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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Warren Says She Should Not Have Repeated \'Save Capitalism\' Comments


SOMERVILLE, Mass. â€"  Elizabeth Warren said Tuesday that she had made a mistake in repeating comments from supporters who she says tell her she would “save capitalism.”

“I passed along a comment that was over the top, and it was silly for me to do so,” Ms. Warren, the Democratic candidate for the Senate, told reporters at a construction site here during a campaign stop.

She told  The National Journal in an article published Sunday: “Every now and again, I meet with someone who's been very successful on Wall Street who says: ‘I want to support your campaign because I believe you will save capitalism. I believe in capitalism, and I understand there have to be rules. And they have to be consistently enforced.' That is what I think is at stake in this election. ”

The anti-Warren Boston Herald said Tuesday that the comment had conservatives “rolling in the aisles.”

The comment sprang from an effort by Ms. Warren to defend her view that people who succeed in business do not do so by themselves but because of the government â€" a view that she first expressed last year and that received renewed attention earlier this month when President Obama repeated it and his campaign subsequently walked it back.

Ms. Warren's Republican opponent, Senator Scott P. Brown, and others have been ridiculing her for her stance and calling her anti-business. She visited the  construction site here on Tuesday to begin a series of campaign stops that she calls her “rebuild now” tour, in which she is emphasizing the importance of government investment in infrastructure like roads, bridges and communications systems.

In addition to retracting the comment about saving capitalism, she appeared to be more inclusive toward entrepreneurs as equal partners with government in building businesses rather than as unable to succeed without publ ic investments in infrastructure.

“All of those things are the things we invest in so that when someone comes along with a great business idea,” she said, “when someone's ready to do the work to build a business, when someone is ready to put it all out there and take those risks, the magic can happen.”

Her plan would pay for more government spending on infrastructure in part by ending certain tax breaks for corporations and ending government spending on oil and gas research and development.

The Brown campaign said that Ms. Warren was  “doubling down” on her anti-business views and that her plan was too costly. Ms. Warren said that Mr. Brown was “just plain wrong” and that he did not want to invest in the future.

While talking with reporters, Ms. Warren also said she was excited about her role at the Democratic National Convention, when she will speak in prime time, just before former President Bill Clinton. Mr. Obama is to accept the nomination the following night.

She said she was nervous but saw it as “a great opportunity to talk with 150 million people about how America's working families are getting hammered and how we turn that around.”

Ms. Warren and Mr. Brown are running neck and neck in the polls.


Follow Katharine Q. Seelye on Twitter at @kseelye.

The Agenda: Your Responses on the State of the Middle Class


The next major step in our story on the plight of the American economy - part of The Times's Agenda series - is to examine the causes. As I noted in the initial post, median family income in this country is lower today than 12 years ago, a stretch unlike any other since the 1930s.

On the most basic level, the causes are a slowdown in economic growth and an increase in income inequality: the pie is growing more slowly, and a large share of the gains is going to a small portion of the population. But that statement is as much an accounting statement as anything else. It doesn't explain the forces driving the changes.

More than 700 comments have been posted on that post, and many of these addressed underlying causes. Below, we are excerpting a selection of those comments, because we assume that most readers did not have time to read hundreds of them.

I am also using the responses to help me write a survey I'm send ing to a range of economists asking them to discuss what they see as the most important causes. Some may rank causes or put them in different buckets of importance. Others may use the survey as inspiration to write a few paragraphs laying out their views.

In coming days and weeks, we'll be posting the survey itself and then the economists' responses. Other Times writers will also be posting items on these issues. And we welcome continued reader feedback at every step.

Here is a sampling of those reader comments:

“Most of the income gains seen in my lifetime have been created by families going on afterburners - sending the other adult out to work. Now, we are seeing families going backwards, but that may be a good thing. But we will need to learn to get by on less, especially if competition by foreign workers accelerates.” â€" jstewart58

“Interesting that this appears on the same page as the article about Caterpillar. Is it really necessary for them to freeze wages when they are making record profits? You can bet that the upper echelon of company officers will not have frozen wages. There are many hard issues that contribute to the problem, global wage competition, automation, poor education, but these are exacerbated by actions taken by companies like Caterpillar.” â€" Oh Please

“Population growth in the USA as well as in Europe has slowed considerably. One of the options is to liberalize immigration, which will attract talented people as well as wealthy people from other countries. This will result in economic growth by the new immigrants spending money by opening new businesses and improving employment prospects for locals.” â€" VGM

“I have a theory the middle class aren't making more because the Government is taking more. Publish that chart and prove me wrong.” â€" Richard

“People working in manufacturing industries that lacked strong unions were always poorly compensated. It's just that now there are very few industries that are unionized and the pressure to compensate employees has declined across the board.” â€" Ross Williams

“Shouldn't you use an income number that captures the value of benefits received by Households? With health care costs increasing at a much faster rate than inflation, health care (and health insurance), is eating up wage/income gains … Employees need to understand that money spent on them - whether wages or benefits - is fungible from the standpoint of the employer. Ignoring these in-kind benefits overstates the share of income that goes to the top and understates the amount that goes to everyone else.” â€" Joel Pond

“Since WWII, the idea that one is solely responsible for their own success has widely taken root and the generations since have increasingly failed to acknowledge that success is the product of both individual initiative/hard work AND opportunity. The first generation that had the privilege of combining hard work with unprecedented levels of opportunity was the baby boomers and, speaking very generally, they seemed to forget the opportunity component as they rose through the professional ranks of business and government. This explains policies that reward the haves while eroding the opportunity (education, health care, higher minimum wages, pensions) that allows have-nots to use their individual initiative to pull themselves out of the lower classes.” â€" Dan

“I would like to know what happened in the Clinton years (and before) that led to the rise in income as well as the surplus at the federal level in those years, and why that is, or isn't, possible now.”â€" mennenster

“The uncomfortable truth is that America's economy has progressed beyond blue collar jobs and is now a service economy. Our biggest export is knowledge (in the form of technology, patents, business, etc), and is no longer ‘stuff.' So it is slightly misguided to blame manufacturing companies that don't pay workers higher wages, because these companies are no longer in industries where their workers can demand a premium.”â€" Austin

“Tax cuts for the rich have turbocharged inequality, beginning with Reagan and culminating with Bush II. To afford these tax cuts, we've cut everything else that helps the middle class, especially really great public schools.”â€" Carol

TimesCast: Romney\'s Overseas Trip


Ashley Parker discusses the final leg of Mitt Romney's trip to Europe and Israel, Erik Olsen on the youngest “super-pac,” Shaila Deway on single women voters, and Jim Roberts with Andrew Kaczynski of Buzzfeed on what happens if Twitter goes down.

Tentative Agreement Reached in Congress, Avoiding Government Shutdown


House and Senate leaders reached a tentative agreement om Tuesday that would pay for federal government operations through next March, averting the prospect of a messy government shutdown just before the November elections.

The emerging deal is a sharp contrast to previous occasions when House Republicans used the approach of a spending deadline to insist on deep spending cuts in exchange for their votes, once avoiding a shutdown by a matter of hours. But with the Oct. 1 deadline for enacting spending bills for 2012 coming so close to the election, Republicans leaders were eager to avoid a government crisis that they could be blamed for by voters at the polls.

Under the agreement that takes the spending fight off the table before the presidential and Congressional elections, lawmakers have agreed to continue the current rate of spending into early next year despite a call by some conservative Republicans for a lo wer rate. By pushing the spending into next year, the House and Senate would also eliminate it as a bargaining chip in post-election negotiations over what to do about expiring tax cuts.

While even some of the most Republicans wanted to avoid a big fight before the election, not all of them are expected to support the bill, which will come before the House and Senate after a five week recess that begins Friday.

“That is a good idea not to have that kind of discussion,” said Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, about the shutdown talk. But he added that he still would likely not support the measure.

Ohio Congressman Is Latest Moderate to Head for the Exits


With a blast at the toxic partisanship in Washington, Representative Steven C. LaTourette, Republican of Ohio, announced his retirement Tuesday, ending a nine-term career in the House marked by bipartisanship and a pro-labor voting record.

“The time has come not only for good politics but good policy,” he said at a news conference in his Northeast Ohio district. “The atmosphere today no longer encourages the finding of common ground.”

With his announcement, Mr. LaTourette joined a parade of moderate members from both parties heading for the exits, either because of retirements or defeat at the hands of more partisan office seekers.

Senators Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine, and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, a longtime Democrat-turned-independent, will leave next year of their own accord. Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, was defeated for re-election by a less compromising candida te, the Indiana state treasurer, Richard Mourdock.

In recent years, Mr. LaTourette had become increasingly outspoken in his disappointment over the confrontational tone of his party. Last month, he was one of two Republicans who declined to vote Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress, calling it an unnecessarily provocative act. In March, rather than side with his party on the sweeping budget plan of Representative Paul D. Ryan, he pushed the plan of President Obama's bipartisan deficit reduction commission, known as Bowles-Simpson. It received just 38 votes from 16 Republicans and 22 Democrats.

On Tuesday, he said “it breaks my heart” that Congress was unable to pass a long-term transportation and infrastructure bill, settling for a two-year measure after Republicans split over the future of the federal government's role in such programs.

“For a long time, words like ‘compromise' have been lik e dirty words,” Mr. LaTourette, 58, told reporters Tuesday. “I always believed that the art of being a legislator is finding common ground.”

“I will tell you that Washington and public life is not the same as it was when I started a quarter century ago,” he added.

His district is roughly 49 percent Democratic, with a strong organized-labor presence. But it was not immediately clear his retirement would prompt an unanticipated Ohio House fight. The timing of his announcement will give Democrats little time to find a challenger for a seat that has been in Republican hands for at least 18 years.

It\'s Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday Season


As July winds down, parents in some parts of the country (school starts in mid-August in our neck of the woods) are starting to think about back-to-school shopping.

Many states are holding “tax holidays,” during which they drop state sales-tax collections on back-to-school goods like clothes, shoes, school supplies and even computers. (Some communities still collect local sales taxes, though.) The CCH Group, a tax and accounting firm, has compiled a list of more than a dozen states offering back-to-school tax holidays and some examples of what items are exempt.

Arkansas, where I live, is holding such a holiday on the weekend of August 4-5. The state sales tax is 6 percent (some states' rates are as high as 7 percent, CCH notes), and city and county add-ons push it to more than 9 percent in my community. So a sales holiday can make a difference to those on a tight budget. During the Arkansas “holiday,” clothing und er $100, clothing accessories or equipment under $50, school supplies and art supplies are all exempt from the tax. An itemized list of items is posted on the state's Web site.

Connecticut's holiday, on Aug. 19-25, exempts clothing and footwear costing less than $300 per item. (Accessories, or athletic or protective clothing, aren't included.) North Carolina's event, meanwhile, on Aug. 3-5, exempts computers of $3,500 and under.

New York doesn't hold tax holidays, per se. But this year, it raised the ceiling - to $110, up from $55 - on the state sales tax exemption for items of clothing and footwear.

CCH suggests checking the Web site of your state's revenue department for dates and details.

Does your state hold a tax holiday? Do you coordinate your back-to-school shopping to take advantage of it?

Romney Lauds Poland as an Economic Model


WARSAW - Mitt Romney delivered a lyrical speech here in Warsaw on Tuesday afternoon, lauding Poland as a model for other nations in the throes of economic uncertainty.

Comparing current day Poland to the Poland of the 1980s served, Mr. Romney explained, as an example of a country successfully facing down political tyranny. Mr. Romney said that, “today, as some wonder about the way forward out of economic recession and fiscal crisis, the answer once again is to ‘Look to Poland.' ”

Poland's economy expanded by 4.3 percent last year, far outpacing many of its counterparts in European Union, and after the United States and Afghanistan, the country has committed the third highest number of troops to the war in Afghanistan.

“In a turbulent world, Poland stands as an example and a defender of freedom,” Mr. Romney said. “I, and my fellow Americans, are inspired by the path of fre edom tread by the people of Poland.”

Though Mr. Romney frequently makes Europe a foil of his domestic stump speech, warning voters that they do not want to head down a path to becoming a “social welfare state,” Mr. Romney praised Poland as an example of a nation on the rise.

“The world should pay close attention to the transformation of Poland's economy,” Mr. Romney said. “A march toward economic liberty and smaller government has meant a march toward higher living standards, a strong military that defends liberty at home and abroad, and an important and growing role on the international stage.”

Poland was the third stop of Mr. Romney's seven-day foreign trip, in which his campaign took to pains to visit countries for which Mr. Romney could express strong support. He started in the United Kingdom, extolling the “special relationship” between the two countries, moved onto Israel, where he expressed his belief that the country has a right to defend itself against the threat of a nuclear Iran, and finished up Tuesday in Poland.

“I believe it is critical to stand by those who have stood by America,” Mr. Romney said. “Solidarity was a great movement that freed a nation. And it is with solidarity that America and Poland face the future.”

Mr. Romney also used his speech in Poland to pay his respect to Pope John Paul II, a likely appeal to Catholic voters back in the United States.

San Antonio Mayor to Give Keynote Speech at Democratic Convention


Julián Castro, the Democratic mayor of San Antonio, will deliver the keynote speech at his party's national convention in September, reprising the role that vaulted Barack Obama to national prominence eight years ago.

Mr. Castro will become the first Hispanic American chosen for the high-profile speaking slot at a time when President Obama is counting on Latinos to help him win a second term in the White House.

The selection was announced by Mr. Castro himself in a video posted by convention organizers and reported on first by Univision.

“I know I've got some big shoes to fill,” Mr. Castro says in the three-minute video. “We've come so far over the past three and a half years under Obama's leadership. And I know he's not done yet. We got a lot more work to do.”

A co-chairman of Mr. Obama's re-election campaign, Mr. Castro is a rising star in the Democratic Party who, at 37, has already been elec ted and re-elected to the top job in San Antonio.

Mr. Castro's Mexican-American background will provide Mr. Obama and the Democrats an opportunity to highlight what they see as a stark contrast with the policies of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party when it comes to Latino issues.

And the speech could serve as a national introduction for Mr. Castro as he pursues a political career outside of Texas.

In the video released Tuesday morning, Mr. Castro previewed the kind of personal story that he will draw upon during his remarks at the convention in Charlotte, N.C. Recalling Mr. Obama's 2004, keynote speech, Mr. Castro said he would be honored to do the same.

“I remember watching his speech in 2004 and being inspired,” Mr. Castro said. “When Obama talked about the audacity of hope, I thought back to my mother saying if you didn't like the way things were, you could dare to change them. I thought, my mother would like this guy.”

Mr. Castro' s home state of Texas is not a political battleground in the presidential campaign and will almost certainly be firmly in Mr. Romney's column in the fall.

But the two candidates are waging fierce fights in Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia - states where the increasing numbers of Latino voters make them an important voting block.

Democrats have said for years that they believe the tough Republican position on illegal immigration will make it more difficult for national politicians like Mr. Romney to earn Latino votes. Picking Mr. Castro for the prominent speaking post is one way of highlighting that issue for voters in those swing states.

Mr. Romney has argued that the nation's economic distress is affecting Latinos even more deeply than other Americans, and that many of them will turn toward Republicans after concluding that Mr. Obama's policies have not worked.

In the video, Mr. Castro argues that Mr. Obama faced a deep economic crisis and has begun to turn things around for all Americans.

“He brought the economy back from the brink, rescued the auto industry while Mitt Romney argued that we should let Detroit go bankrupt, and he created 4.4 million private sector jobs,” Mr. Castro said.

Before Candidates Debate, Their Lawyers Do


In just about two months, President Obama and Mitt Romney will meet in the first of three nationally televised debates, each of which will shape the final days of the presidential campaign.

But Robert F. Bauer and Benjamin L. Ginsberg have to face off first.

The two veteran lawyers are the chief negotiators for the campaigns. Mr. Bauer represents Mr. Obama; Mr. Ginsberg is the Romney lawyer. They have already begun the delicate, closed-door discussions about how the two candidates will debate each other.

Last Wednesday, the Commission on Presidential Debates made clear its preferences: one town hall-style debate and two sit-down conversations, the first on domestic policy and the other on foreign policy.

That will serve as the framework for the high-stakes events. Without making any final commitments, both campaigns have indicated they plan to participate. But the details are left to be hammered out by M r. Bauer and Mr. Ginsberg, both of whom have done this plenty of times before.

They will negotiate over how the candidates are presented during the debate. In 2008, the commission recommended two seated debates and one town hall-style format. Lawyers for Senator John McCain of Arizona and Mr. Obama agreed to do only one of the three debates seated at a table.

The lawyers will also clash privately over questions like what rules should govern the use of the debate footage. Some campaigns prefer that debate snippets be banned from campaign ads. Others are more willing to have good debate moments broadcast widely.

Commission members have generally gone along with what the candidates agree to, as long as the basic structure of the group's proposals are kept intact. Commission officials said last week that there is no reason to think that won't happen again this year.

But as they engage each other privately over the next severa l weeks, the campaign lawyers will be looking to the strengths and weaknesses of their candidates as the seek to gain an advantage.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama have never faced each other before. But both are experienced on the debate stage. Here are some of the strengths and weaknesses that each man brings:


The president's strengths in debates were on display throughout the primaries and general election in 2008. He is often eloquent under pressure, answering complex questions without stumbling or seeming nervous.

In debates against Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama often seemed confident of his mastery of the subjects thrown at him. Now, after three and a half years in the White House, Mr. Obama is likely to be even more sure of himself.

But Mr. Obama has some weaknesses, too. Chief among them: he tends to be long-winded, getting bogged down in a kind of professorial explanation when his advisers would rather he could fit his answer on a bumper sticker.

(In one infamous answer at a health care town hall meeting in 2010, Mr. Obama was asked whether it was wise to add more taxes in his health care bill. His answer took 2,500 words and 17 long, rambling minutes.)

Mr. Obama is not immune to the kind of gaffes that present opportunities to his rivals. His remark at a news conference that the “private sector is doing fine” and his remarks at a campaign event that small business owners “didn't build that” are prime examples.

And Mr. Obama has had testy moments in debates. When Hillary Clinton was asked in a debate whether she was likable, Mr. Obama offered “You're likable enough, Hillary, no doubt about it.”

Finally, while Mr. Romney has slogged through a long primary debate season, Mr. Obama has not faced off this way in four years.


Mr. Romney has proved himself to be aggressive, knowledgeable and well briefed during the many Republican primary de bates he participated in during the 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

Especially during the more recent campaign, Mr. Romney often found himself the target of attacks from Republican rivals who were eager to slow down his march to the party's nomination. He was often cool under the pressure of those attacks.

When Newt Gingrich attacked Mr. Romney's immigration policies, at a CNN debate in Florida, Mr. Romney was ready, calling the Mr. Gingrich's radio ads “inexcusable and inflammatory and inappropriate.” And when Mr. Gingrich accused Mr. Romney of making money off Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Mr. Romney quickly pointed out that Mr. Gingrich owned stock in the mortgage firms.

But Mr. Romney can also get rattled during debates, as he did when Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, recalled stories about Mr. Romney's hiring of illegal workers to maintain his yard. Red-faced and flustered, Mr. Romney struggled to maintain his composure, putting his hand on Mr. Perry's sh oulder in an attempt to get him to stop talking.

And like Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney has made his share of gaffes during debates. In an exchange with Mr. Perry about health care, Mr. Romney awkwardly offered to bet him $10,000. And his answer to a question of whether he would release his tax returns still echoes: “Maybe,” he quipped.

He is also known to be somewhat less comfortable and occasionally awkward in unscripted moments, which are especially likely in town hall-style debates.

Still, Mr. Romney has received some unexpected praise when it comes to his debating skills.

In an interview in June, Jim Messina, the campaign manager for Mr. Obama, offered what was perhaps a bit of pregame spin, calling Mr. Romney a “seriously underrated debater” and adding the Republican candidate always understood what he had to do in the debates.

“When it was to go out and finish Rick Perry, he did it. When it was to hold the lead in New Hampshire, he did it,” Mr. Messina said. “And he is a great debater. Someone who used to work with him said to me, and I think it's right, he was the guy that you took in at the end to seal the deal, because he knew how to do it.”

Tuesday Reading: Devices to Save Children in Hot Vehicles Are Questioned


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.

The Early Word: Fighting Words


Today's Times

  • Mitt Romney's overseas trip was designed to show his dexterity on foreign policy. But once again Tuesday, he found himself under fire, Ashley Parker and Richard A. Oppel Jr. report. Mr. Romney's comments about the disparity in the economic success of Israelis and Palestinians drew a pointed rebuke from the Palestinian leadership.
  • The new health care law requires insurers to give out annual rebates if less than 80 percent of the premium dollars they collect go toward medical care, Abby Goodnough reports. The payout, totaling $1.1 billion this year, has softened some Americans who initially opposed the new law.
  • A runoff vote on Tuesday for the Republican Senate nomination in Texas has jolted the party establishment there and around the country, with a Tea Party conservative gaining considerable momentum against the candidate chosen by the traditional Republican establishme nt, Erik Eckholm reports.
  • Democrats have taken the first step toward amending their official party platform to include same-sex marriage, Jeremy W. Peters and Michael D. Shear report.
  • As the fight over extending tax cuts migrates from the corridors of Congress to the campaign trail, the prospects for compromise appear to be receding, Jonathan Weisman reports.

Around the Web

  • Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, and Representative Carolyn McCarthy, Democrat of New York, have introduced legislation that would regulate and limit the online sale of ammunition, The Hill reports.
  • Mr. Romney will soon be on a Hallmark greeting card, The Hill reports.

Happenings in Washington

  • Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, will join Senator Barbara A. Mikulski and several other lawmakers to announce new women's health coverage that will be available under th e Affordable Care Act.
  • A group of black pastors will kick off a nationwide campaign opposing President Obama's support for gay marriage at the National Press Club.
  • There will be a screening of “The Campaign,” starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, at the Newseum.

Obama Campaign Releases iPhone App for Canvassing


It's been the science-fiction dream of political operatives for years: an army of volunteers, connected to the Internet as they walk from door to door, looking up names on a device and entering their responses electronically.

President Obama's campaign appears ready to make it a reality with the release of a new iPhone app that will replace the ubiquitous clipboard for Democratic canvassers.

The app, which is available on Tuesday, will allow supporters of Mr. Obama's to download a list of names in their neighborhood from the campaign's central database. No longer will they have to stop by the local campaign headquarters to get started.

And once they knock on a door, the response - positive, negative, on-the-fence - can be wirelessly slung back to the campaign's computer system instantly.

The campaign is betting that the technology will vastly expand the number of supporters who will beat the pavement for Mr. Obama in the final 100 days before the election in November.

“Our focus remains on helping make grass-roots organizing as easy and accessible as possible for the volunteers and supporters that are the heart and soul of this campaign,” said Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager for Mr. Obama. “That's why we designed our new app to help break down the distinction between online and offline organizing.”

Mr. Obama is not the first candidate to have an iPhone app or to use technology to improve the collection of information on supporters. Both political parties have put enormous resources into developing online portals that can collect information, process donations and help organize volunteers.

But prior efforts have not gone as far as the application Mr. Obama's campaign is releasing on Tuesday.

An iPhone and iPad app released by Mr. Obama's campaign several months ago provided information about nea rby local events and served as a resource for information about Mr. Obama's positions. Like the new app, the old version heavily promoted social media as a way of distributing Mr. Obama's message.

Mitt Romney's campaign released an iPhone app at the end of May. But it serves largely as a photo-sharing tool that allows users to add pro-Romney phrases - like “I'm a mom for Mitt” - to a picture before posting it to Twitter or sharing it on Facebook.

Neither Mr. Obama's first app nor the one by Mr. Romney provides users access to canvassing lists.

Those lists typically contain the names of voters that the Obama campaign believes are supporters who might need a reminder to go to the polls, or potential supporters who are on the fence and could be convinced to vote for the president.

“Hey [NAME], my name is [YOUR NAME] and I'm a volunteer with Obama for America,” the script in the phone directs the volunteers to say. “How are you today? [ENGAGE IN CONVERSATION]”

The app allows the volunteer to designate a person as one of seven categories, from “Strong Obama” to “Strong Republican” or “Not Voting.”

Volunteers can add notes and e-mail addresses. When they click a button, the app says the finished information will be sent to “VoteBuilder,” the Obama campaign's central database of supporters.

In the old days, volunteers would pick up paper lists at a local office, returning them to the office at the end of the day. Other volunteers would enter the information collected into a computer. Now, that process will be largely automated.

For those who don't want to canvass, the app will also provide direct links to voter registration drives, local area phone banks, and - of course - the ability to quickly donate to the campaign.

A spokesman for the campaign said a version of the application for the Android operating system should be available within a matter of days. The iPhone ap p can be downloaded from iTunes.