Total Pageviews

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Unwanted Company Alongside Romney\'s Bus Tour


Mitt Romney is about to get some unwanted company on his upcoming bus tour across several swing states.

The Democratic National Committee announced on Thursday that it will stage its own four-day bus tour alongside the Romney campaign's trip through Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio. The tour, called “Romney Economics: The Middle Class Under the Bus Tour,” will begin on Friday with a news conference in Alexandria, Va.

Organizers said they would criticize Mr. Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts and his proposals for middle-class taxes. Democrats began a similar bus tour in June when Mr. Romney visited six swing states.

“Throughout Mitt Romney's career, middle-class families have frequently found themselves thrown under the bus as a result of his failed record and top-down economic policies,” the committee said in a news release.

The side of the co mmittee's bus features tire tracks over the words “Middle Class” and the slogan: “Romney Economics: Outsourcing, Offshoring, Out of Touch.”

Speakers on the tour include Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the committee, Ed Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor and Chet Culver, a former governor of Iowa. Two state representatives from Massachusetts will speak at the opening news conference: Kathi-Anne Reinstein and David Linsky, both long-serving Democrats.

The Romney campaign announced its bus tour earlier this week, leading to speculation on what the itinerary might say about his pick for vice president. The final stop is in Ohio, the home state of the rumored front-runner, Senator Rob Portman.

Romney\'s Running Mate? Some Say Wikipedia Holds the Answer


Who could be Mitt Romney's choice for vice-presidential nominee?

A few techies thought they had an answer.

In 2008, Sarah Palin's Wikipedia page went through a sudden increase in editing just before she was picked as John McCain's running mate. So, the thinking goes, monitor the edits on the Wikipedia pages of the 2012 vice-presidential hopefuls and - voilà - we will discover Mr. Romney's choice.

It's like saying, since a taller candidate usually wins, you should nominate Shaquille O'Neal, and he'll be elected president.

The idea came from a post to the political site TechPresident, which offered a few statistics and concluded, “if Wikipedia changes offer any hint of what's coming, then today might be a good day to bet” on Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.

The idea proved too tempting to the comedian Stephen Colbert, who in the past has invited his audience to m ake up information to post on Wikipedia. On the show on Wednesday, Mr. Colbert referred to the Palin experience and said: “Let your voice be heard in this historic decision. Go on Wikipedia, and make as many edits as possible to your favorite V.P. contender.” He then pantomimed editing the article of Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota.

In response to the Colbert prank, Wikipedia briefly put the Pawlenty page on full protection, which means only a Wikipedia administrator can make changes. That was quickly downgraded to “semi-protection,” which limits editing to registered users who have a bit of Wikipedia editing experience. The article for Senator Rob Portman of Ohio was still semi-protected on Thursday afternoon, but other possible nominees like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Mr. Ryan were open to any editors (even anonymous ones).

So many editors are watching that vandalism lasts barely seconds.

Instead, the candidate pages have lo ng been fertile ground for arguments over the fair way to summarize their lives and careers; each entry has a Talk page where factual changes are often debated before being made.

For Mr. Rubio, one argument has been over whether to call him the “crown prince” of the Tea Party movement. The latest version now adds: “The term has been used to both praise and ridicule Rubio.”

For Mr. Pawlenty, an issue is his budgeting practices when governor of Minnesota.

In Mr. Ryan's case, the debates include whether to highlight that he drove a Wienermobile while in college. (The fact was kept, but the photo of the Wienermobile was removed.)

Mr. Portman has been subject to debate over whether his work experience included lobbying.

Visit the article, and there is a note on top left by one editor: “This article appears to be written like an advertisement. Please help improve it by rewriting promotional content from a neutral point of view and removing a ny inappropriate external links.”

Obama Campaign Tries to Distance Itself From Widely Criticized \'Super PAC\' Ad


President Obama's top advisers have spent the last 36 hours trying to put distance between their candidate and a “super PAC” ad that lays the blame for the death of a cancer victim at Mitt Romney's feet.

But in doing so, Mr. Obama's staff has been accused of lying by Republicans.

The ad, by Priorities USA Action, features a man named Joe Soptic, who worked at a steel mill owned by Bain Capital, Mr. Romney's private equity firm. In the ad, Mr. Soptic tells the story of his wife's dying of cancer after the plant was shut down by Bain.

“That's when they found the cancer. By then, it was Stage Four. There was nothing they could do for her. She passed away in 22 days,” Mr. Soptic says in the ad. “I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he's done to anyone. Furthermore, I don't think Mitt Romney is concerned.”

The ad has been widely criticized for going too far in sug gesting that Mr. Romney is responsible for the death of Mr. Soptic's wife. Federal law does not allow presidential campaigns to coordinate with groups like Priorities USA Action.

Pressed about the ad by reporters, Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager for Mr. Obama, said she didn't “know the facts about when Mr. Soptic's wife got sick or the facts about his health insurance.”

Jen Psaki, a top spokeswoman for Mr. Obama, told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday that “we don't have any knowledge of the story of the family.” She was apparently referring to knowledge among campaign staff members of Mr. Soptic's story involving his wife's illness.

But in May, Ms. Cutter led a conference call in which Mr. Soptic was given a platform to tell his story. During the call, Mr. Soptic described the difficulties his family faced after the plant closed, including his wife's cancer. (Ms. Psaki had not rejoined the Obama campaign at the time of the c onference call.)

“When the cancer took her away, all I got was an enormous bill,” Mr. Soptic said on the call. “It wouldn't have happened if I had my old job at the steel mill.”

Mr. Soptic also appeared in an ad produced by Mr. Obama's campaign, though he did not tell the story of his wife's death in that ad.

Aides to Mr. Obama did not say they were unaware of Mr. Soptic's existence, a position which would have been impossible to maintain. But they said they did not know details about his wife's illness, her dealings with insurance and her death.

“No one is denying that he was in one of our campaign ads, he was on a conference call telling his story which many, many people in this country have gone through as there have been layoffs and they have had their benefits reduced,” Ms. Psaki said on Thursday. “What is clear here again is that we are focusing so much on an ad that has not run yet that is done by an outside group.”

Ms. Ps aki and Ms. Cutter have both repeatedly stressed that the campaign did not produce the ad by the super PAC.

But that response has not been enough to satisfy Mr. Romney's supporters, who said Mr. Obama's advisers should be held to account. The Republican National Committee released a video on Thursday asking, “if they're lying about this, what else are they lying about?”

And Mr. Romney's campaign has been aggressive, too.

“President Obama and his campaign are willing to say and do anything to hide the president's disappointing record,” said Ryan Williams, a spokesman for Mr. Romney's campaign. “The president and his campaign are intentionally misleading voters about their clear connection to this false and despicable attack because they do not want to talk about his failed economic policies.”

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

Justice Ginsburg Discloses June Rib Injury


This year, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg continued to work after breaking two ribs during one of the Supreme Court's busiest months, and just a few weeks before the court released its landmark decision on President Obama's health care law.

Justice Ginsburg spoke about the injury for the first time in an interview with Reuters, published on Wednesday.

When Justice Ginsburg fell at her home on the evening of June 4, she initially “thought it was nothing,” she told Reuters.

Nevertheless, she went to the Office of the Attending Physician at the Capitol the next day, where she learned she had fractured two of her ribs.

She went back to work that same day, traveled to New York later that week and was on the bench on June 11, when the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals by several Guantánamo Bay detainees.

“She kept with her schedule as usual,” said Kathleen L. Arberg, the spokeswoman for the Suprem e Court. “She didn't skip a beat.”

This is not the first health issue that Justice Ginsburg has faced, nor the most grave. She was successfully treated for colon cancer in 1999, and in February 2009, underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer. In the interview with Reuters, Justice Ginsburg, 79, who is the oldest justice on the court, described her health today as “great.”

Justice Ginsburg also told Reuters that she intends to serve on the court for at least three more years, for a total of 23 years - equal to the time Justice Louis Brandeis spent on the bench.

In the interview, Justice Ginsburg also refused to elaborate on the court's decision to uphold the health care reform law, including the individual mandate. It is a tradition among the Supreme Court's justices not to comment further on the court's opinions.

She also declined to speak about any drama that might have unfolded behind the scenes, including about a report, first published by CB S News, that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. originally voted to overturn the health care law, but later changed his mind.

“Don't ask me if the chief switched sides,” she said in the interview, before she had been asked the question.

TimesCast Politics: Preparing for the Conventions


Obama Draws Contrast With Romney on Wind Energy Tax Credit


PUEBLO, Colo. â€" Speaking not far from a wind turbine manufacturing plant here on the hot plains, President Obama on Thursday contrasted his support for keeping alive an expiring tax credit for wind energy producers with the opposition of Mitt Romney to that subsidy and others for clean energy alternatives to oil.

Mr. Obama's attacks followed days of veiled criticism of Mr. Romney's stance by Republican leaders in Colorado and Iowa, both election battlegrounds that are among the leading states in trying to harness wind power. The issue dogged Mr. Romney on Wednesday in Iowa and last week in Colorado.

“The wind industry supports about 5,000 jobs across this state,” Mr. Obama told about 3,500 people crammed into a cavernous building on the state fairgrounds in Pueblo. “Without those tax credits, 37,000 American jobs, potentially including hundreds of jobs right here, would be at risk.”

With the crowd's applause drowning out his words, Mr. Obama said the country should stop spending $4 billion a year to subsidize a profitable oil industry and should instead invest in the promise of clean-energy alternatives to compete with China and other countries.

The tax credit has been repeatedly extended by Congress and presidents for two decades, but it is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Mr. Romney's campaign recently said that he would let the credit die because it amounted to a violation of free-market principles, a position that is popular with Tea Party conservatives if not with clean-energy proponents.

Mr. Obama's reference to the wind energy credit was wedged into his broader stump speech contrasting his budget and tax cut proposals for the middle class with Mr. Romney's. Pueblo was the third stop in a two-day swing through Colorado, where polls show the rivals in a close race and where the economy's slow recovery is acting as a drag on the president's s upport.

From Pueblo, Mr. Obama was to head to Colorado Springs, venturing into a largely conservative region to encourage his supporters there and maximize turnout in the state â€" “leaving no stone unturned,” as Obama campaign documents often say.

10 Questions for an Undecided Voter in Ohio


In the tight race for the White House, President Obama and Mitt Romney are spending millions of dollars to reach America's small slice of undecided voters - people like Rosemary Pallen of northeast Ohio.

Ms. Pallen, a 62-year-old mother of two grown children, manages her husband's dental office and worries about the stagnant economy. “In our business, we're seeing more and more people on Medicaid - the middle class,” she said. “They're hurting. Kids are coming out of school with $200,000 in loans. They can't buy a house, they can't buy a car. Gas prices at $4? We can't go anywhere.”

Once a Democrat, then a Republican and now an independent, Ms. Pallen has grown increasingly disaffected from politics, which makes her a tough sell for the campaigns trying to court her. John Harwood of The Times and CNBC interviewed her at a suburban shopping center in Wadsworth, about 40 miles south of Cleveland. The follow ing is a condensed, edited transcript of their conversation.

How much attention are you paying to the presidential race right now?

If it's on, I listen. Mostly I turn it off.

You don't seek out information, or try to watch the TV ads?

Oh no. They absolutely get muted.

Are you starting to get bombarded, in addition to the ads, with mail and phone calls from the campaigns?

Phone calls - totally hanging up on those people, too. Annoying. Very annoying.

Have you followed the back-and-forth between the two campaigns over Romney's statements on his foreign trip, or Obama's statements like “the private sector's doing fine?”

I heard some of it but I don't even recall what it was about. Kids in a playground having a little fight and a little tiff. Just throwing out names saying ‘You did this.' ‘You did that.' You don't know what the truth is.

Do you see big philosophical difference s between Obama and Romney, and what difference might it make in your life?

They're on their own agendas. Romney's going to push through for big business. I'm not sure what Obama's doing.

I don't see either party giving me any benefits whatsoever in my life, because there's such a deadlock. They're equally to blame. You've got Congress and the Senate and the Republicans and the Democrats - they're not going to meet in the middle. They don't care about the middle-class person. They've got all the lobbyists in their back pocket. We elect them, but they don't listen to us.

You've got a House race in this district between two incumbents thrown together in redistricting - the Republican Jim Renacci, and the Democrat, Betty Sutton. How does that feel to you?

I don't know anything about either one of them. I have no opinion.

There's been a lot of talk that Romney might pick Rob Portman, the senator from Ohio, as his running mate. What do you think of Portman?

Don't know anything about Rob Portman. Doesn't do anything to my vote. He's up there and there's like two or three others - I couldn't tell you their names. I think (Romney) should choose a woman.

Will you watch both parties' conventions?

Absolutely not.

What about the debates - will you watch those?

Yes. Just to see how they react, how they take the pressure of the questions. And mostly for the fighting with each other - to prove a point that they're not going to work together.

When do you think there will be a point in the election when you do tune in?

Maybe until a day or two before - when I might have to make a decision, if I decide to make a decision.

On Borrowing Digital Books From the Library


I had resisted the lure of electronic books for as long as I could. But this year I received an e-reader for Mother's Day. I'm happy - but my wallet isn't.

As I quickly learned, e-readers offer instant gratification. Read an intriguing review in The New York Times Book Review on Sunday? A click or two, and there it is on your reader. I recalled a snippet on the radio about “Escape From Camp 14,” about a boy raised in the North Korean gulag. That night, I downloaded it, and devoured it.

The downside, however, is the cumulative cost. E-books may cost less than physical ones, but the spending quickly mounts when you're an avid reader and you download volumes at will. When I got my credit card bill for my Barnes & Noble account, which feeds my Nook reader, it gave me pause - and got me wondering about borrowing e-books from my library.

I found that borrowing digital books isn't as easy as it should be. A study relea sed in June from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 12 percent of adults who read e-books have borrowed from a library. But more than half of e-book borrowers from libraries reported that the library did not carry a book they wanted, and half said that at some point they discovered there was a waiting list to borrow the book.

My experience at my local library mirrors those findings. I logged onto the Web site (using my card number and PIN, established when I got the card). Then I clicked on a tab that said “Download audio books and e-books.” To my disappointment, I wasn't able to download books wirelessly to my Nook, as I do when buying books online. Instead, I was directed to download Adobe's e-reader software, Digital Editions, to my laptop. This took a few minutes and wasn't entirely intuitive, but it has to be done only once.

After downloading the Adobe software, I had to download the e-book to my laptop first , and then transfer it - with a USB cable - to my Nook. (Wireless library downloads are possible with other types of readers, like the Kindle from Amazon, although some publishers still require a transfer with a USB cable anyway, according to an article in The Times that offers helpful tips for navigating e-borrowing.

All a bit of an annoyance. But one I could brush off, if the reward was a meaty selection of e-books, gratis. Unfortunately, the menu is limited. Many publishers are nervous that borrowing e-books from libraries is too easy and will cut into digital sales, so they refuse to sell them to libraries, or restrict the number of times a digital book can be loaned.

I searched for a couple of books that I'd been wanting to read, but hadn't gotten around to yet. One of them - “Townie: A Memoir” by Andre Dubus III - was available only in audio book format. And Anne Patchett's novel “State of Wonder” wasn't available in any electronic format. Sigh.

I stopped searching and browsed available books instead, which yielded some interesting options. I downloaded “Open City” by Teju Cole, a novel about a Nigerian psychiatry student in New York. It took a couple of clicks, and then it appeared, magically, on my Nook.

But because I had wanted to read the other books first, I ended up obtaining them elsewhere. (I actually borrowed a hardcover version of “Townie” from the library). But in the time I was reading the other books, the e-library book on my Nook had disappeared - or, rather, it was unavailable because my checkout period expired.

So much for free, easy reading. For my budget's sake, I can only hope that publishers and libraries find a way to cooperate soon on making electronic books more readily available for borrowing.

Do you borrow electronic books from your library? How's the selection? What was your experience?

The Troubled Life of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board


Back in 2003, the national commission on the Sept. 11 attacks advised that as the country bulked up its defenses against terrorism, the watchers themselves would require watching. Congress heeded the warning and created the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in 2004 to make certain more aggressive intelligence collection did not unduly infringe on Americans' rights.

“We thought everything with a national security label on it was going to pass,” said Thomas H. Kean, chairman of the 9/11 commission and former governor of New Jersey, in an interview. “So we felt very strongly that there had to be some voice for civil liberties in the debate.”

Thus began a long, sad story - one quite relevant to The Agenda's look at the balance of security and civil liberty. It's probably fair to say that few governmental bodies have had a more troubled childhood than this one.

Over most of the eight years since i t was formally established, the board has rarely functioned at all, let alone proven to be an aggressive watchdog. Neglected by the Bush and Obama administrations and hampered by political squabbles, it has been out of business altogether for five years.

“It's just been a total frustration,” said Mr. Kean, who has testified repeatedly to Congress about the need to get a strong board up and running.

Now, that may be happening. Or not, depending on who is talking.

The board got off to a slow start initially and held its first meeting in 2006. Critics noted that since it was then technically part of the White House, it could hardly be considered independent - a point a Democratic member, Lanny J. Davis, emphasized when he resigned in protest in 2007.

That year, heeding the complaints, Congress passed new legislation strengthening the board and removing it from the White House. But for nearly three years after taking offi ce, President Obama did not even nominate a full slate of five members to the reconstituted board. He finally completed the nominations in December.

Last week, the Senate confirmed four of the five members - two Republicans, Elisabeth C. Cook, a lawyer at Wilmer Hale, and Rachel L. Brand, chief counsel for regulatory litigation at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and two Democrats, James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Patricia M. Wald, a retired federal judge.

But because of the objection of unnamed senators, it took no action on the board's full-time chairman, David Medine, a Democrat and lawyer who long worked at the Federal Trade Commission and now is working temporarily at the Securities and Exchange Commission while awaiting Senate action.

The chairman is the board's only full-time member and has the authority to hire a staff. So whether the board can begin its work without Mr. Medine is uncertain; two of the co nfirmed board members said they had agreed not to comment for the time being.

One theory circulating in Washington is that the delay is Republican strategy: if Mitt Romney becomes president and the job is not yet filled, he will be able to appoint a member of his party to a six-year term as chairman.

Mr. Kean, a Republican, said he hoped that was not his party's strategy. He said Mr. Medine appears to be a qualified and not unduly partisan choice, and that further delay is unacceptable. “We were delighted that at least a majority of the board is confirmed,” he said. “My hope is they'll follow up with the chairman.”

Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel at The Constitution Project, which advocates for civil liberties in Washington, noted that cybersecurity bills proposed in Congress include a formal role for the board and said it is long since time for the board to go to work. The goal, she said, “is not to end national security programs but to make sure they're designed in a smart way.”

By all accounts, the 2007 law gives the board genuine clout. It will have access to even the most secret government programs, with subpoena power to enforce its demands. In principle, it could prove to be a significance check on the counterterrorism machinery built over the last decade. But to do so, the board will have to overcome a daunting history, even by Washington standards, of delay and neglect.

What do you think? Is it time to give the board a chance to operate? Or are there sufficient public and private watchdogs over the agencies whose job is to keep Americans safe from the likes of Al Qaeda?

Wall Street Journal Editorial Praises Ryan for No. 2 Spot


The Wall Street Journal editorial page, a leading forum of conservative thought, had high praise Thursday for Representative Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney‘s possible running mate, citing his determination to curb entitlement spending. The editorial said that Mr. Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, had taken on entitlement spending “against the advice of every Beltway bedwetter” concerned about the implications of such a cause.

“The case for Mr. Ryan is that he best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election. More than any other politician, the House Budget Chairman has defined those stakes well as a generational choice about the role of government and whether America will once again become a growth economy or sink into interest-group dominated decline.

Against the advice of every Beltway bedwetter, he has put entitlement reform at the center of the public agenda-before it becomes a crisis that requires savage cuts. And he has done so as part of a larger vision that stresses tax reform for faster growth, spending restraint to prevent a Greek-like budget fate, and a Jack Kemp-like belief in opportunity for all. He represents the GOP's new generation of reformers that includes such Governors as Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and New Jersey's Chris Christie.”

The editorial also praised another lawmaker considered high on Mr. Romney's list, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, but noted his ties to the Bush administration during a time of growing deficits in cautioning against his selection.

“His biggest liability is his association with the Bush Administration. Many voters still blame President Bush for our current economic troubles, and the Obama campaign would use Mr. Portman to reinforce its claim that Mr. Romney is Bush 2.0.”

The editorial also said that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty would be a “sa fe, mature choice” whose working-class roots could counterbalance “the stereotype of Mr. Romney as too rich and disconnected to average concerns.”


The editorial comes as Mr. Ryan is drawing more accolades from conservatives as part of what some see as a movement by them to push Mr. Romney in the direction of selecting the Wisconsin congressman for the ticket.

Thursday Reading: The Financial Problems of Parents of Olympians


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 2012 Cycle: Attack, Feign Outrage, Repeat


The Democratic outrage machine is in full lather.

On Wednesday, the talking heads and campaign operatives spewed angry e-mails and Twitter messages about Mitt Romney‘s latest television ad, which accuses the president of wanting to “gut” the work part of welfare-to-work.

“There is not an independent person that has looked at that ad, not one person that's looked at that and said it's remotely and substantially true,” Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to the president's campaign, said on MSNBC Wednesday morning.

Last month, the outrage was directed at another Romney ad that took a few lines from Mr. Obama about roads and bridges into twisted them into disrespect for small business. The president called it “out of context” and “flat wrong.” Brad Woodhouse, a Democratic spokesman, said it was “trumped up, out-of-context fact-checked-to-death B.S.”

But hang on a minute. Even as they mount their high horses to complain, Democrats are eagerly delivering their own attacks seizing on a snippet or two of Mr. Romney's comments, ignoring whatever he might actually have meant in favor of a quick-and-dirty hit.

On Wednesday, a Democratic “super PAC” began running an ad that essentially accused Mr. Romney of causing the death of a woman whose husband lost his job at a company owned by Mr. Romney's Bain Capital.

Cue: The umbrage.

“It's sad and disappointing that President Obama's allies would stoop to such levels in an attempt to impugn Mitt Romney's character,” said Amanda Henneberg, a spokeswoman for Mr. Romney.

Negative, out-of-context attacks have come to define the 2012 presidential campaign - as has the offense that is inevitably taken. It is the height of political chutzpah, where both sides slide back and forth between perpetrator and victim with no sense of irony along the way.

“This over-th e-top crying that both campaigns are doing after they landed these blows - I think the American people are sick of it,” said John Weaver, a political strategist who advised Senator John McCain of Arizona for years.

The candidates and their allies should stop “this fake personal injury that they are both going through,” Mr. Weaver said. “There's no whining in this business.”

And yet, in this political season, the whining has been almost as loud as the barrage of negative attacks that has preceded it.

- Democrats howled last year when Mr. Romney's campaign produced an ad showing Mr. Obama saying: “If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.” It turns out, the clip was from 2008, and Mr. Obama was quoting an aide to Mr. McCain.

- It was Mr. Romney's turn to cry foul a few months later, when Democrats gleefully jumped on Mr. Romney saying “I like to fire people” and “I'm not concerned about the very poor.” They left ou t the context, he complained, though Democrats paid him no heed.

- But turnaround is fair play, it seems. So when Mr. Obama said that the “private sector is doing fine,” the same Republicans who insisted on context were suddenly happy to quote the president without any. Complaints came streaming in from the White House and its allies.

- And yet, even as the Democrats complained about the private sector comments, they seized on comments Mr. Romney made that same day about teachers and firefighters. Mr. Romney doesn't care about them, they said, ignoring whatever context there might have been to his remarks.

- However much they talked about the importance of context, Mr. Romney's campaign left most of it out in a barrage of ads showing the president saying “If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.” He was talking about roads and bridges, a point that was ignored.

Mike McCurry, a former press secretary for President Bill Clinton, said neither side seems able to control the pace or intensity of the back-and-forth.

“They haven't found the volume knob,” he said.

“There used to be at least a sliding scale of what level of vitriol you would use in a campaign,” Mr. McCurry added. “You went to the highest level for the highest offense. What happens now is everyone just goes to the loudest and strongest response they can make. It just escalates the temperature of the campaign.”

Negative attacks are not new. But in the age of Twitter and Facebook, neither side seems hampered by a concern that they might do something that crosses a line that the other side wouldn't.

On Wednesday, Democrats eagerly spread around a Huffington Post story that alleges links between Mr. Romney and El Salvadoran death squads. The subject line of the e-mail from Mr. Woodhouse read simply: “Death Squads”.

Over the weekend, Republicans seized on a lawsuit in Ohio by Mr. Obama's campaign that seeks to allow early voting for all residents, not just military families and those living overseas. In Mr. Romney's telling, though, the lawsuit was an attack on military families.

Both sides have expressed their disdain that the other would stoop so low.

“I remember feigning outrage myself on some days,” said Mr. McCurry. “But not at this level. They just seem to be pounding each other.”

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

The Early Word: New Lines


Today's Times:

  • To attract young voters, Republicans are talking more about the economy and less about social issues. In some cases, Susan Sauly explains, the change reflects the fact that a new generation doesn't share the same positions on abortion and same-sex marriage that older Republicans endorse. In other cases, it's a pragmatic political decision by social conservatives.
  • With the Republican convention set to get under way this month, Mitt Romney's campaign is working out the tricky calculus of who should get what roles. Jeremy W. Peters writes that the “fastidiously controlled, leave-nothing-to-chance” campaign faces some hazardous choices as it tries to balance conservatives' demands with Republicans' desire to woo independent voters.
  • In the absence of an animated contest for the White House, some Congressional races are adding a reality-show aesthetic to this year's ele ctions. Jennifer Steinhauer writes about how this election has been colored by redistricting, a deluge of cash, and the continuing influence of the Tea Party, sprinkled with a few arrests and other high jinks.
  • Forget the 30-second campaign ad. Linda Lingle, a Republican Senate hopeful in Hawaii, has a 24-hour cable channel devoted to her campaign. The channel is “a first-of-its-kind venture in campaign advertising in this country, reflecting the continued push by candidates to break through the rising clatter of political advertising,” but also demonstrating how Republicans are willing to pour cash into a campaign they hope will help them to gain control of the Senate, Adam Nagourney writes.
  • In an aggressive effort to shed light on the workings of the secretive outside spending groups that are having an outsize and virtually unfettered influence in the election, the attorney general of New York has asked the groups to turn over federal tax returns and other documents. Nicholas Confessore writes that with the Internal Revenue Service facing competing pressures from Democrats and Republicans over its oversight of politically active and tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is scrutinizing the groups as part of a broader inquiry into tax-exempt organizations.
  • President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser dismissed accusations - lodged by Republicans - that the Obama administration has disclosed classified information for political gain as “specious and false” but defended speaking openly and with discretion about national security matters, Scott Shane reports. John O. Brennan, the adviser, also said the administration was working on a way to increase defenses against computer attacks after Congress failed to pass cybersecurity legislation.

Happening in Washington:

  • Economic data expected today include weekly jobless cl aims and international trade data for June at 8:30 a.m., followed by weekly mortgage rates and wholesale trade inventories for June at 10.
  • At noon, representatives of a coalition of voting rights advocates will hold a news conference to announce the release of the Elections Protection smartphone app, which will allow users to check their voter registration and locate polling places.