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September 2012 Archives

Lindsey Lohan and a staffer for Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) got into it Sunday after the two were in her New York hotel room and they had an argument over cellphone pictures. The staffer is Christian LaBella and here is a state from Shimkus spokesman Steve Tomaszewski:

"While no one from Congressman Shimkus' office has been contacted by Mr. LaBella following his arrest, he has been an employee in the Congressman's Washington office. Obviously, the Congressman does not condone his actions. As this is a legal matter for Mr. LaBella, the Congressman nor his office will make further comment."

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will have a rare joint encounter--when they share the debate stage Wednesday in Denver. They hardly know each other. The two first met in 2004--when they both spoke at the Winter Gridiron dinner--just after Obama was elected to an Illinois Senate seat--not yet even sworn-in--but clearly a rising star. In contrast, when Obama ran against Sen. John McCain in 2008--he faced a Senate colleague he knew personally for a few years.

Below, what I wrote about Obama and Romney speeches at the December, 2004 Winter Gridiron Dinner.

Democrat Obama and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, both rising stars in their parties, keynoted Saturday's winter Gridiron Club dinner in Washington. Each used heavy doses of self-deprecating humor before the black-tie gathering of journalists. (Disclosure: I am in the club. )

Both men are mentioned as possible 2008 contenders, and that provided much grist for their respective funny shticks. Obama and Romney, the dueling stars, were very, very good. Romney was better, mainly because he also sang (a ditty to the tune of "Charley and the MTA") and he came with a witty visual presentation.

'Nowhere to go but down'

Romney had a few zingers aimed at Obama. Obama, he said, is not seeking the limelight" after all. Obama has said that again and again"-- then Romney named some of the many national shows Obama has been on just in the past few weeks.

Obama, who went on first, said everything changed for him after he keynoted the Democratic convention.

"It's like I was shot out of a cannon. I am so overexposed, I make Paris Hilton look like a recluse. "After all the attention -- People magazine, GQ, Vanity Fair, Letterman -- I figure there's nowhere to go from here but down. So tonight, I announce my retirement from the United States Senate. I had a good run."

He said he was not letting all the attention go to his head. He joked that he was hanging out with Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson at a Los Angeles restaurant when Barbra Steisand called him on his cell phone.

And he counseled her, you can't just get caught up in the hype."

Of course, all the hype, said Obama, generates wacky tabloid coverage." And with that he hoisted a poster, a mock cover of the National Enquirer with the headline: Obama's shocking secret. He's Strom Thurmond's love child."

It is tough, kidded Obama, to live up to all the expectations. There are people in Kenya, his father's homeland, who expect his election to mean the United States will fund new roads, new bridges and new schools.

Joked Obama, "I had to explain to them how it works. First comes the invasion, and then billions in aid."

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


WASHINGTON--New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie--in an unusual move--on Sunday raised expectations for Mitt Romney in the Wednesday debate, claiming that Romney will do so well against President Barack Obama that he will be able to "restart" his lagging campaign.

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Debate challenges: Obama, verbosity; Romney, making human connections. Read all about it in my pre-debate column HERE.
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Christie, a top surrogate for Romney, was asked by David Gregory, host of NBC's "Meet the Press." "is the race over?"

Christie came back with a strong rejoinder, parked between two difficult places: say the unthinkable and agree that Romney may not catch up with Obama--ahead in battleground state polls--or come up with a reason why the contest is not over.

The first of three presidential debates is Wednesday night in Denver--and until Christie spoke on Meet the Press, the Romney and Obama teams were working the same storyline, that is, each one faces an uphill climb in Denver.

Christie said a good debate showing will swiftly turn things around for Romney. So is the race over?

Said Christie," Absolutely not. And that happened pretty quickly, right, David? I mean, you saw the change in those polls happen very quickly. And I'm here to tell you this morning, it can happen very quickly back the other way. And I think the beginning of that is Wednesday night when Governor Romney for the first time gets on the same stage with the president of the United States and people can make a direct comparison about them and their visions for the future. And Wednesday night's the restart of this campaign. And I think you're going to see those numbers start to move right back in the other direction. ... You're going to have tens of millions of people for the very first time, David, really tuning in and paying attention to this race. And also, for the first time, you're going to have them be able to make a direct, side-by-side comparison."

WASHINGTON -- Heading toward the first debate, David Axelrod, President Barack Obama's top strategist, said Mitt Romney will be a "prepared, disciplined and aggressive debater" in a Friday memo.

Beth Myers, a senior adviser to Romney, praised Obama "as one of the most talented political communicators in modern history" in her Thursday pre-debate memo.

Axelrod and Myers -- in arguing who is the bigger underdog before the first debate Wednesday in Denver -- were engaging in what is now a ritual: lowering expectations.

But there is an answer as to who is the underdog: It is Romney because he takes to the stage at the University of Denver with a crushing challenge: he needs to jump-start his campaign.

Despite a lagging economy -- which Romney's team always figured would doom Obama's chances for a second term -- polls show the president is building solid leads in every battleground state.

Romney also has the enormous disadvantage of debating a president who daily for years has been dealing with -- in real life -- Congress, world leaders and a variety of incredibly complex subjects Romney only has been studying.

Any Romney turnaround strategy requires strong debate performances, which includes overcoming the damage from that secret Florida fund-raising video showing him seemingly disparaging 47 percent of the voters.

Then there are the intangibles, not insignificant for Romney who has struggled to connect with people. A reason that secret videotape was so harmful: it fed into the narrative that Romney is so rich he does not relate to everyday people.

Beyond any issue or attack on Obama, Romney needs to show he is capable of connecting at a human level.

Obama is under pressure to avoid self-inflicted wounds. Romney's team spent the summer and the Republican convention feeding off of Obama's "you didn't build that" remark now, in hindsight, an ill-advised and needless rhetorical flourish.

Keeping it short, direct and parse-proof is no small task for Obama, who has not been forced to rein in his verbosity since Oct. 15, 2008, his third and final debate with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

And, as Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer noted Friday in a memo, unlike 2008 -- with no incumbent running -- Obama "goes into the debates with a record."

Three debates

There are also three debates in the 2012 race for the White House, each 90 minutes. Denver -- on Obama's 20th wedding anniversary -- is followed by debates Oct. 16 on Long Island, near New York and Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla. -- just a few miles from the home where that secret Romney video was shot.

Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan face off Oct. 11 in Kentucky.

Denver is supposed to deal with domestic policy; the solo moderator is Jim Lehrer, the executive director of the PBS "NewsHour." Subject to change if there are news developments, as of Friday the six, 15-minute segments will focus on the economy, health care, the role of government and governing.

Whether Lehrer asks or not, Obama and Romney each could benefit from persuasive arguments about their vision for the future of Medicare, a topic where Romney is on the defensive.

Medicare jumped on the front burner last month, when Romney tapped Ryan, who has proposed revamping Medicare, as his running mate.

A Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Thursday showed that voters in Florida, Ohio and Virginia trusted Obama over Romney when it comes to the health insurance program covering all seniors in the U.S.

Since 1988, all general election debates have been organized by the nonprofit, bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. Chicago attorney Newton Minow sits on the CPD board.

While the commission sponsors the debates, a variety of details, such as whether the rivals stand or sit and what the stage looks like, are negotiated by the campaigns -- in 2012, it's the top lawyers for the campaigns, Bob Bauer for Obama and Ben Ginsberg for Romney.

Debates small -- but big

The debates won't change a lot of minds. A Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll released Thursday showed that more than 92 percent of likely voters in battleground Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania are decided.

But not a lot of minds need to be changed to determine the November outcome. The 2012 race for some time has been about a small number of undecided voters in swing states -- who might just now be starting to pay attention.

That Quinnipiac poll found that likely voters will be tuning in: 91 percent in Florida, 87 percent in Ohio and 86 percent in Pennsylvania plan on watching the upcoming debates.

Both Romney and Obama have been practicing for the debates; Obama motorcaded to the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill Friday for a prep session.

Obama heads to battleground Nevada on Sunday for three days of intensive debate camp in Henderson, locating in the Las Vegas suburb to squeeze more support out of Democratic vote-rich Clark County.

In rehearsals, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has played the role of Obama for Romney while Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) portrays the former Massachusetts governor for Obama.

The debates "set a context for the last stretch of the campaign," commission co-chair Mike McCurry told me.

"Obama and Romney are really going to engage each other and really have a serious debate about their different philosophies," McCurry said.

I asked Minow, who has been involved in presidential debates for decades, if he had any advice.

Said Minow, "Think before you speak."

WASHINGTON--Mitt Romney's team is continuing on Saturday--in ad buys in battlegrounds Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia--to woo undecided voters with the theme of what a "disappointment" President Barack Obama has been.

Per the RNC: "The Republican National Committee's independent expenditure is out with a new TV ad "Golden." After spending $800 billion on a stimulus program that didn't work and experiencing four years of massive spending with no end in sight, it's time to make a change."

The independent expenditure has put in $4 million in reserved air time, according to the RNC.

The 30-second spot uses the "fool me once, shame on him, fool me twice, It's time to make a change," pitch playing for swing voters who cast a ballot for Obama in 2008.

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama decided not to do face-to-face meetings with global leaders in New York for the United Nations General Assembly this week, outside of courtesy calls to UN officials. The lack of in-person meetings drew fire from Mitt Romney and other GOP critics. Obama delivered a major speech to the UN on Tuesday. While it may be just too close to the election for Obama one-on-ones, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton held 25 meetings with leaders from around the world, a State Department spokesman said Friday.

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Netanyahu talks to Obama, Romney on Friday: Read my post on the conversations HERE
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Mike Hammer, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, recapping Clinton's week told reporters Friday, "since arriving last Sunday and starting her meetings then, held 25 bilateral and trilateral meetings.

"And that is in addition to events that covered every region of the world. For example, you saw the U.N. secretary-general's meeting on the Sahel. We had a trans-Atlantic dinner with EU and NATO foreign ministers. We had a Central American ministerial. We had an ASEAN foreign ministers meeting.

"And even today you still are seeing quite a bit of activity with the ad hoc ministerial on Syria in which the secretary announced an additional $15 million in assistance to the opposition, bringing the total of our assistance to the opposition to 45 million (dollars). And she also announced an additional 30 million (dollars) in humanitarian assistance, bringing the total of humanitarian assistance that we provide today to 130 million (dollars). She also participated in key events on Feed the Future, gender equality and UNAIDS."

WASHINGTON--Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed Iran's quest for nuclear weapons in phone calls Friday with President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Netanyahu, in New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting, also met Friday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Netanyahu on Thursday warned the UN about Iran's march towards becoming a nuclear power.

Read the transcript of Netanyahu's UN speech HERE


From the White House:

Readout of the President's Call with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu

President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke today as part of their regular consultations, and to follow up on Secretary Clinton's meeting with the Prime Minister. The two leaders discussed a range of security issues, and the President reaffirmed his and our country's unshakeable commitment to Israel's security. The two leaders underscored that they are in full agreement on the shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The Prime Minister welcomed President Obama's commitment before the United Nations General Assembly to do what we must to achieve that goal. The two leaders took note of the close cooperation and coordination between the Governments of the United States and Israel regarding the threat posed by Iran - its nuclear program, proliferation, and support for terrorism - and agreed to continue their regular consultations on this issue going forward.



Background, Mitt Romney campaign:

Gov. Romney and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed a number of topics of mutual interest to the United States and Israel. They agreed that the largest security threat to Israel and the entire world is a nuclear-capable Iran. The Prime Minister and the Governor agreed that an Iran with nuclear weapons capability is unacceptable. Governor Romney reiterated his belief that the United States has no greater friend and ally in the region than Israel.

Additionally, this call was a good opportunity for Governor Romney to catch up with his friend, Prime Minister Netanyahu--as you may recall, they had an official meeting when the Governor was in Israel this summer. Governor Romney also had the honor, while there, of breaking fast with the Prime Minister and his family at the conclusion of Tisha B'Av.

Mitt in Pennsylvania

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WASHINGTON--After overnighting in Chicago, First Lady Michelle Obama heads to the battleground states of Iowa and Wisconsin. She hits a rally at Lawrence University in Appleton and the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Iowa started early voting on Thursday and the Obama campaign is making a big push to lock in votes as early as possible.

The "you started it" reference in Mrs. Obama's Tweet is this: Obama won the Iowa caucus during the 2008 Democratic primary season--Iowa was the first state to vote--and the victory propelled Obama on the path to win the Democratic nomination--and the White House.

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First Lady Michelle Obama's motorcade zipped through parts of Chicago on Thursday en route to two fund-raisers she was headlining and a taping of the Steve Harvey show at NBC Tower. The second fund-raiser targeted major gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender donors and was held at the home of businessman Fred Eychaner, one of the biggest Democratic donors in the nation.

Below, the pool report from Natasha Korecki of the Chicago Sun-Times....

Pool report: (A transcript of FLOTUS remarks will be sent out, please check quotes against that).

The second of two Chicago fund-raisers featuring First Lady Michelle Obama was held at the multi-level, Lincoln Park home of mega Democratic donor Fred Eychaner.

Upon entering up a stone staircase to the upper-level patio, a sign on the glass door read: "Obama pride. LGBT for Obama."

Tickets for the event started at $250 and will benefit the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee of Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties.

About 200 people of the mostly LGBT event stood in a long, rectangular-shaped room as they awaited the First Lady. Some were holding wine glasses. One man, dressed in a suit, held a bottle of Champagne. The patio of the three-story modern-styled home featured towering concrete walls and wall-length glass windows.

Wearing a cream-colored pant-suit, FLOTUS walked before a lectern and teleprompter. Three American flags were staged behind her. She began her remarks at about 7 p.m. She spoke for about 28 minutes.

She first noted she had visited the home before.

"This is the second time I've been in this house," she said.

She singled out some people to thank, including U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)

FLOTUS talked about growing up on the South Side of Chicago and the values she was taught there, including the value of hard work over wealth.

She talked about community.

"No one is where they are on their own," she said. "You value everyone's contributions. You treat everyone with respect."

She said her husband espouses those values.

She spoke of her husband as someone who made the hard decisions and sometimes had to break bad news to the American people.

"It is important to have a president who doesn't just tell you what we want to hear but who tells you the truth," she said.

At that, one supporter yelled YES! YES!

She said the president was handed an economic mess when he first took office.

"Instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, Barack got to work." That won loud whistles and cheers. The crowd then drowned her out with cheers when she began talking about jobs the president had created.

She said her husband knew the value of having the freedom to be "married to the love of their life," to loud cheers.

She then turned to battleground states and implored the crowd that there was still much work to be done. "The only guarantee you have in this election is it will be closer than the last one."

"Focus with me," she said, putting her fingers up to her eyes, signaling everyone to pay close attention. She then told the crowd not to take anything for granted. "We need to work harder than ever." She noted the wins in battleground states in 2008 were by just slim margins.

She implored supporters to visit dashboardbarackobama.com where they could make phone calls to battleground states.

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the First Lady

For Immediate Release September 27, 2012

REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY

AT A CAMPAIGN EVENT

Harpo Studios

Chicago, Illinois

5:47 P.M. CDT

MRS. OBAMA: Chicago! I'm home! (Applause.) Oh, you guys, thank you. Rest yourselves! We're at Harpo! (Applause.) Oh my goodness, let me just tell you, I'm home because I was in the back having some Italian fiesta pizza. (Applause.) And of course they put Garrett popcorn in my car. (Applause.) It's just wrong. (Laughter.) Just wrong. But it reminds me that I'm home, and I am thrilled to be here with all of you. Really, I am so thrilled. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)

I want to start by thanking a few people -- some who are still here, some had to go. I know that our dear friend, Senator Durbin, was here along with Congresswoman Schakowsky, Jan, my girl. (Applause.) Thank you all. Thanks for coming. Thank you for bringing your friends and supporters. Thank you for your leadership and service for the great state of Illinois and for our country. We are so grateful. They have just been just dear, dear friends.

And of course, I want to recognize all of our event hosts who helped to make this an oversold, over-packed, outrageously successful event today. Thank you to all our friends and supporters. Well done. Well done! (Applause.)

But most of all, I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here today, and for being so enthusiastic. I know you all are pretty fired up and ready to go. I know that. I know that! (Applause.) And I have to tell you that I'm feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself. (Laughter.)

Because being here with all of you today is not just about being home again, but it's also about getting the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite things. I get to talk with you about the man I have loved and admired since I first met him 23 years ago. (Applause.)

See, everybody talks about how wonderful the convention speech was, but I tell people, I had good material to work with -- (laughter) -- good material. Now, what I've been sharing with people is back when I first met Barack, he had everything going for him. He was handsome -- still is. (Laughter.) He was definitely charming, talented, and as many of our friends know, very, very smart, right?

But that's not why I married him. What truly made me fall in love with my husband was his character. It was his decency and honesty, that compassion and conviction that he has always had. I loved that Barack was so committed to serving others that he turned down high-paying jobs and instead started his career fighting to get folks back to work in struggling communities.

And I loved that Barack was so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life -- you hear that, fellas? (Laughter.) I saw the respect he had for his mother. I saw how proud he was that she put herself through school while supporting him and his sister as a single mother. I saw the tenderness he felt for his grandmother. I saw how grateful he was that long after she should have retired, she was still waking up every morning and catching that bus to her job at the community bank, doing everything she could to help support his family.

And, yes, he watched as she was passed over for promotions simply because she was a woman. But he saw how she kept getting up, kept doing that same job year after year, without complaint, without regret.

See, with Barack, I found a real connection because in his life story, I saw so much of my own. As you all know, growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I watched my father -- (applause) -- yes, South Side! South Side! (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: South Side!

MRS. OBAMA: South Side. (Laughter.) But I watched my father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant just right up the way. And I saw how he carried himself with that same dignity, that same pride in providing in his family, that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of. So many of us have people like that in our lives, don't we?

Like so many families in this country, our families weren't asking for much. They didn't want much. They didn't begrudge anyone else's success, and they didn't mind if others had much more than they did. In fact, they admired it. That's why they pushed us. They simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don't start out with much, if you work hard and do what you're supposed to do then you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and grandkids.

And they believed that when you've worked hard and done well, and you've walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don't slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.)

And that's how Barack and I and so many of you were raised. Those are the values that we were taught. We learned that how hard you work matters more than how much you make. We learned that the truth matters -- so you don't take shortcuts, you don't game the system, you don't play by your own set of rules. We learned that no one gets where they are on their own, that each of us has a community of people lifting us up every day -- from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean. (Applause.)

And we were all taught, especially if you're from here, that you value everyone's contribution. You treat everyone with respect. Absolutely. (Applause.) We learned about citizenship and service -- that we're all a part of something bigger than ourselves; that with our freedoms come obligations, and with our blessings come a duty to give back to others who have less.

These are the values that make Barack -- (applause) -- oh, yes -- such an extraordinary husband to me, such a phenomenal father to our girls. But, see, Barack's values matter to me not just as a wife and as a mother, but also as a First Lady, also as a citizen who has seen up close and personal what being President really looks like, and just how critical -- how critical those values are for leading this country.

See, over the past three and a half years, I have seen how the issues that come across a President's desk, they're always the hard ones -- the decisions that aren't just about the bottom line, but they're about laying a foundation for the next generation. And I've seen how important it is to have a President who doesn't just tell us what we want to hear, but who tells us the truth -- even when it's hard; especially when it's hard. (Applause.)

And I've seen that when it comes times to make those tough calls, when everyone's urging you to do what's easy, what polls best, what gets good headlines -- see, as President, you must be driven by the struggles, hopes and dreams of all the people you serve. (Applause.) As President, you've got to have a strong inner compass, a core commitment to your fellow citizens. That's how you make the right decisions for this country. That's what it takes to be a leader.

And let me tell you something, since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that's exactly what we've seen in my husband. We have seen his values at work. Let me tell you, we have seen his vision unfold. We have seen the depths of his character, courage and conviction -- we've seen it.

I mean, think back to when Barack first took office. You all were there. Many of you were there with us. (Applause.) But after that wonderful Inauguration Day, our economy was on the brink of collapse. Newspapers were using words like "meltdown," "calamity;" declaring "Wall street implodes," "Economy in Shock." For years, folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn't afford. Their mortgages were underwater. Banks weren't lending, companies weren't hiring. The auto industry was in crisis.

And this economy -- this one -- was losing 800,000 jobs every single month. And a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression. All right, you hear me? And this is what faced Barack on day one as President. This is what awaited him. (Applause.)

But instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, your President got to work because he was thinking about folks like my dad. He was thinking about folks like his grandmother. (Applause.)

And that's why he cracked down on lending abuses, so that today, when you apply for a mortgage or a credit card, you know exactly what you're getting into. That's why he cut taxes for small businesses and for working families -- because he believes that in America, teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. Not in America. (Applause.)

He got the auto industry back on its feet -- (applause) -- and today, new cars are rolling off the line at proud American companies like GM.

And yes, while we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, we have had 30 straight months of private sector job growth -- a total of 5.1 million new jobs. Did you hear me -- 5.1 million new jobs under this administration -- good jobs, right here in the United States of America. That's where we are under this President.

And when it comes to the health of our families, see, Barack didn't care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically, because that's not who he is. He cared that it was the right thing to do. (Applause.) And thankfully, today, because of that reform he fought for, our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. Our kids can stay on our insurance until they're 26 years old thanks to health reform. (Applause.)

Insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, with no out-of-pocket cost. (Applause.) They won't be able to discriminate against you because you have a preexisting condition like diabetes or even asthma.

And here's one that really gets me: that if you get a serious illness -- let's say breast cancer -- and you need expensive treatment, they can no longer tell you, sorry, you've hit your lifetime limit and we're not paying a penny more. That is now illegal because of health reform -- today. (Applause.)

And when it comes to giving our kids the education they deserve, Barack knows that like me and like so many of you, he never, never could have attended college without financial aid. Never. In fact, what I shared at the convention is that our combined student monthly loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. I know there are people here who can relate to that. (Applause.)

So when it comes to student debt, see, Barack and I, we've been there. This is not a hypothetical. That is why Barack doubled funding for Pell grants. That's why he fought so hard to keep interest rates down. (Applause.) Because, fortunately, we have a President who wants all of our young people to have the skills they need for the jobs of the future -- good jobs they can raise a family on; jobs that drive our economy -- will drive it for decades to come.

And finally, when it comes to standing up for the lives of women, when it comes to standing up for our rights and responsibilities -- (applause) -- we know that my husband will always have our backs -- always. (Applause.) Because, see, Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren't treated fairly in the workplace. He knows what it means when women struggle to meet the demands of their jobs and the needs of their families. And today, believe me, as a father, he knows what it means to want our daughters to have the same freedoms and opportunities as our sons. (Applause.)

And that is why the very first bill he signed as President was to help get -- women get equal pay for equal work -- the very first thing he did as President. (Applause.) And that is why he will always, always fight to ensure that women -- that we can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. That's what my husband stands for. (Applause.)

So when people ask you what this President has done for our country, when you're running into folks who are still deciding who is the best person to keep this country moving forward for four more years, see, here is what I want you to tell them. Just a few things. I want you to tell them about the millions of jobs Barack has created. I want you to tell them about health reform that he passed. I want you to tell them about all those kids today who can finally afford college.

I want you to tell them that Barack ended the war in Iraq. Tell them how we took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Tell them how Barack fought to get veterans and military families the benefits they've earned. (Applause.)

Tell them about young immigrants brought to America through no fault of their own, who will no longer be deported from the only country they've ever called home. Tell them about that. (Applause.)

Tell them how brave men and women in uniform will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)

I could go on and on and on. But here is something else: Tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he's lived it. (Applause.) And he is fighting every day so that everyone in this country can have that same opportunity no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love. (Applause.)

But let's be clear: While he is very proud of what we've all achieved together, trust me, my husband is nowhere near satisfied. See, Barack knows that too many folks are still struggling. He knows there's plenty of work left to be done. And it's going to take a lot longer than four years to rebuild an economy from the brink of collapse. That's what President Clinton said. (Applause.)

But since he took office, let me tell you what I know for sure -- since we're here at Harpo. (Laughter.) Barack has been fighting for us. He has been struggling with us. See, and together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. For three and a half years, we have been moving forward and making progress, and we are beginning to see that change we all can believe in.

So we have to step back and ask ourselves, are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into this hole in the first place?

AUDIENCE: No!

MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to just sit back and watch everything we've worked for and fought for to just slip away?

AUDIENCE: No!

MRS. OBAMA: What are we going to do? Or are we going to keep moving this country forward?

But in the end, what we have to understand is that the answer to these questions is on us. In the end, it's up to us. Because what we have to understand is that all of our hard work, all this wonderful progress that we've made, it's all on the line. It's all at stake this November. It can all be gone.

And as my husband has said, this election will be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee you're going to get. And it could all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like Iowa or Wisconsin.

And I've been trying to put this in perspective for folks as I travel around, because I want you to think back to what happened in 2008. Back then, we won Iowa by about 147,000 votes, okay? So, now, that might sound like a lot, but when you break it down, that's just 87 votes per precinct in that state. Do you hear? Eighty-seven votes, all right? And if you look at North Carolina, we won that by 14,000 votes. That's just five votes per precinct.

So that could mean just a couple of votes in a neighborhood, right? That's just a couple of votes in somebody's apartment building. So if there is anyone here or anyone you know who is sitting back thinking that their vote doesn't count, that their involvement doesn't matter, that in this complex political process that ordinary folks can't possibly make a difference, I want you to think about that 87. I want you to think about that five. Just think about that.

I want you to think about how with just a few evenings on a phone bank, with just a few hours knocking on doors -- young folks, a few of you right here in this room could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. And if we win enough precincts, we will win those battleground states. And we will win enough of those states -- we'll put Barack back in the White House for four more years. It doesn't take much. (Applause.)

Look at this room -- the power of this room. We take this energy, and from now until November, if everybody in this room and in all the rooms that I'm going to talk to between now and November the 6th, if everybody in all those rooms, every single day you work like you've never worked before -- yeah, we need you to do that. We need you to find one of our volunteers who is here today. You can start today, before you leave. They have clipboards. They will find you. (Laughter.) But look for them.

And if you haven't already done it, we need you to sign up with them. Sign up to make phone calls, because you can call into a battleground state from your own home. We need you to pack your bags, go to Iowa, go to Wisconsin. I know there are a lot of you -- there are folks here from Ohio today. That's another battleground state. We need you to go to those states and help get the vote out. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Go, Buckeyes!

MRS. OBAMA: Go, Buckeyes. (Laughter.)

And more importantly, we want you to talk to everyone you know. Don't underestimate that. Talk to your friends, your neighbors, that nephew you haven't seen in a while. You know he's not registered. (Laughter.) That high school classmate you haven't spoken to in years -- talk to him. You never know the power of a good conversation, what that can do. Tell them what's at stake.

Remind them of all these things that this President has accomplished in such a short period of time. Make sure they're registered. Don't assume. People have to be registered to vote, especially if they've just moved. Or maybe they're a student away at college -- any students, parents of students, are they registered? Did they change their address? What are they doing? Are they awake? Go find them. Talk to them. (Laughter.) Make sure they're ready.

And for young people who have never voted before, anyone who has never voted before, you've got to register. You can't just show up on Election Day and go, I'm ready! Fired up! They will send you home. (Laughter.)

And once folks are registered and you've done that work, you've had those conversations, then make sure they get to the polls on November the 6th. Make sure they cast their ballot on Election Day. And if they don't know where to go, as you were told, or what to do, just send them to one of the many websites -- gottaregister.com, gottavote.com. Very easy -- those sites work. Have young people get on those -- click, they register early, they vote early; they do everything on a computer now. That's where they can find everything they need to make their voices heard on November the 6th.

And I'm going to be honest. I always am. I try to be honest with you, don't I? (Applause.) We don't take anything for granted. This journey is going to be hard, and these next days are going to be long. Oh, gosh, 41 [40] days is just ticking by. (Laughter.)

But here's the thing. As you work, and when you get tired -- and you will; when you start to think about taking some time off -- and you will, I just want you to remember that what we do for the next 40 days will absolutely make the difference between waking up on November the 7th, the day after Election Day, and wondering, "Could I have done more?", or feeling the promise of four more years. That's the difference. (Applause.)

So from now until the November the 6th, we need you to keep on working and struggling and pushing forward, because here is the thing -- that is how change always happens in this country. I say that everywhere I go. I remind people that's how change always happens. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know is right -- see, the thing is, especially for our young people to understand, we eventually get there. We always do. In this country, we have always moved forward. Always. (Applause.) But here's the trick: Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children's lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes.

Because in the end, that's what this is about. Let us not forget that is what elections are always about. Don't let anyone tell you any differently. Elections are always about hope. (Applause.)

It's like the hope I saw on my dad's face as I crossed that stage to get my college diploma. The hope of Barack's grandmother that she felt when she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. (Applause.) The hope of all those men and women in our lives who worked that extra shift for us, who saved and sacrificed and prayed so that we could have something a little more. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our children and our grandchildren.

That is why all of us are here today -- because we are doing this for our kids. We want all of our kids to have a foundation for their dream. (Applause.) We want to give all our kids opportunities worthy of their promise, because every single one of our children in this country, they're worthy. We want to give our kids that sense of limitless possibility -- that belief that here in the greatest country on the planet, there is always something better out there if you're willing to work for it.

So here's what I tell myself when I get tired: We cannot turn back now. Not now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do.

So are you all ready for this? (Applause.) Are you all fired up? (Applause.) Are you all ready to go? (Applause.) Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and get on the phone? Shake that nephew? Get folks registered to vote? I'm going to be working every single day until November the 6th. I need you all with us every step of the way.

Thank you all. Love you so much. God bless you. Let's get it done. (Applause.)

END 6:16 P.M. CDT


First Lady Michelle Obama is in Chicago for two Thursday fund-raisers and a taping of the Steve Harvey show at NBC Tower.

Below, a pool report from the funder at Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studio's by Rick Pearson of the Chicago Tribune....

Pool Report: The scene for the first of two hometown Chicago fundraisers featuring First Lady Michelle Obama on Thursday night is Harpo Studios, the Near West Side production company that is part of Oprah Winfrey's media empire. Tickets for the event began at $250 and benefit the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee of Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties, according to the president's re-election campaign.

A transcript will be made available of her remarks so please check quotes against it.

After making a stop at NBC Tower to tape the Steve Harvey Show, to air Wednesday, FLOTUS arrived to a TV studio-type setting featuring an electronic backdrop with the signature "Forward" barackobama.com logo. Wearing a white dress suit, Mrs. Obama spoke from a stage while the audience of a few hundred was assembled around her in a u-shaped setting. A teleprompter also was on the stage.

She noted how she had sampled on some of her favorite pizza from Italian Fiesta Pizzeria and that some Garrett's Popcorn was on the side. She also thanked U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the state's senior senator and the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber, and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky for attending, calling them "dear, dear friends."

In a speech of just more than 27 minutes, the First Lady issued a ringing defense of her husband's administration, citing improvement in private sector jobs, health care reform, tax cuts for small business and working families, rescuing the auto industry, making college education more affordable, ending the war in Iraq, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and the life of Osama bin Laden. She also pitched the need for Chicago residents to help the campaign in the nearby battleground states of Iowa and Wisconsin.

Mrs. Obama received cheers as she spoke of her background growing up on Chicago's South Side. She said said she and the president were raised with shared values.

"Like so many families in this country, our families weren't asking for much. They didn't want much. They didn't begrudge anyone else's success. They didn't mind if others had much more than they did. In fact, they admired it. That's why they pushed us," she said. "They simply believe in that fundamental American promise that even if you don't start out with much, if you work hard and do what you're supposed to do then you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and grandkids. And they believe that when you've worked hard and done well and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don't slam it shut behind you. You know, you reach back and give other folks the same chance."

Though she did not refer to the Republican presidential nominee by name, she appeared to allude to the remarks of Mitt Romney that were captured on tape and now being featured in a campaign ad for the incumbent.

Mrs. Obama said her husband had promised to tell the American people the truth, not just what they want to hear "when everyone is urging you to do what's easy, what polls best, what gets good headlines. You see, as president, you must be driven by the struggle, hopes and dreams of all you serve. ... That's how you make the right decisions for this country. That's what it takes to be a leader."

She maintained that the administration has made strides in restoring the economy and meeting the Obama campaign's winning 2008 motto. "Barack has been fighting for us. He has been struggling with us. See, and together, slowly but surely we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. For three-and-a-half years we've been moving forward and making progress and we're beginning to see that change we all can believe in," she said.

She said while the president is "very proud of what we've all achieved together, trust me, my husband is nowhere near satisfied" with the economy. "It's going to take a lot longer than four years to rebuild an economy that was on the brink of collapse," she said.

Though there were plenty of men in the audience, it appeared to skew toward a female majority, prompting big applause that in "standing up for the lives of women," the president "will always have our backs. Always!"

Urging supporters to volunteer or make phone calls in battleground states, Mrs. Obama said, "We cannot turn back now, not now. We have come so far. But we have so much more work to do."

Her speech ended at 6:14 pm cdt and she departed the stage two minutes later.

-----

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

romenyevent.jpg

WASHINGTON--Vice Presidential hopeful Paul Ryan hits Chicago on Oct. 5 for a mega fund-raiser at the Palmer House, with the marketing pitched, at the highest end, to $151,600 per couple.

The co-hosts include top Chicago and Illinois figures on Mitt Rommey's national finance team--including Ken and Ann Griffin, Susan Crown, Ron Gidwitz and Muneer Satter.

One of the perks offered major donors is an invite to a "retreat" in New York--which will include face time with major Romney campaign figures.

Here are the price and perk breakdowns:

The October 5 dinner for two, photo-op and general reception, and all Romney Victory Founding Partner Benefits, including invitation for two to attend NY Fall Retreat.... ($75,800 per person/$151,600 per couple).

The October 5 dinner for two, photo-op and general reception, all Romney Victory Member Benefits, including invitation for two to the NY Fall Retreat. ...($50,000 per person/$100,000 per couple).

The October 5 private dinner , photo-op and general reception...($25,000 per person/$50,000 per couple).

The October 5 Reception with Photo-Opportunity and General Reception...($10,000 per person/$20,000 per couple).

The October 5 General Reception...($2,500 per person).

Event co-chairs

ANNE & KEN GRIFFIN
REP. AARON SCHOCK
SHIRLEY & PATRICK G. RYAN
MELISSA & REEVE WAUD

Other hosts

BRIAN BATTLE
CHARLIE BOBRINSKOY L
ISA AND STEVE BONNER
RON BULLOCK
MAYOR ROGER CLAAR
SUSAN CROWN
CRAIG DUCHOSSOIS
DAN DUMEZICH
TY FAHNER
MARK FILIP
RON GIDWITZ
SUE & TERRY GRAUNKE
DAVID HERRO
JUDY AND VERNE ISTOCK
SEN. MARK KIRK
JEREMY KATZ
PATRICIA & VINCENT KOLBER
YVETTE & LOU KLOBUCHAR
WILLIAM KUNKLER
JIMMY JOHN LIAUTAUD
TRACI &E. BARRY MANSUR
Redp. DON MANZULLO
ROBERT MCCORMACK
RICHARD PORTER
SANDY PERL
TREASURER DAN RUTHERFORD
MUNEER SATTER
MARK SLABY
MARIA & WILLIAM SMITHBURG (AS OF 9-17-22)


WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama pledged again Tuesday to prevent Iran "from obtaining a nuclear weapon" while Mitt Romney said U.S foreign aid policies do not work.

That foreign policy was on the Obama and Romney menu had to do with external factors: Tuesday was the opening day of the United Nations' 67th General Assembly, with world leaders in New York. The annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) -- founded by former President Bill Clinton -- always takes place at the same time so the international community, already in Manhattan, can attend.

Both Obama and Mitt Romney spoke at the CGI. That's right, Romney delivered a speech to Clinton's group even as Clinton is doing everything he can to defeat Romney -- with his speech on behalf of Obama a high point of the Democratic convention.

That's a tribute to the organization Clinton created in what has become a significant and powerful post-presidency -- which will take on an even higher profile once Secretary of State Hillary Clinton houses her activities at CGI when she ends her tenure at the State Department next year -- whether or not Obama wins another term and whether or not she runs for the White House in 2016.

While Obama and Romney continued to knife each other in the back through paid political ads running in battleground states, Tuesday was marked by civility in New York.

Joked Romney after a gracious introduction from Clinton, "If there's one thing we've -- we've learned this election season, by the way, it is that a few words from Bill Clinton can do any man a lot of good. All I got to do now is wait a couple of days for that bounce to happen."

Apart from those words of goodwill, Romney has been bashing Obama over calling the Middle East turmoil "bumps in the road," in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview in the wake of the murders of four U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Obama in his U.N. speech tried to put the murders in the context of some progress toward democratization in the wake of the Arab Spring -- even as an anti-Muslim video made in the U.S. triggered recent Middle East attacks on U.S. facilities. Obama told the U.N. that those demonstrations are really "an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded."

Obama was working on two fronts Tuesday: sending messages across the globe to Muslim nations while on the home front facing a November election. There were no more mentions of bumps in the road.

On Iran: Obama at the U.N. could not have been clearer when it comes to pledging that Iran will never launch a nuclear missile against Israel. "Make no mistake: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations and the stability of the global economy." The U.S. "will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

On that video: Obama told the U.N. it was "crude and disgusting" -- but the U.S. allows free speech, even religious blasphemy.

On "The View" and meetings: Obama is catching flak from Romney and his allies for making time, with first lady Michelle, to appear on "The View" while in New York -- but not clearing a schedule for the usual bi-lateral meetings that take place at the United Nations General Assembly.

The Obama team figured it can take the fire from not taking meetings outside of courtesy calls to U.N. leadership -- because, so close to the election, why risk a potential controversy?

Foreign aid: Romney, in his CGI speech, said too much U.S. foreign aid "is not always effective" and presented his plans to couple aid and trade with the private sector to create "Prosperity Pacts" with developing nations.

Sex slavery: Obama threw a spotlight on sexual trafficking in his CGI speech -- a topic deserving attention. Said Obama, "I'm talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name -- modern slavery."

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama's campaign released a pre-debate spot running in battleground states--a rare two-minutes in length--with Obama calling for a "new economic patriotism" and urging voters to compare his plans to proposals from Mitt Romney.

"During the last weeks of this campaign, there'll be debates, speeches, more ads. But if I could sit down with you, in your living room or around the kitchen table...here's what I'd say," Obama says at the top of the spot, titled "Table," to air in New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, and Colorado.

The first of three presidential debates is Oct. 3 in Denver where the session is supposed to focus on domestic issues.

Ad summary from Obama campaign:

With just over a month until Election Day, Obama for America today released a new, two-minute television advertisement in which the President speaks directly to the American people and lays out his plan to keep America moving forward, get folks back to work and make the middle-class secure again. Focusing on manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and a balanced plan to reduce our deficit, President Obama sets real and achievable goals that will grow our economy beginning with a strong, thriving middle-class.

"It's easy to forget where we were when the President first took office: the country was losing nearly 800,000 jobs a month, and we were mired in Iraq. Today, we are moving forward again thanks to President Obama's policies. But there is much more work to be done, and this election offers a clear choice for voters across the country: continue to move forward with the President's plan for an economy built to last, from the middle out -- or go back to the same trickle-down economic policies of the last decade that crashed our economy and punished the middle-class in the first place."

Romney campaign spokesman Andrea Saul react:

"Four years ago, Barack Obama called it 'unpatriotic' to run up debts our children will have to pay. Yet in the time it takes his latest ad to run, our national debt grows by at least another $5 million. With $16 trillion in debt, 23 million Americans struggling for work, and spending out of control, President Obama's record is clear: we can't afford another four years that look like the last four years. Mitt Romney will strengthen the middle class, create 12 million new jobs and deliver what President Obama hasn't - a real recovery."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama hits Chicago on Thursday to headline two fund-raisers and to debut on Steve Harvey's new television show.

Mrs. Obama has funders at Oprah Winfrey's Harpo's Studio on the Near West Side and at the home of business executive and Democratic mega donor Fred Eychaner.


Reposting from Sept. 24...details on Mrs. Obama's Chicago funders:

-First Lady Michelle Obama hits Chicago Thursday for fund-raisers at Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios and at the home of mega Democratic donor Fred Eychaner. The event at the North Side Eychaner home is run under the umbrella of the Obama campaign Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Leadership Council and co-chairs, besides Eychaner, include the Cubs' Laura Ricketts plus Wally Brewster and Bob Satawake.

This may well be the last time Mrs. Obama is in Chicago for fund-raising before the election.


The prices and perks for the Near West Side Harpo event:

x $100.00 Gen44
per person

x $250.00 General Admission
per person

x $1,000.00 Preferred Seating

x $3,500.00 Event Host
includes one group photo (up to 5 guests) + tickets for the reception (preferred seating)


The prices and perks for the Eychaner event for people who donate directly or raise from others.. (the $250 tickets have been sold out, according to the campaign):


x $15,000.00 Event Chair
per couple - includes photo opportunity

x $10,000.00 Event Host (Couples)
per couple - includes photo opportunity for two

x $5,000.00 Event Host (Individuals)
per person - includes photo opportunity

x $1,000.00 Reception
per person

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama said human trafficking is one of the greatest civil rights issues of the era in a speech before the Clinton Global Initiative.

UPDATED WITH TRANSCRIPT


Click below for Obama speech transcript and executive order on sex trafficking issued on Tuesday...

Updated with Romney react, Duncan comments...

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama--in his first full comments about the Chicago teachers strike-- accused Mitt Romney of "teacher bashing" in an interview broadcast Tuesday.

At the same time, Obama said it was "important" for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to ask teachers to "step up" their game--but it was not right, Obama said, to blame teachers "for a lot of big problems out there."

Obama made his comments to NBC's Savannah Guthrie, broadcast Tuesday on NBC's "Today Show." The interview was taped when Obama was in Milwaukee on Saturday.

Obama refused to take sides in the Chicago Teachers' Union strike--balancing his friendship with Emanuel, his former chief of staff, and a political need not to alienate organized labor. Mitt Romney and other Republicans sided with Emanuel, adding a presidential campaign component to the Chicago labor struggle.

Education Sec. Arne Duncan, the former Chicago Public Schools chief--who, following Obama's lead also did not take sides in the walkout-- talked about the strike in a Tuesday morning MSNBC interview: "Obviously, no one wants a strike, teachers didn't want it, management didn't want it. But at the end of the day Chicago got to a great place, they got a great contract that honors and respects teachers and values them as the professionals they are and helps, continues to drive the reform movement forward in Chicago."

Unions are a major element of the Democratic base. Guthrie asked Obama if the Chicago episode showed Democrats were "no longer kowtowing to the unions. Is that how you see it?"

"That's not how I see it. What I see is that all across the country people want results. It was very important, I think, for Mayor Emanuel to say let's step up our game. And it was important for the teachers' union also to say let's make sure we're not just blaming teachers for a lot of big problems out there; let's make sure we've got the resources," Obama said.

"So I'm glad it was resolved. But I do think that, from the perspective of Democrats, we can't just sit on the status quo or say that money is the only issue. Reform is important also."

Obama rejected Romney's assertion that he sided with the unions--and as a byproduct blocked school reform.

"I think Governor Romney and a number of folks try to politicize the issue and do a lot of teacher bashing. When I meet teachers all across the country, they are so devoted, so dedicated to their kids. And what we've tried to do is actually break through this left-right, conservative-liberal gridlock."

Guthrie asked Obama, "Can you really say that teachers' unions aren't slowing the pace of reform?"

Replied Obama, "I just really get frustrated when I hear teacher bashing as evidence of reform. My sister is a former teacher, and I can tell you that they work so hard. They're putting money out of their own pockets in the classroom every single day. They're not doing it for the pay. And, you know, what is absolutely true is if we've got a bad teacher, we should be able to train them to get better. And if they can't get better, they should be able to get fired."

Turning to the difficulties of educating impoverished children who come to school hungry, Obama said, "In our country, you know, we've got poor kids and we've -- some kids who have deep troubles at home.

"But there's no doubt that we can step up our game. And this is a big argument and a big difference that I've got with Governor Romney in this election, because they talk a good game about reform, but when you actually look at their budgets, they're talking about slashing our investment in education by 20, 25 percent. We've already seen 300,000 teachers that have been fired across the country. And as a consequence, class sizes have gone up by 5 percent."

UPDATE React from Romney campaign spokesman Amanda Henneberg:

"Instead of reforming education and putting achievement in the classroom first, President Obama has put politics and his allegiance to the teachers' unions ahead of students. When Mitt Romney was governor, Massachusetts' schools had the best test scores in the entire country and his leadership expanded opportunities for high-achieving students. As President, he will stand up for students, not special interests, and work to ensure that every child has access to a great school, great teacher, and a quality education."


WASHINGTON--Mitt Romney, outlining his views on U.S. foreign assistance Tuesday morning at the Clinton Global Initiative, is calling for more "leverage" from the private sector--and said U.S. aid is "not always effective."

In turning to the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, "We somehow feel we are at the mercy of events, rather than shaping events," Romney said.

Turning to economic disparities between neighboring nations, Romney said, "I noticed the most successful countries shared something in common. They were the freest."

President Obama also is speaking to the group founded by former President Bill Clinton--whose speech on behalf of Obama was a high point of the Democratic convention. The annual CGI meeting takes place the same week as the United Nations General Assembly; Obama is addressing the UN Tuesday.

Clinton, in introducing Romney, recalled how they worked together when Romney was governor of Massachusetts.

Romney, taking the stage said, "If there is one thing we've learned this election season it's that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of good, After that introduction, I guess all I have to do is wait a day or two for the bounce."

Romney on Tuesday is also addressing the NBC Education Summit in New York City and later joins runningmate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) on a bus tour in Vandalia, Ohio:

Click below for Romney speech text and a fact sheet on Romney foreign assistance policy.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama hits Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin on Friday to stump in the battleground state, heading north the day after she fund-raises at two events in Chicago.

My post on Mrs. Obama's Chicago's events on Thursday is HERE.

WASHINGTON--Mitt Romney told CBS "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday, that people without health insurance can use hospital emergency rooms--one of the most expensive health care options for dealing with the uninsured.

"Well, we do provide care for people who don't have insurance, people -- we -- if someone has a heart attack, they don't sit in their apartment and -- and die. We -- we pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care," Romney said.

The Obama campaign seized on this in a Monday video--featuring video of Romney speaking in 2010 about how he was for universal coverage and emergency rooms are not a substitute for health insurance.

What Romney told Scott Pelley:

PELLEY: Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the fifty million Americans who don't have it today?

ROMNEY: Well, we do provide care for people who don't have insurance, people -- we -- if someone has a heart attack, they don't sit in their apartment and -- and die. We -- we pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.

PELLEY: That's the most expensive way to do it.

ROMNEY: Well the...

PELLEY: In the emergency room.

ROMNEY: Diff -- different, again, different states have different ways of doing that. Some -- some provide that care through clinics. Some provide the care through emergency rooms. In my state, we found a solution that worked for my state. But I wouldn't take what we did in Massachusetts and say to Texas, ``You've got to take the Massachusetts model.''


The Obama campaign react: "Mitt Romney knows that emergency room treatment is expensive and inefficient--that's why just two years ago he explained that it is not a good solution for providing care to the uninsured. But, on 60 Minutes last night, Romney continued to tie himself in political knots by saying that uninsured people can just go to the emergency room to get care.

Today, Obama for America released a new web video highlighting another stunning example of Romney Economics. Romney's healthcare plan would lead to higher costs and leave more Americans without insurance. Expensive and inefficient--Romney's plan is simply wrong for our economy."

WASHINGTON--Mitt Romney's campaign continues its push for disappointed Barack Obama voters--targeting the youth vote in a new video that uses Obama's admission last week about how he learned "you can't change Washington from the inside." A string of young people talk about how disappointed they are for Obama in effect saying "No I Can't," a play off of the 2008 slogan, "Yes We Can."

WASHINGTON--The Obama campaign--in a new spot released Monday running in battleground Ohio--slammed Mitt Romney for his statement about 47 percent of Obama backers not paying taxes--linking it to Romney's Friday release of his federal income tax returns and the relatively low rate he pays on his taxes.

GOP Vice President candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is stumping in Lima, Ohio on Monday; Obama travels to the Toledo area on Wednesday.

FROM OBAMA FOR AMERICA RE THE AD: "Mitt Romney may have callously written off 47 percent of Americans, but President Obama knows that Romney was wrong to accuse tens of millions of Americans of not paying their fair share. The overwhelming majority of these Americans are workers, seniors, students, and people with disabilities, and they pay a significant share of their income in taxes, including social security and Medicare taxes and state and local taxes. These Americans shouldn't be put down; they should be respected for working hard and contributing to their communities.

"Instead of accusing hardworking Americans of failing to pay their fair share, Mitt Romney should come clean with the American people. With just two years of returns on the table, Mitt Romney falls far behind longstanding precedent - failing to match other Presidential candidates.

"No Taxes" will air in Ohio."

Thumbnail image for lgbt_logo.jpg

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama hits Chicago Thursday for fund-raisers at Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios and at the home of mega Democratic donor Fred Eychaner. The event at the North Side Eychaner home is run under the umbrella of the Obama campaign Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Leadership Council and co-chairs, besides Eychaner, include the Cubs' Laura Ricketts plus Wally Brewster and Bob Satawake.

This may well be the last time Mrs. Obama is in Chicago for fund-raising before the election.


The prices and perks for the Near West Side Harpo event:

x $100.00 Gen44
per person

x $250.00 General Admission
per person

x $1,000.00 Preferred Seating

x $3,500.00 Event Host
includes one group photo (up to 5 guests) + tickets for the reception (preferred seating)


The prices and perks for the Eychaner event for people who donate directly or raise from others.. (the $250 tickets have been sold out, according to the campaign):


x $15,000.00 Event Chair
per couple - includes photo opportunity

x $10,000.00 Event Host (Couples)
per couple - includes photo opportunity for two

x $5,000.00 Event Host (Individuals)
per person - includes photo opportunity

x $1,000.00 Reception
per person

Who benefits, per the campaign: "The first $2,500 from a contributor to Obama Victory Fund 2012 will be allocated to Obama for America, designated for the general election. The next $30,800 from a contributor will be allocated to the Democratic National Committee. Any additional amount(s) from a contributor will be divided among the State Democratic Party Committees as follows, up to $10,000 per committee and subject to the biennial aggregate limits: OH (24%); FL (15%); WI (12%); IA (10%); NV (10%); VA (9%); CO (7%); NC (7%); PA (3%); and NH (3%). "

Obama's Sept. 24, 2012 week ahead

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WASHINGTON--Former President Bill Clinton on Sunday said Sec. of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is tired, wants time off when she steps down next year and write a book--and did close the door to a 2016 presidential run.

Clinton made his comments about his wife to Bob Schieffer, the host of CBS' "Face the Nation," with timing of the interview pegged to the annual meeting this week of his Clinton Global Initiative in New York.

The drawing power of the CGI is such that both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will address the group--even as Clinton emerged from Obama's Democratic Convention as the star speaker--and is stumping to help Obama win a second term.

There has been much speculation about Secretary of State Clinton's future. A cadre of long-time Clinton backers--veterans of Bill Clinton's 1992 and 1996 presidential campaign--and Sec. Clinton's failed 2008 Democratic primary bid against Obama--were buzzing about that prospect during the Democratic Convention in Charlotte.

Schieffer asked Bill Clinton if his wife has another presidential run in her.

"I don't know. You know, she's worked hard for 20 years. We had eight years in the White House. Then she ran for the Senate. She served in New York for eight years. Then she immediately became secretary of state.

"And she's tired. She's really worked hard. I think she's done a fabulous job. I'm very proud of her, but she wants to take some time off, kind of regroup, write a book. I hope we'll be working together. She was doing this work long before I was, and a lot of what we do now on women and girls was driven by some of the things she started in the State Department.

"So I think we ought to give her a chance to organize her life and decide what she wants to do. I just don't know. She's an extraordinarily able person. I never met anybody I thought was a better public servant, but I have no earthly idea what she'll decide to do."

No matter if Obama is re-elected, jockeying for 2016 has already started--with the first cut of decisions have to do with what Sec. of State Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden want to do.

The New York Times ran a story Friday about how New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo--who served as HUD secretary under President Clinton-- is interested in a 2016 run, but would probably defer to Sec. Clinton. If Clinton and Biden don't run, a new generation of Democrats would likely emerge as contenders, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Clinton--admitting his bias, said his wife is the most qualified to run

"I never met anybody I thought was any better than her at this. But, again, we've got a lot of able people in our party that want to be president. There's never a shortage of people that want to be president. We've got a lot of bright, young governors. We've got a lot of other people who will probably run out of the Congress.

"We won't have to worry about people wanting to be president next time who are good people. But I just think, you know, it's a decision she'll have to make. But whatever she does, I'm for her first, last and always. She's the ablest -- I know I'm biased, but I think she demonstrated as senator and as secretary of state that she has extraordinary ability, a lot of common sense, a lot of, you know, stick-to-it-iveness. She will push a rock up a hill as long as it takes to get it up the hill," Clinton said as he did not close any door.

"Whatever she wanted me to do, I would. But, you know, who knows? It's her decision, her life, but whatever she decides, I'll support it."

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was upbeat Sunday on President Barack Obama's chances for a second term, telling CNN's Candy Crowley on "State of the Union" the trends are in Obama's favor. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), appearing on the same show said he likes where Mitt Romney is at--even with the recent rough patch his campaign has been facing.


Said Durbin, "Well, Candy the momentum has shifted in Obama's direction and that's a good thing from our point of view. We're not taking anything for granted, this is still a campaign with three presidential debates left, one vice presidential debate, and four or five events that none of us could predict on this Sunday morning show. So we're not taking it for granted, but we do have momentum coming out of the convention, and some of the problems and mistakes of the Romney campaign have given the president more traction in these battleground states with working families."

Crowley asked Graham "why do you think Mitt Romney is struggling so much? We've talked so much about the history of the numbers as it relates to unemployment or anything else and how it would seem that President Obama would not be doing well, and yet, Mitt Romney is the one who is struggling. Why?"

Said Graham, "Well, to be honest with you, I think if history holds here and undecided voters break against the incumbent as they generally do, this is a very close race, and quite frankly, I like our position."



From CNN.com: "After a secretly filmed tape emerges of Mitt Romney making controversial comments at a fundraiser, Peter Baker, Lynn Sweet and Howard Kurtz discuss the media fallout."


WOODBRIDGE, Va. -- "I don't believe we can get very far with leaders who write off half the nation as a bunch of victims, who think that they're not interested in taking responsibility for their own lives. I don't see a lot of victims in this crowd today," President Barack Obama is saying, not having to mention Mitt Romney's name.

The friendly crowd knows whom -- and what -- he is talking about.

The fallout from a videotape of Romney at a Florida fund-raiser -- talking to his mega-donors about Obama's backers, a supposed 47 percent "who believe that they are victims," are entitled to government handouts and don't pay income taxes -- has dominated the presidential campaign since it was posted online Tuesday by David Corn, the Washington Bureau Chief of Mother Jones magazine.

It's Friday afternoon and Obama is at a rally in a minor-league baseball stadium -- the home of the Potomac Nationals -- punching at Romney over the videotape and a new line of attack from the Romney team that has some promising possibilities -- that Obama failed to deliver on his promise of changing how Washington works.

Which is true.

And Obama said so in a Thursday interview. He's using his remarks at this rally to do some table-turning repair work.

If Obama indeed wins a second term -- this week might be seen as significant, a turning point.

Several polls released in the past days have put Obama ahead in Virginia and other battleground states: in Wisconsin, where Obama stumped and fund-raised in Milwaukee on Saturday; Iowa, Colorado and Ohio.

And a new survey also shows the damage the "47 percent" remarks have done to Romney. A poll for Reuters/Ipsos released Wednesday found 59 percent "felt Romney unfairly dismissed almost half of Americans as victims" and 43 percent "viewed Romney less favorably" after they were shown a portion of the video -- secretly shot in May at a Boca Raton home.

The stadium where Obama is speaking to several thousand folks holding up "Forward" signs under the hot sun is in northern Virginia -- with much of this turf made up of Washington suburbs whose residents are swing voters.

Four years ago on election eve -- Obama held his last rally of the 2008 campaign a few miles away, in Manassas, and it was a keeper, a massive crowd. I posted on my blog as it was happening:

"A sea of some 90,000 people rallied for Barack Obama in northern Virginia late Monday night, in the last rally of a two-year presidential campaign that is poised to vault the Illinois senator to the White House on Tuesday.

"Even if we're successful tomorrow, we will be facing bigger challenges than probably any administration since FDR. But you and I know, you can feel in your gut, something happening here. That it is time together. It is time to look at the future again," Obama said.

As we all know now, the future did not include Obama ushering in a post-partisan era in Washington. A central premise of the 2008 campaign was that Obama would somehow transform the "same old politics in Washington."

Which he did not.

On Thursday, during a Univision Town Hall in Miami Obama said -- and this seemed like a concession -- "The most important lesson I've learned is that you can't change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside."

Romney immediately pounced on that opening -- saying he wants to give Obama a chance to do just that -- be on the outside.

Obama, doing damage control at the rally, is dismissing what he said at Univision as old news.

"Now, yesterday, I made this same point at a town hall in Florida. . . . Now, for some reason my opponent got really excited. He rewrote his speech real quick. He stood up at a rally, proudly declared, "I'll get the job done from the inside.

"What kind of inside job is he talking about? Is it the job of rubberstamping the top-down, you're-on-your-own agenda of this Republican Congress? "

Now Romney in that damaging video -- being disdainful of Obama supporters -- said, "my job is not to worry about" them.

Obama at the rally -- winding up -- said that his job is to worry about the 47 percent who did not support him in 2008 -- and those who may not in 2012.

Said Obama, leveraging that videotape one more time at P-Nats park, "for everybody who is watching, or anybody here who is still undecided, I don't know how many people are going to vote for me this time around . . . but I'm telling the American people I will be fighting for you no matter what.''


WASHINGTON--Obama campaign Manager Jim Messina said Saturday President Barack Obama has more paths to winning 270 electoral votes then Mitt Romney--and the battleground states polls are more informative than national polls.

Messina talked to the pool when Obama was at the Milwaukee Theater:

From the pool report.....

"Messina, talking about the Romney ground game, referred to the GOP organizing effort around the Gov. Scott Walker recall elex in Wisconsin: "This is one where ... because of the recall election, they test drove their car whereas in other states they haven't. It would make sense they're strong here, as are we. They are stronger than McCain was in '08, no question, on the ground. But we continue to have a strategic advantage" because of more field offices and infrastructure.

On polls Messina said;
"In all the battleground states, we continue to see all our pathways there. We're either tied or in the lead in every battleground state 45 days out. I think you will see a tightening in the national polls going forward. What I care way more about it Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin, etc. In those states, I feel our pathways to victory are there. There are two different campaigns, one in the battlegrounds and one everywhere else. That's why the national polls aren't relevant to this campaign."

follow on Twitter: @lynnsweet

The Illinois Board of Elections just posted a new guide for voters covering all the offices up in the November election. The board beat the Saturday deadline to post the new guide--posting on Thursday. Check it out HERE.

Deadline to register to vote in Illinois...from the state board FAQs....

Question: What is the deadline for registering to vote in the next election?
Answer:
October 9, 2012 Registration closes at the office of municipal, township, and road district clerks, deputy registrars, and agencies. Last day to register at the election authority's office (with the exception of Grace Period Registration).


WASHINGTON -- Mitt and Ann Romney on Friday released their 2011 federal income tax return and here is what is noteworthy: They did NOT claim all their charitable deductions in order to inflate their tax rate -- so as not to be at odds with Romney's earlier statement that he paid at least 13 percent over the past 10 years.

My late mother, Ione Sweet, an accountant, would never counsel a client not to take a perfectly legal, proper, common deduction. The Romneys donated $4,020,772 to charity in 2011, but only claimed $2.25 million of those charitable contributions.

The reason, by now you guessed, is politics. Romney made the 13 percent comment in August, at a time when the Obama campaign increasingly portrayed him as a candidate who wants tax breaks for millionaires yet pays a lower tax rate than most middle-class workers.

The Obama team has been pressuring Romney to release multiple years of tax records -- a call that remains to this day.

The Friday release was Romney delivering on his pledge to release 2010 and 2011 federal filings -- and no more.

The Romney campaign was candid in explaining why the Romneys left on the table a deduction that could have saved the couple between $200,000 and $300,000 in taxes.


"The Romneys' generous charitable donations in 2011 would have significantly reduced their tax obligation for the year. The Romneys thus limited their deduction of charitable contributions to conform to the governor's statement in August, based upon the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13 percent in income taxes in each of the last 10 years," the campaign said.

Some Romney 2011 federal income tax return top-line numbers:

♦ Their income was $13,696,951. Most of that income was from investments -- taxed at a much lower rate than earned income.

It may not seem fair that dividend and interest income and long-term capital gains are taxed less than income earned as a salary -- but the Romneys are not taking advantage of any tax gimmick here; that's standard U.S. tax policy for everyone. All money that flows to a person is not equal in the eyes of the IRS.

Romney also earned $260,390 as a director of Marriott International and $178,500 from the American Talent Group for speeches. They paid $15,211 in health-insurance premiums.

♦ The Romneys paid $1,935,708 in taxes.

♦ Their tax rate was 14.1 percent.

If the Romneys had taken their entire $4,020,772 charitable deduction, by their own admission their tax rate would have dipped below 13 percent. If that happened, the Obama campaign would have jumped all over them. The Obama team still might, since it does look as if the Romneys picked out a rate they liked.

The political problem for Romney is this: Because of U.S. tax policy, he is paying a lesser federal income tax rate than a person who earns a salary of between $8,500 and $34,500 a year. According to 2011 IRS rates, that money is taxed at 15 percent.

♦The charities: The Romney have their Tyler Charitable Foundation; they tithe to their Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The campaign statement wanted to de-emphasize the religious nature of the gift, noting the church funds a variety of humanitarian projects around the world.

Romney did take a stand about overpayment of taxes during a Republican primary debate Jan. 23 in Florida. He was against it. Said Romney then: "I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more. I don't think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes."

obama virginia potomac nationals.jpg
Obama rally at P-Nats stadium, Sept. 21, 2012
(photo by Lynn Sweet)

WOODRIDGE, Va.--President Barack Obama--a South Sider and White Sox fan--told a crowd at a campaign rally here that he was looking forward to a White Sox-Nationals World Series.

Both teams are having great seasons. That let Obama be loyal to his home team--and play to a local crowd.

Obama was moved to talk baseball because the rally was held at a baseball stadium--Pfitzner Stadium the home of the Potomac Nationals, a minor league team.

Said Obama, "Well, it is great to be here in Pfitzner Stadium, home of the Potomac Nationals. I want to congratulate the Washington Nationals for bringing playoff baseball to D.C. You guys are looking good. I am looking forward to a White Sox Nationals World Series. It's going to happen. White Sox are still in first place. But I got to admit, you guys are looking a little better right now. You guys are looking very good."


Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are in top physical shape, according to letters released Friday by their physicians.

PDF of Romney medical condition letter is here Gov._Romney_DR_Letter.pdf

PDF of Ryan medical condition letter is here Paul_Ryan_DR_Letter.pdf

Watch to the very end....

WASHINGTON--Obama campaign manager Jim Messina is raising debate expectations for Mitt Romney--a sort of darning by faint praise--in order to lower them for the president. The first of three presidential debates is Oct. 3 in Denver.

Click below for Messina memo.

The Obama campaign--targeting seniors-- released a new video Friday highlighting Mitt Romney's remark about "47 percent" of Obama backers dependent on government. "These programs are not handouts," the campaign team says. Obama speaks to an AARP group today.

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama--who won the White House in 2008 after a campaign where he talked about how he would change Washington--admitted Thursday that he failed to do so. This played into a narrative the Romney team has been pushing more and more: Obama failed to deliver change. Click below for a memo the Republican National Committee pushed out Friday on this point.

Obama's admission came during an interview at a Univision forum in battleground Florida that he "can't change Washington from the inside" and he learned change can only come from the outside. Mitt Romney immediately pounced on that opening--saying he wants to give Obama a chance to do just that--be on the outside. The Republican National Committee on Friday released a video recapping Obama in 2008, his comment yesterday and Romney's retort.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

ehud barak and rahm emanuel.jpg
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at Chicago's City Hall, Sept. 20, 2012
(photo courtesy City of Chicago)


I've learned that Mayor Rahm Emanuel met Thursday with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak--who is delivering a message from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu--that he is not attempting to interfere in the U.S. elections on behalf of Mitt Romney.

Emanuel spokesman Sarah Hamilton confirmed that the meeting took place in Chicago's City Hall starting at 1:15 p.m. Chicago time and lasting between 45 minutes and an hour. She added that Barak and Emanuel--who often has met with foreign dignitaries who are in Chicago--originally had intended to meet six months ago.

That being said--the Thursday meeting took place as Netanyahu is seen increasingly as making statements that raise questions about Obama's commitment to defending Israel and preventing an Iranian nuclear strike--questions that could hurt Obama with Jewish voters.

Barak, a former Israeli prime minister, is in the U.S. to attend the Clinton Global Initiative and the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.

The Netanyahu camp complained that Obama would not meet with the prime minister while he was in the U.S. Netanyahu's protestations that he was not taking sides in the presidential elections on U.S. Sunday morning shows a few days ago only fueled stories that he favored Romney--an old friend from their days as consultants in Boston.

Emanuel --whose father is an Israeli-American--is a logical conduit. He is the figure in the Obama orbit most familiar to the Israeli government--having served as a front-and-back channel while he was President Barack Obama's chief of staff.

Emanuel earlier this month resigned as a co-chair of the Obama campaign in order to raise money for the SuperPac supporting Obama.

Developing.....

Mitt Romney is accusing President Barack Obama of being a "redistributionist"--asking the rich to share more burden than the poor--(is that bad?)--using as his proof a clip from a 1998 panel Obama was on at Loyola University in Chicago. NBC News has obtained more tape from the discussion...and the full quote shows Obama talking about very centrist concepts of "competition" and the "marketplace."

From NBC's First Read:

Mitt Romney's campaign this week has pounced on a 14-year-old clip of Obama speaking about "redistribution" in October 1998 at a conference in Chicago, in which the future president seems to extol the virtues of redistributing wealth.

Yet NBC News has obtained the entirety of the relevant remarks, which includes additional comments by Obama that weren't included in the video circulated by Republicans. That omission features additional words of praise for "competition" and the "marketplace" by the then-state senator.

In the whole clip, Obama says:
I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot. How do we pool resources at the same time as we decentralize delivery systems in ways that both foster competition, can work in the marketplace, and can foster innovation at the local level and can be tailored to particular communities.


Obama continues in a few words after that to describe the use of tax credits in setting public housing development policy in Chicago as an example before concluding.

The video circulated by Republicans, which has used as fodder for an attack on Obama, includes a longer reflection by Obama about talking about how government action can be effective. But the clip has been cut short after the word "shot;" Obama's words about competition, the marketplace and innovation are omitted from the clip.

WASHINGTON--The Obama campaign--repeating a play from 2008--is emphasizing early voting--with First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday sending the message while stumping in the battleground state of North Carolina.

The point is to lock in a vote as soon as possible--and not leave anything to chance--especially with students--who, however well intentioned, may let Election Day slip by without a stop at a polling place.

Speaking at the East Carolina University in Greenville, Mrs. Obama said, "And here in North Carolina, you don't have to wait until November the 6th to start voting. You can start voting early, on October the 18th -- early voting at your county board. Go to your country board -- at other locations in your community.

"We want as many of you to vote as early as possible, especially our young people. All right, listen to me, you all. See, because don't we -- we know students, right? The alarm goes off late on Election Day. Maybe you forget what day it is. You thought Tuesday was tomorrow, and it's really today. You don't want to count on that, right? So vote early. Vote early. And then, if you vote early, you can spend Election Day working to get others to the polls, right? Yeah, that's the strategy."

Click below for entire transcript.


(Lynn Sweet video)

UPDATED

WASHINGTON--Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) confirmed through a spokesman on Wednesday that he is selling his home here--the reason-- to help pay for his health care. The home, a row house in the DuPont Circle neighborhood, is listed for $2.5 million.

Kevin Lampe, a spokesman for Jackson's political operation told me that Jackson is still a candidate for re-election this November.

Here is the Jackson statement: "Like millions of Americans, Cong. Jackson and Mrs. Jackson are grappling with soaring health care costs and are selling their residence to help defray costs of their obligations. The congressman would like to personally thank everyone who has offered prayers on behalf of his family."

It's not known if Jackson gets his health insurance through the congressional plan or through his wife, Sandi, the 7th Ward alderman in Chicago.

Most plans--even the best--do not have unlimited mental health coverage that would pay for months of hospitalization. Rep. Jackson was a patient at Mayo Clinic and another facility in Arizona from mid-June through the summer.

BELOW, EARLIER POST


WASHINGTON--The Washington D.C. home of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is for sale, according to several local real estate listings. The asking price for the red brick Victorian row house, just off DuPont Circle, is $2.5 million.

The sale comes as Jackson is recovering from bipolar depression--we're told at this home--that has forced his absence from Congress since mid-June and treatment at the Mayo Clinic and a facility in Arizona.

While the official residence for the Jackson family is on Chicago's South Side, their home here is a family base for their two children, who attend a private school here.

When Jackson will surface remains an open question. He remains on the November ballot and faces only nominal opposition in a heavily Democratic district.

I talked Tuesday to Jackson Washington spokesman Frank Watkins--to check out talk that Jackson may appear at upcoming Congressional Black Caucus annual conference events--and was told that was unlikely.

I dropped by the house on Sunday and had a very, very brief chat with the mother of Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) who said neither the congressman or the alderman were home when I was there. There was an Impala with D.C. plates in the driveway and a car with Illinois plates--and a member of Congress tag--in the garage.

The home is on a gorgeous block. According to the listings, the home was built in 1921, has 4 bedrooms, 3 full baths, 2 half baths, is on 5 levels, two kitchens and a rooftop with jacuzzi and 2,936 square feet. The Zillow estimate is different from the asking price: $1,445,800.

Check out listings:

http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/2034-O-St-NW-Washington-DC-20036/398183_zpid


http://hometryst.com/dc/2034-o-st-nw-washington-dc-20036-mls-dc7923211/


http://www.essentialpropertiesrealty.com/realestate/MRIS/675798/2034-O-ST-NW-WASHINGTON-DC-20036

The sale was reported first Wednesday morning by Lauren Vict


jackson washington home.jpg
The Jackson home in Washington, D.C.
(photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) confirmed through a spokesman on Wednesday that he is selling his home here--the reason-- to help pay for his health care. The home, a row house in the DuPont Circle neighborhood, is listed for $2.5 million.

Kevin Lampe, a spokesman for Jackson's political operation told me that Jackson is still a candidate for re-election this November.

Here is the Jackson statement: "Like millions of Americans, Cong. Jackson and Mrs. Jackson are grappling with soaring health care costs and are selling their residence to help defray costs of their obligations. The congressman would like to personally thank everyone who has offered prayers on behalf of his family."

BELOW, EARLIER POST


WASHINGTON--The Washington D.C. home of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is for sale, according to several local real estate listings. The asking price for the red brick Victorian row house, just off DuPont Circle, is $2.5 million.

The sale comes as Jackson is recovering from bipolar depression--we're told at this home--that has forced his absence from Congress since mid-June and treatment at the Mayo Clinic and a facility in Arizona.

While the official residence for the Jackson family is on Chicago's South Side, their home here is a family base for their two children, who attend a private school here.

When Jackson will surface remains an open question. He remains on the November ballot and faces only nominal opposition in a heavily Democratic district.

I talked Tuesday to Jackson Washington spokesman Frank Watkins--to check out talk that Jackson may appear at upcoming Congressional Black Caucus annual conference events--and was told that was unlikely.

I dropped by the house on Sunday and had a very, very brief chat with the mother of Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) who said neither the congressman or the alderman were home when I was there. There was an Impala with D.C. plates in the driveway and a car with Illinois plates--and a member of Congress tag--in the garage.

The home is on a gorgeous block. According to the listings, the home was built in 1921, has 4 bedrooms, 3 full baths, 2 half baths, is on 5 levels, two kitchens and a rooftop with jacuzzi and 2,936 square feet. The Zillow estimate is different from the asking price: $1,445,800.

Check out listings:

http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/2034-O-St-NW-Washington-DC-20036/398183_zpid


http://hometryst.com/dc/2034-o-st-nw-washington-dc-20036-mls-dc7923211/


http://www.essentialpropertiesrealty.com/realestate/MRIS/675798/2034-O-ST-NW-WASHINGTON-DC-20036

The sale was reported first Wednesday morning by Lauren Vict

WASHINGTON - The Romney team believes highlighting President Barack Obama as a "redistributionist" will help win the White House for Mitt Romney. The Romney team is framing Obama as a "redistributor" --that's not a term we've heard a lot of until now-- to jab Obama in the wake of a video of Romney comments at a Florida fund-raiser that have triggered an uproar--where he talks about Obama supporters who don't pay taxes and are "dependent" on government entitlements.

At issue, according to Team Romney: A clash over the essential role of government--where government stops and personal responsibility begins.

Team Romney has some success Tuesday getting the redistributionist story up and running, starting with the posting on Drudge of a clip of Barack Obama talking--in 1998--at Loyola University about "redistribution."

Obama in 1998: "[T]he trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure everybody's got a shot."

Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades called the comment above in a memo released Wednesday, "In a newly-unearthed set of remarks, we can hear Barack Obama in his own words advocating for government as a means to redistribute wealth." (Click below for the entire Rhoades memo)

Romney runningmate Rep. Paul Ryan jumped in during a Danville, Va. rally where he said Obama believes in redistribution and the Romney/Ryan ticket does not want to redistribute the wealth.

To give the story Wednesday legs, per the Republican National Committee: "U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus will host a press conference call TODAY, September 19th at 4:00 PM ET to discuss President Obama's belief that American prosperity comes from big government and the redistribution of wealth and how Governor Romney will help to create jobs for Americans through free enterprise and entrepreneurship."


jesse jackson d.c. home.jpg

jesse jackson dc home 2.jpg
The Jackson home in Washington D.C. Exterior (Kia parked in front of Jackson townhouse).
(photos by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--The Washington D.C. home of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is for sale, according to several local real estate listings. The asking price for the red brick Victorian row house, just off DuPont Circle, is $2.5 million.

The sale comes as Jackson is recovering from bipolar depression--we're told at this home--that has forced his absence from Congress since mid-June and treatment at the Mayo Clinic and a facility in Arizona.

While the official residence for the Jackson family is on Chicago's South Side, their home here is a family base for their two children, who attend a private school here.

When Jackson will surface remains an open question. He remains on the November ballot and faces only nominal opposition in a heavily Democratic district.

I talked Tuesday to Jackson Washington spokesman Frank Watkins--to check out talk that Jackson may appear at upcoming Congressional Black Caucus annual conference events--and was told that was unlikely.

I dropped by the house on Sunday and had a very, very brief chat with the mother of Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) who said neither the congressman or the alderman were home when I was there. There was an Impala with D.C. plates in the driveway and a car with Illinois plates--and a member of Congress tag--in the garage.

The home is on a gorgeous block. According to the listings, the home was built in 1921, has 4 bedrooms, 3 full baths, 2 half baths, is on 5 levels, two kitchens and a rooftop with jacuzzi and 2,936 square feet. The Zillow estimate is different from the asking price: $1,445,800.

Check out listings:

http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/2034-O-St-NW-Washington-DC-20036/398183_zpid


http://hometryst.com/dc/2034-o-st-nw-washington-dc-20036-mls-dc7923211/


http://www.essentialpropertiesrealty.com/realestate/MRIS/675798/2034-O-ST-NW-WASHINGTON-DC-20036

The sale was reported first Wednesday morning by Lauren Victoria Burke's Crew of 42 blog, which was picked up in The Hill.


WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's disdain for President Barack Obama's supporters -- surfacing in videotaped remarks made to mega-donors -- presents him with his most serious crisis yet.

There is a saying in politics that is apt here: You are losing if you are explaining.

A videotape of Romney speaking candidly at a closed-to-the press fund-raiser in Florida last May (top price $50,000 per person) was obtained, verified and posted by David Corn, the Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones.

Speaking off-the-cuff -- there is a reason candidates are scripted: it keeps them out of trouble -- Romney's biggest problem comes from his conflated comments about the 47 percent of people he said were Obama backers. He turns them into slackers and freeloaders.

"All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement, and the government should give it to them," he said.

"And they will vote for this president no matter what. And that -- I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 40 -- he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect."

He added, "My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

This is damage that is going to be hard to control:

† At the very least, it is a massive distraction. The Romney camp had planned for this week to be devoted to hearing more details about Romney's plans -- for the middle class -- that he only a few days ago defined as those who earn upward of $200,000 a year.

† This comes as we head toward three potentially game-changing presidential debates. The first is Oct. 3 in Denver. Even if other events overtake the presidential campaign conversation in the coming days -- especially in the volatile Middle East -- Romney better be ready, because Obama is going to come after him.

† On that 47 percent who don't pay income taxes (not to be confused with 47 percent who back Obama.) That's correct about income taxes -- as far as it goes. But that statistic is not all that meaningful if you know the whole story: Most people do pay federal taxes through payroll deductions for Medicare and Social Security. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 44 percent who don't pay income taxes are senior citizens who get tax breaks supported by Democrats and Republicans.

† And to say that Obama backers are entitled victims? But it's not Obama. Breaks go to everyone on Medicare -- that's every senior in the United States -- and everyone who gets a home mortgage deduction or tax breaks for student loans or charitable giving or home-office use or VA benefits.

† Most dangerous for Romney is this: The only way he can win -- and he says this in his remarks to his donors -- is by persuading disappointed Obama 2008 voters to give up on the president -- and his remarks play into Obama's hands like an in-kind campaign contribution.

This might not be the year of the compassionate conservative -- a term coined when George W. Bush ran in 2000. But Romney is close to making 2012 the year of the callus conservative (if, by the way, you believe he is really conservative).

Gaffes about class are hard to work around -- ask Obama, he knows. In April 2008, he was secretly recorded -- audio, not video -- at a $1,000-per-person fund-raiser in San Francisco where he famously said blue-collar down-and-out folks are "bitter" and "cling" to their guns and religion.

This came just before what was then a hard-fought Pennsylvania primary between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton immediately started running ads framing Obama as an out-of-touch elitist.

In 2008, a few days after the "bitter" gaffe, Obama told a news industry group that he had made a mistake -- but called the uproar he created with his own words a "fake controversy" and said people are "fed up with politicians trying to divide us for their own political gain." Obama went on to lose the Pennsylvania primary to Clinton.

Do not expect that to stop Obama -- with fresh ammunition -- from portraying Romney as an elitist who wants tax cuts for millionaires.

Footnotes

Corn told me the person who shot the video is not part of any political campaign organization and did not go to the fund-raiser to nail Romney. At first a few snippets from the video were posted online and didn't get much attention because no one knew who shot it, where Romney was or other details. That person was found by a free-lance researcher assisting Corn, Corn told me. That researcher -- James Carter -- is a grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.


WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama hits Milwaukee next Saturday for a grass-roots rally -- in a state where he was not supposed to be spending any campaign time -- or money.

Things have changed.

Wisconsin is now a battleground.

Obama's 14-point Wisconsin win in 2008 doesn't guarantee a 2012 victory.

Obama needs to squeeze every vote out of the Democratic city and county of Milwaukee -- in order to wipe out gains from new Mitt Romney-friendly Badger turf.

Romney's selection last month of a son of Janesville to be his vice presidential pick -- U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan -- pushed Wisconsin to the short list of states determining who wins the White House in November.

While national campaign attention the past few days has been on turmoil in the Middle East, with events injecting foreign policy into a contest mainly focused on jobs and the economy, operatives from both teams really just want to know what, if any, is the impact on the small group of undecided voters who populate battleground states.

The Romney and Obama campaigns have this in common: They don't pay much attention to national polls, except to discern certain trends or themes or show them to wavering mega-donors. The polls that matter are the battleground state surveys.

The campaigns are sending Obama, Romney, Ryan, Vice President Joe Biden and their spouses only to the battlegrounds, except for fund-raising detours -- such as first lady Michelle Obama's Sept. 27 fund-raiser in Chicago.

The campaigns are spending money, and the other most valuable asset they have, the candidates' time, in the battlegrounds. Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes is the added starter, joining Ohio, with 18; Colorado, 9; Florida, 29; Nevada, 6; New Hampshire, 4; Virginia, 13; Pennsylvania, 20, and North Carolina, 15, as the main battlegrounds. Michigan, with 16 electoral votes, is a second-tier battleground.

Obama won each of these states in 2008 when he defeated GOP nominee Sen. John McCain with 365 electoral votes to McCain's 173. Obama has more paths than Romney to secure the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Obama can "afford" to lose a few of the battlegrounds he won in 2008.

Last week marked Wisconsin's move into full battleground status with candidate visits and television buys. NBC reported that the Obama campaign purchased $668,000 in TV time, compared with $370,000 bought by the Romney team.

That amount is dwarfed by SuperPACs and other groups buying Wisconsin television time. Overall, Romney forces have -- so far -- outspent Obama backers by about double.

Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the pro-Obama SuperPAC Priorities USA, the group Mayor Rahm Emanuel is fund-raising for, bought more than $3 million in time for ads that have not yet run. Romney groups have vastly outspent Obama's allies in Wisconsin so far, Gilbert reports, with American for Prosperity at $3.3 million; Restore our Future at $2.8 million; Concerned Women for America at $1.1 million, and $370,000 from Republican National Committee, whose chairman, Reince Priebus, is from Wisconsin.

To complement the ad wars, Ryan stumped in Green Bay and Oak Creek while Vice President Joe Biden hit Eau Claire, all in advance of Obama's Sept. 17 visit to headline a fund-raiser. It will be his first trip to Wisconsin since February.

Now not all battlegrounds are equal. The most intense skirmishes are over Virginia, Ohio and Florida -- states President George W. Bush won in 2004 over Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) -- on the road toward 270 electoral votes. Most analysts say Romney needs two of these states to win -- while Obama needs only one to be re-elected.

A few days ago, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse, in a memo about post-convention polls, said any edge Obama might have was merely a "sugar high."

A new poll by NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist puts Obama in the lead in Florida, Virginia and Ohio. The poll was taken Sept. 9-11 of 1,000 likely voters in each state, with about 30 percent reached on a cellphone. The margin of error was 3.1 percentage points, which means Obama's lead might be very fragile.

† In Florida, Obama is at 49 percent to Romney's 44 percent.

† In Ohio, Obama is at 50 percent to Romney's 43 percent.

† In Virginia, Obama is at 49 percent to Romney's 44 percent.

A striking finding of the poll is how many voters have already made a choice. Just 5 percent were undecided in Florida and Ohio, 6 percent in Virginia. All the ads and campaigning -- and the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent in this race for the White House -- are for them.

Obama's Sept. 17, 2012 week ahead

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The Republican National Committee--with some glee--is using the Chicago Teachers' Union strike to drive a wedge between President Barack Obama and his former chief of staff, Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Republicans are outspoken in taking Emanuel's side--against the unions.

On Wednesday morning, the RNC produced a round-up of national stories about the strike with the headline,
"THE CHICAGO TEACHERS' STRIKE IS PUTTING OBAMA BETWEEN HIS FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF RAHM EMANUEL AND THE UNION WHICH ENDORSED HIM."

The reports,--from Bloomberg, Politico, Reuters, Associated Press--and a transcript of a White House briefing--all take notice of Obama's neutrality--and how, as Reuters puts it, the strike puts Obama in a "bind."

Click below for RNC release and story excerpts...

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed Iran and other issues in a hour-long phone call on Tuesday night, the White House announced--along with a statement that Netanyahu, contrary to news reports, never asked for a meeting with the president.

The White House briefed on the call between the two leaders as tensions with Iran are growing--talk of an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran nuclear facilities is escalating--and stories about Obama snubbing Netanyahu--now denied--present a political problem to a president who is wooing the Jewish vote.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, the White House said, "President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu for an hour tonight as a part of their ongoing consultations. The two leaders discussed the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program, and our close cooperation on Iran and other security issues.

"President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu reaffirmed that they are united in their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and agreed to continue their close consultations going forward. Contrary to reports in the press, there was never a request for Prime Minister Netanyahu to meet with President Obama in Washington, nor was a request for a meeting ever denied."

The White House was reacting to stories asserting that the White House turned down a Netanyahu request to meet with Obama while he was in the U.S. to attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said earlier Tuesday when asked about a meeting issued a statement about why a meeting in New York could not take place--the two men would not be at the U.N. on the same day. There is a plan for Netanyahu to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Vietor said, "The President arrives in New York for the UN on Monday, September 24th and departs on Tuesday, September 25th. The Prime Minister doesn't arrive in New York until later in the week. They're simply not in the city at the same time. But the President and PM are in frequent contact and the PM will meet with other senior officials, including Secretary Clinton, during his visit."

Though there are tensions between the two leaders, they have met every time Netanyahu has been to the U.S. --except one time; on another occasion Netanyahu was in the U.S. when Obama was on an international trip.

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney--in post conventions polling--are still running a close race. RealClearPolitics.com has the latest polling round-ups.

The new Washington Post poll is HERE.


The Chicago Public Schools teachers' strike created openings for Mitt Romney and his GOP allies to exploit Monday, taunting President Barack Obama's neutrality after Romney blasted the union.

Add to that using the strike as an excuse for Republicans to pressure Mayor Rahm Emanuel to stop raising SuperPAC money for Obama's re-election. More on that below.

The irony, of course, is that all of a sudden Romney is interested in Chicago; until Monday, throughout this election cycle Republicans have been associating Obama with sleazy Chicago ward politics.

To that point, Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt said in a tweet, "Chuckles across Chicago as Romney tries to reinvent himself as the city's biggest cheerleader after attacking it for the past year."

Romney, Ryan on 9-11

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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at the Monday briefing President Barack Obama is "aware" of the Chicago Teachers' strike--but has "no opinion" other than his "concern" for students and a "hope" both sides come together to settle it "quickly."

This is a contrast to Mitt Romney--who on Monday--came out strongly against the Chicago Teachers Union.

Obama has a difficult situation here: he does not want to undermine Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his former White House chief of staff-- who last week took on major fund-raising responsibilities for the main Obama Super Pac; he does not want to seem lock-step with a public employee union and give ammunition to Romney while at the same time he does not want to alienate organized labor--one of the strongest most loyal base Democratic groups.

Read my Romney/Chicago teachers' strike post HERE.

Republican National Committee press secretary Kirsten Kurkowski said in a statement, "the president isn't taking a position on the Chicago teachers union strike. Is it because he's said he is "committed to" the teachers union and doesn't want to go against his newest fundraiser Rahm Emanuel?" She also recalled, "the Chicago Teachers Union endorsed Obama for president in 2007. Awkward."

RNC chairman Reince Priebus said in a tweet, "Obama has said he is "committed to" the teachers unions. Today's he's been silent on the strike that is hurting his home state students."

UPDATE

The Chicago strike came up twice in the briefing. Here are the full exchanges...

Q Thanks, Jay. A couple of topics, please. I'm wondering what the President's reaction is to the teacher strike in Chicago, assuming he's had a chance to follow that story, and whether he has any reaction to both the strike and how his former Chief of Staff is handling it.

MR. CARNEY: Well, I'm sure he's aware of it -- I know he's aware of it, but I haven't spoken with him about it, so I can't speak for his reaction. I can tell you that as a -- more broadly, that our principal concern is for the students, and his principal concern is for the students and families who are affected by the situation. And we hope that both sides are able to come together to settle this quickly and in the best interest of Chicago's students. But beyond that, I haven't got a specific reaction from the President.

Q Governor Romney weighed in on it and said that the President has chosen a fight -- chosen a side of the fight, that being the unions and the teachers. Any reaction to that?

MR. CARNEY: Well, the President, as I think you just heard from me, has not expressed any opinion or made any assessment about this particular incident. I can tell you that this President has pursued an education policy that has been a notable success, and a notable bipartisan success, under the President's and Secretary Duncan's leadership. And he'll continue to do that because he believes, as he says frequently, that investing in education now pays enormous economic dividends later. It is integral to our economic future, and that's why he's made it such an important part of his domestic policy agenda.

And with regard to teachers in particular, you know that he has on the table, and has had on the table since a year ago virtually today, a comprehensive proposal called the American Jobs Act which includes within it a section that would, if implemented by Congress, if Republicans would stop blocking it, put 100,000 teachers on the job and into our classrooms helping educate our children. The President is focused very much on this issue. He certainly doesn't agree with those who think that adding more teachers is not or should not be a priority.

*********************** *********************

Q One -- considering Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, his history with Chicago -- obviously the President is from there -- should we expect them to have sort of some public -- to weigh in publicly on what's going on?

MR. CARNEY: I think it's our view that the sides in this dispute in Chicago can and should work it out. I don't --

Q Is there a point where you might step in?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't want to speculate on that. I haven't had that discussion with either Secretary Duncan or the President. I think that we believe that both sides ought to -- and we hope they do -- resolve this in a way that recognizes that it is the interest of Chicago's children that must be preeminent as they work it out. But I don't have any predictions for where it's going to go. We just simply hope that it gets resolved.

Q Is it fair to characterize the White House as sort of neutral in this dispute?

MR. CARNEY: Well, we certainly haven't expressed an opinion on how it should be resolved. We're urging the sides to resolve it.

Q This has been -- there are some reports that there were some Chicagoans that have brought this to the President's attention, this coming showdown before. Can you talk --

MR. CARNEY: Not that I'm aware of. I mean, I'm not with him every moment of the day, but I -- not in my presence, but I don't know.


Republicans are using the Chicago teachers' strike to pressure Mayor Rahm Emanuel to quit his new role as a fund-raiser for the Obama-sanctioned Super Pac raising money for his re-election bid.

Meanwhile, GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney--hours before arriving in Lake Forest for a $3 million fund-raiser Monday night--said the Chicago Teachers Union was turning its backs on public school students. My post on Romney and the Chicago strike is HERE.

Emanuel resigned as an Obama campaign co-chair to instead fund-raise for Priorities Action USA, the main Obama Super Pac. The Washington Post last week disclosed the move.

On Monday, as Chicago public school teachers hit the picket line for the first time in 25 years, the Illinois Republican Party used the occasion to call for Emanuel to quit the Super Pac in a statement headlined, "Emanuel Should Focus on Chicago, Step Down from Obama Super PAC."

The Republican National Committee also linked the strike to Emanuel's Super Pac role and President Barack Obama. RNC press secretary Kirsten Kukowski said in an e-mail, "All - Governor Romney says the Chicago teachers union is turning its back on families relying on public schools. What does Obama think about the Chicago Public Schools strike? Does he approve of his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel raising money for his Super PAC with the strike and crime rate problems in Chicago? Does he stand by his stated "commitment to them"?

ILLINOIS GOP STATEMENT: "Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady today urged Mayor Rahm Emanuel to publicly suspend his work organizing and raising money for a pro-Obama Super PAC in order to focus on resolving the Chicago teachers strike.

"Last week, the Washington Post reported that Emanuel "was quitting his honorary position with the president's campaign to devote his time to helping raise big-dollar contributions for a pro-Obama super PAC called Priorities USA Action." The mayor has not provided any update on his involvement with Priorities USA Action since the Chicago teachers strike began this morning.

"Chicago families deserve the mayor's complete attention this week," Brady said. "Mayor Emanuel should put aside his Obama Super PAC fundraising work and put Chicago issues first."

###

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Monday urged Chicago Teachers Union chief Karen Lewis and Mayor Rahm Emanuel--two "strong-willed individuals" to "get back to the table" until they have a deal to end the strike that sent public school teachers to the picket lines on Monday.

"The basic message is get back to the table. Sit at that table and stay there till it's done. Get these kids back in school tomorrow. That ought to be the message," Durbin said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Asked by host Joe Scarborough "But isn't there a better way to do it than this," Durbin said, "Well, we've avoided this for 25 years, and that's a good thing. And what happened was basically Mayor Daley, if you'll remember way back when, said, give me the schools. I'm sick and tired of the Illinois General Assembly playing, you know, badminton with the Chicago Public Schools. Give them to me; give me the responsibility. I'll take it. And that was a good move.

At this point, though, there're two pretty strong-willed individuals, Karen Lewis, the head of the teachers union, and a fellow named Rahm Emanuel."

On CBS "Early Show" on Monday Durbin also discussed the strike and urged Lewis and Emanuel to negotiate more.

"It's really devastating when you think about the impact on families, particularly on the children. And I understand what the mayor is trying to do. He's trying to say to Karen Lewis with the teachers' union, roll up our sleeves. Let's sit down and get it done. And that's exactly what needs to occur."

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Monday--hours before landing at O'Hare for a $3 million Lake Forest fund-raiser--said he was "disappointed" the Chicago Teachers Union decided to strike--and used the strike to bash teachers' unions, President Barack Obama and Vice President Biden.

UPDATE

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at the Monday briefing President Barack Obama is "aware" of the Chicago Teachers' strike--but has "no opinion" other than his "concern" for students and a "hope" both sides come together to settle it "quickly."

This is a contrast to Mitt Romney--who on Monday--came out strongly against the Chicago Teachers Union.

Obama has a difficult situation here: he does not want to undermine Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his former White House chief of staff-- who last week took on major fund-raising responsibilities for the main Obama Super Pac; he does not want to seem lock-step with a public employee union and give ammunition to Romney while at the same time he does not want to alienate organized labor--one of the strongest most loyal base Democratic groups.

Click HERE to read all the Carney remarks about the Chicago public school strike at the briefing...

END UPDATE

Chicago's public school teachers hit the picket lines on Monday as Mayor Rahm Emanuel is scrambling for a fix. In the meantime, Romney--who been slamming teachers' unions as an impediment to improving public schools-- waded into a local controversy with national implications.

Said Romney in a statement, "I am disappointed by the decision of the Chicago Teachers Union to turn its back on not only a city negotiating in good faith but also the hundreds of thousands of children relying on the city's public schools to provide them a safe place to receive a strong education. Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet. President Obama has chosen his side in this fight, sending his Vice President last year to assure the nation's largest teachers union that 'you should have no doubt about my affection for you and the President's commitment to you.' I choose to side with the parents and students depending on public schools to give them the skills to succeed, and my plan for education reform will do exactly that."

mitt lake forest funder .jpg

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney headlines a campaign rally in Mansfield, Ohio on Monday afternoon and then flies to O'Hare and travels to Lake Forest for a $3 million dollar fund-raiser at the Waud residence. (See copy of invitation above) As for press coverage, the Romney campaign does not allow a pool reporter into fund-raisers in private homes. Most of the Romney traveling press corps will not go with him to Lake Forest, instead staying at a hotel near the airport. A smaller, "protective" pool that accompanies Romney will be somewhere "offsite."

Because of the Chicago teachers strike, I'm told Mayor Rahm Emanuel will NOT be hosting a noon fund-raising lunch Monday to benefit a Super Pac raising money to elect Illinois House Democratic hopefuls.

The House Majority PAC event--at the Chicago Cut Steakhouse, 300 N. LaSalle--is to raise money for

Cheri Bustos
Bill Foster
David Gill
Brad Schneider
Tammy Duckworth
William Enyart


Obama's campaign and the Democratic National Committee raised more than $114 million in August, beating the $111 million collected in last month by Romney's campaign and the Republican National Committee.Obama had a big jump in fund-raising; in July the tally was a combined $75 million.

Campaign Manager Jim Messina said in a statement released late Sunday, "The key to fighting back against the special interests writing limitless checks to support Mitt Romney is growing our donor base, and we did substantially in the month of August. Fueled by contributions from more than 1.1 million Americans donating an average of $58 -- more than 317,000 who had never contributed to the campaign before -- we raised a total of more than $114 million. That is a critical downpayment on the organization we are building across the country -- the largest grassroots campaign in history."

Senior Advisor David Axelrod said in a tweet, "Grassroots Respond! Obama out raises Mitt's mighty money machine in Aug."

From the campaign, "Full metrics:"

Over $114m raised between OFA and DNC
More than 1.1 M donors in the month of August
Cycle to date donors more than 3.1 M
More than 317,000 new donors in the month of August
Avg donation for the month of August $58
98% donations $250 or less in the month of August

ROMNEY $3 MILLION FUND-RAISER IN LAKE FOREST ON MONDAY

Mitt Romney hits Lake Forest on Monday to pick up, I've learned, $3 million at a fund-raiser. The event is being hosted by Reeve and Melissa Waud. Donations range from $2,500 for a reception to $25,800 for a private dinner. Maximum donations are $75,800 per person or $151,600 per couple.

RECAP

In July, Romney and the Republican National Committee raised $101.3 million in July to Obama and Democratic National Committee total of $75 million.

in June, Romney raised $106.1 million to $71 million for Obama.

In May, Romney collected $76.8 million to Obama's $60 million;


WASHINGTON --Mitt Romney hits Lake Forest on Monday to pick up $3 million at a fund-raiser -- a detour from stumping in battleground states where he and President Barack Obama are, and will be, spending most of their time.

I'm back in Washington from a two week convention swing -- Republicans in Tampa and Democrats in Charlotte, in battlegrounds Florida and North Carolina -- and a top takeway is this: Former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) all did a better job in Charlotte of explaining the achievements of the Obama White House and making the case for re-election than did the president himself.

News and observations:

◆ I'm told that Romney's Lake Forest reception and dinner (rescheduled from the original Tuesday date) will yield $3 million, showing there still is money to be squeezed from high-end Illinois Republicans. The event is being hosted by Reeve and Melissa Waud. Donations range from $2,500 for a reception to $25,800 for a private dinner. Maximum donations are $75,800 per person or $151,600 per couple.

◆ Obama's Thursday night speech accepting his second presidential nomination earned him poor reviews from a number of pundits; my take is that Obama delivered a glorified stump speech that is memorable for being unmemorable.

There's some chatter going around that Obama toned down the speech because he knew that monthly unemployment numbers would be released Friday and they would show a weak economic recovery. So Thursday was not the night for Obama to outdo himself in an aspirational stem-winder -- such as his 2004 convention speech in Boston that put him on the road to the White House or his 2008 address in Denver, where he accepted his first Democratic presidential nomination.

Anyway, the time for soaring rhetoric to earn Obama support seems to have passed. Obama has a real-world record under his belt.

Because the speech was panned -- suffering from comparison to Clinton's pitch-perfect blend of politics, policy and potshots at Romney -- the Obama team did something remarkable and on Friday shared results from a focus group that tested voter reactions to various convention speeches.

So why do that?

To try to shift the storyline and show that Obama's speech may not have earned his usual four stars for soaring oratory -- but it got the job done in persuading undecided voters. Maybe better than he did in 2008.

The focus group findings were discussed with reporters by a senior administration official on Air Force One traveling with the president and vice president to battleground New Hampshire. The Obamas and the Bidens left Charlotte and stumped together as a foursome for the first time this year.

According to the pool report, the Obama team research showed people who watched the speech "found it to be optimistic, they found it to be credible in terms of his ideas and goals that would help the economy."

" We think that swing voters in this election responded well to the president's speech. Our sense is that they responded better than to his speech in 2008 in terms of its impact. In terms of their overall view of the speech," the senior official said.

Clinton delivered a line about Obama that was cited for its impact: "I want to nominate a man who's cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside."

As for the state of the race after Tampa and Charlotte, the senior official said, "You are not going to see tremendous movement out of these conventions, even out of the debates." Obama and Romney debate three times in October.

"Any movement you are going to see is small. But in a race, small movement is important," the official said.

◆ Mitt's team keeps pounding on the Obama "disappointment theme" -- a narrative that was threaded throughout the Republican convention.

Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer, in a memo released Friday, talked about their hunt for Obama "switchers" and how they are trying to get people to "break up" with Obama -- using language usually used to describe personal, not political, relationships.

"Independent voters are rethinking their support for the president. They're ready to say, "You've changed." Let's just be friends," Spicer wrote.

"It's understandable that voters worried about the future in 2008 supported Barack Obama. He promised hope and change, deficit reduction, and a thriving economy. But today, hope is in short supply, and change has been for the worse."

"It's time for a breakup. . . . President Obama had his chance. For those that once supported him, it's time to see other people."

Except if the other people are Obama's top surrogates: Clinton, Biden, Kerry or Mrs. Obama.

They might be able to patch it all up.

Rep. Jackson continues to convalesce

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Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), who is at his Washington D.C. home following his discharge from Mayo Clinic, is not returning to Congress until he is released from his doctor's care, his wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) told me.

"My husband is convalescing with his family. He will not return to work until released from Doctor's care. Jesse and I are thankful for the heartfelt prayers and kind thoughts from so many for our family," Ald. Jackson said in a Friday night e-mail.

Rick Bryant, Rep. Jackson's district chief-of-staff told me Sunday night he had no idea when Rep. Jackson may return to Capitol Hill. Another source close to the situation said it is too early to say when Jackson will be back.

That Rep. Jackson is recuperating in his Washington home--rather than in the family's Chicago residence--may be because the Jackson children attend a private school in Washington and the family wants to be together. Rep. Jackson is being treated for bi-polar depression and has been absent from Congress since mid-June.


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After an energized Democratic convention celebrating President Barack Obama that cranked up activists to go out and win him a second term, the tepid jobs report released Friday delivered a sobering dose of reality to the White House -- and created political openings for the Romney-Ryan ticket.

Unemployment continues to be the greatest threat to Obama's re-election -- with two more jobs reports
due before polls open on Nov. 6. With early and absentee voting starting in October -- and undecided voters starting to make up their minds -- Obama doesn't have time left to whip up a major turnaround.

The stats: The August monthly numbers show a slight dip in the jobless rate -- from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent -- with the numbers higher in key battleground states. Some 96,000 jobs were created in August, down from 141,000 in July.

The Obama team played it as upbeat news because jobs continue to be added to the economy, even if they bemoan the slow rate of growth. There have been 30 straight months of private sector growth.

But there is story behind those numbers -- and the Romney-Ryan ticket is pointing to some distressing data in the latest report: The numbers would have been worse, but were not only because people who have given up looking for a job the past month are not counted in the survey.

The 96,000 jobs created are drops in a big bucket. There were about 12.5 million unemployed Americans in August, which the Labor Department said was about the same as in July.

Obama, in his speech here Thursday night, alluded to the slow recovery from the recession that started under former President George W. Bush but has been felt hardest on Obama's watch.

"And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades," Obama said.

Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), pivoted off the August report to blame Obama for the slow economic recovery.

Campaigning in Orange City, Iowa, Romney said, "This president tried, but he didn't understand what it takes to make our economy work. I do. I will use that experience to get Americans to work again."

Ryan, stumping in Sparks, Nevada, said, "Look, President Obama is not a bad guy. No, President Obama is not a bad guy. He's good at giving great speeches. He's just really bad at creating jobs.

"And so let's take a look at where we are. We got some pretty disappointing news just today. You know, we learned today for that every person that got a job, nearly four people have stopped looking for a job; they gave up. We can't keep doing this.

"Our economy needs to create just 150,000 jobs every month just to keep up with the growth of our population. Friends, this is not an economic recovery; this is nowhere close to an economic recovery. We need a new president and we need a real economic recovery," Ryan said.

Obama argues his job growth strategy is slowly working. Romney can get away with saying he'll do better faster because he is the challenger and it's hard to etch concepts into stone.

In a stirring end to his speech, Obama said "We don't turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories. And we learn from our mistakes. But we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon knowing that providence is with us and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on earth."

Especially if we have jobs.

lynnitem.jpg

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Mayor Rahm Emanuel hosts a noon luncheon on Monday for a Super Pac raising money to elect Illinois House Democratic hopefuls. This comes as Emanuel quit as an Obama campaign co-chair to raise mega millions for Obama's sanctioned Super Pac, Priorities USA. Tickets range from $5,000 to $25,000.

The event--at the Chicago Cut Steakhouse, 300 N. LaSalle--a popular Democratic venue this cycle-- will benefit the House Majority PAC. The proceeds will benefit the campaigns of:

Cheri Bustos
Bill Foster
Dr. David Gill
Brad Schneider
Tammy Duckworth
William Enyart

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--After a Democratic convention that celebrated President Barack Obama and cranked up activists to go out and win him a second term, the tepid jobs report Friday released Friday was a big dose of reality.

More jobs were created--about 96,000--and the jobless rate is about the same about 8 percent--which gave Mitt Romney the peg to criticize Obama for the slow economic recovery.

Slapping Obama in a message that was also part of a fund-raising appeal Romney said, "At the Democratic National Convention, former President Bill Clinton told America that his solution to joblessness and budget deficits was one word -- arithmetic. I couldn't agree more. Let's take a look at Barack Obama's record these last four years -- I think you'll agree the numbers just don't add up:

• 23 million Americans are out of work, have stopped looking for work, or are underemployed
• $16 trillion national debt (that's $50,000 for every American)
• 43 straight months of 8% or higher unemployment
• 4 straight trillion dollar budget deficits in a row -- more than any other president combined

Ultimately, it's simple arithmetic -- the policies of Barack Obama just don't add up to the kind of future America deserves."

Obama, Biden convention finale. Video

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President Barack Obama is being joined by his family after finishing his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (video by Lynn Sweet)


President Barack Obama is joined by Vice President Joe Biden and their families on the stage as confetti falls, wrapping up the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (video by Lynn Sweet)

I shot these videos just after Obama finished his acceptance speech. The podium was dropped through a stage opening so Obama et al could spread out on the stage --and not have the podium obscure the picture.


(video by Lynn Sweet)

Biden acceptance speech. Transcript

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Biden slams "the Bain Way"

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Vice President Joe Biden is taking on Mitt Romney's top credential for the Oval Office, his time a Bain Capitol. Romney showcased his career there at his GOP convention last week--bringing on stage one of his former Bain colleagues and the Staples founder--a company Bain bankrolled to get its start.

Biden didn't bash Bain per se. He said running that kind of company isn't a ticket to the White House. "The Bain way may bring your firm the highest profit. But its not the way to lead your country from its highest office," Biden said.



(video by Lynn Sweet)


CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Marc Anthony performs the National Anthem at the Democratic Convention on Thursday night and in the afternoon, he ran through it at the podium and I caught some of the sound check.

illinois labor at convention.jpg
(photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Illinois has prime seats on the Democratic convention floor, and for the Wednesday session labor leaders from the state were front row center. The group pictured above are Tom Balanoff, SEIU and a longtime Obama friend; Toby Trimmer, IFT; Dan Montgomery, IFT president; Tony Garcia, UAW and Ron McInroy, UAW president.


(video by Lynn Sweet)

I shot this video while Sandra Fluke was at the podium and panned a lineup of Illinois Democratic officials and candidates: From the top of the sweep, House hopeful Bill Foster, Democratic Party of Illinois chairman Mike Madigan, Rep. Jerry Costello, Gov. Pat Quinn, Lt. Gov Sheila Simon and her husband Perry, Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Elizabeth Warren at the convention

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(video by Lynn Sweet)


Illinois roll call: State Party Chairman/Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) at the start of the roll call to cast the Illinois delegate votes to renominate President Barack Obama. But wait.....
(video by Lynn Sweet)


(video by Lynn Sweet)

Mike Madigan in this video is casting 196 votes to nominate Obama--out of 215. As Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown wrote in the Politics blog, "a Madigan spokesman explained that under Democratic National Committee rules each state must submit a signed tally sheet with the names of each of its electors. Illinois did not receive its tally sheet until 5 p.m. Tuesday and had to return it by noon Wednesday. Hence, nineteen people never got around to signing."



(video by Lynn Sweet)


BACKGROUND:
UPDATED
AP Source: Obama personally intervened to change Dem platform language on Jerusalem, God.

4:12 PM9/5/2012
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Democrats restore references to God and Jerusalem to platform.

EARLIER

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Democratic Party's platform makes no reference to God, drawing criticism from Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

Ryan tells Fox News' "Fox & Friends" the change is not in keeping with the country's founding documents and principles and suggests the Obama administration is behind the decision. The Republican platform mentions God 12 times.

The 2008 Democratic Party platform made a single reference to God, referring to the "God-given potential" of working people.

The new platform does contain a plank on faith, saying it "has always been a central part of the American story." The platform says the nation was founded on the principle of religious freedom and the ability of people to worship as they please. It also praises the work of faith-based organizations.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Mayor Rahm Emanuel quit his role as an Obama campaign co-chair in order to raise millions of dollars for Democratic SuperPacs-- tasked with helping bankroll ads to win President Obama a second term. This comes as GOP SuperPacs are beating Democrats in fund-raising.

The main Obama SuperPac was founded by two Emanuel proteges: Sean Sweeney, who was Emanuel's chief of staff when Emanuel was in the Obama White House and Bill Burton, a former White House spokesman who worked for Emanuel when he ran the Democratic House political operation, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Paul Begala, one of Emanuel's closest friends and political confidante, is a consultant to that SuperPac. There have been several stories about how donors--big shots capable of writing million dollar checks--have been wanting someone of stature to make the ask, not former staffers. Emanuel could fill that bill.

Under federal law, White House and campaign officials can appear before potential SuperPac donors--but they cannot make a direct cash request. This frees Emanuel--who made his name in politics as a professional fund-raiser--to directly cajole contributors.

I was told Wednesday morning by a source that Emanuel resigned as a co-chair before the convention--but no one in his operation publically disclosed his switch, first disclosed Wednesday morning by Washington Post reporters Tom Hambuger and Peter Wallsten. The source said Emanuel jumped into a bigger fund-raising role because "his goal is to re-elect the president."

Emanuel prefers to do his fund-raising in secret--that's been true for years, especially when he ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--The threat of thunderstorms forced Democratic convention planners to move the Thursday night finale at the outdoor Bank of America Stadium--with acceptance speeches by Barack Obama and Joe Biden-- to the Time Warner Cable Arena, where the first two nights of the convention are being held.

From the convention, released Wednesday morning:

"Convention programming, originally planned for Bank of America Stadium on Thursday, September 6, would be moved to Time Warner Cable Arena, the site of the first two days of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, due to severe weather forecasts. The DNCC also announced that President Barack Obama will address community credential holders in a conference call on Thursday. Call information will be emailed directly to community credential-holders.

"We have been monitoring weather forecasts closely and several reports predict thunderstorms in the area, therefore we have decided to move Thursday's proceedings to Time Warner Cable Arena to ensure the safety and security of our delegates and convention guests," said DNCC CEO Steve Kerrigan. The energy and enthusiasm for our convention in Charlotte has been overwhelming and we share the disappointment of over 65,000 people who signed up for community credentials to be there with the President in person. We encourage our community credential holders and Americans across the country to continue to come together with their friends and neighbors to watch and participate in history. The President will speak to these credential holders on a national conference call tomorrow afternoon, and we will work with the campaign to ensure that those unable to attend tomorrow's event will be invited to see the President between now and election day."

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In the heated presidential battle, first lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney have in common the major campaign assignment of turning out female votes for their husbands -- and letting the public know more about the men they love.

Both women were opening night keynoters at their respective conventions where they were featured as just moms, talking about their love stories, to make it easier for people to relate to President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

"I didn't think it was possible," Mrs. Obama said in her speech Tuesday, "but today, I love my husband even more than I did four years go, even more than I did 23 years ago, when we first met."

In Tampa last week, Mrs. Romney said, "I want to talk to you about love.

"I want to talk to you about the deep and abiding love I have for a man I met at a dance many years ago. And the profound love I have, and I know we share, for this country. I want to talk to you about that love so deep only a mother can fathom it -- the love we have for our children and our children's children."

The mushy stuff aside, the two women have little in common except their ambition to win the White House, their stylish, age-appropriate fashion taste and their absolute refusal -- so far -- to engage in the brutal political attacks that are marking the Obama-Romney race.

Not that Mrs. Romney is above some counterprogramming. She isn't. Mrs. Romney on Wednesday headlines a rally in the battlground state of Ohio that will steal some of the national spotlight from Mrs. Obama in Charlotte, where on Wednesday she visits with African-American, Hispanic and gay Democratic delegates and mingles with major donors.

At different times, each was a reluctant campaigner. Mrs. Obama recalled her initial hesitation Tuesday night.

"Back when we first came together four years ago, I still had some concerns about this journey we'd begun," she recalled.

The two women -- chief surrogates for their husbands -- are at different stages in life and that informs their remarks on the campaign trail: Mrs. Obama, 48, is the mother of two daughters, 11 and 14.

Mrs. Romney, 63, is the mother of five adult sons and grandmother of 18.

Mrs. Obama is the product of Chicago public schools -- proud graduate of Whitney Young High School -- with an elite education at Princeton and Harvard Law.

Mrs. Romney attended an exclusive private high school in Michigan and Brigham Young University.

Mrs. Obama is a physical fitness buff, likes to show off her push-ups, hula hoop skill and dance moves and wears sleeveless outfits (as she did Tuesday) to highlight her very sculpted upper arms.

Mrs. Romney has significant health challenges, battling MS and breast cancer. An equestrian, the sport she is identified with is dressage.

They each chose very different paths as adults.

Ann Lois Davis married Mitt Romney as soon as they finished college and immediately started raising her large family, eventually taking on duties as the first lady of Massachusetts when Romney was governor. She's had few significant financial worries.

Michelle Robinson wed Barack Obama after she was already an attorney and worked at four jobs as she had her kids: a Chicago law firm, City Hall, a nonprofit and the University of Chicago. Mrs. Obama to this day complains about being cash-strapped during most of their marriage.

Plunged into roles they didn't exactly choose, each now is a major campaign asset, deployed to battleground states and used often to headline events targeting women.

Mrs. Romney has the bigger job: Obama ran away with the female vote in 2008 and is way ahead of Romney with women in 2012.

Delegates and fellow Americans, it is an honor to be with you this evening. And it's an honor to represent the great state of Illinois, the home of President Barack Obama.

Tonight I want to talk to you about a scary subject for many, many Republicans. I want to talk about facts. You know, I watched the Republican National Convention last week, and I heard a lot of things that are simply not true.

One of our founding fathers, President John Adams of Massachusetts, once said that "facts are stubborn things." But last week, as they nominated a very different man from Massachusetts, Republicans stubbornly smeared President Obama's excellent record of reforming welfare. They went on and on, pretending that he weakened its work requirement. Everyone knows that is a ridiculous charge. Even the Republican author of "Welfare Reform" says Romney is wrong. Fact-checkers have called this talking point "blatantly false, a drastic distortion and widely debunked," and "a mind-boggling act of untruth telling."

In Illinois, we know President Barack Obama. We know his record. And we know that President Obama has made sure that work is always part of welfare. As an Illinois State Senator, Barack Obama spearheaded welfare reform in the Land of Lincoln. And the fact is, under President Obama, states can get flexibility only if they move 20 percent more people to work.

Let me repeat that for our Republican friends: more people working, not less. Then there's Medicare. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to take away the promise that makes Medicare, Medicare. They want to give seniors a voucher that caps what Medicare will cover and then tell seniors they're on their own for what's left. That would cost seniors thousands of dollars a year. And if they don't have the money, it could cost them their lives. But that didn't stop Romney and Ryan from telling the American people that their plan won't hurt seniors. The fact is, it will. President Obama's plan will protect Medicare and protect our seniors.

Facts are stubborn things. Now, when Paul Ryan got his turn, he blamed President Obama for a plant that closed under President George W. Bush. Here's a fact: when President Obama took office in January 2009, the Chrysler plant in Belvidere, Illinois employed just 200 people. Today, because President Obama saved the auto industry, that same Chrysler plant is employing more than 4,000 American workers.

There's something else the Republicans left out of their convention: any explanation of why they call Mitt Romney "Governor Romney." We already knew this extremely conservative man takes some pretty liberal deductions. Evidently that includes writing off all four years he served as Governor of Massachusetts.

And if you want to know how someone's going to govern the country, look at how he governed his state.

Mitt Romney promised Massachusetts three things: more jobs, less debt and smaller government. Then he left his state 47th out of 50 in job growth, added $2.6 billion in debt and on his watch, government jobs grew six times faster than private-sector jobs. What does Romney promise today? More jobs, less debt and smaller government. But he didn't do it then, and he won't do it now.

From day one, President Obama has told you where he stands, what he believes and what he is doing to make our middle class strong again. America is moving forward under President Obama's leadership--and that's a fact. Now it's our job in the next nine weeks to make sure that the American people know the facts.

Your vote is a valuable thing. Entrust it to someone who respects you enough to tell you the truth. Join me in voting for President Obama and together let's make the will of the people the law of the land.


CHARLOTTE, N.C.--First Lady Michelle Obama--previewing her Tuesday speech for the Sun-Times and several other outlets-- said her speech will lay out what is on the line for women in the presidential election--and how her husband needs to be re-elected to finish the work he started in his first term.

Her speech will be preceded, I learned by a video highlighting her accomplishments and experiences as first lady--in a sense an update on the 2008 biographical video shown at the Denver convention before her keynote.

"Tonight I am looking forward to reminding people across the country about the qualities and the experiences that makes my husband the man and the president that he is today," Mrs. Obama said in a conference call with about two dozen female columnists.

"And I've had an upclose look at just how hard Barack has worked to move this country forward, to rescue our economy and rebuild our middle class and give our kids the opportunites they deserve.

"So I am really excited to talk with everyone about why it is so important that we give him the chance to finish the job that we elected him to do four years ago."

Mrs. Obama never mentioned Mitt Romney's name--she never does--but as she talked about health insurance coverage gains for women's health under Obama--including no lifetime limits on breast cancer treatments and keeping children on parents policies until they are 26--she underscored the GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare.

"We as voters want to keep these reforms or watch them all be repealed."

Mrs. Obama said, "My job tonight is going to remind people about who my husband is."

Summing up she said, "Four years ago, millions of people across this country came together and elected the leader they knew would stand up for him in office. I want people to know that Barack is still that leader. He is still driven by the core values and principles that make him want to do this incredibly tough job in the first place."


(Video by Lynn Sweet)

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who speaks at the Democratic convention on Tuesday, calls New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie a "bully" and "braggart." This comes after Christie last week, in Tampa for the Republican convention, slashed President Barack Obama for being a product of Chicago ward politics.

I asked Quinn to react to Christie at the Monday Illinois delegate meeting.

"We don't pay much attention to a Jersey Guy like him," Quinn said. Quinn said Christie's convention said more about him than Mitt Romney. "He's a bully, a braggart, and we don't pay much attention to people like that."

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Ann Romney headlines a rally in Ohio on Wednesday--the day after Michelle Obama keynotes the Democratic National Convention.


CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Times Chicagoans are speaking at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night:

(all times eastern)

Gov. Pat Quinn, between 6 and 7, aiming at 6:30
Democratic House hopeful Tammy Duckworth, between 8 and 9
Mayor Rahm Emanuel between 9 and 10
First Lady Michelle Obama, about 10:30

2012 Democratic National Convention Podium Schedule

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"Americans Coming Together"

Time shown as local - Charlotte, North Carolina, EDT

CHARLOTTE, Sept. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --

5:00 PM - 6:00 PM (LOCAL)

Call to Order

The Honorable Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Chair of the Democratic National Committee

Member of the US House of Representatives, Florida

Invocation

His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas

Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Detroit

Presentation of Colors

Disabled American Veterans, The Stanly County Chapter 12 Honor Guard

Pledge of Allegiance

3rd Grade Class, W.R. O'Dell Elementary School

Concord, North Carolina

National Anthem

Amber Riley

Singer/songwriter and 'Glee' actress

Remarks

Stephen J. Kerrigan

Chief Executive Officer of the Democratic National Convention Committee

Welcome Video

Presentation of Credentials Committee Report from Co-Chairs

Bishop Vashti McKenzie

First woman elected as bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

The Honorable Julián Castro

Mayor of San Antonio, Texas

Presentation of Rules Committee Report from Co-Chairs

The Honorable Kamala D. Harris

State Attorney General of California

The Honorable Martin O'Malley

Governor of Maryland

Appointment of Convention Officers

Gaveling-in of Permanent Chair

The Honorable Antonio R. Villaraigosa

Chair of the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee

Mayor of Los Angeles, California

Remarks

The Honorable Steny Hoyer

Parliamentarian of the 2012 Democratic National Committee Convention

Democratic Whip and Member of the US House of Representatives, Maryland

Andrew Tobias

Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee

Alice Germond

Secretary of the Democratic National Committee

Roll Call for Attendance

6:00 PM - 7:00 PM (LOCAL)

Platform Committee Remarks

The Honorable Barbara Lee

Member of the US House of Representatives, California

Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy (Retired)

First woman to reach rank of three-star general in the US Army

Platform Video and Remarks

The Honorable Cory A. Booker

Mayor of Newark, New Jersey

Remarks

The Honorable Bev Perdue

Governor of North Carolina

American Hero Video: Education

American Voices Remarks

Ryan Case

Remarks

Mary Kay Henry

International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Remarks from Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus

The Honorable Charles Gonzalez

Member of the US House of Representatives, Texas

Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus

The Honorable Nydia M. Velázquez

Member of the US House of Representatives, New York

Remarks

The Honorable Pat Quinn

Governor of Illinois

Remarks

Doug Stern

Cincinnati, Ohio Firefighter

Remarks

The Honorable Tim Kaine

Candidate for the US Senate, Virginia

Former Governor of Virginia

Former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee

7:00 PM - 8:00 PM (LOCAL)

Remarks

The Honorable Anthony R. Foxx

Mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina

The Honorable Harry Reid

Democratic Majority Leader and Member of the US Senate, Nevada

An Economy Built to Last Video: Education

Women of the US House of Representatives

Jimmy Carter Video

Remarks

The Honorable Ken Salazar

Kennedy Family Tribute Video

Remarks

Joe Kennedy III

Candidate for the US House of Representatives, Massachusetts

Live Performance

Ledisi

Singer/songwriter

Remarks

The Honorable Robert Wexler

President of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace

Former Member of the US House of Representatives, Florida

8:00 PM - 9:00 PM (LOCAL)

Remarks

The Honorable R.T. Rybak

Mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Honorable Jared Polis

Member of the US House of Representatives, Colorado

Stronger Together Video: Reproductive Choice

American Voices Remarks

Maria Ciano

Remarks

Nancy Keenan

President of the National Abortion Rights Action League - Pro-Choice America (NARAL)

Progress for People Video: American Veterans

American Voices Remarks

Nate Davis

Remarks

The Honorable Tammy Duckworth

Candidate for the US House of Representatives, Illinois

Former Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Veterans Affairs

The Honorable Lincoln Chafee

Governor of Rhode Island

The Honorable James E. Clyburn

Assistant Democratic Leader and Member of the US House of Representatives, South Carolina

Progress for People Video: Health Care

American Voices Remarks

Stacey Lihn

Remarks

The Honorable Xavier Becerra

Democratic Caucus Vice Chair and Member of the US House of Representatives, California

9:00 PM - 10:00 PM (LOCAL)

The Honorable Ted Strickland

Former Governor of Ohio

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius

The Honorable Rahm Emanuel

Mayor of Chicago, Illinois

Former White House Chief of Staff

Remarks

Kal Penn

Actor/Producer

Former Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement

Remarks

Craig Robinson and Maya Soetoro-ng

Brother of Mrs. Obama and Sister of President Obama

Stronger Together Video: Equal Pay

Remarks

Lilly Ledbetter

Women's equality leader and namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

The Honorable Deval Patrick

Governor of Massachusetts

10:00 PM - 11:00 PM (LOCAL)

The Honorable Martin O'Malley

Governor of Maryland

Introduction of Keynote Speaker Julián Castro

Joaquin Castro

Brother of Mayor Julián Castro

Candidate for the US House of Representatives, Texas

Keynote Address

The Honorable Julián Castro

Mayor of San Antonio, Texas

Michelle Obama Video and Remarks

Elaine Brye

Remarks

Michelle Obama

First Lady of the United States

Benediction

Jena Lee Nardella

Founder and Executive Director of Blood: Water Mission

Recess

democratic convention finance.jpg
Major Democratic donors get credentials for VIP access at the convention.
(Photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- Major Democratic donors will experience a very different convention than rank-and-file delegates who will fill the Time Warner Cable arena on Tuesday and Wednesday night and the Bank of America stadium on Thursday. Besides getting credentials to the sessions they also have access to the best hotels and VIP finance lounges -- and finance staff who will provide concierge-type services for them.

While VIPs are discouraged from using limo services -- downtown will be crowded with lots of security -- there will be an Obama Victory Fund "Finance Fun Bus."

The best VIP perks go to those who donated at least $75,800 to the joint Obama campaign/Democratic National Committee fund-raising committee with more perks going to donors who have a track record of giving at least $122,400 from Feb., 2009 to June 1 or who raised $350,000 from Jan. 1, 2011 through June 1.

For those who raised between $500,000 to $1 million between Jan. 1, 2011 and June 1 for the committee the Chicago Sun-Times has learned the perk package includes:

■ A Monday "podium preview for a 'sneakpeak'" of the convention hall followed by a dessert reception at the FrontCourt club, a "fine-dining" restaurant at the arena.

"Attendees will have the opportunity to stand behind the official podium of the Democratic National Convention," according to a perk book published for the Obama Victory Fund "finance guest."

■ On Tuesday all the major donors and fund-raisers are invited to an "inside track" briefing with major Obama team honchos.

■ Former President Bill Clinton keynotes Wednesday night and the VIPS are invited to an after party with Clinton running from 11 p.m. to 2 p.m.

■ On Thursday, Mrs. Obama plus Obama senior staff preside over a 10 a.m. breakfast briefing at the Westin Hotel, one of the most exclusive events.

After Obama and Vice President Joe Biden accept the nomination, Biden will headline the "Victory Lane" after party at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- President Barack Obama's Democratic convention kicks off Tuesday, with first lady Michelle Obama keynoting -- the first of a string of Democrats making the case for a second term.

Mrs. Obama arrived in Charlotte on Monday and checked out the podium at the Time Warner Cable Arena, where she will deliver her speech.

She taped an interview with Kal Penn -- the actor and former White House staffer -- to be part of an Obama convention livestream Thursday nigh -- after Obama delivers his acceptance speech. In skyboxes overlooking the arena, Mrs. Obama also did interviews with Entertainment Tonight, E! News and Inside Edition for broadcast on Tuesday.

She also sent out this tweet, referring to daughters Malia and Sasha: "Tomorrow starts a new school year for a lot of families, ours included."

Because school just started, the girls will not be in Charlotte Tuesday for their Mom's speech, but they will be here on Thursday.

President Obama Tuesday continues on his swing-state "Road to Charlotte" tour -- hitting Norfolk, Va., as the Romney-Ryan ticket is bringing out a new theme they think is particularly potent in trying to drive undecided voters to their side: Are you "better off" than you were four years ago.

Asked to react to the "better off" strategy, Obama campaign spokesman Jen Psaki said, is there "more we need to do? Absolutely," and the president, she said, is speaking about that every day.

Monday was the unofficial first day of the convention, marked by a downtown street fair, CarolinaFest and meetings of the various Democratic constituent groups -- giving downtown a festive feel -- before afternoon thunderstorms drenched visitors.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn are among the Tuesday speakers.

Major donors will experience a very different convention than rank-and-file delegates who will fill the arena on Tuesday and Wednesday night and the Bank of America stadium on Thursday. Besides getting credentials to the sessions they also have access to the best hotels and VIP finance lounges -- and finance staff who will provide concierge-type services for them.

While VIPs are discouraged from using limo services -- downtown will be crowded with lots of security -- there will be an Obama Victory Fund "Finance Fun Bus."

The best VIP perks go to those who donated at least $75,800 to the joint Obama campaign/Democratic National Committee fund-raising committee with more perks going to donors who have a track record of giving at least $122,400 from Feb., 2009 to June 1 or who raised $350,000 from Jan. 1, 2011 through June 1.

For those who raised between $500,000 to $1 million between Jan. 1, 2011 and June 1 for the committee the Chicago Sun-Times has learned the perk package includes:

■ A Monday "podium preview for a 'sneakpeek'" of the convention hall followed by a desert reception at the FrontCourt club, a "fine-dining" restaurant at the arena.

"Attendees will have the opportunity to stand behind the official podium of the Democratic National Convention," according to a perk book published for the Obama Victory Fund "finance guest."

■ On Tuesday all the major donors and fund-raisers are invited to an "inside track" briefing with major Obama team honchos.

■ Former President Bill Clinton keynotes Wednesday night and the VIPS are invited to an after party with Clinton running from 11 p.m. to 2 p.m.

■ On Thursday, Mrs. Obama plus Obama senior staff preside over a 10 a.m. breakfast briefing at the Westin Hotel, one of the most exclusive events.

After Obama and Vice President Joe Biden accept the nomination, Biden will headline the "Victory Lane" after party at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- President Barack Obama delivers his third Democratic convention speech Thursday -- and this time -- unlike Boston in 2004 and Denver in 2008 -- he's a man with a record.

The Democratic Convention opens officially on Tuesday -- first lady Michelle Obama keynotes -- with the informal launch on Monday, as overcast clouds, rain and heat threatened to do to Democrats here what Tropical Storm Isaac did to the Republicans in Tampa last week: that is, mess up the program.

As in Denver, Obama delivers his acceptance speech from an open-air stadium -- on a night when thunderstorms are predicted.

The Republicans were forced to cut a day off their convention because of the weather. The Democrats months ago slimmed down to three days, dropping a plan to open Monday at the gigantic NASCAR speedway here because of logistical and financial problems.

Instead, Monday -- Labor Day -- Democrats will hold a daylong series of constitutiency "caucus" meetings at an all-day CarolinaFest -- open to everyone -- featuring performances by James Taylor, Jeff Bridges and Janelle Monáe.

Obama himself will mark Labor Day in battleground Ohio, delivering a speech to UAW workers in Toledo.

The Obama team has an advantage going into their convention because Mitt Romney already had his turn -- and did not receive a big bounce from Tampa.

Stumping in Colorado on Sunday, Obama framed Romney's convention as a look back -- a rerun -- which fits neatly into the Obama "Forward, Not Back" slogan.

"Despite all the challenges that we face in this new century, what they offered over those three days was an agenda that was better suited for the last century. It was a rerun. It could have been on Nick at Nite," Obama said.

"We've seen it before. You might as well have watched it on a black-and-white TV, with some rabbit ears.

"And if you didn't DVR it, the basic recap goes something like this: The economy is not doing what it should be; it's all Obama's fault -- that was a key theme -- and Governor Romney knows the secret to creating jobs and growing the economy. "

For Obama, the Charlotte convention represents a continuation of explaining his accomplishments -- reminding people he didn't create the economic mess he inherited -- and making the argument Romney offers nothing better.

"We've been making a clear case throughout the entire campaign. We're going to keep making the case," Obama campaign communications chief Brent Colburn told me Sunday.

The convention -- with massive coverage -- whether through cable or broadcast television, online outlets or via Twitter -- will reach undecided voters who may just now be paying attention. "People tune into that process at different points along the way."

We talked in the Charlotte Convention Center -- transformed into work space for media and campaign staff -- a few blocks from the Time-Warner Cable Arena, where the convention will take place Tuesday and Wednesday.

Polls show the election close. The Romney team loaded up their convention at a line of attack -- directed at 2008 Obama voters -- that people, including Romney, wanted Obama to succeed, but he wasn't up to the job. An Obama team member told me Sunday that's an attempt to put a dent in Obama's likability ratings, which have consistently been much higher than Romney's.

The president arrives in Charlotte on Wednesday. Mrs. Obama comes here Monday, though she has no public events. Obama's Boston speech was so good it put an Illinois state senator on a trajectory to be elected president a mere eight years later. When Obama talks to his third Democratic conventionThursday -- I am sure there will be soaring rhetoric -- this time with a focus on what he's actually done.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Mayor Rahm Emanuel is hosting a very late "Chicago Rockin' Blues Night here on Wednesday night featuring performances by the Warren Haynes Band, Branford Marsalis, Brad Whitford, and others.

The invite-only party starts after the Democratic convention session, running from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. RE:PUBLIC, 314 N. College Street, Charlotte, NC.

Gov. Pat Quinn is hosting a Monday reception at the Capitol Grille downtown between 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie hosts a Monday desert reception also downtown between 9:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended his handling of shooting sprees that have plagued Chicago in a Sunday interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" rejecting a suggestion he was having a hard time stopping crime. "We're containing it," he said.

Emanuel was booked on the show to preview the Democratic National Convention--and review the just wrapped up Republican National Convention where Mitt Romney officially became the GOP nominee.

After covering national politics (read that story here) host David Gregory said he wanted to talk "about a huge crisis in your own city, and that is, of course, the murder rate. It's up 31 percent from a year ago -- 40 shootings just last weekend, nine left dead, a couple of people shot even near the president's home on the South Side. What are you doing to address this?"

Emanuel replied, "First, we put more police on the street, getting kids, guns and drugs off the street. Our crime rate is down 10 percent and, in fact, or shootings have declined from what was -- basically, we lost the early part of the first quarter of the year, and we've brought them dramatically down. We have a gang issue on parts of the city overall. Overall crime, down 10 percent, and we're making efforts, actually to reduce the gang conflicts because it's gang-on-gang issues. It does not affect the whole city, but anywhere it happens, we're going to be dealing with it."

Gregory, following up, asked, "Is this not a crisis, in your estimation? Is it something that's being overblown or is this something that you have a hard time containing at the moment?"

Emanuel, rejecting the premise of the question said, "No, we're containing it, and the question I have is not whether people say a crisis or a challenge -- I'm going to do everything I can to make sure every child, when they're going to school, can think about their studies not their safety, regardless of where they live, and that's my first priority."

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former President Barack Obama's former chief of staff, framed Mitt Romney Sunday as a backward-looking candidate, blistering his acceptance speech as laying "out the policies of Ground Hog Day."

Emanuel discussed the upcoming Democratic National Convention with David Gregory on NBC's "Meet the Press," where he was introduced as an "architect" of Obama's first term policies.

"If people want to know about the first term? Very simple. General Motors is alive and well. And Osama Bin Laden is not. And that's what got done," Emanuel said. "Because the president did deal, and they know in fact what he inherited and what he is trying to fix."

Emanuel flies to Charlotte on Tuesday, delivers a convention speech on the opening night of the three day event--and is tentatively booked to make the rounds in a Wednesday morning show blitz.

"He basically laid out the policies of Ground Hog Day. Which is, we are going to go back to the very things that led to a recession, led to a middle class that for the first time in American history in a decade, actually saw their economic security decline," Emanuel said.

In making the argument that Romney's candidacy is a look back, Emanuel is underscoring the Obama 2012 "Forward" slogan. I write about the Obama "Forward" strategy in my column today.

Gregory ask about Clint Eastwood's bizarre speech Thursday night--where the actor usedan empty chair to depict Obama--before Romney took the stage to accept the GOP presidential nomination. Emanuel noted that Eastwood proved a distraction to Romney.

"There is nothing memorable about Mitt Romney's speech. There is not a memorable line, not a memorable philosophy. All he advocated was a policy that led to an economic recession," Emanuel said.

The Romney team said Eastwood's speech--no matter how orthodox--rallies their troops and will turn out to be a plus. Emanuel disagreed. "Coming out of a convention, they didn't want a debate about Clint Eastwood. They wanted it about Mitt Romney's ideas."

EMANUEL ON CHICAGO'S CRIME SPREE: "We're containing it" Emanuel says on "Meet the Press." Read the story HERE.

On Thursday September 6th, the programming will also feature a web-only convention special starting at 8 p.m. ET. Hosted by actor Kal Penn, the Live from Charlotte programming will include interviews with campaign officials and special guests, including Marc Anthony, Elizabeth Banks, Aisha Tyler, Olivia Wilde, Fran Drescher, Zach Braff, and Alexis Bledel.


CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Democrats kick off their Charlotte convention Tuesday convinced their main job is to get voters focused on the stark alternatives between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. To look forward -- even if they cannot recreate the exhilaration of the 2008 campaign of hope and change.

"Heading into Charlotte, the goal of our convention is to bring the choice of this election into sharp focus," Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, said in a Friday briefing.

"It won't be about rallying the base or leveling petty attacks. It will be about what we need to do as a country to move us forward, not back," she said.

A central theme running through the Republican convention in Tampa, -- where Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, were nominated on Thursday, was President Barack Obama's failure to live up to his promise -- and promises -- of 2008.

Democrats are battling the Romney/Ryan ticket -- as the Romney team is intent on leveraging the disappointment of 2008 voters.

Romney underscored this strategy near the start of his acceptance speech Thursday night.

"Four years ago, I know that many Americans felt a fresh excitement about the possibilities of a new president. That choice was not the choice of our party, but Americans always come together after elections," he said.

". . . But today, four years from the excitement of that last election, for the first time, the majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future. It's not what we were promised.

". . . I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division," Romney said.

The Obama team knew going into the 2012 contest that to win, they would have to make the argument that Obama has the better plan for the future.

When Obama and first lady Michelle stumped in the battlegrounds of Ohio and Virginia for the first "official" day of campaigning in May, the signs held up by the crowd had the word "Forward" on the front and "Not Back" on the other side. The only nod to the giddy days of 2008 was the "O" in "Forward" -- which incorporated the classic 2008 Obama logo.

"Next week in Charlotte, we are eager to talk about where we've been and where we're going," said David Axelrod, Obama's senior strategist, in the Friday briefing. "The country's gone through a difficult journey together, but we've made -- but we've made a difference."

The Obama convention will highlight the achievements that they argue have made a difference.

Watch for an emphasis on the auto bailout; bringing troops home from Iraq and winding down the war in Afghanistan; providing a path for youths in the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own to stay, and improving health-care coverage through Obamacare, the signature health care law that Romney and congressional Republicans have vowed to repeal.

At the GOP convention, Romney embraced his record as the leader of Bain Capital -- and a former Bain colleague spoke to the many ways Bain was a good corporate citizen -- but that will hardly dilute the plans Democrats have to keep up their attacks on Romney's tenure at Bain. They're convinced that this is one of their most potent plays.

The Romney convention featured the founder of Staples -- one of Bain's big success stories.

The Obama convention will feature the co-founder of Costco.

In Tampa, the Republicans avoided more trouble over Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, who said victims of "legitimate rape" don't get pregnant.

In Charlotte, expect to hear a lot about Akin -- and women's issues. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will lead a tribute to female members of Congress.

The convention covers three nights -- Tuesday through Thursday -- with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden accepting their second nomination at the Bank of America stadium as the finale.

Michelle Obama will be the keynote speaker on Tuesday night and former President Bill Clinton headlines Wednesday night.

The Obama team is repeating the last night of the 2008 convention in Denver -- moving from the Time Warner Cable Arena to a stadium in order to use the event to organize and gather contact data on tens of thousands of people.

Republicans held their convention in the battleground state of Florida and Democrats hope that staging theirs in North Carolina will give them an advantage in keeping that battleground state in the Obama column this year.

Locating in Charlotte has brought Democrats some problems: Union members, a backbone of the Democratic Party, are still steaming that the Democratic convention is being held in a city of non-union hotels -- and in a state that is not union-friendly.

While Obama may well tout his support of gay marriage and the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," for the military, North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity for Republicans to exploit in Charlotte is the state's high unemployment rate: 9.6 percent. Obama's biggest vulnerability going into his re-election is the jobless rate and the slow pace of economic recovery.

When Romney added Ryan to his ticket, the Obama team was pleased -- and remain so -- because it put the spotlight on years of Ryan budget and policy proposals and put Medicare on the front burner. Obama strategists think they do better when the spotlight is on Romney and his plans -- rather than a referendum on Obama.

While Ryan proved a compelling speaker in his debut on the national stage on Wednesday night, Democrats and independent fact-checkers said Ryan was wrong when he implied in his speech that Obama broke a 2008 campaign promise to keep a General Motors plant in Ryan's hometown of Janesville from closing. The plant stopped most of its operations before Obama took office.

Watch for Democrats to not let this one go -- even if the messaging does not come in a formal speech in Charlotte.

Biden, campaigning Friday in Ohio, said Ryan "didn't tell you," the Janesville plant "actually closed when President Bush was in office. He didn't tell you that."

Democrats set up a storefront war room in Tampa in run interference with the GOP convention. Republicans will be running a war-room operation in Charlotte.

On Friday, Republican National Committee Communications Chief Sean Spicer said he expected many Democrats in Charlotte "to resort to the poisonous politics of envy and division, preferring to divide the country rather than to unite it.

"Democrats will continue to blame everyone but themselves -- Europe, the previous administration, 'headwinds,' ATMs, airport kiosks -- without taking one ounce of responsibility for the painful four years over which they have presided," he said. ". . . President Obama will not be able to look America in the eye and say, 'We are better off than we were four years ago.' "

Said Spicer: "What a contrast from the heady days of hope and change."

TAMPA -- Mitt Romney used the final night of his convention to tackle -- even highlight -- two political challenges to his presidential quest: his tenure at Bain Capital and his Mormon faith.

I think Romney's convention made progress in shining an informed light on a religion a lot of people don't know a lot about.

But on that second matter -- Bain -- a centerpiece of Romney's argument on why he is "uniquely qualified" to be president -- Romney's team played more defense than offense -- and if they thought they built a wall to shield him from Democratic attacks -- well, it wasn't very high.

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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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