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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Romney Delivers a Harsh Rebuke of Obama at Final Stop on Bus Tour


CHILLICOTHE, Ohio - Hours after the vice president said that the Republican presidential ticket wanted to put Americans “back in chains,” Mitt Romney concluded a four-day bus tour with his harshest rebuke of the Obama administration to date, saying that its negative campaign tactics have “disgraced the presidency.”

In a speech that was striking in its stinging sweep, which aides said was animated by personal frustration with the recent tone of the race, Mr. Romney lashed out at attacks that he called “wild and reckless.”

“His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then cobble together 51 percent of the pieces,” Mr. Romney said. “If an American president wins that way, we all lose.”

The latest offense, Mr. Romney said, came on Tuesday, when Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. delivered a speech in Iowa. Mr. Biden mocked Mr. Romney for seeking to undue regulations on big banks. “Unchain Wall Street,” the vice president said. “They're going to put y'all back in chains.” Later, an Obama aide said the White House stood by those provocative words.

Standing in front of a stately town hall here in central Ohio, under a giant banner that read “Victory in Ohio,” Mr. Romney called Mr. Biden's claim “another outrageous charge.”

“This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like,” he said.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama have traded barbs for months, but the intensity and frequency of the punch-counterpunch have picked up considerably in the past few weeks, belying talk of an elevated discussion of big ideas that both the Romney and Obama campaigns have promised.

In J uly, a top Obama campaign aide said Mr. Romney might have committed a felony when he signed corporate documents claiming he was chief executive of Bain Capital when he had taken a leave of absence. This month, Mr. Romney made the dubious claim that Mr. Obama is trying to strip all work requirements from welfare programs. Last week, a “super PAC” supporting Mr. Obama released a somewhat misleading advertisement suggesting that Mr. Romney's actions at Bain Capital indirectly contributed to a woman's death.

On Tuesday night here, Mr. Romney said that Mr. Obama had squandered the optimism and hope that had infused his decisive victory in 2008.

“In 2008, Candidate Obama said, ‘If you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters.' He said, ‘If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.' And that, he told us, is how ‘You make a big election about small things.' ”

Mr. Ro mney continued: “That was candidate Obama describing the strategy that is the now the heart of his campaign.”

A spokesman for Mr. Obama, Ben LaBolt, accused Mr. Romney of hypocrisy. His remarks, she said, are “particularly strange coming at a time when he's pouring tens of millions of dollars into negative ads that are demonstrably false.”

She added that he seemed “unhinged.”

Advances in Data Storage Have Implications for Government Surveillance


In 1965, the original IBM350 disk storage unit could store about 4.4 megabytes. Earlier this year, Victorinox released a one-terabyte flash drive, right, that fits inside a Swiss Army Knife.

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A wave of worry about a software program called TrapWire, designed to detect terrorists casing possible targets, appears to be unjustified, as I wrote in Tuesday's Times.

Based on stolen corporate e-mails posted by WikiLeaks, some reports hugely exaggerated the program's sweep and capabilities; the New York Police Department, for instance, says that contrary to claims on the Web, it has never used TrapWire.

But the bogus flap over one particular surveillance product should not eclipse the very real issues lurking behind it. Government at every level is experimenting with sophisticated surveillance equipment whose capabilities are improving as rapidly as every other kind of electronic technology.

The Police Department itself, for example, just last week unveiled a new “domain awareness” system, developed with Microsoft, that links 3,000 cameras, 2,600 radiation detectors and dozens of license plate readers in six locations and mounted on cars. If officers spot a suspicious package in range of a video camera, for example, they will be able to quickly track who put it there. If a terrorist suspect's tag number is known, the network will scan passing cars to find it.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department's chief spokesman, said that under its privacy policy, the department will discard images after 30 days unless the images are part of an active investigation. But certainly the technology to capture and store such data is no longer a limiting factor.

Not so long ago, even the most aggressive government surveillance had to be selective: the cost of data storage was too high and the capacity too low to keep everything.

Not any more. John Villasenor, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Los Angeles, studied the plummeting cost of computer data storage and reached an astonishing conclusion: It will soon be technically feasible and affordable to record and store everything that can be recorded about what everyone in a country says or does.

And there is plenty of data to store. The average person today leaves an electronic trail unimaginable 20 years ago - visiting Web sites, sending e-mails and text messages, using credit cards, passing before a proliferating network of public and private video cameras and carrying a cellphone that reports a person's location every minute of the day.

Mr. Villasenor, also a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, estimates that t o store the audio from telephone calls made by an average person in the course of a year would require about 3.3 gigabytes and cost just 17 cents to store, a price that is expected to fall to 2 cents by 2015. Tracking a person's movements for a year, collected from their cellphone, would take so little space as to carry a trivial cost. Storing video takes far more space, but the price is dropping so steadily that storing millions of hours of material will not be a problem soon.

“It's so cheap that you can afford to throw away 99.9 percent without looking at it,” says Mr. Villasenor, who explores the possibilities in a Brookings paper, “Recording Everything: Digital Storage as an Enabler of Authoritarian Governments.”

And a government sleuth would, of course, be able to efficiently find anything of interest in the data because of the parallel revolution in search technology.

It is hard to exaggerate how dramatic the change has been. In the 1960s, the National Security Agency used rail cars to store magnetic tapes containing audio recordings and other material that the agency had collected but had never managed to examine, said James Bamford, an author of three books on the agency.

In those days, the agency used the I.B.M. 350 disk storage unit, bigger than a full-size refrigerator but with a capacity of 4.4 megabytes of data. Today, some flash drives that are small enough to put on a keychain hold a terabyte of data, about 227,000 times as much.

That kind of convenience and economy is hard to resist, whether you are a parent storing photos of your children - or a government trying to keep an eye out for threats.

Negative Ad, a First for Akin, Goes Up in the Missouri Senate Race


After an ad released by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee criticized his positions on Social Security and Medicare, Representative Todd Akin is responding with an ad of his own that calls the attacks leveled on behalf of his opponent, Senator Claire McCaskill, “misleading, deceptive, false.”

The 30-second spot is the first negative ad released by Mr. Akin, who made a point of running only positive ads during the Republican primary race.

In the ad, a female narrator criticizes Ms. McCaskill for voting in favor of President Obama's health care plan and for failing to pay taxes on her private plane, calling it “the wrong way for Missouri.”

“It's sad to see Senator McCaskill immediately resort to false, negative attacks, but it's also not surprising because she has nothing to stand on when it comes to defending her very liberal record in Washington,” Ryan Hite, a spokesman for Mr. Akin, said in a statement.

Ms. McCaskill's proximity to Mr. Obama, for whom she campaigned during the last presidential election, could prove a liability in Missouri, which has trended more Republican since John McCain narrowly won the state in 2008. She is one of a handful of Democrats who will not attend her party's convention at the end of this month to spend more time on the campaign trail.

For Mr. Akin, the sole candidate who did not run negative ads during the three-way Republican primary race, the new television spot is a significant strategic shift toward negative campaigning. As recently as July 30, one week before the primary vote, Mr. Akin's campaign posted on Twitter, “Why doesn't Todd do negative ads? Because Missouri deserves better!”

In addition to criticizing Ms. McCaskill, the ad responds to charges leveled by her campaign that Mr. Akin would be a threat to Medicare and Social Security, saying that Mr. Akin “fights to protect and strengthen” those programs.

During the Republican primary, Mr. Akin said that he would support maintaining Social Security for older Americans, while phasing in a private option. In the past, he has called Social Security “a tax” on people who pay more into the program than they receive.

Mr. Akin's spokesman did not respond Tuesday to a request for further comment.

Lawmaker Literally Can\'t Wait to Leave Congress


So much for a long goodbye.

Representative Dennis Cardoza of California, a five-term Blue Dog Democrat, had already announced that he would not run for re-election and retire after this year. But on Tuesday, he issued a statement surprising many saying that he would, in fact, step down immediately.

The timing of Mr. Cardoza's departure ensures that his seat will not be filled with a special election, and his staff will continue to serve constituents until his successor is elected in November. The resignation is unlikely to have much impact in the House, where little if any major legislative action is expected the rest of the year. The chamber now has five vacant seats.

In October 2011, Mr. Cardoza said that he would not run for a sixth term. As reasoning behind his decision, Mr. Cardoza cited the “increasingly harsh tone” of the nation's politics.

In an interview with the Sacramento Bee on Monday, M r. Cardoza said the time was right “in light of the fact that nothing is going to happen for the rest of the year” in Congress.

Additionally, congressional redistricting in California set him up in an undesirable position running against another California Democrat, Representative Jim Costa.

In the interview, he also said that he and his wife, Dr. Kathleen McLoughlin, “are facing increasing parenting challenges.”

The couple has three children, one biological and two adopted in 2000. Mr. Cardoza said his family has supported his career and sacrificed so that he could serve.

“I am grateful to my wife Kathie, who has been at my side since the beginning, and who still writes notes of inspiration and tapes them to my bathroom mirror when times are tough,” he said in the statement released Tuesday.

With his departure, House Democrats will lose one of its more centrist members. Mr. Cardoza touted numerous accom plishments from more than 20 years serving at various levels of government. Among them: fixing a constituent's street light, championing an Atwater, C.A. community center, supporting local farmers and making progress on infrastructure, environmental issues and health care, and expanding protections for abused and abandoned children.

In his statement, Mr. Cardoza thanked an array of politicians from both sides of the aisle, but offered special thanks to Blue Dog Democrats.

“Long may you bark,” he said.

A Fiery Introduction for Romney in Ohio Coal Country


BEALLSVILLE, Ohio - A Senate candidate, introducing Mitt Romney at a rally here on Tuesday, railed against “radical organizations” like the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters, and he said he had a message for those, like President Obama, who stood in the way of the coal industry: “Over our dead bodies.”

It was a significant departure in tone for a speaker at a Romney campaign event, which generally feature measured critiques of his political opponents.

The Senate candidate, Josh Mandel, arrived late to the rally at a coal mine, and he took the stage with Mr. Romney, who had just started his speech to a crowd of miners.

Mr. Mandel, 34, started by praising Mr. Romney for understanding that “coal equals jobs.” Then he blasted “radical organizations throughout this country funded from places like Hollywood and New York City - people who've never stepped foot in Appalachian Ohio.”

But he reserved his harshest words for the president and his rival for the Senate, the incumbent, Sherrod Brown, a Democrat.

“These people who are out of touch with Ohio â€" Barack Obama and Sherrod Brown - have waged a war on coal. They think coal is a four-letter word,” Mr. Mandel said. “I'll tell you this afternoon, for any of these folks trying to stand between us and affordable, reliable, dependable energy, we have four words for them: over our dead bodies.”

As he left the stage, Mr. Romney thanked Mr. Mandel for his introduction.

Afterward, a spokesman for Mr. Mandel, Travis Considine, said that the “radical” groups Mr. Mandel was referring to were Earth Justice, the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club.

Pressed on the remark about dead bodies, Mr. Considine said Mr. Mandel had said the same thing in the past as he had fought to protect the coal industry, which is a major employer in east ern Ohio.

“It does not suggest violence,” he said. “It suggests that no one will fight harder for Josh Mandel - for Ohio coal miners than Josh Mandel. It's an expression.”

Ryan Begins to Sync His Schedule With Romney\'s


LAKEWOOD, Colo. - Representative Paul D. Ryan's days on the campaign trail include public rallies like two on his schedule for Tuesday, one here in a Denver suburb and another in Las Vegas.

But Mr. Ryan's day planner is also packed with conference calls and meetings as the newly picked vice-presidential candidate syncs up with Mitt Romney's large, long-standing campaign operation.

Mr. Romney's Boston headquarters has provided Mr. Ryan with an entourage of some of its most senior people. Among them are Bob White, a co-founder of Bain Capital and one of Mr. Romney's closest confidants, and Dan Senor, Mr. Romney's top foreign policy adviser, who presumably is regularly briefing Mr. Ryan, who has little foreign policy or national security experience.

A campaign aide said that Mr. White was along only for the first few days to make sure everyone works together smoothly.

Before Mr. R yan's late-morning rally at a high school here, he spoke on a conference call with members of the policy and communications staff in Boston. On Monday, he held a video conference with the formidable Boston finance team. A central role for Mr. Ryan is as a financial rainmaker, a second member of the ticket to headline donor gatherings that will continue to replenish the Romney war chest.

Mr. Ryan has donor events on each leg of his tour of swing states this week, including one on Tuesday night in Las Vegas at the Venetian hotel owned by Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who has promised tens of millions of dollars to defeat President Obama.

The Romney campaign at midday on Tuesday said that journalists would not be allowed to attend Tuesday night's event, even though most fund-raising rallies are open to a pool of reporters. Calling the Venetian event a “finance meeting” rather than a “fund-raiser,” a Romney aide said it would be closed because no money wa s being raised.

Another focus of the recent meetings by Mr. Ryan's staff-in-progress is how to best use his time between now and the Republican convention less than two weeks away. En route to Denver on Monday by a campaign jet from Iowa, Mr. Ryan began conceptualizing his convention speech with senior advisers, including Mr. Senor and a speechwriter, John McConnell.

Note to Self: Double-Check Those Electric Bills


Are you one of those people who pay monthly electric and gas charges without closely looking at the bills? (You know who you are.)

If so, you may want to start paying closer attention to the details of your power consumption and your costs. Or you could end up like Grace Edwards, a resident of Cheshire, Conn., who overpaid thousands of dollars on her electric bill for costs that she was not actually responsible for paying.

(Two Connecticut newspapers reported her tale, which was brought to our attention by The Consumerist).

How, you may wonder, could this happen? According to The Hartford Courant, Ms. Edwards and her late husband had bought their house in 1987 from a developer who, it seems, had been footing the bill for two streetlights in the subdivision. She didn't realize she was continuing to pay for the lights until she tried to sell the home. A potential buyer asked for a history of its utility costs, which l ed to a close examination of past statements. It turned out that two mysterious line items on her bill - “9500 Lumen HP Sodium” and “6300 Lumen HP Sodium” - were for the electrcity powering the street lights.

She contacted Connecticut Light and Power, which removed the streetlight items from her bill, but did not reimburse her for the past costs. She next sought help from the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, to no avail. She ended up going to the state's Office of Consumer Counsel, which helped resolve the matter in her favor. The utility reimbursed her for the past costs, plus interest, for a total of $10,491.21 - and apologized.

Joe Rosenthal, principal lawyer with the consumer counsel office, said that the office normally represents consumers as a group in rate disputes, rather than as individuals, but that “we were happy to help.” Ms. Edwards's bills contained a line item for the lights. It wasn't clear to her what the item represented, he said - although it should have been clear to the utility. (The Courant reported that Ms. Edwards had previously been told that the charges were for an air-conditioning system or even a whirlpool bath). Regardless, he said, “They paid her back. The outcome was a good one.”

Ms. Edwards could not be reached for comment. But Bucks suspects she now agrees that it is a good idea for ratepayers to closely inspect their utility bills - and any other statements, for that matter - and demand an explanation of any strange charges before signing the monthly check.

Have you ever caught an error in a utility bill? Were you able to have the problem resolved?

New Ad Attacks Obama on Medicare


Mitt Romney‘s campaign signaled that it intended to fight rather than run from Democratic attacks over Republican Medicare policies, unveiling a new ad that stresses that President Obama cut $700 billion from the program.

Medicare has emerged as the main flash point in the campaign since the selection of Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and an advocate of fundamentally overhauling Medicare, as Mr. Romney's running mate. Democrats have responded aggressively, saying the Republican ticket would “end Medicare as we know it.”

But with the new ad, Mr. Romney is making clear that he and Mr. Ryan will counterattack by invoking a criticism that Congressional Republicans used with some success in the 2010 elections: that Mr. Obama is the one who is endangering Medicare through his decision to cut $700 billion from the program as part of his health care bill.

The Romney ad, which will begin running soon, says that “the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that's not for you.”

Democrats say the attack is an unfair and misleading attempt to scare seniors. They say that the $700 billion cut was to projected future growth in Medicare costs and did not cut benefits to current retirees. And they note that the budget by Mr. Ryan, the vice-presidential nominee, also includes the same cuts.

Medicare has re-emerged as a central fight in the presidential and Congressional campaigns this year in the wake of Mr. Ryan joining the Republican ticket. Mr. Obama and his allies have made it clear they intend to seize on the Medicare issue.

A union group has already begun buying online ads in Nevada saying that the “Romney-Ryan” plan would “double seniors' costs” and “raise the retirement age.” A video by the Democratic National Committee talks about throwing “sen iors under the bus.”

But the Romney campaign's decision to quickly produce its own Medicare ad suggests that it is prepared to fight Democratic charges that Mr. Ryan's budget would gut the Medicare system by changing it into a voucher program.

Rather than engage in a purely defensive debate about Mr. Ryan's budget, the Republican ad aims to generate concerns among seniors about what would happen to Medicare if Mr. Obama is re-elected.

Republicans down the ballot have already begun making a similar argument. This morning, Representative John L. Mica of Florida released a spot - first posted to YouTube in July - in which an announcer says he is “committed to repealing Obamacare and restoring Medicare.”

Republicans in Mr. Mica's redrawn Central Florida will decide Tuesday whether to nominate him or a Tea Party-backed candidate, Representative Sandy Adams, for a chance to return to Congress, but the ad seems geared more toward the general election.< /p>

“There will be increased advertising in Florida related to this issue,” said Elizabeth Wilner, vice president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, “and Mica is trying to get ahead of the curve.”

TimesCast Politics: The Ryan Pick and the Race for Congress


The Ryan pick and the race for Congress. | Will Wisconsin flip? | Iowa fairgoers weigh in. | Chris Christie to keynote convention.

Chelsea Clinton Does Not Rule Out Run for Office


Could another Clinton presidency be on the horizon? We'll just have to wait and see - Chelsea Clinton, for one, is not ruling out a run someday for elected office.

In a wide-ranging article in Vogue magazine, the former first daughter and close confidants around her were interviewed about Ms. Clinton's personal evolution and how she is embracing the political legacy  handed down from her parents, former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

So will she or won't she run for office?

“Before my mom's campaign, I would have said no,” Ms. Clinton said, adding that she has faced questions about her political ambitions since she was 4 and her father was governor of Arkansas.

She said she learned from her mother that there were “many ways for each of us to play our part” outside of office. But her mother's entrance into politics after her fat her's presidency inspired a change of heart:

“And now I don't know. … I mean, I have voted in every election that I have been qualified to vote in since I turned 18,” she said. “I believe that engaging in the political process is part of being a good person. And I certainly believe that part of helping to build a better world is ensuring that we have political leaders who are committed to that premise. So if there were to be a point where it was something I felt called to do and I didn't think there was someone who was sufficiently committed to building a healthier, more just, more equitable, more productive world? Then that would be a question I'd have to ask and answer.”

In her favor, she has already spent eight years in the White House surrounded by media and security detail that follow her even now. A Democrat, she has survived attacks from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, the controversial conservative radio host, and others.

Ms. Clinton, now 32, is married and pursuing a Ph.D. in international relations. She also sits on the board of her father's Clinton Foundation, crisscrossing the globe to mingle world leaders and advance causes the family supports. It's a legacy that she will inherit from her parents.

“As she's been exposed to the foundation and to what her father's doing with his post-presidential life,” said Huma Abedin, Hillary Rodham Clinton's deputy chief of staff, “I think a light switched on: This is the legacy I'm going to inherit. To say it is an incredible one is an understatement. She now knows that in 20, 30 years, everything about her father's legacy is in her hands. It's going to be Chelsea's responsibility to carry that torch. This is the core of what her grandmother encouraged her to do: embrace her inheritance.”

But the pressures Mrs. Clinton faces do not all stem from her parents' legacies. Since marrying Marc Mezvinsky two summers ago, she said the couple has faced gentle pressure from her mother to produce grandchildren.

“It's certainly something that Marc and I talk a lot about,” she said. “I always knew I was the center of my parents' lives when I was growing up. And I am determined that our children feel the same way. Marc and I are both working really hard right now, but I think in a couple of years, hopefully … literally, God willing. And I hope my mom can wait that long.”

Biden Warns Romney Policies Would Put Crowd \'Back in Chains\'


WASHINGTON - Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. created a stir Tuesday at a campaign speech in Virginia when he told the crowd that that Mitt Romney's policies would enable the banking and financial sectors to “put you all back in chains.”

The remark came roughly two-thirds of the way through Mr. Biden's thirty-minute speech, which was delivered to a crowd that included many African Americans at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, Va.

“Romney wants to let the - he said in the first hundred days, he's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street,” Mr. Biden said. “They're going to put you all back in chains.”

On a C-Span video of the speech, the audience does not appear to react negatively to Mr. Biden's phrasing; indeed, laughter can be heard among the crowd.

President Obama and his surrogates have been campaigning heavily in Virginia, and the campaign's strategy relies in part on energizing the black vote to take the traditionally Republican state, which moved to the Democratic column in the 2008 presidential election. According to the U.S. Census, the population of Danville is roughly 48.8 percent white and 48.6 percent black.

Following Mr. Biden's address, some Republicans assailed Mr. Biden's remark. On Twitter, Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary for President George W. Bush, likened the comment to one made by Sarah Palin when she compared critical press coverage to “blood libel,” a term alluding to the false allegation that Jews once killed Christian children to use their blood for religious rituals.

“The press pounded Palin when she talked about ‘blood libel,'” Mr. Fleischer wrote. “What will they do about Biden's ‘chains' remark?”

Later Tuesday, both presidential campaigns responded to the vice president's remarks, with Mr. Romney 's campaign calling the phrasing “not acceptable.”

“After weeks of slanderous and baseless accusations leveled against Governor Romney, the Obama Campaign has reached a new low,” Andrea Saul, Mr. Romney's press secretary, said in a statement. “The comments made by the Vice President of the United States are not acceptable in our political discourse and demonstrate yet again that the Obama Campaign will say and do anything to win this election. President Obama should tell the American people whether he agrees with Joe Biden's comments.”

Appearing on MSNBC, Stephanie Cutter, Mr. Obama's deputy campaign manager, defended Mr. Biden and called the reaction from Mr. Romney's campaign “faux outrage.”

“We have no problem with those comments,” Ms. Cutter said of Mr. Biden's speech.

As he concluded his speech, Mr. Biden confused North Carolina with Virginia, where Danville is located.

“With you we can win North Carolina again, and if we do, we win the election if we win you,” Mr. Biden said.

The city of Danville abuts the northern border of North Carolina, which also went for Mr. Obama in 2008 but is considered a more challenging state for his campaign this time around.

Bloomberg, in Chicago, Urges Campaigns to Discuss Immigration Reform


CHICAGO - Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appeared with William M. Daley, a former White House chief of staff, for breakfast here on Tuesday, united in their belief that immigration reform is one of the best and cheapest ways to revive the nation's economy.

Speaking at a gathering of the Economic Club of Chicago, Mr. Bloomberg chided both President Obama and Mitt Romney for what Mr. Bloomberg perceives as a bipartisan reluctance to discuss immigration reform during an increasingly fractious campaign season.

“Neither candidate is talking about immigration reform,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “But there is no way to help the economy as quickly and as cost-free as opening the borders to create jobs and create business.”

“Around the world, people want to move to America, and they vote with their feet,” Mr. Daley added. “The world wants to come here, and we need them to come here.”

Indeed, according to a recent report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a group of mayors and business leaders led by Mr. Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch, the chief executive of News Corporation, immigrants are more than twice as likely to start a business as the native-born, accounting for the start of 28 percent of new American businesses in 2011, despite representing just 12.9 percent of the population.

In recent years, Mr. Bloomberg has repeatedly argued for the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

The breakfast meeting in Chicago â€" home of Mr. Obama's campaign headquarters â€" was the first of two forums sponsored by the partnership. Mr. Murdoch was expected to join Mr. Bloomberg on Tuesday evening for a second immigration reform discussion in Boston, where Mr. Romney has his headquarters. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney spent more time in swing states on Tuesday, with Mr. Obama in Iowa and Mr. Romney in Ohio.

While the nam ing of Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin as Mr. Romney's running mate has accelerated demands that the candidates define their plans for reducing the federal budget deficit, Mr. Bloomberg urged Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney to share their ideas for immigration reform, despite its being an often polarizing issue with voters.

“There has got to be something more important than getting elected,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

Primaries to Watch in Florida and Wisconsin


Voters head to the polls in four states Tuesday to winnow their picks for the House and Senate, and the addition of Representative Paul D. Ryan to the Republican ticket has the potential to add a new dynamic to some of the races.

In Florida, a face-off between two incumbents - a veteran Republican lawmaker and a Tea Party-blessed freshman - has captured the state's attention, while in Connecticut, a World Wrestling Entertainment executive is making her second run for a Senate seat, this one being vacated by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the Democrat turned independent.

Wisconsin may be abuzz about Mr. Ryan, but the state is also at the center of yet another battle between established and insurgent Republicans over a Senate seat, while in Minnesota, a race Tuesday will determine which Democrat will take on a potentially endangered Republican freshman.

Six months ago, it seemed that Tommy G. Thompson, the former governor of Wisconsin, had nothing to worry about in his race for the seat of Senator Herb Kohl, a Democrat who is retiring.

But in the same dynamic that has roiled several Republican primaries this year, Mr. Thompson has been forced to sweat it out against three challengers: Eric Hovde, a hedge fund manager who has poured millions of his own money into the race; a former congressman, Mark Neumann; and Jeff Fitzgerald, the State Assembly speaker who links himself to Gov. Scott Walker's conservative agenda.

Recent polls show Mr. Thompson with a modest advantage, and each candidate is hoping that something about Mr. Ryan will rub off on them in the primary. Indeed Mr. Ryan's mere mention of Mr. Thompson's record as governor over the weekend was quickly made into a last-minute radio ad by team Thompson.

Democrats are hoping that the tough primary, and the nomination of a more conservative candidate, will boost their candidate , Representative Tammy Baldwin, who may face a tougher race thanks to Mr. Ryan's ascent.

In House races, Democrats are eyeing two freshmen in Wisconsin â€" Representatives Sean Duffy, a bit of a protégée of Mr. Ryan, and Reid Ribble, a former roofer â€" as possible seat gains, but both incumbents are expected to prevail.

Moving to Minnesota, Democrats are vying for a chance to pick off a Republican House freshman, Representative Chip Cravaack, one of several key targets for Democrats this year.

Republicans tried to shore up the Eighth District for Mr. Cravaack, who, in perhaps the most striking example of the strength of the 2010 Republican wave, swept away an 18-term Democratic incumbent, James L. Oberstar. But Mr. Cravaack, a former commercial pilot, will be hammered in the general election both for his conservative voting record, which is out of step with some of the district, and for living some of the time in New Hampshire where his wife works.

< p>The Democrats who have fought â€" at times with rancor â€" to replace Mr. Cravaack are a former Duluth councilman, Jeff Anderson; a former state senator, Tarryl Clark; and a former congressman, Rick Nolan, who served in the House from 1975 to 1981. Expect the Republican Party to work overtime to help Mr. Cravaack stay in Congress.

Connecticut last seemed exciting politically in 2006, when Mr. Lieberman was forced to run as an independent after losing the Democratic primary, then prevailed to keep his seat. The excitement now is around the Republican primary, where a former House member, Christopher H. Shays, is facing off with the former wrestling executive Linda E. McMahon, who since 2010 has spent roughly $65 million on two races for the Senate. (She lost in 2010 to Richard Blumenthal, then the state attorney general.)

The winner is expected to face Representative Christopher S. Murphy, who appears far ahead of his Democratic primary challenger, former Secret ary of State Susan Bysiewicz, in the polls.

The general election already seems in full force in the Florida Senate race, where Representative Connie Mack is expected to beat challenges from Col. Mike McCalister, now retired from the Army, and former Representative Dave Weldon.

The Democratic incumbent they are trying to unseat, Senator Bill Nelson, has already spent money attacking Mr. Mack, including an advertisement in which he linked the congressman to the Hooters restaurant chain. The fortunes of both nominees may well be linked to the dynamics of the presidential campaign in this important swing state.

Perhaps the most interesting House primary, one begot by redistricting, is in Central Florida between Representative John L. Mica, a 10-termer who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Representative Sandy Adams, a freshman who is backed by Sarah Palin and Representative Allen B. West, Ms. Adams's fiery statemate and fellow freshman in Congress.

Ms. Adams, backed by the Tea Party, and Mr. Mica, a fan of earmarks, are two the most ideologically disparate candidates in a House primary right now, and their battle is similar to others that have divided the party.

Stay tuned. Or, rather, refresh.

A Historical Benchmark for Religion and Race


With the choice of Paul D. Ryan to be the Republican vice- presidential nominee, not one person in a group of top political jobs - the presidential and vice-presidential nominees of both parties, the Supreme Court justices, the speaker of the House or the Senate majority leader - is a white Protestant. That group instead comprises nine Catholics (six justices, Mr. Ryan, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Speaker John A. Boehner), three Jews (on the court), two Mormons (Mitt Romney and Senator Harry Reid) and one African-American Protestant (President Obama). For much of American history, white Protestants dominated the top rungs of American government.

Race and Religion of Top Political Jobs

Trying to Deposit Checks With My New iPhone


Bank of America has (finally) begun offering a check deposit feature on its mobile banking app for smartphones and tablets. The addition gave me the push I needed to try mobile banking on my new iPhone. So I tested it, with varying results.

Bank of America recently introduced the deposit feature with little fanfare. Citibank and Chase already offer “remote deposit capture,” as it's called, and some smaller banks, like USAA, have been offering it for even longer.

I easily downloaded the bank's free mobile banking app onto my iPhone and logged in using my online banking credentials. You have to be an online banking customer to use the mobile banking app. Because I was using a new phone, I also had to answer additional security questions to verify my identity the first time I used the app.

Once the app opened, I clicked on the “deposits” tab. The app directed me to take two photos: one of the front of the check and a second of the back of the check (which must be endorsed “for deposit only.”) It instructed me to place the check in a well-lit area, to make sure the image was within the square frame provided as a guide and to snap the image from above.

This step took me a couple of tries with the first check, a computer-printed version. The app rejected my first two attempts as too blurry. But I moved to an area with better lighting (my kitchen, if you must know), and the third time worked. I then chose an account to deposit the funds into, typed in the amount and clicked “deposit.” Pretty easy, and I didn't have to get in my car and drive to a branch.

The second check, however, a hand-written personal check sent b y a relative as a gift for my daughter's birthday, was a different story. Despite taking and retaking the image numerous times, in different lighting and from varying heights, I got the same error message: “The image is blurry. Please retake a clear photo.”

I called customer service, and a bank representative said he wasn't aware of any issues with deposits of personal checks. He suggested uninstalling, then reinstalling, the app, and trying again later. If that didn't work, he suggested there might be a problem with my phone's camera, so I should contact Apple to see if they had any ideas about solving the blurriness problem.

I called my cellular provider (Verizon), which sold me the phone less than two weeks ago. The first customer service representative - after first saying, not entirely as a joke, that I simply deposit it the old-fashioned way - gamely walked me through uninstalling and reinstalling the app, That didn't help. The representative then refer red me to someone else, who had me snap a photo and text it to myself to check the image quality. It looked clear to me. But the app still wouldn't accept the check images.

Verizon connected me to an Apple representative, who verified that I had properly updated software before suggesting that I remove the phone's protective case, in case it was interfering with the auto-focus feature. She also advised tapping on the image, to help focus before snapping the shutter. Neither step helped.

I gave Bank of America a second call, and the representative I spoke with suggested that the image of the hand-written check might not be clear enough for the app to accept. (Sometimes, she noted, A.T.M.'s can't read such checks either, and you must type in certain information to deposit them by machine.) Did I perhaps have a second, type-written check to deposit to test that theory?

Turns out, I did. (This problem of stockpiling paper checks, for a rare visit to a branch, i s one reason I was eager to try the app.) That one was accepted for deposit without a problem.

A Bank of America spokeswoman said that while there might occasionally be a problem with an individual check, “by and large, feedback has been positive” for the new feature. Indeed, I was able to deposit a second, hand-written personal check later in the day, after tapping on the phone's screen before snapping the image, as the Apple rep suggested. So I guess the first personal check was just a dud, and I'll have to deposit it the traditional way.

At any rate, I successfully deposited three of four checks from the comfort of my home. The app instructed me to keep the checks for 14 days - in case they were needed for verification - and then destroy them. This means you must keep track of the paper for a little while. I'm not the most organized person, so I made a note on the checks, in pencil, that I had already deposited them. (Photos of the checks aren't stored on your phone, in case you were wondering.)

Funds deposited by the mobile app show up immediately on your account, but aren't available for withdrawal until the next day. There's a limit on the funds you can deposit each month using the mobile check app. I was curious to know more about the deposit limits and how they're set, but was unable to find details on the bank's Web site. The site directed me to the “terms and conditions” for details, but I searched in vain for the document.

I called and spoke to yet another customer service representative (As an aside, all the customer service people I spoke with about the problem were sympathetic, courteous and willing to try to help), who agreed that that the information was, in fact, unavailable on the Web site. “It's not just you,” he said. But the bank would be remedying that as soon as possible, he said. The monthly deposit limit varies, he explained, depending on the type of account you have and the length of time you've been a customer of the bank, but is generally $5,000 for most customers.

Have you tried out Bank of America's mobile deposit feature? How did it work for you?

Shining a Light on Obama


This photograph from The Associated Press is creating a fair amount of chatter this morning, and is naturally prompting some caption-writing contests. No, it is not doctored, and it captured President Obama speaking at Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Monday.

Tuesday Reading: Many States Stiffen Teen Driving Laws


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.

Christie to Be G.O.P. Convention Keynote Speaker


Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, will bring his blunt, everyman style of politics to a global stage as the keynote speaker of the Republican National Convention, officials announced on Tuesday.

Mr. Christie, who briefly considered running for president himself last year, will be introduced by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican rising star who had been considered as a vice presidential nominee for Mitt Romney.

The selections will showcase two of the party's most popular leaders in the hopes of appealing to independent and Latino voters.

A former prosecutor, Mr. Christie has become a political sensation by discarding the usual political pleasantries in favor of a brash and sometimes abrasive approach to governing. At town hall meetings in his state, he often argues with his constituents. When he thinks someone is stupid, he calls them stupid.

That approach has earned him the enmity of some of his adversaries, including members of the state's teacher's union, which Mr. Christie has targeted for deep reductions in their public pensions.

In an interview with USA Today, which first confirmed his role as the keynote speaker, Mr. Christie said he would bring his usual style to the speech.

“I'll try to tell some very direct and hard truths to people in the country about the trouble that we're in and the fact that fixing those problems is not going to be easy for any of them,” Mr. Christie told the newspaper.

“The American people are ready to confront those problems head-on and endure some sacrifice,” he said.

Mr. Christie briefly flirted last October with a presidential bid of his own, listening to donors and supporters urge him to run. But he ultimately decided not to run, saying “now is not my time.”

He also repeatedly pushed back against the idea of becoming Mr. Romney's vice presidential running mate, asking whether anyone could envision himself in that role.

In a statement Tuesday morning, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, said that Mr. Christie has “fearlessly tackled his state's most difficult challenges, while looking out for hardworking taxpayers. He is a leader of principle and conviction.”

Mr. Rubio, a first-term senator and Cuban-American, is seen as a key part of helping the Republican party reach out to Hispanic voters. A rising star in Florida, Mr. Rubio is a Tea Party conservative who has broad appeal in the state.

Through Ryan, Obama Seeks to Link Romney to Congress


In a speech a year ago, an angry and exasperated President Obama hinted at one of the themes he planned to use to try to win a second term in the White House.

“The last thing we need is Congress spending more time arguing in D.C.,” Mr. Obama said just days after the House and Senate barely avoided what might have been a disastrous default on the nation's debt.

Mr. Obama's campaign long ago decided to run against the lawmakers who have blocked much of his agenda, and in particular against the Republicans who have controlled the House of Representatives since the 2010 elections.

The president's top aides said Monday that Mitt Romney‘s decision to pick Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate should make that task easier for them.

“There's a fully consummated merger between him and the Republicans in Congress,” David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, said of Mr. Romney. â €œIt does draw Romney even closer to that caucus.”

On the stump, Mr. Romney has spent most of the last year condemning Washington, describing himself as an outsider who would shake up the Capitol and bring a consultant's eye and private-sector experience to the operations of government.

Had he picked Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, or Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey - men with no real connection to Washington - Mr. Romney could have doubled-down on that outsider status and perhaps complicated the president's strategy.

Instead, Mr. Romney picked Mr. Ryan, a fixture in the leadership of the House Republican majority.

“He really prides the fact that he never spent a day in Washington and now he's picked a guy as his V.P. who has never spent a day out of it, in his adult life,” Mr. Axelrod said.

Strategists for Mr. Romney reject the criticism of Congress coming from Mr. Obama. The gridl ock in Washington is a symptom of the president's failed leadership, they say, not of the Republican lawmakers in the House.

Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Mr. Romney, said Republicans will have a ready response to criticisms of House Republicans by the president: it's his own fault.

“He'll be pointing to his own failure of leadership,” Mr. Gillespie said on Monday, adding that Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. can't avoid the responsibility that comes with being in charge.

“It's not like he's been backpacking across Europe for the last four years,” Mr. Gillespie added.

But even as Mr. Romney rejects Democratic attempts to link him to the Congress, he is also embracing Mr. Ryan's Congressional experience as an advantage when it comes to passing legislation if he is elected.

“Mitt Romney brings private sector experience,” Mr. Gillespie said. That experience will be “helped by Congressman Ryan's leadership in the Co ngress. They are complementary attributes.”

The challenge for Mr. Romney will be to reap the benefits of Mr. Ryan's can-do, legislative background while avoiding the Washington baggage that usually comes along with it.

That could be tricky when it comes to voters, who start with an ever-deepening skepticism of Congress. A New York Times/CBS News poll in 2011 put Congressional approval at just 9 percent - the lowest for the poll. (The approval number was 12 percent in a more recent New York Times / CBS News survey conducted in July.)

Among the likely causes of that dismal approval rating are Congressional actions in which Mr. Ryan - and Mr. Obama - played central roles.

- A government shutdown was narrowly averted at the last minute in April 2011 after Mr. Obama and the House Republican leadership reached a deal on the nation's budget. Mr. Ryan, as the chairman of the House Budget Committee, was intimately involved in the fight.

In his Wall Str eet Journal column at the time, Karl Rove, the former top adviser to President George W. Bush, wrote that the “Obama-Ryan budget battle foreshadows what Americans are likely to hear in the 2012 campaign: an unengaged, reactive chief executive versus a bold, reform-minded G.O.P.”

- Four months later, the government almost ground to a halt again, this time over the question of whether to raise the nation's debt limit. The limit was raised - again at the eleventh hour - after a “grand bargain” to cut the nation's debt fell apart.

In a story in the Times on Monday, Mr. Ryan was reported to have opposed a “grand bargain” with Mr. Obama, saying it would ease the president's re-election. Republican officials denied that report.

- Out of the debate over the debt ceiling came legislation to force cuts in defense and Medicare unless Congress agreed on ways to reduce the debt. At the time, Mr. Ryan called it a “reasonable, responsible effort to cut gover nment spending, avoid a default, and help create a better environment for job creation.”

But the legislation added to the cynicism among voters. And the president and lawmakers are nowhere near an agreement to cut the debt, leaving the specter of massive, across-the-board cuts looming over the election.

In addition to adding Mr. Ryan to the ticket, Mr. Romney has also beefed up his campaign staff, scooping up top staffers from Capitol Hill who have spent the last several years doing battle with Mr. Obama's White House.

Most recently, Michael Steel and Brendan Buck, the two senior spokesmen for Mr. Boehner, joined the Romney campaign to speak for the vice-presidential nominee.

That's not really a surprise. The halls of Congress often serve as a kind of farm team for presidential campaigns. And most of the staffers from the Hill were hired before anyone knew that Mr. Ryan was the pick.

But their presence provides a bit more ammunition for Mr. Ob ama's team as they try to link Mr. Romney and his campaign as closely as they can to the House Republicans.

That may be a stretch in the end, since it is Mr. Romney, a former governor who has never served in Washington, at the top of the Republican ticket. But Mr. Ryan's presence gives Mr. Obama's campaign an opportunity to exploit - and they are surely going to try.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

The Early Word: A Gamble


Today's Times

  • While Florida â€" a state where elderly voters make up 22 percent of the electorate â€" is a place where Democrats can be counted on to assail proposed changes to Medicare, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan signaled that they intend to go on the offensive, Adam Nagourney writes. They are gambling that they can convince voters that the time has come to confront the mounting costs of entitlement programs.
  • Questions over the Las Vegas Sands Corporation's payments to its Chinese representative highlight the frequent intersection of politics and money for Sheldon Adelson, the company's founder and a major Republican donor, Michael Luo, Neil Gough and Edward Wong report.
  • President Obama and Representative Paul D. Ryan went head to head Monday in an early test of themes that will undoubtedly dominate the campaign in the months to come, Helene Cooper and Trip Gabriel report. They clashed over farm aid, welfare, the unemployment rate and the role of government.
  • While the Mitt Romney campaign tried to emphasize Representative Paul Ryan's knowledge of the federal budget as a top reason for selecting him as a running mate, less well-known is the Wisconsin congressman's close ties to the donors and activists who have channeled Tea Party anger into a $400 million political machine, Nicholas Confessore reports. Mr. Ryan could provide Mr. Romney with a bridge to the conservative counter-establishment and access to groups planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat President Obama.
  • The moderating duties for the four presidential and vice-presidential debates will be evenly split between male and female journalists for the first time this year, Brian Stelter reports. Three 16-year-olds from New Jersey who started an online petition titled “It's Time for a Female Moderator” helped trigger the decision.
  • Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan split up on Monday to cover as much territory as possible in swing states, but they rarely left each other's sight over the weekend, highlighting the most intriguing dimension of the Romney-Ryan partnership: the unmistakable sense that the two men thoroughly enjoy each other's company, Michael Barbaro writes.

Around the Web

  • Michelle Obama will be the guest editor on iVillage the week of Aug. 20, offering back-to-school tips and details on how she gets the first daughters ready for a new school year, The Hill reports.
  • Janna Ryan is stepping gingerly into the spotlight as her husband campaigns on the biggest stage of his career, The Washington Post writes.

Happenings in Washington

  • Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will meet with the 2012 Fulbright Public Policy Fellows at the Department of State.
  • David Strickland, National Highway Traffic Safety administrator, will release new statistics on drunk driving statistics to kick off the annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement crackdown.