is what they prefer. And we will be better of as a society because of it," said Mason Tvert, co-director of the Colorado pro-legalization campaign.

The legalization puts the state in direct conflict with the federal government, which classifies cannabis as an illegal narcotic.

The U.S. Department of Justice reacted to the measure's passage in Colorado by saying its enforcement policies remain unchanged, adding: "We are reviewing the ballot initiative and have no additional comment at this time."

In Washington, cannabis legalization was passing by a handy margin, according to state returns, and supporters gathered at a Seattle hotel declared victory after local media, including the Seattle Times, declared the measure had been approved.


Separately, medical marijuana measures were on the ballot in three other states, including Massachusetts, where CNN reported that voters approved an initiative to allow cannabis for medicinal reasons.

Supporters there issued a statement declaring victory for what they described as "the safest medical marijuana law in the country."

Seventeen other states, plus the District of Columbia, already have medical marijuana laws on their books.

Under the recreational marijuana measures in Colorado and Washington, personal possession of up to an ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana would be legal for anyone at least 21 years of age. Oregon's initiative would have legalized possession of unlimited amounts of pot for recreational use.

All three proposals also would permit cannabis to be legally sold, and taxed, at state-licensed stores in a system modeled after a regime many states have in place for alcohol sales.

The Colorado measure will allow personal cultivation of up to six marijuana plants, but "grow-your-own" pot would be banned in Washington state.

Tvert said provisions legalizing simple possession would take effect after 30 days, once the election results are officially certified. The newly passed amendment also mandates establishment of a regulatory framework for sales and excise tax collections once the state legislature reconvenes in January 2013.

"The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will," Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposed the measure, said in a statement. "This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through."

He added: "Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly."


(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Additional reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky,

Laura Zuckerman and Dan Whitcomb; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Steve Gorman;

Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Todd Eastham, Leslie Gevirtz and Ciro Scotti)

    Colorado is first state to legalize recreational pot, R, 7.11.2012,






In Maine and Maryland,

Victories at the Ballot Box

for Same-Sex Marriage


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


Voters in Maine and Maryland approved same-sex marriage on an election night that jubilant gay rights advocates called a historic turning point, the first time that marriage for gay men and lesbians has been approved at the ballot box.

While six states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage through court decisions or legislative decisions, voters had rejected it more than 30 times in a row.

Results for the other two states voting on same-sex marriage, Minnesota and Washington, were still coming in late Tuesday, but rights groups said that the victories in two states and possibly more were an important sign that public opinion was shifting in their direction.

“We have made history for marriage equality by winning our first victory at the ballot box,” said Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, which raised millions of dollars for the races in the four states.

Matt McTighe, the campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, said, “A lot of families in Maine just became more stable and secure.”

At a victory party in Baltimore, supporters of Maryland’s referendum danced and cheered as balloons filled the air. “I’m so elated right now,” said Mary Bruce Leigh, 32. “This is the civil rights issue of our time, and we have succeeded in Maryland.”

In what appeared to be a close race in Minnesota, voters were asked to adopt a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman. While the state already has a law barring same-sex marriage, conservatives hoped to prevent a future Legislature or court decision from reversing it.

In Washington State, supporters of a referendum authorizing same-sex marriage appeared to have an edge in pre-election polls, but final results were not expected until later this week because ballots were still being mailed in as late as Tuesday.

Laurie Carlsson, 33, stood on a freeway overpass with a sign urging drivers to honk for the referendum.

“Seattleites do not use their horns — ever — but today they’re honking,” Ms. Carlsson said as a deafening roar erupted. “It’s making me giddy.”

It has been a constant theme of opponents of same-sex marriage that whenever it has been put before voters it has lost. In 30 states, voters have limited marriage to a man and a woman through constitutional amendments, and same-sex marriage has also been blocked in referendums like those in California in 2008 and Maine in 2009.

This year, the legislatures in Washington and Maryland approved same-sex marriage, but opponents gathered enough signatures to force referendums. In Maine, since their loss in 2009, gay rights advocates have been cultivating public opinion in one-on-one conversations, and this year sponsored their successful repeat election.

In the final week of the campaign, the opponents of marriage rights, mainly financed by the National Organization for Marriage and the Roman Catholic Church, mounted a barrage of advertising and telephone appeals in all four states, trying to convince undecided voters that “redefining marriage” would force schools to “teach gay marriage” and require businesses and churches to violate religious principles.

Rights groups have denounced those messages as misleading scare tactics and say they do not seek to redefine marriage but to end discrimination.

For many weeks, reflecting their more than threefold advantage in fund-raising nationwide, advocates of same-sex marriage have unleashed advertisements of their own in which community members say that gay and lesbian friends deserve the same chance to love and marry that others enjoy.

Pre-election polling in Washington State indicated that a slight majority of voters supported the referendum. “We have weathered their waves of attacks and not lost any ground,” said Zach Silk, the campaign manager of Washington United for Marriage, in an interview before the voting began.

Frank Schubert, who managed the campaigns to ban same-sex marriage in all four states, disputed the notion that Tuesday’s ballots were a major turning point. “The votes are very close everywhere,” he said.


Isolde Raftery contributed reporting from Seattle,

and Emmarie Huetteman from Baltimore.

    In Maine and Maryland, Victories at the Ballot Box for Same-Sex Marriage, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Republicans Face Struggle

Over Party’s Direction


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


Mitt Romney’s loss to a Democratic president wounded by a weak economy is certain to spur an internecine struggle over the future of the Republican Party, but the strength of the party’s conservatives in Congress and the rightward tilt of the next generation of party leaders could limit any course correction.

With their party on the verge of losing the popular presidential vote for the fifth time in six elections, Republicans across the political spectrum anticipate a prolonged and probably divisive period of self-examination.

The coming debate will be centered on whether the party should keep pursuing the antigovernment focus that grew out of resistance to the health care law and won them the House in 2010, or whether it should focus on a strategy that recognizes the demographic tide running strongly against it.

“There will be some kind of war,” predicted Mike Murphy, a longtime Republican Party consultant, suggesting it would pit “mathematicians” like him, who argue that the party cannot keep surrendering the votes of Hispanics, blacks, younger voters and college-educated women, against the party purists, or “priests,” as he puts it, who believe that basic conservative principles can ultimately triumph without much deviation.

“We are in a situation where the Democrats are getting a massive amount of votes for free,” Mr. Murphy said.

But the debate will not just be about demographics. Ralph Reed, a veteran of the conservative movement, said that Mr. Romney’s loss would stir resentment among those who believe the party made a mistake in nominating a more centrist Republican who had to work to appeal to the party’s base.

“There’s definitely a feeling that it would be better to nominate a conservative of long-standing conviction,” he said.

As a party, Republicans continue to depend heavily on older working-class white voters in rural and suburban America — a shrinking percentage of the overall electorate — while Democrats rack up huge majorities among urban voters including blacks, Hispanics and other minorities. Not to mention younger Americans who are inclined to get their political news from Comedy Central and will not necessarily become more conservative as they age. The disparity means that Democrats can get well under 50 percent of the white vote and still win the presidency, a split that is only going to widen in the future.

According to exit polls, about 7 in 10 Hispanics said they were voting for Mr. Obama. Mr. Romney won the support of nearly 6 in 10 whites. In urban areas, white voters were split over the two candidates, but about 6 in 10 white voters in the suburbs went for Mr. Romney, as did nearly two-thirds in rural areas.

Mr. Romney won a majority of voters 65 or older, while Mr. Obama was backed by 6 in 10 Americans under 30, and won a narrow majority of those under 44.

Even as they absorbed Mr. Romney’s defeat, the party’s top elected officials, strategists and activists said they believed that Republicans had offered a persuasive message of economic opportunism and fiscal restraint. While the messenger may have been flawed, they argued, Republicans should not stray from that approach in a moment of panic.

“The party has to continually ask ourselves, what do we represent?” said Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican seen as a top White House contender in 2016. “But we have to remain the movement on behalf of upward mobility, the party people identify with their hopes and dreams. People want to have a chance.”

Matt Kibbe, the president of the Tea Party-aligned group FreedomWorks, acknowledged there would be a natural struggle for the identity of the party in the election’s aftermath. But he argued that in some respects the fight had already been waged and won by the energized grass-roots forces that have shaped the contours of Republican politics in recent elections.

“You are going to see a continuation of the fight between the old guard and all of the new blood that has come in since 2010, but I don’t know how dramatic it is going to be,” he said. “It is getting to point where you can’t reach back and pull another establishment Republican from the queue like we have done with Romney.”

Besides Mr. Rubio, Representative Paul D. Ryan, the unsuccessful vice-presidential candidate, will now be seen as a chief party voice, as will Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. House Republicans particularly can be expected to gravitate to Mr. Ryan. Among others considered on the rise are Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and all can to some extent attribute their success to Tea Party-style politics with an emphasis on cutting spending and shrinking government.

As possible counterbalances, Republicans point to former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, who has shown an ability to connect with Hispanic voters, and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who has been able to win in a blue state. But the more conservative up-and-comers seem to have the upper hand for now, even in defeat.

And while Senate Republicans did not make the gains they anticipated — and some of their likely wins became losses in races where their candidates were deemed too extreme — they added internally to their conservative ranks, with victories by Ted Cruz in Texas and other Republicans expected to pick off Democratic seats.

With House Republicans easily holding on to their majority, Republicans will arguably be more conservative in the 113th Congress than they were in the 112th.

The first test of whether Republicans see any political need to be more conciliatory will come quickly in the lame duck session of Congress this month, when they will face pressure from the White House, Congressional Democrats and perhaps the Senate Republican leadership to strike a deal to avert the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the beginning of automatic across-the-board spending cuts.

If rank-and-file Republicans dig in, it will be a seen as strong indication that they remain unwilling to make the kind of concessions they fear could bring them primary election challenges or cost them in a future presidential primary.

To some in the centrist wing of the party, the need to move toward the middle could not have been more obvious as Republicans came into the 2012 election cycle with built-in advantages in both the presidential and Congressional contests.

“We have to recognize the demographic changes in this country,” said Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who has watched as the number of her fellow moderate Republicans in the Senate declined. “Republicans cannot win with just rural, white voters.”

Democrats sense a parallel to their own recent history when an increasingly liberal party seen as losing touch with mainstream America was defeated in three consecutive presidential elections, in 1980, 1984 and 1988, before Bill Clinton, who practiced a centrist style of politics, won two terms.

“They need a Bill Clinton moment,” said Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and former top aide to both Presidents Clinton and Obama. Though many Republicans still see no impetus for drastic change, there does seem to be a growing consensus that the party needs to somehow repair its relations with the nation’s Hispanics, a group that has socially and fiscally conservative tendencies and one in which Republicans enjoyed some success during the administration of former President George W. Bush.

But that support has deteriorated steadily since the 2004 election. Mr. Rubio, a Cuban-American, said his party has to begin by striking a different tone on immigration, pushing for improvements in the existing immigration system and talking more about the capacity to enter the United States legally.


Michael D. Shear and Allison Kopicki contributed reporting.

    Republicans Face Struggle Over Party’s Direction, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Question for the Victor:

How Far Do You Push?


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


For President Obama, now comes a second chance. An electorate that considers the country to be on the wrong track nonetheless agreed to renew his contract in hopes that the next four years will be better than the last.

A weary but triumphant president took the stage in Chicago early Wednesday morning before a jubilant crowd, clearly relieved to have survived a challenge that threatened to end his storybook political career. While he was speaking of America, he could have been talking about himself when he told the audience: “We have picked ourselves up. We have fought our way back.”

Mr. Obama emerges from a scalding campaign and a four-year education in the realities of Washington a far different figure from the man sent to the White House in 2008. What faces him in this next stage of his journey are not overinflated expectations of partisan, racial and global healing, but granular negotiations over spending cuts and tax increases plus a looming showdown with Iran.

Few if any expect him to seriously change Washington anymore; most voters just seemed to want him to make it function. His remarkable personal story and trailblazing role are just a vague backdrop at this point to a campaign that often seemed to lack a singular, overriding mission beyond stopping his challenger from taking the country in another direction.

More seasoned and scarred, less prone to grandiosity and perhaps even less idealistic, Mr. Obama returns for a second term with a Congress still at least partly controlled by an opposition party that will claim a mandate of its own. He will have to choose between conciliation and confrontation, or find a way to toggle back and forth between the two.

“Will he be more pugnacious and more willing to swing for the fences on domestic issues, judicial appointments and so forth?” asked Christopher Edley Jr., a dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, and a longtime Obama friend who has been disappointed at times. “You can react to a narrow victory by trimming your sails, or you can decide ‘What the hell, let’s sail into the storm and make sure this has meant something.’ “

The champagne bottles from victory celebrations in Chicago will barely be emptied before Mr. Obama has to begin answering that question. The coming end-of-the-year fiscal cliff prompted by trillions of dollars of automatic tax increases and spending cuts could force Mr. Obama to define priorities that will shape the rest of his presidency before he even puts his hand on the Bible to take the oath a second time.

Mr. Obama has expressed hope that “the fever may break” after the election and that the parties come together, a theory encouraged by allies like Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts. “I’ve talked with colleagues in the Senate who for months have told me they’re very anxious to get beyond the gridlock and craziness,” Mr. Kerry said.

If that proves overly optimistic, allies said, then the president’s re-election puts him in a stronger position than in the past. “I actually think he’s holding a lot of cards coming off a win,” said John D. Podesta, who led Mr. Obama’s transition team four years ago. “He can’t be overturned by veto, so he can create a certain set of demands on Republicans that they’re going to have to deal with.”

But even as votes were coming in, Republicans were making clear that Mr. Obama will have to deal with them, too.

“If he wins, he wins — but at the same time, voters will clearly vote for a Republican House,” said Representative Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican who shouted “You lie!” at Mr. Obama during a speech to Congress. “The consequence of that is our voters really anticipate and count on us holding firm.”

It may have been inevitable that Mr. Obama could not live up to the heavy mantle of hope and change he assumed in 2008 as the first African-American to be elected president. Inheriting an economy in crisis, he pushed through a sweeping stimulus package, the health care law and Wall Street regulatory measures, and he headed off another depression. But he failed to change the culture of Washington or bring unemployment down to healthy levels.

By 2010, amid a Tea Party revolt over rising national debt and expanding government, his party lost the House. He spent the last two years trying to hang onto the White House and preserve his accomplishments.

Now the struggle for re-election will be replaced by a struggle for Mr. Obama’s political soul. Liberals who swallowed their misgivings during the campaign said they would resume pressure on the president to fight for their ideas. Other Democrats, and some Republicans, will push him to be more open to the views of those who voted against him.

“He needs to do something dramatic to reset the atmosphere and in a dramatic way demonstrate that he is very serious about finding bipartisan solutions,” said David Boren, a former senator who now serves as the president of the University of Oklahoma and as a co-chairman of the president’s intelligence advisory board. Mr. Boren suggested that Mr. Obama appoint “a unity cabinet” bringing together Republicans and Democrats.

Ilya Sheyman, the campaign director of MoveOn.org, said Mr. Obama’s base would be hungry for action, not accommodation. “We see the president’s re-election as a precondition for progress and not progress in itself,” he said.

Likewise, Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy for the United We Dream Network, a group advocating for young immigrants, said her members would push Mr. Obama to revamp the immigration system. “We will hold the president accountable not only on his promise on legislative relief, but also what he can do administratively,” she said.

Mr. Obama seemed to address this tension in the closing speeches of his campaign. “I want to see more cooperation in Washington,” he said in Mentor, Ohio. “But if the price of peace in Washington” means slashing student aid, reversing his health care program or cutting people from Medicaid, he added, “that’s not a price I’ll pay.”

Still, Mr. Obama arguably did not help himself with a campaign strategy that left many issues unaddressed. While he and his aides indicated occasionally in interviews that he hoped to tackle the immigration system and climate change in a second term, he rarely mentioned them in his campaign speeches. As a result, it may be hard for him to claim a mandate on those issues.

“Nothing about the campaign has approved a mandate or an agenda,” said Ed Rogers, a White House official under President Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush who is now a top lobbyist. “I don’t think the House will meet him where he wants to be met. I’m just pessimistic about our president having much authority or much juice. Nobody’s going to be afraid of him.”

Mr. Obama is acutely aware that time for progress is limited in any second term, as he increasingly becomes a lame duck. “The first 14 months are productive, the last 14 months are productive, and you sag in the middle,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Mr. Obama’s first White House chief of staff.

Given that dynamic, Democrats said Mr. Obama must move quickly to establish command of the political process. “If you don’t put anything on the board, you die faster,” said Patrick Griffin, who was President Bill Clinton’s liaison to Congress and is now associate director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. “If you have no credibility, if you can’t establish some sort of victory here, you will be marginalized by your own party and the other side very quickly.”

All of that felt a thousand miles off on Tuesday night in Chicago. After all the debates and ads and rallies, it was a moment for Mr. Obama and his team to savor. There was a time even before he became president that Mr. Obama worried about his meteoric rise, telling aides he did not want to be “like a comet streaking across the sky” because “comets eventually burn up.” For now, the comet streaks on.

    Question for the Victor: How Far Do You Push?, NYT, 7.11.2012,






We Need a Little Fear


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


THE voters have spoken. So, what now? How will our still divided government deal with our mounting threats and challenges?

Shared fear can help.

A Bedouin proverb says, “Me against my brother, my brothers and me against my cousins, then my cousins and me against strangers.” Human beings are pretty good at uniting to fight at whatever level is most important at a given moment. This is why every story about a team of warriors or superheroes features an internal rivalry, but all hatchets are buried just before the climactic final battle in which the team vanquishes the external enemy.

A national election focuses our attention on a single level of competition — political party versus political party. Let’s call that “me and my brother against our cousin.” But after that, it’s time for our national team to come together to fight the many threats and enemies that confront us. Let’s unite with our cousins to fight the stranger!

Except that we didn’t do it four years ago, when things looked even grimmer, and there’s no sign that we’re going to do it now. Since the 1990s we’ve been stuck at one level — party versus party. Partisanship is not a bad thing. We need multiple teams to develop competing visions for voters to choose among. But when so many of our leaders can’t even occasionally place national interest before party interest, we’ve crossed over into hyperpartisanship. And that’s a very bad thing, because it amplifies other problems like the debt crisis, the absence of a rational immigration policy and our aging infrastructure.

We the people bear some of the blame for what’s happened in Congress, for we, too, have become more angrily partisan. So what can we do to pull ourselves up to that higher level? How can we unite not just with our brothers and sisters, but with our cousins?

One way is to focus on common threats, rather than on common ground, just as the Bedouin proverb suggests. It’s only the threat of the stranger that brings the extended family together. A physical attack by outsiders — like Pearl Harbor or 9/11 — binds people together like nothing else. But what if there is no such attack? Can trade competition with China do it? What about a threat we created ourselves?

Well, that depends. A basic principle of moral psychology is that “morality binds and blinds.” In many pre-agricultural societies, groups achieved trust and unity by circling around sacred objects. In modern societies, much larger groups bind themselves together by treating certain books, flags, leaders or ideals as sacred and by symbolically circling around them. But if your team circles too fast, you lose the ability to see clearly or think for yourself. You go blind to evidence that contradicts your group’s moral consensus, and you become enraged at teammates who suggest that the other side is not entirely bad (as New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, is now finding out).

Unlike a foreign attack, a problem that threatens only one side’s sacred values can therefore divide us, rather than unite us. It’s as though a giant asteroid is headed for the Earth. One side sees it coming and screams, but the louder it screams, the more stubbornly the other side covers its ears and averts its eyes. Here are a few of the asteroids hurtling toward us, which half of us can already see with our naked eyes:

• Rising temperatures. The left has been raising the alarm about global warming since the 1990s. It’s a threat to the environment and to poor people around the world — sacred values for liberals — but the right largely denies the scientific consensus, in part because many of the remedies would require limits on industry and intervention into markets (which would violate sacred values for some conservatives). Hurricane Sandy gave us a small taste of what’s likely to happen more frequently.

• Rising entitlements. The right has railed against entitlement spending since the 1960s, and its frustration boiled over in the Tea Party movement. The welfare state is a threat to traditional conservative values of personal responsibility (people have less incentive to plan for their own future) and fiscal solvency. Despite the logical errors in Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments, we do face bankruptcy when the baby boomers retire and a shrinking percentage of workers must pay the ever growing expenses of a ballooning class of retirees. Yet the Democrats want to “protect” older Americans, students and almost everyone else from the need to sacrifice.

• Rising inequality. The left has been protesting rising inequality since Ronald Reagan cut taxes on the rich and benefits for the poor, and a great deal of recent scholarship documents the socially, morally and economically damaging effects of separating the haves ever further from the have-nots. Nearly all the gains in productivity in the last 30 years have gone to the wealthiest, but the right justifies the trend and denies its toxicity.

• Rising births to unmarried women. In 1960, 5 percent of American children were born to unmarried women. In 2010, that number was more than 40 percent. Conservatives treat the traditional family as the irreplaceable building block of society and are therefore horrified that unmarried motherhood will soon be the national norm. The left has been ambivalent about the value of marriage (at least, before the push for gay marriage), sometimes viewing it as a patriarchal institution and reluctant to admit that a stable marriage is very good for children.

In other words, America faces many serious threats, but each side sees some and denies others. Morality binds and blinds. The philosopher John Stuart Mill described this problem in 1840, noting that in almost all major ideological controversies, “both sides were in the right in what they affirmed, though wrong in what they denied, and that if either could have been made to take the other’s views in addition to its own, little more would have been needed to make its doctrine correct.”

To see Mill’s diagnosis in action, note that marriage is disappearing primarily among Americans without a four-year college degree. Marriage confers so many benefits on children that it helps them rise into the upper tier of wealth; children who don’t benefit from a stable marriage are more likely to fall. So if you are a liberal who is worried about the inequality asteroid, you might consider teaming up with a conservative group trying to promote marriage.

But then you’d run smack into the problem that women rarely want to marry a man with no job and poor prospects. So if you are a conservative who cares about the unmarried-mother asteroid, you might want to team up with liberal groups working to improve educational equality and to find ways to keep poor young men in school.

When we focus only on the one asteroid that most frightens us, we feel anger at the partisans on the other side. We curse their blindness without recognizing our own. But if we can look up into the sky and see a whole fleet of asteroids heading for us, we lose our tunnel vision and experience a healthy form of panic. We’re in big trouble, and anyone who does that hyperpartisan stuff now should be ashamed — or kicked out of office. The day after Election Day is the day for all of us, and our siblings and cousins, to come together and start building an asteroid deflection system.


Jonathan Haidt, a professor of business ethics

at the New York University Stern School of Business, is the author, most recently,

of “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.”

    We Need a Little Fear, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Hope and Change: Part Two


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


In October 2010, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, famously told The National Journal, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” And that’s how he and his party acted.

Well, Mitch, how’s that workin’ out for ya?

No one can know for sure what complex emotional chemistry tipped this election Obama’s way, but here’s my guess: In the end, it came down to a majority of Americans believing that whatever his faults, Obama was trying his hardest to fix what ails the country and that he had to do it with a Republican Party that, in its gut, did not want to meet him halfway but wanted him to fail — so that it could swoop in and pick up the pieces. To this day, I find McConnell’s declaration appalling. Consider all the problems we have faced in this country over the last four years — from debt to adapting to globalization to unemployment to the challenges of climate change to terrorism — and then roll over that statement: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

That, in my view, is what made the difference. The G.O.P. lost an election that, given the state of the economy, it should have won because of an excess of McConnell-like cynicism, a shortage of new ideas and an abundance of really bad ideas — about immigration, about climate, about how jobs are created and about abortion and other social issues.

It seems that many Americans went to the polls without much enthusiasm for either candidate, but, nevertheless, with a clear idea of whom they preferred. The majority seemed to be saying to Obama: “You didn’t get it all right the first time, but we’re going to give you a second chance.” In a way, they voted for “hope and change” again. I don’t think it was so much a ratification of health care or “Race to the Top” or any other Obama initiative. It was more a vote on his character: “We think you’re trying. Now try even harder. Learn from your mistakes. Reach out to the other side, even if they slap away your hand, and focus like a laser on the economy, so those of us who voted for you today without much enthusiasm can feel good about this vote.”

And that is why Obama’s victory is so devastating for the G.O.P. A country with nearly 8 percent unemployment preferred to give the president a second chance rather than Mitt Romney a first one. The Republican Party today needs to have a real heart-to-heart with itself.

The G.O.P. has lost two presidential elections in a row because it forced its candidate to run so far to the loony right to get through the primaries, dominated by its ultraconservative base, that he could not get close enough back to the center to carry the national election. It is not enough for Republicans to tell their Democratic colleagues in private — as some do — “I wish I could help you, but our base is crazy.” They need to have their own reformation. The center-right has got to have it out with the far-right, or it is going to be a minority party for a long time.

Many in the next generation of America know climate change is real, and they want to see something done to mitigate it. Many in the next generation of America will be of Hispanic origin and insist on humane immigration reform that gives a practical legal pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. The next generation is going to need immigration of high-I.Q. risk-takers from India, China and Latin America if the U.S. is going to remain at the cutting edge of the Information Technology revolution and be able to afford the government we want. Many in the next generation of America see gays and lesbians in their families, workplaces and Army barracks, and they don’t want to deny them the marriage rights held by others. The G.O.P. today is at war with too many in the next generation of America on all of these issues.

All that said, my prediction is that the biggest domestic issue in the next four years will be how we respond to changes in technology, globalization and markets that have, in a very short space of time, made the decent-wage, middle-skilled job — the backbone of the middle class — increasingly obsolete. The only decent-wage jobs will be high-skilled ones.

The answer to that challenge will require a new level of political imagination — a combination of educational reforms and unprecedented collaboration between business, schools, universities and government to change how workers are trained and empowered to keep learning. It will require tax reforms and immigration reforms. America today desperately needs a center-right G.O.P. that is offering merit-based, market-based approaches to all these issues — and a willingness to meet the other side halfway. The country is starved for practical, bipartisan cooperation, and it will reward politicians who deliver it and punish those who don’t.

The votes have been counted. President Obama now needs to get to work to justify the second chance the country has given him, and the Republicans need to get to work understanding why that happened.

    Hope and Change: Part Two, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Democrats Deliver

String of Stinging Defeats

in Senate


November 6, 2012
The new York Times


Democrats snatched Republican Senate seats in Indiana and Massachusetts on Tuesday, averted what once were considered likely defeats in Missouri and Montana, and held control of the Senate, handing Republicans a string of stinging defeats for the second campaign season in a row.

The final balance of power depended on the results of tight races in Nevada and North Dakota, but it was clear that Democrats would maintain a majority and could even add to the 53 seats that they and their independent allies control. Senate leaders declared that their strong showing must be a signal to Republicans to come to the table to deal with the nation’s intractable problems, including the “fiscal cliff” facing Congress in January.

“Now that the election is over, it’s time to put politics aside and work together to find solutions,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader. “The strategy of obstruction, gridlock and delay was soundly rejected by the American people. Now they are looking to us for solutions.”

In Indiana, Representative Joe Donnelly did what had seemed impossible by taking a Senate seat for the Democrats in a heavily Republican state, just weeks after his opponent, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, said conception by rape was God’s will.

In Wisconsin, Representative Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay candidate to secure a Senate seat with her defeat of former Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a Democrat once considered the Senate’s most endangered incumbent, beat Representative Todd Akin, who seemingly sank his campaign when he said women who are victims of “legitimate rape” would not get pregnant.

In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor, swept from power Senator Scott P. Brown, a Republican whose surprise victory in January 2010 heralded the coming of the Tea Party wave. In Virginia, former Gov. Tim Kaine triumphed over another former governor, George Allen.

Democrats also scored a narrow victory in Montana, as Senator Jon Tester — one of the party’s most endangered incumbents — beat Representative Denny Rehberg, in what was believed to be the most expensive race in the state’s history.

Those Democratic triumphs followed quick wins in Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all states where Republicans had harbored ambitions of victory that would propel them to a Senate majority for the first time since 2006.

Republicans lost another state when former Gov. Angus King Jr. of Maine, an independent, won his race to succeed Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a moderate who is retiring. Mr. King has yet to say which party he will caucus with next year, but he had warned Republicans and Democrats that his treatment during the campaign would bear on that decision. National Republicans and their “super PAC” allies responded by pummeling him with negative advertisements that did little to shake his lead.

“We said we’d defend all of our seats and would put half of their seats in play,” said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who took that job last year when others had refused it.

“No one believed me,” she said, “but we did just that.”

The Senate campaigns of 2012 will be remembered for the sudden salience of rape as a destructive political subject and a Democratic surge in a year once expected to be the party’s Waterloo. Two years after Tea Party-backed candidates in Colorado, Delaware and Nevada fumbled away Republican chances at Senate control, a new crop of conservatives appeared to do the same thing. That will surely raise new questions about the failure of Washington Republicans to control a right flank in their grass roots.

“They’re going to have to decide whether they want to be in the majority or the minority,” Senator Snowe said. “It simply doesn’t make sense if Republicans decide they’re going to drive an ideological agenda as opposed to a practical agenda that is aligned with the principles of our roots.”

Representative Christopher S. Murphy fended off the deep-pocketed campaign of the former wrestling executive Linda McMahon to win a Senate seat in Connecticut, and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida easily defeated his Republican challenger, Representative Connie Mack.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio held off Josh Mandel, the Republican state treasurer, weathering an onslaught of negative advertising from outside groups to keep a seat for Democrats in a presidential battleground that Republicans were counting on.

In New York, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, cruised to re-election. Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, was also easily re-elected.

The results suggested that for the second consecutive election cycle, Republicans’ high hopes for a takeover of the Senate were dashed in large part by their own candidates. In 2010 and 2012, the disappointment could be laid at the feet of a very conservative Republican primary electorate that was determined to sweep out the party’s centrists.

Democrats started the cycle with 23 seats to defend and the Republicans 10, an imbalance produced by the Democratic sweep of 2006. With only a three-seat majority for the Democrats, including two independents who caucused with them, holding on to control of the chamber seemed like an impossible task.

To defend some of the seats in heavily Republican states where Democrats were retiring, the party recruited talented candidates like Heidi Heitkamp, a former North Dakota secretary of state. They also pulled in strong candidates in Arizona, Indiana and Massachusetts, forcing the Republicans to defend seats across a broader map in a year that was supposed to be all offense.

More important, the Tea Party wave that began in 2010 kept rolling early this year, again threatening the Republicans’ chances for a majority. In 2010, primary voters in Colorado, Delaware and Nevada selected Tea Party-backed conservatives, who may have wrecked the party’s hopes.

This time, conservatives defeated Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, a Republican veteran who was expected to walk to re-election. Instead, they nominated Indiana’s far more conservative treasurer, Mr. Mourdock, turning the general election into a fight.

Republican primary voters in Missouri chose Mr. Akin, the most conservative candidate in the field, to challenge Ms. McCaskill.

Republican fights between grass-roots conservatives and party-backed candidates led to prolonged and expensive primaries in Arizona and Wisconsin as well. In both cases, the party’s preferred candidate prevailed but emerged battered and broke.

Michael N. Castle, a moderate Republican and former congressman from Delaware, pointed to Ted Cruz, the Tea Party-backed Republican in Texas who coasted to victory in the race for the Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. “They can do that in Texas — that’s fine,” said Mr. Castle, who lost a Senate primary in 2010 to Christine O’Donnell, who was backed by the Tea Party and then lost in the general election. “But it gets a lot tougher in Indiana or Delaware.”

He added, “The Republican Party as a whole needs to be more understanding about what can fit into the different pockets of a diverse country.”

    Democrats Deliver String of Stinging Defeats in Senate, NYT, 6.11.2012,






Electorate Reverts

to a Partisan Divide

as Obama’s Support Narrows


November 6, 2012
The New York Times


With voters worn by hard times yet many of them hopeful of better times ahead, Americans reverted to more traditional lines compared with the broader-based coalition that made Barack Obama president four years ago.

President Obama held onto the demographic groups that traditionally make up his party’s base — young and unmarried people, political moderates, women, blacks, Latinos, the least and most educated, city dwellers, lower-income voters and union members — yet struggled with others who helped sweep him to victory in 2008.

Men, political independents and suburbanites — who backed Mr. Obama four years ago — this time gave more votes to Mitt Romney, according to Edison Research surveys of voters leaving the polls and of telephone interviews with some of the roughly 30 million Americans who voted early.

The president did barely hold onto college graduates and mothers, two groups that until 2008 were a mainstay of the Republican Party, and he hung onto Roman Catholics. Mr. Obama and his campaign assiduously courted the groups, just as last time. But he lost the independents who were among the most closely watched groups in the crucial swing states of Ohio and Virginia, except in Florida, where he had a narrow edge late in the evening.

Mr. Romney retained the support of most other typically Republican groups, including whites, older Americans, Southerners, rural residents, married voters, regular churchgoers and, overwhelmingly, white evangelical Christians, many of whom expressed hostility toward Mr. Romney, as a Mormon, in his 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

Perhaps indicating their antipathy to Mr. Obama, white evangelical Christians were more supportive of Mr. Romney than they were of Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee of 2008, and roughly as supportive as they were of President George W. Bush. And Mr. Obama’s support among Jewish voters slipped by eight points.

Mr. Romney got the votes of more whites than Mr. McCain, and, unlike Mr. McCain, he was supported by a majority of white voters under age 30.

In short, the electorate this year looked a lot more like that of 2004, when Mr. Bush narrowly defeated Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, to win re-election, than Mr. Obama’s diverse majority of 2008. The shifts among major demographic groups were first seen in the 2010 midterm elections, when the Democrats lost control of Congress as the economy sputtered. But Democrats made up a larger share of the electorate, similar to 2008, at 38 percent, with 32 percent identifying as Republicans and 30 percent as independents.

Significantly, the electorate’s view of the government’s role in the economy has shifted away from Mr. Obama’s call for a kind of public-private partnership, and toward Mr. Romney’s hands-off, free-market platform.

In November 2008, when the country was floundering in the worst recession since the Depression, Election Day surveys of voters found that 51 percent of them wanted government to do more to intervene while 43 percent said it was doing too many things better left to businesses. Now, after four years of government activism, those numbers have flipped.

In some states where government intervention like the auto bailout was palpable, however, Mr. Obama benefited. For example, Ohio voters overwhelmingly supported the 2009 federal aid to automakers, according to surveys of those who voted, and about three-quarters of them backed Mr. Obama.

This was no surprise: a big majority nationally said the economy was the most important issue. Majorities of those voters and of the smaller portion who called federal budget deficits the nation’s primary issue supported Mr. Romney. Mr. Obama won most voters who named foreign policy or health care as their top concern.

A majority still blames Mr. Bush more than Mr. Obama for the economy’s lingering problems. That helps explain how the president remained a formidable contender for a second term though no modern incumbent had won re-election with an unemployment rate near 8 percent.

So does the growing share of voters who view the economy’s condition — and their own — as improving. Four in 10 said the economy is getting better, and they overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama. Those who said it is “staying the same” or getting worse backed Mr. Romney.

As in national polls before the election, just over half of voters said the country is on the wrong track. Still, 54 percent of voters approved of Mr. Obama’s job performance, about the same rating that Mr. Bush had when he was re-elected.

The president was probably helped in the campaign’s final week by his widely praised handling of the federal government’s response to Hurricane Sandy. Nearly two-thirds of voters said it was a factor in their vote; those who called it important chose Mr. Obama.

He was seen generally as more empathetic and better able to handle Medicare and an international crisis. The two were about even when it came to who was better able to handle the economy and the federal budget deficit.

Three-fifths of voters said they opposed raising taxes to help cut the deficit, a finding that favored Mr. Romney. But almost half support higher taxes on incomes over $250,000, as Mr. Obama has proposed.

The Obama campaign’s emphasis on winning Latino voters seemed to pay off. Mr. Obama maintained support among Latino voters, who are about one in 10 of the electorate, and growing, including in swing states and Republican states like Texas.

Mr. Obama got about 7 in 10 Latinos and more than 9 of 10 black voters. He also won overwhelming support from the small, growing slice of voters who are Asian-Americans.

Some Republican leaders have warned of the danger for their party as the nation becomes less white if Democrats solidify the allegiance of such ethnic groups as Latinos and Asian-Americans, or, conversely, if Republicans forfeit it by perpetuating their image as a party hostile to immigrants. A few leaders, like former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, warned Mr. Romney during the Republican nomination race that his hard-line stand on immigration could backfire.

Mr. Obama, aides say, will try to enlist Republicans in Congress to overhaul immigration law, and the voter surveys provided ammunition: two-thirds said illegal immigrant workers should be “offered a chance to apply for legal status.”

Seven in 10 voters said they made up their mind before September; they favored Mr. Obama.

    Electorate Reverts to a Partisan Divide as Obama’s Support Narrows, NYT, 6.11.2012,






Murphy Defeats McMahon

After Bitter U.S. Senate Race

in Connecticut


November 6, 2012
The New York Times


HARTFORD — Christopher S. Murphy, a 39-year-old three-term Connecticut congressman, defeated the former wrestling executive Linda E. McMahon on Tuesday to win the United States Senate seat held since 1989 by Joseph I. Lieberman, who is retiring.

Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, defeated Ms. McMahon, a Republican, amid heavy turnout to cap a meteoric political rise. Mr. Murphy, a lawyer, first won a seat in the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1988 at age 25 and in 2006 defeated a 24-year incumbent, Nancy Johnson, to represent Connecticut’s Fifth District. He will be the youngest member of the Senate.

The race was long and bitter, dominated by a media barrage by Ms. McMahon, 64, who also lost a bid for the Senate in 2010 against Richard Blumenthal. Over the two races, she spent nearly $100 million, almost all of it her own. In this race, she tried to reach out to women, with whom she performed poorly last time, by softening her image. She also tried to paint Mr. Murphy as a career politician who had been careless about his personal finances.

But Mr. Murphy hit back on traditional Democratic themes, particularly women’s issues, and performed strongly in the candidates’ four debates. And Ms. McMahon, who over the two races spent more of her own money to win a Senate seat than anyone in history, was bucking a stiff Democratic tide in a state that President Obama carried easily and where Democrats hold all the state offices and control both houses of the Legislature. They held on to all five United States House seats in voting Tuesday.

“Tonight we proved that what matters most in life is the measure of your ideas, the measure of your determination, the measure of your friends, not the measure of your wallet,” Mr. Murphy told an exultant crowd here.

He was introduced by Senator Blumenthal, who clearly remembered his own brutal race against Ms. McMahon and relished the outcome of both.

“In Connecticut, we have elections, not auctions,” he said.

In Stamford, Ms. McMahon thanked her supporters and asked them to stay involved with the issues she raised.

“Everyone listen to me,” she said. “Charge them, challenge them to do what we say, because they work for us. If we forget that, shame on us.”

With 72 percent of the vote reporting early Wednesday, Mr. Murphy had won about 53 percent of the vote, with 45 percent for Ms. McMahon.

Exit polls indicated that more than two-thirds of voters said that which party controlled the Senate was a very important part of their vote, a clear advantage for Mr. Murphy.

Ms. McMahon’s background as the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment — which she used to describe herself as a successful businesswoman, and which her opponents used to portray her as a purveyor of crass entertainment — was not as prominent a part of the campaign as it was in 2010. Still, according to exit polls, roughly 4 in 10 voters said Ms. McMahon’s wrestling background played a role in their vote, and of those, 9 to 1 went for Mr. Murphy.

And, despite advertisements aimed at softening her image, slightly more than half of voters said Mr. Murphy had high ethical standards, while only 4 in 10 said that about Ms. McMahon. Mr. Murphy won the women’s vote by about 15 percentage points.

And, as in 2010, it appeared there were limits to what Ms. McMahon’s advertising artillery could accomplish.

Mark Gudim, 31, a home inspector from Brookfield, said he was an unaffiliated voter and was undecided until a few weeks ago when “I couldn’t take the advertisements anymore.”

“I drive a lot every day for work, and every time I turned on the radio, there she was,” he said. “It wasn’t about what she was going to do, it was always bashing Chris Murphy. It definitely got old.”

Mr. Murphy’s election capped a night on which Democrats were poised to control all six Senate seats in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. In New York, Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, who was appointed by Gov. David A. Paterson and then won a special election in 2010 to serve out Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate term, defeated her Republican opponent, Wendy E. Long.

In New Jersey, the incumbent, Robert Menendez, defeated Joe Kyrillos, a Republican state senator and a close ally of Gov. Chris Christie.

The Connecticut race was the most contested of the three and gained considerable national attention as Ms. McMahon’s aggressive, well-financed campaign put Mr. Murphy on the defensive and brought the race to a dead heat in several polls before the four debates last month. But national Democrats and outside groups threw some money into the race on Mr. Murphy’s behalf, and Ms. McMahon began drawing heat for remarks she made in April proposing provisions that would allow the reconsideration of Social Security and for refusing to provide specifics on programs like Social Security and Medicare until after the election.


Elizabeth Maker contributed reporting.

    Murphy Defeats McMahon After Bitter U.S. Senate Race in Connecticut, NYT, 6.11.2012,






Democrats Grab Senate Seats

in Massachusetts and Indiana


November 6, 2012
The New York Times


Democrats snatched Republican Senate seats in Indiana and Massachusetts on Tuesday, averted what was once considered a likely defeat in Missouri and held control of the Senate, handing Republicans a string of stinging defeats for the second campaign season in a row.

The final balance of power depended on the results of tight races in Montana, Nevada and North Dakota, but it was clear that Democrats would maintain a majority and could even add to the 53 seats that they and their independent allies control. Senate leaders declared that their strong showing must be a signal to Republicans to come to the table to deal with the nation’s intractable problems, including the “fiscal cliff” facing Congress in January.

“Now that the election is over, it’s time to put politics aside and work together to find solutions,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader. “The strategy of obstruction, gridlock and delay was soundly rejected by the American people. Now they are looking to us for solutions.”

In Indiana, Representative Joe Donnelly did what had seemed impossible by taking a Senate seat for the Democrats in a heavily Republican state, just weeks after his opponent, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, said conception by rape was God’s will.

In Wisconsin, Representative Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay candidate to secure a Senate seat with her defeat of former Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a Democrat once considered the Senate’s most endangered incumbent, beat Representative Todd Akin, who seemingly sank his campaign when he said women who are victims of “legitimate rape” would not get pregnant.

In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor, swept from power Senator Scott P. Brown, a Republican whose surprise victory in January 2010 heralded the coming of the Tea Party wave. In Virginia, former Gov. Tim Kaine triumphed over another former governor, George Allen.

Those Democratic triumphs followed quick wins in Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all states where Republicans had harbored ambitions of victory that would propel them to a Senate majority for the first time since 2006.

Republicans lost another state when former Gov. Angus King Jr. of Maine, an independent, won his race to succeed Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a moderate who is retiring. Mr. King has yet to say which party he will caucus with next year, but he had warned Republicans and Democrats that his treatment during the campaign would bear on that decision. National Republicans and their “super PAC” allies responded by pummeling him with negative advertisements that did little to shake his lead.

“We said we’d defend all of our seats and would put half of their seats in play,” said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who took that job last year when others had refused it.

“No one believed me,” she said, “but we did just that.”

The Senate campaigns of 2012 will be remembered for the sudden salience of rape as a destructive political subject and a Democratic surge in a year once expected to be the party’s Waterloo. Two years after Tea Party-backed candidates in Colorado, Delaware and Nevada fumbled away Republican chances at Senate control, a new crop of conservatives appeared to do the same thing. That will surely raise new questions about the failure of Washington Republicans to control a right flank in their grass roots.

“They’re going to have to decide whether they want to be in the majority or the minority,” Senator Snowe said. “It simply doesn’t make sense if Republicans decide they’re going to drive an ideological agenda as opposed to a practical agenda that is aligned with the principles of our roots.”

Representative Christopher S. Murphy fended off the deep-pocketed campaign of the former wrestling executive Linda McMahon to win a Senate seat in Connecticut, and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida easily defeated his Republican challenger, Representative Connie Mack.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio held off Josh Mandel, the Republican state treasurer, weathering an onslaught of negative advertising from outside groups to keep a seat for Democrats in a presidential battleground that Republicans were counting on.

In New York, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, cruised to re-election. Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, was also easily re-elected.

The results suggested that for the second consecutive election cycle, Republicans’ high hopes for a takeover of the Senate were dashed in large part by their own candidates. In 2010 and 2012, the disappointment could be laid at the feet of a very conservative Republican primary electorate that was determined to sweep out the party’s centrists.

Democrats started the cycle with 23 seats to defend and the Republicans 10, an imbalance produced by the Democratic sweep of 2006. With only a three-seat majority for the Democrats, including two independents who caucused with them, holding on to control of the chamber seemed like an impossible task.

To defend some of the seats in heavily Republican states where Democrats were retiring, the party recruited talented candidates like Heidi Heitkamp, a former North Dakota secretary of state. They also pulled in strong candidates in Arizona, Indiana and Massachusetts, forcing the Republicans to defend seats across a broader map in a year that was supposed to be all offense.

More important, the Tea Party wave that began in 2010 kept rolling early this year, again threatening the Republicans’ chances for a majority. In 2010, primary voters in Colorado, Delaware and Nevada selected Tea Party-backed conservatives, who may have wrecked the party’s hopes.

This time, conservatives defeated Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, a Republican veteran who was expected to walk to re-election. Instead, they nominated Indiana’s far more conservative treasurer, Mr. Mourdock, turning the general election into a fight.

Republican primary voters in Missouri chose Mr. Akin, the most conservative candidate in the field, to challenge Ms. McCaskill.

Republican fights between grass-roots conservatives and party-backed candidates led to prolonged and expensive primaries in Arizona and Wisconsin as well. In both cases, the party’s preferred candidate prevailed but emerged battered and broke.

Michael N. Castle, a moderate Republican and former congressman from Delaware, pointed to Ted Cruz, the Tea Party-backed Republican in Texas who coasted to victory in the race for the Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. “They can do that in Texas — that’s fine,” said Mr. Castle, who lost a Senate primary in 2010 to Christine O’Donnell, who was backed by the Tea Party and then lost in the general election. “But it gets a lot tougher in Indiana or Delaware.”

He added, “The Republican Party as a whole needs to be more understanding about what can fit into the different pockets of a diverse country.”

    Democrats Grab Senate Seats in Massachusetts and Indiana, NYT, 6.11.2012,






Factbox-Mitt Romney,

Ex-Republican US Presidential Candidate


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


(Reuters) - U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and private equity executive, lost his second bid for the White House in Tuesday's election against President Barack Obama.

Here are key facts about him.

* Romney, 65, espoused traditional Republican positions to cut taxes, reduce federal regulations, shrink government spending and bolster the U.S. military. He vowed to create 12 million new jobs in his first term with a plan focused on domestic energy development, expanded free trade, improving education, reducing the deficit and championing small business.

* He lost the 2008 Republican presidential nomination to Senator John McCain but entered this year's race with a large campaign war chest and the blessing of many in the party establishment. Conservative unease over his reputation as a moderate led to a stiff challenge in the Republican primaries.

* His net worth has been estimated at between $190 million and $250 million, making him one of the wealthiest people to ever run for the presidency. Romney has been criticized for holding money overseas and for not disclosing as many tax releases as his opponents have demanded.

* Romney proposed to lower individual income taxes across the board to 20 percent while closing some loopholes, which he says would stimulate economic growth without widening the federal deficit. He supported restructuring the Social Security retirement program and the Medicare government health insurance program for the elderly and disabled.

* He is a fifth-generation member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormon church. He was a Mormon missionary in France for more than two years after leaving high school and later became bishop and stake president in Boston, roles akin to being a lay pastor. His faith, however, is viewed with suspicion by some conservative evangelical Christians.

* Born into a well-off family and raised near Detroit, Romney was exposed to politics early. His father, George, was chairman of American Motors Corporation and governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969. George Romney lost a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 and served in President Richard Nixon's Cabinet.

* In 1994, the younger Romney ran for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts as a moderate Republican, but was handily defeated by incumbent Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy. Eight years later, Romney was elected governor of Massachusetts, where he instituted a statewide healthcare reform that became a model for Obama's 2010 national healthcare overhaul.

* In 1999, Romney took over as head of the committee organizing the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, which had been plagued by cost overruns and scandal, and produced a successful event that helped establish his national reputation as a premier problem-solver.

* As his party moved to the right, Romney changed his positions on sensitive social issues, including abortion and gay rights. That fuelled criticism that he lacked core beliefs and was motivated only by ambition. Romney referred to himself as "severely conservative" during the 2012 Republican primaries but has projected a more moderate image during the general election campaign.

* Romney met his wife, Ann, at a high school dance and they married in 1969, while they were still in college. They have five sons and 18 grandchildren. Romney has an English degree from Utah's Brigham Young University, which is owned and run by the Mormon church, and a joint law degree and MBA from Harvard University. He speaks French.

* Romney joined the management consultancy Bain & Company in 1977 and climbed the ranks. In 1984, he co-founded the highly profitable private equity arm Bain Capital, which invested in start-ups and fledgling companies including Staples, Sports Authority and Domino's Pizza. Critics have highlighted the number of jobs Bain cut while Romney was at its helm.

* Romney has battled a reputation for being uncomfortable and stiff when campaigning and somewhat aloof when relating to ordinary Americans. The New York Times once described his campaign persona as "All-Business Man, the world's most boring superhero."

* He has little foreign policy experience. He stumbled in August during a gaffe-filled trip to Britain, Israel and Poland that was meant to burnish his credentials on the world stage. He has labelled Russia as America's "number one geopolitical foe" and said that preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability should be Washington's highest national security priority.


(Compiled by Americas Desk; Editing by Will Dunham)

    Factbox-Mitt Romney, Ex-Republican US Presidential Candidate, NYT, 7.11.2012,






Somber Faces in Boston

as Romney Concedes


November 7, 2012
The New York Times


BOSTON (Reuters) - A somber Republican crowd watched glumly on Tuesday as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney failed in his bid to unseat President Barack Obama, despite a stubbornly high unemployment rate.

Romney struck a conciliatory note as he conceded. Thanking his supporters, he said he had called Obama and wished the Democrat the best.

"I so wish - I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader," Romney said. "And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation."

The hard-fought election did not end without some late confusion. Television networks declared Obama the winner in the key state of Ohio, but by only a slim margin.

The projected victory prompted questions about whether Romney's campaign would challenge the result.

Romney waited almost two hours after networks called the election before making his concession speech in the ballroom of a Boston convention center. Staffers told waiting reporters there had been an unspecified delay.

But as more swing states, including Virginia, Nevada and Colorado, moved into the Democratic column, aides said Romney would concede shortly.

He appeared on stage at about 1 a.m. and the ballroom fell silent. A small group of men rendered an off-key version of "God Bless America" until Romney was introduced.



In his remarks, Romney called on elected officials to cross party lines and work together.

"I believe in America. I believe in the people of America," he said, pausing in a brief moment of emotion.

The gathering became increasingly quiet as the night progressed.

Romney advisers said they thought their candidate had been hurt by the divisive Republican primary fight, and acknowledged that Obama's campaign had done a good job defining Romney early.

"It was a close race, very disappointing obviously for those of us who supported Governor Romney," said Bob Grady, a Jackson, Wyoming venture capitalist who has been a Romney adviser and worked for President George H.W. Bush.

Grady said Republicans need to rethink their electoral strategy and reach out to immigrant groups. But he said Obama faces a tough challenge in pulling the country together to address the debt and deficit.

The ballroom began emptying when the networks announced that Obama won Ohio.

By the time Obama appeared in Chicago to make his victory speech, the Romney event was empty except for hotel staff and hundreds of reporters.


(Additional reporting by Svea Herbst;

Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Alden Bentley)

    Somber Faces in Boston as Romney Concedes, NYT, 7.11.2012,







Quotes from the 2012 U.S. election


Wed Nov 7, 2012
2:44am EST


(Reuters) - Americans re-elected Democrat Barack Obama as president on Tuesday after a tightly contested race against Republican Mitt Romney. Below are some comments made by candidates, observers and voters:

OBAMA, tweeting after networks projected his victory:

"This happened because of you. Thank you."

"We're all in this together. That's how we campaigned, and that's who we are. Thank you. -bo"

GEORGE SOROS, billionaire investor and big Democratic donor:

"The American electorate has rejected extremist positions, opening the door for a more sensible politics. Hopefully the Republicans in office will make better partners in the coming years, most urgently in avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff."

JOHN BOEHNER, Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, on Republicans maintaining House majority:

"The American people want solutions and tonight they responded by renewing our House Republican majority. With this vote, the American people also made clear there's no mandate for raising tax rates. Americans want better solutions that will ease the burdens of small businesses, bring jobs home and let our economy grow. We stand willing to work with any willing partner ... who shares a commitment to getting those things done."

SCOTT BROWN, Massachusetts Republican, on losing Senate seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren:

"We stood strong in the fight and we stand strong now even in disappointment. ... You all sent me to Washington to be my own man, and I'll be returning my own man. And for that, I am very, very proud."

WARREN, accepting the Massachusetts Senate seat:

"For every family that has been chipped and squeezed and hammered, we're going to fight for a level playing field. ... To all the small business owners who are tired of a system rigged against them, we're going to hold the big guys accountable."

"An amazing campaign. And let me be clear: I didn't build that, you built that. And you did what everyone thought was impossible: You taught a scrappy first-time candidate how to get in the ring and win."

TODD AKIN, Republican, conceding Missouri Senate race:

"I always said, don't trust those polls and that's been true. But I also think that in the circumstances that we've all been through, that it's particularly appropriate to thank God... So I say, to God alone, be the honor and the glory regardless of how He decides to organize history."

SARAH PALIN, former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor:

"I just cannot believe that the majority of Americans would believe that incurring more debt is good for our economy, for our children's future, for job creators. I cannot believe that the majority of Americans would believe that it's OK not to follow the Constitution and not have a budget. ... It's a perplexing time for many of us."

SYMONE VILLALONA, call-center worker in Nevada, first-time voter who backed Obama:

"I like someone who's for the people, the middle class. Romney didn't seem like he cared that much."

MELANIE KATSUR, attorney, Romney backer in Washington, D.C.:

"I think that the rate with which the deficits have grown is not acceptable. I am fortunate enough to have a job, but I know a lot of people who don't."

LYDA SWOGGER, first-time voter supporting Obama in Ohio:

"Obama stands for most of the same things I do. He inherited a mess and he needs more time to fix it."

PAUL DIRKS, retired mathematics professor and Obama supporter in Florida, on this year's ad barrage:

"It's been the ugliest campaign I've ever seen in my life and I'm 71 years old. ... I felt like throwing stones at my TV."

NOREEN TAYLOR, Democrat voting in Nevada:

"Elections used to be about stuff, about issues and specifics. We used to have statesmen. Now we just have salesmen."


(Reporting by Reuters reporters around the country;

Compiled by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Jim Loney)

    Factbox: Quotes from the 2012 U.S. election, R, 7.11.2012,






President Obama’s Success


November 6, 2012
The New York Times


President Obama’s dramatic re-election victory was not a sign that a fractured nation had finally come together on Election Day. But it was a strong endorsement of economic policies that stress job growth, health care reform, tax increases and balanced deficit reduction — and of moderate policies on immigration, abortion and same-sex marriage. It was a repudiation of Reagan-era bromides about tax-cutting and trickle-down economics, and of the politics of fear, intolerance and disinformation.

The president’s victory depended heavily on Midwestern Rust Belt states like Ohio, where the bailout of the auto industry — which Mr. Obama engineered and Mr. Romney opposed — proved widely popular for the simple reason that it worked.

More broadly, Midwestern voters seemed to endorse the president’s argument that the government has a significant role in creating private-sector jobs and boosting the economy. They rejected Mr. Romney’s position that Washington should simply stay out of such matters and let the free market work its will.

The Republicans’ last-ditch attempt to steal away Pennsylvania by stressing unemployment was a failure there and elsewhere. Voters who said unemployment was a major issue voted mainly for Mr. Obama.

Mr. Romney, it turns out, made a fatal decision during the primaries to endorse a hard line on immigration, which earned him a resounding rejection by Latinos. By adopting a callous position that illegal immigrants could be coerced into “self-deportation,” and by praising Arizona’s cruel immigration law, Mr. Romney made his road in Florida and several other crucial states much harder. Only one-third of voters said illegal immigrants should all be deported, while two-thirds endorsed some path to legal residency and citizenship. The Republican approach, if unchanged, will cost them dearly in the future.

Still, Mr. Obama’s victory did not show a united country. Richer Americans supported Mr. Romney, while poorer Americans tended to vote for Mr. Obama. There also remained clear divisions among voters by gender, age, race and religion.

African-Americans and Hispanics overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama. White men voted for Mr. Romney; he won among those who said they opposed gay marriage, wanted to outlaw abortion, or favored mass deportation of illegal immigrants. None of those are majority positions in this country anymore.

Mr. Romney’s strategy of blaming Mr. Obama for just about everything, while serenely assuring Americans he had a plan to cut the deficit without raising taxes or making major cuts in Medicare, simply did not work.

A solid majority of voters said President George W. Bush was to blame for the state of the economy rather than Mr. Obama. And voters showed more subtlety in their economic analysis than Mr. Romney probably expected. Those who thought the housing market and unemployment were the nation’s biggest problems said they voted for Mr. Obama. Those most concerned about taxes voted heavily for Mr. Romney.

Significantly, 60 percent of voters said taxes should be raised either on the rich or on everyone. Only 35 percent said they should not be raised at all; that group, naturally, went heavily for Mr. Romney. The polling made it clear that Americans were unhappy with the economic status quo, and substantial numbers of voters said the economy was getting worse. But Mr. Romney did not seem to persuade voters that the deficit was a crushing problem. Only 1 in 10 voters said the deficit was the most important issue facing the country.

Republicans had to be disappointed in the results of their unrelenting assault on Mr. Obama’s health care reform law. Only around a quarter of Americans said it should be repealed in its entirety.

People who were comfortable with the rightward slide of the Republican Party (as measured by their comfort with the Tea Party) voted heavily for Mr. Romney.

But Christopher Murphy’s victory over Linda McMahon in the Senate race in Connecticut, Joe Donnelly’s defeat of Richard Mourdock in Indiana’s Senate race and Claire McCaskill’s defeat of Todd Akin in the Missouri Senate race showed the price the Republicans are paying for nominating fringe candidates in their primaries.

The polls were heartening in that they indicated that a solid majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal, and that half of Americans now say their states should recognize marriages between same-sex couples.

That the race came down to a relatively small number of voters in a relatively small number of states did not speak well for a national election apparatus that is so dependent on badly engineered and badly managed voting systems around the country. The delays and breakdowns in voting machines were inexcusable.

    President Obama’s Success, NYT, 6.11.2012,






A Bit of Quiet Optimism,

and Some Superstition,

Before a Tight Victory


November 6, 2012
The New York Times


CHICAGO — He woke up in his old bed, here in sweet home Chicago. He played a superstitious game of basketball with old pals and aides from the 2008 glory days, as he did on many primary poll days back then. He did a few final interviews. And at the end of the long election night, after he was re-elected president, he congratulated his rival, Mitt Romney, saying, “We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply.”

But before his victory speech before a screaming throng of thousands, President Obama spent Election Day wrapping himself in the familiar, as around him, his aides wrapped themselves in the fiercest of hopes that when all the votes were cast, the country’s first black president would be joining the rarefied ranks of two-term presidents.

Every one of them was nervous, yet still claiming to be convinced that Mr. Obama would win. The veterans of the soaring 2008 campaign — Robert Gibbs, Reggie Love, David Axelrod, David Plouffe (the latter two wearing Obama 2008 fleece jackets) — joined with those who had joined only for the plodding 2012 campaign. Even as they expressed cautious optimism, the campaign had a cross-your-fingers, superstitious air.

Besides Jay Carney, the press secretary, Jon Favreau, Mr. Obama’s speechwriter, and Ben Rhodes, a national security aide, stopped shaving as a good-luck charm for Mr. Obama’s re-election. The president joked about his scruffy staffers Monday night in Columbus, when he met up with some roadies after a rally who were sporting Santa-style beards: “You guys got your playoff beards going, too?”

In one of the campaign’s central rituals, Mr. Obama played basketball on Tuesday, because he believes that he does not win when he does not play. Twice during his primary fight with Hillary Rodham Clinton back in 2008, he skipped his afternoon game on the days ballots were cast. And both times he lost. “We won’t make that mistake again,” Mr. Gibbs said.

At 1:07 p.m., on a chilly and drizzly Lake Michigan afternoon, Mr. Obama arrived at the Attack Athletics basketball court on West Harrison Street in downtown Chicago. Among the other players were Mr. Love, his former body man and a former Duke University basketball player; the former Chicago Bull Scottie Pippen; Education Secretary Arne Duncan and a cadre of close Chicago friends.

It was a rare reprieve from reporters, cheering crowds and caffeine-fueled campaign volunteers, and a chance for the president to try to get his mind away from the events of the day.

But there was also ordinary White House business. On Tuesday, he convened a call with officials to talk about recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy.

But at the end of the day, Tuesday was not about being president. It was about trying to win the chance to be president for four more years. So along with the basketball game and the conference call, Mr. Obama visited his campaign headquarters in Chicago.

“Hi, is this Annie?” Mr. Obama said into a cellphone as he tried to rally voters and volunteers. “This is Barack Obama.”

Annie — of Wisconsin, the campaign said — may not have been too convinced.

“This is Barack Obama,” the president repeated. “You know, the president?”

Finally, a conversation ensued. “She was very nice to me even though she initially didn’t know who I was,” Mr. Obama said when the call ended.

By afternoon, supporters had started to stream into McCormick Place, the mammoth convention center where Mr. Obama would address them when the results were known. The difference between four years ago, when 200,000 people withstood the cold in Grant Park, was notable.

As the crowds streamed into McCormick, Mr. Obama had dinner with his family in the Hyde Park home where they had lived before he became president. He went to the Fairmont Hotel downtown to watch the returns with friends and families.

Earlier in the day, the president told a Colorado radio station he had prepared two different speeches for tonight.

The cross-your-fingers optimism continued right up until the moment — 10:12 p.m. Central time — that NBC called the election for Mr. Obama. Worried aides had been pointing to early signs of apparent success in Florida one minute, then wailing, “Why haven’t they called Ohio?” the next.

But then, in an instant, everything changed. At the Fairmont, where Mr. Obama’s top aides were awaiting results, people began crying with joy and exchanging high fives. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who had been on the phone all evening calling congressional leaders, bolted from his perch one floor below Mr. Obama and headed upstairs to join his running mate.

And the president prepared to head to McCormick Place, with his victory speech in tow.

“For the United States of America,” Mr. Obama said to the screaming crowd in McCormick Place, “the best is yet to come.”

    A Bit of Quiet Optimism, and Some Superstition, Before a Tight Victory, NYT, 6.11.2012,






Obama Wins New Term

as Electoral Advantage Holds


November 6, 2012
The New York Times


Barack Hussein Obama was re-elected president of the United States on Tuesday, overcoming powerful economic headwinds, a lock-step resistance to his agenda by Republicans in Congress and an unprecedented torrent of advertising as a divided nation voted to give him more time.

In defeating Mitt Romney, the president carried Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin, a near sweep of the battleground states, and was holding a narrow advantage in Florida. The path to victory for Mr. Romney narrowed as the night wore along, with Mr. Obama winning at least 303 electoral votes.

A cheer of jubilation sounded at the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago when the television networks began projecting him as the winner at 11:20 p.m., even as the ballots were still being counted in many states where voters had waited in line well into the night. The victory was far narrower than his historic election four years ago, but it was no less dramatic.

“Tonight in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back,” Mr. Obama told his supporters early Wednesday. “We know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.”

Mr. Obama’s re-election extended his place in history, carrying the tenure of the nation’s first black president into a second term. His path followed a pattern that has been an arc to his political career: faltering when he seemed to be at his strongest — the period before his first debate with Mr. Romney — before he redoubled his efforts to lift himself and his supporters to victory.

The evening was not without the drama that has come to mark so many recent elections: For more than 90 minutes after the networks projected Mr. Obama as the winner, Mr. Romney held off calling him to concede. And as the president waited to declare victory in Chicago, Mr. Romney’s aides were prepared to head to the airport, suitcases packed, potentially to contest several close results.

But as it became increasingly clear that no amount of contesting would bring him victory, he called Mr. Obama to concede shortly before 1 a.m.

“I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters,” Mr. Romney told his supporters in Boston. “This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.”

Hispanics made up an important part of Mr. Obama’s winning coalition, preliminary exit poll data showed. And before the night was through, there were already recriminations from Republican moderates who said Mr. Romney had gone too far during the primaries in his statements against those here illegally, including his promise that his get-tough policies would cause some to “self-deport.”

Mr. Obama, 51, faces governing in a deeply divided country and a partisan-rich capital, where Republicans retained their majority in the House and Democrats kept their control of the Senate. His re-election offers him a second chance that will quickly be tested, given the rapidly escalating fiscal showdown.

For Mr. Obama, the result brings a ratification of his sweeping health care act, which Mr. Romney had vowed to repeal. The law will now continue on course toward nearly full implementation in 2014, promising to change significantly the way medical services are administrated nationwide.

Confident that the economy is finally on a true path toward stability, Mr. Obama and his aides have hinted that he would seek to tackle some of the grand but unrealized promises of his first campaign, including the sort of immigration overhaul that has eluded presidents of both parties for decades.

But he will be venturing back into a Congressional environment similar to that of his first term, with the Senate under the control of Democrats and the House under the control of Republicans, whose leaders have hinted that they will be no less likely to challenge him than they were during the last four years.

The state-by-state pursuit of 270 electoral votes was being closely tracked by both campaigns, with Mr. Romney winning North Carolina and Indiana, which Mr. Obama carried four years ago. But Mr. Obama won Michigan, the state where Mr. Romney was born, and Minnesota, a pair of states that Republican groups had spent millions trying to make competitive.

Americans delivered a final judgment on a long and bitter campaign that drew so many people to the polls that several key states extended voting for hours. In Virginia and Florida, long lines stretched from polling places, with the Obama campaign sending text messages to supporters in those areas, saying: “You can still vote.”

Neither party could predict how the outcome would affect the direction of the Republican Party. Moderates were hopeful it would lead the rank and file to realize that the party’s grass-roots conservatism that Mr. Romney pledged himself to during the primaries doomed him in the general election. Tea Party adherents have indicated that they will argue that he was damaged because of his move to middle ground during the general election.

As he delivered his brief concession speech early Wednesday, Mr. Romney did not directly address the challenges facing Republicans. His advisers said that his second failed quest for the White House would be his last, with his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, standing as one of the leaders of the party.

“We have given our all to this campaign,” said Mr. Romney, stoic and gracious in his remarks. “I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead this country in a different direction.”

The results were more a matter of voters giving Mr. Obama more time than a second chance. Through most of the year slight majorities of voters had told pollsters that they believed his policies would improve the economy if they could stay in place into the future.

Mr. Obama’s campaign team built its coalition the hard way, through intensive efforts to find and motivate supporters who had lost the ardor of four years ago and, Mr. Obama’s strategists feared, might not find their way to polls if left to their own devices.

Up against real enthusiasm for Mr. Romney — or, just as important, against Mr. Obama — among Republicans and many independents, their strategy of spending vast sums of money on their get-out-the-vote operation seemed vindicated on Tuesday.

As opinion surveys that followed the first debate between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama showed a tightening race, Mr. Obama’s team had insisted that its coalition was coming together as it hoped it would. In the end, it was not a bluff.

Even with Mr. Obama pulling off a new sweep of the highly contested battlegrounds from Nevada to New Hampshire, the result in each of the states was very narrow. The Romney campaign was taking its time early Wednesday to review the outcome and searching for any irregularities.

The top issue on the minds of voters was the economy, according to interviews, with three-quarters saying that economic conditions were not good or poor. But only 3 in 10 said things were getting worse, and 4 in 10 said the economy was improving.

Mr. Romney, who campaigned aggressively on his ability to turn around the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, was given a narrow edge when voters were asked which candidate was better equipped to handle the economy, the interviews found.

The electorate was split along partisan lines over a question that drove much of the campaign debate: whether it was Mr. Obama or his predecessor, George W. Bush, who bore the most responsibility for the nation’s continued economic challenges. About 4 in 10 independent voters said that Mr. Bush should be held responsible.

The president built a muscular campaign organization and used a strong financial advantage to hold off an array of forces that opposed his candidacy. The margin of his victory was smaller than in 2008 — he held an advantage of about 700,000 in the popular vote early Wednesday — but a strategic firewall in several battleground states protected his Electoral College majority.

As Mr. Romney gained steam and stature in the final weeks of the campaign, the Obama campaign put its hopes in perhaps one thing above all others: that the rebound in the auto industry after the president’s bailout package of 2009 would give him the winning edge in Ohio, a linchpin of his road to re-election.

Early interviews with voters showed that just over half of Ohio voters approved of the bailout, a result that was balanced by a less encouraging sign for the president: Some 4 in 10 said they or someone in their household had lost a job over the last four years.

He defeated Mr. Romney 52 percent to 47 percent in Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, but only because of the number of votes he banked in the month leading up to Election Day.

Mr. Obama won despite losing some of his 2008 margins among his key constituencies, including among younger voters, blacks and Jewish voters, yet he appeared to increase his share among Hispanics and Asians. Early exit poll results showed Latinos representing about 1 in 10 voters nationwide, and voting for Mr. Obama in greater numbers than four years ago, making a difference in several states, including Colorado and Florida.

He held on to female voters, according to preliminary exit polls conducted by Edison Research, but he struggled even more among white men than he did four years ago.

Mr. Romney’s coalition included disproportionate support from whites, men, older people, high-income voters, evangelicals, those from suburban and rural counties, and those who call themselves adherents of the Tea Party — a group that had resisted him through the primaries but had fully embraced him by Election Day.

The Republican Party seemed destined for a new round of self-reflection over how it approaches Hispanics going forward, a fast-growing portion of the voting population that senior party strategists had sought to woo before a strain of intense activism against illegal immigration took hold within the Republican grass roots.

It was the first presidential election since the 2010 Supreme Court decision loosening restrictions on political spending, and the first in which both major-party candidates opted out of the campaign matching system that imposes spending limits in return for federal financing. And the overall cost of the campaign rose accordingly, with all candidates for federal office, their parties and their supportive “super PACs” spending more than $6 billion combined.

The results Tuesday were certain to be parsed for days to determine just what effect the spending had, and who would be more irate at the answer — the donors who spent millions of dollars of their own money for a certain outcome, or those who found a barrage of negative advertising to be major factors in their defeats.

While the campaign often seemed small and petty, with Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama intensely quarreling and bickering, the contest was actually rooted in big and consequential decisions, with the role of the federal government squarely at the center of the debate.

Though Mr. Obama’s health care law galvanized his most ardent opposition, and continually drew low ratings in polls as a whole, interviews with voters found that nearly half wanted to see it kept intact or expanded, a quarter wanted to see it repealed entirely and another quarter said they wanted portions of it repealed.

In Chicago, as crowds waited for Mr. Obama to deliver his speech, his supporters erupted into a roar of relief and elation. Car horns honked from the street as people chanted the president’s name.

“I feel like it’s a repudiation of everything the Republicans said in the campaign,” said Jasmyne Walker, 31, who jumped up and down on the edge of a stone planter in a downtown plaza. “Everybody said that if he lost it would be buyer’s remorse — that we were high on hope in 2008. This says we’re on the right track. I feel like this confirms that.”


Michael Cooper contributed reporting.

    Obama Wins New Term as Electoral Advantage Holds, NYT, 5.11.2012,






Two Sides’ Last Task:

Get Out the Vote


November 6, 2012
The New York Times


And then, they voted.

Americans went to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether to give President Obama a second term or to replace him with Mitt Romney after a long, hard-fought campaign that centered on who would heal the battered economy and what role government should play in the 21st century.

From makeshift voting sites in East Coast communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy to the more typical voting booths set up in school gyms, libraries and town halls across the rest of the country, people began lining up before dawn to cast their ballots — collectively writing the ending to a bitter, expensive presidential campaign in which the candidates, parties, and well-heeled outside groups were on pace to spend some $2.6 billion.

In hotly contested areas like Milwaukee, Fairfax, Va., and Central Florida, there were reports of long lines at polling sites. There were also long lines to vote in states that were not on anyone’s list of battlegrounds, including New York.

Mr. Romney, the Republican former governor of Massachusetts, cast his vote Tuesday morning near his home in Belmont, Mass. When a reporter asked him for whom he had voted, Mr. Romney replied, “I think you know.” Mr. Obama voted Oct. 25 in Chicago — becoming one of more than 31 million people who voted early this year.

The president visited a campaign office in Chicago on Tuesday morning, where he called and thanked several startled volunteers in Wisconsin and then spoke briefly to the reporters who were traveling with him, congratulating Mr. Romney for having run a “spirited campaign.”

“I also want to say to Governor Romney, congratulations on a spirited campaign,'’ Mr. Obama said. “I know that his supporters are just as engaged and just as enthusiastic and working just as hard today. We feel confident we’ve got the votes to win, that it’s going to depend ultimately on whether those votes turn out. And so I would encourage everybody on all sides just to make sure that you exercise this precious right that you have that people fought so hard for, for us to have.”

Both campaigns continued trying to grind out votes on Tuesday. Mr. Obama planned a round of satellite television interviews with local stations in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Washington and Wisconsin. Mr. Romney planned campaign stops in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Given the way both men have sometimes seemed to be campaigning for the presidency of Ohio — given the repeated stops they made there in their efforts to claim the state’s 18 electoral votes — it was perhaps unsurprising that the two campaigns should cross paths there on Election Day. Mr. Romney was waiting in his campaign plane in Cleveland on Tuesday morning for the arrival of his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, when another plane touched down and could be seen taxiing nearby. It was carrying Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

If both campaigns could seem small at times, the issues confronting the nation remained big: how to continue to rebuild after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression; whether to implement Mr. Obama’s health care law to cover the uninsured, or undo it; whether to reshape Medicare for future beneficiaries to try to curb its costs; whether to raise taxes to reduce the federal deficit or to rely on spending cuts alone; how to wind down the war in Afghanistan without opening the region to new dangers; and how to navigate the post-Arab Spring world.

On their frenzied final full day of campaigning, the candidates reprised their central arguments before crowds in the same handful of swing states where the campaign has been waged for much of the last year, as both men have battled for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. The campaigns were hoping that huge turnout efforts would tilt contested states their way.

For all the twists and turns that the race has taken since the candidates downed their first greasy pork chops on sticks at the Iowa State Fair, those core, competing messages have remained remarkably consistent.

Mr. Obama reminded a crowd in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday how bad things were when he took office, listed his achievements and argued that he has more work to do.

“In 2008, we were in the middle of two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Mr. Obama said. “Today our businesses have created nearly five and a half million new jobs. The American auto industry has come roaring back. Home values are on the rise. We’re less dependent on foreign oil than any time in the last 20 years. Because of the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform, the war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan is ending. Al Qaeda’s on the path to defeat. Osama Bin Laden is dead. We’ve made progress these last four years.”

Mr. Romney told a crowd in Lynchburg, Va., on Monday that the country needs a new direction after Mr. Obama. “He’s tried to convince you that these last four years have been a success,” he said. “And so his plan for the next four years is to take all the ideas from the first term — the stimulus, the borrowing, Obamacare, all the rest — and do them over again. He calls that ‘Forward.’ I call it ‘Forewarned.’ The same course we’ve been on won’t lead to a better destination. The same path means $20 trillion of debt at the end of a second term. It means crippling unemployment continuing for another four years. It means stagnant take-home pay. It means depressed home values. And of course, it means a devastated military.”

But at times the campaign has been as notable for what was left unsaid as for what was said.

Both men seemed to avoid speaking of some of their biggest legislative achievements. Mr. Romney rarely invoked the health care law he enacted as the governor of Massachusetts, which was a model for Mr. Obama’s health care law which many Republicans derided as “Obamacare” and which Mr. Romney has vowed to repeal. And Mr. Obama, for his part, rarely spoke about the $787 billion stimulus bill he signed early in his term, which used a combination of tax cuts, aid to states and infrastructure spending to try to bolster the economy — but which was seen as insufficient by some liberals and as inefficient by some conservatives.

For all the clear differences between the two men, they were both somewhat hazy about their plans for the next four years.

Mr. Romney called for cutting income tax rates across the board by 20 percent while offsetting the lost revenue by eliminating tax breaks, but failed to specify which ones, even after some nonpartisan groups questioned whether it was mathematically possible for him to achieve all his goals. He called for overhauling the Medicare system so that a decade from now, beneficiaries would receive fixed amounts of money from the federal government with which to buy private or public coverage — and even tapped Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, one of the main proponents of such an approach, as his running mate. But he declined to give details of just how it would work, making it difficult to evaluate.

And Mr. Obama did not lay out a detailed agenda for his second term, and instead spoke generally of trying to finish the things left undone in his first term. If he wins, though, he is still likely to face the opposition of the Republicans in Congress who have blocked many if his initiatives. So during the campaign Mr. Obama has made it clear that he still wants to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws, which he failed to persuade Congress to do in his first term. In the course of three debates he did not even utter the words “climate change,” an issue that was thrust to the fore soon afterward when Hurricane Sandy made landfall, destroying parts of the Jersey Shore and flooding Manhattan.

As tightly scripted as both campaigns were, there were moments when both candidates were knocked off their messages, sometimes in revealing ways.

Mr. Romney’s trip abroad over the summer was overshadowed by controversy after he offended his British hosts by publicly questioning whether they were prepared for the London Olympics. Then, there was the release of a secretly recorded videotape that captured Mr. Romney telling wealthy donors that 47 percent of Americans pay no taxes and see themselves as victims. And one of the big moments of his campaign, his speech at the Republican National Convention, was upstaged by the odd introduction he received from Clint Eastwood, who spoke to an empty chair representing the president.

Mr. Obama’s low-wattage performance at the first presidential debate, in Denver — he later joked that he had had a “nice long nap” there — wound up dispiriting his supporters and firing up opponents. The deadly attacks on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks thrust the president into a complex national security crisis near the end of the campaign. And earlier in the campaign, Mr. Obama was knocked off his timetable and publicly endorsed same-sex marriage earlier than he had planned after Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. got out ahead of the administration and voiced his own support of it.

The biggest unplanned moment, of course, occurred when Hurricane Sandy hit and knocked the presidential campaign off the front pages the week before the election. As the scope of the disaster sank in, there was a brief respite from campaigning. Then it resumed, at a more frenetic pace than ever.

There were long lines of voters in many of the swing states that will decide the election. In Kensington, N.H. — a swing town in a swing county in a swing state — Lee Veader said that he hoped that the election would bring relief from what he said had been the most acidic campaign that he could remember, with partisanship as rife in his own social circles as it has been on cable television.

“There’s really people that we’re close with that are willing to let politics end relationships — we’re talking friends that you’ve been friends with for years that all of a sudden can’t get past not sharing the same viewpoint,” said Mr. Veader, a registered Republican who voted for Mr. Romney. “People really feel strongly how they stand nowadays. It’s not as gray as it used to be — because of that, it just gets personal.”

Diane Chigas, a receptionist at a law firm who is an independent voter, said that she was voting for Mr. Obama, in large part because of his health care law. “I had to work through two years of chemo so I wouldn’t lose my insurance,” said Ms. Chigas. “I’m not a pre-existing condition. I’m a person.”

Dennis Carroll, a retired small-business owner, said that he opposed Mr. Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy and that he was voting for Mr. Romney. “He’s doing class warfare,'’ Mr. Carroll said of the president. “I’m not a rich guy, but they pay their fair share.”

Inside the polling station, the election moderator, Harold Bragg, stuck ballots into a wooden box and steeled himself for the task of counting them all by hand later this evening. “It’s been very busy, we have yet to see a break this morning,” said Mr. Bragg. “I’d say we’re doing three-to-one what we normally do.”


Jess Bidgood contributed reporting.

    Two Sides’ Last Task: Get Out the Vote, NYT, 6.11.2012,






Long Lines,

Demands for ID

and Provisional Ballots

Mar Voting for Some


November 6, 2012
The New York Times


In Virginia and Texas some voters waited in line for four hours. In Pennsylvania, there were inappropriate demands for official photo IDs. Recorded calls went out to residents of Florida saying misleadingly that they had until 7 p.m. “tomorrow” to vote. And in Ohio, there seemed to be an unusually high number of provisional ballots, causing concern that they might not all get counted.

Election Day had its share of flaws and partisan disputes, but it seemed unlikely late Tuesday that they would cause a major shift in the result or set the stage for a big lawsuit. A judge in Galveston, Tex., ordered polls to stay open a bit late because of crowds, and there were court orders in Pennsylvania barring observers from interfering with voters. Still, the day was largely uninterrupted by judicial activity.

Legal action might follow later, once margins of victory in swing states were clearer. As for Election Day itself, the lack of court activity may have been because both Democrats and Republicans had trained and planned for months and were out in force watching poll workers — and each other.

Liberal nonpartisan groups, gathered into an alliance called Election Protection, said they received more than 80,000 calls to their hot line seeking help from confused voters. The alliance, organized by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, had 5,000 lawyer volunteers in the field and 2,000 people on phones in 28 call centers in 80 jurisdictions.

One of their biggest concerns was the apparently large number of provisional ballots given to voters in Ohio, the state many consider the central battleground for the presidential election. Provisional ballots are given when information presented by the voter does not match the registration roll or insufficient identification is presented. By law, provisional ballots must be counted if officials later determine the voter is legitimate. Many provisional ballots end up not getting counted.

At the Mother of Christ Church in Cincinnati, there was frustration among those advised to use such ballots.

“I don’t want to vote provisionally — I want to vote for real,” Canessa Harrell, 42, told poll workers. Ms. Harrell said poll workers at another precinct had told her to come to Mother of Christ Church to vote, but when she arrived there, she was not listed in the rolls for the precinct. “Will my vote count?” she asked.

“It will still count,” a worker said, following Ms. Harrell, who had decided to leave instead.

Another woman, Shanika Jones, 22, stood with her two young children waiting to vote, only to learn that she would also have to cast her vote on a provisional ballot. She had applied to vote by mail weeks ago, she said later, but forgot to send that ballot in and figured that she could still vote in person on Tuesday.

In Columbus, Annie Womack, who was volunteering for the N.A.A.C.P. to watch polls, said she saw people walk away rather than agree to wait in another line and receive a provisional ballot. In Ohio in 2008, about 20 percent of provisional ballots were discarded.

Another concern had to do with voter identification requirements in Pennsylvania. A law passed earlier this year said voters had to present an official form of photo ID at the polls, but a judge said that would not go into effect for this election. He said poll workers should ask for the ID but voters without them could go ahead and vote in a normal manner anyway.

But there were examples of voters without the ID being told they could not vote without it. In Allegheny County in the southwestern part of the state, a judge barred people outside polling stations from demanding identification from voters after a complaint that poll workers were seeking ID from people outside a polling place in Homestead, Pa.

“Individuals outside of the polls are prohibited from questioning, obstructing, interrogating or asking about any form of identification and/or demanding any form of identification from any prospective voter,” wrote Judge Guido A. DeAngelis of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

Republicans also had concerns. Ron Hicks, a lawyer for the Republican Committee of Allegheny County, said Democratic poll watchers had also been yelling and intimidating some voters.

Latino voters said they faced daunting lines in Virginia, Ohio, Nevada and especially South Florida, but many Latino leaders said the wait was largely a result of robust turnout.

“Latino community members are convinced this is a critical election for their issues and they are going to vote no matter what,” said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org, a Latino mobilization network.

The misleading phone calls to 12,500 voters in Pinellas County, Fla., saying they had till “tomorrow” to vote, was an error, according to a spokeswoman for the county supervisor of elections. She said the calls had started going out Monday night and inadvertently continued on Tuesday. Corrections were issued.

In New Jersey and parts of New York, Hurricane Sandy left some stuck without heat, gas or electricity, making voting an exceptional burden and causing worry that the vote tallies would slide down.

And in Fulton County, Ga., which includes Atlanta, some machines failed to operate and there were too few workers.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp of Georgia said through a spokesman that the situation was “extremely concerning.” Some voters there also had to use provisional paper ballots until issues at dozens of polling places were resolved.


Reporting was contributed by Jon Hurdle from Philadelphia, Lizette Alvarez from Miami,

Campbell Robertson from Tampa, Fla., Monica Davey from Cincinnati,

Manny Fernandez from Houston, Michael Grynbaum from Milwaukee,

Jack Healy from Denver, Fernanda Santos from Phoenix,

Kim Severson from Atlanta and Julia Preston from New York.

    Long Lines, Demands for ID and Provisional Ballots Mar Voting for Some, NYT, 6.11.2012,






Long Lines

Form at Polling Places

as Displaced Residents

Find Ways to Vote


November 6, 2012
The New York Times


People whose lives were upended by Hurricane Sandy joined other voters on Tuesday to cast ballots after elected officials in New York and New Jersey rushed to relocate scores of polling places that had become unusable because of power failures, flooding or evacuations.

With neighborhoods still inundated by debris, silt and water, many people had to go to great lengths to cast a ballot in places that are little recovered from what officials describe as the worst storm damage to hit the New York City region, and where the prospect of more violent wind and torrential rain is looming this week.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that a powerful northeaster expected to hit the area late on Wednesday could bring a surge in the water level of 2 to 4.5 feet at high tides — far less than the hurricane brought ashore, but enough to reflood low-lying areas.

Mr. Bloomberg said that the city would not require an evacuation of Zone A — its low-lying waterfront areas — but that police cars with loudspeakers would travel through several shorefront neighborhoods to alert residents. He implored residents to use shelters. The storm is expected to carry winds of 25 to 35 miles per hour to the city, with gusts up to 55 m.p.h. late Wednesday afternoon.

With one eye on the approaching storm, untold thousands of residents in the region devoted their energy, patience and, in some cases, ingenuity to voting.

Just after daybreak in Bay Head, N.J., Shelly Coleman and her husband, Terrance, bundled up in winter jackets, left their sodden, water-damaged home and headed to the Bay Head firehouse, where a makeshift polling place had sprouted — literally overnight.

The couple walked through the sand-blown and mucky streets, sidestepping the occasional dead fish that lay on its side, a lifeless eye staring up at them. The firehouse, powered by an industrial-size generator that rumbled like the engine of a jet airliner, was one of the few places with heat in the tiny seaside borough, just below Point Pleasant Beach.

“Guess what? We got water back on Friday. It was so exciting,” Ms. Coleman said, approaching the borough’s clerk.

Another voter, Leslie Wentz, 58, said she had no heat and had not showered in days. The election, she said, was not her top priority, but she voted anyway.

“I think everybody is just in survival mode,” she said. “Everybody is trying to survive. The town is doing a great job. The church is doing a great job, but I feel like the federal government is not coming in and doing anything. I can’t get anybody to help me.”

Though the region hit by Hurricane Sandy is not expected to be in play in the presidential election, the combination of the storm and heavy turnout yielded long lines, confusion, frustration and anger.

At several polling sites in New York City, the vote scanning machines being used for the first time in a presidential election malfunctioned, forcing workers to resort to paper ballots and slowing the process even more.

Maura Green was trying to vote in the East Village but her ballot was rejected by the scanning machine, and she had a hard time getting help from poll workers some of whom were blaming one another for the problems.

“It seemed the poll workers were not very organized or didn’t prepare,” Ms. Green said. “It was very chaotic. They didn’t seem to have a plan.”

Mr. Bloomberg said in a briefing that he was aware of the problems. He said machines were delivered late to some sites, others opened late, there were long, confusing lines and some polling sites did not have sufficient fuel to power generators.

“Be patient; it is worth the wait to be part of the process,” the mayor said. But he also criticized some of what was happening, like the jamming of ballot scanners and the collation of paper ballots for results.

“It is just a nightmare and it is really hard to understand in this day and age how you could do that,” he said.

Mr. Bloomberg and other officials have emphasized the efforts the city has exerted to recover after the storm and provide tens of thousands of New Yorkers with food aid and emergency shelter, while also trying to coordinate the logistics of holding a presidential election so even voters in the worst-hit areas, like Staten Island and the Rockaways, can take part in it.

As of Tuesday, about 350,000 homes are still dark, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said. Although power has been restored to more than 1.7 million homes in New York since the storm hit, Mr. Cuomo affirmed his annoyance with Consolidated Edison and the Long Island Power Authority for the pace of restorations, a message that resonated among some voters as they made the trek to the ballot box.

Randy Harter, 66, an artist and designer, voted in Westchester County, where his frustration at what he described as an incompetent government response to the storm had transformed into frustration with his voting experience.

When Mr. Harter asked an election worker for help to fill out a paper ballot he had never seen before, he was told: “Just fill it out.” When his ballot was inserted, the machine jammed. A second machine also jammed. He eventually was given an envelope in which to place a ballot that would be hand-counted. The entire voting experience took 45 minutes, Mr. Harter said.

On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, hundreds of voters waited on the sidewalk and packed into a gym at Public School 163. Voters had to wait in different lines to determine their election district, to get a ballot, to fill out the ballot and to get the ballot scanned. The process took an hour. There was no help for the disabled, and people grew increasingly upset.

Officials tried to make the process work smoothly especially for those living in areas hard hit by the hurricane.

New Jersey and New York both said they would allow voters uprooted by Hurricane Sandy to cast provisional ballots anywhere in their states.

But the provisional ballots would, in many cases, allow residents to vote only in statewide contests and in the presidential election, in which President Obama is heavily favored in both states. The ballots could not be used in local and Congressional races, which in some areas are far more competitive.

New Jersey went further, saying it will let displaced voters vote by fax or e-mail. Ballot-integrity advocates warned that this raised risks of fraud by hackers, or mischief by partisan local officials because electronic ballots lack secrecy and are not safeguarded by witnesses.

Across the storm-damaged region on Monday, some residents voted early, saying it felt like an important step back toward normalcy.

On Tuesday, the line to vote at an East Village polling station extended half a block down First Avenue and rapidly built westward on Ninth Street. By 8:40 a.m., at least 175 people were patiently reading papers, manipulating smartphones and drinking coffee, advancing not even a foot a minute.

Alex Schroder, 23, said she hoped it would be no longer than an hour, because she had to get to her job as a preschool teacher.

“I am really excited to vote,” she said, “so I don’t mind waiting.” She said that she really wanted Mr. Obama to win, and that the issues in this election — women’s roles, economics, gay rights, the environment — were deeply important to her.

In Forest Hills, Queens, Ann Dichter, 63, said she had never seen as busy a polling place in her 10-plus years there as she did Tuesday. Asked what was on her mind this day, she began a tirade against one of the presidential candidates, then stopped and summed up her mind-set thusly: “Women’s rights.”

In New York, there are very tight Congressional or legislative races in Queens, on Staten Island, on Long Island and in Westchester County, all of which were hit hard by the storm. Candidates in those races went to great lengths to ensure that their supporters could surmount the extraordinary obstacles to voting this year.

On Staten Island, the Congressional campaign of Mark Murphy, a Democrat running against Representative Michael G. Grimm, a Republican, sent volunteers to gasoline lines across the borough with iPhones to help idling voters figure out where they should go on Tuesday. Mr. Grimm’s campaign said it was recruiting volunteers with full gas tanks to transport to the polls voters whose cars were destroyed or had no gas.

Just before the election, local and state officials were plainly having trouble conveying information about Election Day obstacles and remedies. New Jersey officials could not say how many polling places had been moved — though they said fewer than 100 still needed “some resolution.” Polling places require power to run their electronic machines. As of Monday night, more than 100 polling places in New York State had been changed, including about 60 in the city. Most were in Brooklyn and Queens; in two cases, in the Rockaways and the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx, the city was setting up polling places in tents powered by generators and outfitted with portable heaters.

The city’s Board of Elections also arranged for shuttle buses that would run every 15 minutes to ferry voters to and from polling places in three areas hit particularly hard by the storm: the Rockaways, Coney Island and Staten Island.

Juan Carlos Polanco, a commissioner on the Board of Elections, said it had done everything in its power to publicize the new locations of polling places.

But the board has a troubled track record, even when elections are not preceded by hurricanes. In 2010, computer malfunctions and delayed openings of polling places led Mr. Bloomberg to pronounce the board’s handling of the election a “royal screw-up.” In June, the five-way Democratic primary for Representative Charles B. Rangel’s seat took weeks to be counted.

Local elected officials were not optimistic about Tuesday. Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer, a Manhattan Democrat, said she had heard from utility workers scheduled to work 12-hour shifts on Election Day who had no idea how they were supposed to vote. And Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, questioned why thousands of voters taking refuge at evacuation shelters would not be able to cast provisional ballots at their shelters.

In Ocean County, officials took extra steps to allow displaced residents to vote. They sent a mobile voting bus to shelters there and in adjacent Burlington County. They also sought to address the problem of provisional ballots by printing 50,000 generic ballots and allowing voters to fill in the names of their local candidates.

For candidates in tight races, the effort to get voters to the polls was both frantic and delicate.

On Long Island, volunteers for Randy Altschuler, the Republican challenging Representative Timothy H. Bishop, a Democrat, called voters to make sure they knew that the election was still taking place and to offer rides. But every conversation began with a question about whether the voters needed help.


Reporting was contributed by Joseph Berger, Christine Hauser,

Andrea Kannapell and Michael Paulson.

    Long Lines Form at Polling Places as Displaced Residents Find Ways to Vote, NYT, 6.11.2012,







How the U.S. Electoral College works


Tue Nov 6, 2012
12:52pm IST


REUTERS - The U.S. Electoral College was established in the Constitution as a compromise between electing a president by a vote in Congress and by popular vote of citizens. Here are some facts about the Electoral College:

* The Electoral College, which is not a place but a process, consists of 538 electors. To win the presidency, a candidate must win at least 270 electors.

* The number of electors equals the number of lawmakers in Congress - 435 in the House of Representatives and 100 in the Senate, plus three for the District of Columbia. Each state's allotment of electors equals its number of representatives in the House plus one for each of its two senators.

* Most states have a winner-take-all system for awarding electors. The presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in the state gets all of the state's electors. Maine and Nebraska have a variation of "proportional representation" that can result in a split of their electors between the candidates.

* Critics say the Electoral College does not meet the original intent because a candidate can lose the nationwide popular vote and still win the election by winning the right combination of states. That happened most recently in the controversial election of 2000 when Democrat Al Gore got the most votes but Republican George W. Bush won the presidency. Republicans Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 and Benjamin Harrison in 1888 also won in the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote.

* There is no constitutional requirement that electors vote according to the results of the popular vote, although some states require it.

* The electors meet in their states in December and cast their votes for president and vice president.

* If no presidential candidate reaches 270 electoral votes, the election goes to the House of Representatives, with each state having one vote.

The House has decided two presidential elections - that of Thomas Jefferson in 1800 and John Quincy Adams in 1824.

The Senate would elect the vice president, with each senator casting one vote. That raises the possibility of a president and vice president from different parties.

* The biggest Electoral College prizes are California, with 55; Texas, with 38; and New York and Florida, each with 29. California and New York are considered reliably Democratic, Texas reliably Republican and Florida is a battleground state that could go either way.

* Among the other important swing states this year, Ohio has 18 votes, Virginia 13, Wisconsin 10, Colorado 9, Nevada 6, Iowa 6 and New Hampshire 4.

* The system explains why candidates tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time and money on trying to secure the battleground states. It also means that what appears to be a tight race in national opinion polls may be less close when viewed state by state.

SOURCES: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Reuters.


(Editing by Jim Loney and Peter Cooney)

    FACTBOX - How the U.S. Electoral College works, NYT, 6.11.2012,






Georgia’s Voters Will Decide

on Future of Charter Schools


November 5, 2012
The New York Times


ATLANTA — Staff members in the charter school division of the Georgia Department of Education keep notepads in their offices inscribed with a mantra: “Is it best for students? Then do it.”

But when it comes to charter schools, parents, teachers, education officials and legislators are deeply divided over what exactly would be best for students.

Here in Georgia, the future of charters, which are publicly financed but privately operated, could be determined Tuesday by a ballot measure that asks voters to amend the State Constitution so that an appointed statewide commission could authorize new schools.

Along with high-stakes testing and tenure changes, legislative efforts to expand charter schools are among the most contentious issues in education circles. Proponents say charters can experiment with new teaching strategies to help struggling students or those stuck in failing public schools. Detractors say the charters drain precious public money and energy from neighborhood schools.

At issue in Georgia is who should decide whether a charter school can open. Supporters of the amendment say a commission focused exclusively on charters is necessary to override resistant local school boards and ensure that parents have ample educational choices.

“Education is one of the few things in our country that you have no choice,” said Lyn Carden, the board chairwoman of the Georgia Charter Educational Foundation, which operates two charter schools that were initially denied applications by their local school boards.

“You live in this neighborhood, you go to this school,” Ms. Carden said. “For some parents, it works great, but not all schools are right for all kids.”

Critics of the amendment say families already have plenty of choices, including charter schools authorized by local school boards.

“We are not arguing the merits or demerits of charter schools,” said Herb Garrett, the executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association. “We’re just saying that decisions about new schools in a community ought to be made by elected officials who represent those citizens, not a bunch of political appointees in Atlanta who have no idea what’s going on in a local school district.”

The Georgia initiative, as well as a ballot measure in Washington State that would permit charters there for the first time, is being closely watched across the country. In both states, the measures have attracted financial support from national business leaders and advocacy groups.

In Washington, donors supporting the charter ballot initiative include Bill and Melinda Gates; the parents of Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon; and Nicholas Hanauer, a prominent venture capitalist. Alice Walton, the daughter of Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton, has contributed to campaigns supporting the measures in both Georgia and Washington.

Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party organization founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has donated to a committee supporting the charter amendment in Georgia. Students First, a group run by Michelle A. Rhee, the former schools chancellor in the District of Columbia, has also contributed and is helping to organize supporters in the state.

The roster of contributors in Georgia includes several companies that manage charter schools, including K12 Inc., Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies. In all, committees supporting the ballot measure have collected 15 times as much as groups opposing the measure, according to public filings.

Opponents point to such wealthy donors and argue that the charter amendment is part of a broader agenda designed to privatize education and discredit public schools.

The heavy spending, some education experts say, could rouse the kind of opposition that exploded during the teachers’ strike in Chicago in September. The union there railed against teacher evaluations and challenges to union seniority that are advocated by some of the same groups behind the charter movement.

The Chicago strike “was a serious pushback against these fairly radical reformers coming in with a lot of money,” said John S. Ayers, the executive director of the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives at Tulane University. “It will be interesting to see what happens in Georgia.”

As with many battles over public education, political alliances are being remade. Here in Georgia, where the charter amendment could give the state more power to overrule local education boards, conservatives who typically champion decentralized government are giving the amendment full-throated support.

Meanwhile, some Tea Party members have joined Democratic legislators, including State Senators Jason Carter and Vincent D. Fort, in opposing the measure. The state’s school superintendent, John D. Barge, a Republican, has come out against it as well.

The measure’s supporters say local school boards tend to be hostile to charter school applicants because they see them as competing for students and state financing. Public school districts “have a monopoly they wish to protect,” said Chip Rogers, a Republican state senator who sponsored the bill that put the measure on the November ballot. “But if they’re not serving their kids, you have to give them an additional option.”

Critics note that local school boards have repeatedly granted approval for charters. Of the 108 independent charter schools operating in Georgia, nearly 9 of 10 were authorized locally, said Louis Erste, the director of the State Education Department’s charter schools division.

Although the State Supreme Court last year struck down a previous incarnation of a state charter commission established in 2008, charter applicants rejected by local school boards may still appeal to the State Board of Education.

Many voters simply find it difficult to understand the amendment’s details and consequences.

“I find it offensive that voters literally have to have a law degree to figure out what is going on here,” said Elizabeth Hooper, a mother of three children who have attended public schools in Alpharetta, a suburb of Atlanta. “The General Assembly is using the voter as a pawn.”

At a forum about the measure last month, Monica Henson, the executive director of the Provost Academy, an online school that had been authorized by the now defunct state commission, said the amendment would help other similar schools start and grow.

“How can something like this be bad for kids?” she asked.

Ms. Henson said the school, which allows students to work on computers at home, served students who were at risk of dropping out of traditional schools, many of them from poor and minority families.

Such arguments anger black leaders who say charter schools either isolate African-American students or allow white families to escape to schools where children can avoid black classmates.

“Charter schools tend to resegregate or reinforce segregation,” said Mr. Fort, the chairman of the legislature’s black caucus committee on education.

Mr. Fort and others point to Pataula Charter Academy, a school in the southwest corner of the state that was approved by the short-lived charter commission three years ago. Three-quarters of the school’s 358 students are white, while the five counties that feed into it have populations that are 50 percent to 90 percent black.

“Of course, these numbers are not where we want to be,” said Cheryl Weathersby, Pataula’s business director. Ms. Weathersby said the school, which admits students by lottery, received few applications from black families.

Along the road leading to Pataula, neighbors had stuck orange signs into their front yards that read “Yes, Public Charter Schools — Amendment One.” A teacher at the school wore a green T-shirt with “Vote Yes for Charter Schools” emblazoned on the back.

Ms. Weathersby said the charter amendment was crucial to Pataula’s survival. “It scares me for parents,” she said. “What about our children? They’d have to go back to schools that didn’t work for them.”


Robbie Brown contributed reporting.

    Georgia’s Voters Will Decide on Future of Charter Schools, NYT, 5.11.2012,






The Battle for the Senate


November 5, 2012
The New York Times

For Republicans intent on unraveling President Obama’s accomplishments, electing Mitt Romney has been only one part of the equation. Almost as important was installing a Republican majority in the United States Senate, where 50 votes (plus the vice president) would be necessary to repeal much of health care reform, roll back tax increases on the rich and gut social welfare programs.

The party’s hopes, however, have been severely damaged in recent weeks. Republican candidates who are crucial to regaining a majority in the Senate have tumbled, according to a variety of polls, and Democrats are now considered likely to retain control. The reason for this is clear: Primary voters chose several unappealing or ideologically driven candidates who repelled general-election voters once they began speaking their minds.

In a country facing enormous economic and international challenges, for example, it is stunning that two Midwestern Democrats are leading their races solely because their Republican opponents explained in shocking detail why they oppose a rape exception to a ban on abortion. Neither Richard Mourdock of Indiana nor Representative Todd Akin of Missouri felt any need to hold back, because their beliefs are central to why they were nominated.

Mr. Akin, who is running against Senator Claire McCaskill, has long opposed abortion in all cases, and, in August, he announced that it was not really an issue because, in cases of “legitimate rape,” the female body shuts down the conception process. Mr. Mourdock, who is running against Representative Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, said last month that pregnancy resulting from rape was “something that God intended to happen.” Both candidates could still win in their conservative states, but, for now, their insensitive rigidity has left them behind.

In Wisconsin, Representative Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, has benefited from the comments of her opponent, former Gov. Tommy Thompson. He said he would come up with programs “to do away with Medicaid and Medicare.” Josh Mandel, a Republican who is challenging Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, has a tissue-thin résumé and no fixed position on a variety of issues. In Florida, Representative Connie Mack IV, a Republican who is challenging Senator Bill Nelson, has been crippled by revelations that he did marketing work on behalf of Hooter’s and has a history of barroom brawling and road rage.

Republicans in two relatively liberal northeastern states are fighting a huge Democratic headwind stirred up by the presidential race. Most polls in Massachusetts have shown Senator Scott Brown either tied with his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren, or behind. (Ms. Warren’s solid agenda on behalf of consumers and against economic inequality has won her enthusiastic support.) In Connecticut, Linda McMahon’s enormously expensive, self-financed Republican campaign has not bought her a lead in the polls against Representative Christopher Murphy, so now she is committing a laughable party heresy by urging voters to support both her and Mr. Obama.

The House is likely to remain in Republican hands, so keeping Democrats in control of the Senate is the best way to fight off savage budget cuts like those endorsed by Mr. Romney and Representative Paul Ryan. That effort has been made a lot easier by Republican Senate candidates displaying their true colors.

    The Battle for the Senate, NYT, 5.11.2012,






With Control of Senate at Stake,

Last-Minute Money Pours Into Races


November 4, 2012
The New York Times


PAINESVILLE, Ohio — A torrent of outside money has dropped into this state in the closing days of the campaign to try to unseat Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, part of a late onslaught across the country that Republicans hope will salvage a respectable showing in Senate races they once had high hopes for.

In Ohio, Arizona, Indiana and even Missouri, once thought to be an uneven contest, a last-minute rush of money on both sides suggests that neither party believes that the balance of power in the next Senate is set.

In Virginia, George Allen, a Republican, has latched on to Mitt Romney, hoping that the top of the ticket can still lift him back to the Senate seat he lost six years ago. In Nevada, Representative Shelley Berkley, a Democrat, has reached into her own wallet, lending her Senate campaign a quarter of a million dollars for the last stretch.

But the hopes of the Republican Party for at best a tie in the Senate now seem to rest on the slender shoulders of Josh Mandel, a baby-faced 35-year-old Ohio state treasurer who concedes that he looks 19. With just one day to go, Republicans are in danger of losing Senate seats in Indiana, Maine and Massachusetts. If they did, they would need to sweep all of the contests in which they either lead or are nearly tied — in Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin — and then hope that Mr. Mandel can pull out a victory.

“We started off this race down 17. By Thanksgiving, we were down 15. By the Super Bowl, we were down 12. Spring training, down 10. About a month ago, we were down 7,” Mr. Mandel told a packed house of young door-knockers and phone bank volunteers at the Lake County Republican Party headquarters on Saturday night, many of them from out of state. “And a new poll came out this morning that has us tied, 48-48.”

That poll was something of an outlier. Most other surveys have given Mr. Brown a lead larger than the one President Obama has over Mr. Romney in Ohio. But the Republican Party’s deep-pocketed allies are determined to give him a late surge.

Since Oct. 17, the beginning of the final reporting period, 40 groups have spent $13.9 million on the Senate race in Ohio, 43 percent of the $32.7 million spent since the primaries. Of that late rush, nearly 9 of every 10 dollars have been spent on behalf of Mr. Mandel.

Mr. Brown has treated his younger rival with dismissive contempt, suggesting that outside money is the only reason there is a race here.

But Mr. Brown and his allies have played the game as well, using negative advertising to paint Mr. Mandel as a brat who stocked the treasurer’s office with friends and cronies while not bothering to show up for work.

“Sherrod Brown likes to complain and play holier than thou when it comes to independent expenditures,” Mr. Mandel said in an interview here. “We’re not complaining. I’m a grown man, and I have no problem with people running attack ads against me. I understand it’s part of the political process.”

At this point, he said, even his wife records the television shows she wants to watch so that she can skip over the political ads.

Mr. Brown said: “I’m not whining about the money. I’m just saying there’s never been this much outside money in any Senate campaign anywhere. It’s why there’s a race.”

The ad barrage in the state is having an impact. John Carson, a 54-year-old mathematician in Findlay, Ohio, and a Republican, said he still had not decided whom to vote for in the presidential election. But as Mr. Mandel prepared another visit to his town, nicknamed Flag City, he had stronger feelings about the Senate race.

“I have a real bad feeling about Mandel,” he said. “It’s really the advertising, his and Brown’s. He’s a slick politician just out for himself.”

Allies of both parties are hoping minds are not completely made up in several states. In the past two weeks, $22 million has poured into the Senate race in Virginia. Outside groups have dumped $17.2 million into Wisconsin, $12.7 million into Arizona, $11.3 million into Indiana, $8.6 million into Montana and $8.5 million into Nevada.

In some of those states, like Wisconsin and Nevada, groups supporting Democratic candidates have outspent the Republican groups. In most of the others, the Democratic groups are not far behind. Only in Ohio are the numbers so lopsided, reflecting the stakes Republicans see in that race and the confidence they have in their private polling. It also shows the certitude among Democrats that they have it won.

Mr. Mandel said his campaign’s internal polling had the race tied, but, he said, he has at least a two-percentage-point lead with Ohio’s most enthusiastic voters. A poll released Sunday by The Columbus Dispatch showed Mr. Obama with 50 percent and Mr. Romney with 48 percent, which was within the poll’s margin of sampling error of two points, and had Mr. Brown ahead of Mr. Mandel by six points, 51 percent to 45 percent, exceeding the margin of error.

Mr. Mandel has had to suffer some indignities in his quest for the Senate. Over the weekend, he played the sidekick to the House speaker, John A. Boehner of Ohio, who barnstormed the state with Mr. Mandel but always played the top act of the show. In Painesville on Saturday night, Mr. Mandel gave brief remarks from his stump speech and then introduced Mr. Boehner, who promptly forgot his name.

“I’ve got to tell you, I’m proud of our ticket. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan,” Mr. Boehner said. “Uh, we’ve got, uh, he was just here. I’m going brain-dead. Josh Mandel!”

Mr. Mandel shrugged it off. “Listen,” he said, “he’s third in line to be president. This is one of most important and powerful leaders we have in this country. He’s a lot more important guy than I am.”

The late rush to help Mr. Mandel may reflect the narrowing of the Senate playing field. The toughest races to handicap do not really include Ohio. In Montana, a freshman Democratic senator, Jon Tester, is nearly tied with the state’s only House member, Denny Rehberg, a Republican. Of the $8.5 million in outside money spent on the Senate race in that state, 39 percent has come in the last two weeks, most of it for Mr. Rehberg.

In Wisconsin, polls have given leads to both former Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, a Republican, and his Democratic opponent, Representative Tammy Baldwin. Of the $17.2 million spent so far by outside groups in that race, 45 percent has come in since Oct. 17, but in this case, Ms. Baldwin, who would be the first openly lesbian senator, has benefited from a national network of supporters who have outspent Mr. Thompson’s allies.

Outside of Ohio, nowhere is the last-ditch spending spree more prominent than in Indiana, where Republican groups are rushing to try to salvage the campaign of the state treasurer, Richard E. Mourdock, who may have doomed the prospects of a Republican Senate seat by saying that conception from rape is God’s will. Forty-seven percent of the outside money spent on the Indiana Senate race has been spent in the last 18 days. Of that, $6.6 million has been spent on Mr. Mourdock’s behalf, versus $4.7 million for his opponent, Representative Joe Donnelly, a Democrat.

Even Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, largely written off in his attempt to unseat Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, has made a move. National Republicans had sworn they would not back Mr. Akin after he commented that conception would not result from “legitimate rape.”

But coordinated spending between his campaign and the Missouri Republican Party topped $1.1 million in the race’s final week, a figure higher than either group has on hand. That has led to speculation that the National Republican Senatorial Campaign is shifting money to the state party. Officials of the N.R.S.C. have refused to comment on the move.

The final days of the Missouri race have included a $2 million ad blitz on behalf of Mr. Akin, who has been vastly outspent by Ms. McCaskill throughout the race. Ms. McCaskill has continued to put her own pressure on Mr. Akin, a six-term member of the House, releasing a new ad that used a clip from an interview in which Mr. Romney called for Mr. Akin to drop out of the race.

Indiana, Montana and Wisconsin could determine whether Republicans can at least gain seats in the Senate, instead of leaving the Democrats’ 53-seat majority intact or even augmented. Ms. Baldwin, who is from Madison, a liberal bastion, and has one of the most left-leaning voting records in the House, would appear to be an unlikely powerhouse.

And it is not that she is doing incredibly well in a state where Republicans dominated the 2010 elections and fended off attempts to recall a conservative governor a few months ago. Those “too liberal” attacks being hurled at her seem to be effective, said Charles Franklin, the poll director at Marquette University.

What is perhaps more surprising, he said, is that Mr. Thompson, a popular four-term governor of the state, has his own negatives that appear to be just as strong.

“Both of these ad campaigns have been effective, and they’ve been sticky,” Mr. Franklin said, adding that both candidates are seen more unfavorably than favorably by Wisconsin voters. “They’ve stuck to the candidates that they’ve been directed toward.”

In Montana, each Senate candidate has been crisscrossing from the ski towns and pristine parks in the west to the oil-rich plains in the east, stopping in tiny towns to press for support from handfuls of voters at cafes and gas stations. Windshield time, it is called. Mr. Tester kept up a punishing schedule through the weekend, while Mr. Rehberg laid low and let the advertising speak for him. That included a direct-to-camera plea from Mr. Romney.

“It’s all going to come down to voter turnout,” Mr. Tester said in a phone interview as he rolled across the state.

Indiana could prove to be the 2012 equivalent to Nevada and Delaware during the 2010 Senate races, when Republicans looked poised to easily take Democratic seats only to nominate Tea Party-backed candidates who proved too conservative for the general electorate. But outside groups seem determined to keep Mr. Mourdock in the game.

Jonathan Weisman reported from Painesville, Ohio, and Derek Willis from Washington. John Eligon contributed reporting from St. Louis, Jack Healy from Denver and Steven Yaccino from Chicago.

    With Control of Senate at Stake, Last-Minute Money Pours Into Races, NYT, 4.11.2012,






Groundwork Meets Charm Offensive

in Massachusetts Senate Race


November 4, 2012
The New York Times


BOSTON — Even in the darkest days of Elizabeth Warren’s Senate campaign, when she was being pummeled for claiming Native American ancestry, her team expressed optimism that she would win in November. Why? Because, they said, she would have a superior ground game that would turn out the vote when it mattered most, on Election Day.

That assertion is now being put to the test. Her campaign officials say they expect to have 24,000 volunteers working for them on Tuesday roughly 10 in each of the state’s 2,174 precincts to get her supporters to the polls. That would be by far a record number in Massachusetts. In the days before the election, they expect to knock on one million doors and make two million phone calls.

Her army on the ground is clearly one of Ms. Warren’s strength in her hard-fought attempt to unseat Senator Scott P. Brown. But what Mr. Brown, as a Republican in a deep blue state, may lack in ground organization, he makes up for on the stump as a natural-born campaigner who makes a personal connection with voters.

“I’m from here, O.K.?” Mr. Brown said from the stage at a boisterous rally Thursday night in Wakefield, where he grew up. “I married a local Waltham girl. My kids were born here. I know this town like the back of my hand.” Huge cheers erupted from the packed hall.

Ms. Warren is greeted like a rock star. A rally in Boston on Saturday with Representative John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat and civil rights icon, brought down the house. And Mr. Brown has some organization, his team says it has quadrupled the strength of any previous Republican campaign in the state. Recent polls have shown Ms. Warren with a very slim advantage, though all have been within the margin of sampling error.

“It’s widely recognized that the Democrats here have the edge in terms of numbers, and that’s the real danger for Brown,” said Peter Ubertaccio, a political scientist at Stonehill College. “But Brown has been able to blunt the Democratic knocking-on-door strategy through sheer force of personality, and that’s what has kept this race so close.”

The Warren campaign has been tilling the fields for months.

It has 48 field offices and 74 paid field organizers, including several veterans of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. On Saturday alone, they made more than 370,000 phone calls and knocked on more than 123,000 doors; those knocking included Michael S. Dukakis, the former governor and Democratic presidential candidate.

“The ground game is the only thing that matters in the end,” said John Walsh, chairman of the state Democratic Party. On Election Day itself, he said, Team Warren will be joined by thousands of members of unions and groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Workers from Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s machine in Boston have already been folded in.

They intend to start at 5 in the morning by hanging a card on the front doors of likely Warren voters, reminding them to vote. Warren workers at the polls will keep track of who has voted.

Ms. Warren’s closing television ad presents her as a fighter for the middle class. “Know this,” she says directly to the camera. “My fight is for you. Always has been. And I won’t back down, no matter how long the odds or how powerful the opposition.”

On the stump, she fires up her supporters with a reminder that Mr. Brown has voted against equal pay for women, coverage for birth control and a Supreme Court nominee who supports abortion rights. If she wins, Ms. Warren will become the first woman in state history elected to the Senate. Polling shows she has lopsided support among women while Mr. Brown has lopsided support among men.

Mr. Brown’s get-out-the-vote effort cannot match Ms. Warren’s, since the Republican Party has little institutional history in the state. But the party said that Mr. Brown’s 2010 election had given it a base on which to build.

“We are running by far the largest volunteer field organization in our party’s history,” said Tim Buckley, a spokesman for the state Republican Party.

Still, Brown supporters are trying to turn their field disadvantage into a strength. At a Brown rally here on Sunday, former Gov. William F. Weld, a Republican, cast the race as a showdown between “man versus machine.” He said that just as a machine was working to get Ms. Warren elected, a machine would tell her how to vote. “The machine never rests,” he said.

Voter mobilization for Mr. Brown relies less on foot soldiers and more on a personal, down-home appeal as he and his camera-ready family barnstorm across the state in a bright blue bus.

“It is about whose side you’re on,” Mr. Brown said at the Wakefield rally, co-opting a phrase from Ms. Warren as he cast her as a non-compromiser. “She’ll have a message of division, us versus them, haves and the have-nots, men versus women,” he said. “I mean, come on. How about somewhere in the middle? How about ‘maybe’? How about ‘together’? How about sitting down and having a beer and a pizza and solving our problems?”

His closing television ad is a 60-second montage of upbeat images backed by swelling music as Mr. Brown says, “I’ve kept my promise to be an independent voice.” It also features a clip of him with President Obama.

His party label, and his party’s presidential standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, have been airbrushed out of his campaign. At his rallies, Mr. Brown leads his audiences in chants of his slogan, “people over party.”

One of the biggest wild cards in this race is the presidential election. Mr. Obama leads Mr. Romney here by double digits, but this has not translated into a corresponding lead for Ms. Warren. It does suggest that Mr. Brown has won over plenty of Obama voters; the question is whether he can win enough of them.

    Groundwork Meets Charm Offensive in Massachusetts Senate Race, NYT, 4.11.2012,






How Obama Lost the Europe Primary


November 5, 2012
The New York Times



WHAT a difference four years makes. Barack Obama may be the president of masterful inactivity, but an awful lot has changed under his watch, not least what Europe thinks of him.

What has become clear, and what — given the views of Mitt Romney and the Republicans — will be true over the next term, is that the United States and Europe seem to occupy not just different continents, but different planets. We both see very different places when we look at the globe: we are struck by America’s constant, furious obsession with the Middle East, the fond and venerable bearing of ancient grudges against the vestiges of Communism, the bizarre choice of friends and enemies. (This, I hasten to add, isn’t a comparative value judgment; Europe has no monopoly on right thinking or clear viewing.) Partly for that reason, this election has met with barely a shrug of interest in Europe; it hardly makes the front pages or the broadcast news.

Four years ago we sat rapt on the edge of our seats. Remember Mr. Obama’s 2009 visit to Berlin? The huge adoring crowds that evoked the ghost of John F. Kennedy and “Ich bin ein Berliner”? Today he’d be lucky to fill a bus with Teutonic fans or, if they did appear, to be heard over their guttural jeering. The disappointment that all Americans may be harboring over the Obama term is nothing compared with the garland-wrenching grief in Europe.

It’s not the disappointment; it’s the hope we can’t bear.

There was a feeling that for the first time in a generation there might be a president who was the sort of American Europeans yearned to love. He seemed to have a very European perspective: his non-establishment background, his cadence, the liberality all promised to be one-worldy. After George W. Bush — possibly the most unpopular president since Richard M. Nixon — he was the fresh air from the West that everybody craved. He would be the leader of the free world that the free world could respect in difficult times.

Then it happened. It, meaning nothing. The first thing that didn’t happen was the closing of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. Then, the cessation of drone strikes didn’t happen. Then, any serious movement on the Palestinian question or the attempt to curb the bellicosely right-wing Israeli government didn’t happen.

All that was galling, but what was really insufferable was that Mr. Obama never wrote, he never phoned, he never sent flowers or asked what we’d like, or if we had a beverage preference. He plainly didn’t care about Europe, and he didn’t care to pretend that he cared, which of course would have been the European diplomatic option.

Mr. Obama’s coolness, his inability or unwillingness to project warmth, to compliment those who felt insecure, or for whom a pat on the back or a mention, a mere mention, would mean a great deal, is the most inexplicable snub seen from Europe, where etiquette and insincerity are social skills.

But there is a more fundamental problem between Western Europe and America. We may be linked by a belief in a free society and a popularly answerable government, but our democracies don’t mesh — not simply the systems, but the parties.

In Europe, the gamut of electable politicians is pretty much the same in every country, but there is no European equivalent to the Republican Party, not until you get to Hungary or Serbia. Democrats would partially overlap with conservatives or Christian Democrats here, but the absence of any sort of electable socialist movement in America is a constant subject of incomprehension. We believe the left wing is always a necessary element in the balance of democracy.

But the idea that a democratic president could want to disengage with the rest of the world and to retreat to fortress America, to pull up the drawbridge on a messy world, is the most inexplicably wounding thing of all. Meanwhile, the Republicans would want to get involved with the rest of us only to lay down the law and protect American interests and biblical Israel.

And despite such aggressive lack of interest, the American public seems not to care; if anything, it seems to prefer its politicians not talk too much about the world beyond its borders.

Here, then, is the one place where the Old and New Worlds might collide: they both face a democratic deficit. Fewer and fewer people on either side of the Atlantic care to vote for anyone at all. In fact, the thing that may unite Europeans and Americans more than anything else is a collective dismissal of democracy, and a plague on the houses of all politicians.


A. A. Gill is a contributing writer for Vanity Fair and The Sunday Times of London.

    How Obama Lost the Europe Primary, NYT, 5.11.2012,






The Real Loser: Truth


November 5, 2012
The New York Times


Princeton, N.J.

THE director Steven Spielberg, whose “Lincoln” biopic opens Friday, recently said he hoped the film would have a “soothing or even healing effect” on a nation exhausted after yet another bitter and polarizing election.

But there’s one line attributed to Lincoln that Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays the president, doesn’t utter in the film: “You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.”

The omission makes sense. Not only is the line probably apocryphal, but also, this Election Day just might demonstrate that you really can fool all of the people — or at least enough of them — in the time it takes to win the White House.

Venomous personal attacks and accusations of adultery, miscegenation and even bestiality are as old as the Republic. Aaron Burr was the sitting vice president when he killed Alexander Hamilton.

But while the line between fact and fiction in politics has always been fuzzy, a confluence of factors has strained our civic discourse, if it can still be called that, to the breaking point.

The economic boom and middle-class expansion of the postwar era encouraged relative deference for officials, journalists and scholars. It’s true that reporters and politicians had far cozier relationships, but the slower news cycle allowed more time for verification and analysis.

Candidates accordingly believed that being caught in an outright lie could damage their careers. (As Daniel Patrick Moynihan reportedly said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”) They tended only to bend the truth, not break it.

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman denounced Republican financiers as “bloodsuckers” and “gluttons of privilege,” but grounded his inflammatory language in the facts of Congress’s legislative record. He denied his “give ’em hell” reputation, saying later only that “I used to tell the truth on the Republicans, and they called it that.”

Two years later, Richard M. Nixon, running for the Senate from California, said his opponent, Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas, was “pink right down to her underwear,” a red-baiting remark, but one that referred to statements she’d made calling for global disarmament and civil rights for women and blacks.

The brass-knuckle 1964 campaign is remembered for Lyndon B. Johnson’s alarmist “daisy ad,” which suggested that Barry M. Goldwater’s election might lead to nuclear war. But it rested on statements Goldwater had made indicating a loose attitude toward nuclear weapons. (“Lob one into the men’s room in the Kremlin,” he once joked.)

The attack ads devised by the strategist Lee Atwater for Vice President George Bush in the 1988 campaign, one of the dirtiest ever, were grounded in at least a kernel of truth. Mr. Bush’s opponent, Michael S. Dukakis, might not have deserved blame for the furlough program that let Willie Horton commit additional crimes, but at least the program and prisoner were real. Atwater exploited these events, but did not invent them.

At least four factors since the 1970s have lowered the cost for politicians who lie and, more important, repeat their fabrications through their attack ads. First is the overall decline in respect for institutions and professionals of all kinds, from scientists and lawyers to journalists and civil servants.

Second are changes in media regulation and ownership. In 1985, the conservative organization Fairness in Media, backed by Senator Jesse Helms, tried to arrange a takeover of CBS and “become Dan Rather’s boss.” It failed, but two years later conservatives set the stage for an even bigger triumph. For decades, radio and television broadcasters had been required to present multiple viewpoints on contentious public debates on the grounds that they were stewards of the public airwaves. But in 1987, members appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Federal Communications Commission abolished this “fairness doctrine.” The change facilitated the creation of conservative talk radio and cable outlets to combat perceived liberal bias. Liberals followed suit with programming (albeit less effective) of their own.

As this cacophony crescendoed, a third trend developed as political operatives realized they had more room to stretch the truth. In 2004, an aide to President George W. Bush dismissed a journalist for being part of a “reality-based community” of people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” But even Mr. Bush believed there were limits to truth-bending. The ads that attacked the military service of Senator John Kerry came from the ostensibly independent “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.” After the ads aired, Mr. Bush belatedly called them “bad for the system.”

A fourth factor: most news organizations (with notable exceptions) abandoned their roles as political referees. Many resorted to an atrophied style that resembled stenography more than journalism, presenting all claims as equally valid. Fact checking, once a foundation for all reporting, was now deemed the province of a specialized few.

But as this campaign has made clear, not even the dedicated fact-checkers have made much difference.

PolitiFact has chronicled 19 “pants on fire” lies by Mr. Romney and 7 by Mr. Obama since 2007, but Mr. Romney’s whoppers have been qualitatively far worse: the “apology tour,” the “government takeover of health care,” the “$4,000 tax hike on middle class families,” the gutting of welfare-to-work rules, the shipment by Chrysler of jobs from Ohio to China. Said one of his pollsters, Neil Newhouse, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”

To be sure, the Obama campaign has certainly had its own share of dissembling and distortion, including about Mr. Romney’s positions on abortion and foreign aid. But nothing in it — or in past campaigns, for that matter — has equaled the efforts of the Romney campaign in this realm. Its fundamental disdain for facts is something wholly new.

The voters, of course, may well recoil against these cynical manipulations at the polls. But win or lose, the Romney campaign has placed a big and historic bet on the proposition that facts can be ignored, more or less, with impunity.


Kevin M. Kruse, a professor of history at Princeton, is the co-editor, most recently,

of “Fog of War: The Second World War and the Civil Rights Movement.”

    The Real Loser: Truth, NYT, 5.11.2012,






Lessons in Fearmongering


November 5, 2012
The New York Times



The nation’s vigilant theocrats figured us out. We can’t slip anything past them. It’s not the right to marry that we’re after — to make the same commitment that our straight peers are automatically able to, even if they’re thrice divorced, tipsy and standing before an Elvis impersonator in Vegas. It’s the nation’s young. We’re out to recruit the next generation, plump up our ranks and pave the way to a gay utopia in which the Tony Awards get higher Nielsen ratings than the Super Bowl and we all dance at the inauguration of President Ellen DeGeneres.

Please. If you think we have time for such elaborate stratagems, you underestimate how many hours we put in at the gym. Besides which, I prefer football to “Footloose,” and I can round up plenty of other gay men who are with me on that, along with lesbians more loyal to “The View” than to “Ellen.”

On this Election Day, citizens in four states are weighing in on same-sex marriage. Minnesotans are deciding whether to ban it in their Constitution, but here in Washington and in Maine and Maryland as well, the issue is whether to permit it, and a majority of “yes” votes would mark the first time that a state has done so by popular referendum.

That milestone seems within reach, and horrified opponents have responded with their favorite and nastiest scare tactic, the insinuation that America’s children are about to be corrupted. This fearmongering worked four years ago in California, where voters rejected same-sex marriage after the repeated broadcast of a commercial in which an adorable little girl exultantly informs her aghast mother that in school that day, she learned that princes could marry princes and that she could marry a princess. A stern-looking man then sweeps in to warn viewers that they will be saying O.K. to such ostensible brainwashing if they let gay couples say “I do.”

The analogous commercial this year spotlights David and Tonia Parker, who insist that after Massachusetts began to allow same-sex marriage in 2004, their son and other children were forced to learn about homosexual relationships in school. While it’s true that some schools mentioned same-sex couples in diversity discussions, it wasn’t mandated by the state or connected to the advent of same-sex marriage, and the referendums this Election Day say nothing at all about curriculums. Moreover, a federal court that heard a lawsuit by the Parkers rightly determined that a cursory reference to gay couples in classrooms “does not constitute ‘indoctrination,’ ” as the Parkers had claimed.

David Parker is just a textbook homophobe in the garb of a humbly concerned parent. He has likened homosexuality to alcoholism and equated teachers who mention it to sexual predators using foul language in the park.

He and his ilk love to link gay rights with sexual predation. An ad used in Florida in 2009 shows a blond girl in a pink T-shirt entering a playground restroom; seconds later, a man in a baseball cap and sunglasses follows her in. The commercial then claims that the Gainesville City Commission made this legal, presumably by including transgendered people in an anti-discrimination ordinance that covered public accommodations.

As for anti-gay crusaders’ fixation with indoctrination, I’d like them to explain how so many of us turned out gay or lesbian despite having straight parents and, in my day, being exposed to movies, TV shows and Top 40 songs that portrayed an almost exclusively heterosexual world.

I’d also like them to meet Jeff DeGroot, 27, a law student here who has been giving public speeches in support of the Washington referendum. He grew up in Oregon with two mothers — “the most wonderful parents in the world,” he told me — who went to all his hockey games, nagged him about his homework and have now been together for 38 years. They were even married to each other briefly after a county clerk in Oregon began to grant same-sex marriage licenses in 2004. The Oregon Supreme Court nullified those weddings the following year, devastating them, he said.

Surely, I remarked, his upbringing had made him homosexual.

He laughed. “My girlfriend would have something to say about that,” he said.

You are who you are. And that’s all that Jeff and I and others who endorse same-sex marriage want anyone to be.

I have 11 nieces and nephews, the oldest of whom is 16, and do you know how many times I’ve discussed my sexual orientation with her? Zero. She knows I’m gay, knows my partner — and that’s that. Instead we talk about the New York Giants, whom she roots for, and the Denver Broncos, my team.

The Broncos won on Sunday. I’ve decided to treat that as an omen that at least one of the same-sex marriage referendums will succeed, and that unjustified fears and an unjustifiable inequality are in retreat.

    Lessons in Fearmongering, NYT, 5.11.2012,






The Spirit of America


November 5, 2012
The New York Times


NEW YORK — Four years ago, on the eve of the victory of Obama in the 2008 election, I attempted to define what America is.

It is renewal, I suggested, the place where impossible stories get written.

It is the overcoming of history, the leaving behind of war and barriers, in the name of a future freed from the vengeful clamp of memory.

It is reinvention, the absorption of one identity in something larger — the notion that “out of many, we are truly one.” Americans are decent people. They’re not interested in where you came from. They’re interested in who you are.

At the close of this endless campaign — on one of those crisp, clear New York days where the glimmer of possibility seems to lurk at the tapering edge of the city’s ruler-straight canyons — it is worth recalling that America, alone among nations, is an idea; and that idea dies when hope and possibility disappear.

As a naturalized American who recalls the 1,000 faces in the room where I swore the oath of allegiance and how they mapped the world and yet shared some essential notion of humanity, I confess to the convert’s zeal. I had to take a dictation back then to become a citizen. It was supposed to prove my command of English. The second sentence was, “I plan to work very hard every day.” So here I am writing, loneliest of tasks.

It has been a hard, uneven road from 2008. The idealism vested in America’s first black president was also vested in an introverted man whose talent for the deal-making that oils the wheels of politics proved limited. Barack Obama is the least “political” president since Jimmy Carter.

The United States is as divided today as it was four years ago — over economic policy, of course, but more deeply over social policy: the whole regressive God-invoking push of the Republican right against a woman’s right to abortion, gay rights, marriage equality and so on.

One nation sometimes feels like two.

But even with its debt and division and uneven recovery the United States has come a long way from the abyss of 2008. Obama is a man more likely than not to make smart decisions. He’s also lucky. Sandy blew in a week before the election and by the time it blew out Mittmentum was dented, Bloomberg on board and New Jersey’s Republican governor cooing.

There have been big achievements: the winding down of the wars, health reform, getting Osama bin Laden, and restoring the battered American idea.

Obama has fallen short of the pledge he made in 2009 when said we “cannot keep this country safe unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values.” Drone killings have nothing to do with due process. But the country no longer inhabits the “dark side” of torture and rampant renditions.

By allowing gays to serve openly in the military and by signing legislation to back equal pay for equal work for women, Obama has strived to make the United States more inclusive.

America turns its back on its core ideas when it discriminates against women or on the basis of people’s sexual orientation.

Romney has led a campaign that has said everything and the contrary, embracing war then peace, changing positions on Obamacare, refusing to reveal how he will offset tax cuts. He wants to deny women the right to abortion. His America, it seems, would be more unequal and divided.

Last week I wrote about the sharp divisions in the Jewish community of Cleveland, Ohio, where the Senate candidacy of a young right-wing Jewish ex-Marine named Josh Mandel has exacerbated the tensions of a close campaign where some Jews have tried hard to portray Obama as anti-Israel. Mandel, who has campaigned against the Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown, is related by marriage to the influential Ratner family.

After the column a paid ad in the form of an open letter to Mandel from several members of the Ratner family appeared in the Cleveland Jewish News. It read in part:

Dear Josh, Your cousins, Ellen Ratner and Cholene Espinoza, are among the many wonderful couples whose rights you do not recognize. They were married almost eight years ago in Massachusetts, at a time when it was the only state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage. Their wedding, like yours, was a beautiful and happy occasion for all of us in our family. It hurts us that you would embrace discrimination against them.

We are equally distressed by your belief that gay men and women should not be allowed to serve openly in the military. Like you, Cholene spent many years in the armed forces. A graduate of the Air Force Academy and an accomplished pilot, she became the second woman in history to fly the U-2 reconnaissance plane. And yet, you have argued that she, like many gay and lesbian soldiers, should be forced to live a life of secrecy and lies.

The letter embodies the spirit that overcame slavery and Jim Crow and has made America an ever-reinvented land always pushing to the next frontier. It is cause for hope.

    The Spirit of America, NYT, 5.11.2012,






Officials Rush to Find Ways

for the Storm-Tossed to Vote


November 5, 2012
The New York Times


Elected officials in New York and New Jersey scrambled Monday to enable displaced citizens to vote in the election on Tuesday, relocating scores of coastal polling places that had become unusable because of power failures, flooding or evacuations.

New Jersey and New York both said they would allow voters uprooted by Hurricane Sandy to cast provisional ballots anywhere in their states.

“Just because you’re displaced doesn’t mean you should be disenfranchised,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said in announcing the step on Monday.

But the provisional ballots would, in many cases, allow residents to vote only in statewide contests and in the presidential election, in which President Obama is heavily favored in both states. The ballots could not be used in local and Congressional races, which in some areas are far more competitive.

New Jersey went further, saying it will let displaced voters vote by fax or e-mail. Ballot-integrity advocates warned that this raised risks of fraud by hackers, or mischief by partisan local officials because electronic ballots lack secrecy and are not safeguarded by witnesses.

Across the storm-damaged region, bleary-eyed, disheveled residents drove long distances and waited in long lines at government offices to cast early ballots Monday, and many said voting felt like an important step back toward normalcy.

In New York, there are very tight Congressional or legislative races in Queens, on Staten Island, on Long Island and in Westchester County, all of which were hit hard by the storm. Candidates in those races went to great lengths to ensure that their supporters could surmount the extraordinary obstacles to voting this year.

On Staten Island, the Congressional campaign of Mark Murphy, a Democrat running against Representative Michael G. Grimm, a Republican, sent volunteers to gasoline lines across the borough with iPhones to help idling voters figure out where they should go on Tuesday. Mr. Grimm’s campaign said it was recruiting volunteers with full gas tanks to transport to the polls voters whose cars were destroyed or had no gas.

Many voters already confronted confusion and signs of chaos as they sought to vote Monday, or to figure out where they could vote on Tuesday.

“They told me I can register today, but I can’t vote in this election,” said Helen Colon, 69, a retired woman who journeyed to the Staten Island’s eastern shore to register her disabled husband to vote, after trying but failing to do so online. “At least that’s what I think they said.”

Local and state officials were plainly having trouble conveying information about Election Day obstacles and remedies. New Jersey officials could not say how many polling places had been moved — though they said fewer than 100 still needed “some resolution.” The outdated Web site for hard-hit Ocean County directed residents of Seaside Heights to that shore town’s flooded, unelectrified, empty community center.

In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg worried aloud that the relocation of polling places could depress turnout — since, he said, motivating people to cast their ballots was a chore even in an ordinary election year.

“The question is: Will they make the effort?” he said.

Polling places require power to run their electronic machines. As of Monday night, more than 100 polling places in New York State had been changed, including about 60 in the city. Most were in Brooklyn and Queens; in two cases, in the Rockaways and the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx, the city was setting up polling places in tents powered by generators and outfitted with portable heaters.

The city’s Board of Elections also arranged for shuttle buses that would run every 15 minutes to ferry voters to and from polling places in three areas hit particularly hard by the storm: the Rockaways, Coney Island and Staten Island.

Juan Carlos Polanco, a commissioner on the Board of Elections, said it had done everything in its power to publicize the new locations of polling places.

“We want New Yorkers to be patient tomorrow,” Mr. Polanco said. “Elections are hard enough to run as it is.”

But the board has a troubled track record, even when elections are not preceded by hurricanes. In 2010, computer malfunctions and delayed openings of polling places led Mr. Bloomberg to pronounce the board’s handling of the election a “royal screw-up.” In June, the five-way Democratic primary for Representative Charles B. Rangel’s seat took weeks to be counted.

Local elected officials were not optimistic about Tuesday. Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer, a Manhattan Democrat, said she had heard from utility workers scheduled to work 12-hour shifts on Election Day who had no idea how they were supposed to vote. And Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, questioned why thousands of voters taking refuge at evacuation shelters would not be able to cast provisional ballots at their shelters.

Mr. Williams said, “My guess is if you don’t have your house, you have no place to live, you may not have food, this is probably not at the top of your list of things to do.”

In Ocean County, officials took extra steps to allow displaced residents to vote. They sent a mobile voting bus to shelters there and in adjacent Burlington County. They also sought to address the problem of provisional ballots by printing 50,000 generic ballots and allowing voters to fill in the names of their local candidates.

For candidates in tight races, the effort to get voters to the polls was both frantic and delicate.

On Long Island, volunteers for Randy Altschuler, the Republican challenging Representative Timothy H. Bishop, a Democrat, called voters to make sure they knew that the election was still taking place and to offer rides. But every conversation began with a question about whether the voters needed help.

“It’s really a totally different script,” said Diana Weir, Mr. Altschuler’s campaign manager.

Many barrier-island voters forced from their homes seemed to clutch at the chance to vote as if it were a memento salvaged from the flotsam of their pre-storm lives.

Justine Fricchione, 29, of Lavallette, N.J., voted at the county building in Toms River on Monday, she said, because without television, Internet or a charged cellphone, she had not been able to find out where to go on Election Day. She was forced to move because her home was severely damaged, and then again when her grandmother’s house lost power. But as the daughter of a onetime Jersey City councilman, she said, she was not going to be deterred.

“It’s your right to vote,” she said. “You figure out how to get there, and you just do it.”

    Officials Rush to Find Ways for the Storm-Tossed to Vote, NYT, 5.11.2012,






State by State,

Battle for Presidency

Goes to Voters


November 5, 2012
The New York Times


The most expensive presidential race in American history now becomes the biggest show on television, a night with enough uncertainty that it could become a telethon lasting well into morning.

For the third time in the last four presidential campaigns, the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees went into Election Day close in the national polls, with not one of the major opinion surveys giving President Obama or Mitt Romney a lead of statistical significance.

But presidential races are decided in the states, and the nation will get an answer to the opposing cases for victory that each candidate has made for so many months. It will finally know, as one of Mr. Obama’s top aides has put it, “which side is bluffing” and whether battleground-state polls, which have given Mr. Obama a slim but consistent edge where it matters most, accurately foretold the outcome. As the night unfolds, clues to the outcome will spill out well before the votes are counted.

If exit polling indicates that Mr. Romney is substantially exceeding the share of the white vote that went to Senator John McCain four years ago, that will be a sign that he is replicating the coalition that gave President George W. Bush a second term. If Mr. Obama can win Virginia, a battleground with an early poll-closing time, Mr. Romney’s options for getting an Electoral College majority will be substantially reduced. And in Ohio, the vote in Hamilton County, which Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush both won, could signal who takes the state.

On Monday, Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama went on traditional last-day blitzes across the most important swing states, overlapping in the place that is expected to have the lead role in Tuesday’s drama, Ohio.

For Mr. Obama, it was the last day of campaigning in a career that took him in a few short years from the Illinois State Senate to the United States Senate and, finally, the White House. For Mr. Romney, it was to be the end of his seven-year quest for the presidency. But late Monday, his aides announced that he would make one last pass at Pennsylvania and Ohio, with stops in Pittsburgh and Cleveland on Tuesday.

Some Republicans said they believed the final push was needed given that Mr. Romney was going into Election Day without any of the top competitive states definitively in his column. A senior party strategist lamented that for all the optimistic signs, there was a preponderance of evidence “cutting against us.”

Democrats will be on high alert on Tuesday for what they consider attempts to suppress the vote, while Republicans make a case that strict voter identification rules and counting procedures be followed to guarantee the integrity of the outcome. Batteries of lawyers are standing by for both sides in the swing states, especially Ohio, where the skirmishing was already under way.

The rise of early voting across the country meant that even before Election Day, more than 30 million Americans had cast their ballots. Those results will be reported Tuesday night, providing a new element for viewers at home: many states will report initial results that encompass far more votes than ever before.

Now, as the campaigns say, it is all about turnout. But beyond the cliché, the main question is not only how many but also who.

Mr. Romney’s campaign built its theory of winning around the idea that turnout for Mr. Obama will fall well below his 2008 tally. The Obama campaign did not entirely disagree, but believes it has rebuilt his coalition of women, Hispanics, blacks and young voters just enough to win.

Here is a guide to what to look for as the night progresses to know who is up, who is down and whether, should there be delayed counts, recounts and court challenges, Election Day becomes Election Week or — gasp! — Month. (All times below are Eastern.)

At 7 p.m., when the voting ends in Virginia, an early clue to whether the night will be a long one or a short one may emerge. Both sides pursued the state’s 13 electoral votes tenaciously, but they are more central to the strategy of Mr. Romney, who made two stops there on Monday.

If Mr. Obama carries Virginia, the path to victory narrows considerably for Mr. Romney, who will have to all but run the table of the remaining contested states. A senior adviser to the Romney campaign said the state’s importance is greater than its electoral votes because the outcome there could set the tone for the rest of election night.

At 7:30, the polls close in Ohio, where the 18 electoral votes are critical to both men. The county-by-county tallies will be carefully scrutinized when the returns start rolling in. But a word of warning: campaign officials do not expect an outcome for several hours — at the least. And if Mr. Obama appears to take a commanding lead right out of the gate, Republicans can take heart in the knowledge that the early vote — an expected Obama strength — is counted first, with the ballots from Election Day coming in later.

If Mr. Romney carries Ohio, viewers should settle in for a long night. A Romney victory there could signal that the vaunted ground organization of the Obama campaign is faltering and that his Midwestern firewall is cracking.

The television networks — and their high-tech maps — will spotlight the three C’s of Ohio: Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. The president is looking for a strong performance in Cleveland, which Mr. Romney is visiting Tuesday in the hope of shaving down Democratic margins. And Republicans are looking for strength in Cincinnati and its surrounding area of Hamilton County; when Mr. Obama won the county in 2008, he was the first Democrat in a generation to do so.

But if Mr. Obama wins Ohio, history will be on his side (no Republican has won the White House without Ohio), as will the landscape of swing states. With Ohio in his column, he could lose Colorado, Virginia and Florida and still defeat Mr. Romney by 281 to 257 electoral votes.

At 8, the voting ends in Florida, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. If the television networks are not able to call Pennsylvania quickly, Democrats have reason to move to the edge of their seats. But with 29 electoral votes, Florida is the biggest prize on the battleground map. The Obama campaign is not counting on victory there, but Mr. Romney needs to win. Otherwise, his advisers in Boston believe that Mr. Obama will be re-elected.

But keep this in mind about Florida: the ballot in many counties is unusually long, running more than 10 pages in some areas of the state because of judicial elections and initiatives, which means voting could take longer. And long lines in Florida could mean a long night ahead for Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney.

At 9, the voting ends in Colorado and Wisconsin. The states together have 19 electoral votes — one more than Ohio — and some strategists believe that the states could be split by Mr. Romney (Colorado) and Mr. Obama (Wisconsin). But if both states fall in one campaign’s favor, that candidate is almost certainly heading to the White House.

At 10, the polls close in Iowa. Both campaigns carefully courted the state, with its six electoral votes. The president selected Iowa as the site of his final rally on Monday night, a decision that his advisers said was rooted more in the symbolism of the place, where his victory in the 2008 caucuses solidified his rise on the national stage.

The result will answer the question of whether the visit to Des Moines was a moment of nostalgia or a last-minute scramble for support — or both.

    State by State, Battle for Presidency Goes to Voters, NYT, 5.11.2012,






Dueling Bitterness on Cable News


November 5, 2012
The New York Times


As the cable news channels count down the hours before the first polls close on Tuesday, an entire election cycle will have passed since President Obama last sat down with Fox News. The organization’s standing request to interview the president is now almost two years old.

At NBC News, the journalists reporting on the Romney campaign will continue to absorb taunts from their sources about their sister cable channel, MSNBC. “You mean, Al Sharpton’s network,” as they say Stuart Stevens, a senior Romney adviser, is especially fond of reminding them.

Spend just a little time watching either Fox News or MSNBC, and it is easy to see why such tensions run high. In fact, by some measures, the partisan bitterness on cable news has never been as stark — and in some ways, as silly or small.

Martin Bashir, the host of MSNBC’s 4 p.m. hour, recently tried to assess why Mitt Romney seemed irritable on the campaign trail and offered a provocative theory: that he might have mental problems.

“Mrs. Romney has expressed concerns about her husband’s mental well-being,” Mr. Bashir told one of his guests. “But do you get the feeling that perhaps there’s more to this than she’s saying?”

Over on Fox News, similar psychological evaluations were under way on “Fox & Friends.” Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and a member of the channel’s “Medical A-Team,” suggested that Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s “bizarre laughter” during the vice-presidential debate might have something to do with a larger mental health issue. “You have to put dementia on the differential diagnosis,” he noted matter-of-factly.

Neither outlet has built its reputation on moderation and restraint, but during this presidential election, research shows that both are pushing their stridency to new levels.

A Pew Research Center study found that of Fox News stories about Mr. Obama from the end of August through the end of October, just 6 percent were positive and 46 percent were negative.

Pew also found that Mr. Obama was covered far more than Mr. Romney. The president was a significant figure in 74 percent of Fox’s campaign stories, compared with 49 percent for Romney. In 2008, Pew found that the channel reported on Mr. Obama and John McCain in roughly equal amounts.

The greater disparity was on MSNBC, which gave Mr. Romney positive coverage just 3 percent of the time, Pew found. It examined 259 segments about Mr. Romney and found that 71 percent were negative.

MSNBC, whose programs are hosted by a new crop of extravagant partisans like Mr. Bashir, Mr. Sharpton and Lawrence O’Donnell, has tested the limits of good taste this year. Mr. O’Donnell was forced to apologize in April after describing the Mormon Church as nothing more than a scheme cooked up by a man who “got caught having sex with the maid and explained to his wife that God told him to do it.”

The channel’s hosts recycle talking points handed out by the Obama campaign, even using them as titles for program segments, like Mr. Bashir did recently with a segment he called “Romnesia,” referring to Mr. Obama’s term to explain his opponent’s shifting positions.

The hosts insult and mock, like Alex Wagner did in recently describing Mr. Romney’s trip overseas as “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” — a line she borrowed from an Obama spokeswoman. Mr. Romney was not only hapless, Ms. Wagner said, he also looked “disheveled” and “a little bit sweaty” in a recent appearance.

Not that they save their scorn just for their programs. Some MSNBC hosts even use the channel’s own ads promoting its slogan “Lean Forward,” to criticize the Republicans. Mr. O’Donnell accuses them of basing their campaigns on the false notion that Mr. Obama is inciting class warfare. “You have to come up with a lie,” he says, when your campaign is based on empty rhetoric.

In her ad, Rachel Maddow breathlessly decodes the logic behind the push to overhaul state voting laws. “The idea is to shrink the electorate,” she says, “so a smaller number of people get to decide what happens to all of us.”

Such stridency has put NBC News journalists who cover Republicans in awkward and compromised positions, several people who work for the network said. To distance themselves from their sister channel, they have started taking steps to reassure Republican sources, like pointing out that they are reporting for NBC programs like “Today” and “Nightly News” — not for MSNBC.

At Fox News, there is a palpable sense that the White House punishes the outlet for its coverage, not only by withholding the president, who has done interviews with every other major network, but also by denying them access to Michelle Obama.

This fall, Mrs. Obama has done a spate of television appearances, from CNN to “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC. But when officials from Fox News recently asked for an interview with the first lady, they were told no. She has not appeared on the channel since 2010, when she sat down with Mike Huckabee.

Lately the White House and Fox News have been at odds over the channel’s aggressive coverage of the attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Fox initially raised questions over the White House’s explanation of the events that led to the attack — questions that other news organizations have since started reporting on more fully.

But the commentary on the channel quickly and often turns to accusations that the White House played politics with American lives. “Everything they told us was a lie,” Sean Hannity said recently as he and John H. Sununu, a former governor of New Hampshire and a Romney campaign supporter, took turns raising questions about how the Obama administration misled the public. “A hoax,” Mr. Hannity called the administration’s explanation. “A cover-up.”

Mr. Hannity has also taken to selectively fact-checking Mr. Obama’s claims, co-opting a journalistic tool that has proliferated in this election as news outlets sought to bring more accountability to their coverage.

Mr. Hannity’s guest fact-checkers have included hardly objective sources, like Dick Morris, the former Clinton aide turned conservative commentator; Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney; and Michelle Malkin, the right-wing provocateur.

Telling the truth is not just a problem for the White House, Ms. Malkin asserted recently, before attacking Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. “We’ve talked about them before,” Ms. Malkin said, “the lying liars and the crap weasels, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz out there. And she really is in a classlessness all by herself.”

Peter Johnson, a commentator and the personal lawyer to Roger Ailes, the Fox News chairman, has suggested that the president is a liar and has even wondered whether the administration chose not to aid American forces in Libya for the sake of appearances. “Was there a political calculation that was made to sacrifice Americans on the ground so we didn’t kill innocents in front of the consulate?” he asked.

Mr. Johnson then noted another political scandal that broke in an election year and failed to receive adequate scrutiny at the time: Watergate.

    Dueling Bitterness on Cable News, 5.11.2012,







a Challenger

at the Crossroads


November 4, 2012
The New York Times


DENVER — As he ponders two futures, one in the White House, the other back home in Belmont, Mass., Mitt Romney is juggling two books: “Mornings on Horseback,” a biography of President Theodore Roosevelt, and “The Faithful Spy,” an escapist thriller about a daring C.I.A. agent.

He wakes up around 5 a.m. for a workout and a conference call with his senior staff members, as he has all year, but he is adjusting to one of the new burdens of a would-be president: a widening security bubble that keeps him from popping into McDonald’s to grab his favorite Fruit and Maple Oatmeal and from regularly hitting the hotel gym. (An elliptical machine now awaits him in most hotel rooms.)

And although supporters have started to call Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, “Mr. President” wherever he goes, he returns several times a day to an airplane seat whose custom-made headrest reminds him, in bright red and white stitching, that for now he remains just “The Gov.”

In the frenzied, final days of a roller-coaster two-year run for president, Mr. Romney, the Republican nominee, has arrived at a strange and unfamiliar moment. The political prize that eluded him in 2008, and his father, George, four decades before that, is suddenly within agonizingly close reach, despite it all: an ugly and seemingly endless primary, wall-to-wall attacks by Democrats on the private equity firm he founded, a botched foreign trip and, not infrequently, gaffes.

All around him, aides who as recently as a month ago had been steeling themselves for defeat, murmuring that they had never really envisioned a job in the White House anyway, are now allowing themselves to privately muse about what life in Washington would be like.

Their boss is doing the same.

At a rally on Friday night, Mr. Romney stood before more than 20,000 cheering Ohioans, with his five sons sitting off to the side in red or navy “Romney-Ryan” fleeces. “Tonight we entered the final weekend of the campaign,” Mr. Romney told supporters in West Chester. “At Obama rallies, they’re saying, ‘Four more years.’ We have a different cry, of course. What is it?”

The crowd began chanting: “Four more days! Four more days!”

“Exactly right,” Mr. Romney said.

He knows, of course, that it could all end for him on Tuesday inside a ballroom at the Boston Convention Center, a prospect that would snuff a decade’s climb through the ranks of American politics. He is 65, and it is hard to imagine a third presidential campaign. But for now, he seems to be willing himself into the presidency, as much for the confidence of his staff as for motivating the undecided voters who may glimpse him on television.

On Friday, he started to read the line of a speech loaded into his teleprompter for a rally at a warehouse in West Allis, Ohio. “I want to help the hundreds of thousands of dreamers,” the prepared text had him saying. “I will.”

He decided to tweak the wording. “When I am president,” he added, his voice rising, “I will.”

He has pushed for a closing campaign message that outlines his plans for “Day One” in the White House — a phrase that now appears on his signs and podiums and in his stump speech. In private conversations with staff members, he has begun dropping references to “January,” as he envisions how he might govern.

“This is a person who realizes that the presidency is within his grasp,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser who has worked with Mr. Romney for the past decade.

The changes in Mr. Romney’s mood and demeanor over the past few weeks are subtle, those close him to say. Mr. Romney has never been known for Clintonian eruptions of emotion. But he now exudes a new and unmistakable confidence.

At the end of a giant rally, held a few days ago at a high school football field in Land O’ Lakes, Fla., Mr. Romney did something unusual for him. He raced through an open corridor on the field, both arms extended as he high-fived the eager voters, celebrity style. “You don’t see Mitt walk into a donor meeting slapping high fives,” Mr. Fehrnstrom said. “It’s just a very different mood and feel.”

Mr. Romney started the fall with an unhurried public schedule of just a few events a week, bogged down with fund-raising commitments and reluctant to plunge too quickly into the sleepless, barnstorming phase of the race. Now, he is cramming three or four events into each day, a wearying regimen that has occasionally become apparent in his hoarse voice and verbal slips.

At a rally in Des Moines on Sunday, Mr. Romney flubbed one of his signature stump speech lines: “Employment is higher today than when Barack Obama took office,” he said, accidentally substituting “employment” for “unemployment.”

Recalling his visit late last week with the owner of a struggling barbecue restaurant in Richmond, Va., he blanked on the company’s age. “She said, ‘We’re closing down for good after 82 years’ — was it 62 or 82?” he said. “Well, it’s one of the two. After 62 or 82 years, she’s closing down.” To limit exhaustion-induced errors, Mr. Romney is increasing his use of teleprompters in the last days of the race, aides said.

The disciplined candidate is also letting down his guard in unexpected ways. In Ohio last week, he broke from his usual script to reflect on the exhausting work of running for president. “This job,” he said, “is quite an undertaking.”

Later, he talked about the difficulty of relaxing after hectic hours of campaigning. “I get so much energy from you, by the way, that at the end of the day, it takes me a long time to slow down and fall asleep,” he told thousands of people on a field in Davenport, Iowa.

Two years into the race, Mr. Romney’s interior life remains something of a mystery — not just to voters but even to some of his aides. He seems capable of truly unwinding only in the company of his family. He eschews the raucous staff dinners and late-night strategy huddles that are a staple of campaign life. At night, he sometimes eats alone in his hotel room, savoring his solitude over takeout that aides order from nearby restaurants.

Aboard his plane, he devotes little time to chitchat. “He just goes right to his seat, takes out his iPad and gets to work,” said Kevin Madden, a senior adviser.

He makes a point of talking to his wife, Ann — who is keeping her own slightly less demanding schedule of rallies and talks — every day in conversations squeezed in on the plane just before takeoff, in his sport-utility vehicle between events or at night back in his hotel room. On Sundays, he calls each of his five sons — all of whom have been campaigning with him recently — to check in, sometimes patching them into a conference call.

He is a careful student of the race that has enveloped his life. When he boards the front cabin of his campaign plane each morning, aides have already arranged the local and national newspapers on the table before him. He is a scanner of headlines and photos, not a cover-to-cover reader, they said. (“Four Days to Seal the Deal,” was the first headline he saw Friday, on the cover of USA Today.)

On the plane that now doubles as his home on the road, he stocks peanut butter, honey and whole wheat bread, the components of his go-to sandwich. Hidden away, in an overhead bin or a nearby fridge, are his guilty pleasures: granola bars, pita chips, Kit Kats, Snickers and Greek yogurt with honey. (“The Greek yogurt industry has got to have a boost, just from the front of the plane,” Mr. Madden said.)

In the waning days of the race, Mr. Romney’s world has become smaller and ever more tightly controlled. He no longer ventures to the press cabin of his plane, as he used to, apparently fearing an encounter that could change the contours of the race.

After the third presidential debate, reporters asked Mr. Madden if Mr. Romney might hold a news conference to talk about the last days of the campaign. Mr. Madden scoffed: if you want to know what the candidate thinks, he said, listen to his speeches.

“The door to a brighter future is there, it’s open, it’s waiting for us,” Mr. Romney likes to say at the end of his speeches now. “I need your vote, I need your help. Walk with me, walk together.”

On Saturday, he surrounded himself with his entire team of top advisers, who made a rare joint appearance on his plane for the closing 72 hours of the race. Many of them have worked with him since his days in the Massachusetts Statehouse, and he wanted them by his side.

Over the weekend, he took out his iPhone and began to surreptitiously record video of his aides asleep in their seats. As he prowled the cabin, laughing quietly to himself, he seemed to understand that come Tuesday, win or lose, this chapter of his life would be over.

    Romney, a Challenger at the Crossroads, NYT, 4.11.2012,






A President’s Last Race, Win or Lose


November 4, 2012
The New York Times


BRISTOW, Va. — President Obama looked out at the sea of shivering supporters at a chilly late-night rally here and soaked in the wave of blue campaign placards and the flashing of a thousand smartphone cameras.

It was 37 degrees, and he warmed his left hand in his pocket even as he jabbed at the air with his right. Midnight was approaching. It was the last rally of the last Saturday of his last campaign, and he drifted off script.

“I was backstage with David Plouffe,” Mr. Obama told the crowd, referring to his political guru, who looked surprised as he stood offstage. “And we were talking about how, as the campaign goes on, we’ve become less relevant. I’m sort of a prop in the campaign. He’s just bothering a bunch of folks, calling, asking what’s going on.”

Indeed, for Mr. Obama, the campaign is effectively over. Oh, there will be a final round of rallies on Monday, a final frenetic swing through swing states and plenty of Plouffe phone calls asking what is going on. But the machinery they have assiduously put in place over four years is now on remote control. The campaign is out of their hands, and so is the fate of the 44th president.

Win, and he has a chance to secure a legacy as a president who made a mark not simply by virtue of his original barrier-breaking election but also by transforming America in his image — for the better, he hopes; for the worse, his critics fear. Lose, and he becomes an avatar of hope and change who could not fulfill his own promise and whose programs might not survive his remarkable rise and fall.

It is in moments like these that nostalgia takes hold for a president on the precipice. With each passing day, aides said, Mr. Obama has taken note every time he passes a milestone.

“This is my last debate prep practice,” he said at Camp David.

“This is my last walk-through,” he said, touring a debate stage.

“This is my last debate,” he said after squaring off a third time with Mitt Romney.

The “lasts” piled up on a bone-weary final weekend as he raced from Ohio to Wisconsin, Iowa to Virginia, New Hampshire to Florida and back to Ohio, then Colorado and Wisconsin again. What he hopes most is that these are not the last days of his presidency.

“You can see the nostalgia, the wistfulness, setting in,” observed Dan Pfeiffer, one of his longest-serving advisers and now the White House communications director. “The focus here is winning and making the case, but the last campaign of a man’s life — you every once in a while pause and think about that.”

Other than a brief interlude for Hurricane Sandy, the White House has been relocated to Air Force One for months. Mr. Obama half-jogs off the plane and half-jogs onto the stage, his coat off, his sleeves rolled up, his tie usually gone. He has grown hoarse arguing his case. Between stops, he huddles in the plane’s conference room, nursing his throat with tea and scratching out his speech in longhand.

His daily routine has been upended, but he tries to keep up his workout regimen in hotel fitness centers. He eats whenever he can, usually whatever the Air Force stewards are serving aboard the plane or something brought in before a speech. Occasionally, when he stops to glad-hand at a pizza place or a doughnut shop, he may snack in the motorcade to the next campaign rally; at a Cleveland meat shop, he bought barbecue jerky.

He is happier whenever he gets time with Michelle Obama, but she has largely kept a separate schedule. Like any father on the road, he makes sure to call his wife and children every evening. To keep him company in recent weeks, friends like Marty Nesbitt and Mike Ramos have accompanied him aboard Air Force One. Between conference calls on storm recovery on Sunday, he checked out the Chicago Bears football game on the Air Force One television.

The other day, Mr. Obama landed in Chicago to vote and spotted his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, now the city’s mayor, waiting on the tarmac. A huge grin appeared on the president’s face, and he pointed at Mr. Emanuel. The mayor grinned and pointed back. The two embraced like long-lost brothers and chatted happily before walking, arm in arm, to shake hands with bystanders.

“He’s got his goal in eyesight, and he’s driving to the basket,” Mr. Emanuel said later. “He’s a happy warrior, I’d say.”

Happier with the debates over. He considered preparations for the first one “a drag,” as he put it, and got walloped. It was an eye-opener for a president who has never lacked confidence, a moment when he “faced his own political mortality,” Mr. Pfeiffer said. “The first debate turned a switch for him. He came out of that very focused on ensuring that would never happen again.” By his own reckoning, Mr. Obama had failed to “communicate why he wants a second term,” said another adviser.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who played Mr. Romney during debate rehearsals, said Mr. Obama recognized the peril. “He just decided in his mind that he needed to bear down and win, period,” Mr. Kerry said in an interview. “He’s a competitive guy. He’s very analytical. He knows exactly what he had not done and exactly what he wanted to do.”

After coming out stronger in the later debates, Mr. Obama could finally return to the trail, where the affirmation of the crowd beats the pounding of the pundits. The crowds are smaller — he drew 24,000 here in Bristow, compared with 60,000 and 80,000 in his final days in 2008 — but they are enthusiastic, and he draws energy from them.

“The president seemed relaxed,” said former Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio, who campaigned with him in that state. “You don’t see a lot of anxiety or frenetic behavior.”

Mr. Obama seems to enjoy his unannounced stops even more, allowing a tiny peek into his interior life. At the Common Man restaurant in Merrimack, N.H., he met a woman with two daughters. “You can’t beat daughters,” he said, reflecting on his own, who were, he added, still at a good age: “They still love you. They’re still cute. They don’t talk back too much.”

One of his favorite stops was the employee cafeteria at the Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas, where he greeted kitchen workers and room cleaners. “For him, that was the people he’s fighting for,” Mr. Plouffe said later. “He loves stuff like that. That was a unique one.”

It made such an impression that Mr. Obama was still talking about it a day later. “That thing at the Bellagio yesterday was great,” he told reporters on Air Force One. Then, recalling that his press secretary’s van broke down, he joked, “I think every trip we’re going to find at least one occasion to ditch Jay Carney.”

Very rarely does Mr. Obama confront the nearly half of America that polls say do not support him, those who blame him for the economic troubles still afflicting the country. He seemed taken aback at Cleveland’s West Side Market when he asked a chicken vendor how business was going.

“Terrible since you got here,” the man said.

The vendor later told his local newspaper he had meant only that the president’s party had blocked his business that day. But he inadvertently voiced the frustrations of many Americans.

Nor has Mr. Obama faced many tough questions lately, like those about the response to the attack in Benghazi, Libya, since he generally does not take questions from the reporters who trail him everywhere.

Instead, he sticks to generally friendlier broadcast interviews, sometimes giving seven minutes to a local television station or calling in to drive-time radio disc jockeys with nicknames like Roadkill.

With Michael Yo, a Miami radio host, he revealed his first job — Baskin-Robbins, “paid minimum wage” — and addressed a feud between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj: “I’m all about bringing people together,” he said.

He relishes rare moments away from politics. He had dinner one night at a Washington restaurant with several swing-state Democrats who had won a contest to meet the president. He had done his homework; he knew their names and their children’s names. But as he tucked into a dinner of salmon, asparagus and potatoes — he left most of the potatoes — he was eager not to dwell on the campaign.

“We didn’t really talk about politics very much,” said Kimberley Cathey, 41, a speech language pathologist from North Carolina. “I don’t recall really in the hour and a half we talked anything major about the election,” said her husband, Ron, also 41. “It was pretty much a night away from that.”

The president did contemplate the possibility of defeat, but said he and his family “would be fine no matter what the outcome,” Ms. Cathey said. Mario Orosa, 44, a technical specialist at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, said he had asked Mr. Obama, “What was the last thing that made you really nervous?” The president replied, “I don’t remember.”

He is not a nervous man. But even his famous cool may be challenged on Tuesday night. For the “prop,” it is all over but the waiting, while Mr. Plouffe makes some calls and bothers some more folks.

    A President’s Last Race, Win or Lose, NYT, 4.11.2012,






Another Presidential Debate,

but This Time the Candidates

Are Much Less Familiar


November 5, 2012
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The presidential candidates held another animated debate on Sunday night, one dedicated to covering the many contentious political issues that the previous debates had failed to address.

But it was not Mitt Romney and President Obama sparring over the legality of drone strikes or the best way to end poverty in America. The event was not held in a well-lighted theater, or broadcast to millions at home.

Instead it was four third-party candidates striving to win attention and sway votes in the waning hours of the presidential campaign from a crowded room in the back of a Bohemian coffee shop.

The candidates — Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party and Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party — sparred at an event moderated by the most famous third-party candidate in recent memory, Ralph Nader.

They met at the back of Busboys and Poets, a popular coffeehouse in the U Street neighborhood of Washington, debating in front of black-and-white portraits of Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dalai Lama.

While Mr. Nader had a significant impact on the 2000 election, this time the lesser-party candidates may affect the results only in certain swing states.

Both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Goode, who served six terms as a Virginia congressman and whose most famous campaign plank is a hard line on immigration, might siphon votes away from Mr. Romney in that state, which many polls show is a dead heat between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama. The Green Party’s Ms. Stein, a Massachusetts physician, has drawn attention in New Hampshire.

Mr. Johnson’s and Mr. Goode’s ability to draw away votes has led to criticism from Republicans and even behind-the-scenes efforts to get them off ballots. Mr. Goode, who was a Republican and a Democrat before leaving those parties, is not on the ballot on Pennsylvania after a Republican effort to remove him.

Mr. Johnson had to fight to get himself on the ballot, though he will appear in nearly every state, and his candidacy may threaten to pull away votes from Mr. Romney in the hotly contested states of Colorado and Nevada.

The evening’s central theme — one that united the four candidates, whose positions caused them to be at odds on many issues — was that over the course of the long, bitter presidential campaign the major-party candidates have for the most part ducked some of the country’s most pressing concerns.

That list included reforming a broken immigration system, helping the poor, fixing campaign finance and arresting climate change.

There is “no more urgent or consequential challenge” than global warming, said Mr. Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City. “We have basically declared war on the future.”

But it is the role of third parties to push those issues into the mainstream, said Mr. Nader.

“Dissent is the mother of ascent,” he said, opening the debate.

The evening started with more than two dozen yes-no-pass policy questions, in which the candidates showed how much they agreed despite their different political leanings, particularly on issues that they said the Democrats and Republicans had both abandoned reasonable policy.

Topics included military spending (way too high) and corporate power in Washington (way too strong).

Mr. Nader asked if the four candidates as a group would support getting out of Afghanistan, ending the ethanol subsidy and reducing the defense budget, along with a hodgepodge of other concerns. The candidates responded, “Yes,” in unison.

“Convergence!” Mr. Nader cried.

But on other issues, they found no convergence, and that led to some spirited sparring. Mr. Goode voiced his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. Ms. Stein pushed for government to do more for the environment and to create green jobs. The candidates debated monetary stability, and whether it made sense to raise the minimum wage.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama, though absent, loomed large. And a two-party system that blocks out third-party voices seemed to be the candidates’ central opponent.

In this election the four have remained largely a fringe presence, and just getting their voices out and finding a better platform for their ideas became a refrain.

“Who the hell is Gary Johnson?” the former New Mexico governor and Libertarian candidate asked. He said he would have “desperately needed” more national news media attention to get voters interested.

The Commission on Presidential Debates requires candidates to have the support of 15 percent of the electorate. Many third-party supporters say that is far too high.

    Another Presidential Debate, but This Time the Candidates Are Much Less Familiar, NYT, 5.11.2012,






Facing an Election Night Clamor


November 4, 2012
The New York Times


This has been the year of the big media gaffe.

NBC News edited a 911 tape of George Zimmerman in a way that implied race as a factor in the Trayvon Martin shooting. CNN and Fox News falsely reported that the Supreme Court had struck down the individual mandate at the heart of the Obama administration’s health care law. ABC News wrongly suggested a link between a mass shooting in Colorado and the Tea Party. Just last week during the storm, CNN repeated a false rumor about flooding at the New York Stock Exchange.

Now the media are gearing up for election night, the finale of the year’s biggest story. It’s a chance to regain some credibility — presuming, of course, that television networks and other news organizations get their state-by-state projections right. They all say they will, still mindful of the mistakes made in 2000, when the networks prematurely called Florida for Al Gore and then George W. Bush.

The same precautions that were put in place after 2000 will be in place again this Tuesday. At NBC, for instance, the statisticians at the “decision desk” that makes projections “are literally sealed off from the rest of us,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, the senior vice president of specials for NBC News.

Different this time will be the level of noise on the Web, where armchair and professional pundits alike will react to the election results in real time. On election night in 2008, a few Web sites, including Slate and Time.com, stated the obvious — that Barack Obama was going to win the presidency — well before the TV networks and major newspapers said so. In large part that’s because the networks and newspapers were waiting for the polls to close on the West Coast.

They will abide by the same principle again on Tuesday night, ruling out any such pronouncement before 11 p.m. Eastern. But more Web sites and individual users will most likely try to call the race early, creating a cacophony on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

A memo on Saturday to employees of The Associated Press, the country’s biggest news wire service, asked them to refrain from adding to the noise by posting to Twitter about other news outlets’ calls. “If A.P. has not called a particular state or race, it’s because we have specifically decided not to, based on the expertise and data we have spent years developing,” the memo read.

In calling a state for Mr. Obama or Mitt Romney, news organizations will consider several data sources, including exit poll results and raw vote totals — “a brain trust of data,” said Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews, the vice president for news for CBS News.

Executives at the major networks said in interviews that they don’t expect to be able to project a winner at 11 p.m. this year, given the closeness of the presidential race in several swing states. “I’m not even going to guess what time it will be,” said Marc Burstein, the senior executive producer for special events at ABC News. He predicted an abundance of caution this year because of the trend of early voting in many states.

For election night ABC is uniquely situated in Times Square, which filled up with supporters of Mr. Obama on election night in 2008. This time, too, “I expect a gigantic crowd,” Mr. Burstein said. NBC is expecting the same at Rockefeller Plaza, which it has re-christened Democracy Plaza with exhibits and video screens, just as it did in 2004 and 2008.

All of the executives interviewed said they would be entirely comfortable making projections after their competitors. “In a close contest, we’ll simply wait,” said Sam Feist, the Washington bureau chief for CNN. And all of them cited the journalism chestnut that it’s better to be right than first. “It’s always lovely when the two coincide,” said Ms. Ciprian-Matthews of CBS, “but everybody here is absolutely on the same page: accuracy comes first.”

Fox News did not respond to an interview request.

CNN, which was criticized for crowding its studio with anchors and analysts in 2008, will have more reporters in the field this time, including a half-dozen in Ohio alone. Reprising what it called “ballot cams” on primary nights, CNN will have crews at “key voting and vote-counting locations” in battleground states, Mr. Feist said.

“We proved during the primaries that doing real reporting on those nights can make a difference,” he said.

No matter the outcome, some partisans will claim that the election is illegitimate, if the election year rhetoric is to be believed. Continuing an effort that started in 2004, networks and other news outlets will ask the public to alert them to voter irregularities and allegations of voter suppression. “We have an entire team working on those stories,” Mr. Lukasiewicz of NBC said.

Dozens of news and opinion Web sites will offer essentially live coverage on election night, some with TV-like newscasts and others with live blogs. But the biggest audiences are still expected to tune to the big three broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, and the big three cable news networks, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN.

Four years ago, Brian Williams was the anchor on NBC, Charles Gibson on ABC and Katie Couric on CBS. Mr. Williams is back for his second presidential election night as anchor, but Mr. Gibson, who retired three years ago, will not; heading the coverage instead will be the pair that sat alongside him in 2008, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos. Ms. Couric, now of ABC, will join them from time to time with social media reaction — a role that did not exist on the network’s coverage last time.

On CBS, Scott Pelley will anchor his first presidential election night. It’s also the first time for Rachel Maddow, on MSNBC, and Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly, on Fox News. On PBS, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff will make up national television’s first two-woman anchor team on election night.

Half a dozen smaller channels will also have hours of live election talk, as will countless local stations — paid for in part by the revenue from innumerable election ads. Discussing the extent of the coverage, Mr. Feist of CNN said, “You cannot find an available high-definition satellite path for Tuesday night in this country. There are none left. The country is at capacity.”

    Facing an Election Night Clamor, NYT, 4.11.2012,






Voice Is Strained,

but Support on the Trail Unstinting


November 4, 2012
The New York Times


RALEIGH, N.C. — By Sunday, Bill Clinton sounded awful, as if he had been gargling with Liquid-Plumr. You could hear his voice dying steadily over the last 72 hours of campaigning: hoarse Friday in Florida, cracking Saturday across Virginia and dissolving fully to a slight husk here Sunday, after two stops in New Hampshire and before another in Minnesota.

“As you can see, I have given my voice in the service of my president,” Mr. Clinton said, wheezing while introducing President Obama at a late-night set at a Bristow, Va., amphitheater on Saturday. He kept coughing, patting his chest and mouthing words that carried only muffled strains in chilly air. Black tea with honey and a steady diet of cough drops between events helped little.

It was as if the 42nd president could go fully silent at any second, except that he never did — speaking for 25 minutes Saturday night and more than 40 at his nine solo shows over the weekend to cap off a campaign star turn that could not differ more from what many considered his more dutiful efforts for Mr. Obama four years ago.

After talking (and pointing and gesticulating) for three-quarters of an hour before a crowd of 4,000 at an amusement park here Sunday night, Mr. Clinton spent an additional 10 minutes high-fiving his way along a rope line with a big grin.

If there has been one enduring lesson from his career, it is that the Big Dog is resilient. He can be disgraced, impeached, defeated — but he comes back. The full spectacle of this has been on riveting, if raspy, display in the closing days of the presidential campaign.

Mr. Clinton, 66, has jumped into a hopscotch of battleground states in what — depending on his wife’s future plans — may or may not be his last campaign tour as a Super Surrogate. He is scheduled to appear, if not be heard, at four stops across Pennsylvania on Monday.

He also includes a fair amount in his speeches about Bill Clinton: his enthusiasm (higher than four years ago), his legacy (“I am the only living former president that ever gave you a budget surplus”) and, yes, his wife, the mention of whom brings big applause and the occasional “We love you, Hillary!” cry from the crowd.

Whoever wins Tuesday, the 2012 campaign has solidified (or restored) Mr. Clinton’s status as the hardest-working man in a game he loves and plays like no one else. “The master, Bill Clinton,” Mr. Obama called him on Saturday, hailing his predecessor as “a great president and a great friend.”

Unsaid, at least here, is that Mr. Clinton has also been a salvation to Mr. Obama. He gave what was widely considered the best speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., rocking a strong endorsement of the president while arguably conveying the re-election rationale better than Mr. Obama or his campaign has.

“He has been our economic validator,” Jim Messina, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, said of Mr. Clinton.

Likewise, Mr. Clinton’s presidency exemplifies what Mr. Obama is trying to make a case for. In the early 1990s, President Clinton also inherited a lagging economy, and then he led economic prosperity in his second term. Mr. Obama, who wrapped his former rival in a full-on hug onstage in Charlotte (their recent joint appearances have featured more cursory bro-hugs), said he should name Mr. Clinton to a new position known as Secretary for Explaining Stuff.

Out of public view, the former president has been equally tireless. In a 20-minute car ride Saturday after a rally in Chesapeake, Va., to the Norfolk airport, Mr. Clinton recorded 40 “robo-calls” for Democratic Congressional candidates across the country. In addition to headlining 37 rallies for Mr. Obama over the last seven weeks of the campaign (including events scheduled through Monday), Mr. Clinton is serving as a back-channel strategist for the re-election enterprise.

On the morning after the third debate between Mr. Obama and Mitt Romney on Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla., Mr. Clinton met Mr. Messina for an impromptu breakfast meeting in a suite at a Hyatt Regency hotel in Chicago. Red-eyed after arriving from Boca Raton at 3:30 a.m. and subsisting on Coke Zero, Mr. Messina received, he said, a simple directive from former president, who was in Chicago to give a speech: I am yours in the final weeks. Mr. Clinton said he would undertake a heavy regimen in battleground states.

Previously, Mr. Clinton had served as an active behind-the-scenes strategist, speaking regularly to the president, Mr. Messina and David Axelrod, the senior strategist. He made suggestions on what themes the campaign should emphasize and where. He advocated, according to top officials, for Mr. Obama to run advertisements in Florida that portrayed Mr. Romney as a threat to Medicare and Medicaid — something the campaign ultimately did. As he stumped across the state Friday, Mr. Clinton also drove home that portrayal.

During the Republican primary battle, Mr. Clinton also counseled Mr. Messina and Mr. Axelrod to “have an early conversation” with Democratic base voters in battleground states, so as not to let any disappointment they felt over Mr. Obama’s record calcify into indifference.

But by far Mr. Clinton’s most striking contributions have come in his natural Big Stage habitat. When Hurricane Sandy forced Mr. Obama off the campaign trail early last week, Mr. Clinton called Mr. Messina and suggested that he take on some of the events that the president would miss. Mr. Clinton stumped alone in Orlando, Fla., and with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Youngstown, Ohio.

He has hailed Mr. Obama’s post-storm cooperation with Republican leaders like Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and has ridiculed Mr. Romney as wishy-washy enough to “be the chief contortionist for Cirque du Soleil.”

But subtext will inevitably abound in the Clinton orbit. For starters, while his “friendship” with the president is clearly improved, it remains a source of intrigue, given the strains that were sown during Mr. Obama’s primary run against Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008.

“This is not about relationships,” said Terry McAuliffe, Mr. Clinton’s close friend, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and a possible candidate for governor of Virginia, where he accompanied Mr. Clinton on Saturday. “This is bigger than that.” By “bigger,” Mr. McAuliffe meant that Mr. Clinton is chiefly concerned with the direction of the country, not his relationship with anyone.

It also calls to mind a maxim uttered often among Democrats, and not always with reverence: that it is “all about the Clintons.” And it is not difficult to view Mr. Clinton’s investment in Mr. Obama’s re-election without an eye to whether Mrs. Clinton runs in 2016, something that she has denied interest in but that many Democrats have urged.

It is also impossible to miss what is Mr. Clinton’s most reliable applause line on the stump and something he manages to belt out in full voice.

“By the way,” he says in praising Mr. Obama’s foreign policy record, “he’s got a heck of a secretary of state, too.”

And the crowd always goes wild.

    Voice Is Strained, but Support on the Trail Unstinting, NYT, 4.11.2012,






As Candidates Make Final Pleas,

Legal Battles Begin


November 4, 2012
The New York Times


HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — President Obama and Mitt Romney hunted for last-minute support on Sunday in a frenetic sprint across battleground states, even as their parties faced off in the first of what could be a growing number of legal disputes over presidential ballots and how they are counted.

In Florida, the state’s Democratic Party filed a lawsuit on Sunday morning that would force the Republican-led government to extend early voting in South Florida after complaints that extremely long lines on Saturday had prevented some people from casting their ballots. The Republican-controlled Legislature cut back early voting, which ended Saturday, from 14 days to eight.

The lawsuit was followed by a chaotic day in the Democratic stronghold of Miami-Dade County, which opened one of its election offices for two hours to accept completed absentee ballots and then shut down only to reopen again on Sunday afternoon. Three counties said they would open again on Monday, but Democratic lawyers will continue to argue in court that in-person early voting should continue through Tuesday in Broward County.

In Ohio, Republican election officials will go to court on Monday to defend an 11th-hour directive to local election officials that critics say could invalidate thousands of provisional ballots by forcing voters to attest to the type of identification they provide.

Together, the pre-election legal skirmishes were a potential preview of the clashes that could emerge in as many as a half-dozen swing states over Tuesday’s voting. The closeness of the races in those states has intensified the stakes of voter turnout, smooth operations at polling places, ballot problems and recounts.

In the battles, Republicans are mobilizing to defend against what they say is the potential for voter fraud, and Democrats are preparing to protect against what they say are efforts to suppress voting rights.

“The larger issue, in my view, is the scale of the effort that is required to have Election Day run smoothly,” said Robert Bauer, the chief counsel for Mr. Obama’s campaign. “Any number of things can go wrong, not by anybody’s fault or intention, but we are fully prepared and so, we believe, are election officials around the country.”

On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney presented themselves as agents of change while painting the other as an obstacle — final arguments in a nip-and-tuck race that may hinge on the success of the campaigns’ elaborate turnout operations.

“The question of this election comes down to this,” Mr. Romney told a crowd of about 4,500 on Sunday morning in Des Moines. “Do you want four more years like the last four years, or do you want real change? President Obama promised change, but he couldn’t deliver it.”

Speaking to 23,000 people on a high school football field in Hollywood, Fla., Mr. Obama scoffed at Mr. Romney’s bid to claim the mantle of change, deriding him as a political quick-change artist who is repackaging the failed policies of previous Republican administrations.

“When you make this choice, part of what you’re choosing is who do you trust,” Mr. Obama said. “After four years as president, you know me by now. You know I mean what I say and I say what I mean.”

Racing the sun as well as the clock, both campaigns brimmed with confidence about their chances on Tuesday, though polls showed Mr. Obama holding a slender lead in several of the battleground states he needs to win the Electoral College. That advantage was evident in the itineraries of the two men on Sunday.

While each covered familiar ground from New Hampshire to Ohio, Mr. Romney sought to open a new front with a rally in Pennsylvania. Tightening polls have given him hope that he can take the state from Mr. Obama, who won there by a double-digit margin in 2008. But the president’s advisers dismissed the foray as a desperate move by a challenger running out of other paths to victory.

At the rally in Morrisville on Sunday, Mr. Romney made a point of mentioning a high-profile supporter, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, whose lavish praise of Mr. Obama’s leadership after Hurricane Sandy has raised Republican eyebrows.

“He’s giving it all of his heart and his passion to help the people of his state,” Mr. Romney said of the governor.

In Hollywood, Fla., Mr. Obama was endorsed by Pitbull, a Cuban-American hip-hop artist, one of many celebrities lined up by the campaigns to help draw crowds. In Pennsylvania, the Marshall Tucker Band warmed up the audience for Mr. Romney, while Stevie Wonder played “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” for Mr. Obama at a rally in Cincinnati.

Hours earlier in New Hampshire, Mr. Obama spoke to 14,000 people beneath the gold dome of the State House in Concord on a bright, chilly day that recalled any number of days that he and other hopefuls had walked the streets in their quest for a victory in the nation’s first presidential primaries.

Nearby was a reminder of how the state almost dashed his dreams in 2008. On a line of paving stones in front of the New Hampshire State Library are chiseled the names of winners in the state’s primary, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose victory there halted, for a time, Mr. Obama’s surge after he won the Iowa caucus.

On this Sunday, however, Mr. Obama had the fortifying presence of former President Bill Clinton, who noted approvingly in his introductory speech that Mr. Obama wanted to accomplish many of the same things that Mr. Clinton had during his two terms in office.

“The test should be: What did the president do? What are the results? And compared to what?” Mr. Clinton said. “Compared to what could have happened, Barack Obama has done a good job.”

Savoring the moment, his voice not yet raw from too many speeches, Mr. Clinton gleefully accused Mr. Romney of shifting his position on the bailout of the automakers so many times that he could find work as “chief contortionist in Cirque du Soleil.”

Moments earlier, in Des Moines, Mr. Romney told his supporters that the clock had nearly run out on the president’s time in office, and he promised to usher in a new era of economic hope for families who are struggling across the country.

“Instead of building bridges, he’s made the divide wider,” Mr. Romney said. “Let me tell you why it is he’s fallen so short of what he promised: it’s because he cared more about a liberal agenda than he did about repairing the economy.”

Mr. Romney led the crowd in a call and response: “I mean, do you think Obamacare created jobs? Did his war on coal, oil and gas create jobs? Did Dodd-Frank regulations help banks make more loans? Does raising taxes put people to work?”

“No,” the crowd cried out in response to each question.

Iowa was also the scene of skirmishing over voting, as Republicans on Sunday night accused Democratic operatives of encouraging older voters to illegally fill out absentee ballots for their family members. A letter to the state’s top election official from the chief counsel of the Republican National Committee said that a news report of “the alleged conduct of Democratic and Obama operatives, if true, is highly disconcerting.”

With the election being waged most intensely in fewer than a dozen states, the candidates seemed to be shadowboxing each other, with one arriving in a state just hours after the other left.

After Iowa, Mr. Romney held rallies in Ohio and Virginia. He planned events in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire on Monday.

Mr. Obama went from Concord to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Cincinnati. He then headed for Aurora, Colo., and was scheduled to arrive in Madison, Wis., not long before dawn on Monday.


Ashley Parker contributed reporting from Des Moines, Lizette Alvarez from Miami,

and Michael Barbaro from Morrisville, Pa.

    As Candidates Make Final Pleas, Legal Battles Begin, NYT, 4.11.2012,






Republican Tax Priorities


November 4, 2012
The New York Times

If Congressional Republicans get their way, expiring cuts in the estate tax for America’s wealthiest families will be extended in 2013. But under their cruel plan, enhancements to tax credits for low- and moderate-income working families, which are also set to expire at the end of the year, would end.

Extending the estate tax cut would benefit the estates of the wealthiest 0.3 percent of Americans who die in 2013 — about 7,000 people. Ending the tax credits would hurt some 13 million working families, including nearly 26 million children, many of whom live at or near the poverty line.

Republicans in the House have already approved legislation — and similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate — that would undo a compromise tax plan approved in 2010. Back then, Republicans demanded estate tax cuts in exchange for extending the bolstered earned-income tax credits and child tax credits for working families that had been part of the 2009 stimulus.

Under duress, the Obama administration agreed to temporarily raise the value of an estate that would be exempt from tax to $5 million ($10 million for married couples) from $3.5 million ($7 million for couples), the level in 2009. It also agreed to cut the top estate tax rate to 35 percent from 45 percent. In exchange for that tax cut, Republicans agreed to preserve improvements to the earned-income tax credit and child credit that help to ensure that low-income working families with children do not fall below the poverty line. Now, with another year-end showdown looming over expiring tax cuts, Republicans want to keep the generous provisions for the estate tax and end the enhancements to the working family tax credits.

The winners would be the few and the wealthy: the Tax Policy Center has estimated that the estate tax breaks save wealthy heirs an average of $1.1 million per estate, compared with the 2009 estate tax law. The losers would be the many and the hard pressed: a married couple with three children and earnings at the estimated poverty line ($27,713) would lose $1,934 in tax credits in 2013, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The divide is especially noteworthy in the swing states. In Florida, 900 estates would get an estate-tax break, while nearly one million Florida families, with 1.7 million children, would see a tax increase. In Ohio, 140 estates would get a tax cut, while nearly 500,000 families, with nearly one million children, would face higher taxes. In Virginia, 220 estates would get a tax break, compared with 275,000 working families, with nearly 500,000 children, that would have their taxes rise.

The heirs of the wealthiest people in America do not need continued tax breaks, nor can the nation afford the giveaway. Low- and moderate-income working Americans need all the help they can get. That is not the way Republicans see it, but that is the way it is.

    Republican Tax Priorities, NYT, 4.11.2012,






Romney Sweeps Through

Four Events in Three States

With 72 Hours to Go


November 3, 2012
The New York Times


PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — With just 72 hours before the polls open, Mitt Romney kicked off his busiest day of the general election so far, racing through four events in three states on Saturday as he made his final appeal to voters.

His message: A Romney administration offers the reality of the hope, change and bipartisanship that President Obama promised four years ago but failed to deliver.

“I’ve watched over the last few months as our campaign has gone from a start to a movement,” Mr. Romney said at a morning rally at an airport hangar here. “It’s not just the size of the crowds. It’s the conviction and compassion in the hearts of the people.”

The lessons he learned as governor of Massachusetts, working with a largely Democratic legislature, he added, would serve him well in the White House.

“I learned that respect and good will goes a long way, and it’s likely to be reciprocated,” he said. “That’s how I would conduct myself as president. I won’t just represent one party. I will represent one nation.”

Mr. Romney also made an explicit appeal to undecided voters, urging his supporters to “spend some time in the next three days to see neighbors and maybe ones with an Obama sign in front of their home and just go by and say, ‘Look, let’s talk this through a bit.’ ”

“Because you see, President Obama came into office with so many promises, and he’s fallen so far short,” Mr. Romney said. “And just remind them of some of the things that they may have forgotten. He said he was going to be the postpartisan president, but he’s been the most partisan, dividing and demonizing.”

At his next stop, in Dubuque, Iowa, Mr. Romney again criticized the president over his campaign pledges in 2008.

“Words are cheap,” he said. “You can say whatever you want to say in a campaign, but what you achieve — results — those are earned, those can’t be faked.”

Mr. Romney was joined on his campaign plane by nearly his entire top team, a close-knit coterie of senior advisers, many of whom have been with him since his days in the Massachusetts Statehouse. Their mood was both upbeat and nostalgic.

Boarding the plane in New Hampshire to head to Iowa, they posed for a quick group picture on the tarmac — a photo that, depending on the outcome of Election Day, could be either a glimpse into a future White House, or a keepsake for old friends of a campaign that did not quite go their way.

Mr. Romney’s wife, Ann, made a brief trip back to the press cabin to pass out pumpkin whoopie pies. Though she remained determinedly on-message and positive, talking about the people who are “really, really hurting,” her face and demeanor belied a weariness. (Mrs. Romney, who has multiple sclerosis, was seen limping off the campaign plane on Friday night. Aides said that it was not a flare-up like the one she had during the primaries, and that she was merely “exhausted.”)

“Three more days,” she said, echoing what has become a refrain on the campaign trail, as voters chant the number of days until, they hope, Mr. Romney becomes the president-elect. “It’s been long. It’s been a long road.”

On the stump in the morning, Mr. Romney offered a series of aggressive lines against Mr. Obama, criticizing the president for remarks he made Friday in Ohio when he told his supporters that “voting is the best revenge.”

“Vote for revenge?” Mr. Romney asked, rhetorically. “Let me tell you what I’d like to tell you: Vote for love of country.”

Friday night in Cincinnati, Mr. Romney drew more than 20,000 cheering voters. On Saturday, his crowds were more modest: 2,000 in Portsmouth, 2,100 in Dubuque and 4,500 in the conservative stronghold of Colorado Springs. But at his last rally of the evening, in Englewood, Colo., Mr. Romney drew a roaring crowd of 17,000 that filled a stadium and banged inflatable noise sticks as the candidate and Mrs. Romney took the stage.

“One final push is going to get us there,” he urged. “I need your vote, I need your work, I need your help. Walk with me.”

    Romney Sweeps Through Four Events in Three States With 72 Hours to Go, NYT, 3.11.2012,






Obama, on a Weekend March,

Tries to Recapture His Mantle


November 3, 2012
The New York Times


DUBUQUE, Iowa — If anything gets under President Obama’s skin in the final, fraught days of this campaign, it is Mitt Romney’s attempt to expropriate the “change” label, which Mr. Obama all but trademarked in his historic run for the White House four years ago.

On a morning-to-midnight tour of Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Virginia on Saturday, Mr. Obama repeatedly scoffed at Mr. Romney’s effort to present himself as a change agent, calling him instead a “talented salesman” who was merely dressing up the failed policies of the George W. Bush administration for a new decade.

Speaking to 4,000 supporters at a high school in Mentor, Ohio, Mr. Obama tried to square a circle, insisting he was both a familiar, trustworthy leader and an insurgent who could break the gridlock in Washington.

“Back in 2008, when I was talking about ‘change we can believe in,’ I wasn’t just talking about changing presidents; I wasn’t just talking about changing parties,” he said. “I was talking about changing our politics. I ran in 2008 because the voices of the American people, your voices, had been shut out of our democracy for too long.”

Despite the frustrations of his first term, for which he blamed “protectors of the status quo,” Mr. Obama said he could still upgrade the nation’s schools, keep college affordable, expand production of clean energy, and rebuild aging roads and bridges.

Mr. Obama, in an echo of his post-partisan pitch in 2008, even encouraged supporters to vote for Republicans for Congress if they concluded that those candidates were “serious about putting people first instead of putting elections first.” It was not clear how that message would play with Democratic candidates down the ticket.

The president also drew an obvious distinction with Mr. Romney, after accusing him of dishonesty in tying the Obama administration’s bailout of the auto industry to jobs lost to China. “You do want to be able to trust your president,” he said. “You want to know that the president means what he says, and says what he means. And after four years as president, you know me.”

Among supporters, the mood mirrored the man: sobered by experience but searching for the old magic.

“He’s going in the right direction, but he hasn’t had enough time to get it done,” said Susanne Dauler, 78, a retired teacher from Wickliffe, Ohio. “But I still believe in him.”


Breaking Up the Band

As Mr. Obama makes what is almost certainly his last campaign trip as a candidate, the charter group of advisers who worked for him in 2008 have begun packing the seats on Air Force One for what is turning into a nostalgic farewell tour — complete with a final gig in Des Moines.

“It’s like the band is breaking up,” said David Axelrod, the senior strategist who functions as the group’s shaggy elder.

Among the returning members: Robert Gibbs, the former press secretary; Reggie Love, the president’s former personal aide; Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser; Jon Favreau, the chief speechwriter; and Jennifer Psaki, the campaign’s press secretary.

Superstition abounds. Mr. Favreau and Mr. Rhodes are growing beards that they said they would not shave until after Election Day. That day, the group plans to meet for lunch at the Gage, the Chicago restaurant where they ate on Election Day four years ago.

“There is a sense on this trip of going all the way back to the beginning,” Mr. Rhodes said. In drafting the final version of the president’s stump speech, Mr. Favreau said Mr. Obama’s aides were reminiscing about his first stump speeches, many honed in Iowa.

Now 31 and contemplating a future outside of politics, Mr. Favreau said, “Never in my life will I have another experience like this.”


Help From Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton has become the workhorse of the campaign, stumping tirelessly for the president across the battleground states, sometimes several each day. And Mr. Obama is showing his gratitude, heaping praise on the 42nd president in his stump speech.

“For eight years, we had a president who shared our beliefs: his name was Bill Clinton,” Mr. Obama said in Lima, Ohio. “By the end of President Clinton’s second term, America had created 23 million new jobs. Incomes were up. Poverty was down. Our deficit became the biggest surplus in history.”

For three days last week, when Hurricane Sandy kept Mr. Obama off the trail, Mr. Clinton served as his proxy and validator, standing in at rallies in Florida and Ohio. On Saturday, the two men were scheduled to appear together in Bristow, Va.

Mr. Clinton’s support is all the more striking, given the well-publicized chill in their relationship after the 2008 campaign. While Mr. Clinton is solidly behind Mr. Obama now, he acknowledges it was not always so.

“I am far more enthusiastic about him this time than I was last time,” he said Friday.


Benghazi Protests

The deadly attack on the American Mission in Benghazi, Libya, and the White House’s shifting account of it, has been a story mainly in Washington. But on Friday, it erupted on the trail in Ohio, when protesters lined the entrance to a high school in Lima, holding signs and shouting at Mr. Obama’s limousine.

“When the president called the Navy SEALs, they killed Osama bin Laden. But when the Navy SEALs called the president, he let them die,” said one sign.

A Tea Party group from Mansfield, Ohio, organized the protest, saying on its Web site that “the mainstream media is not covering this story, so it’s up to us to inform our fellow citizens.”

At a rally for Mr. Romney on Friday evening in West Chester, Ohio, a line of prominent Republicans hammered Mr. Obama for the episode, with some accusing the White House of trying to cover up security lapses in Libya because of the election.

“When I think about these last few days,” said Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, “I think about two words: budget and Benghazi.”

    Obama, on a Weekend March, Tries to Recapture His Mantle, NYT, 3.11.2012,






How Romney Would Treat Women


November 3, 2012
The New York Times


IN this year’s campaign furor over a supposed “war on women,” involving birth control and abortion, the assumption is that the audience worrying about these issues is just women.

Give us a little credit. We men aren’t mercenaries caring only for Y chromosomes. We have wives and daughters, mothers and sisters, and we have a pretty intimate stake in contraception as well.

This isn’t like a tampon commercial on television, leaving men awkwardly examining their fingernails. When it comes to women’s health, men as well as women need to pay attention. Just as civil rights wasn’t just a “black issue,” women’s rights and reproductive health shouldn’t be reduced to a “women’s issue.”

To me, actually, talk about a “war on women” in the United States seems a bit hyperbolic: in Congo or Darfur or Afghanistan, I’ve seen brutal wars on women, involving policies of rape or denial of girls’ education. But whatever we call it, something real is going on here at home that would mark a major setback for American women — and the men who love them.

On these issues, Mitt Romney is no moderate. On the contrary, he is considerably more extreme than President George W. Bush was. He insists, for example, on cutting off money for cancer screenings conducted by Planned Parenthood.

The most toxic issue is abortion, and what matters most for that is Supreme Court appointments. The oldest justice is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a 79-year-old liberal, and if she were replaced by a younger Antonin Scalia, the balance might shift on many issues, including abortion.

One result might be the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which for nearly four decades has guaranteed abortion rights. If it is overturned, abortion will be left to the states — and in Mississippi or Kansas, women might end up being arrested for obtaining abortions.

Frankly, I respect politicians like Paul Ryan who are consistently anti-abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. I disagree with them, but their position is unpopular and will cost them votes, so it’s probably heartfelt as well as courageous. I have less respect for Romney, whose positions seem based only on political calculations.

Romney’s campaign Web site takes a hard line. It says that life begins at conception, and it gives no hint of exceptions in which he would permit abortion. The Republican Party platform likewise offers no exceptions. Romney says now that his policy is to oppose abortion with three exceptions: rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at stake.

If you can figure out Romney’s position on abortion with confidence, tell him: at times it seems he can’t remember it. In August, he abruptly added an exception for the health of the mother as well as her life, and then he backed away again.

Romney has also endorsed a “personhood” initiative treating a fertilized egg as a legal person. That could lead to murder charges for an abortion, even to save the life of a mother.

In effect, Romney seems to have jumped on board a Republican bandwagon to tighten access to abortion across the board. States passed a record number of restrictions on abortion in the last two years. In four states, even a woman who is seeking an abortion after a rape may be legally required to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound.

If politicians want to reduce the number of abortions, they should promote family planning and comprehensive sex education. After all, about half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which conducts research on reproductive health.

Yet Romney seems determined to curb access to contraceptives. His campaign Web site says he would “eliminate Title X family planning funding,” a program created in large part by two Republicans, George H. W. Bush and Richard Nixon.

Romney has boasted that he would cut off all money for Planned Parenthood — even though federal assistance for the organization has nothing to do with abortions. It pays for such things as screenings to reduce breast cancer and cervical cancer.

Romney’s suspicion of contraception goes way back. As governor of Massachusetts, he vetoed a bill that would have given women who were raped access to emergency contraception.

Romney also wants to reinstate the “global gag rule,” which barred family planning money from going to aid organizations that even provided information about abortion. He would cut off money for the United Nations Population Fund, whose work I’ve seen in many countries — supporting contraception, repairing obstetric fistulas, and fighting to save the lives of women dying in childbirth.

So when you hear people scoff that there’s no real difference between Obama and Romney, don’t believe them.

And it’s not just women who should be offended at the prospect of a major step backward. It’s all of us.

    How Romney Would Treat Women, NYT, 3.11.2012,










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