Chicago Sun-Times
Staff reports on all things politics - from City Hall to Springfield to Washington, D.C.

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President Barack Obama stands with former presidents, from second from left, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Thursday, April 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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President Barack Obama stands with, from second from left, former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Thursday, April 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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President Obama gives his inauguration address at his ceremonial swearing-in ceremony during the 57th Presidential Inauguration, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington. Click to enlarge. (AP Photo/Rob Carr, Pool)

A sea of people flooded the National Mall - from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument, visible in the distance - to watch President Obama inauguration for his second term.

More photos from the day here. And even from space, here.

President Obama is giving his final press conference of his first term today at 10:30 a.m. Chicago time. Follow live video below.

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza // Click to embiggen


Yes, the image that spawned a world-conquering meme is getting new life thanks to a White House visit by the gold-winning U.S. women's gymnastic team. It's a fantastic, fun photo and one that now will surely spawn a new meme: "Obama is not impressed."

If you can come up with some great Obama-inspired "not impressed" images, let us know. Maybe we'll run one in this space.

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Photo colorization by Sanna Dullaway for TIME / Original image by Alexander Gardner / Library of Congress

Abraham Lincoln is enjoying a renaissance these days. While he was often cited as an inspiration for President Barack Obama during his first campaign, specifically Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals, he's now getting even more interest as that book has been adapted into a movie. Starring Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis, the Steven Spielberg-directed Lincoln opens nationwide next week. So it goes to follow there are a lot of think pieces out there on the former president, including one in TIME. But there's something else fascinating going on with TIME's piece: specifically, Abe Lincoln in full color.

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Photo colorization by Sanna Dullaway / Original image from the Library of Congress

The magazine commissioned Sanna Dullaway to work some digital magic on photos of Lincoln for their feature, giving them vibrant color as if they were taken yesterday and not 150 years ago. Dullaway's done this before and TIME gave us a peek behind the process.

In each of these renderings, Dullaway's use of color is subtle and sophisticated--yielding images that maintain the photographic integrity of their originals, while presenting a look at how these photographs may have come out had color photography existed at the time. That nuanced ability to handle color runs in the family; Dullaway's father is painter.

The images take anywhere from 40 minutes to three hours to produce, and for the young artist, it's a way of bringing a contemporary perspective to older works. "History has always been black and white to me, from the World War I soldiers to the 1800s, when ladies wore grand but colorless dresses," Dullaway says. "By colorizing, I watch the photos come alive, and suddenly the people feel more real and history becomes more tangible."


This kind of approach isn't new, though, as another project by Bryan Eaton whose Color of Lincoln project has done similar colorizing of Lincoln photos over the last several years.

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The Electoral College breakdown map, courtesy of C-SPAN.
Click to embiggen


By Neil Steinberg

If you thought Tuesday you were voting for the presidential candidate of your choice, think again. Due to a historic quirk in the creation of the United States -- some old operating code, as it were -- American voters do not chose the president directly, but rather select electors to the Electoral College who do the actual selecting of the president.

It's a cumbersome system. Each state has the same number of electors as it has representatives in Congress --the House of Representatives and Senate combined. Illinois, for example, has 20 - down one after the last census. They can't be the elected officials themselves, however. In 48 of the states, whoever wins the popular vote also wins all the electors -- only Nebraska and Maine have a proportional system where electoral votes are divided up between the winner and loser.

The system is a relic of an age when travel was difficult and counting ballots even more problematic than it is today. The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that numerous regional contenders didn't divide the nation.

Thus whoever wins 270 of the 538 available electoral votes will be inaugurated president on Jan. 20, 2013. But every four years there is talk of scrapping the Electoral College system, though it does have its defenders. Here are the main arguments, pro and con.

Reasons to get rid of it

  1. 1. A discrepancy between the number of voters and the number of electoral votes creates the possibility of losing the popular vote while winning the Electoral College. Three presidents have been elected on electoral votes while failing to win a majority of voters -- Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and George W. Bush in 2000 -- an outcome that undermines the faith Americans have in the legitimacy of the executive branch of government.
  2. 2. The Electoral College is inherently undemocratic, skewing significance toward smaller, more sparsely populated states. Delaware, with 900,000 residents, has three electoral votes, while Texas, with more than 25 million residents, has 34, which means from an electoral point of view, a vote in Delaware is more than twice as significant -- representing 1/300,000th of an electoral vote -- than a vote in Texas, representing 1/750,000 of an electoral vote.
  3. 3. By focusing on assembling 270 electoral votes, candidates ignore "safe" states such as Illinois, where there is no point in fighting for more votes once a majority is reached, since all the electoral votes are already assured. Thus the majority of states, nearly certain to fall one way or another, tend to get ignored in favor of a handful of "swing" states.
  4. 4. Even if the Electoral College works perfectly, it still introduces unnecessary delay into the system. Give the likelihood of immediate electronic voting in the foreseeable future, having to wait for some mysterious conclave to put its seal of approval on the will of the American people is unnecessary, not only wasting time, but wasting the money required to run the system.
  5. 5. There is the remote but real possibility of fraudulent electors -- members of the Electoral College who refuse to vote the way the results require that they vote. This has happened, and while it has never affected the outcome of a race, it could, and there is no reason to allow the possibility that one individual could perversely negate the will of hundreds of thousands of voters.

Reasons to keep it

  1. 1. America is change averse and would rather cling to an arcane system than switch to a new one, which might have flaws of its own. If we can't get rid of the penny, we can't scrap the Electoral College so why try? To do so, would involve a change in the constitution -- Article II, Section I lays out the details of the Electoral College -- and whatever benefit isn't worth the trouble of doing that.
  2. 2. Without the Electoral College, candidates would be encouraged to treat the country as a whole, and campaign through the national media, or in urban centers where the most people are concentrated. They would never spend time in a place like Ohio, where an evenly divided population means its electoral votes are up for grabs.
  3. 3. The Electoral College can soften the sting of tight races, which we often see. Thus a candidate who only wins by a tiny percentage of the popular vote can still have a considerable victory in the Electoral College, leading to a greater impression of consensus, which is good for subsequent governing.
  4. 4. The Electoral College helps direct power toward the states -- without it, authority would be even more centralized than it already is.
  5. 5. If the Electoral College wasn't scrapped after the debacle of the 2000 elections -- which saw one of those fraudulent electors -- it's never going to be.

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AP Photo

We've still yet to elect a President in this election cycle, but last week's superstorm seems to have shone a spotlight on two potential candidates for 2016.

No sooner had the winds from the Hurricane Sandy Superstorm died than New Jersey residents experienced another round of gale-force gusts: the bluster from the state's pugnacious governor Chris Christie. An outspoken conservative, Christie has had no shortage of previous barbs targeted at President Obama. Yet those jabs turned to praise as Christie lauded Obama's swift action in the wake of the storm's landfall along the Jersey coast.

For Christie, it's a shrewd move that sets himself up for a run in 2016 as a moderate, someone willing to work with both sides of the aisle. Or to at least be nice to someone from the other side of the aisle when disaster relief is at stake. In a way, it's the kind of move to the middle that Romney pulled during the first presidential debate which helped reverse the momentum of the campaign. At this summer's Republican National Convention, Christie's keynote speech was largely self-referential, focusing more on himself than Romney, and certainly felt like a speech from someone working his ways up the party ranks. His time in the spotlight during the Hurricane Sandy disaster struck a more positive public figure than his RNC appearance: a man determined to protect his constituents and willing to put politics aside for the betterment of those constituents.

Of course, the candidacy is far from Christie's to have if Romney loses. VP candidate Paul Ryan is a younger, more charismatic man whose libertarian stances appeal far more to the further right/Tea Party electorate. And there is, of course, a Bush: Jeb Bush, to be exact. But Christie's leadership during the post-Sandy crisis will stick in a lot of peoples' minds, especially coming in the final days of the 2012 campaign. If Christie hopes to run in 2016, he'll have a sturdy example to fall back on that will be a bit more difficult for Democrats to assail.

bookerap.jpegMeanwhile, a rising star of the Democratic party was building on an already sterling reputation with his own hyperlocal disaster response. Newark mayor Cory Booker, a renowned Obama acolyte, was hyper- active on Twitter, responding to questions and requests for help from citizens and doling out piles of informaiton. Booker's response was far from the typical politician or community leader. Instead of simply repeating generic information, Booker directly responded to residents, giving the correct phone numbers, passing along personal requests, and even invited residents without power over to his house and feeding them.

While Booker hasn't been as prominent a candidate to take over his party's leadership in the near-future, he is considered a rising star of the Democratic party. And one that's not afraid to occasionally butt up against party leadership: while his brief disagreement with Obama earlier this year seemed testy for Dems, it certainly made Booker more attractive to moderates who are seeking a bipartisan leader. In a way, Booker seems to be appealing as Obama was to voters in 2004 when he delivered his famous DNC keynote.

Regardless of who wins this election, the Democrats will be in need of a new candidate in 2016 and attempting to hold on to the presidency for more than two terms, the first time they would have done that since FDR/Truman.* For starters, VP Joe Biden isn't ruling out a run in 2016, having run for the highest office twice before. One big strike against him, though, will be his age. Experienced Democrats less likely to face the same scrutiny include Maryland Gov. Mike O'Malley, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But Booker is a realistic wild card as a younger candidate as is San Antonio mayor Julian Castro.

Of course, this is all assuming we won't see a run from Hillary Clinton who, serving as secretary of state, has evolved into something of a beloved stateswoman, experiencing a complete image rebound from the aftermath of the bruising 2008 Democratic primary race she lost to Obama. While it's not a smooth path for Clinton, if she decides to enter the race in 2016, she would seem to have a leg up on the competition.

But, in 2006, no one might have guessed the younger candidate, a first-term senator from Illinois, would be *this close* to re-election to the presidency now. Booker's energy and openness - his Twitter binging is hardly unique to just Sandy response - have helped raise his profile nationally. If there's one thing holding him back, it's a need for more experience in a higher-level office: a run for Senator in 2014 can't be ruled out.

And this leads to the most interesting aspect of all of this. Yes, there's a chance the 2016 presidential could be the Battle of Jersey. But there's also just a good a chance that Christie and Booker could be squaring off much sooner: New Jersey's gubernatorial election is a year away and this seems to be on Booker's mind just as much as any presidential run.

Regardless of what position they're in three years from now, when the next round of presidential politicking will be going in earnest, their unique responses to Sandy have placed Christie and Booker in a bigger spotlight in the national consciousness and has provided a springboard for both a bigger future.


View Presidential candidate stops for November 3, 2012 in a larger map

Mitt Romney has rallies in


  • Portsmouth, New Hampshire

  • Dubuque, Iowa

  • Colorado Springs

  • Englewood, Colorado

Paul Ryan campaigns in


  • Ohio

  • Pennsylvania

  • Virginia

President Barack Obama


  • Prince William County, Virginia

  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin

  • Dubuque, Iowa

  • Mentor, Ohio

Vice President Joe Biden


  • Arvada, Colorado.

  • Pueblo, Colorado

  • travels to Cleveland, Ohio, where he will remain overnight.