April 14th, 2012
President Barack Obama begins his re-election campaign defending traditionally Republican territory that he carried when he won the White House four years ago. Republican Mitt Romney is looking to reclaim any combination of these GOP strongholds now in flux.
In the months leading to the Nov. 6 election, both men will talk about how they will galvanize the nation. But in reality, they will lavish travel, advertising and staff on only a dozen states, and even fewer as the vote nears.
The political spotlight will shine brightly again on Florida, and the Upper Midwest, especially Ohio. But changes in the nation's demographics will mean heavy attention paid to the Mid-Atlantic and Southwest.
"For a long time the map was static. I don't think that holds true anymore," said Tad Devine, a senior adviser to former Democratic presidential nominees Al Gore and John Kerry. "Places like North Carolina and Virginia are changing, and they are getting a fresh look."
Despite the candidates' effort to make the election a national referendum, local trends and factors may decide whether campaigns go all-out in a state or bail to channel resources elsewhere.
It's a chess game aimed at reaching the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
If the election were held now, Obama would safely carry 14 states, mainly the East and West Coasts, and the District of Columbia, with a total of 186 electoral votes. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, probably would prevail in 20 states, primarily in the South and West, worth 156.
Both campaigns agree the election will turn on the 16 remaining states, and probably in those won by Obama in 2008 against Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Obama expanded the Democratic footprint on an electoral map that had changed little between George W. Bush's narrow 2000 election and 2004 re-election. Against McCain, Obama captured nine states that Bush had won four years earlier.
Besides Florida and Ohio, Obama took North Carolina and Virginia, where a Democrat had not won in a generation. There were victories as well in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada.
In Florida, unemployment tops 9 percent, tourism is slow to recover, gas prices are high and trouble persists in the housing market; all that works against Obama.
But his team is aggressively organizing in the state, and his visit Friday was his 16th since taking office, more than almost any other swing state.
Romney's battle with Rick Santorum for the GOP nomination slowed his preparations for the fall showdown in Florida. If Romney were to win the state's 29 electoral votes, it would block Obama's clearest path to 270, said Rick Wiley, political director for the Republican National Committee.
"Deny him Florida and his map alters significantly," Wiley said.
Ohio, too, is a jump-ball. In 2010, Republicans roared back. The manufacturing economy, especially its automotive parts sector in northern Ohio, continues to struggle, although unemployment has dropped below the national average.
"In Ohio, you're looking at the general election as a referendum on the economy," senior Romney adviser Kevin Madden said.
Yet Romney must contend in Ohio with the fallout from a party feud and an Obama campaign that never quit organizing after winning the state in 2008.
Republicans see North Carolina and Virginia as Romney's best chance to pick up an Obama-carried state.
Unemployment has remained at nearly 10 percent. Virginia Republicans have been emboldened by Gov. Bob McDonnell, who in 2010 ended consecutive Democratic administrations. But the states' conservative complexion has changed.
Younger, Democratic-leaning professionals have flocked to North Carolina's Research Triangle and the northern Virginia suburbs around the nation's capital. Both states also have large minority populations; those groups voted in record numbers for Obama in 2008.
Obama picked Charlotte, N.C., for the Democratic National Convention in September. While convention hosts have been unreliable general election indicators, Obama was the first Democrat to carry Colorado since 1992 after accepting the nomination in Denver. Obama kept thousands of the volunteers he sent out for that convention to work through the election, as he could in North Carolina.
Though defending inroads into Republican states, Obama has an advantage of forcing Romney to spend money there, and that, Obama aides say, shows some of the options of reaching 270.
"We have an ability to win in a number of different scenarios," said Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina. "The map has moved. This is not your parents' electoral map."
Hispanic voters helped Obama win last time in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, and, according to polls, they prefer him over Romney. Romney described GOP primary rivals Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich as soft on illegal immigration, and has said he would veto legislation that would allow certain illegal residents to become U.S. citizens.
But Romney expects to be competitive in all three states. For one, Nevada has a popular Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, who endorsed Romney on Wednesday. Also, unemployment tops 12 percent in Nevada, the heart of the housing crisis.
The Obama campaign is confident it will carry Colorado, where suburban women, a strong suit nationally for the president, in the Denver area are seen as key.
New Mexico has gone back and forth for the past three presidential cycles, and elected a Republican governor in 2010. But the boom in the Hispanic voting population is a challenge for Romney.
"Those Western states are going to depend on the Hispanic turnout and the percentage we get," said Charlie Black, a veteran Republican presidential consultant. "And if we voted today, we wouldn't do well. But we've got plenty of time to work on it."
Iowa, a true swing state over the past three presidential elections, is special to Obama. His upset of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 caucuses set him on the path to the nomination, and he has kept the fires burning.
Romney waged competitive campaigns for the 2008 and 2012 caucuses, but has struggled to win devotion from conservatives. On Tuesday, he received the endorsement of Gov. Terry Branstad, an economic conservative and establishment GOP figure.
Vice President Joe Biden has campaigned in Iowa twice this year. The Obama campaign included Iowa, along with Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, last week a round of television advertising, highlighting its place as a top target.
Of the GOP states Obama picked off, only Indiana is viewed as uncompetitive in 2012. Obama was the first Democrat to carry Indiana since 1964, and he did so by a single percentage point.
But Obama did win New Hampshire, which flipped from Bush to Kerry in 2004, and is considered a toss-up this year. It's Romney's backyard, where he won the January GOP primary and Republicans have roared back to power in recent years. Biden campaigning in the state Thursday.
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania are viewed as competitive, but lean toward Obama's column. Democratic presidential candidates have carried them since at least the 1980s, and earlier.
Romney hopes his native Michigan status and family name — his father was governor in the 1960s — help, as does his business background, given that the state's jobless rate exceeds the national average. But his opposition to the federal auto industry bailout in 2008 may hurt him in the car capital.
Although Romney's national campaign headquarters is in Boston, Republicans say they don't expect Romney to win, and perhaps not compete, in Massachusetts, a traditional Democratic stronghold.
In Wisconsin, conservatives are rallying around Gov. Scott Walker, who faces a June recall election after he signed legislation last year stripping public employee unions of most bargaining power. If Walker prevails, it could embolden Romney.
Bush competed in Minnesota and Pennsylvania in 2000 and 2004, only to have them tip Democrat in the closing weeks. Today, registered Democrats in Pennsylvania outnumber Republicans by nearly 1 million. But a downturn in the economy, or Romney catching fire elsewhere in the nation's economic heartland could tip both Republican.
Obama campaign aides have sent signals they will contest Arizona, arguing the Hispanic voter trend favors them. However, they and Romney aides say that tipping point is years away and that it remains a safe Republican state.
Likewise, Missouri has been decided by slim margins in the past three elections, but carried by Republicans in all three.
As in Arizona and even Georgia, where Obama's team has also made overtures, Missouri is considered GOP territory this year.
"The Romney campaign is going to make sure we have the resources to compete in states where Democrats throw a head fake," Romney's Madden said. "And I'm saying Missouri is not being targeted by the Democrats."
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/04/14/obama-defends-typically-gop-states-in-race-to-270/#ixzz1s3sEQKdz
April 14th, 2012
ninemsn (Video from ABC)
A New Jersey family is suing their landlord claiming the house they rented is haunted.
Josue Chinchilla, Michele Callan and her two children moved into the three-bedroom house in early March but fled to a hotel one week later, Asbury Park Press reports.
The family claims they were driven out by "paranormal activity" including spooky sounds, lights being switched on and off and their clothes being strewn throughout the house when nobody was there.
Mr Chinchilla told ABC News he would hear "three taps on the TV" and feel "taps on the shoulder".
The couple claimed they even recorded strange voices whispering "let it burn".
Last week Mr Chincilla, 37, and Ms Callan, 36, filed a lawsuit in the state Superior Court against their landlord, Dr Richard Lopez, seeking a refund of their $2170 security bond.
Dr Lopez has filed a counter suit against the couple for breaking their one-year lease.
He claims they are trying to get out of it because they simply cannot afford the rent.
A judge is set to hear the case at the end of this month.
More world news:
April 14th, 2012
Baseball-sized hail shattered windows and tore the siding off homes in northeast Nebraska and at least three possible tornadoes hit central Oklahoma on Saturday in what forecasters warned could be a day of "life-threatening" storms in the nation's midsection. No serious injuries from Saturday were immediately reported.
A tornado was spotted in Langley, Kan., Saturday evening, as National Weather Service tornado warnings were in effect in parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The Weather Channel reported that 40 tornadoes were reported before 7:30 p.m. EDT.
“What is now under way is potentially a very serious situation,” Bill Bunting, chief of operations for the Storm Prediction Center said. Officials warned that other areas at risk were parts of Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Texas were at risk.
The last time the National Weather Service issued such a high-risk warning was last April, Bunting said.
Comments from the targeted region started to stream onto msnbc.com’s Facebook page Saturday evening. Their comments and their Facebook IDs:
"Oklahoma is get'n shaken up jus a bit. If they weren't ALL Around. I woulda left state! But gonna pray & ride it out here in Okie.” -- Kimberly Dawn.
“Partly cloudy and very windy in S.E. Kansas with potential for severe storms after 10 pm. You pray and keep your eyes on the weather reports.” -- Valori Richardson
“I'm east of Wichita, KS. Very muggy here. Very windy. Waiting for the storms to pop here. The local weather people are warning everyone to be prepared to take shelter even into the overnight hours. This is the real deal.” -- Diane Lowery.
Nebraska canceled its spring scrimmage football game as heavy rain, hail and lightning moved through the area an hour and a half before kickoff, The Associated Press reported. Records show the spring game has been played every year since at least 1950. In northeast Nebraska, baseball-sized hail rained down, Bunting said.
He advised the nearly 5 million residents who live in the high-risk area to listen to their NOAA weather radio, a nationwide network of radio stations that broadcast from the National Weather Service.
He expects fast-moving tornadoes to touch down after dark, a dangerous time as people may not be able to see the warning signs. The storm threat continues Sunday, he said, as storms move east through Texas, Arkansas and into the Great Lakes region and Wisconsin.
Local officials should notify residents via outdoor sirens, phone calls and social media, Bunting said.
Tornado sirens already sounded across Oklahoma City hours before dawn on Saturday. Department of Emergency Management official Michelann Ooten said one of the possible tornadoes was spotted near Piedmont, a small town near Oklahoma City where a twister killed several people last May.
Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Brown told The Associated Press that the storms Saturday morning were fairly weak but still damaged some homes.
A tornado that touched down Friday afternoon sent 10 people to the hospital with "bumps and bruises" and ripped through southwest Norman, ripping up telephone poles, shredding trees and ripping off rooftops, according to the Oklahoman. The AP reported that 100 people were staying at a Red Cross shelter that had been established.
More content from msnbc.com and NBC News:
April 14th, 2012
Hot Air / Tina Korbe
For the third year in a row, the White House will host a conference to highlight women’s issues — and to tout all that this administration has supposedly done to advance the welfare of women in society:
The White House Council on Women and Girls is hosting the White House Forum on Women and the Economy where business leaders, education leaders, and Cabinet secretaries will discuss a gamut of issues from healthcare to workplace flexibility to help for small businesses run by women. President Obama will address the diverse group of participants when he gives the keynote remarks in the morning session.
There will also be breakout sessions where there will be further discussions on ways to help women’s lives better through economic and social policy. Several Cabinet secretaries, like Attorney General Eric Holder and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will lead panel discussions.
The White House will also be releasing a 55-page report on all the ways various departments and agencies have implemented policies to benefit women. Some examples of those initiatives are focusing on equal pay for women, affordable college education, tax cuts that benefit women, and healthcare policies, like the recent controversial coverage of contraceptives.
Conservative women see through the ruse. For weeks, the administration has reduced issues of concern to women to just one — the question of whether insurers will be made to cover the costs of women’s contraception. What the White House is, perhaps, belatedly realizing is that women care about more than just birth control. As the nation’s fastest-growing segment of small-business owners, they care about the business climate created by tax and regulatory policy. As moms who fill the gas tank to drive their kids to school, they care about energy prices and education policy. As single young women saving for their futures, they care about the coming implosion of entitlement programs. Women’s political “issues,” in other words, are really not very different from men’s “issues” — even though women themselves are different than men. At the same time that the president insists that women should be members at Augusta, he plays identity politics in a way that marginalizes the women he reduces to gender alone.
Smart Girl Politics co-founder Teri Christoph says it like this: “Women are tired of the political manipulation of this White House. We know when we are being pandered and played to, and we will no longer allow this discussion to focus on the concerns of a small segment of the women in this country. Women are far more concerned with the lack of action from this Administration and a do-nothing Congress when it comes to jobs, rising energy prices, and our national security.”
SGP yesterday released a video to tell the White House: You don’t speak for us.
Refreshing to know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Who speaks for me? I do.
April 14th, 2012
The General Services Administration official tasked with organizing a now-infamous $822,000 Las Vegas conference plans to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights ahead of a scheduled Monday grilling on the Hill.
On Thursday, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) served a subpoena to require Jeff Neely to appear before the committee, according to Democratic committee documents obtained by POLITICO. Neely’s attorney on Friday informed the committee Neely will exercise his right against self-incrimination and requested not to attend the hearing.
“Requiring Mr. Neely to travel from California to appear before the Committee when you have been advised that he will not answer any substantive questions posed to him does not advance any legitimate Committee purpose,” the attorney wrote, according to the documents.
(Also on POLITICO: GSA chief was set to visit Solyndra)
Issa wrote Neely’s lawyer Friday to advise the attorney and Neely that the subpoena remains in effect.
“Mr. Neely is uniquely qualified to answer questions about the WRC,” Issa wrote. “The Committee requires Mr. Neely’s appearance because of, among other reasons, the possibility that he will waive or not assert the privilege as to some or all questions.”
Neely’s attorney later Friday confirmed Neely will attend the hearing.
Neely may also face a Justice Department investigation into allegations of theft and contracting violations, according to The Washington Post.
The four-day Western Regions Conference, held in the fall of 2010, resulted in the resignation of the agency’s administrator, Martha Johnson, as well as bipartisan criticism from Congress members tasked with overseeing public agencies, for spending on upscale accommodations, $3,200 on a mind reader and thousands of dollars on commemorative coins. Four congressional hearings are scheduled for next week.
The documents also show the GSA Inspector General’s office notified the GSA of some of its investigative findings in 2011, but cautioned GSA leaders from making any personnel decisions based on the initial IG investigation until it was made final. Neely, a GSA employee since 1978, was placed on administrative leave following the April 2 release of the final GSA report.
Earlier Friday, Issa’s office questioned why Neely hadn’t been disciplined in 2011 when details of the conference first surfaced. Last week a spokesman said the Obama administration “only took real personnel actions when there were no more options for delay.” But the timeline of personnel decisions appears to have been requested by the IG.