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August 2012 Archives

TAMPA--Clint Eastwood delivered a loopy and rambling speech--more like a stand-up act-- Thursday night at the Republican Convention--as he tried to make the case to elect Mitt Romney.

Tweeted Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert, "Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic. He didn't need to do this to himself. It's unworthy of him."

Eastwood's name leaked out earlier Thursday as the surprise "mystery guest."
When he took to the stage--at a convention where everything is highly scripted and speeches vetted--Eastwood riffed.

"Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, what's a movie tradesman doing out here? You know, they're all left-wingers out there, left of Lenin. At least that's what people think, but that's not really the case. There is a lot of conservative people, a lot of moderate people, Republicans, Democrats in Hollywood. It's just that conservative people, by the nature of the word itself, are -- play it a little more close to vest. They don't go around hot- dogging it."

Click below for transcript....

TAMPA--Mitt Romney accepts the GOP presidential nomination Thursday night--and in his speech appeals to 2008 Barack Obama voters to give up on him in 2012--if the "best feeling" you had for him was "the day you voted for him."

"Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and Change had a powerful appeal. But tonight I'd ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama? You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had, was the day you voted for him,"Romney will say, according to excerpts released by his campaign.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) outside the Clearwater, Fl. hotel where the Illinois delegation is staying for the Republican National Convention.

(Video by Lynn Sweet)

TAMPA--Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) on Thursday said the Democrats are wasting their time attacking Mitt Romney for his tenure at Bain Capital. Millions of dolllars have been spent on Bain ads and "it has not had an impact for them," Roskam said. Romney accepts the nomination on Thursday night---and his time at Bain will be featured at the final night of the convention.

TAMPA -- Republicans, with little fanfare, are showcasing at their convention what may be one of their most potent arguments to vote against President Barack Obama.

Summarized, it's this: buyer's remorse.

The message is aimed specifically at 2008 Obama voters and has nothing to do with overtly negative attacks.

It has everything to do with political psychology, giving disappointed Obama backers -- some who may feel a bit guilty about giving up on Obama -- "permission" to not support him again in 2012.

That's been a theme of several ads running in select battleground states bankrolled by SuperPACs backing Romney.

The messaging is speaking to voters who were caught up in the euphoric Obama movement back in 2008 when they volunteered, donated and voted for the "hope and change" candidate.

On Tuesday, the Romney team, convinced they are persuadable potential crossovers, unveiled a video -- titled "Switchers" -- at the convention.

"I'm a lifelong Democrat that supported Barack Obama's election in 2008. I caucused for him and went to the rallies and even donated to his campaign," a woman says.

A man says, "Yes, I had high hopes for President Obama like all the other millions of people that voted for him. It didn't turn out that way."

"Everything that he promised he wasn't going to do he did -- and then some. And that to me is, sort of, unforgivable," said another man.

The first man added, "We didn't get hope and change. We got deficit and unemployment."

The people in the video then lament the situation the nation is in -- the lack of jobs, the deficit, the debt and Obamacare. They say they liked that Romney, as "a Republican governor in a liberal state like Massachusetts," could get things done.

So it's not so much that Obama is bad, it's just, ". . . things will get a lot better if Mr. Romney is elected," as they declare, "No, I'm not going to vote for President Obama this time around" and "I voted for Barack Obama in 2008; I'm definitely voting for Mitt Romney in 2012."

A Romney staffer explained to me that the Romney ad team produced the video after hearing in focus groups "the disapointment many voters have with the president . . . after failing to deliver. . . . There are millions of disappointed voters . . . The president made extraordinary promises to change Washington. He ran a campaign based on inspiration and a promise to change politics as usual."

The Romney campaign is informed by focus groups where voters complain that they "feel like they were misled and sold a bill of goods in 2008 that never materialized."

The word that comes up a lot with disaffected Obama voters -- according to Romney team research, is "disappointment."

Especially in Iowa.

"Iowa voters feel a lot of responsibility for launching Obama," the Romney staffer said, a reference to Obama's 2008 Iowa caucus victory, crucial to his eventually clinching the Democratic nomination. "Iowa voters understand the Hawkeye state launched the president's career. And Iowa voters are having a very serious sense of buyer's remorse."

Obama knows he has a problem with disaffected 2008 voters -- and he addressed it Tuesday while stumping in Iowa, a battleground state he has been visiting frequently.

Said Obama in Iowa, "Frankly, some folks, they make it their political strategy to try -- make you feel discouraged. They'll tell you over and over again how bad everything is. Then, of course, they'll add that it's all Obama's fault -- and they'll tell you that if you believed in change four years ago, your faith was foolish and you were being naive."

Or you just wised up.

TAMPA--Following a day of GOP convention speeches--hitting President Barack Obama--Obama campaign Senior Strategist David Axelrod said in a stastement, "If any American tuned in tonight hoping to hear if Mitt Romney has a plan to lift the middle class, improve education or build a better future, they would have to be disappointed. What they got instead was a relentless cavalcade of insults and ideology, anger in place of answers, from a party more bent on tearing down the President than lifting up our country. "

below, from the Romney campaign...


...Tonight I want to talk to you from my heart about our hearts.

I want to talk not about what divides us, but what holds us together as an American family. I want to talk to you tonight about that one great thing that unites us, that one thing that brings us our greatest joy when times are good, and the deepest solace in our dark hours.

Tonight I want to talk to you about love.


Mitt's dad never graduated from college. Instead, he became a carpenter.

He worked hard, and he became the head of a car company, and then the governor of Michigan.

When Mitt and I met and fell in love, we were determined not to let anything stand in the way of our life together.


I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a "storybook marriage." Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or Breast Cancer.

A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.


At every turn in his life, this man I met at a high school dance, has helped lift up others. He did it with the Olympics, when many wanted to give up.


This is the man America needs.

This is the man who will wake up every day with the determination to solve the problems that others say can't be solved, to fix what others say is beyond repair. This is the man who will work harder than anyone so that we can work a little less hard.

I can't tell you what will happen over the next four years. But I can only stand here tonight, as a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an American, and make you this solemn commitment:

This man will not fail.

This man will not let us down.

This man will lift up America!

(video by Lynn Sweet)

TAMPA--State Treasurer Dan Rutherford--the chairman of Mitt Romney's Illinois campaign--will cast the Illinois votes at the roll call Tuesday at the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. I caught up with Rutherford at the convention and asked him for a preview of what he will say when he announces the Illinois votes.

The roll call is Tuesday; Romney officially becomes nominated on Thursday.

CLEARWATER, FL.--The Tuesday Republican National Convention theme is "We Built It," an attack blitz at President Barack Obama's "you didn't build that." The Democratic National Committee is mounting a big push-back today on that theme--where Obama's choice of words created an opening for the Republicans.

The DNC has a variety of push-backs set for Tuesday, a rolling "pre-buttal" to the GOP. The DNC is running a "war room" operation in Tampa near the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The Republican National Committee will have a similar set-up in Charlotte, N.C. next week for the Democratic National Convention.

What the DNC is planning for Tuesday:


· Daily Democratic Press Conference with Robert Gibbs, Gov. Martin O'Malley, Democratic Convention Chair and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, CarMax Founder Austin Ligon, Somerville, MA Mayor Joe Curtatone, Former AMPAD Employee and Bain Victim Randy Johnson

· 10 AM, Democratic War Room, 200 North Tampa St., Suite 110

· Press Avail with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

· 2 PM, Democratic War Room, 200 North Tampa St., Suite 110

· Conference Call with Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC-06) and DNC Executive Director Patrick Gaspard to discuss Romney Economics: Wrong for African Americans.

FOR THE RECORD: As you watch proceedings at the Tampa Bay Times Forum today, it may be instructive--as a starting point--no matter your politics--to at least know what Obama said last July 13.

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn't -- look, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That's how we funded the GI Bill. That's how we created the middle class. That's how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That's how we invented the Internet. That's how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that's the reason I'm running for President -- because I still believe in that idea. You're not on your own, we're in this together. (Applause.)

So all these issues go back to that first campaign that I talked about, because everything has to do with how do we help middle-class families, working people, strivers, doers -- how do we help them succeed? How do we make sure that their hard work pays off? That's what I've been thinking about the entire time I've been President.


CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The bombastic, insulting and popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie keynotes the Republican Convention Tuesday night, following Ann Romney -- good cop/bad cop programming to showcase Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy.

Christie warmed up on Monday by bashing President Barack Obama during an appearance at a meeting of the California delegation. "The president is nothing more than a Chicago ward politician," he said.

And if that putdown did not sink in with the Californians, Christie said it twice.

"We've had enough of Chicago ward politics in the Oval Office. We need a real leader back in the Oval Office and we all got to work to get Mitt Romney there."

Republicans and right wing radio talk show hosts love hurling the ward heeler thing at Obama. I wondered what people make of it. I asked Wendell Walker, an alternate delegate from Lynchburg, Va., a landscape contractor, for his take.

"I don't know much about Chicago politics other than the fact that if you don't do what they say, you may not be in politics very long," he said.

"Is that really your impression?" I asked.

"Yes ma'am."

I followed up, asking if that argument will resonate with an undecided voter in Virginia.

"No, I don't think it is going to resonate," he said. There is better stuff.

People have had three years with Obama, Walker said, "and they are ready for a real change in leadership. So regardless of where you come from, or what agenda you bring, the American people are hurting. No jobs and there is no vision of hope."

Ann Romney is one of a string of Republicans addressing the convention the next three days. Each speaker is chosen for a reason: to appeal to a demographic, symbolize a cause or issue, or, (in the case of Rep. Ron Paul, a former presidential candidate) appease activist followers so they don't cause trouble.

Here's a rundown on what some speakers bring to the table:

♦ Ann Romney: Romney's wife has the ability to humanize her husband: tell people about how they fell in love as high school sweethearts, how he helped her struggle through her MS diagnosis and raise five sons.

She speaks as the campaign faces a major challenge of wooing female voters and as abortion has suddenly surfaced as a campaign issue, since Missouri Rep. Todd Akin's remark about how a "legitimate rape" would not cause a pregnancy.

♦ Vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan: Ryan may have the most at stake in his speech, because for many voters, this will be the first time they have heard from him since Romney put him on the ticket Aug. 11.

Sen. John McCain: The 2008 presidential nominee -- not often heard from in this campaign -- can be a powerful voice for Romney. McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, does not have a convention role.

♦ Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Rob Portman: Though they missed out as vice presidential picks, the two have a mainstream appeal and can speak to Romney's ability to run an effective government.

♦ Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Having survived his recall battle -- fueled by unions outraged over his stripping state workers of collective bargaining rights -- Walker is seen as an example of how government can take on unions and win.

♦ Former Sen. Rick Santorum: After savaging Romney at times during the heated GOP primary battle, Santorum can vouch for Romney's conservative credentials.

♦ Video tribute to Rep. Ron Paul: The Romney campaign agreed to a convention tribute honoring the failed presidential candidate who presides over an activist grass-roots network. His son, Sen. Rand Paul, a favorite with the Tea Party movement (activists who Romney needs to turnout in November), was awarded a speaking spot.

But putting out one fire may ignite another -- especially in Florida and other battleground states with Jewish populations. Paul is seen as so anti-Israel that when the Republican Jewish Coalition held a candidates forum in Washington, D.C., during the primary, Paul was not invited to participate. Democrats I talked to are poised to pounce.

♦ Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. While former President George W. Bush will not be at the convention (there will be a video tribute) Rice can speak to moderate Republicans while vouching for Romney's foreign policy credentials -- a big resume gap. She also is two other things in short supply at GOP conventions: an African-American woman.

♦ Newt and Callista Gingrich: Gingrich can also vouch for Romney as a good conservative. I've seen many speeches where Mrs. Gingrich just stands there next to him. Hard to imagine what the optics will be of both of them on the podium if only one is speaking.

CLEARWATER, FL--Mitt Romney will be in Tampa on Tuesday--the day his wife, Ann delivers a prime time speech at the GOP convention--the first full day--with Monday events cut because of Tropical Storm Isaac.

In Tampa, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus gaveled to order Monday the 2012 GOP convention-- with the Monday full session cut because of the impact of Tropical Storm Isaac. Priebus, at the Tampa Times Bay Forum recessed the session until Tuesday after a few minutes at the podium.

Priebus asked for a moment of silence to give thanks to emergency workers who are keeping convention goers and other people in the path of Isaac "out of harms way."

Priebus used his few minutes on the podium to "draw your attention to the unprecedented fiscal recklessness of the Obama administration"--setting a one of two "debt clocks" in the Forum to zero. One clock is a rolling total of the national debt. The other, set Monday, will total how much debt was accumulated during the GOP convention.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Savaged by Democrats as an opportunistic turncoat, former Rep. Artur Davis -- who switched to the GOP a few months ago and is being showcased at the convention -- told me Sunday the blistering attacks say more about them than him.

After the Romney team announced Davis as a convention speaker, the Democratic National Committee produced a video last week titled, "For Artur Davis, It's All About Artur Davis."

"Oh, I pay zero attention to them," Davis told me. "I think you've got some folks in the Democratic Party who have some lingering personal bitterness. They will either get over that or they won't. I don't particularly care one way or the other. Ultimately, this week is about Mitt Romney. "

When Barack Obama started running for president, Davis, then an Alabama congressman, was an early backer -- one of Obama's best-known African-American endorsers in Congress outside of the Illinois members.

We talked here as Davis was preparing to deliver a prime time speech on behalf of Mitt Romney -- rescheduled to Wednesday night as Republicans revised the convention schedule because of Tropical Storm Isaac.

The last political convention Davis attended was with the Democrats in Denver, four years ago, when he delivered one of Obama's nominating speeches. A Harvard Law School graduate -- two years behind Obama -- Davis was a 2008 Obama campaign co-chair.

But unlike Obama, who skyrocketed to fame with his 2004 Boston convention speech for Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry, Davis was not able on the strength of a convention speech to duplicate Obama's success, albeit on a smaller scale. In 2010 Davis ran for Alabama governor and lost the Democratic primary.

Fast forward. Davis moved from Alabama and now lives in a Washington, D.C., suburb in Virginia -- a major battleground state with a significant minority population.

In a May blog post, Davis, as he was changing parties, wrote, "wearing a Democratic label no longer matches what I know about my country and its possibilities."

The Romney team welcomed Davis -- it would love to be a new home for right-of-center Democrats. Davis jumping to the GOP comes as the party -- as it does chronically -- lacks prominent African Americans, even with Herman Cain running for president this year.

Democrats are figuring that Davis is positioning himself to revive his political career with a run from Virginia as a Republican. As Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) put it when we talked Sunday, Democrats are unfairly "maligning" his former colleague as an opportunist, "making the case that blacks can't find opportunity in the Democratic Party, they have to stand in line too long, and in the Republican Party there is a chance for him to rush forward."

We're talking as former Florida Gov. Charles Crist on Sunday endorsed Obama. Crist is a former Republican who turned independent after he lost a Florida Senate primary bid to now Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

So this stuff happens in politics. Republicans will be taking their shots at Crist, trying to devalue his endorsement -- in the critical swing state of Florida where every voter segment, including moderate Republicans, is being mined by Obama and Romney.

"I think Democrats are frustrated that Mitt Romney is in the position that he is in. I think every time that Democrats think they have turned a corner in this race, they turn around and see that they haven't," Davis said.

Voters are just not buying the argument that Obama deserves a second term, Davis told me, and Democrats "are taking out their frustration where they can."

On him.

Essentially, Davis said, the party left him. "Democrats don't have a lot of respect for conservatism."

Spare change

Obama in 2008 ran on a simple theme of "hope" and "change." The Romney team has a giant "CHANGE" sign in the convention hall at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Dreier told me, "If you are running against the status quo, obviously change is what everybody is looking for because we are offering an alternative. It is not a new word. It was not a word that was developed in '08."

No one owns the argument for change. This week, we'll see how well Romney makes it.

TAMPA--President Barack Obama offered a helping hand on Sunday as Tropical Storm Isaac starts to bear down on Florida--already forcing a day cut from the Republican National Convention meeting here. Florida Gov. Rick Scott--a Republican--who was to speak at the convention, but has called it off for now--has declared a state of emergency.

The full wrath of the storm is expected to hit Monday--with the situation made more complicated because many of the 50,000 convention goers--including the Illinois delegation at Clearwater Beach--are staying at hotels connected to Tampa by long bridges, known here as causeways.

The White House said "President Obama received a briefing on preparations underway for Tropical Storm Isaac, which could become a hurricane as early as today. The FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate, and National Hurricane Center Director, Dr. Rick Knabb, briefed the President on the projected track and timing of the storm as well as steps being taken by the Administration to support potentially impacted states.

"During the briefing, the President directed Administrator Fugate to make sure FEMA continues to coordinate closely with state and local officials in potentially impacted states and address the needs of local communities as the storm approaches. FEMA has already deployed teams to Florida and Louisiana ahead of the storm to support state and local preparations, and is in close communication with Alabama and Mississippi and other southeastern states that could be impacted. NOAA's National Hurricane Center has issued a Hurricane Warning for portions of Florida, and a Hurricane Watch has been issued for coastal areas of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

"Following the briefing, the President spoke with Florida Governor Rick Scott to make clear that the Administration, through FEMA, would continue to make resources available as necessary to support the state as the Governor's team prepares for and responds to the storm. The President told the Governor the people of Florida are in his thoughts during this time. The President also told the governor to let him know if there are any unmet needs or additional resources the Administration could provide, including in support of efforts to ensure the safety of those visiting the state for the Republican National Convention.

isaac intrudes front page.jpeg
Front page Tampa Times, Aug. 26, 2012 (photo by Lynn Sweet)

ilinois tampa welcome.jpeg
Welcome sign at the Sheraton Hotel in Clearwater Beach, Fl. where the Illinois delegation is staying at the Republican National Convention (photo by Lynn Sweet)

TAMPA, FL.---The clouds are overcast, the wind starting to pick up on Sunday morning as Isaac--now more likely a tropical storm than a hurricane--already chopped a day off the Republican convention. Convention planners today are scrambling to redo the schedule to pack four days of speakers into three, starting on Tuesday. The worst of the storm is expected on Monday.

On the Illinois front, most of the more than 300 members of the Illinois delegation--delegates, alternates and guests--are scheduled to fly to Tampa today. The group is staying at the Sheraton in Clearwater Beach. The views of the water and beach are beautiful--but the place is about 30 miles from Tampa.

The Sun-Times Bureau Chiefs--Lynn Sweet (Washington) and Dave McKinney (Springfield) filed on the GOP postponing events for a day because of the storm; read that story HERE.

TAMPA, FL.--Because of the threat of Tropical Storm Isaac--which may reach hurricane strength--Republican officials canceled Monday's first session on Saturday night.

"We can't predict how severe the wind is going to be...we have to put safety first," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a conference call.

Mitt Romney convention officials said most of the speakers scheduled over four days would be packed into three. Democrats who meet next week in Charlotte, N.C. have put together a three day convention.

Russ Schriefer, a Romney for President senior strategist--and the producer of the convention--said in the conference call that even with a day cut off the program, "we will absolutely be able to get our message out."

In a memo released Saturday night, Priebus said, "Due to the severe weather reports for the Tampa Bay area, the Republican National Convention will convene on Monday August 27th and immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon, August 28th, exact time to follow."

The loss of the Monday session--where the roll of states was to be called to nominate Mitt Romney as the GOP candidate for president--comes on a day the three major networks were not planning on televising the proceedings. The roll call now will take place on Tuesday.

Because of the lack of network coverage, the Romney team on Friday already switched Ann Romney's keynote from Monday to Tuesday night.

Even if Isaac does not reach tropical storm or hurricane status, the bad weather would still create problems for the 50,000 convention visitors expected for the event.

"Officials have predicted participants may encounter severe transportation difficulties due to sustained wind and rain," Priebus said in his statement.

"The Republican National Convention will take place and officially nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and the Party has other necessary business it must address.

"We want you to know we also are remaining in constant contact with state and federal officials and may make future schedule alterations on an as needed basis," Priebus said.

He said in the conference call that if need be, some alternate housing arrangements may be made and a revised convention program expected out on Sunday.

Tampa on Saturday was overcast--with threatening clouds--with no rainfall as of 6:56 p.m. eastern time.

WASHINGTON--GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney acknowledged Thursday that Tropical Storm Isaac--a potential hurricane--could impact the GOP convention in Tampa with delegates and others starting to arrive over the weekend for the Monday kickoff.

Romney told FOX Business Network's Peter Barnes. "I have no comments about Isaac. We'll talk to the weather people about what happens there, but obviously any plans for Tampa depend upon the airport being open, able to receive all the delegates and people like myself need to get there. I feel pretty good that we'll be in Tampa and will have a great convention."

WASHINGTON--The Obama campaign team disclosed more details Thursday about Vice President Joe Biden's stumping in Florida next week--during the Republican convention in Tampa.

I asked about Biden's Florida swing at a briefing here with six senior campaign officials and here's more about what he will be doing: Biden will deliver a speech Monday in Tampa and also appear in Orland and St. Augustine. President Barack Obama will make a college tour stumping next week in three battleground states and First Lady Michelle Obama will be on the campaign road.

At the briefing here were questions about potential GOP "sideshows" during the convention that would take away from the central messaging goals of Mitt Romney's campaign.

Making a reference to anti- immigration firebrands Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio who will be in Tampa during the convention, of the officials joked, "I may pay to livestream that, that's going to be a great moment for the Obama campaign."

And questions about "repackaging" Romney during the convention was met with this from one of the officials: "It is a doubtful proposition the new dogfood will sell any better than the old dogfood."

WASHINGTON--The Obama campaign--taking advantage of new campaign finance rules--on Thursday started collecting donations--no more than $50 sent via text message.

from the campaign....

"As part of its ongoing effort to build the largest grassroots campaign in history, Obama for America announced today that it will be the first political campaign in history to accept small-dollar donations via text message.

"Following FEC advisory opinions issued in June and August, supporters with mobile phones on supported carriers will now be able to text "GIVE" to 62262, OFA's text short code, to quickly make small contributions, not exceeding $50 during any billing cycle for most carriers."

WASHINGTON--Former President Bill Clinton makes the case for re-electing President Barack Obama in an ad titled "Clear Choice" released Thursday to run in the battleground states of New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada. Clinton is also a Democratic convention keynote speaker.

With all the basketball stars at an Obama fund-raiser in New York Thursday--including Michael Jordan-- President Barack Obama had an interesting observation:

"It is very rare I come to an event where I'm like the fifth or sixth most interesting person. Usually the folks want to take a picture with me, sit next to me, talk to me. That has not been the case at this event and I completely understand."

From the pool report by Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal:

President Obama addressed about 120 people at a dinner held on a stage in the Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, many of them connected to pro basketball. Michael Jordan and David Stern were standing at the microphone as the pool entered the room.

Most of the speech was standard stump fare, with basketball references at top and bottom, and some Akin material.

"Recently some of you have been paying attention to the commentary about the senator (sic) from Missouri, Mr. Akin, who... the interesting thing here is that this, this is an individual who sits on the House Committee on Science and Technology but somehow missed science class. And it's representative of the desire to go backwards instead of forwards and fight fights that we thought were settled 20 or 30 years ago," he said.

Spotted in the crowd by my much more basketball attuned co-pooler Reid Epstein were Bill Bradley, Michael Jordan & fiance Yvette Prieto, Patrick Ewing, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Walt "Clyde" Frazier.

Obama acknowledged Jordan, Stern and Duncan ("an outstanding basketball player in his own right") at the top of his remarks. He also said there were some legendary Knicks in the house.

"This is my dream team."

He said it is "very rare I come to an event where I'm like the fifth or sixth most interesting person. Usually people want to take a picture with me.. sit next to me, talk to me.. That has not been the case at this event."

He then segued into his normal stump material about fighting for the middle class, etc.

"Now we've got a Republican party that has gone so far to the extreme that it becomes very hard for us to see Washington getting anything done."

"Mr. Romney, my opponent, his main economic (plan?) is to give everyone in this room a tax cut. The fact of the matter is we can't afford it." It would mean gutting investments in education, health care, science, infrastructure.

He said that in Las Vegas, the teachers he met with told him that their average class size was 38 and some classes have 45 kids and there aren't enough desks. Text books date back to 2003 and teacher has to explain that there are countries there that don't exist anymore.

"That's not unusual in big chunks of the country."

He wound up by saying: ""I can't resist a basketball analogy. We are in the fourth quarter. We're up by a few points but the other side is coming strong and they, they, they play a little dirty. (Laughter) We've got a few folks on our team in foul trouble. We've got a couple of injuries and I believe that they've got one last run in them."

"I'd say there's about seven minutes to go in the game. And Michael's competitiveness is legendary and nobody knows better than Michael that if you've got a little bit of a lead and there's about seven minutes ago, that's when you put them away."

WASHINGTON--The latest organizing group for the Obama campaign is "Rabbis for Obama," as Chicago headquarters steps up its drive for the Jewish vote. The rabbis are listed by state; see who is from Illinois HERE.

WASHINGTON--Embattled Rep. Todd Akin, the GOP Missouri Senate candidate is digging in on Wednesday, making the rounds of the morning shows re-affirming he is not stepping down for his remark that a woman would not get pregnant if she is a victim of a "legitimate rape."

Akin on NBC's "Today Show" in a Matt Lauer interview on Paul Ryan calling him to quit the Senate race:

"Yes. Paul Ryan did give me a call. And he felt that I had to make a decision, but he advised me that it would be good for me to step down.
..... Well, I told him that I was going to be looking at this very seriously, trying to weigh all of the different points on this, and that I would make the decision, because it's not about me. It's about trying to do the right thing and standing on principle."

Akin on ABC's "Good Morning America" repeats his apology, said he was medically wrong and is asked how the notion of rape not causing pregnancy even got in his mind.

Akin said, "Well, first of all, let me say that "legitimate" -- the world "legitimate" doesn't ever have a good reason to be standing next to rape. There is no rape that is legitimate. And I understand that rape is a terrible and a tragic and a violent crime, and that's why I have apologized for using that word "legitimate" because it doesn't belong there. And I also know that I hurt people, and the first thing that I felt was right to do was to apologize. But I'm not apologizing for the fact that I'm pro-life and that I also believe that it's important to defend the helpless and the unborn.

Host Georgeg Stephanopoulos asked, "But then are you trying to say that if you just took out the word "legitimate" there and if it was just if it's a rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down? That then the sentence would be true?

Akin replied, "No. I was medically wrong. I understand that pregnancy can result from rape, and those are terrible circumstances, very difficult circumstances.

Akin is asked, "You know, you're a member of the House Science Committee. A lot of people are wondering how an idea like that could even get in your head?"

He replied, "Well, that's a -- the point of the matter is that, yes, pregnancy can happen as a result of rape. I understand that, and I have acknowledged that fact."

WASHINGTON--While Republicans meet in Tampa to nominate Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate at their convention starting Monday and stretching for four nights, President Barack Obama, will stump in the battleground states of Iowa, Colorado and Virginia next Tuesday and Wednesday.

WASHINGTON--GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney hits Chicago on Sept. 11, for a dinner and reception at the Lake Forest home of Reeve and Melissa Waud. The price tag ranges from $2,500 for the reception to $25,000 for a private dinner. Hosts are expected to commit to raise $50,000. The maximum contribution is $75,800 per person or $151,600 per couple.

Romney and his wife Ann appeared at the Waud's Lake Forest home for a fund-raiser last November. Waud is a member of the Illinois Tool Works and Northern Trust Waud family.

The $75,800/$151,600 package includes a perk package called "Romney Victory Founding Partner Benefits," which is the name of the program that arranges for top level donor briefings and--for the Tampa GOP Convention next week--tickets to sessions, receptions, etc.

The Lake Forest dinner and reception is being billed as the the final fund-raiser in Illinois headlined by Romney.

Romney comes to Chicago after picking up the official Republican Presidential nomination in Tampa next week--and on a day marking the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

PDF of the invite: 9-11-12_Gov._Mitt_Romney_Final_IL_Event_-_Reception_and_Dinner_-_Mansur.pdf

The price points:


Below, a list of co-chairs as of Aug. 22. Lisa Wagner is the Romney State Finance Director for Illinois and Indiana.


WASHINGTON--Illinois Democratic House hopeful Tammy Duckworth is being tapped to speak at the Democratic National Convention next month in Charlotte. Duckworth is running in the 8th congressional district against Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.). She is the Vice Chair of the Rules Committee and a delegate from Illinois.

President Barack Obama hit Chicago last Sunday for five fund-raisers--downtown, Bridgeport and in Kenwood, including one at his home. According to a Google search frequency analysis looking just at Chicago, the drill down data shows a big jump for searches Sunday with the word "Obama."

(photo from Rep. Dennis Kucinich @RepKucinich Twitter)

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) visited Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. at Mayo Clinic last week, bringing him a poster-sized get well card with messages from his House colleagues. On his Twitter feed Kucinich said Monday, "Visited w/ Rep. Jackson Fri, Sat @ Mayo. Photo w/ Cong. get well card. Kind words of colleagues clearly meant a lot."

Jackson is being treated for Bipolar II Depression; former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) also visited with him last week.

Romney, Ryan Aug. 21, 2012

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WASHINGTON -- A jab at President Barack Obama from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Friday -- on his sixth day on the job as Mitt Romney's running mate -- was premised on a debatable presumption:

"The problem is," Ryan said at a Springfield, Va., rally, "too many politicians in Washington, like President Obama, have been more worried and concerned about their next election than they have about the next generation."

Ryan, a budget expert, not a mind reader who can discern Obama's motivations, swaddled himself with charged political rhetoric in drawing his conclusion -- but in the end on that one, he's entitled to his opinion.

What's far more problematic in the battle between Obama and Mitt Romney has been what the folks at call a "cavalier disregard for facts on both sides," so much so that "the campaign has become bitter and trivial."

WASHINGTON -- Missouri GOP Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin's remark that a woman who is a victim of a "legitimate rape" won't get pregnant created rare agreement Monday. President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both said -- and I am paraphrasing -- he's nuts.

Republicans were scrambling to contain the political fallout of the Akin implosion -- pressuring him to pull out of the race.

Democrats welcomed the Akin blunder -- ­in a presidential battleground state and in a Senate race that could determine which party controls the chamber.

Here's what got this ball rolling: In an interview broadcast Sunday on KTVI television in St. Louis, Akin, discussing his anti-abortion views said, "First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that [becoming pregnant from rape] is really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Breathtaking, his idiocy. This isn't even about views on abortion, about which people can disagree -- with civility or vitriol, take your pick. Stunning. A member of Congress -- of course it's a man, no woman is this stupid -- actually thinks a woman is able to will her body from getting pregnant.

Now this story almost did not see the light of day. KTVI didn't jump on the scoop; the station hardly realized that the male show host had something worth reporting. What got the story out was a Democratic tracker for American Bridge, a pro-Obama SuperPAC.

Ty Matsdorf, a senior adviser for American Bridge, told me their Missouri tracker saw the interview live and flagged it for his bosses. They posted a clip on YouTube and sent it around to some reporters. The explosion was just a matter of time.

While Obama weighed in -- his comments below -- it was mainly Republicans who wanted to strangle Akin.

"He should understand that his words with regards to rape are not words that I can defend, that we can defend, or that we can defend him," Romney told WMUR while campaigning with Paul Ryan in New Hampshire.

Romney said Akin's comment's were "offensive" and hoisted him on a plank, telling WMUR Akin "should consider what's in the best interests of the things he believes most deeply, what will help the country at this critical time."

Decoded, that's Romney telling Akin to jump.

With the Republican National Convention kicking off in Florida next Monday, GOP chairman
Reince Priebus told CNN on Monday night that Akin should "step aside" -- and not show up in Tampa.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the chairman of the Senate political operation, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told Akin -- in a polite way -- to quit. Cornyn's words have additional weight because he now won't spend the millions of dollars budgeted to battled Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) if Akin stays on the ballot.

"Congressman Akin's statements were wrong, offensive, and indefensible. I recognize that this is a difficult time for him, but over the next 24 hours, Congressman Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service," Cornyn said in a statement.

Missouri has a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline for a candidate to withdraw from a race--which would let the party bosses pick a replacement.

The conservative National Review called for Akin to step aside, arguing that "some voters may nevertheless find a candidate's theoretical view so abhorrent that they cannot support him."

Obama made a surprise visit to the White House briefing room, and at his last-minute news conference, he said of Akin, "the views expressed were offensive. Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we're talking about doesn't make sense to the American people, and certainly doesn't make sense to me.

"So what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health-care decisions on behalf of women," Obama said.

Romney is against abortion except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother; Ryan's only exception is for the life of the mother. Obama supports abortion rights, and his signature health-care law lets a woman make decisions when it comes to contraception and other aspects of reproductive health.

The Obama campaign has been running ads in battleground states highlighting that Romney/Ryan want to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood. The Obama team has been portraying the GOP ticket as extreme when it comes to women's health issues. So far, Obama is polling well ahead of Romney with women.

And Akin -- whether he stays or goes -- only helps.

WASHINGTON--The Republican convention kicks off next Monday in Tampa and Ann Romney delivers the keynote address. First Lady Michelle Obama is the headliner at the first night of the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C. on Sept. 4

WASHINGTON--The Senate GOP political operation is urging Republican Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin to reconsider his bid in the wake of his comment that women who are victims of a "legitimate rape" won't get pregnant.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx), Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement, "Congressman Akin's statements were wrong, offensive, and indefensible. I recognize that this is a difficult time for him, but over the next twenty-four hours, Congressman Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service."

The NRSC controls millions of dollars in campaign money. The Missouri deadline to withdraw from a ballot is 5 p.m. Tuesday.

My post on the controversy is HERE.

Obama family church Aug 19 2012.jpg
From the White House: "President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia, left, and Sasha walk through Lafayette Park from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., Aug. 19, 2012" (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON--The newest photo of the Obama family was released on Monday, of the Obama family going to church on Sunday here. Malia and Sasha are growing up; the girls are back from a month at a New Hampshire summer camp.

The last time the Obama family attended church in Washington D.C. was last Easter; read my post HERE.

WASHINGTON--Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) deplored comments made by GOP Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin that women don't get pregnant if they are victims of a "legitimate rape."

"As a woman, mother, and grandmother, I'm disappointed by Todd Akin's uninformed and offensive comments. What he said has absolutely no place in public discourse," Biggert said.

Mitt Romney said Monday morning remarks GOP Missouri Senate hopeful Todd Akin made about how "legitimate rape" will not cause a pregnancy were "insulting" and "offensive" and "he should correct it.

That's the lede in my post on the Akin controversy and Romney's and GOP attempts to contain the fallout. Read the post HERE.

WASHINGTON--Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will be speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. next month. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is also on the program. For my latest on Democratic convention speaking slots, click HERE.


WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama said Monday remarks GOP Missouri Senate hopeful Todd Akin made about how "legitimate rape" will not cause a pregnancy were "offensive. Rape is rape." Mitt Romney said the remarks were "insulting" and "offensive."

Obama commented after being asked about the Akin remarks after making a surprise appearence at the White House briefing. Romney reacted to National Review Online as Akin remarks were sparking an uproar in a presidential battleground state and Republicans want to try to contain the fallout.

Akin on Monday was taking it back, telling Mike Huckabee on his radio show, "Rape is never legitimate. I used the wrong words in the wrong way." Akin said he will not quit his Senate race against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)
in the presidential battleground state.

Obama said, "the views expressed were offensive. Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we're talking about doesn't make sense to the American people, and certainly doesn't make sense to me.

"So what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women.

"And so, although these particular comments have -- have led Governor Romney and other Republicans to distance themselves, I think the underlying notion that we should be making decisions on behalf of women for their health care decisions, or qualifying forcible rape versus nonforcible rape, I think those are broader issues, and that is a significant difference in approach between -- between me and the other party," Obama said.

GOP Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin said in an interview broadcast Sunday--fasten your seat belts for this one--that a woman who is a victim of a "legitimate rape" only rarely becomes pregnant because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

The remark puts Republicans up and down the ticket on the defensive to start the week as the Democrats are pushing out the science-defying comment of the Missouri lawmaker. Atkin made those remarks about abortion during an interview with Charles Jaco of KTVI-TV in St. Louis and a clip was posted on YouTube by American Bridge, a Democratic SuperPac specializing in research.

At first, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney distanced himself from Akin via a statement through a spokesman, adding stronger language Monday morning in the National Review interview.

"Congressman's Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong," Romney told the National Review. "Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive," Romney told the National Review. "I have an entirely different view. What he said is entirely without merit and he should correct it."

GOP Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin said in an interview broadcast Sunday--fasten your seat belts for this one--that a woman who is a victim of a "legitimate rape" only rarely becomes pregnant because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

"Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," Romney spokesman Andrea Saul said in a statement.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney distanced himself from Akin. "Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Atkin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," Romney spokesman Andrea Saul said in a statement.

McCaskill on Monday blasted Akin. "It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape," said McCaskill. "The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive."

Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) said in a statement, "As a woman, mother, and grandmother, I'm disappointed by Todd Akin's uninformed and offensive comments. What he said has absolutely no place in public discourse," Biggert said.

Here's what Akin said:

"First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's (becoming pregnant from rape) is really rare," Akin said. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Akin added: "But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."

Once the uproar stated, Akin said he "misspoke"--but did not centrally address his original remarks in a statement.

"As a member of Congress, I believe that working to protect the most vulnerable in our society is one of my most important responsibilities, and that includes protecting both the unborn and victims of sexual assault. In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it's clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve.

"I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election.

whcd2012 rahm - calif ag-thumb-500x375-46944-1.jpg
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and California Attorney General Kamala Harris at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in April. Both will be tapped Monday to speak at the Democratic National Convention (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel and two Massachusetts Democrats who know Mitt Romney--Sen. John Kerry and Gov. Deval Patrick-- are being tapped to speak at the Democratic National Convention next month, officials will announce on Monday. Kerry was the 2004 Democratic nominee. UPDATE MONDAY NIGHT Emanuel speaking Tuesday, Sept. 4, the first night of the convention. END UPDATE

I reported on July 30 that Emanuel would be a convention speaker. Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff, is an Obama campaign co-chair.

Others to added to the roster for the Charlotte convention are California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who is running for a Senate seat from that state.

First Lady Michelle Obama will keynote on Sept. 4, the opening day of the convention at the Time Warner Cable Arena with former President Bill Clinton the headliner the next night. Obama accepts his second Democratic presidential nomination for President on Sept. 6 at Bank of America Stadium.

WASHINGTON--People have been curious where Malia and Sasha Obama attend summer camp--Malia has gone for a few years, this summer Sasha is a first-time camper. No one has confirmed a location, much less a state until Saturday, when President Barack Obama revealed the girls were at camp in New Hampshire--during a campaign stop in the battleground state.

Reporters on the whole respect a zone of privacy around presidential children. But when dad or mom offer up information, it's fair game.

Here's what Obama said:

"Now, first of all, I've got to just say thanks to all of you for looking after Malia and Sasha while they were up here. They were here for a month at camp, and they did a great -- they just had a great time, and enjoyed all the water sports, playing basketball and tennis, and arts and crafts. And, most importantly, there was some ice cream involved in the thing. They were quite pleased about that. So we missed them, though. Parents, it's tough when your kids are away, isn't it? We've missed them so much. And they promised they'd write -- and they did -- and they'd just say, "We're doing fine. Bye." It's tough."

Bill Clinton turns 66 on Sunday

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Former President Bill Clinton turns 66 on Sunday and is using the birthday as a peg to make an appeal for donations to his Clinton Foundation. Daughter Chelsea sent out an e-mail asking for birthday "messages" to her dad as well as contributions.

WASHINGTON--Mitt Romney's campaign is embracing the Medicare debate revived last week as a major presidential issue when he tapped Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to be his running mate. Medicare is the subject of a new Romney campaign feature launched Saturday--a weekly podcast. That's a move to provide a book-end to President Barack Obama's weekly address. The Saturday messages are now a standard presidential custom.

And on Medicare-- Ryan is stumping Saturday in central Florida--at The Villages, a massive senior community--where the favored mode of transportation is golf cart (not kidding, I was at The Villages earlier this year covering the GOP Florida primary)

To Listen To Mitt Romney's Weekly Podcast, Click Here:

Click below for script...

WASHINGTON--Mitt Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades marked the first week of the Romney/Ryan ticket noting a boost in fund-raising and social media activity.

From Rhoades:

Since the announcement in Norfolk, Virginia on Saturday:

Online Fundraising
Donations: 124,800+
Amount: $10,157,947
Average Donation: $81
% New Donors: 68%

Site Traffic
Total: 2,000,000
Desktop: 1,560,000
Mobile: 440,000

Mitt Romney Social
Facebook: +510,000 -- Now 4,360,000
Twitter: +54,000 -- Now 861,000

Paul Ryan Social
Facebook: +860,000
Twitter: +118,500

45,000+ sign up to volunteer online

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


WASHINGTON -- Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., hospitalized at Mayo Clinic for a bipolar disorder and depression, will address soon whether he will "continue in public life," former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) told CNN after visiting with him on Thursday.

Kennedy -- who has suffered from a bipolar disorder, depression and addictions -- did interviews with CNN and NBC -- both shown Friday -- about his visit with Jackson at the famed clinic in Rochester, Minn., where he was treated in 2006.

"I believe that in the short term, in the next couple weeks, he will be addressing his constituents about what his intentions are, as to whether he's going to continue in public life or whether he is going to continue to focus on his long-term recovery," Kennedy told CNN.

WASHINGTON--Chicago activist Mark Allen is featured in a Washington Post story published Friday--on the front page of the Style section--about "those on Chicago's South Side feeling disillusioned with former ally President Obama." Read the article HERE.

Listen to the KOBFM interview HERE

WASHINGTON--Cook County voters hold favorable opinions of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and give her high marks for how she handles her job, according to a poll taken by her political operation.

The poll, by Tulchin Research, was taken Aug. 1-6 of 600 likely voters--called on land lines and cell phones. The survey has a 4 percent margin of error. I did not see the entire poll; portions were shared with me on Thursday

Voters were asked about county issues and how Preckwinkle was doing--comparing her with President Barack Obama, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Quinn.

The survey shows that Preckwinkle, Emanuel and Madigan are even in their favorability ratings. Obama has the best, Quinn the worse, ratings for job approval and favorability.

The poll comes out as Democrats are aware that Quinn's ratings are low and at present is vulnerable as he heads towards a 2014 re-election campaign. Preckwinkle's name has been mentioned as a potential 2014 Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate and this survey bolsters her viability.

The survey, paid for by the Preckwinkle for President Committee, was taken because "it is important for us to discern whether Toni's administration is effectively communicating her agenda to voters," Ken Snyder, who is Preckwinkle's political consultant, told me.

Obama, no surprise, had 100 percent name ID in the poll, compared to 98 percent for Quinn and Emanuel, 93 percent for Madigan and 83 percent for Preckwinkle--which means she has work to do to get known better within Cook County.

Voters also approved of Preckwinkle's handling of a controversy involving the management of the Cook County Medical Examiner's office. Some 81 percent have heard at least "a little" about "the mismanagement crisis at Cook County's morgue that resulted in the county's previous medical examiner being replaced."

Of that group, 39 percent said the strongly approved Preckwinkle's handling of the crisis, 34 percent somewhat approved, 4 percent somewhat disapproved, 8 percent strongly disapproved and 16 per cent had no response to the question.

Key findings


67 Obama
54 Emanuel
53 Preckwinkle
53 Madigan
41 Quinn


21 Madigan
21 Emanuel
20 Preckwinkle
20 Quinn
13 Obama


37 Quinn
23 Emanuel
20 Obama
19 Madigan
10 Preckwinkle


72/27 Obama
69/26 Emanuel
67/15 Preckwinkle
54/43 Quinn
*Madigan not included

WASHINGTON--Obama campaign manager Jim Messina--in a bid to create a Friday peg to keep the Mitt Romney income tax return story in the news--made an early morning offer to Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades: If Romney releases five year of returns--the Obama team will stop calling for more disclosures.

Messina said release of taxes from 2007 was not "unreasonable." That would mean Romney puts on the table three more years than currently expected. He has released his 2010 return and has pledged to make public his 2011 returns when they are ready--he filed for an extension.

"I am writing to ask again that the Governor release multiple years of tax returns, but also to make an offer that should address his concerns about the additional disclosures. Governor Romney apparently fears that the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide. So I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point: if the Governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more--neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign," Messina.

On Thursday, Romney said he has paid a tax rate of at least 13 percent for the past ten years. Ann Romney has said the couple will not disclose more returns--all it does is provide ammunition for attacks.

A short time after the Messina "offer," Rhoades said no thanks in a "Hey, Jim" note.

"It is clear that President Obama wants nothing more than to talk about Governor Romney's tax returns instead of the issues that matter to voters, like putting Americans back to work, fixing the economy and reining in spending," Rhoades wrote.

Rhoades ended with a "see you in Denver." That's a reference to Oct. 3, when Obama and Romney hold the first presidential debate in Colorado.

My column on the Romney federal income tax disclosure issue is HERE

Here's the Messina letter to Rhoades, followed by the Rhoades reply:

I am writing to ask again that the Governor release multiple years of tax returns, but also to make an offer that should address his concerns about the additional disclosures. Governor Romney apparently fears that the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide. So I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point: if the Governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more--neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign.

This request for the release of five years, covering the complete returns for 2007-2012, is surely not unreasonable. Other Presidential candidates have released more, including the Governor's father who provided 12 years of returns. In the Governor's case, a five year release would appropriately span all the years that he has been a candidate for President. It would also help answer outstanding questions raised by the one return he has released to date, such as the range in the effective rates paid, the foreign accounts maintained, the foreign investments made, and the types of tax shelters used.

To provide these five years, the Governor would have to release only three more sets of returns in addition to the 2010 return he has released and the 2011 return he has pledged to provide. And, I repeat, the Governor and his campaign can expect in return that we will refrain from questioning whether he has released enough or pressing for more.

I look forward to your reply.

Jim Messina

Obama for America Campaign Manage


Hey Jim,

Thanks for the note.

It is clear that President Obama wants nothing more than to talk about Governor Romney's tax returns instead of the issues that matter to voters, like putting Americans back to work, fixing the economy and reining in spending.

If Governor Romney's tax returns are the core message of your campaign, there will be ample time for President Obama to discuss them over the next 81 days.

In the meantime, Governor Romney will continue to lay out his plans for a stronger middle class, to save Medicare, to put work back into welfare, and help the 23 million Americans struggling to find work in the Obama economy.

See you in Denver.


Matt Rhoades

Romney for President

Campaign Manager

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney on Thursday said he has paid a tax rate of at least 13 percent on his income taxes for the last 10 years -- and said "fascination" with his taxes was "small-minded compared to the big issues that we face."

If Romney thought his dismissive comments would make the matter of disclosure go away, he's wrong.

Campaigning in South Carolina, Romney said, "I just have to say, given the challenges that America faces -- 23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear, 1 out of 6 Americans in poverty -- the fascination with taxes I paid I find to be very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face.

"But I did go back and look at my taxes, and over the past 10 years I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 [percent] or something."

Of course people have a sense of proportionality when it comes to issues. This is not an either/or situation. Release tax returns or create jobs? Release tax returns or strip Iran of nuclear capability? Release tax returns or foster energy independence? It's a false argument.

This comes as the Obama team has been stepping up pressure on Romney to release more federal returns, confident they have a winning issue with swing voters.

I understand Romney's reluctance to release more returns. It's a reasonable strategic political choice that the grief he will get for non-disclosure is less than the trouble he may face if he does.

Ann Romney put it well in a NBC interview broadcast Thursday.

"Have you seen how we're attacked? Have you seen what's happened? And so we have done what's legally required, and there's going to be no more -- there's going to be no more tax releases given... And the only reason we don't disclose any more is, you know, [we would] just become a bigger target," she said.

The Obama campaign wants more returns to mine the data for stuff to hit Romney with as they continue on the offensive -- to define him on the stump through surrogates and in paid ads -- as so wealthy that he can't relate to everyday working people.

The Romneys released their joint 2010 return -- which showed $21.7 million in income. The Romney team left open the possibility Romney may make public their 2011 taxes -- while resisting calls for returns for more years.

Based on what Romney has disclosed, the Obama team has been bashing Romney's perfectly legal tax strategies for:

◆ having a Swiss bank account -- which the couple did between 2003 and 2010.

◆ investments in a tax haven, the Cayman Islands.

◆ paying an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent in 2010 -- less than many salaried workers.

Many middle-income folks pay more--because taxes on earned or salary income are higher than taxes on investments, which is how Romney made a lot of his money.

For the tax year 2012, the top tax rate was 35 percent for earned salary of $388,350 and above. People who make between $8,700 and $35,350 pay 15 percent.

Obama has been pushing for wealthy folks to pay at least 30 percent, no matter how they make their money -- that's in his proposed "Buffett Rule," named after investor Warren Buffett.

The Romney tax returns disclosure controversy escalated even more when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) accused Romney -- from the Senate floor, with absolutely no evidence -- of paying no taxes in the past 10 years.

You may wonder why Romney would be trumpeting that he never paid less than 13 percent for the past decade, when most of us who draw a salary have a much higher tax burden.

Because it sure looks better than paying nothing.

jesse jackson patrick kennedy.jpg
(AP Photo/provided by the Office of Patrick J. Kennedy)

WASHINGTON--Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R-I.) visited Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) on Thursday at the Mayo Clinic--where Jackson is being treated for a bi-polar disorder--with photos released by Kennedy's office the first time Jackson has been seen since June.

Kennedy told the Associated Press after leaving the famed Rochester, Mn. clinic that "I don't think people understand the depth of his depression. It's deep. He has a lot of work to continue to do to be able to learn how to treat this illness in the most effective way possible," Kennedy told The Associated Press. "Depression is a serious thing, and I'm glad that he's taking it seriously."

The AP also reported that Kennedy suggested Jackson had an initial reluctance to receive help for his illness.

Kennedy told NBC News that his meeting with Jackson was "really emotional" and the congressman is "worried about his political future." Kennedy said "I tried to emphasize there is a future."

On Monday, the clinic said Jackson was diagnosed with Bipolar II depression.

Kennedy is no stranger to mental illness or to Mayo. He also suffered from bi-bipolar depression. Kennedy spent almost a month at Mayo in 2006 in treatment for his addiction to painkillers, after a car he was driving crashed near the Capitol.

Jackson and Kennedy served together in the House--and both have grown up under the shadow of famous fathers--the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson.

Jackson has been absent from Congress since June 10--when he was brought to the George Washington Hospital Emergency Room here. After checking in to a Tucson facility, Jackson was transferred to Mayo at the end of July.

Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) said in a statement, "My husband is grateful for his friendship. He and Jesse have a long history in Congress together."

WASHINGTON--A CNN Wisconsin poll released on Thursday--done after Mitt Romney tapped Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan--to be his runningmate--shows President Barack Obama ahead 49-45 among registered voters-but, according to CNN, now more competitive--a tossup battleground state.

Ryan, from Janesville has higher favorable ratings than Romney in the survey:
54 Obama
50 Ryan
45 Romney
44 Biden

From CNN on the poll:
Interviews with 1,005 Wisconsin adults conducted by telephone by ORC International on August 13-14, 2012. The margin of sampling error for results based on the total sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The sample also includes 920 interviews among registered voters (plus or minus 3 percentage points).
The sample includes 750 interviews among landline respondents and 255 interviews among cell phone respondents.

In the presidential contest, only GOP vice presidential contender Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is doing public campaigning on Thursday, at Walsh University in Canton, Ohio in the morning.

WASHINGTON -- In the increasingly nasty battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, there's no place to go but down.

The latest tangles started Tuesday, when Vice President Joe Biden at a rally in southern Virginia jumped off his script to make a point about Romney's Wall Street proposals.

Biden said, "Romney . . . in the first hundred days, he is going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They are going to put y'all back in chains."

I don't have a clue why Biden, from Delaware, decided to use a Southern dialect -- that's what it sounded like when I listened to him several times. And yes, race comes to mind because of where Biden said it.

Romney jumped on the opening Biden gave him at his rally in Chillicothe, Ohio, Tuesday night and Wednesday.

"Another outrageous charge just came a few hours ago in Virginia, and the White House sinks a little bit lower. This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like. President Obama knows better, promised better, and America deserves better," Romney said Tuesday.

". . . So Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America."

Biden indeed flubbed, but for Romney to vault over to the neighborhood of "anger and hate" is itself over the top.

What's going on?

Negative ads and harsh rhetoric move undecided voters. Gutter tactics work.

This is not just about strongly advocating for Obama or Romney -- that's what campaigns are supposed to do.

Teams of transcribers and researchers on the Romney and Obama teams -- for the actual campaigns and the SuperPACs supporting them -- live for a verbal slip, an awkward phrase, a sentence that can be parsed, facts that can be distorted or tortured.

I'm not writing this so you can say, "to heck with voting, they all do it," and sit this one out.

I am imploring you in the months ahead to do some homework. Do some reading up on what's at issue in the now red-hot future-of-Medicare debate -- and not on websites that masquerade as nonpartisan.

For starters, the folks at two independent fact-check operations -- the Tampa Bay Times' and, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center -- sort out the political debate in thoughtful and simple language, and they have the guts to make the call.

Medicare is on the front burner since Saturday, when Romney tapped Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to be his running mate. As House Budget Committee chairman, Ryan is the architect of a plan to revamp Medicare. Ryan and Obama are both talking about curbing Medicare's growth, and there is room for a very healthy discussion on how this best be done. Romney is saying that Obama wants to "rob" Medicare. According to PolitiFact, that's "mostly false."

Not all campaign sins are equal. Distortions that occur in paid ads are the worst -- because they are deliberate, and the people who make spots know exactly what they are doing.

The main Obama SuperPAC, Priorities USA Action, ran a spot that was branded "misleading on several counts" by The ad crossed the line in a few places -- one being that a woman died from cancer a "short time" after Romney's Bain Capital shuttered the plant where her husband worked. The woman died five years after the plant closed.

Romney is running an ad -- and saying on the stump -- that the Obama administration wants to "gut welfare reform" by "dropping work requirements." That's not true, according to FactCheck and Politifact.

If the campaigns continue to be nasty -- and they will be -- don't expect them to fight fair.

(Sun-Times Video by Jon Sall)

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President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at a campaign event, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, in Davenport, Iowa, during a three day campaign bus tour through Iowa. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Gov. Pat Quinn got some tough treatment from union members at the Illinois State Fair on Wednesday--and it was a day celebrating Democrats. Chicago Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney has the story HERE.

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Gallup graphic

WASHINGTON--Tapping Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate did not give Mitt Romney an immediate significant bump, according to a new Gallup survey--just one point. Read it HERE.

Romney announced Ryan, a Janesville, Wisc. Republican on Saturday. The new Gallup poll shows the contest with President Barack Obama still close.

From Gallup: "The first four days of Gallup Daily tracking after Romney's announcement show 47% of registered voters saying they would vote for Romney and 45% for Barack Obama if the election were held today. The four days prior showed Romney at 46% and Obama at 45%."

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Vogue photograph by Mario Testino

WASHINGTON--Chelsea Clinton may have a political run in her future, reports Vogue Magazine in an exclusive, in depth profile of the daughter of Bill and Hillary. Read the profile by Jonathan Van Meter HERE.

Could Chelsea Clinton ever imagine running for office?:

"Before my mom's campaign I would have said no. Not because it was something I had thought a lot about but because people have been asking me that my whole life. Even during my father's 1984 gubernatorial campaign, it was, Do you want to grow up and be governor one day? No. I am four. And also because I believe that there are many ways for each of us to play our part. For a very long time that's what my mom did. And then she went into elected public life. Her life is a testament to the principle that there are many ways to serve." She pauses. "And now I don't know. . . . I mean, I have voted in every election that I have been qualified to vote in since I turned eighteen. I believe that engaging in the political process is part of being a good person. And I certainly believe that part of helping to build a better world is ensuring that we have political leaders who are committed to that premise. So if there were to be a point where it was something I felt called to do and I didn't think there was someone who was sufficiently committed to building a healthier, more just, more equitable, more productive world? Then that would be a question I'd have to ask and answer."

On what she does for a living:

"She sees her three essentially full-time careers--journalism, academia, and philanthropy--as "mutually supporting and advancing of one another." Also true to her generation, she's interested in solving the world's problems. "I'm sort of obsessed with what works. And why things work and how they work and who should be doing that work and whether it's the government or the private sector. It's part of what so strongly motivates me. It's in our little family Zeitgeist."

WASHINGTON--It's very rare for the First Couple to campaign together--and they are today, Wednesday, in Iowa--the state where, as the Obamas' like to say, was where it all began--with the 2008 caucus win validating the Obama candidacy and putting him on the path to the White House.

While introducing Obama in Duboque, Mrs. Obama heard someone in the crowd yell out "Whitney Young," a reference to Chicago magnet high school she attended. "Go Dolphins," she said in a back at ya, a reference to the name of the school teams.

Statistics: This is the first time they have campaigned together in Iowa this cycle and the first time they have campaigned together since the May 5 official kick off rallies in Columbus, Oh. and Richmond, Va.

WASHINGTON--Mitt Romney said President Barack Obama and his allies are taking the campaign "to a new low," while stumping in Chillicothe, Ohio on Tuesday night and suggested "Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America."

The Romney camp is pushing back over an ad made by Priorities USA Action, the main Obama SuperPac which blamed Romney for the death of a woman who lacked health insurance after the company her husband worked at--acquired by Bain Capitol--went under. Politifact concluded the ad was false, "Innuendo with no proof
In reaction, Obama campaig National Press Secretary Ben LaBolt released the following statement : "Governor Romney's comments tonight seemed unhinged, and particularly strange coming at a time when he's pouring tens of millions of dollars into negative ads that are demonstrably false."

Here's the portion of the Romney speech where he says the Obama team is taking the low road"

From Romney, "This is an election in which we should be talking about the path ahead. But you don't hear any answers coming from President Obama's reelection campaign. That's because he's intellectually exhausted, out of ideas and out of energy.

"And so his campaign has resorted to diversions and distractions, to demagoguing and defaming others. It's an old game in politics. What's different this year is that the president is taking things to a new low. It wasn't supposed to be this way. His was the campaign of hope and change. He was the candidate who was going to bring a new era to American politics. In 2008, candidate Obama said this, quote, "If you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters."

"He also said this: "If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from." And then he said this: "You make a big election about small things." That was candidate Obama describing the strategy that is now the heart of his campaign. His campaign and his surrogates have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency.

".....Everywhere I go in America there are monuments that list those who have given their lives for liberty. There's no mention of their race, their party affiliation or what they did for a living. They lived and died under a single flag fighting for a single purpose. They pledged allegiance to the United States of America. So Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America."

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White House beer (photo by White House photographer Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON--Turns out that not only does the White House brew its own beer--President Barack Obama took some of the brew along on his Iowa bus trip.

On the second day of a three day swing--which took Obama to the Bud Tent at the Iowa State Fair--Obama talked beer with a man in Knoxville, Iowa. Obama offered the man a sample--that was stowed on his campaign bus.

During the press gaggle, reporters asked about the beer. Obamafoodorama first disclosed the White House was brewing beer.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said it comes in light and dark and "It is superb. It is quite good.
....I think I've only tried the light, and it's quite refreshing."

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff for President Barack Obama on Tuesday zapped Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's new running mate.

Emanuel knows Ryan from his days in the House and, as the Chicago Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman reports, he said Ryan policies could set back the economy. Said Emanuel, "A lot of independent economists say his budget would lead to a recession," Emanuel said. "I don't think a recession is a pro-growth strategy." Read Spielman's report HERE.

WASHINGTON-- Hats off to CNN's Candy Crowley, who becomes the first woman in 20 years to moderate a presidential debate. It's been a long drought. Before Crowley, ABC's Carole Simpson was the last female--and that was in 1992.

The Commission on Presidential Debates--a bi-partisan non-profit operation--running the three presidential and one vice presidential debates has been pressured recently to not just pick men all the time.

Here are the details on the debate, from the Commission over at Debate.Org
Click below for information on the topics.

First presidential debate:

Jim Lehrer, Executive Editor of the PBS NewsHour
Wednesday, October 3, University of Denver, Denver, CO

Vice presidential debate:

Martha Raddatz, Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent, ABC News
Thursday, October 11, Centre College, Danville, KY

Second presidential debate (town meeting):

Candy Crowley, Chief Political Correspondent, CNN and Anchor, CNN's State of the Union
Tuesday, October 16, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

Third presidential debate:

Bob Schieffer, Chief Washington Correspondent, CBS News and Moderator, Face the Nation
Monday, October 22, Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL

WASHINGTON---The Obama campaign, working in tandem with the White House--that's the incumbent advantage--is pushing the GOP controlled House to extend tax credits for wind energy companies. President Barack Obama is jabbing Congress over wind tax credits today in Iowa

From a campaign official:

"Obama will push Congress to extend the production
tax credit for wind energy companies right now to create American jobs and
support American businesses and manufacturers, and highlight the clear choice
Iowans have in this election on this critical issue. In a moment when homegrown
American energy like wind is creating new jobs in states like Iowa, Mitt Romney
wants to end tax credits for wind energy producers. 37,000 jobs across this
country that depend on wind energy - including 7,000 jobs in Iowa, more than in
any other state."

From the Department of Energy:

"The Energy Department released a new report today highlighting strong growth in the U.S. wind energy market in 2011, increasing the U.S. share of clean energy and supporting tens of thousands of jobs, and underscoring the importance of continued policy support and clean energy tax credits to ensure that the manufacturing and jobs associated with this booming global industry remain in America."

WASHINGTON--New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be the keynote speaker for the Republican National Convention and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will introduce Mitt Romney,

"As governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie has proven how bold Republican leadership gets results. He has fearlessly tackled his state's most difficult challenges, while looking out for hardworking taxpayers. He is a leader of principle and conviction, and I am excited to hear him address the Republican National Convention as our keynote speaker. Governor Christie will make the case for America's Comeback Team and will rally our party and country in support of the Romney-Ryan ticket," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

"Senator Marco Rubio is without a doubt one of America's most dynamic and inspiring leaders, and I am excited to announce that he will introduce Governor Romney at the Republican National Convention," said Priebus said.

The Republican convention is gaveled to order in Tampa starting Aug. 27 and Romney accepts the nomination on Aug. 30.

Obama video on Chicago violence

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Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell has the story about how President Barack Obama finally addressed the killings in his adopted home town. Read her column HERE.

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President Obama mixes with the crowd after popping in unannounced to check out the Iowa State Fair.

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama is on a three day swing through Iowa, with the bus trip taking around the state that handed him his first victory in his quest in 2008 for the presidential nomination. In Boone, Iowa on Monday, Obama said Mitt Romney and his new running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) have the "wrong vision" for America.

He also reveals that daughters Malia and Sasha are taking piano lessons and Malia plays "a little flute."

Obama on Ryan: "And I've gotten to know Congressman Ryan. He's a good man. He's a family man. He's a very articulate spokesperson for Governor Romney's vision. The problem is it's the wrong vision for America. It's a vision that I fundamentally disagree with."

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., a patient at the Mayo Clinic since July, has bipolar disorder, the clinic said Monday -- a diagnosis that will not stand in the way of his continuing in Congress and seeking re-election, his spokesman told me.

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) stayed in Congress for several years after he was diagnosed as bipolar and suffering from depression; Kennedy went on to speak out very publicly about his mental illness.

Kennedy is planning to visit him at Mayo on Thursday.

''Jesse and I served together for many years, and I've spoken to him several times, and I'm looking forward to visiting with him personally . . . just to impart for him my experience. There's an ability for Jesse to be helpful to others who come after him,'' Kennedy told the Associated Press on Monday. ''I can share with him not only my experience in recovery, but I can also obviously relate what it's like to struggle and be in public life.''

Jackson, absent from Congress since June 10, is responding well to treatment, the clinic said in a statement describing his specific illness as "Bipolar II." Bipolar disorders are commonly characterized by mood swings and are most often treated with medication.

"Following extensive evaluation," the famed clinic in Rochester, Minn., said in a statement, Jackson "is undergoing treatment for Bipolar II depression at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Congressman Jackson is responding well to the treatment and regaining his strength.

"Many Americans have bipolar disorder. Bipolar II disorder is a treatable condition that affects parts of the brain controlling emotion, thought and drive and is most likely caused by a complex set of genetic and environmental factors.

"Congressman Jackson underwent bariatric surgery in 2004, specifically a duodenal switch. This type of surgery is increasingly common in the US and can change how the body absorbs food, liquids, vitamins, nutrients and medications."

The clinic issued the update at Jackson's request. Jackson was admitted to Mayo at the end of July "for extensive inpatient evaluation for depression and gastrointestinal issues" after first seeking treatment at a facility in Tucson.

In the wake of the diagnosis, I asked Jackson spokesman Kevin Lampe on Monday if Jackson will continue to serve and if he will still run for re-election. Yes, he will stay in office and "the campaign is moving forward, Lampe said.

Last week, Ald Sandi Jackson (7th), the congressman's wife and campaign manager, told me, "We have a very robust campaign under way and we expect to have Jesse back at the head of the campaign."

Kennedy had several issues, including substance abuse. He spent almost a month at Mayo in 2006 in treatment for his addiction to pain-killers after he crashed a car near the U.S. Capitol. He never ran from his problems; he made them his cause. He teamed with Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), a recovering alcoholic, to work on mental health policy, pushing for more health insurance coverage and less stigma.

Kennedy uses his celebrity to shine a spotlight on mental health issues, earlier this year talking about his own struggles in an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan.

"I spoke openly about it, because I knew that that's what my constituents wanted, and that's what they were anxious to hear. And in fact, many of them started talking to me about their own sets of challenges, that they felt ashamed about," he told Morgan in a July 16 interview. "Even though I grew up in a very different way from many of my constituents, they related to my experience, of fighting not only a mental illness, but the stigma that comes with that mental illness."

Jackson faces nominal opposition in November from Republican Brian Woodworth and independent Marcus Lewis.

Sandi Jackson said last week that Rep. Jackson could be out of Mayo in a few weeks.

When it's time, I expect he will also speak to his constituents. He knows they need to hear from him.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama, Olympic gymnastic star Gabby Douglas guested Tuesday on NBC's "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno; Douglas admitted that after the competitions were over, she treated herself to a McDonald's

"You're setting me back, Gabby," Obama jokingly said to Douglas, who eats a high-protein diet while in training

"Sorry!" said Douglas, who earned two gold medals in the 2012 London Summer Games that ended Monday.

Leno asked Douglas what changed since she won the gold.

"I think it's very different, and when I mean 'different' it's in a better way," Douglas replied. "I mean, I never thought I would be doing the show with the first lady, or even you, Jay."

Leno started to reply, when Mrs. Obama ribbed him.

"Even you too, Jay!" she said.

Statement from Mayo Clinic issued Monday:

"Following extensive evaluation, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is undergoing treatment for Bipolar II depression at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Congressman Jackson is responding well to the treatment and regaining his strength.

"Many Americans have bipolar disorder. Bipolar II disorder is a treatable condition that affects parts of the brain controlling emotion, thought and drive and is most likely caused by a complex set of genetic and environmental factors. Congressman Jackson underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2004. This type of surgery is increasingly common in the US and can change how the body absorbs food, liquids, vitamins, nutrients and medications.

Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the assistant Democrat leader, stumps for Democratic House hopeful Tammy Duckworth on Monday in Itasca. Duckworth faces Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) in the northwest suburban 8th Congressional District. Clyburn will take part in an economic and education round table.

Drought: Campaign sleeper issue?

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WASHINGTON--The U.S. is suffering through a historic drought --and President Barack Obama is throwing all the assets he has on the problem he neither created nor can cure. It's not a Republican drought nor a Democratic drought.

But the drought in a sense can be an election sleeper issue: Lower crop yields mean higher prices for food and ethanol-based products. With a poor economy the biggest threat to Obama's re-election, the drought is far more of a potential problem for Obama than Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney.

MANASSAS, Va.--Standing on a stage together at a rally in this historic Civil War town, Mitt Romney clearly displayed chemistry with Paul Ryan -- whom he tapped to be his running mate on Saturday -- a risky pick by a man known for his caution.

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) runs his first broadcast ad for his re-election campaign on Sunday, buying time for a biographical spot titled "The Real Joe" on what will be a much watched closing ceremony for the 2012 Olympics.

"I'm Joe Walsh. You've probably heard a little bit about me," Walsh says--a likely reference to stories about various comments Walsh has made that became controversial. Walsh, wearing a blue shirt, speaks directly to the camera in an ad designed to introduce him to voters.

Walsh, a freshman, burst on the political scene in 2010, when, in a surprise, he defeated former Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) running a shoestring campaign that had no budget for any paid broadcast media buy.

Walsh is now in a battle with Duckworth in the northwest suburban 8th Congressional District. Duckworth is not mentioned in the spot.

Walsh wants voters to know more about him and why he wants to be in Congress--that he has turned down congressional health insurance, sleeps in his office and is limiting himself--if he is re-elected--to only one more term.

Here's what Walsh says in the spot:

"I'm Joe Walsh. You've probably heard a little bit about me. I was born and raised in the northwest suburbs in a big old Irish Catholic family of nine kids. I raised my own family here.

"In Washington, I sleep in my office, I come home every single weekend, and I've hosted almost 200 town halls. Because I don't want you paying for my benefits, I turned down my congressional healthcare and pension. And because I'm sick of career politicians, I've limited myself to no more than three terms in office.

"You see, I didn't go to Washington to make friends or worry about my next election. I went because I'm scared we're leaving our kids and grandkids an America less free and less prosperous. We're better than that! We should demand a government that lives within its means and that stays out of our way. We don't want to bankrupt future generations. Do we?

"I'm Joe Walsh and I approve this message.

President Barack Obama spent about three hours at his Chicago campaign headquarters in the Prudential Building on Saturday--and when he was done he motorcaded to the nearby River North restaurant Piccolo Sogno Due to dine with friends, according to the pool report.


More from the pool report: "The president left the restaurant at 8.25 pm, The pool got a distant view in the dark of POTUS walking down the back stairs to his SUV followed by his Secret Service detail.

"Both lanes were closed along Lakeshore Drive as the motorcade sped along, passing to the left a Ferris wheel illuminated with sparkling yellow lights.

"A few people stood on the streets near the president's house. One group of people had a banner wishing him a belated happy birthday and one girl shouted "Happy Birthday" at the top of her voice as we passed.

"The president arrived back in his neighborhood where there is a heavy security presence, at 8.39 pm.

"Valerie Jarrett was spotted walking past the vans, possibly to her own home a few blocks away."

End update

Obama spends the next two nights at his Kenwood home; on Sunday he hosts five fund-raisers: One at the Sheraton on Wacker Dr. another at the Bridgeport Arts Center, one at his home--really his yard and two others a few blocks from his house.

First Lady Michelle Obama was fund-raising in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and in Aurora, Colorado on Saturday. Daughters Malia and Sasha are away at overnight camp.

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Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and their families in Manassas, Va. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

MANASSAS, VA.-- Mitt Romney, joined by Paul Ryan who he tapped as his running mate on Saturday, double teamed against President Barack Obama, jabbing him at a rally here--showing off the punching power of the new ticket.

"Hope and change has become attack and blame," said Ryan, speaking before Romney at an outdoor pavilion where the excitement among supporters was palatable in this historic civil war era city.

The Romney campaign traveled through Virginia Saturday with Ryan a seven-term House member from Janesville, Wisc., who is the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Romney, said Ryan, "is the kind of man made for this moment" as "the choice could not be more clear" between Romney and Obama.

"We honor you by letting you decide the course of this country," Ryan said, complimenting Romey on his record for running Bain Capital and the Salt Lake City Summer Olympics.

Taking the stage, Romney said of Ryan, "his heart is still in Janesville" and turned to Obama, slaming "Obama care" and asserting that health premiums have increased because of Obama's signature health care law.

Romney--as he has since the primary, asserted that Obama was Euro-centric and "and we don't want America to become Europe."

He distilled his campaign promises down to five--with goals not all that different from Obama"s. If president, Romney said he would push for energy independence, better education -"the teachers union is going to have to take a back seat"--more open trade, reduced deficits and spending and championing small business.

Said Romney to cheers, "We are going to stand for America and we are going to win."

MANASSAS, VA.--President Barack Obama flew to Chicago on Saturday, helicoptered to Soldier Field and in the afternoon was meeting with his staff at the campaign headquarters in the Prudential Building.

Campaign spokesman Jen Psaki said "the president will have his regular weekly political meeting with staff at his Chicago campaign headquarters."

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Romney Ryan rally in Manassas, Va. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

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Virginia Delegate Barbara Comstock warming up the crowd waiting for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (photo by Lynn Sweet)

MANASSAS, VA.--Lots of red meat being thrown out to the crowd here waiting for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, tapped Saturday to be his runningmate.

Virginia Delegate Barbara Comstock said with Ryan joining the ticket, "can you imagine how much they are freaking out in the White House and in Chicago?"

MANASSAS, VA.--The newly minted Romney-Ryan ticket will campaign in Waukesha, Wisc. on Sunday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel scooped on Saturday. Mitt Romney tapped Rep. Paul Ryan to be his runningmate on Saturday and his Wisconsin district runs from Janesville to the Milwaukee suburbs.

Waukesha is a suburb of Milwaukee, just to the west of the city and in a county that is one the most Republican in the country and is either in or near his district.

WASHINGTON--Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-Wisc.), tapped Saturday to be Mitt Romney's running mate, will also stay on the Wisconsin ballot as a House candidate. Wisconsin rules allow Ryan, a seven-term House member from Janesville, to be on the ballot twice.

I asked the Romney camp what Ryan planned to do and was told Ryan will stay on the WIsconsin ballot.

If the Romney/Ryan ticket wins a special election will be held to fill the Ryan seat.


CHICAGO - Obama for America Campaign Manager Jim Messina released the following statement in response to Mitt Romney picking Congressman Paul Ryan to be his presumptive nominee for vice president:

"In naming Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has chosen a leader of the House Republicans who shares his commitment to the flawed theory that new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors, will somehow deliver a stronger economy. The architect of the radical Republican House budget, Ryan, like Romney, proposed an additional $250,000 tax cut for millionaires, and deep cuts in education from Head Start to college aid. His plan also would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system, shifting thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors. As a member of Congress, Ryan rubber-stamped the reckless Bush economic policies that exploded our deficit and crashed our economy. Now the Romney-Ryan ticket would take us back by repeating the same, catastrophic mistakes."


WASHINGTON--Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), newly tapped to be Mitt Romney's runningmate said he is " excited for what lies ahead and I'm thrilled to be a part of America's Comeback Team Saturday morning in his speech, with the text below:


Boston, MA - Congressman Paul Ryan today delivered the following remarks in Norfolk, Virginia after Mitt Romney selected him to be his Vice Presidential running mate:

Thank you Governor Romney, Ann. I am deeply honored and excited to join you as your running mate.

Mitt Romney is a leader with the skills, the background and the character that our country needs at a crucial time in its history. Following four years of failed leadership, the hopes of our country, which have inspired the world, are growing dim; and they need someone to revive them. Governor Romney is the man for this moment; and he and I share one commitment: we will restore the dreams and greatness of this country.

I want you to meet my family. My wife Janna, our daughter Liza, and our sons, Charlie and Sam.

I am surrounded by the people I love, and I have been asked by Governor Romney to serve the country I love.

Janesville, Wisconsin is where I was born and raised, and I never really left it. It's our home now.

For the last 14 years, I have proudly represented Wisconsin in Congress. There, I have focused on solving the problems that confront our country, and turning ideas into action; and action into solutions.

I am committed, in heart and mind, to putting that experience to work in a Romney Administration. This is a crucial moment in the life of our nation; and it is absolutely vital that we select the right man to lead America back to prosperity and greatness.

That man is standing next to me. His name is Mitt Romney. And he will be the next president of the United States

My dad died when I was young. He was a good and decent man. I still remember a couple of things he would say that have really stuck with me. "Son you are either part of the problem or part of the solution."

Regrettably, President Obama has become part of the problem,...and Mitt Romney is the solution.

The other thing my dad would say is that every generation of Americans leaves their children better off. That's the American legacy.

Sadly, for the first time in our history, we are on a path which will undo that legacy. That is why we need new leadership to become part of the solution - new leadership to restore prosperity, economic growth, and jobs.

It is our duty to save the American Dream for our children, and theirs.

And I believe there is no person in America who is better prepared - because of his experience; because of the principles he holds; and because of his achievements and excellence in so many different arenas - to lead America at this point in its history.

Let me say a word about the man Mitt Romney will replace. No one disputes President Obama inherited a difficult situation. And, in his first 2 years, with his party in complete control of Washington, he passed nearly every item on his agenda. But that didn't make things better.

In fact, we find ourselves in a nation facing debt, doubt and despair.

This is the worst economic recovery in 70 years. Unemployment has been above 8 percent for more than three years, the longest run since the Great Depression. Families are hurting.

We have the largest deficits and the biggest federal government since WWII.

Nearly 1 out of 6 Americans are in poverty--the worst rate in a generation. Moms and dads are struggling to make ends meet.

Household incomes have dropped by more than $4,000 over the past four years.

Whatever the explanations, whatever the excuses, this is a record of failure.

President Obama, and too many like him in Washington, have refused to make difficult decisions because they are more worried about their next election than they are about the next generation. We might have been able to get away with that before, but not now. We're in a different, and dangerous, moment. We're running out of time -- and we can't afford 4 more years of this.

Politicians from both parties have made empty promises which will soon become broken promises--with painful consequences--if we fail to act now.

I represent a part of America that includes inner cities, rural areas, suburbs and factory towns. Over the years I have seen and heard from a lot from families, from those running small businesses, and from people who are in need. But what I have heard lately troubles me the most. There is something different in their voice and in their words. What I hear from them are diminished dreams, lowered expectations, uncertain futures.

I hear some people say that this is just "the new normal." High unemployment, declining incomes and crushing debt is not a new normal. It's the result of misguided policies. And next January, our economy will begin a comeback with the Romney Plan for a Stronger Middle Class that will lead to more jobs and more take home pay for working Americans.

America is on the wrong track; but Mitt Romney and I will take the right steps, in the right time, to get us back on the right track!

I believe my record of getting things done in Congress will be a very helpful complement to Governor Romney's executive and private sector success outside Washington. I have worked closely with Republicans as well as Democrats to advance an agenda of economic growth, fiscal discipline, and job creation.

I'm proud to stand with a man who understands what it takes to foster job creation in our economy, someone who knows from experience, that if you have a small business--you did build that.

At Bain Capital, he launched new businesses and he turned around failing ones - companies like Staples, Bright Horizons and Sports Authority, just to name a few. Mitt Romney created jobs and showed he knows how a free economy works.

At the Olympics, he took a failing enterprise and made it the pride of our entire nation.

As governor of Massachusetts, he worked with Democrats and Republicans to balance budgets with no tax increases, lower unemployment, increase income and improve people's lives.

In all of these things, Mitt Romney has shown himself to be a man of achievement, excellence and integrity.

Janna and I tell Liza, Charlie and Sam that America is a place where, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead.

We Americans look at one another's success with pride, not resentment, because we know, as more Americans work hard, take risks, and succeed, more people will prosper, our communities will benefit, and individual lives will be improved and uplifted.

But America is more than just a's an idea. It's the only country founded on an idea. Our rights come from nature and God, not government. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.

This idea is founded on the principles of liberty, freedom, free enterprise, self-determination and government by consent of the governed.

This idea is under assault. So, we have a critical decision to make as a nation.

We are on an unsustainable path that is robbing America of our freedom and security. It doesn't have to be this way.

The commitment Mitt Romney and I make to you is this:

We won't duck the tough issues...we will lead!

We won't blame others...we will take responsibility!

We won't replace our founding principles...we will reapply them!

We will honor you, our fellow citizens, by giving you the right and opportunity to make the choice:

What kind of country do we want to have?

What kind of people do we want to be?

We can turn this thing around. Real solutions can be delivered. But, it will take leadership. And the courage to tell you the truth.

Mitt Romney is this kind of leader. I'm excited for what lies ahead and I'm thrilled to be a part of America's Comeback Team. And together, we will unite America and get this done.

Thank you.


romney ryan.jpg
The new Romney-Ryan ticket

WASHINGTON--It's the Romney-Ryan ticket. It's official.

"It's an honor to announce my running mate and the next vice president," Mitt Romney said Saturday in tapping Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.)--standing in front of the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, Va. with a musical background evocative of an Olympics fanfare and the opening of the TV show, "The West Wing."

In making the introduction, Romney, 65, called Ryan, 42, the "next president of the United States."

Realizing his goof, Romney said smiling that "every now and then I'm known for making a mistake" -but he did not in picking Ryan.

A few moments earlier, Romney said, "...Ryan has become an intellectual leader of the Republican party," "with an unbounded enthusiasm" for America's future.

"....We offer solutions that are bold, specific and achievable," said Romney, promising to create 12 million new jobs and higher wages.

After one of the ugliest weeks in the Romney battle with President Barack Obama, Romney accused the Obama campaign of taking politics to a "new low."

Romney is the "man of the moment," Ryan said, in introducing his wife, Janna and three children.

Romney's campaign on Saturday morning announced Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, calling the new ticket "America's comeback team." A Romney campaign source said Romney made the decision on Aug. 1 and called Ryan and asked him to get together.

"We can turn this thing around. Real solutions can be delivered. But, it will take leadership. And the courage to tell you the truth. Mitt Romney is this kind of leader. I'm excited for what lies ahead and I'm thrilled to be a part of America's Comeback Team. And together, we will unite America and get this done," Ryan said as he wrapped up his speech to music by Kid Rock.

In his remarks, Ryan went to work right away is hitting President Barack Obama over his tenure of the economy--Obama's main vulnerability.

"Regrettably, President Obama has become part of the problem,...and Mitt Romney is the solution," Ryan said.

Obama, "didn't make things better. In fact, we find ourselves in a nation facing debt, doubt and despair.

"This is the worst economic recovery in 70 years. Unemployment has been above 8 percent for more than three years, the longest run since the Great Depression. Families are hurting. We have the largest deficits and the biggest federal government since WW II. Nearly 1 out of 6 Americans are in poverty--the worst rate in a generation. Moms and dads are struggling to make ends meet. Household incomes have dropped more than $4,000 over the past four years.

"Whatever the explanations, whatever the excuses, this is a record of failure," Ryan said to applause.

The campaign confirmed Ryan, of Janesville, Wisc., leaked late Friday night in a press release in advance of the first appearance of the new ticket at the Nauticus Museum in Norfolk, Va.--in front of the USS Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a battleground state where President Barack Obama is running ahead.

Ryan is the House Budget Committee chairman known for his efforts to revamp Medicare into a voucher program--and not the single payer system where bills for patients get sent directly to the federal government.

The campaign said in a release "he has worked tirelessly leading the effort to reign in federal spending and increase accountability to taxpayers."

" ...he has focused on simplifying the tax code and making health care more affordable and accessible," the campaign said.

But Ryan's proposed revamping of Medicare will make him a ripe Democratic target--and a harder appeal to win over potential cross-over Democrats.

Ryan Lizza, in a New Yorker profile in the Aug. 6 issue wrote that Ryan has been on a successful "crusade to reinvent the Republican Party. ...Nearly every important conservative opinion-maker and think tank has rallied around his policies. Nearly every Republican in the House and the Senate has voted in favor of some version of his budget plan."

Democrats will see the Romney embrace of Ryan's budgeting theories--especially when it comes to Medicare--a program held dear by seniors--as a liability. Medicare benefits are a major issue in the battleground state of Florida.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee started fund-raising off the Ryan announcement right after it was made. DCCC executive director Robby Monk said in an e-mail, that Ryan is "the architect of the Republican plan to kill Medicare."

The Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in statement, "In naming Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has chosen a leader of the House Republicans who shares his commitment to the flawed theory that new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors, will somehow deliver a stronger economy. The architect of the radical Republican House budget, Ryan, like Romney, proposed an additional $250,000 tax cut for millionaires, and deep cuts in education from Head Start to college aid.

"His plan also would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system, shifting thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors. As a member of Congress, Ryan rubber-stamped the reckless Bush economic policies that exploded our deficit and crashed our economy. Now the Romney-Ryan ticket would take us back by repeating the same, catastrophic mistakes."

Romney did not make the safest pick--selecting a running mate who is to his right. But Ryan is popular with the GOP base and could energize Republicans who are skeptical of Romney's conservative credentials.

"It's a bold decision" Bill Bennett said on CNN, who worked for the former Education secretary as a speechwriter for his think tank, Empower America.

Talk of a possible Ryan pick increased at the end of the week--after months where most of the speculation centered on Ohio Gov. Rob Portman and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, both of whom were vetted by the Romney campaign.

The announcement and introduction of a running mate comes as Romney kicks off in Virginia a four-day battleground state bus tour that will also wind through North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.

The campaign made the announcement to supporters via a phone ap, a 2012 version of the text messaging the Obama campaign used in 2008 to tell backers that then Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) was tapped for the ticket.

Romney unveiled the new ticket at an event at the Nauticus Museum in Norfolk in the morning.
The new GOP ticket then appears at a rally at the Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va, and winds up the day in northern Virginia, in a rally in Manassas.


Ryan was first elected to Congress in 1998 --when he was only 28-- and has become a specialist in government finance, serving on the Ways and Means Committee as well as the Budget panel. He is known for his work-outs and hunting: He is a member of the Congressional Sportmen's Caucus.

A Catholic, Ryan was born Jan. 29, 1970 in Janesville, was raised there and currently lives there with his wife, Janna, and their three children.

Republicans will officially nominate Romney and Ryan in Tampa, at the Republican National Convention which starts its four night run on Aug. 27.

The Democratic convention, spread over three nights, starts Sept. 4 in Charlotte, N.C.

Click below for Romney release....

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama heads to Chicago on Saturday for a two night visit--and is likely to visit his campaign headquarters in the Prudential Building, I am told.

Obama's stop at his headquarters comes as his national staff is coming off a two-day retreat--and some concern about slippage in key battleground states.

Obama is coming to Chicago for what now is five fund-raising events on Sunday, including one at his South Side home--actually his yard.

Added is an event at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. That's in addition to a funder at the Bridgeport Art Center and three in Kenwood in the evening: the Obama residence on S. Greenwood, down the block at the home of Barbara Bowman, the mother of senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and a few blocks away at the home of Marty Nesbitt, a pal and the Obama campaign treasurer.

WASHINGTON--Mitt Romney will announce his vice presidential choice on Saturday morning in Norfolk, Va., his campaign announced on Friday night--and news reports name Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) as Romney's choice.

NBC News and the Associated Press are reporting the selection of Ryan, the Janesville, Wisc. native who is the chairman of the Budget Committee. Ryan's selection could bolster Romney with conservatives and provide help in the battleground state of Wisconsin--where polls show President Barack Obama is running ahead.

The timing allows Romney to throw the spotlight on his new ticket before the start of the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Aug. 27.

The announcement and introduction of a running mate comes as Romney kicks off in Virginia a four-day battleground state bus tour.

Romney unveils the new ticket at an event at the Nauticus Museum in Norfolk in the morning.

The new GOP ticket then appears at a rally at the Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va, and winds up the day in northern Virginia, in a rally in Manassas.


Ryan was first elected to Congress in 1998 --when he was only 28-- and has become a specialist in government finance, serving on the Ways and Means Committee as well as the Budget panel.

He was born Jan. 29, 1970 in Janesville, was raised there and currently lives there with his wife, Janna, and their three children.

WASHINGTON--White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Friday about President Barack Obama returning home to Chicago Sunday for four fund-raisers--one at his home (actually his yard.)

"I have spoken to him about how he's looking forward to being home and in Chicago. I know that he always enjoys the opportunity to be back in his house. And I think that those who are coming are supporters and friends for this event. For details about the actual campaign event, I would refer you to the campaign. But the President I know is looking forward to being back in Chicago," Carney said

Obama overnights in Chicago on Sunday and on Monday stumps in Iowa.

First Lady Michelle Obama will be fund-raising in Los Angeles on Sunday.

WASHINGTON--Two of the top mega-donors in the nation are from Chicago, Democrat Fred Eychaner and Republicans Ken and Ann Griffin, according to a new Politico analysis. Eychaner--number one in the Politico ranking-- has been a mega donor for years; the Griffins'--ranking ninth-- are getting a lot of attention in the 2012 cyce. My February post on Eychaner and the Griffin SuperPac contributions is HERE.

Eychaner and the Griffins' political checks look skimpy compared to Republicans Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, whose combined donations total $36.3 million


Fred Eychaner
Total contributions: $3.7 million
Business: Media executive

Donations: Priorities USA Action: $1.5 million (Obama); Majority PAC: $800,000 (Senate Dems); House Majority PAC: $750,000 (House Dems); EMILY's List nonfederal: $250,000; America Votes Action Fund: $200,000 (liberal umbrella group); Democratic Governors Association: $100,000; Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund nonfederal: $50,000
Amount to candidates and political committees: $85,000

Kenneth & Anne Griffin
Total contributions: $2.3 million
Business: Hedge fund manager
Donations: Restore Our Future: $1 million (Romney); American Crossroads: $1 million
Amount to candidates and political committees: $188,000

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama will be fund-raising in Los Angeles on Sunday, when President Barack Obama hits Chicago for fund-raisers and an overnight at his South Side home. Mrs. Obama will be fund-raising in Wyoming and Colorado on Saturday. Monday, it's a third visit to Jay Leno's show.

For details on Obama in Chicago Sunday, check out my post HERE.

Click below for details on Mrs. Obama's western swing. analyzed a spot by Priorities USA, the pro-Obama SuperPac and concludes the spot blaming Mitt Romney for the cancer death of a woman is misleading. Read the FactCheck analysis HERE.

The verdict is in from the Mitt Romney campaign claim that Obama wants to "gut welfare" is wrong. Read the FactCheck detailed analysis HERE.

WASHINGTON -- We know Rep. Joe Walsh doesn't give a darn about political correctness; the Tea Party freshman's claim to fame comes from making outrageous statements. His latest came Wednesday, when he accused the U.S. government of ignoring warning signs of a crazed gunman for fear of offending Muslims.

Walsh raised the prospect of another Sept. 11 triggered by Islamic extremists. "It is a real threat," he said. "And it is a threat that is much more at home now than it was right after 9/11. It's here. It's in Elk Grove. It's in Addison. It's in Elgin."

By now, the routine in the battle for the northwest suburban 8th congressional district seat is this: The campaign of Democratic rival Tammy Duckworth sends trackers to every public Walsh event. They videotape everything he says and post it on YouTube. So when Walsh says something controversial -- well, we can hear it for ourselves. A few days ago, he called President Barack Obama "son."

Last month at a town hall meeting in Elk Grove Village, Walsh was videotaped saying that Duckworth -- who lost both legs and partial use of her arm in Iraq when her helicopter was shot down -- talks too much about her military service. That is something "true heroes" don't do, Walsh said.

Walsh on Wednesday was back in Elk Grove at another town hall meeting and the topic turned to Muslims in America.

A man who identified himself as an Egyptian-American complained to Walsh that America was ignoring a danger. "I'm looking for some godly men and women in the Senate, in the Congress, who will stand in the face of the danger of Islam in America without political correctness," the man said.

The man wondered why more people were not paying attention to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). Her most recent contribution to uncivil discourse has been her shameful accusation that Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for many years, is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank said it the best, making a reference to Abedin being married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), forced to resign because of suggestive pictures he took of himself.

Wrote Milbank, "If Abedin is in fact a Muslim Brotherhood plant spreading sharia law in the United States, she's using unorthodox methods: posing provocatively for a Vogue spread, then marrying and having the child of a Jewish congressman who sent out a photo of his genitals on Twitter."

"Muslims are taking over America," the man said, "because of our ignorance of Islam."

Walsh did not disagree with any of the bigoted predicates in the man's statements.

"Enough with political correctness!" Walsh said to applause from the audience as he dived into his reply.

"Can you say 'Fort Hood'? Your government was so afraid of doing its job, so afraid of offending Islam, that right in front of our noses, we saw what was happening at Fort Hood, and because your government was politically correct, Americans died," Walsh said.

The reference is to the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, Texas. Awaiting trial for the shootings that left 13 dead and 29 wounded is Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born Muslim. Army prosecutors assert that he is a home-grown terrorist.

Duckworth campaign spokesman Kaitlin Fahey said Walsh's remarks "are not only offensive, they are especially inappropriate and irresponsible from a sitting member of Congress. These comments demonstrate yet again why is he not fit to hold political office."

Walsh did not not back down except for noting in a Thursday statement, "While most Muslims in America and around the world are as peace loving as the rest of us, we would be foolish to ignore the fact that there is a radical minority that simply wants to destroy America and the values that we stand for."

Just a few days ago there was a slaughter at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, near Milwaukee, with the shooter a white supremacist.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee raised the potential that Walsh was provoking extremism with his speech, making him the fire, not the firefighter.

Said the committee: "It is the rhetoric from politicians such as Rep. Walsh that poisons our politics and national discourse. This is exactly the kind of talk and action that can and will encourage extremism and lead to the kind of horror witnessed in Wisconsin."


Office of the Press Secretary


August 9, 2012



In the morning, the President will receive the Presidential Daily Briefing in the Oval Office. This meeting is closed press.

In the evening, the President will host an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room. This will be the fourth Iftar that President Obama has hosted, continuing the tradition of hosting Iftars that began annually under President Clinton and was continued by President George W. Bush. The invited guests include elected officials, religious and grassroots leaders in the Muslim American community, and leaders of diverse faiths and members of the diplomatic corps. The President's remarks are pooled press.

In-Town Travel Pool

Wires: AP, Reuters, Bloomberg

Wire Photos: AP, Reuters, AFP

TV Corr & Crew: CNN

Print: BNA

Radio: Sirius


10:30AM Pool Call Time

11:00AM THE PRESIDENT receives the Presidential Daily Briefing

Oval Office

Closed Press

8:35PM THE PRESIDENT hosts an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan

State Dining Room

Pooled Press (Pre-Set 6:00PM--Final Gather 8:15PM--North Doors of the Palm Room)

Briefing Schedule

12:15PM Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney



WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama tapped his former personal assistant, Reggie Love--a collegiate basketball star who often played with Obama--to be a member of the the official U.S. delegation to the closing ceremony of the summer games.

Love joined Obama when he was still an Illinois state Senator and was the man who was always by the side of the president.

Others in the delegation include UN Ambassador Susan E. Rice, a standout basketball player, U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain Lou Sussman, a Chicagoan, speechwriter Ben Rhodes, Olympic figure skating star Michelle Kwan, a member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, U.S. Public Diplomacy Envoy and Curtis Pride, Member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, former Major League Baseball player and Gallaudet University Head Baseball Coach


WASHINGTON--When Mitt Romney's motorcade arrived in Lakewood, N.J. on Wednesday, it surprised an Orthodox Jewish wedding party--who stopped posing for pictures to run after Romney. Via, Yahoo News reporter Holly Bailey has the details in the pool report.

From Yahoo's Holly Bailey

Romney arrived at Lake Terrace, the site of his fundraiser tonight, at roughly 3:35 pm, after what your pooler can only describe as a harrowing high-speed motorcade from Newark airport to Lakewood NJ. Hitting speeds of up to 90 mph at times, the motorcade made what had been scheduled as a 61-minute drive in roughly 45 minutes on a route that took us along the Jersey Turnpike to the Garden State Parkway and prompted your pooler to wonder many times if she would live to cover Romney's remarks at the fundraiser tonight. The motorcade was escorted by unmarked police SUVs which at times flashed their lights. At one point, we passed a school bus where several little kids could been seen standing on their seats to get a glimpse of the motorcade.

Upon arrival in Lakewood, some unusual things happened. First, the motorcade passed a man dressed in American flag shorts running down the street toward the venue here while waving an American flag. "Whooooo!" he exclaimed, as your pooler's van passed. Then, as we turned into Lake Terrace, the motorcade drove past an Orthodox Jewish wedding party that had been posing for pictures outside. Immediately, the family abandoned the bride and groom and began chasing Romney's car in the parking lot, waving cameras. The candidate's SUV drove around a corner to a back entrance, followed by at least 10 members of the wedding party who tried to run up to Romney's car by were halted first, by a wood fence, which one man tried to scale, and then by Secret Service agents, who did not look pleased. "Oh you're Secret Service," one woman said, as she was asked by an agent to move back. "We just want to see Romney."

Your pool is now holding in a room ahead of Romney's remarks at the private fundraiser, set to begin in about one hour. Per spokesman Rick Gorka, Romney is going to pose for photos with the wedding party, but the campaign will not allow the pool to witness this event.

WASHINGTON--The Democratic House political operation--the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee-- launched an ad and robocall blitz against four Illinois Republicans, pegged to House Speaker John Boehner coming to Illinois to fund-raise for them.

Boehner is in Chicago and suburban Sugar Grove today--Thursday--headlining funders for Rep. Judy Biggert and Rep. Bob Dold. He is also doing an event for Rep. Bobby Schilling and did a "breakfast briefing" Monday for GOP House hopeful from southern Illinois, Jason Plummer. My post on Boehner headlining Dold, Biggert fund-raisers is HERE.

The DCCC has been hitting Republicans as being aligned with "Tea Party" interests.

From the DCCC: "The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee today launched radio ads and automated phone calls in these four Illinois Congressional districts to expose Republicans' out-of-touch agenda that puts seniors and the middle class at risk.

"The DCCC will run radio ads about Congressman Bobby Schilling and millionaire candidate Jason Plummer and launch automated phone calls about Congresswoman Judy Biggert and Congressman Bob Dold to hold them accountable for standing with Speaker Boehner and millionaires instead of fighting for middle class families in Illinois."

Biggert and Dold, running from Chicago suburban districts, will be hit with robocalls since radio time is too expensive in the Chicago area--and can't be as targeted as calls.

Here's a sample script used in the 11th District, where Biggert is running against former Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) and in the 10th, where Dold faces Demoratic House hopeful Brad Schneider.

Hi this is Julie calling on behalf of the DCCC.

Congressman Judy Biggert (Bob Dold) is sure making someone happy in Washington - her Republican Party boss, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner. So now Speaker Boehner is coming here to Illnois to raise her money. Congresswoman Biggert votes as Speaker Boehner wants even when it means cutting Medicare just to protect tax breaks for billionaires.

WASHINGTON -- Hospitalized Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. -- out of commission since June 10 and now a patient at the Mayo Clinic -- could be home fairly soon: around Sept. 1, his wife, Sandi, told me Wednesday.

The September target is "my hope," Sandi Jackson said in an interview. "God willing, [if] all the testing is done."

She did not have one doubt that Rep. Jackson will stand for re-election. I mention that because bubbling in the political background is noise -- I put it at the level of a hum -- about whether he will give up the seat.

"He cares very much about the work yet to be done," Sandi Jackson said.

Once back, he plans to campaign "vigorously," she said -- not because there is any real threat to his re-election; he faces nominal opposition in the heavily Democratic district -- but to demonstrate that he has the "fight" in him to be able to do his job in Congress.

"We have a very robust campaign under way and we expect to have Jesse back at the head of the campaign," she told me.

She wears four hats: wife, 7th Ward alderman, her husband's campaign manager, and 7th Ward committeeman.

"He will campaign vigorously throughout the district. Our campaign apparatus is still very much intact. As matter of fact, we have a meeting tonight with area coordinators and precinct captains, giving them their marching orders," she said.

She seemed optimistic that he will be out in public well before the election.

"Absolutely, absolutely," Sandi Jackson said. "I am encouraged and enthusiastic about what I am hearing from his doctors. I think once he leaves the medical facility he will be getting back in gear. I plan to be alongside him on the campaign trail shaking hands and kissing as many babies as we can."

Jackson checked into the famed clinic in Rochester, Minn., last month "for extensive inpatient evaluation for depression and gastrointestinal issues."

"Once he leaves he is going to be wanting to put his running shoes on and hit the ground running," she said. He faces Republican Brian Woodworth and independent Marcus Lewis in November.

I also talked with the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Wednesday, and he told me his son is "responding to treatment."

The New York Post ran a story Wednesday -- attributed to un-named "family sources" -- saying that he wanted son Jonathan to take Jackson's seat if he were to give it up. Jonathan is a businessman and a "national spokesman" for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition founded by his father.

"The story is scurrilous, it is unfair, and it is not true," Rev. Jackson told me. "They made the whole story up . . . ain't remotely true."

The family role "is to be supportive. We are not talking politics at all," he said.

Anyway, since I am down this path, if for some reason Jackson decides to leave Congress, my bet is heavily on Sandi Jackson stepping in to replace him.

The Jackson children attend school in Washington and the Jacksons have what looks from the outside like a swell home off DuPont Circle here. We chatted about how there is a "history" of wives following their husbands to Congress.

In any case -- if it ever came to it -- Sandi has the clout to replace him.

WASHINGTON--House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hits the Chicago area on Thursday to headline fund-raisers for two Illinois House Republicans in big races--Reps. Judy Biggert and Bob Dold.

Biggert is facing off against former Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill) in the west suburban 11th congressional district. Boehner is the draw at a cocktail reception at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. The tab ranges from $75 to $5,000.

Dold is running against Democrat Brad Schneider in the north suburban 10th congressional district.
Boehner keynotes a Dold luncheon in downtown Chicago. Tickets are $500 to $1000 per person including a private reception.

The third big area race pits Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) against Democrat Tammy Duckworth. Boehner does not have a Walsh funder on Thursday--but did headline an event for him last March in Washington.

As of June 30, the stats, based on the Federal Election Commission reports.


$ 462,060 Receipts 4-1/6-30
1,765,540 Receipts to date
958,569 PACS to date
144,294 Disbursements 4-1/6-30
682,681 Disbursements to date
1,539,048 CASH ON HAND


$ 475,407 Receipts 4-1/6-30
1,706,869 Receipts to date
251,800 PACS to date
199,128 Disbursements 4-1/6-30
601,585 Disbursements to date
1,270,375 CASH ON HAND

** ** **


$ 717,396 Receipts 4-1/6-30
2,975,947 Receipts to date
922,380 PACS to date
213,151 Disbursements 4-1/6-30
1,067,477 Disbursements to date
2,136,033 CASH ON HAND


$ 582,539 Receipts 4-1/6-30
1,617,982 Receipts to date
181,200 PACS to date
241,115 Disbursements 4-1/6-30
1,050,359 Disbursements to date
567,623 CASH ON HAND

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama hits Chicago on Sunday for what now will be four events--with the latest add a fundraising reception at the Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th. Bridgeport is a South Side neighborhood known for producing mayors--now it will host a president.

As I scooped on July 19, Obama returns home for a high-end fund-raiser at his home at S. Greenwood--actually the event is in his yard, so no snooping in his medicine chest--with two related funders, a few blocks away at the home of pal Marty Nesbitt and his wife, Anita Blanchard and the home of Barbara Bowman, the mother of Obama Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.

obama home fundraiser.jpeg

from July 19 post:

This 3 p.m. reception marks the first time since Obama's moved into the White House their home on S. Greenwood has been used for a fund-raising event. It is one of three being held that day, all with the theme of helping Obama celebrate his Aug. 4 birthday where he turns 51.

*There is a $5,000 per person photo reception at the home of Marty Nesbitt and his wife, Anita Blanchard who live a few blocks away on S. Woodlawn. Nesbitt, a close pal, is the treasurer of the Obama for America campaign. Blanchard, an ob-gyn, is close to Mrs. Obama and delivered Malia and Sasha.

*There is a $1,000-per-person dessert reception at the home of Barbara Bowman, who is the mother of White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett. The Obama family visited that home on June 17 for the marriage of Jarrett's daughther.

Sec. of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in South Africa on the dance floor

WASHINGTON---Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed off her dancing moves in Johannesburg Tuesday night at a dinner hosted by South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. The diplomatic entertaining took place around the South Africa-United States of America Strategic Dialogue meetings.

From "The South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, hosted the United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the second meeting of the South Africa-United States of America Strategic Dialogue

(above) "A joint statement issued August 7, 2012 by the United States of America and the Republic of South Africa during the 2012 South Africa-United States Strategic Dialogue."

Mitt Romney campaign video released Tuesday

Obama campaign video released Tuesday

WASHINGTON--The Obama campaign is pushing back hard Wednesday on the Mitt Romney claim that President Barack Obama wants to "gut welfare"-- a charge that distorts the Obama administration policy change--but one the Romney team is sticking with as the clash escalates.

To keep the controversy alive, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be on a conference call Wednesday morning organized by the Republican National Committee with the announced topic: Obama on "gutting welfare reform."

The Obama team, in a video titled "Dubious,"calls out Romney as a hypocrite, recalling that as a Massachusetts governor, he signed letter asking the federal government for more flexibility for states to deal with federal welfare-to-work requirements. Romney is "flexible on welfare, and the truth," the video said.

The welfare-to-work requirements were a signature achievement of former President Bill Clinton--who forged a bi-partisan deal with Republicans to get it passed.

On Tuesday, the Romney campaign released a video headlined "The Rise and Fall of Welfare Reform," highlighting the bi-partisan nature of the legislation--while continuing to assert that Obama wants to unravel the law.

Romney's side invokes Democrats to make its case: "In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed bipartisan legislation that reformed welfare. Democrats from Carl Levin to John Kerry, and even Joe Biden supported the bipartisan reforms. President Obama, on the other hand, has been a consistent opponent of the law and recently dismantled the historic bill. When it comes to welfare reform, President Obama is out of step with the country, his party, and even his own Vice President."

Clinton roared into action, putting out a statement saying Romney's assertions are not true.

"Romney released an ad today alleging that the Obama administration had weakened the work requirements of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. That is not true.

"The act emerged after years of experiments at the state level, including my work as Governor of Arkansas beginning in 1980. When I became President, I granted waivers from the old law to 44 states to implement welfare to work strategies before welfare reform passed.

"After the law was enacted, every state was required to design a plan to move people into the workforce, along with more funds to help pay for training, childcare and transportation. As a result, millions of people moved from welfare to work.

"The recently announced waiver policy was originally requested by the Republican governors of Utah and Nevada to achieve more flexibility in designing programs more likely to work in this challenging environment. The Administration has taken important steps to ensure that the work requirement is retained and that waivers will be granted only if a state can demonstrate that more people will be moved into work under its new approach. The welfare time limits, another important feature of the 1996 act, will not be waived.

"The Romney ad is especially disappointing because, as governor of Massachusetts, he requested changes in the welfare reform laws that could have eliminated time limits altogether. We need a bipartisan consensus to continue to help people move from welfare to work even during these hard times, not more misleading campaign ads."

My Monday post on what triggered this dispute, Romney's comments about Obama and welfare on a campaign stop in Elk Grove Village, Ill. and Obama team response is HERE.

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who declines to put political events on his public schedule, which I hope changes as we get closer to the election, flew here to bolster President Barack Obama's fund-raising Tuesday.

Emanuel was part of " roundtable" briefing with 0bama for about 25 of the presidents's big backers at a hotel here. While it was not a fundraiser in the sense that no ticket was required, it is part of the premier treatment given to donors who appreciate insider campaign updates.

Later, Emanuel attended a $40,000 per person event for the re-election drive, with about 20 attendees, campaign officials told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Romney blasting Obama on welfare rules while in Elk Grove Village, Ill. on Tuesday morning

Romney campaign ad released Tuesday

WASHINGTON--The Romney campaign launched a new attack on Tuesday--accusing President Barack Obama of being soft on welfare--because his administration potentially loosened work requirements installed under former President Bill Clinton for some states requesting waivers from federal rules. The Obama team said Romney distorted the new policy--because states had to pledge to increase job placements by 20 percent to get that waiver.

"We must include more work in welfare," Romney said Tuesday at a campaign stop at a factory in Elk Grove Village, a Chicago suburb. After his remarks, Romney headed downtown for two fund-raisers where he collected about $2 million.

The Romney team introduced the welfare issue in an orchestrated roll-out--backed by an ad, Romney's own remarks, and campaign briefings.

The Obama White House and campaign pushed back strongly.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at a briefing, "From a policy standpoint, let me say that this advertisement is categorically false, and it is blatantly dishonest. This administration's policy will strengthen the program by giving states the opportunity to employ more effective ways to help people get off welfare and into a job. Under this policy, governors must commit that their proposals will move at least 20 percent more people -- more people from welfare to work."

He added, "The attack is dishonest.  It is false."

 Given that at issue is a signature accomplishment of the Bill Clinton administration, the Obama campaign organized a conference call with John Podesta, Former White House Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton. He was joined by Stephanie Cutter, Deputy Campaign Manager, Obama for America; James Kvaal, Policy Director, Obama for America.

In Elk Grove Village Romney said, "One of the things that happened in the last couple of decades was one of the greatest bipartisan successes we've seen. And that was President Bill Clinton and Republicans coming together to reform welfare. They reformed welfare not to just save money. More importantly, they reformed welfare to encourage people to work. They did not want a culture of dependency to continue to grow in our country but instead wanted to have people to have the blessings of work.

"And by virtue of that bipartisan effort that put work back into welfare, you saw the welfare caseload cut in half and you also saw the number of people in poverty come down year after year after year. That was a great accomplishment. I hope you understand that President Obama in just the last few days has tried to reverse that accomplishment by taking the work requirement out of welfare.

"That is wrong. If I'm president I will put work back in welfare. There is nothing better than a good job to help lift a family, to allow people to be able to provide for themselves, and to end the spread of a culture of dependency. We must include more work in welfare.

"When I was Governor of my state, I fought time and again. My legislature passed a bill removing the work requirements at the level we'd had in the past. I vetoed that and then fought time and again to get more work requirements, to raise the work requirements of my state. Not because I don't think people who need help should be helped. I very much agree that those who are seriously disabled or are unable to work need to have the help of the rest of us. But those who can work ought to have the opportunity for a good job and if they are getting state assistance they ought to have the requirement for a good job. We will end a culture of dependency and restore a culture of good hard work."

Before Romney delivered his remarks, Romney spokesman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement, "Throughout his career, President Obama has demonstrated hostility for the historic welfare reforms passed by President Clinton and Republicans in Congress."

The Romney campaign sent out an audio clip of Obama--as an Illinois state senator-- in 1998 questioning Clinton linking work to getting government assistance. "I was not a huge supporter of the federal plan that was signed in 1996," Obama said in 1998.

Romney policy director Lanhee Chen said in a briefing memo, "for decades, welfare was simply an entitlement -- a government check in place of a paycheck. In 1996, in one of the great bipartisan policy achievements in recent memory, President Bill Clinton joined with a Republican Congress to end welfare as we knew it."

WHAT GOT THIS STARTED: On July 12, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would consider requests from states to issue waivers from federal work requirement to qualify for welfare--the official name is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

HHS said in the information memo (Read it HERE) the purpose of the new policy: "HHS is encouraging states to consider new, more effective ways to meet the goals of TANF, particularly helping parents successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment. Therefore, HHS is issuing this information memorandum to notify states of the Secretary's willingness to exercise her waiver authority under section 1115 of the Social Security Act to allow states to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.

DOES THIS MEMO SAY OBAMA WANTS TO TAKE THE WORK OUT OF WELFARE, WHICH IS WHAT ROMNEY ASSERTS: No. It is giving states more flexibility--something Republicans usually like.

Said Democratic Governors Association spokesman Kate Hansen, "Turns out the Republican Governors Association - and 29 Republican governors - previously advocated for the same state-level welfare-to-work waivers that Mitt Romney is attacking President Obama over this morning."

OBAMA CAMPAIGN RESPONSE: "Mitt Romney continues to make statements that he knows are both untrue and hypocritical. The Obama administration, working with the Republican governors of states like Nevada and Utah, is giving states additional flexibility only if they move more people from welfare to work - not fewer. But as governor, Mitt Romney petitioned the federal government for waivers that would have let people stay on welfare for an indefinite period, ending welfare reform as we know it, and even created a program that handed out free cars to welfare recipients. These false and extremely hypocritical attacks demonstrate how Mitt Romney lacks the core strength and principles the nation needs in a President." -Lis Smith, campaign spokeswoman

MORE OBAMA RESPONSE: From the conference call with John Podesta, Former White House Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton; Stephanie Cutter, Deputy Campaign Manager, Obama for America; James Kvaal, Policy Director, Obama for America.

Cutter: "Romney released yet another hypocritical and false ad, this time claiming that President Obama weakened the welfare-to-work requirements. It's simply not true. The president recently gave states more tools they need to help move people from welfare to work as quickly as possible.

"Contrary to what Romney is alleging, President Obama's actions have strengthened, not weakened the welfare system's ability to move people from assistance to employment. In fact, Republican governors have been asking for these new tools for years."

More from Cutter: "So the impact of this policy is very clear: If states have good ideas of how to make welfare-to-work programs more effective, President Obama is willing to listen to them and grant states flexibility if they can move 20 percent more people into employment. But under no circumstances can this be used to undercut work requirements or to waiver time limits."

Carney said, "From a policy standpoint, let me say that this advertisement is categorically false, and it is blatantly dishonest. This administration's policy will strengthen the program by giving states the opportunity to employ more effective ways to help people get off welfare and into a job. Under this policy, governors must commit that their proposals will move at least 20 percent more people -- more people from welfare to work. And as we have made very clear under our policy, any request from any state that undercuts the work requirement in welfare reform will be rejected.

"Now, the ad is particularly outrageous as Governor Romney himself, with 28 other Republican governors, supported policies that would have eliminated the time limits in the welfare reform law and allowed people to stay on welfare forever. Those are not standards the president supports. It is also worth remembering that this waiver policy that we're discussing was specifically requested by two Republican governors, Governor Herbert of Utah and Governor Sandoval of Nevada, two men, I think you know, who are supporters of Governor Romney. And I don't think, if you ask them -- and I suggest you do -- that they believe that their interest in these waivers was guided by a desire to undermine work requirements. Their interest in this -- in these waivers was to achieve more flexibility for their states to innovate and to move more people from work to welfare... That's the purpose of this policy."

MY BOTTOM LINE: In this line of attack Romney hits Obama on stiffing a bipartisan deal while at the same time injecting a new subject---welfare and work--into the campaign conversation--taking attention away from Romney and Bain, his taxes and release of his tax returns.

A political byproduct is that the Romney team is also trying to drive a wedge between Obama and Clinton--who is very popular and who will keynote a night at the Democratic convention, stump and fund-raise for him.

Sun-Times Aug. 7, 2012 front page.jpg

WASHINGTON -- Illinois may not be rich in votes for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney -- but it is full of political money -- and Romney expects to collect about $2 million Tuesday at fund-raising events in Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

With Tuesday's take, Romney is poised to pull more money out of Illinois -- President Barack Obama's home state -- in 2012 than GOP 2008 presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did in 2008.

Illinois GOP presidential donors are clearly more energized in 2012 than in 2008. In Illinois in 2008 folks wanted to climb on the Obama bandwagon -- and the money for him flowed. Romney backers in Illinois see the playing field as more even in 2012 and -- with a few more checks -- will
raise more for Romney than they could muster for McCain.

Romney hits Elk Grove Village to deliver remarks about the economy at Acme Industries and then motorcades downtown for a lunch roundtable targeted to manufacturers at Harry Caray's -- priced from $10,000 to $75,800 per ticket. After that he hops over to Maggiano's a few blocks away for an event aimed at donors from the hospitality industry -- with the tab ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.

The local haul for Romney comes on the news Monday that his campaign and the Republican National Committee raised $101.3 million in July -- thumping the joint Obama and Democratic National Committee total of $75 million last month.

"We got beat" was a message from the Obama campaign to supporters Monday afternoon urging them to contribute to help close the gap.

Romney's team has surpassed Obama in national fund-raising three months in a row. The recap: In May, Romney collected $76.8 million to Obama's $60 million; in June, Romney raised $106.1 million to $71 million for Obama.

Some of it is catch-up -- Romney has had the ability to join with the RNC for fund-raising only since the spring -- when it was clear he would become the GOP nominee.

"Once again, we see that for many people, this is more than a campaign, it is a cause," Spencer Zwick, chair of the Romney Victory National Finance Committee, said in a statement.

That's the first time I have heard the Romney White House bid likened to a movement, language often used about Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, and a word I don't hear as much -- very rarely -- about Obama's 2012 re-election bid.

I was at a June 20 Obama campaign briefing here where a top official predicted that Romney and his SuperPAC allies would outraise team Obama and his SuperPAC backers -- with the anti-Obama war chest hitting $1 billion, the Obama official said.

Romney last had a fund-raiser in Chicago in June -- picking up $3.3 million from an event at the Pump Room.

Romney's Illinois fund-raising has been bolstered by Obama 2008 donor-defectors -- one is Illinois Finance Committee co-chair business executive Susan Crown; another is hedge fund chief Kenneth Griffin, who gave to Obama and McCain in 2008. Griffin's more significant Romney help comes through his SuperPAC donations.

Obama returns to Chicago on Sunday for three fund-raisers -- with the premier event at $40,000 per person -- at his South Greenwood home. It will be the first time the grounds have been opened to donors.

A few blocks away will be a $5,000 per ticket event at the South Woodlawn home of pal Marty Nesbitt, the Obama campaign's treasurer, and his wife, Anita Blanchard. For dessert, it's a $1,000 per person reception at the home of Barbara Bowman -- whose daughter is senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.

So far in the 2012 cycle, Illinois -- not counting any SuperPAC money -- has sent $27,490,158 to Obama according to the Federal Election Commission. Romney has collected $4,719,790 from the state.

In 2008, Illinois in all chipped in $28,831,361 for Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics -- compared with $6,820,418 for McCain.

After Tuesday, Illinois Romney fund-raisers will be on a trajectory to beat the 2008 GOP presidential total.

Helping will be another Romney Chicago event on Aug. 15 -- a $500-per-ticket funder headlined by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Beth Myers, who's leading the Romney vice presidential search team.

Obama's best ZIP codes for contributions for his 2012 bid are in Chicago: 60610, 60614 and 60611. Romney's top ZIP codes -- where he outraised Obama -- were Winnetka, 60093, followed by Lake Forest, 60045.

WASHINGTON -- Back in March, before the Illinois primary, a phone interview I was supposed to have with Mitt Romney had been rescheduled -- I thought. I was in my kitchen when the phone rang and it was Romney. My laptop, notes and tape recorder were upstairs.

Romney, the GOP presidential contender, could not have been more gracious when I asked him if he could hold on until I got myself together. He gave me the amount of time I was supposed to have -- no deduction for the fumbled start. That he dodged a few questions in the course of the interview isn't my point here.

He was very nice.

Which brings me to the likeability, favorability and relatability gap in the contest between GOP contender Romney and President Barack Obama. Several surveys have been giving Obama a big edge over Romney when it comes to those key intangibles -- and it might make a difference if the election is close, as predicted.

Romney's unfavorable rating has been slipping since June, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released on Thursday.

More voters -- 52 percent -- said they had an unfavorable view of Romney compared to 37 percent who were favorable. This was -- according to Pew -- the "sixth consecutive survey over the past nine months in which (Romney's) image has been in negative territory."

When it comes to Obama, some 50 percent were favorable to 45 percent unfavorable.

There seems bad news for both rivals. According to Pew, "Obama's personal ratings are lower than most presidential candidates in recent elections."

As for Romney, Pew found that since 1988, all candidates had higher personal ratings in the final days of the contest than Romney has now.

This tracked a July Wall Street Journal/NBC poll where 47 percent said they like Romney on a personal basis. But on that same test, Obama is liked by 67 percent on a personal basis.

An offshoot of likeability is whether voters relate to a candidate. The poll found only 42 percent said Romney had a "background" and "values" they relate to -- compared to 50 percent for Obama.

A Gallup/USA Today poll in May also found a big likability gap: Obama 60 percent to Romney's 31 percent.

The survey found, Obama "holds a significant lead on caring about the needs of people and being a strong and decisive leader." Romney, in that same survey did best on the question of who would be better managing government -- 46 percent to 43 percent for Obama.

Concluded Gallup, "Romney's large deficit in likability is a potential concern, given that voters usually elect the candidate they like more. In each of the last five presidential elections, the candidate whose basic favorable rating was higher won the election each time."

The Obama team has been portraying Romney as a man who has trouble relating to everyday people. Romney has been pounded by Democrats over his tenure running Bain -- that he made money for himself and investors at the expense of everyday working people.

The GOP convention at the end of the month in Tampa gives Romney a chance to re-introduce himself. His wife, Ann, and five sons are being seen more; the job of family surrogates is almost always to humanize a candidate.

Rommey's personal story is obviously not as unique as Obama's -- he's not as culturally hip -- and he's not as good at self-deprecating humor as the president. It's a puzzle for the campaign to figure out.

Romney, Obama in Chicago

Romney hits Elk Grove Village on Tuesday for a campaign event at Acme Industries, 1325 Pratt Blvd., and headlines two fund-raisers in downtown Chicago in an Illinois campaign swing.

The fund-raisers are aimed at donors from the hospitality and manufacturing industries. Romney plans to host a "manufacturers round-table" at that industry event. President Barack Obama returns to Chicago Aug. 12 for a series of fund-raisers. On Aug. 15, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Beth Myers, who is leading Romney's vice president search, hit Chicago for a fund-raiser at the Chicago Hilton and Towers.

Obama Aug. 6, 2012 week ahead

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Following the shootings at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin on Sunday, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney issued statements:

Statement by the President on the Shooting in Wisconsin

Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.

Mitt Romney today made the following statement on today's shooting in Wisconsin:

"Ann and I extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims of today's shooting in Wisconsin. This was a senseless act of violence and a tragedy that should never befall any house of worship. Our hearts are with the victims, their families, and the entire Oak Creek Sikh community. We join Americans everywhere in mourning those who lost their lives and in prayer for healing in the difficult days ahead."


WASHINGTON--Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) thanked "the people of Illinois for their patience with this patient to recover from a big stroke" in a video posted on his Senate website on Sunday to show his progress in speaking and walking.

The 3.14 minute video shows Kirk, 52, talking to the camera from his home in Fort Sheridan, Ill.--over a symphonic musical track-- with clips showing Kirk's physical therapy sessions at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in May, June and July.

Kirk speaks slowly but clearly. He uses only his right hand in the video--to drink coffee or talk on the phone.

The Sunday video was the second released by Kirk's office--the first was a 2.5 minute video in May--to chart his comeback from his Jan. 21 stroke. He recently completed a two month "mobility study" at the Rehabilitation Institute and the video has scenes of Kirk in a harness on a treadmill and walking up stairs.

Kirk--sworn into office on Nov. 29, 2010-- said he receives daily briefings about Senate business from his staff and GOP Senate leadership.

Asked Sunday when Kirk could return to Washington, Kirk spokesman Andrew Flach told the Sun-Times in an e-mail, there is "no timeline" for his return.

"The progress that I have made has been very encouraging - learning to walk again and improving my speaking skills, all due to the experts at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago," Kirk said.

Scenes from the Sunday video included a shot of a July 26 visit he had with Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) at his home--which was posted on his Senate website the next day. Also used in the video--produced by his Senate office-- were shots taken from a recent visit by Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), all told "morale boosters," Kirk said.

Kirk's office has been issuing occasional updates on Kirk's condition. Kirk left the Rehabilitation Institute in May for out-patient treatment.

On July 27 Kirk said in a statement, "I am grateful to Dr. George Hornby, the physical therapists, and other personnel of the walking research trial at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for helping me to advance my mobility and independence over the past nine weeks.

"With their encouragement and help, within the research trial I walked an average of 3,677 steps per day, a total of 14.79 miles over ground and on the treadmill, and up 145 flights of stairs. As I move into a new phase of outpatient rehabilitation for occupational and physical therapy, I will continue to work hard in order to further regain my strength."

Kirk underwent three surgeries following his stroke which impacted the right side of his brain. Kirk wrote in a May column that his brain and speech abilities were not "impaired" and the left side of his body was initially paralyzed after the stroke.

A reason Kirk wanted to share pictures from his rehab, he said, was to "make sure that people know what my condition is, to be an example to other Illinois families that may unfortunately have to survive stroke."

At the end of the video, where Kirk thanked people for their patience with him he said it was important for people to know this about a stroke: "Your loved one can recover quite a bit."

WASHINGTON--GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney hits Elk Grove Village in addition to headlining fund-raisers in downtown Chicago on Tuesday in an Illinois campaign swing.

Romney will hold an event at Acme Industries, 1325 Pratt Blvd. in the northwest suburb--territory his campaign worked hard during the March Illinois primary.

The fund-raisers--with ticket prices ranging from $5,000 to $75,000--are aimed at donors from the hospitality and manufacturing industries. Romney plans to host a "manufacturers round-table" at that industry event.

President Barack Obama returns to Chicago Aug. 12 for a series of fund-raisers. On Aug. 15, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Beth Myers, who is leading Romney's vice president search, hit Chicago for a fund-raiser at the Chicago Hilton and Towers.

WASHINGTON -- Key dates loom on the political calendars for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney: the upcoming conventions; debates ­-- three presidential, one vice presidential -- but none perhaps as crucial as Nov. 2 may be. That's when the Labor Department releases the last jobs report before Election Day.

On Friday, the July numbers brought mixed news for the economy and the battle for the White House between Obama and Romney -- neither a decisive blow nor a triumphal turnaround: 163,000 jobs were created last month, but not enough to knock down the jobless rate, which notched up to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent the month before.

According to the latest figures, 12.8 million people in the U.S. were jobless in July with another statistic very telling: 10.8 million are considered "underemployed."

People are still dropping out of the work force, so discouraged they no longer hunt for work. The drop-out rate -- 8.8 percent in July -- "is among the lowest readings since early 2009," said Jan Eberly, Treasury Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at a Friday briefing. "It's fallen about .8 percentage points since last August, suggesting that fewer individuals are dropping out of the labor force because they're discouraged."

The market responded well to the July numbers -- the Dow Jones jumped 217 points -- but the slow growth means that Obama continues to be on the defensive when it comes to his stewardship of the economy.

With the Hispanic vote important, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis looked at the numbers through that lens. Said Solis in a statement, "The unemployment rate remained essentially unchanged at 8.3 percent, while the share of long-term unemployed fell to its lowest level since 2009. The Latino unemployment rate dropped nearly a percentage point last month to 10.3 percent."

The economy is the central issue in the campaign. The flak Romney caught last week over stumbles he made in his trip to England, Israel and Poland seems already fading as the narrative -- no surprise -- switched back Friday to jobs and the economy.

Romney, stumping in Nevada, said the July report was "another hammer blow to the struggling middle class families of America. Because the president has not had policies that put American families back to work. I do."

Over at the White House, Obama -- who turns 51 on Saturday -- said, "let's acknowledge, we've still got too many folks out there who are looking for work. We've got more work to do on their behalf, not only to reclaim all the jobs that were lost during the recession, but also to reclaim the kind of financial security that too many Americans have felt was slipping away from them for too long."

Crossroads GPS -- one of the pro-Romney SuperPACs -- one Karl Rove advises -- went up with a hard-hitting ad on Tuesday, running in nine battleground states. The spot uses a clip from the July 17 CBS News where anchor Scott Pelley said, "This is the worst economic recovery America has ever had" followed by a narrator saying, "41 straight months of unemployment over 8 percent" because of Obama's "failed stimulus policy."

July made it the 42nd month unemployment was above eight percent.

The eight percent jobless figure is a benchmark the Obama economic team set in 2009 -- when the administration was urging Congress to pass Obama's stimulus bill.

Obama is stuck with that eight percent projection.

The Obama administration looked at another statistic -- private-sector job growth for the last 29 months.

The Obama team in the past days has been focusing on taxes, hoping to widen the economic discussion from just jobs. The president again called on Congress to extend Bush-era tax cuts before the expire Dec. 31 -- but only for families making less than $250,000.

And the Obama team has been ramping up pressure on Romney to disclose more than one year of tax returns -- a call that Romney's campaign has been shrugging off.

On Thursday, the Obama campaign released a new ad to run in eight battleground states -- that among other points -- hits Romney for paying a tax rate of 14 percent on $20 million of income.

Romney and Obama gamed out Friday's jobs report -- sparing because the numbers were not conclusive.

Maybe in a few months they will be.

There could be a Nov. 2 surprise.

WASHINGTON--Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker--a draw among Republicans for surviving his recall election despite being targeted by Democrats--hits the battleground state of Virginia for Mitt Romney on Saturday.

Walker hits Leesburg--where Obama stumped on Thursday night-- for an event at a campaign office with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.).

After that, Walker appears at the "Romney for President Virginia Headquarters Grand Opening" in Arlington along with Republican National Political Director Rick Wiley.

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama turns 51 on Saturday and started the day by playing golf before departing for Camp David, where he will spend the night.

According to the pool report, Obama left the White House at "8:23 a.m. and arrived Andrews Air Force Base at 8:47 a.m. No word yet on who is playing with the president.

Also a WH official says the president will depart for Camp David, Md. from Andrews later today.


WASHINGTON--Cass Sunstein, a former University of Chicago law professor and an advisor to Barack Obama in the years running up to his presidency--who joined the administration at the start--is stepping down from his position as the
Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Sunstein was on the faculty of the U of C Law School between 1981 to 2008--during the time Obama also taught at the school. In 2008, Sunstein left to teach at Harvard Law--where he return in the fall.

Sunstein is married to Samantha Power, who serves in the Obama White House as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights. The two met during the Obama 2008 primary campaign.

Obama said in a statement, "For the last three and a half years, Cass Sunstein has helped drive a series of historic accomplishments on behalf of the American people. From putting in place lifesaving protections for America's families, to eliminating tens of millions of hours of paperwork burdens for our nation's citizens and businesses, Cass has shown that it is possible to support economic growth without sacrificing health, safety, and the environment. Cass has shepherded our review of existing rules to get rid of those that cost too much or no longer make sense, an effort that is already on track to save billions of dollars. With these reforms and his tenacious promotion of cost-benefit analysis, his efforts will benefit Americans for years to come. I can't thank him enough for his friendship and for his years of exceptional service."

Source: White House

WASHINGTON--The jobless rate for July is 8.3 percent, up from 8.2 percent in June, with 163,000 jobs created; the numbers released Friday morning--showing very slow growth and a stall in getting unemployment down--continue to create political opportunities for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney's allies--the Crossroads SuperPac has been running an ad blasting President Barack Obama for going 41 months with the jobless rate over 8 percent--Friday marks the 42nd month.

Romney statement:

"Today's increase in the unemployment rate is a hammer blow to struggling middle-class families. Yesterday I launched my Plan for a Stronger Middle Class that will bring more jobs and more take home pay. My plan will turn things around and bring the economy roaring back, with twelve million new jobs created by the end of my first term. President Obama doesn't have a plan and believes that the private sector is 'doing fine.' Obviously, that is not the case. We've now gone 42 consecutive months with the unemployment rate above eight percent. Middle class Americans deserve better, and I believe America can do better."

White House Economic Advisor Alan Kruger

While there is more work that remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the policies that build an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007. To build on the progress of the last few years, President Obama has proposed an extension of middle class tax cuts that would prevent the typical middle class family from facing a $2,200 tax increase next year. In addition, to create more jobs in particularly hard-hit sectors, President Obama continues to support the elements of the American Jobs Act that have not yet passed, including further investment in infrastructure to rebuild our Nation's ports, roads and highways, and assistance to State and local governments to prevent layoffs and rehire hundreds of thousands of teachers and first responders.

Today's report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that private sector establishments added 172,000 jobs last month, and overall non-farm payroll employment rose by 163,000. The economy has now added private sector jobs for 29 straight months, for a total of 4.5 million jobs during that period.

The household survey showed that the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3% in July (or, more precisely, the rate rose from 8.217% in June to 8.254% in July). Acting BLS Commissioner John Galvin noted in his statement that the unemployment rate was "essentially unchanged" from June to July.

The establishment survey indicated that manufacturing employment continues to expand and manufacturers added 25,000 jobs in July. After losing millions of manufacturing jobs in the years before and during the recession, the economy has added 532,000 manufacturing jobs since January 2010 - the strongest growth for any 30-month period since June 1989. Within manufacturing, motor vehicles and parts added 12,800 jobs in July, its strongest monthly growth since January 2011, partly reflecting fewer seasonal layoffs last month. To continue the revival in manufacturing jobs and output, President Obama has proposed tax incentives for manufacturers, enhanced training for the workforce, and measures to create manufacturing hubs and discourage sending jobs overseas.

Other sectors with net job increases included professional and business services (+49,000), education and health services (+38,000), leisure and hospitality (+27,000), and wholesale trade (+9,200). Within leisure and hospitality, restaurant employment rose by 29,400 jobs. Government lost 9,000 jobs as State government payrolls fell by 6,000. Local governments shed 7,000 education jobs. Since February 2010, State and local governments have lost 485,000 jobs.

As the Administration stresses every month, the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile, and employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report and it is informative to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi statement:

Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today after the Department of Labor announced that the economy added 163,000 jobs and the unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent in July. With private businesses adding 172,000 jobs, this marks the 29th consecutive month of private sector job growth:

"Last month, 163,000 jobs were created despite Republicans' refusal to work with President Obama and Democrats to create jobs, grow our economy, and ensure the economic security of our middle class.

"With too many Americans still out of work, the message remains clear: we must do more. The last thing the American people need right now is more uncertainty, more unfairness, and higher taxes on working families and small businesses. Yet House Republicans continue to stand as the lone roadblock to a middle class tax cut - preferring to hold tax relief for 100 percent of Americans hostage to extra tax breaks for the top 2 percent. Now, Republicans have decided to head home rather than work in a bipartisan way to take action to put people back to work.

"Americans can't wait. It's time for Republicans to work with Democrats and bring more fairness, opportunity, and certainty to the middle class."

House Speaker John Boehner:

"Two years after the Obama administration declared, 'welcome to the recovery,' this much is clear: with 42 consecutive months of unemployment above eight percent, the private sector still isn't 'doing fine' and President Obama's economic plan did not work. While the president is telling small businesses 'you didn't build that,' his policies are making sure they can't.

"Any new job creation is welcome news -- but with unemployment still above eight percent and rising, and millions of Americans looking for work, it is insane to raise taxes on small businesses, as the president and his allies in the Democratic-controlled Senate propose. Ernst & Young says their tax hike will destroy more than 700,000 jobs. And yet, top Democrats say they're willing to let taxes rise on middle class families, tank our economy, and impose devastating cuts to our national security if they don't get their way. It's reckless, it's wrong, and House Republicans aren't standing for it.

"A group of 88 American economists warned that we need to stop all of the tax hikes scheduled for January 1 to prevent more damage to our economy. A bipartisan majority in the House voted to do so, and to make sure no middle class family or small business sees a tax increase. We also voted in May to replace the 'sequester' defense cuts insisted on by the president. The House is ready to act at a moment's notice this August on these, and the more than 30 jobs bills we've passed, if Senate Democrats get serious about addressing the threats to our economy and our national security."

WASHINGTON--Mitt Romney's team released a web video on Thursday timed to President Barack Obama's rally this evening in Leesburg, in northern Virginia. The video hits Obama again for his remark about U.S. business--that people did not build companies on their own, part of a larger comment about the roles and relationships of government and business.

The web video, from the Romney campaign: "These Hands: Virginia." Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. But President Obama's comments show that he just doesn't understand who the real job creators are. How can he help small businesses, like those in Virginia, when he doesn't even recognize their value?"

WASHINGTON--The Obama team releases a new spot running in eight battleground states on Thursday hitting Mitt Romney for the tax rate in paid on the one year of taxes he has disclosed--14 percent-- and for not backing the Obama plan to let tax cuts expire for higher income earners. President Barack Obama stumps in Orlando and northern Virginia today.
Obama for America Releases New Television

The ad will air in New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada.

Jon Stewart delivers his take on the Chick-fil-A controversy.

On Mayor Rahm Emanuel's now famous quote that "Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago's values" ---
Stewart's retort: "We are Chicago. A city built on gambling, corruption, murder and ballot stuffing. Not intolerance."

WASHINGTON--Rep. Luis Gutierrez and Sen. Dick Durbin--both Illinois Democrats--on Wednesday taped a video warning DREAMers-- not to fall prey to expensive cons as Aug. 15 looms--the day youths in the U.S. illegally can apply to stay in the U.S. legally.

The two--leaders in the drive to help youths in the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own--launched by Durbin--recorded the video in the Senate TV studio this afternoon.

Gutierrez, Durbin and Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be at an Aug. 15 workshop at Navy Pier in Chicago to provide assistance to people applying for work permits and deferrals of government action against them.

Earlier Wednesday, Gutierrez from the House floor, warned that youth may be preyed upon by hustlers claiming to provide a service that is free.

Said Gutierrez, according to prepared text: "But first - a warning. Any progress on immigration is soon followed by some unscrupulous attempts to make money off of the backs of deserving immigrants. So I say to my friends today - be careful.

"Some immigration attorneys, some neighborhood "notarios", or others may try to take advantage of you. But there is no reason that applying for relief through President Obama's use of prosecutorial discretion should be expensive or cumbersome. If someone says the only way for a DREAMer to apply is to write a big check, my advice to DREAMers is they should run the other direction. They're being lied to."

"But DREAMers should run toward help, because help is on the way.

"In Chicago yesterday, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and I announced a workshop that will be held on August 15 - the very first day young people can apply for work permits and deferred action.

"The event will be at Navy Pier in Chicago and Mayor Emanuel, myself, and Senator Durbin, who has played such a leadership role on the DREAM Act for years, will be there. We will have all of the resources anyone needs to apply," he said.

Background from Gutierrez:

On June 15, President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano announced that they would spare certain immigrants from deportation and offer them deferred action, a two-year temporary reprieve, if they meet certain criteria. The criteria include having already lived in the U.S. for five years, being under age 16 when they arrived, being under age 31 currently, having a clean criminal record, and a high school diploma or equivalent, among other criteria.

The DREAM Act passed the House of Representatives in November 2010 by a vote of 216-198 but was blocked by a Republican-led filibuster in the Senate. It had previously passed the U.S. Senate as part of bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform in 2006. The DREAM Act was introduced in both the House and Senate previously during the current Congress.

WASHINGTON--Following a trip to England, Israel and Poland, the Mitt Romney team is stepping up organizing Jewish, Polish and Catholic voters. The campaign has been targeting voter segments for some time; the latest is announcing "leaders" and "liasions" to the campaign--all Republicans, no surprise. The names include Dr. Michael Menis, the chair of the Chicago chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition and six former GOP U.S. Ambassadors to the Vatican.

Romney Polish outreach leaders:

Honorary Chairmen

Tim Pawlenty, Former Governor Of Minnesota
Senator Lisa Murkowski
Congressman Dan Benishek

National Advisory Board

Former Majority Leader Rocky Raczkowski, Michigan State House
Stanley Grot
Ambassador Aldona Wos
Ian Brzezinski
Lt. General Ed Rowny, Retired
State Senator George Maziarz, New York
Steve Biegun
Blaise Misztal

Jewish Americans for Romney coalition

Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA)

Former Governor Linda Lingle (R-HI)

Former Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN)

Former Senator Rudy Boschwitz (R-MN)

Adam Hasner, Florida

National Advisory Board

Evan Feigenbaum

Tevi Troy

Dan Senor

Dov Zakheim

Roger Zakheim

Eliot Cohen

Ambassador Eric Edelman

Ambassador Mitchell Reiss

Aaron Friedberg

Leon Aron

Phil Rosen

Sander Gerber

Lew Eisenberg

Eric Tanenblatt

Nick Muzin

Jeremy Katz

Barry Mannis

Ben Ginsberg

Victor Chaltiel

Fred Zeidman

Bruce Bialosky

Richard Heideman

Hon. Phyllis Greenberg Heideman

Ambassador Ned Siegel

Ambassador Mel Sembler

Stanley Tate

Ted Cutler

Ambassador Sam Fox

Bobby Schostak

Alan Kaufman

Ed Levy

Jay and Ann Davis

Marty Kogon

David Flaum

Cheryl Halpern

Reuven Hahn

Steve Friedman

Michael Menis

Ambassador Cliff Sobel

National Co-Chairs, Catholics for Romney

Frank Shakespeare (U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See 1986-1989)

Tom Melady (U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See 1989-1993)

Ray Flynn (U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See 1993-1997)

Jim Nicholson (U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See 2001-2005)

Francis Rooney (U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See 2005-2008)

Mary Ann Glendon (U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See 2008-2009)

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama, at a campaign stop in Mansfield, Ohio on Wednesday congratulated swimmer Michael Phelps for his record medal haul and in praising the women's gymnastic team--nicknamed the "Fab Five"-- wondered how they do it.

Obama--who is athletic--said he can understand the mechanics of swimming and running--because he runs and swims. When it comes to gymnastics--and the ability of the U.S. females to vault through the air--he was mystified.

"Now, finally, I just think it makes sense for us to give it up for all of our outstanding American athletes who are competing in London right now. I want to congratulate Michael Phelps -- -- most medals we've ever seen. And then I had a chance on the way over here to call up the women's gymnastic team - -- for bringing home the gold," Obama said.

"I have to tell you, when I'm watching -- when people run track, I understand, I know how to run. They're just much faster. And I know how to swim -- they just swim much better than I do. These gymnastics folks -- I don't understand how they do what they do. So I told these young ladies as I was congratulating them, how do you not bust your head -- -- every time you're on that little balance beam? I couldn't walk across that balance beam.

"So, anyway, we could not be prouder of them. And there are a whole bunch of Ohioans who are representing our country in the Olympics and the Paralympics. Abby Johnston from Upper Arlington already won a silver medal in diving. We'll be rooting for Army Specialist Justin Lester from Akron -- he's going to be wrestling for America next week."

"The wonderful thing about the Olympics is it reminds us that, for all our differences, when it comes down to our country, we're Americans first. And we could not be prouder of them and everything they're doing on our behalf," he said.

Obama phoned the "Fab Five" on Wednesday to congratulate each one--Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross and Gabby Douglas.

According to Press Secretary Jay Carney, here's what Obama said:

To Aly: "Michelle and have watched and decided of all the Olympians you guys amaze us the most."

To Jordan: "I'm so impressed by how you bounced back and led the team. Tell your parents I'm proud of them too. I don't think I could watch if I were them."

To McKayla: "Way to nail that vault. It was unbelievable."

To Kyla: He remarked how she was "really steady."

"I was impressed by how cool you were. I don't know how you do what you do especially the balance beam."

To Gabby: "You just tore it up. I know how hard you worked to get there." And: "Keep at it. Stay cool."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama traveled to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in London without Malia and Sasha--because both girls are at overnight summer camp. This is the first year Sasha has gone; Malia is a camp veteran. President Barack Obama on Wednesday while stumping in Ohio stopped in a shop to inquire about sending a care package to his kids.

Campaigning in Mansfield, Ohio, Obama visited a fudge store and, according to the pool report, told a staffer, "Malia and Sasha left me for the summer."

"They're off at camp. And I don't want them to forget me so I was thinking about putting a little care package together. What do you think?"

from the pool report....

LaDonna Secrist, the owner: "Do you have a place to keep it cool?"

Obama: "Yeah, well, I'll have to get it back to the plane, but once I get to the plane it'll be OK."

Secrist asks Potus to try the fudge. She squeezes a bit onto his finger. He eats it.

Obama: "That's some amazing chocolate right there. In case you're wondering, that's premium chocolate. It tastes great."

Obama: "I didn't realize I'd get this display of how this chocolate is made."

Secrist explains how the chocolate is made but the conversation was inaudible to your pool.

The president began looking over the merchandise and picked out a box of chocolate for Michelle as the pool was exiting.

Via Wall Street Journal reporter Laura Meckler, with an assist from Reid Epstein.

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama phoned the "Fab Five" --the Olympic-gold medal winning U.S. women gymnasts-- on Wednesday to congratulate each one--Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross and Gabby Douglas.

According to Press Secretary Jay Carney, here's what Obama said:

To Aly: "Michelle and have watched and decided of all the Olympians you guys amaze us the most."

To Jordan: "I'm so impressed by how you bounced back and led the team. Tell your parents I'm proud of them too. I don't think I could watch if I were them."

To McKayla: "Way to nail that vault. It was unbelievable."

To Kyla: He remarked how she was "really steady."

"I was impressed by how cool you were. I don't know how you do what you do especially the balance beam."

To Gabby: "You just tore it up. I know how hard you worked to get there." And: "Keep at it. Stay cool."

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney wrapped up his clouded three-nation tour Tuesday as the Democrats are rolling out their convention speakers -- with first lady Michelle Obama keynoting the first night.

Romney's trip to England, Israel and Poland seemed to do more harm than good because of gaffes and controversies. But is it real damage or just a bad patch? Too soon to tell because it's not known yet if the Obama team will use paid advertising to keep the Romney goofs in front of voters in battleground states.

The July jobs report comes out on Friday and if the numbers don't improve, the story switches back to President Barack Obama's handling of the economy, the enduring issue of this campaign -- not international relations.

Narratives can change fast.

Obama strategist Robert Gibbs -- a bit gleeful in his abundant criticism of Romney's trip -- said in a Tuesday conference call with reporters, "He certainly didn't prove to anyone that he passed the commander-in-chief test." Romney was an "embarrassing disaster."

"He may not have the discipline to handle those delicate diplomatic interactions that are required for the president of the United States. Romney was auditioning to be the leader of the free world and it was clear he was simply unable to represent America on the world stage," Gibbs said.

Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in reply to Gibbs, "Romney has laid out a foreign policy that will strengthen our interests, ensure our security, and let our friends know they have a partner in the White House."

Bad national press continued on the last day of the Romney trip. Traveling press spokesman Rich Gorka swore at reporters who shouted questions at Romney as he was getting into a car after visiting the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

"Show some respect," said Gorka. When two scribes complained that Romney was ignoring his traveling press -- he only took three questions from them on the trip -- Gorka said "Kiss my ass. This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect."

Gorka had a point -- minus the cussing.

Romney also got in a jam with some Palestinian leaders when he said at a fund-raiser in Jerusalem that "culture" explains why the Israelis are more prosperous than their neighbors.

He defended his remarks in an article posted at the National Review and circulated by his campaign:

"But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture? In the case of the United States, it is a particular kind of culture that has made us the greatest economic power in the history of the earth."

Democratic convention

In 2008, Mrs. Obama used the occasion of the Democratic Convention to redo her image. Four years later she is one of the most popular figures in the Obama administration and will kick off the opening night of the 2012 Democratic Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 4, convention officials announced Tuesday.

Also on the stage the first night: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who will be the first Latino to keynote a Democratic convention.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- Obama's former chief of staff -- will have a speaking role. Former President Bill Clinton will deliver the prime-time nominating address on Wednesday, Sept. 5.

Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren gets a high-profile speaking assignment -- she will speak before Clinton -- in order to boost her race against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Biden will speak at the Bank of America Stadium Sept. 6 before Obama accepts his second nomination.

WASHINGTON--With the decision nearing, Mitt Romney campaign will announce his choice for vice president on a new app, which will also allow his campaign to harvest information about potential voters. The Obama campaign in 2008 used text messages to let people who signed up know first that Joe Biden would be his running mate. Both apps are designed for iPhones and Androids.

"The first official way to learn the name of the Republican Vice Presidential candidate is by using our new 'Mitt's VP' app," said Romney Digital Director Zac Moffatt in statement. "Users of the app will be the first to get the news on the biggest political decision of the year through an instantaneous alert on the one device most people carry around the clock - their phone."

"As soon as the Vice Presidential choice is announced, users will receive a push notification on their smart phone. The new app will allow users to share the exciting news on their own social networks.

"Mitt's VP," downloadable for free on both iPhone and Android platforms, is the latest innovation by the Romney campaign to engage supporters and reach new voters using a host of social media tools."

Meanwhile, the Obama team unveiled a new app to help volunteers organize--bringing the campaign office into the pocket.

"The campaign's strength has always come from the millions of grassroots supporters who are organizing in their communities and talking to their neighbors about President Obama every day," said Stephanie Cutter, Obama for America deputy campaign manager in a statement. "As we push through the last 100 days of this election, our focus remains on helping make grassroots organizing as easy and accessible as possible for the volunteers and supporters that are the heart and soul of this campaign. That's why we designed our new app to help break down the distinction between online and offline organizing, giving every supporter the same opportunities to get involved that they would find in a field office."

Obama donates to his campaign

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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