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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Last-Minute Help From Wealthy Donors

Some wealthy donors appear to be acting as a kind of SWAT team for Democratic and Republican candidates by pouring last-minute contributions into competitive House races. These 11th-hour gifts are often their first to these campaigns.

Joseph A. DiMenna Jr., a hedge fund manager, and his wife, Diana, have put at least $40,000 into nine House races since Oct. 17, including the campaigns of Representative Bobby Schilling of Illinois, a conservative freshman facing a tough re-election bid, and Andy Barr, a Republican lawyer from Kentucky, challenging an incumbent Democrat, Ben Chandler.

Previously, the DiMennas had given more than $70,000 to the Romney Victory Fund, which helps Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and Republican Party committees.

David and Susan Duff, who own Pine Bluff Coal in Kentucky, gave at least $30,000 in October to House campaigns in Arizona, California, Florida, Minnesota and New York, including those of Ann Marie Buerkle of New York and Chip Cravaack of Minnesota, both freshman Republicans. The Duffs had donated $60,000 to American Crossroads, a “super PAC” that supports Mr. Romney and other Republican candidates.

Democratic donors are also getting in on the act. One donor, Gilbert Silverman, a Michigan developer, has given at least $33,000 to 27 Democrats in more than a dozen states.

Mary and Steven Swig, a California couple whose business interests include a real estate firm and a lingerie company, sank at least $15,000 this month into seven campaigns in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Among those they supported were Representative Betty Sutton, who, as a result of redistricting, is battling a freshman Republican, James B. Renacci, in Ohio.

The Swigs and Mr. Silverman have been major contributors to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, each contributing $30,800.

Video: Romney In His Own Words

From a speech Wednesday at a campaign rally in Tampa, Fla.:

My view is pretty straight forward and that is, I believe that this is time for America to take a different course, that this should be a turning point for our country. And I say that because I look at where we are and with 23 million Americans - you think about that, these are real people, these are folks trying to put food on the table - twenty-three million people struggling to find a good job. This is something that requires in my view a different path than we've been on. Likewise, we have half our kids coming out of college who can't find work. This hasn't happened before in our history. We're at a 30-year low in new business formations. This is a real challenge for a nation that normally grows through innovation and risk-taking and start-ups of all kinds.

We also have one out of six people living in poverty. We need to take a new course. We have 47 million people on food stamps. Think of that - richest country in the history of the earth, largest economy in the world, and yet 47 million people need food stamps? So I believe that this is the year for us to take a different course. I will bring real change and real reform and a presidency that brings us together. Now, I don't just talk about change; I actually have a plan to execute change and to make it happen.

Go back to related article '

Total Cost of Election Could Be $6 Billion

The total cost of the 2012 election could reach $6 billion, according to estimates from a leading research organization, which would obliterate the previous record by more than $700 million.

The increase has largely been driven by rapidly increased spending among “super PACs” and outside groups that can raise unlimited amounts of money from donors. Spending by outside groups could reach to more than $970 million for the 2012 cycle, although precise estimates are difficult because the rate of spending by outside groups has been rising so quickly since Labor Day

But even that increase could substantially understate the total. While super PACs - political committees that sprang into being after the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling - spent at least $539.4 million through Oct. 31, hundreds of millions of dollars more are being spent below the radar by groups that do not register with the Federal Election Commission and purport to focus on educational, not political, activities. Such groups spent at least $203 million in the last two months, a window during which federal law requires formal disclosure of any expenditures that mention a candidate, and they spent even more earlier in the campaign cycle, on “issue ads” that are not subject to disclosure. Measured merely by the spending that is disclosed, three of the top six outside groups in 2012 are issue groups that are not required to publicly reveal their donors.

“One thing we can say for certain is that the transparency the Supreme Court relied upon to justify this new framework has been sorely lacking,” said Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which released the estimates on Wednesday.

The center said that the presidential election would likely account for about $2.6 billion in total spending, including spending by the candidates, parties, and outside groups. That figure would represent a decrease from 200 8, in part because of lower spending by candidates in the primaries: President Obama, the incumbent, had no significant opposition, and the Republican candidates on the whole raised much less than the field did in 2008. But total spending by the two parties and their nominees through Election Day is likely to easily outpace 2008, because neither Mr. Obama nor Mitt Romney is accepting public financing and spending caps for the general election.

Perhaps the biggest expansion of outside spending has been in the battle for the House and Senate this year. Between 2008 and 2012 - neither a midterm election - independent expenditures in the House and Senate races increased from $46 million to $445 million, a tenfold increase that does not include issue ads run early in the cycle to soften up incumbents of both parties.

Follow Nicholas Confessore on Twitter at @nickconfessore.

App Snapshots: Storm Diversions

The Election 2012 App

Returning to normal life, for many, has been a struggle after the storm, and there might not be as much time as usual for politics. So ease back in slowly with some lighter news you might have missed, plus some unusual insights into the race in the key states of Florida and Ohio. We collect the best of it all, essential and diversionary on the Election 2012 app.


  • In Florida, ‘Cuban Conundrum' Vexes Pollsters - and Obama
    President Obama comfortably leads Mitt Romney among Hispanics nationwide, but only narrowly in Florida - thanks to conservative Cuban-American voters. (The Miami Herald)
  • In Ohio, Teachers Run for Statehouse - and Could Give Obama a Boost
    A surge of candidacies by Democratic teachers is a byproduct of last year's voter referendum repealing a stat e law that would have curbed public employees' bargaining rights. Another byproduct is reusing teacher phone banks from that effort to support Mr. Obama. (NPR)

During a stop at a diner in Florida, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. made a joke - we think - about his White House intentions.

  • Biden Already Thinking About 2016
    “Look, I'm not trying to talk you into voting for me, I just wanted to say hi to you. And after it's all over, when your insurance rates go down, then you'll vote for me in 2016. I'll talk to you later,” Mr. Biden said to a Florida Republican. (The Hill)

A video of a girl's tearful frustration with the election is quickly becoming an Internet sensation. Also, a look at a campaign aide out to make viral videos of opponents' gaffes.

  • Video: ‘Tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney'
    A 4-year-old in Colorado bursts into tears after hearing one too many election stories on NPR. (YouTube)
  • Dear Little Girl: Sorry We Made You Cry About ‘Bronco Bamma' and Mitt Romney
    NPR apologizes. (NPR)
  • A Day in the Life of a Campaign Tracker
    “You truly never know when a seemingly innocuous statement will eventually emerge as a major issue,” writes a tracker, who follows the opposition to record their every word. (Marketplace)

Sandy and the Need for More Time, Paperwork for Mortgages

Homes on the New Jersey coast damaged by Hurricane Sandy.ReutersHomes on the New Jersey coast damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

A colleague whose home is located in an area affected by Hurricane Sandy had applied last week for a refinance of his mortgage and thought he was done signing forms. But today, his lender said that because his home was in a declared disaster area, he'd have to provide additional documents.

That might not be the easiest thing to do, since getting documents may be a challenge for those in areas without power.

A Bank of America spokesman, Kris Yamamoto, said that due to “GSE guidelines and our policy, and depending on the category of the disaster area,” there may be additional requirements to process a loan, like an inspection or certification on the property. (The term GSE refers to government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, which are major buyers of home loans.)

He also said that if the processing of a loan is delayed due to a bank site being temporarily closed  and the interest rate lock expires during that time, the customer will continue to qualify for their previous interest rate.

A Chase spokeswoman said she was looking into my inquiry. Meantime, she said, Chase is automatically giving many borrowers affected by the storm an extra seven-day extension on an interest-rate lock, if they were scheduled to close on a mortgage this week. (She said the extension applies to Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington, D.C.)

Wells Fargo didn't immediately respond to an e-mail request for information about how the storm i s affecting loan applications.

Do you have a home loan or refinance pending? Has the storm affected your application?

10 House Races to Watch

Weary of the race for the White House? You're not alone! So, how about dialing into some of the most exciting House races of 2012?

Thanks to the powerful force of gerrymandering, the vast majority of the hundreds of races around the country are anti-climactic, with the party registration numbers in each Congressional district dictating the outcome. Republicans appear poised to hold their majority in the House, but Democrats are likely to pick up at least a few seats. Many races, though, mirror the fight for the presidency - tight, exciting and riddled with tough advertisements. While there are more than 10 competitive races, some of them even closer than the ones we have listed list here, these House races are 10 worth watching.

California's 15th District
History and tradition suggest that Representative Pete Stark, who has served nearly four decades, should cruise to re-election, and maybe indeed he will. But this race is on the radar screen because Mr. Stark, who has not faced a serious challenge in years, has been knocked off his game many times by competition - a situation illustrated by his announcement at California newspaper editorial board meeting, absent any proof, that some of its members had donated to his primary opponent. No Republican qualified in the California primary for this race, so Mr. Stark, 81, will have to beat back a Dublin City Council member, Eric Swalwell, a perky 31-year-old prosecutor with the stomach for a fight.

California's 36th District
For eight terms, Representative Mary Bono Mack, the Republican incumbent, has won in this largely blue state, and redistricting seemed to favor another good outcome for her. But she found herself in a scrappy fight against the Democrat, Dr. Raul Ruiz, an emergency room physician. Latinos make up nearly a third of the district's voters, and Ms. Bono Mack, one of the most moderate Republicans in the House may have boo-booed when she said on the campa ign trail that she would reach out to Latinos “after the election.” Twist: If she loses, and her husband, Representative Connie Mack of Florida, fails in his Senate bid, they will be a married Congressional couple out of work.

Colorado's 6th District
As goes this district, so likely goes the presidential candidate in this western bellwether state. Representative Mike Coffman, a favorite of the Tea Party movement, is known for his colorful statements, including calling into question President Obama's American-ness, and his path to a third term narrowed after political mapmakers redrew his overwhelmingly Republican district to include near-equal amounts of registered Republican, Democratic and independent voters. His Democratic rival, Joe Miklosi, a state lawmaker, has struggled to raise money for his own campaign and has had to rely on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to keep afloat. (Colorado Race Turns Fierce Aft er Republican's Anti-Obama Remark, Oct. 30)

Florida's 18th District
Representative Allen B. West is one of the few nationally known freshmen Republicans, a former Army officer who in 2010 became one of only two black Republicans to be elected to the House since Reconstruction. A Tea Party favorite who works the talk-show circuit and is a fund-raising powerhouse, he is in a too-close-to-call contest with a wealthy construction executive, Patrick Murphy, and Democrats would love to see Mr. West go. This race has also featured some of the nastiest ads, in a year with a high bar for that.

Illinois's 17th District
Among the many lawmakers who came to Washington with no political experience, Representative Bobby Schilling was among the most unlikely. The affable pizzeria-owning father of 10 won in a district near the Iowa border that had not elected a Republican in nearly 30 years, and Illinois Democrats drew him into an even tougher district this year, mak ing him one of the most vulnerable incumbents. But his opponent Cheri Bustos, a former East Moline alderwoman and close ally of Senator Richard J. Durbin, has had to work hard to fight Mr. Schilling, who has tried to charm the working-class voters in this district. The race has remained a nail-biter, though Democrats think this one is in the bag. (Ex-Outsiders, Running on Record in Congress, Oct. 28)

Iowa's 3rd District
This race was the war of the nice guys. Iowa lost a seat after the 2010 census, and two veteran incumbents - Representatives Leonard L. Boswell, a Democrat, and Tom Latham, a Republican - found themselves facing off in a new district made up of a nearly equal number of Republican, Democratic and independent voters. The cash advantage went to Mr. Latham, who got a ton of fund-raising help from his B.F.F., House speaker, John A. Boehner. But more of the district is currently held by Mr. Boswell, and Mr. Obama enjoys a narrow edge in the state.

Georgia's 12th District
The last white Democrat laboring in the deep South, Representative John Barrow has hung on through every attack that Republicans have launched over the course of four terms. This year, he is forced to compete in an even more Republican district, and has worked to emphasize his Blue Dog status and his “I vote my district not with the president” cred. His opponent is Lee Anderson, a state representative who nabbed the Republican nomination by a mere 159 votes in a primary runoff, and Mr. Barrow has given as hard as he has gotten in this close race.

Massachusetts's 6th District
So, an openly gay Republican member of the House from Massachusetts? Get ready, as it could happen. Representative John F. Tierney, an eight-term Democrat, should have cruised to re-elected, but he has been dogged with nagging questions about his in-laws' illegal offshore gambling enterprise. His opponent is the former state senator Richard Tisei, an openly gay Republican who supports abortion rights, and polling shows Mr. Tisei heading into the last month of his campaign with a strong lead.

New York's 27th District
There are many close races in New York, and a few involving freshmen, but the first-term incumbent, Representative Kathy Hochul, is considered among the most vulnerable Democrats in the country. Ms. Hochul, a former county clerk, won her seat in a closely watched special election in a conservative district in the Buffalo area last year in a race that was viewed nationally as a referendum on a Republican proposal in Washington to overhaul Medicare. This year, redistricting has given her an even more Republican district than the one she had and her well-known Republican opponent, Chris Collins, the former Erie County executive, has gotten a lot of help from his party.

Utah's 4th District
Representative Jim Matheson, one of the last remaining Blue Dogs, is used to winning in a district and stat e where the Republican nominee for president always prevails. But this time, Mr. Matheson is in a battle against Mayor Mia Love of Saratoga Springs, who is looking to become the first African-American woman ever to join the House of Representatives as a Republican. Ms. Love is sure to have big coattails from Mitt Romney to ride, and her party is giving her strong support, but incumbency is not without its benefits, even in this district. (Utah Mayor Hopes Star Turn, and Romney's Star Power, Lift Her to the House, Oct. 31)

- All New York Times House Race Ratings

Christie Greets Obama in New Jersey Prior to Touring Storm-Ravaged Coast

President Obama greeted Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey in Atlantic City.Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama greeted Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey in Atlantic City.

Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, greeted President Obama as he emerged from Air Force One on Wednesday for a joint tour of the state's devastated coast.

The two shook hands at the bottom of the stairs from the president's plane, and Mr. Obama patted the governor on the back several times. Craig Fugate, the head of FEMA, also shook hands with Mr. Christie.

Mr. Christie and Mr. Obama talked to each other as they walked to Marine One, the president's helicopter, for the brief ride to the storm-damaged area. Mr. Obama gestured to Mr. Christie to board the helicopter first.

The tour of the area was expected to last about an hour.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

Wrestling With Halloween Cost Creep

A Halloween display in Decatur, Ga.European Pressphoto AgencyA Halloween display in Decatur, Ga.

Halloween used to be a one-night event. When I was a kid, my mother helped me and my brothers put together costumes - usually, homemade. We carved a pumpkin. Maybe we bobbed for a few apples. We went trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. We tried to con each other into trading candy we liked better. And that was it, until the next year.

Times have changed. Halloween has morphed into days - even weeks - of October parties, festivals and candy giveaways that strain budgets and overload youngsters with more sweets than my Milky Way-addled childhood brain could ever have imagined. There's no need for sibling bargaining, when everyone has an over abundance of treats.

I find this “holiday creep” annoying, not to mention potentially fattening, as well as expensive. The average American will spend nearly $80 on decorations, costumes and candy this year, up from $72 last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Total Halloween spending is expected to be about $8 billion.

It's not that the organizers of all the extra events aren't well intentioned. Last week, my children attended a “fall festival” (it involves costumes and candy, but is apparently named so as not to put off those who object to Halloween). It was a fund-raiser for a very deserving local charity. But bringing two children, plus a friend, totaled $60 for the night. (I realize I have free will, and could simply have chosen not to go. But it gets harder to sit out when excess celebration is becoming the norm, and all of your children's friends are attending, too).

Today, my younger child had a celebration at school. (Call me a party pooper, but I didn't bake cupcakes.) And this afternoon, my offspring will go trick-or-treating at their dad's workplace, where employees elaborately decorate their cubicles for the holiday to entertain the kids. Finally, at dusk, we'll venture out into the neighborhood for the actual door-to-door event.

In addition to being tiring, the cost of all this partying adds up. Unless you're adept at homemade costumes or have time to browse thrift shops, you'll pay about $15 to $20 per child for an out-of-the-bag get-up, and three to four times that if you order from a higher-end catalog. If your child is the messy type, you may need more than one costume for the different events, which adds to the cost. (My youngest was a vampire for the fall festival, but agreed â€" whew! â€" to recycle a Pocahontas costume from a school play for the “official” trick-or-treat outing.) This year we're pet owners, so my kids begged for a pumpkin sweater for the dog. (O.K., I do h ave to admit that she looks really cute).

By the time we're finished, we'll have shopping bags full of candy. This is the situation that leads parents to turn to the “Halloween fairy,” who takes away excess treats in exchange for a toy, which adds to the cost further. But wouldn't it make more sense to scale back the excess in the first place?

How do you keep the lid on Halloween, without appearing to be a killjoy?

Jobs Report Will Be Released Friday as Planned

Labor Report on Jobs to Arrive Friday on Schedule

WASHINGTON - The October jobs report - the most anticipated piece of economic data still to be released before the election - will come out as scheduled on Friday morning, the government said Wednesday.

The hurricane had shut down government offices on Monday and Tuesday, and threatened to delay the release of the monthly jobs numbers. That led to hand-wringing in the presidential campaigns and even some accusations that the Obama administration might delay the numbers for its political benefit.

But a Labor Department spokesman said Wednesday in an e-mail message that the report would come out as planned, at 8:30 a.m. E.S.T. on Friday.

Economists expect the jobs figures to show slow, steady employment growth, the product of an anemic but persistent recovery, with the unemployment rate remaining about where it is in the coming months, and employers expected to add workers too slowly to pull the overall jobless rate down further.

Last month, the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent, the lowest since President Obama took office. Regardless of the results, the numbers will immediately become headline fodder for an Obama campaign looking to trumpet a 25th consecutive month of job growth and a Romney campaign looking to underscore the historical weakness of the recovery and the failure of Mr. Obama's economic policies.

Economists estimate that the report will show that the economy added around 100,000 jobs in October, though there is a large margin of error in any given report. Recently the economy has been adding jobs at a pace of about 90,000 a month.

Recent economic data has been mixed, with manufacturing and exports showing significant weakness but consumer spending and confidence on the rise.

Gay Couples May Want to File a Protective Tax Refund Claim

The recent decision by a federal appeals court regarding the Defense of Marriage Act suggests gay couples may want to file something known as a protective refund claim with the Internal Revenue Service in the event the Supreme Court overturns the law, according to accounting experts.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York struck down the law's definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman as unconstitutional. The decision was the second by a federal appeals court striking down DOMA, as the law is known. The law's constitutionality is expected eventually to be considered by the United States Supreme Court.

If the high court invalidates DOMA, legally married same-sex couples will be able to file claims for refunds of federal tax overpayments, said Janis Cowhey McDonagh, a partner at Marcum LLP in New York and a specialist in the firm's national LGBT and non-traditional family practice.

Currently, same-sex marriage is recognize d by six states - New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont - and the District of Columbia.

Patricia Cain, a law professor at Santa Clara University and an authority on legal issues faced by same-sex couples, said others might want to consider filing a protective claim, too.

For instance, she noted that an additional nine states, as well as Washington, D.C.,  recognize “marriage equivalent statuses” for same-sex couples, like domestic partnerships or civil unions. While most people presume those relationships aren't marriages, she said in an e-mail, “there's a good argument that absent DOMA such relationships should be treated as marriages for tax purposes.”

In light of such uncertainty, she said, some details may end up being settled by further litigation. “I actually would advise anyone who would benefit from joint filing to file an amended return as a protective claim for refund if they ar e married (no matter where they live) or in a marriage equivalent status.”

Ms. McDonagh said couples should file a protective refund claim now because there is a three-year statute of limitations on tax refund claims. By filing a claim now, couples will have standing for overpayments dating to 2009, while DOMA wends its way through the court system. The claim applies to income taxes, estate taxes as well as gift taxes, she said.

It's possible, Ms. McDonagh said, that if the Supreme Court voids the law, the I.R.S. could waive the three-year statute of limitations. That would seem the fair thing to do, she said, but there isn't any precedent for the agency doing so. So to be safe, filing a protective claim makes sense.

Couples should consult their accountants for advice about filing a protective claim, which essentially involves filing an amended tax return, she said.

The case decided earlier this month was brought on behalf of Edith Windsor of New Yo rk City, who married her longtime partner, Thea Clara Spyer, in 2007 in Canada. When Ms. Spyer died in 2009, Ms. Windsor inherited her property. Because the I.R.S. was not allowed, under the Defense of Marriage Act, to consider her as a surviving spouse, she faced a tax bill of $363,053 that she would not have had to pay if the marriage had been recognized.

Do you intend to file a protective claim?

Poll Watch: Track the Polls In the Race\'s Final Days

Less than one week to Election Day, national polls are showing a close race betweenPresident Obama and Mitt Romney among likely voters in a number of polls. Check back here daily to track the race as it heads into its final days.

Wednesday Reading: Three Travel Trips to Get Around Sandy

A variety of consumer-focused articles appears daily in The New York Times and on our blogs. Each weekday morning, we gather them together here so you can quickly scan the news that could hit you in your wallet.

  • Supporters of same-sex marriage see room for victories. (National)
  • Oklahoma prepares for law that makes guns more visible. (National)
  • For flood victims, an insurance blow is possible. (Business)
  • The risk of tapping  your retirement fund for an alternative use. (Dealbook)
  • Homemade Halloween candy for adult tastes. (Dining)
  • Why Consumer Reports and J.D. Power are so different. (Wheels)
  • A wireless charging solution for the Leaf and Volt. (Wheels)
  • Google adds new emergency resources due to Sandy. (Bits)
  • Insect robots, just in time for Halloween. (Gadgetwise)
  • Sticking with Windows 7. (Gadgetwise)
  • How to carbo-load for a marathon. (Well)
  • Helpâ€"my daughter wants to make movies. (Motherlode)
  • Three travel tips to navigate the storm. (In Transit)
  • A shortcut for hailing cabs in European cities. (In Transit)
  • A four-day, best-Brazil-beach quest. (Frugal Traveler)

The Early Word: Countdown

Today's Times

  • The latest poll of likely voters by Quinnipiac University/The New York Times/CBS News, along with interviews with strategists and supporters in the three battleground states, illustrates the dynamic facing both campaigns in the final days of the race, Jeff Zeleny and Dalia Sussman report. In Ohio, President Obama has a slight edge, and the race is essentially tied in Florida and Virginia.
  • For a president locked in a razor-thin battle for re-election, the storm has presented Mr. Obama with a moment â€" both promising and perilous â€" to project the image of a leader responding forcefully to a crisis and to shift the tone of a campaign that had settled into a grinding slog to Election Day, Mark Landler writes.
  • Just a year ago, Mia Love was an unheard-of mayor in Utah. Now, she could be the first black Republican woman in the House, with humble beginnings and Tea Party credentials to boot, Jennifer Steinhauer reports.
  • The storm that ravaged the East Coast has pushed the presidential campaign into a delicate and ambiguous phase, with many Americans watching an improvised leadership test for both candidates as they navigate the politics of a natural disaster, Michael Barbaro and Michael D. Shear report.
  • Many election officials in storm-battered states are asking themselves how to get ready for Election Day next week as early voting sites have been closed and postal service disruptions are threatening to slow the delivery of absentee ballots, Michael Cooper reports. In an age in which the voting process depends heavily on electricity, the obstacles are formidable.

 Happenings in Washington

  • The Labor Department will release the third-quarter employment cost index.
  • The Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases about the use of drug-sniffing dogs.


Poll: Democratic Senate Candidates Lead in Ohio, Florida and Virginia

The Democratic candidates for Senate in Florida, Ohio and Virginia are leading their Republican challengers, according to the latest Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News polls of likely voters, which complicates efforts by Republicans to win a Senate majority.

Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, holds an advantage over Josh Mandel, the state treasurer. Mr. Brown was the choice of 51 percent of likely voters to 42 percent for Mr. Mandel. Six percent said they were undecided.

In Virginia, a race between two former governors, Tim Kaine, a Democrat, holds a narrow edge over George Allen, a Republican. Mr. Kaine was the choice of 50 percent to 46 percent for Mr. Allen. Four percent said they were undecided.

In Florida, Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, holds a wider lead over Representative Connie Mack, a Republican. Mr. Nelson was the choice of 52 percent to 39 percent for Mr. Mack.

The polls, which were conduc ted Oct. 23 to 28 by landline and cellphone, have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Follow Jeff Zeleny on Twitter at @jeffzeleny.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Another Republican Group Buys Pennsylvania Air Time

Another major Republican player is making a big bet that Mitt Romney has a chance at winning Pennsylvania.

Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group that is backed by the Koch brothers, will spend $1.5 million to run commercials criticizing President Obama there.

Pennsylvania has suddenly become a hotbed of action in the presidential race, after appearing largely out of play for the last few months.

But with polls showing Mr. Romney closing in on the president's lead there, Republican groups have rushed to get on the air and forced the Obama campaign to spend more it they had hoped to defend its position.

Restore Our Future and Americans for Job Security, two super PACs backing Mr. Romney, and the Republican Jewish Coalition are all spending large sums of money to advertise there.

Their moves prompted the Obama campaign to announce on Monday that it would shift resources to the state. As of Tuesday afternoon, the campaign had r eserved about $1.1 million in commercial time.

The new Americans for Prosperity campaign will add even more pressure on the president.

“The president likes to say, ‘Look at the math,'” said Tim Phillips, the group's president. “Well, when you look at the math in Pennsylvania, it's dangerous for the president.”

Mr. Phillips said Republicans believe the president's standing among women is particularly vulnerable now, and that much of his group's advertising effort will be aimed at reaching undecided women in the Philadelphia suburbs.

The group will run two ads. One features former supporters of the president's who explain why they have since changed their minds. The other features a Canadian woman who says that her country's government-run health care system prevented her from receiving valuable treatment.

Americans for Prosperity will also spend another $1.5 million advertising in Michigan.

The Caucus Click: For Biden, It\'s On to Florida

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke to reporters before boarding his flight on Tuesday from Columbus, Ohio, to Sarasota, Fla.Josh Haner/The New York Times Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke to reporters before boarding his flight on Tuesday from Columbus, Ohio, to Sarasota, Fla.

Wealthy Donated Less but Volunteered More in 2011

The “1 percent” have taken some lumps over the last year or so. But despite a dip in overall philanthropic giving, the majority of the wealthy donated a consistent proportion of their income to charity last year, a new study finds.

Ninety-five percent of wealthy households donated to charity last year, according to the 2012 Bank of America Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy. That is down from 98 percent in 2009, in a previous version of the study. (About 65 percent of the general population of United States households donate to charity, the study said.)

But the wealthy still gave roughly 9 percent of their incomes - about the same level as in 2009, the study found. Given the recent recession, that level of giving shows an “extraordinary” commitment to philanthropy, said Claire Costello, philanthropic practice executive for U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. The average dollar amount given per household fell 7 percent, to $52,770 fr om $56,621, adjusted for inflation.

The study also showed an uptick in volunteering among the wealthy, suggesting that the affluent may have compensated for lower dollar donations by giving more of their time. In 2011, 89 percent of wealthy individuals volunteered with nonprofits, up from 79 percent in 2009.

The study was done in partnership with the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. The results are based on a nationwide sample of 700 households with net worths of $1 million or more, excluding the value of their homes, or annual household incomes of $200,000 or more.

About a quarter of wealthy households plan to increase their giving over the next three to five years, and about half said they planned to give at the same level, the study found.

How much of your income do you donate to charity?

Obama and Christie to Assess Damage in New Jersey

President Obama will join Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, in viewing damage of the storm on Wednesday, the White House announced Tuesday as Mr. Obama praised relief efforts at a Red Cross headquarters in Washington.

The president canceled campaign rallies that had been scheduled for Wednesday. Instead, Mr. Obama will join with Mr. Christie - who has been one of his harshest Republican critics - in talking with victims of the storm and thanking first responders, officials said.

That announcement came moments after the president described what he called the “heartbreaking” hardship from the storm that he and other Americans witnessed during the past 24 hours.

“America is with you,” the president said to the victims of the storm living states across the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. “Obviously this is something that is heartbreaking for the entire nation.”

Mr. Obama's visit to the Red Cross and the announcement of a tour of the damage on Wednesday comes at the beginning of the final seven days of the presidential campaign. The president is locked in a tight battle with Mitt Romney, according to national polls and surveys in battleground states.

Mr. Christie had been one of the president's most ardent critics until the storm's arrival. In the last 24 hours, he has praised Mr. Obama's leadership and the administration's actions to speed relief resources to New Jersey.

At the Red Cross, Mr. Obama said his message to officials in the federal government is ” “no bureaucracy. No red tape.” And he federal officials are “going to continue to push as hard as we can” to provide resources to places like Newark, New Jersey, where there are major power outages.

He praised the work of emergency responders, and singled out workers at a New York hospital who he noted were “carrying fragile newborns to safety” after power backup systems fai led Monday night.

He also praised firefighters who waded into deep water to save people's lives in the aftermath of the storm.

Romney Campaign Doubles Down on Auto Bailout Attacks

The Romney campaign is continuing to attack President Obama's effort to rescue the auto industry, arguing in a new radio commercial that the federal government's $80 billion assistance plan actually helped China more than it did the United States.

The commercial, which is running in Ohio, asserts that the bailout allowed General Motors and Chrysler to boost their production in China, where both companies plan to build more vehicles.

“Barack Obama says he saved the auto industry. But for who? Ohio or China?” the commercial asks. “What happened to the promises made to auto workers in Toledo and throughout Ohio?  The same hard-working men and women who were told that Obama's auto bailout would help them?”

What the ad leaves unsaid is that the auto industry bailout has also enabled General Motors and Chrysler to add thousands of new jobs in the United States, including in Ohio.

Chrysler hit back on Tuesday against the suggestion by the Romney c ampaign that it was adding jobs in China at the expense of American workers. A television ad running in Ohio implied that Chrysler was doing just that, drawing a response from Sergio Marchionne, the company's chief executive, that those claims were inaccurate.

“I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” Mr. Marchionne wrote in an e-mail to employees.

New Poll Gives Warren the Edge in Massachusetts Senate Race

BOSTON - A poll released Tuesday by Suffolk University shows Elizabeth Warren with the support of 53 percent of likely voters compared with 46 percent for Senator Scott P. Brown in the hard-fought Massachusetts Senate race.

The lead for Ms. Warren falls within the margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

The Suffolk poll follows one released Monday by The Boston Globe that showed Mr. Brown with 45 percent of likely voters and Ms. Warren with 43 percent. Most polls in recent weeks have given the edge to Ms. Warren.

The candidates were scheduled to face each other Tuesday night for one last time in their fourth and final debate, but Mr. Brown pulled out Monday, saying it was inappropriate to engage in politics while Hurricane Sandy threatened serious damage. Ms. Warren followed suit, announcing that the focus should be on public safety.

Nonetheless, both candidates continued to run attack ads against each other on television, the result of their having already bought the time.

The debate sponsors, a consortium of news outlets, said they were working with the campaigns to try to reschedule the debate, though with the election one week away, time was short. Ms. Warren issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying she believed a debate “should occur” and that she would be available Thursday night, putting the ball in Mr. Brown's court.

While Massachusetts escaped the devastation that the storm delivered to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, there were still a considerable number of power failures as well as coastal flooding. Mr. Brown scheduled seven stops throughout the state on Tuesday to assess the damage, a schedule announced by his Senate office as opposed to his campaign office to emphasize the official nature of his appearances. Ms. Warren, a Harvard Law professor who does not hold public office, announced she would be visiting flooded are as in Westport and Scituate.

Follow Katharine Q. Seelye on Twitter at @kseelye.

Chrysler CEO: Jeep Production Isn\'t Moving to China

Chrysler's chief executive on Tuesday strongly refuted claims that production of Jeeps would shift to China, an insistence that cast further doubt on the Romney campaign's recent efforts to undercut President Obama's support for the auto industry as it fights for Ohio's 18 electoral votes.

In an e-mail to employees, the chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, said that Jeep's commitment to the United States was unequivocal. “I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” he wrote. “It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”

Mr. Marchionne's response - an unusually forceful gesture from the chief executive of a major American corporation a week before Election Day - came as the politics of the auto bailout took center stage in the presidential campaign.

The Romney campaign has come under considerable criticism in recent days for taking liberties with the facts in a new te levision commercial that suggests Jeep, a recipient of federal bailout money, will soon outsource American jobs to China. Chrysler, Jeep's parent company, does not in fact have plans to cut its American work force but is considering opening a facility in China where it would produce Jeeps for sale locally.

Mr. Marchionne said that those efforts would only bolster the strength of Chrysler in the United States, not undermine it.

“Jeep is one of our truly global brands with uniquely American roots. This will never change,” he said.

The politics of the auto bailout have become a vexing problem for Mr. Romney as he competes fiercely with President Obama for Ohio. Mr. Obama carried the state in 2008 with just 51.2 percent of the vote and has remained ahead of Mr. Romney in many recent polls, a strength that is due in some measure to the rebound of the auto industry.

Mr. Romney opposed the bailout, most famously in a New York Times op-ed that carried the headline “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” Mr. Romney did not write the headline; the newspaper did. But even his supporters in the Midwest have questioned his logic in arguing that Chrysler and General Motors should have been denied federal assistance, which he deemed at the time “a handout.”

The Romney campaign has insisted that its most recent ad - which is carefully worded enough that it is not factually inaccurate - merely states the truth: that Jeeps are not currently made in China but will be soon. But the ad makes no mention of the point Mr. Marchionne and others have made, which is that no American jobs will be lost.

The memo from Mr. Marchionne is below:

Chrysler Group's production plans for the Jeep® brand have become the focus of public debate.

I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position:  Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China.

North American production is critical to achieving o ur goal of selling 800,000 Jeep vehicles by 2014. In fact, U.S. production of our Jeep models has nearly tripled (it is expected to be up 185%) since 2009 in order to keep up with global demand.

We also are investing to improve and expand our entire U.S. operations, including our Jeep facilities. The numbers tell the story:

n  We will invest more than $1.7 billion to develop and produce the next generation Jeep SUV, the successor of the Jeep Liberty - including $500 million directly to tool and expand our Toledo Assembly Complex and will be adding about 1,100 jobs on a second shift by 2013.

n  At our Jefferson North Assembly Plant, where we build the Jeep Grand Cherokee, we have created 2,000 jobs since June 2009 and have invested more than $1.8 billion.

n  In Belvidere, where we build two Jeep models, we have added two shifts since 2009 resulting in an additional 2,600 jobs.

With the increase in demand for our vehicles, especially Jeep b randed vehicles, we have added more than 11,200 U.S. jobs since 2009.  Plants producing Jeep branded vehicles alone have seen the number of people invested in the success of the Jeep brand grow to more than 9,300 hourly jobs from 4,700. This will increase by an additional 1,100 as the Liberty successor, which will be produced in Toledo, is introduced for global distribution in the second quarter of 2013.

Together, we are working to establish a global enterprise and previously announced our intent to return Jeep production to China, the world's largest auto market, in order to satisfy local market demand, which would not otherwise be accessible. Chrysler Group is interested in expanding the customer base for our award-winning Jeep vehicles, which can only be done by establishing local production. This will ultimately help bolster the Jeep brand, and solidify the resilience of U.S. jobs.

Jeep is one of our truly global brands with uniquely American roots. This will never change. So much so that we committed that the iconic Wrangler nameplate, currently produced in our Toledo, Ohio plant, will never see full production outside the United States.

Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand.

It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.

Sergio Marchionne

A Refresher on Hurricane Deductibles and Flood Coverage

A man in New York City sweeps water out of his apartment after Hurricane Sandy.Getty ImagesA man in New York City sweeps water out of his apartment after Hurricane Sandy.

If you were affected by the wrath of Hurricane Irene last year you may already know this, but it bears review in the wake of Hurricane Sandy: Damage caused by surging storm water generally isn't covered by your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy.

Rather, you'll only have coverage if you purchased a separate flood insurance policy, either from the National Flood Insurance Program or a handful of private firms.

The national flood policy covers damage for up to $250,000 to the structure of your home, and $100,000 for personal possessions. Note that the NFIP policy prov ides “replacement” cost coverage for the structure, but only “actual cash value” coverage for your belongings.

Damage from wind, however, is covered by homeowner's insurance policies-but it's likely subject to a special “hurricane deductible,” which is different from the policy's standard deductible. Coastal states from Maine to Texas have special rules for hurricanes, put in place to limit insurance losses after catastrophic storms. Details vary, but in general when a hurricane (or, in some cases, a named storm) is declared by the National Weather Service, special hurricane deductibles apply for resulting damage.

The standard deductible is usually a flat amount-$500 or $1,000, for instance. But hurricane deductibles are generally a percentage of the home's insured value and usually run from 1 to 5 percent. So, for instance, if a home is valued at $300,000, the deductible could be as high as $15,000.

Please let us know what conversations you've had with your insurance companies so far in the wake of Sandy.


A Refresher on Hurricane Deductibles and Flood Coverage

A man in New York City sweeps water out of his apartment after Hurricane Sandy.Getty ImagesA man in New York City sweeps water out of his apartment after Hurricane Sandy.

If you were affected by the wrath of Hurricane Irene last year you may already know this, but it bears review in the wake of Hurricane Sandy: Damage caused by surging storm water generally isn't covered by your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy.

Rather, you'll only have coverage if you purchased a separate flood insurance policy, either from the National Flood Insurance Program or a handful of private firms.

The national flood policy covers damage for up to $250,000 to the structure of your home, and $100,000 for personal possessions. Note that the NFIP policy prov ides “replacement” cost coverage for the structure, but only “actual cash value” coverage for your belongings.

Damage from wind, however, is covered by homeowner's insurance policies-but it's likely subject to a special “hurricane deductible,” which is different from the policy's standard deductible. Coastal states from Maine to Texas have special rules for hurricanes, put in place to limit insurance losses after catastrophic storms. Details vary, but in general when a hurricane (or, in some cases, a named storm) is declared by the National Weather Service, special hurricane deductibles apply for resulting damage.

The standard deductible is usually a flat amount-$500 or $1,000, for instance. But hurricane deductibles are generally a percentage of the home's insured value and usually run from 1 to 5 percent. So, for instance, if a home is valued at $300,000, the deductible could be as high as $15,000.

Please let us know what conversations you've had with your insurance companies so far in the wake of Sandy.


In Wake of Storm, Christie Breaks From Attacks to Praise Obama

Chris Christie was supposed to be one of Mitt Romney‘s most aggressive surrogates, constantly attacking President Obama in the waning days of the presidential campaign.

Instead, the governor of New Jersey has spent the last eight hours repeatedly heaping praise on Mr. Obama for effectively leading the federal government's response to the monster storm that slammed into his state on Monday.

Eight days ago, Mr. Christie described Mr. Obama as “blindly walking around the White House looking for a clue.” On Tuesday morning, he was effusive about Mr. Obama's administration, calling the storm response “wonderful,” “excellent” and “outstanding.”

The overnight transformation of Mr. Christie from political slasher to disaster governor is a reflection of the magnitude of the devastation that struck New Jersey when the storm smashed into the state's coast. Asked on Fox News whether Mr. Romney might tour damage of the state, Mr. Christie was dismissive.

“I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I have a job to do in New Jersey that is much bigger than presidential politics,” Mr. Christie said. “If you think right now I give a damn about president politics, then you don't know me.”

But some Republicans have already begun grumbling about Mr. Christie's over-the-top praise of the president at such a crucial time in the election. One Republican in Washington said Mr. Christie could have simply expressed appreciation for what any president would have done. Another Republican strategist observed that Mr. Christie's kind words for the president were delivered with the kind of gusto that he often uses to criticize Mr. Obama.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Christie, who was scheduled to tour damage along the New Jersey coast, dec lined to comment about presidential politics.

Aides to Mr. Romney declined to criticize Mr. Christie, saying that they recognized the need for the governor to focus on the efforts to rescue his residents and begin recovering from the storm. Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Mr. Romney, noted that Mr. Christie said “this isn't a time for politics.”

And yet, the presidential campaign marches forward in spite of the storm. And it looks like Mr. Romney's campaign may have to do without Mr. Christie's powerful voice in the homestretch.

At a rally in Richmond, Virginia last week, Mr. Christie lashed out at the president in the way that few of Mr. Romney's surrogates can. He seized on Mr. Obama's previous comment about not being able to effect change from inside the White House and offered to buy him an airplane ticket back to Chicago.

He said the president had never learned how to lead anything, having served as a community organizer, state legislator and o ne-term senator.

“He's like a man wandering around a dark room, hands up against the wall, clutching for the light switch of leadership and he just can't find it,” Mr. Christie said at the rally.

That likely would have been the message that Mr. Christie delivered repeatedly during the final days of the presidential campaign. But the storm's arrival - and the damage it inflicted on Mr. Christie's constituents - have changed that dynamic.

In several appearances on morning news programs on Tuesday, Mr. Christie went out of his way to thank the president personally in addition to praising the operation of the federal government and its response teams.

“It's been very good working with the president,” Mr. Christie said on MSNBC's “Morning Joe” program. “He and his administration have been coordinating with us. It's been wonderful.”

Speaking about the damage to his state on NBC's “Today” show, Mr. Christie called the president “o utstanding” and said the response from F.E.M.A. had been “excellent.”

In a Twitter message from his official account, Mr. Christie said he wanted to “thank the President personally for all his assistance as we recover from the storm.”

Mr. Romney's campaign had said on Monday that the Republican presidential candidate had talked with Mr. Christie and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, as the storm approached over the weekend. Mr. Christie did not mention on Tuesday his conversations with Mr. Romney.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

Obama Oversees Disaster Response

WASHINGTON â€" President Obama worked through much of Monday night to oversee the federal response to Hurricane Sandy, telephoning state and local leaders in New York and New Jersey and signing federal disaster declarations for both states, according to the White House.

After abruptly leaving the campaign trail on Monday to fly home to Washington, Mr. Obama spent the day in briefings in the White House Situation Room, and spoke with Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Mayor Cory Booker of Newark.

His last of three calls to Mr. Christie came at midnight, the governor said on Tuesday, hours after the storm made landfall on the Jersey coast. “The president's been all over this,” Mr. Christie said on “Morning Joe,” “He deserves great credit.”

Mr. Christie said he asked Mr. Obama to expedite the process of declaring New Jersey a major disaster area, which would provide additional federa l support, as well as direct financial assistance to people in hard-hit areas.

At 2 a.m., the governor said, he got a call from officials in Washington clearing the last bureaucratic hurdles to a declaration, and at 5:44 a.m., the White House issued a statement saying the president had signed the order, which will free up funds to aid in recovery in eight counties of New Jersey.

Fifteen minutes earlier, the White House announced that Mr. Obama signed an order declaring New York a major disaster area. Hours earlier, the president declared states of emergency in Virginia and West Virginia, which authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Authority and other federal agencies to aid in the response.

Tuesday Reading: Scientists Have Long-Lasting Flu Vaccine in Sight

A variety of consumer-focused articles appears daily in The New York Times and on our blogs. Each weekday morning, we gather them together here so you can quickly scan the news that could hit you in your wallet.

  • Hurricane Sandy leaves path of destruction in Northeast. (National)
  • Corn mazes help farmers make ends meet. (National)
  • In Seattle, virtual campus will have physical one, too. (National)
  • Home retailers prepare for after the deluge. (Business)
  • Business travelers stay with friends instead of hotels. (Business).
  • Lean airlines in poor shape to clear passenger backlog. (Business)
  • Moving closer to a long-lasting flu vaccine. (Science Times)
  • Smoke-free workplace leads to fewer heart attacks. (Well)
  • Ford continues slide in reliability survey. (Wheels)
  • Hybrids and E.V.s do well in reliability survey. (Wheels)
  • Running for the music. (Booming)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Senator Scott Brown Pulls Out of Debate

BOSTON - Senator Scott P. Brown's campaign announced Monday afternoon that he would not participate in his fourth and final debate with Elizabeth Warren, his Democratic challenger, on Tuesday night, citing Hurricane Sandy.

“It is simply not appropriate to go forward with a political debate when a disaster strikes,” Colin Reed, a spokesman for Mr. Brown, said in a statement.

The announcement came with little notice to the debate sponsors, a consortium of Massachusetts media outlets.

The Warren campaign subsequently issued a statement saying that Ms. Warren agreed that safety was paramount and that the debate should not be held.

A poll in The Boston Globe on Monday showed Mr. Brown, above, in a dead heat with Ms. Warren, a positive turn of events for the Republican, who had been trailing in most recent polls.

Still, some political experts said Mr. Brown's pullout seemed risky.

“He appears to be slightly down in this race and he could use a big debate to change the dynamic,” said Rob Gray, a Republican consultant not involved in the race. “We're not talking about an incumbent who is up by 10 points; we're talking about a death match where you need to do everything you can to beat the other candidate.”

The Caucus Click: Biden and Clinton in Ohio

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and former president Bill Clinton were greeted with a strong gust of wind as they exited Air Force Two on Monday in Youngstown, Ohio.Meg Roussos for The New York TimesVice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and former president Bill Clinton were greeted with a strong gust of wind as they exited Air Force Two on Monday in Youngstown, Ohio.

With Obama Tending to Storm, Clinton Campaigns for Him in Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. - With Hurricane Sandy barreling towards the Northeast on Monday, former President Bill Clinton played stand-in for President Obama at a campaign rally here at the University of Central Florida.

Mr. Obama had canceled his appearance to return to Washington, but Mr. Clinton easily (and happily) became the event's headliner, rescuing a potentially disappointing turn of events. Revving up the crowd of several thousand students who woke up early and waited hours outside on the state's first crisp autumn morning, Mr. Clinton talked about jobs, higher education and rising tuition costs. He was joined by Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, and Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor turned independent who incensed Republicans here in August by backing Mr. Obama.

“I'm supposed to be the warm-up man for President Obama today, but that storm on the East Coast had other ideas,” Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton told the students that univers ities must focus more on teaching science and technology. This will allow America to better compete for jobs, he said.

“We have a demand every year in America for 120,000 jobs in computer science, and we're only educating 40,000 computer scientists in the whole country,” Mr. Clinton said. “We can do better than that. President Obama wants to do that.”

Mr. Clinton also praised Mr. Obama's efforts in expanding student loans, a crowd-pleaser here at the university.

“On this issue alone, every person within the sound of my voice should vote for Barack Obama,” said Mr. Clinton, who added that Mitt Romney supports reducing funds for Pell Grants and higher education.

One of the biggest cheers from Obama supporters came when Mr. Clinton praised the president's health care law and its provision allowing children to remain on their parents' insurance policies until age 26.

Mr. Crist, the onetime Republican who became an independent in 2010 for his unsuccessful Senate run against Marco Rubio, praised Mr. Obama for his willingness to work across party lines.

“He didn't care about parties, he only cared about people,” Mr. Crist said, reflecting on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “The president was here day after day after day, just like he's fighting for people in the Northeast now.”

App Snapshot: Romney\'s Move to the Middle and What Happens After Jan. 20

The Election 2012 App

The presidential candidates suspended their campaign activities on Monday because of the major Atlantic storm barreling into the East Coast. Voters can take advantage of the down time to examine the candidates' statements - in the past and about the future - a bit more closely. In any weather, we're collecting the most important politics news in the Election 2012 app.

The Boston Globe tracks how Mitt Romney's tone has changed since the Republican primary, and The Los Angeles Times looks at how he has used his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.

  • Romney's Shift to the Middle
    Here are statements Mr. Romney has made recently, contrasted with statements he made earlier in the election contest. (Globe subscription not required.) (The Boston Globe)
  • As Ro mney Edges Toward Moderation, Ryan Takes a Lower Profile
    As Mr. Romney highlights moderate views, care is taken to ensure he isn't upstaged by his conservative running mate. (The Los Angeles Times)

Mr. Romney's closing argument paints a picture of his “day one” in office, and President Obama said his “first order of business” in a second term would be the deficit.

  • Romney's Closing Argument a Picture of ‘Day One'
    Mr. Romney's final message will focus on tasks he hopes to take on during his first day in office if elected; all of the points relate to the economy, according to an outline. (CNN)
  • Obama Says ‘First Order of Business' in Second Term Would Be Deficit
    In an interview, Mr. Obama listed deficit reduction, immigration reform, education, and infrastructure as top priorities that he would tackle if he were re-elected. (The Hill)

A New Bank Lets You Choose Charity for Rewards

A new online bank is hoping that better-than-average savings rates, and the lure of charitable giving, will attract new deposits.

The bank, ableBanking, is offering those who open a new account a donation of $25 to the charity of the customer's choice - any 501c(3) organization will do. Then, each year on the anniversary of the account's opening, the bank will donate the equivalent of 0.25 percent annual percentage yield (25 basis points) of the account's average balance to that charity.

The bank's money market savings account, for instance, is currently paying a 0.96 percent annual percentage yield. So if an account has an average balance of $10,000, at the end of the first year the customer will have earned $96 in interest, and the bank will donate another $25 to the charity, for a total of $50 donated. (A minimum deposit of $1,000 is necessary to open an eligible account).

So why not just find an account paying an extra 25 basis points over ableBanking's offerings, and then make a charitable donation yourself?

AbleBanking's founders say that is not easy to do, because its savings rates are competitive with those offered by other, similar banks, based on rates listed at Bankrate.com. And the idea here is to encourage group efforts to maximize the amount of money donated to a cause. For instance, supporters of a specific charity - say, a local food bank, or even a Little League baseball team - could all agree to open accounts and direct the donations to that recipient. If 10 people opened accounts and selected the food bank, that would be at least $250 going to the charity.

“The attractiveness is the power of collective giving,” said Richard Wayne, the bank's co-founder and chief executive.

The bank's interest rates ar e not “teaser” rates (although they are subject to change, as are any bank's rates), nor is the charitable donation a temporary offer, he said. “The very heart of the product is the charitable component,” he said.

The money for donation to charity comes in lieu of expensive marketing, the founders said. AbleBanking is focusing its efforts mostly online, forgoing expensive options like billboards and television ads.

When customers create accounts, they can select their charities in several ways. They can choose one of ableBanking's partner charities, listed on the Web site; these are based in Boston, since the site began as a pilot program there. They can also search for charities in their communities by ZIP code or search a list of national charities.

AbleBanking is a division of Northeast Bank, a community bank based in Lewiston, Me., with 10 branches. The bank's parent, Northeast Bancorp, is publicly traded (Nasdaq: NBN). While ableBanking has no brick-and-mortar branches, it does have customer service available seven days a week through Northeast Bank's call center in Maine.

The bank isn't aiming to replace your traditional checking account; it's meant just for savings, says Heather Campion, the bank's chief administrative officer. But as with other direct banks, regular deposits can be set up from a checking account into ableBanking.

What do you think of ableBanking's concept? Would you open an account there to help a charity?

New Ad Attacks the Romney Campaign\'s Claims on Auto Bailout

As the presidential campaigns intensify their fight over the auto bailout, the Obama campaign releases a new ad that criticizes Mitt Romney for running an ad that misleadingly implies that Chrysler, a bailout recipient, is moving jobs to China from Toledo.

Donors Make Last-Minute Investments in House Races

A group of wealthy donors from around the country appear to be functioning as a sort of SWAT team on behalf of Democratic and Republican candidates by pouring last-minute contributions into competitive House races. What is notable about these 11th-hour gifts is that they often represent the first time the donors have given to these campaigns.

The hedge fund manager Joseph A. DiMenna Jr. and his wife, Diana, have put at least $40,000 into nine House races since Oct. 17, including the campaigns of Representative Bobby Schilling of Illinois, a conservative freshman facing a tough re-election bid, and Andy Barr, a Kentucky lawyer who is the Republican challenger to an incumbent Democrat, Ben Chandler.

Previously, the DiMennas had given more than $70,000 to the Romney Victory Fund, a committee benefiting Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and Republican Party committees.

David and Susan Duff, who own and operate Pine Bluff Coal in Kentucky, have given at least $30,000 in October to House campaigns in New York, Minnesota, California, Arizona and Florida. Among the six candidates they supported are Ann Marie Buerkle of New York and Chip Cravaack of Minnesota, two other freshman Republicans. Earlier in the election cycle, the Duffs donated $60,000 to American Crossroads, a “super PAC” that supports Mr. Romney and other Republican candidates.

But Democratic supporters are also getting in on the act during the campaign's final days. Gilbert Silverman, a Michigan developer, has given at least $33,000 to 27 Democrats in more than a dozen states stretching from New Hampshire to California. Mary and Steven Swig, a California couple whose business interests include a real estate firm and a lingerie company, sank at least $15,000 this month into seven House campaigns in Ohio, Arizona, Florida, Illinois and California. Among those they supported were Representative Betty Sutton, who is trying to defeat a freshman Republican, James B. Renacci, in Ohio.

Before October, the Swigs and Mr. Silverman were major contributors to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, with each of the three contributing $30,800.

Candidates for the House and the Senate are required to file reports with the Federal Election Commission during the final 20 days of the campaign detailing contributions of at least $1,000. The full accounting of fund-raising during this period will be available in early December.

Hurricane Sandy Disrupts Campaign as Obama Cancels Appearances

Storm Roils Campaign as Obama Cancels Appearance

Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama greeted his motorcade at Andrews Air Force Base on Monday in Washington. Mr. Obama canceled his campaign plans on Monday to be at the White House as Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the Northeast.

WASHINGTON - President Obama on Monday morning abandoned political campaigning in the face of the huge storm barreling down on the East Coast, canceling an event in Florida and quickly heading back to Washington to coordinate emergency response from the White House.

Hurricane Sandy had already scrambled the political calendar in the final week of the campaign, forcing Mr. Obama and his rival, Mitt Romney, to call off events in Virginia and New Hampshire. Even so, the president flew on Sunday night to Orlando to attend a rally there on Monday.

But the magnitude of the storm and the potential for damage only increased overnight. And so did the prospect that Air Force One might not get back to Washington if it did not leave early Monday.

“Due to deteriorating weather conditions in the Washington area, the president will not attend today's campaign event in Orlando,” Jay Carney, the president's press secretary, said in an early-morning statement. “The president will return to the White House to monitor the preparations for and early response to Hurricane Sandy.”

The president's aides said that former President Bill Clinton would stand in for Mr. Obama at the Orlando rally. The campaign canceled the president's scheduled event in Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Mr. Romney, who flew to Ohio on Sunday night, is expected to keep his schedule of three rallies in Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin. Mr. Romney campaigned in Ohio with his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, on Sunday.

The storm has hampered Mr. Obama's ability to campaign much more. Pursuing political gain while millions face the possibility of power outages, flooding and high winds could make the president look ineffective and uncaring.

On the other hand, the storm also provides Mr. Obama the opportunity to look presidential at a time when voters have become tired of the caustic political talk they hear in television ads and at rallies. Conversely, wall-to-wall coverage of the storm may make it tough for Mr. Romney's campaign message to get through.

Even as the storm bears down, the presidential campaign is continuing on television, with ads for Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama filling in virtually all the space between storm reports on the cable and broadcast networks.

Mr. Obama's campaign announced on Sunday that it would suspend fund-raising e-mails to the states directly affected by the storm, and Mr. Romney's campaign did the same. And the Obama campaign said it would use its Web site, Twitter feed and Facebook page to urge people to donate to the Red Cross instead.

“We urge everyone to take appropriate safety precautions and to follow the guidance of emergency management and public safety officials, and we will continue to monitor the storm to ensure the safety of our supporters, volunteers and staff,” Jen Psaki, a campaign spokeswoman, said on Sunday.

Polls released over the weekend continued to show a tight race between the two men, nationally and in some of the battleground states that will decide which one reaches 270 electoral votes. A Gallup poll of likely voters on Sunday showed Mr. Romney leading Mr. Obama, 50 percent to 46 percent.

Mr. Romney's campaign said on Monday that he had been in touch with the governors of Virginia and New Jersey and that campaign workers in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and New Jersey would be collecting relief supplies to deliver to local emergency facilities. In Virginia, the campaign will be loading storm-relief supplies onto the Romney bus for delivery, the campaign said.

Mr. Obama departed Orlando just after 8:30 a.m. and arrived in the Washington area just before 11 a.m. The press corps assigned to follow him has not been as lucky. Pilots of the charter plane carrying the reporters said on Monday that it was not safe to fly back to Washington from Florida, according to an e-mail from Ed Henry, the Fox News correspondent and president of the White House Correspondents Association. Mr. Henry said the reporters would stay in Orlando overnight.

Mr. Romney issued a statement on Sunday expressing his concern for the people in the path of the storm.

“For safety's sake, as you and your family prepare for the storm, please be sure to bring any yard signs inside. In high winds they can be dangerous and cause damage to homes and property,” Mr. Romney said. “I'm never prouder of America than when I see how we pull together in a crisis. There's nothing that we can't handle when we stand together.”

Six Tips For Setting Your Financial Goals

Carl Richards

Carl Richards is a certified financial planner in Park City, Utah, and is the director of investor education at BAM Advisor Services. His book, “The Behavior Gap,” was published this year. His sketches are archived on the Bucks blog.

If you managed to get unstuck and created your personal balance sheet recently, then you should have a really clear idea of where you are today. The next questions you need to be address are these: Where do you want to go? What are your financial goals?

This can be a frustrating process, since it involves making some really important decisions under extreme uncertainty. None of us know what next week will look like, let alone where we will be in 30 years. On top of that issue, making financial goals involves a whole bunch of assumptions, guesses really.

We have to guess what our 60 or 80-year-old self will want to do. We have to guess what the markets will do, where interest rates will be and how much we can save. Those reasons and many more often lead us to forget that this is a process. We get stuck, unsure what to do next.

Well, despite all the uncertainty and assumptions, we need to have goals. It reminds me of the conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don't much care where,” said Alice.

“Then it doesn't matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“â€"so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you're sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

But the problem is that we do care where we end up, and part of deciding where to go depends on setting goals.

So there are a few really important things to keep in mind  here. Before you get too excited or frustrated, here are a few things to consider.

1) These are guesses. 

While it's important to admit these are guesses, you should still make them the best guesses you can. Get specific. Just saying, “I want to save for college for my kids,” isn't enough. How about, “I'll find $100 to add to a specific 529 account on the 15th of each month?”

Even though you need to be specific, give yourself permission to be flexible. An attitude of flexibility goes a long way towards dealing with uncertainty. There is something very powerful about having specific goals but not obsessing about them.

2) These goals will change.

It's an ongoing process, and it will change because life changes. But don't let this knowledge stop you from doing it. You need to start somewhere.

3) Think of these goals as the destination on a trip.

You would never spend a bunch of time and energy worrying about whether you should take a car, train or plane without first deciding where you're going. Yet we spend countless hours researching the merits of one investment over another before we even decide on our goals. Why are you stressing about what stocks to pick if you don't have goals in mind?

4) Prioritize these goals.

Once you have them all written down, rank each goal in terms of importance and urgency. Sometimes you'll have to deal with something that is urgent, like paying off a credit card bill, so you can move on to something really important, like saving for retirement.

5) This is a process.

If you set goals and then forget about them forever, that is a worthless event. This is a process. Since we've given ourselves permission to change our assumptions about the future as more in formation becomes available, we need to do it. Part of the process of planning involves revisiting your goals periodically to see how you're doing and making course corrections when needed.

6) Let go!

As important as it is to regularly review your progress, it's also super-important to let go of the need to obsess over your goals. Define where you want to go, review your goals at set times, and in between, let go of them! Goals for the future are important, but so is living today. Find that balance.

This list may not seem like a big deal, but you'd be surprised at the number of people who can't tell you their goals, let alone break them down into categories or rank their priority. Once you have your goals, you'll be able to move on to the next step: making a plan.


The Youth Vote: Was It Better Back Then?

Boomers, Millennials and the Ballot Box

V. Richard Haro/Fort Collins Coloradoan, via Associated Press

A Colorado State University student heads to a voting booth on Oct. 22, the first day of in-person voting. 

So, the election is approaching and you're a boomer. Many of the issues that will have a direct impact on you - Social Security, Medicare, government pensions - are likely to be affected by who wins the presidency.

You're certainly going to vote, but you're frustrated because your adult children may not. They do not have as much at stake.

Of course you'll want to shame them into it and you communicate this in a way that they can't possibly ignore.

You text them.

“Vote! When we were your age, we always voted :(”



When boomers were their age, they voted at almost the exact rate that the young do now.

In 1976, when boomers were between 18 and 30 years old, their turnout rate was 50 percent. In 2008, 51 percent of millennials - ages 18 to 28 at the time - voted.

And in 1972, when boomers had many incentives to go to the polls, including the Vietnam-era draft, the numbers still weren't too different. A total of 54 percent of boomers voted in the Nixon-McGovern election, versus 49 percent of millennials in the 2004 Bush-Kerry race.

Even Peter Levine, an expert on young American voting patterns who compiled these statistics at my request, was surprised at the results he produced.

“I would have guessed there's more of a youth voting problem today,” he said. As the director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, a nonpartisan research institute based at Tufts University, he specializes in civic issues affecting young people.

“The fact that they're right on par surprised me,” he said. “There's a lot of rhetoric about back in the day. I'm delighted.”

Even in 1972, during the Vietnam-era draft, turnout by boomers was not enormously higher than it was for millennials when they got a chance to vote. Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

Even in 1972, during the Vietnam-era draft, turnout by boomers was not enormously higher than it was for millennials when they got a chance to vote.

It is not too surprising that as people age, they're more likely to vote. In the 2008 Obama-McCain election, 69 percent of boomers - aged 44 to 62 at the time - turned out compared to the 51 percent of 18- to 28-year-olds.

Connie Flanagan, a developmental psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says voting is habit forming. “Once you've made your first vote, it becomes part of your routine,” she said. “Everyone you know votes. It feels like a moral and civic obligation.”

The young tend to have more chaotic lives, she says; classes on some days, part-time jobs on others, active social lives.

“As you get older, there is more of a steady rhythm to your life,” she said. “I'm an example - this afternoon my husband and I have made an appointment to vote early.”

The turnout by boomers and millennials at comparable ages has been fairly similar. Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

The turnout by boomers and millennials at comparable ages has been fairly similar.

Mr. Levine points out that there are more issues to unite the boomers - born during the 1946 to 1964 post World War II population explosion - than the young. “A young person may be anything from a medical student to a prison inmate, and there's not lots of commonality of interests there,” he said. “Relationships are very varied and miscellaneous.”

While some younger voters might share an interest in military service or Pell grants, it's not as far-reaching as for older voters.

“No matter what your status as a boomer,” he said, “you're concerned with Social Security and Medicare - which gives a lot of people a personal reason to vote.”

According to a November 2011 poll by the Pew Research Center, 13 percent of millennials name Social Security as one of the issues that matters most to them, compared to 33 percent of boomers.

The 69 percent voting rate for boomers in the 2008 presidential race was the highest since 1972, the earliest comparable year and the first time eligibility was lowered to the current age of 18.

The number of boomers registered to vote in the 2008 election - 75 percent - is also the highest, except for 87 percent in 1972, which was an exceptional year for several reasons, including the draft and the lowering of the voting age.

But in 2008, 18- to 28-year-olds actually registered at a higher rate (61 percent) than the boomers of the same age for the Carter-Ford race in 1976 (58 percent).

“This is such good news,” Mr. Levine said. “Millennials have been getting such a bad rap.”

Connect with Michael Winerip on Facebook.

You can follow Booming via RSS or visit nytimes.com/booming.

Pro-Romney Group Makes Advertising Buy in Pennsylvania

The “super PAC” aiding Mitt Romney, Restore Our Future, is making a push into Pennsylvania, a state that has been considered a strong bet for President Obama.

On Monday the group put down just under $1 million for a slate of television commercials through next Monday, the day before the presidential election.

Right now no other political groups supporting the presidential candidates - nor either of campaigns - have deemed Pennsylvania competitive enough to place any resources on the air there. But Restore Our Future's advertising purchase could prompt others to follow suit.

Much of the $200,000 purchase includes the voter-rich Philadelphia media market, where Republicans believe they can make inroads with a number of different demographics, including Jewish voters who may be open the arguments put forward by the Romney campaign that Mr. Obama has not been supportive of Israel. Republicans have sought to drive distance between Mr. Obama and his Jewish constituency because of the recent tension between the United States and Israel over Iran.

To be sure, Restore Our Future has been making some of the more long-odd bets in recent weeks. It continues to have a strong presence on the air in Michigan, which has been strongly leaning toward Mr. Obama in many recent polls. But the group also placed what ended up being a smart - and seemingly long-shot - bet on Wisconsin earlier this fall when few others were willing to devote resources there.

Now many polls show Wisconsin, home of the Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, to be competitive.

Follow Jeremy W. Peters on Twitter at @ jwpetersNYT .

Hurricane Sandy Likely to Be Biggest of Late October Surprises

Hurricane Sandy is hardly the only late October surprise to disturb the careful choreography of recent presidential campaigns, though it will probably be the most disruptive.

The late October surprises of recent elections have been much more subtle â€" changes at the 11th hour that had far less impact on the nation and its voters, but which nonetheless forced campaigns off their carefully drafted blueprints just before Election Day. Here is a look at a few.

- Four years ago, President Obama left the frenzied campaign trail only 11 days before the election to travel to Hawaii to say goodbye to his ailing grandmother, who had helped raise him. He then returned to the final sprint of the campaign, which had already been upended by the September surprise of the financial crisis, and she died the day before he was elected president.

- In the waning days of the 2004 election, the race was upended by the release of a video of Osama bin Laden telling the Ameri can people, “Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or Al Qaeda; your security is in your own hands.” Some analysts believed that its release helped President George W. Bush win re-election, by putting the focus on terrorism just before people went to the polls.

- And days before the 2000 election, news leaked that Mr. Bush had been arrested in 1976 for drunken driving in Kennebunkport, Me., throwing a late curveball into the campaign.

Hurricane Sandy promised to be a much bigger late October surprise. The candidates have scrambled their schedules to avoid the storm; Maryland suspended its early voting on Monday, and other states may follow suit; the Sunday talk shows were pre-empted in large parts of the East Coast for hurricane coverage; television stations in some states are not running the ads both campaigns bought as they cover the storm nonstop; and both campaigns are having to calculate how to continue their tasks of trying to persuade vot ers without seeming callous in the face of a potential disaster. And looming behind it all is the worry that lasting damage could disrupt the election in places.

Follow Michael Cooper on Twitter at @coopnytimes.

Monday Reading: Traveling with Children with Special Needs

A variety of consumer-focused articles appears daily in The New York Times and on our blogs. Each weekday morning, we gather them together here so you can quickly scan the news that could hit you in your wallet.

  • A part-time life, as hours shrink and shift. (Business)
  • U.S. to sponsor health insurance plans. (National)
  • Texas cities disagree on texting and driving bans. (National)
  • The 80-year-old marathon man. (N.Y./Region)
  • Using the power of the crowd for customer service. (Sunday Business)
  • Testing autism and air travel.  (Travel)
  • Who really benefits from interest deductions. (Real Estate)
  • Yes, driverless cars know the way to San Jose. (Automobiles)
  • F.D.A. details contamination at compounding pharmacy. (National)
  • Reports on energy drinks show gaps in safety policy. (Business)
  • Readers tell of traveling with children with special needs. (In Transit)
  • A marriage built on an absence of fuss. (Booming)
  • How to shoot a photo to remember. (The New Old Age)
  • Halloween forecast: Cloudy with chance of diabetes. (Motherlode)
  • Pancakes for dinner, syrup optional. (Well)
  • Exercise may protect against brain shrinkage. (Well)
  • Troubleshooting video problems in Facebook. (Gadgetwise)
  • Google is testing same-day delivery service. (Bits)
  • Painting a bolder face on mass transit. (Wheels)
  • Massachusetts shuts down another compounding pharmacy. (National)
  • Bracing for storm, U.S. stock markets to close. (Business)
  • Turning off Mac screen notifications. (Gadgetwise)
  • There's homework to do on school lunches. (Well)
  • Answers to questions about early admissions, part one. (The Choice)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Caucus Click: The Week in Pictures, Oct. 21-27

President Obama and Mitt RomneyDamon Winter/The New York TimesPresident Obama and Mitt Romney shook hands at the end of the final presidential debate, held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., on Monday.

A look back at the week in politics.

Des Moines Register Endorses Romney

Mitt Romney won the endorsement of The Des Moines Register on Saturday evening, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to capture the newspaper's recommendation to Iowa voters since Richard Nixon in 1972.

Four years ago, the newspaper's editorial pages supported Barack Obama. But Mr. Romney secured the endorsement this year, with the editorial saying that he offered a “fresh economic vision.”

“Voters should give Mitt Romney a chance to correct the nation's fiscal course and to implode the partisan gridlock that has shackled Washington and the rest of America - with the understanding that he would face the same assessment in four years if he does not succeed,” the editorial said.

Follow Jeff Zeleny on Twitter at @jeffzeleny.

Rubio\'s Daughter Hurt in Accident

LAKEWOOD CREST, Fla. - Senator Marco Rubio's 12-year-old daughter was involved in a car accident in Miami on Saturday, prompting the lawmaker to abruptly leave Mitt Romney's motorcade along a highway here.

Mr. Rubio's daughter, Amanda, was airlifted to a local hospital, where she was listed in stable condition, according to a statement from his office. The severity of the accident and her injuries are unclear.

Mr. Rubio, who was campaigning with Mr. Romney across Florida, could be seen standing outside of Mr. Romney's bus, which stopped on Interstate 4 a little before 7 p.m. The senator was picked up by a state trooper, presumably to be driven to a local airport, so he could return to Miami.

According to the statement, Mr. Rubio learned of the accident after leaving the stage at a rally for Mr. Romney near Orlando. It appeared that he remained inside Mr. Romney's motorcade so he could be driven as close as possible to an airport.