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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Warren Ties Brown to G.O.P.\'s Agenda on Women\'s Issues


BOSTON â€" Elizabeth Warren seized on the weekend comments of Missouri Representative Todd Akin on Tuesday, seeking to link his statement about “legitimate rape” to the Republican Party's broader agenda on women's issues â€" and thus, to her opponent in the Massachusetts Senate race, the incumbent Republican Senator Scott P. Brown.

“What he said was dangerously and deliberately ignorant,” said Ms. Warren, a Democrat, referring to Mr. Akin's assertion that women's bodies have biological mechanisms to prevent pregnancy after a rape. “But it did not fall out of the sky.”

“There's a large Republican agenda here that has to do with access to birth control, with access to health care screenin g, to the ability of women to determine control over their bodies, to the definition of rape,” said Ms. Warren, who connected those issues with Mr. Brown.

“He is part of that agenda,” Ms. Warren said. “He is working to get Republicans in control of the United States Senate so they can pursue that agenda.”

Mr. Brown, for his part, has worked aggressively to distance himself from Mr. Akin's comments, calling for the Senate candidate to drop out of his race on Monday morning.

Then, on Tuesday, Mr. Brown criticized a draft Republican Party platform supporting a constitutional amendment banning abortion.

“I believe this is a mistake because it fails to recognize the views of pro-choice Republicans like myself,” wrote Mr. Brown in a letter addressed to Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

His campaign also emphasized his support for women's issues in an e-mail to reporters, high lighting his vote in support of measures including the Violence Against Women Act this year, and his expression of support for funding Planned Parenthood.

But during her news conference, Ms. Warren picked out different parts of Mr. Brown's record, including his vote against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which required that women and men be paid the same for the same work, and his co-sponsorship of the Blunt amendment, a failed measure aimed at allowing employers to deny health care coverage they found objectionable, including birth control.

“Scott Brown can't just back off, try to have it both ways, to vote against equal pay for equal work, to co-sponsor an amendment to block access to birth control, to support the Republican presidential and vice-presidential nominees, and then say, ‘Oh no, don't count me as part of that bigger Republican agenda,'” said Ms. Warren, later adding, “Scott Brown is in this one up to his neck.”

Ms. Warren made her commen ts at the Omni Parker House in Boston, at a news conference held to introduce a report by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a nonpartisan, progressive advocacy organization, calling the Romney-Ryan ticket “bad for women.”

Paul and Republican Party Officials Reach Deal on Delegates


The presidential campaign of the libertarian Republican Ron Paul has reached agreement with party leaders on delegate disputes, clearing the way for a harmonious convention to nominate Mitt Romney next week in Tampa, Fla.

Mr. Paul's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, said the agreement would seat 17 additional Paul delegates from Louisiana, as well as three additional delegates and two alternates from Massachusetts.

Negotiations continued over delegates from Maine. But Mr. Benton said the party's Committee on Contests would recommend splitting the delegation from Maine between representatives of Mr. Paul and Mr. Romney.

A Republican National Committee official confirmed the deal, crediting “mutual respect and professionalism” between the candidates.

Paul campaign officials also pointed toward cooperation in drafting the party platform. Among other issues, they expressed sa tisfaction with language calling for auditing the Federal Reserve, a stance Mr. Romney embraced while campaigning this week.

Libertarian-minded Republicans backing Mr. Paul, including a significant number of young voters, “have made themselves into a movement that cannot be ignored,” Mr. Benton said.

Mr. Paul, a longtime House member from Texas who once mounted a third-party bid for the White House, is not scheduled to speak at the convention.

But his son Rand Paul, a first-term senator from Kentucky, is. He is viewed as a potential heir to the movement his father led in the last two nomination fights.

Ryan Takes to Pennsylvania to Push Medicare Message


WEST CHESTER, Pa. - Representative Paul D. Ryan customized from his menu of attacks on President Obama to fit a full day of campaigning in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, putting state-specific numbers on his assertion that current Medicare beneficiaries will suffer benefit cuts under the 2010 health care law.

“In Pennsylvania, 38 percent of Pennsylvania seniors choose to get their Medicare from a plan called Medicare Advantage,” Mr. Ryan said here. “Forty-seven percent of them are going to lose it under Obamacare, according to Medicare, by 2017.”

Mr. Ryan was extrapolating from a 2010 report from Medicare's Office of the Actuary. It analyzed the potential impact of lower premium supports paid to private companies that issue Medicare Advantage plans, popular alternatives to traditional Medicare with extra benefits such as gym memberships. To slow the growth of Medicare spending, the Affordable Care Act reduces support for the private plans, which Democrats consider inefficient. Beneficiaries would still be covered under traditional Medicare.

But Mr. Ryan and Mitt Romney have raised the charge that the health care overhaul “raided” Medicare to help pay for “Obamacare.”

“The next time you hear from President Obama, tell him to keep his hands off Medicare,'' Mr. Ryan said, continuing to turn the tables on an issue that many strategists expected to be a weakness for the Republican ticket with Mr. Ryan coming aboard, because of his signature plan to turn Medicare into an optional voucherlike system.

The risk was highlighted by a new poll on Tuesday from the Pew Research Center that showed of those who have heard of Mr. Ryan's plan, 49 percent oppose such a reform and 34 percent favor it.

Speaking to a boisterous crowd outside a helicopter museum here west of Philadelphia, Mr. Ryan also needled Mr. Obama over one of his best-remem bered gaffes of the 2008 campaign. Mr. Ryan also customized the line for his local audience.

“You remember that one where he said people in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, we cling to our guns and our religion?'' he said. “Hey. As a Catholic deer hunter: guilty as charged.''

As Republicans Meet, Biden Will Campaign in Tampa


Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. plans to crash the other party's party. When Republicans gather in Tampa, Fla., next week to nominate Mitt Romney and Paul D. Ryan, Mr. Biden intends to be there as well, to campaign for the Democrats.

In a statement Tuesday announcing the trip, the Democratic ticket's campaign headquarters did not elaborate on exactly what the vice president would be doing, revealing only that next Monday and Tuesday, he “will travel to the Tampa area and other cities for campaign events.”

Presumably, Mr. Biden will not actually show up at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the arena that will play host to roughly 4,400 Republican delegates and alternates starting Monday. But just by being in the same area code, he evidently hopes to steal a little of the Republicans' thunder as they open their quadrennial gathering. The convention is scheduled to formally nominate Mr. Romney for president and Mr. Ryan for vice president by Thursday, Aug. 30.

Traditionally, candidates of one party have tended to keep a relatively low profile during the other party's convention, but in recent years they have been less willing to completely cede the stage. President Obama, having scrapped his usual Martha's Vineyard summer vacation, plans to take a few days off at Camp David this weekend, but then he, too, plans to campaign next week during the first few days of the Republican convention.

Democrats will renominate Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden at their convention the following week in Charlotte, N.C.

Look for Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan to stay active that week, too. Perhaps a stop in the Tar Heel State for Mr. Ryan?

As Ryan Campaigns, the Abortion Issue Intrudes


CARNEGIE, Pa. - While the furor continued over Representative Todd Akin's remarks about rape, Paul D. Ryan did not mention his House colleague as he campaigned for the Republican presidential ticket here on Tuesday.

Mr. Ryan delivered a spirited version of his stump speech attacking President Obama on Medicare and jobs, after whipping a Pittsburgh Steelers Terrible Towel that he was handed after taking the stage.

The enthusiastic crowd chanted: “Here we go, Ryan. Here we go!''

As a chorus of Republican leaders pressed Mr. Akin to quit the Senate race in Missouri, Mr. Ryan was reported to have called Mr. Akin on Monday. But Mr. Ryan's traveling spokesman would not confirm or deny a call.

In declaring that a woman's body can prevent her from becoming pregnant in cases of “legitimate rape,” Mr. Akin was trying to explain his opposition to abortion laws that include an excep tion for rape victims. He later said that he misspoke and apologized, but stated that he was staying in the race.

In the past, Mr. Ryan also opposed a rape exception to abortion laws, although when the Romney-Ryan campaign condemned Mr. Akin in a statement on Sunday, it made clear that Mr. Ryan supported Mitt Romney's long-held view that abortions laws include a rape exception.

Scrutiny over Mr. Ryan's past abortion positions has been rising since the weekend, as the Obama campaign tries to tie Mr. Ryan with Mr. Akin in an effort to stretch its advantage among female voters over the Republican ticket.

The Obama campaign even branded a plank in the Republican platform prohibiting abortion in the case of rape, which has been a feature of previous party platforms, the “Akin amendment.''

A spokesman for Mr. Ryan, Michael Steel, said, “It's not at all uncommon to have slight differences between the platform and the nominee.”

Mr. Ryan's campaign said that while he personally opposes exceptions for rape or incest, he voted repeatedly for the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortions but includes exceptions for rape, incest or to save the life of a pregnant woman.

At the same time, Mr. Ryan was a co-sponsor last year, along with Mr. Akin and other House Republicans, of a bill that seemed intended to narrow the rape exception, inserting the language “forcible rape.” It also granted “personhood” to human embryos, a view that supporters of the personhood movement say will criminalize all abortions and perhaps some forms of birth control.

Apart from Mr. Akin's fate â€" on Tuesday, he said he would not withdraw â€" the issue of exceptions in anti-abortion laws now seems likely to be an undercurrent of the presidential race

At Mr. Ryan's rally here, near Pittsburgh, the crowd seemed well aware of the swirling controversy. Many said they opposed abortion but wrestled over support for an exception in cases of rape.

“This is so hard,” said Dianne Lynch, 56, a stay-at-home mother who called herself staunchly conservative. “I try to put my children in that position.”

But she said she would support abortion laws with no exceptions for rape or incest. “I say a nation that kills their own is a nation without hope,” she said.

Lauren Dull, a hospital gift shop worker, also opposed abortion, but she said she would support an exception for rape. “I would prefer the girl who does get pregnant to give it up for adoption,” she said, “but I've never been in that position. That might be very hard to do.”

She did not think that Mr. Ryan's previously stated position in favor of a rape exception would detract from the appeal of the Republican ticket.

“Because this guy is going to be the president,” she said, pointing to a picture of Mr. Romney she had glued to a homemade sign reading, “Time for a Little R & R.”

A supporter of Mr. Obama at the Ryan rally, Anna Jane Shally, said the president's support of abortion rights was important in winning her vote. She said Mr. Ryan's past opposition to exceptions for rape or incest would drive even more women away from the Republican ticket. “I think he has not mouthed the words of Representative Akin,” she said, referring to Mr. Ryan, “but I think philosophically they're on the same page.”

Mallory Silbert, 19, a student at Allegheny College, said she opposed abortion. The issue of a rape exception “is hard when you're in college because things happen in college,” she said.

She thought all the attention to Mr. Akin's inflammatory words might lead to more awareness of rape. “If we get more people to realize that rape is a big issue, we can educate more people and not have pro-life or pro-choice,” she said. “It's about making that issue stop in general, and not picking a side.”

New Ads Attack the Koch Brothers


As patrons of conservative groups, the billionaire Koch brothers have bankrolled plenty of negative ads, but now they are a direct target of one.

With a $500,000 ad purchase on Tuesday, an outside political group allied with Democrats said it was beginning an effort to tie the industrial executives to their agenda.

“Billionaire oil tycoons Charles and David Koch and their special interest friends are spending $400 million to buy this year's elections and advance their agenda,” a narrator says in the 30-second version of the ad, by Patriot Majority USA, running on CNN and MSNBC. That “greed agenda,” the ad contends, includes cutting taxes for the rich, eliminating the minimum wage, cutting education financing and subsidizing oil companies.

The Kochs are “hiding in plain sight,” said Craig Varoga, the president of Patriot Majority USA. The group commissioned polls that found that most Americans were no t aware of them, Mr. Varoga said.

“Our goal is to increase their name ID and tie it to their actual causes,” he said.

However, Mr. Varoga refused to identify the backers of his group's effort. As a tax-exempt “social welfare” organization, Patriot Majority USA is not required to disclose its donors.

A top Koch official dismissed the effort by “the president's allies” to “attack and demonize private citizens and job creators who disagree with them on the direction this country is going.”

In a statement, Philip Ellender, president of Koch Companies Public Sector, also called the ads “dishonest” and an “attempt to shut down free speech,” adding, “Koch has a long history of standing firm for the principles of economic freedom, and we will continue to do so, in spite of the ongoing attacks.”

Mr. Varoga said his group's goal “is not to demonize them whatsoever; our goal is to talk about thei r agenda.”

Though the “Stop the Greed Agenda” effort coincides with high election season, it will extend beyond November, Mr. Varoga said, adding that Patriot Majority USA plans to spend millions of dollars on the push through “the end of next year and beyond.” New spots are coming in September, he said, and direct mail and ways for people to participate online are also in the works.

“The Koch brothers have been doing this for more than two decades,” Mr. Varoga said. “Their agenda is not going to get undone or stopped in two weeks.”

With Abortion in the Spotlight, a Challenge for Romney


HOUSTON - The decision by Republican convention delegates to oppose abortion without explicit exceptions for rape and incest poses a tricky political challenge for Mitt Romney as he prepares to accept the presidential nomination in Tampa, Fla., next week.

The vote puts the Republican Party at odds with Mr. Romney, who supports rape and incest exceptions, at a time that controversial comments by Representative Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, have increased national scrutiny on the divisive social issue.

Mr. Akin said over the weekend that women's bodies will resist getting pregnant from a “legitimate rape,” comments that have been widely condemned, including by Mr. Romney. Mr. Akin on Tuesday refused to step down from his race despite loud calls from his party's leaders to abandon his bid.

Aides to Mr. Romney declined to say on Tuesday whether he would call on the convention delegate s to reconsider their position. Calls and e-mails to a half-dozen advisers on the subject were not returned on Tuesday.

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, tried to deflect questions on behalf of Mr. Romney, saying on Fox News that “this is the platform of the Republican Party, it is not the platform of Mitt Romney.”

The reluctance to talk about the platform reflects the delicate position that Mr. Romney is in when it comes to abortion policy.

A supporter of abortion rights early in his political career, Mr. Romney later switched his position. This year, he captured the nomination of a party whose hard-core activists remained suspicious of Mr. Romney's late-in-life conversion to their cause.

But as he prepares to accept that nomination next week in Tampa, Mr. Romney is once again being forced to carefully navigate between the uncompromising antiabortion positions of his party's base and the more moderate politics of the swing voters he needs to win over.

The vote on the platform is an important part of the Republican Party's outreach to its conservative base. Mr. Romney and his aides have worked hard to ensure that social conservatives at the convention - and the voters they represent - do not feel left out.

The party platform - and the positions taken on abortion, same-sex marriage and other social issues - are a key part of that effort.

If Mr. Romney were to reject the party's tough abortion plank, it would send a politically difficult message to conservatives about how Mr. Romney might govern once he got into the White House.

There could also be a flurry of conservative outrage at the convention, which could distract from the carefully choreographed event Mr. Romney's strategists are planning.

But Mr. Romney's campaign is also trying hard to make sure that the convention projects an image that swing voters in battleground s tates will find appealing. Aides did not expect to be focusing heavily on the party's abortion positions this week.

The campaign has already chosen in the last several weeks to move off its core message about jobs and the economy. The convention is intended to return the campaign's message to one of how Mr. Romney will get the nation's economy back on track.

In the current political environment involving Mr. Akin's comments, a decision by Mr. Romney to accept the party's abortion plank will open his campaign to attacks from his rivals that he is out of step with moderate, independent voters.

Democrats have already pounced. Officials with the Democratic National Committee quickly called the Republican abortion position the “Akin plank” and scheduled a news conference to denounce it.

“American women know that Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the party they lead are the wrong choice for women and their families,” a statement from the Democratic committ ee said. “Mitt Romney should do the right thing and denounce this dangerous language.”

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

Romney\'s Attack on Clean Energy: True, With an Asterisk


This week, Mitt Romney echoed an accusation made by various conservative bloggers against President Obama - that his administration has spent $90 billion on green energy.

“Do you know how much money he invested in so-called green energy companies?” Mr. Romney asked during a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H., on Monday “Ninety billion. Ninety billion!”

But is it true?

Roughly, yes. In fact, the number appears in a document on the White House Web site and represents the financing available in the 2009 stimulus package. Not all that money has been spent; the Energy Department, for example, received $35 billion under the act but has spent only $26 billion thus far, according to Jen Stutsman, a spokeswoman.

Yet not all of the money was for Obama administration projects.

Some funds for green energy were appropriated during the administration of President George W. Bush, but not spent until Mr. Obama took office. And some of the stimulus money - for green energy - went to programs signed into law by Mr. Bush, but were not actually financed until Mr. Obama became president.

Such spending overlap between administrations is common, particularly on energy initiatives. “Very few energy things actually get spun up quickly,'' said Michael E. Webber, the associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin.

Ms. Stutsman of the Energy Department said that the money for the programs was appropriated by Congress, and that the administration was spending it. “We're following Congressional direction very well,” she said.

Republicans have been arguing, though, that the money was not well spent. One example is the solar equipment manufacturer Solyndra, which also shows the overlap in spending between administrations.

Solyndra had a clever design for lightweigh t, easy-to-install solar arrays, and received a $535 million loan guarantee under a program that was approved for financing in the Bush administration. Energy Department officials turned down the loan application as incomplete shortly before Mr. Obama took office; the same officials later approved a revised application. The company went bankrupt, though, because the price of solar cells was plummeting.

Another example is the Advanced Research Projects Administration â€" Energy, or Arpa-e, modeled after the better-known Defense Research Projects Administration, or Darpa, which was credited with helping to create the Internet. The Arpa-e program was signed into law by Mr. Bush in 2007 but got no money until the stimulus was passed. It gives fairly modest grants to energy projects that are judged very risky but also highly promising.

The White House breaks down the $90 billion om green energy projects in the stimulus bill like this:

  • $29 billion for energy efficiency, including $5 billion for improvements in the homes and apartments of low-income households
  • $21 billion for renewable electricity generation, including wind turbines and solar panels
  • $10 billion for grid modernization, including millions of “smart meters” that read themselves, eliminating the need for meter readers
  • $6 billion to help establish factories to make batteries for electric cars and other components of advanced vehicles
  • $18 billion for fast trains
  • $3 billion for research and development into capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide
  • $3 billion for job training and scientific advances in green energy
  • about $2 billion to help build wind turbines, solar panels and similar “green” products

The success of these investments is not yet clear. The economics of wind and solar have been hurt by another development, the crash i n the price of natural gas, which is a competing fuel for the production of electricity. The electric car has not yet emerged as a mass-market product to put a dent in oil consumption. The “smart grid” would be especially useful in helping manage a system with large amounts of wind and solar power, which vary in production over the course of the day, but such generating technologies have yet to adequately penetrate the market.

The politics of spending money on green energy are somewhat scrambled.

“There are now so many jobs in the clean energy world, you have Republicans who come to bat for clean energy,'' Mr. Webber said. “A lot of these jobs are in rural, Republican districts,'' he added, citing wind farms and ethanol production, which are big in Iowa, a swing state. “You have rural Republicans teaming up with urban Democrats to push for more wind,'' he said.

Obama Attacks Romney\'s Proposals for College Financing


COLUMBUS, Ohio â€" President Obama, adding another verse to his litany of differences with Mitt Romney, promoted his record on education here Tuesday and assailed his Republican challenger for advising financially strapped young people who want to go to college to “shop around and borrow more money from your parents.”

Mr. Obama, who portrayed himself as the fortunate product of affordable education, said Mr. Romney's educational policies were conspicuously lacking in the student loans, grants, work-study programs and emphasis on lower tuition rates that put higher education within reach of millions of middle-class Americans.

“He said, ‘the best thing I can do for you is to tell you is to shop around,' ” the president told a crowd of 3,500 in a sun-dappled quadrangle at Capital University, in the Columbus suburb of Bexley. “That's it. That's his plan. That's his answer to young people who are trying to figure out how to go to college and make sure they don't have a mountain of debt.”

It was Mr. Obama's first rally in a two-day campaign swing to Ohio and Nevada focused on education. And it was the latest chapter in what has become a methodical drive by the president to make the election a stark choice between him and Mr. Romney: on taxes, Medicare, education â€" on anything, it seems, but the gasping economy.

The president recited what he said was his administration's unstinting record in support of education: a $10,000 tuition tax credit for families, a doubling of the Pell Grant program, incentives for colleges to keep tuition increases down and Mr. Obama's push to prevent rates on student loans from rising sharply this summer.

To underscore his support, the president stopped earlier in the day at Sloopy's, a 1950s-style diner at Ohio State University, where he acted as a one-man welcoming committee for arriving freshmen.

“The only problem with seeing you guys,” he said to three young women was that they were a reminder that his daughter, Malia, who is starting high school this fall, would be leaving home in a few years.

“Are you ready?” Samantha Williams, of Lima, Ohio, asked.

“No,” he replied. “I don't want them to leave yet.”

The Romney campaign dismissed Mr. Obama's education offensive, saying his policies had yielded a “lost generation” of people whose access to college was hindered by spiraling tuition that left them with a crushing debt burden, and whose job prospects after school were dim because of the president's inept stewardship of the economy.

The Romney campaign also derided Mr. Obama's answer to a question in an interview over the weekend with WMUR, a New Hampshire television station, about why financially burdened college graduates should support his bid for re-election.

“Well, they can look at my track record,” he said.

Surrogates for Mr. Romney also promoted his record as an educational reformer, particularly as governor of Massachusetts.

In a statement, Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, a Republican, said, “Unlike President Obama, Mitt Romney will provide the choices students need to enroll in good schools, the information parents need to hold districts accountable and the jobs graduates need to be successful in the global economy.”

For Mr. Obama, political analysts say, every day that the two campaigns are discussing issues other than the job market and the economy is a victory for the president. Mr. Obama did not address the furor over remarks about abortion made by Representative Todd Akin, the Republican Senate nominee in Missouri. But the swirling tempest also distracted from what Mr. Romney hoped would be a focus on the economy.

In addition to the rally here, Mr. Obama was scheduled to speak at a college in Reno, Nev., later Tuesday. On Wednesday, he is to s peak at a high school in Las Vegas, before flying to New York City for fund-raisers, including a basketball skills clinic in which the president is expected to play with some N.B.A. stars.

Ohio and Nevada loom large as battleground states this election, though for somewhat different reasons. Both campaigns view Ohio as a must-win state, while Mr. Romney views Nevada, which Mr. Obama won by nearly 12 points in 2008, as a target of opportunity because of its wounded housing market and growing Mormon population.

It is Mr. Obama's eighth visit to Ohio this year. In May, he and the first lady, Michelle, unofficially began his general election campaign with a large rally at Ohio State University. The president has traveled to Nevada five times in 2012, though this is his first purely campaign swing through the state.

In Nevada, which has some of the highest foreclosures rates in the country, Mr. Obama will most likely hammer Mr. Romney again on a statement he ma de during the Republican primaries that the housing crisis should be allowed to run its course without a government bailout. But Mr. Obama's own cautious response to the housing crisis will also come under scrutiny.

TimesCast Politics: All Eyes on Missouri


Storm Heads Toward Florida as Convention Nears


After struggling to handle two political storms this week, Republicans may face a real one at their convention in Tampa, Fla., next week as hurricane season arrives.

A tropical depression in the Caribbean is expected to gain strength and move toward Florida early next week, according to an advisory from the National Weather Service on Tuesday morning. It is too early to predict the storm's exact path, but convention organizers will no doubt be monitoring it in the coming days.

The Republican National Convention starts Monday and ends Thursday (Aug. 30), with thousands of delegates and journalists descending on Tampa from across the country. The Romney campaign hopes it will be an opportunity for voters to get to know the real Mitt Romney, but the party has faced unwanted diversions this week over comments by Representative Todd Akin of Missouri on abortion and reports that a House Republican went skinny-dipping i n the Sea of Galilee.

On Tuesday morning, the tropical depression was about 500 miles east of the island of Guadeloupe and was expected to strengthen to a tropical storm by the end of the day, the Weather Service said. It could become a hurricane by Thursday and reach Cuba by Sunday.

The storm â€" likely named Isaac â€" could move along several paths as it nears the United States, from the Gulf of Mexico to east of Florida, said Michael Brennan, a specialist at the National Hurricane Center.

“It's certainly too soon to get specific about where this system might be in five or six days,” he said.

But, Mr. Brennan added, “it's the peak of hurricane season â€" there's always the risk of impact anywhere in the hurricane-prone areas.”

“This is the time of the year when we have the most storms. Everybody needs to be prepared.”

Convention organizers should be. In May, state officials held a four-day hurric ane drill so they're ready in case a powerful storm moves in.

From the Magazine: Prime Time for Paul Ryan\'s Guru (the One That\'s Not Ayn Rand)

Illustration by Peter Oumanski

As Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney take the stage in Tampa next week, the ghost of an Austrian economist will be hovering above them with an uneasy smile on his face. Ryan has repeatedly suggested that many of his economic ideas were inspired by the work of Friedrich von Hayek, an awkwardly shy (and largely ignored) economist and philosopher who died in 1992. A few years ago, it was probably possible to fit every living Hayekian in a conference room. Regardless of what happens in November, that will no longer be the case.

Hayek's ideas aren't completely new to American politics. Some mainstream Republicans, including Ronald Reagan, have name-checked him since at least the 1980s as a shorthand way of signaling their unfettered faith in the free market and objection to big government. But few actually engaged with Hayek's many contentious (and outré) views, particularly his suspicion of all politicians, including Republicans, who claim to know something about how to make an economy function better. For these reasons, and others, Hayek has become fashionable of late among antigovernment protesters, and if Ryan brings even a watered-down version of his ideas into the Republican mainstream, the country's biggest battles about the economy won't be between right and left, but within the Republican Party itself - between Tea Party radicals who may feel legitimized and the establishment politicians they believe stand in their way.

For the past century, nearly every economic theory in the world has emerged from a broad tradition known as neoclassical economics. (Even communism can be seen as a neoclassical critique.) Neoclassicists can be left-wing or right-wing, but they share a set of crucial core beliefs, namely that it is useful to look for government policies that can improve the economy. Hayek and the rest of his ilk - known as the Austrian School - reject this. To an Austrian, the economy is incomprehensibly complex and constantly changing; and technocrats and politicians who claim to have figured out how to use government are deluded or self-interested or worse. According to Hayek, government intervention in the free market, like targeted tax cuts, can only make things worse.

Many of Ryan's most famous proposals have clear Hayekian roots. His Roadmap for America's Future includes calls for government to step out and let the market decide. His proposal to allow citizens to buy whatever health insurance they want, rather than use a government-promoted exchange, also seems to be embedded in the Austrian tradition. In other important ways, though, Ryan is anything but Austrian. While Hayek would laugh at an economic forecast for distant 2013, Ryan's budget plan includes predictions about 2083. The congressman's proposal for two separate tax systems - a flat-tax system and a loophole-filled tax system - is exactly the sort of contradictory governmental problem-solving that Hayek detested.

In actuality, Ryan is like a lot of politicians who merely cherry-pick Hayek to promote neoclassical policies, says Peter Boettke, an economist at George Mason University and editor of The Review of Austrian Economics. “What Hayek has become, to a lot of people, is an iconic figure representing something that he didn't believe at all,” Boettke says. For example, despite his complete lack of faith in the ability of politicians to affect the economy, Hayek, who is frequently cited in attacks on entitlement programs, believed that the state should provide a base income to all poor citizens.

To be truly Hayekian, Boettke says, Ryan would need to embrace one of his central ideas, known as the “generality norm.” This is Hayek's belief that any government program that helps one group must be available to all. If applied, Boettke says, a Hayekian government would eliminate all corporate and agricultural subsidies and government housing programs, and it would get rid of Medicare and Medicaid or expand them to cover all citizens. (Hayek had no problem with a national health care program.) Hayek also believed that the government should not have a monopoly on any service it provides; instead, private companies should compete by offering an alternative Postal Service, road system, even, perhaps, a private fire department.

G.O.P. Approves Strict Anti-Abortion Language in Party Platform


Even as the Republican establishment continued to call for Representative Todd Akin of Missouri to drop out of his Senate race because of his comments on rape and abortion, Republicans approved platform language Tuesday calling for a Constitutional amendment outlawing abortion with no explicit exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

The anti-abortion plank, approved by the Republican platform committee Tuesday morning in Tampa, was similar to the planks Republicans have included in their recent party platforms, which also called for a Constitutional ban on abortions. The full convention is set to vote on the party's platform on Monday.

While Republican officials stressed that the plank does not go into granular details, saying that they are better left to the states, the language of the plank seems to leave little room for exceptions to the abortion ban. It states that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”

“Faithful to the ‘self-evident' truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” said the draft platform language approved Tuesday, which was first reported by CNN. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children.”

The timing of the approval of the Republican anti-abortion plank was awkward for Mitt Romney, who has denounced Representative Akin's comments about rape and abortion and who has said that h e supports exceptions to allow abortions in cases of rape. And it comes as his selection of his running mate, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, was already drawing scrutiny for his support for a more absolute ban on abortions, even in cases of rape or incest.

But Mr. Romney would hardly be the first Republican nominee at odds with his party's more absolute opposition to abortion. Just four years ago the Republican Party adopted a platform with a similar plank seeking an unconditional ban on abortion, even though its nominee, Senator John McCain, had urged the party in the past to allow certain exceptions. George W. Bush also supported outlawing abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the pregnant woman was in danger.

After this year's abortion plank language was approved with little debate, the chairman of the platform committee, Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, praised the committee for “affirming our respect for human life” and for doing so expeditiously.

My Coffee, My Clutter


Carl Richards' recent column on throwing away unnecessary stuff got me thinking of what items I could get rid of to declutter my house. I got an easy answer while searching through a kitchen drawer for some dog biscuits - and finding instead a bag overflowing with empty Starbucks coffee sacks.

Allow me to explain.

I love my morning coffee, and I sometimes buy packages of Starbucks coffee at the grocery store to brew at home. (My husband remains a staunch Dunkin' Donuts guy, but that's another story.) A few months ago, while shaking the last few grounds from a package of House Blend, I noticed a message on the side: “Bring us your empty bag. We'll give you a coffee.”

Apparently, if I brought t he empty bag to a Starbucks store, I'd get a free 12-ounce (tall) cup of coffee. Sounded like a good idea to me - a savings of nearly $2! I began thinking dreamily of sipping my fragrant coffee, even tastier because it was free, while I leisurely read my daily New York Times. I started saving the bags.

The problem is, I don't live close to a Starbucks store. Yes, there is a store in my town, but it's not on the route I travel most days, from home to school to soccer field. And that leisurely morning read? I usually have to speed read the paper on weekday mornings. As a result, those bags have piled up in my kitchen drawer, taking up valuable space for a savings that will, in all likelihood, never materialize.

I suppose I could store them in my minivan so they'd be handy in case I happened to drive by the Starbucks. But if there ever was a vehicle that needed decluttering, it's my minivan. (My glove compartment is already overflowing w ith coupons for bagels at Melvin & Elmos.)

So I crumpled up the bags and tossed them in the trash, before brewing myself a fresh pot of coffee. Sure, I gave up the dream of a free drink. But I got the reality of a less-jammed kitchen drawer.

What sort of money-saving ideas have you abandoned as impractical?

Three Ways to Figure Out What Stuff You Should Keep


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

We really like being able to store stuff. So much so that there's now 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space in the United States. To give you a better idea of how big that is, think of it, as the Self Storage Association does, as “an area well more than three times the size of Manhattan.” And about 10 percent of us are using that space to store our stuff.

Now maybe you've managed to keep all your stuff in closets, basements or garages. But many of the m ore than 300 comments on my post from last week indicated that we have mixed feelings about getting rid of our possessions. Those feelings become even harder to sort through when we're dealing with stuff that we have an emotional attachment to.

This takes me back to the main point I had hoped to make: Does what you own add to your life or take away from it?

To be clear, I'm not saying we shouldn't buy and own things. For instance, my family owns some outdoor equipment that we probably use only  three or four times each year. But we take good care of it, and it adds something positive to our family activities. For us, it's worth storing because we know why we own it.

On the other hand, we still own a lot of stuff that seems to take way more time and effort to deal with, and we're constantly trying to cut back. Like a garden, our house seems to take constant work to avoid being overrun.

A few additional thoughts came out o f the conversations around last week's post:

1) Move out I have some friends who just moved for the first time in over a decade. They were shocked at how much stuff they had just taking up space. They commented that it was scary to think about how long all that stuff would have continued to take up space and mental energy if they hadn't been forced to deal with it in the move. Since they had to move, they had to deal with it. I've heard people say they like to move every five years or so because it forces them to become cold-blooded stuff killers.

So while you might not be moving, go ahead and pretend that you are.

“Move” everything out of the house or apartment and be ruthless about what you allow to stay. You can do this room by room if you need to. Move everything from your bedroom into another room. Live with it bare for a day or two, then slowly start inviting the stuff you love/want/need back. Repeat with every room of the house.

2) Go on a trip Put together a pile of everything you'll need over two weeks. I've discovered that most people are surprised by what they actually use compared to everything they have around them.

3) Figure stuff per square foot If you have so much stuff that you're renting extra space to accommodate it, how much does that cost you? The cost per square foot will vary depending on where you live, but it can be incredibly helpful to do the math and understand how much your stuff costs you after you've bought it.

Again, I'm not advocating that the only way to live a happy life is  owning a small pile of stuff. But I do support the many comments that caution against letting your stuff own you and the value in gaining some perspective about what you own.

I don't think there's a magic number of items to own that guarantees a happy life. I also don't think it's automatically a bad thing to rent storage space. But I do think there's something incredibly valuable about taking the time to understand why you own what you own and making thoughtful decisions about buying new stuff.


Obama to Focus on Education in Campaign Swing Through Ohio and Nevada


WASHINGTON â€" President Obama set off Tuesday on a two-day campaign swing through Ohio and Nevada, with plans to continue etching sharp differences with his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney â€" this time on education policy.

Mr. Obama, his campaign advisers said, will speak about his administration's investments in education through tuition tax credits, a doubling of the Pell Grant program, and incentives for colleges to keep a lid on tuition costs.

The president will attend rallies at colleges in Columbus, Ohio, and Reno, Nev., on Tuesday, and he will speak at a high school in Las Vegas on Wednesday before flying to New York City for fund-raisers on Wednesday evening.

Ohio and Nevada loom l arge as swing states in this election, though for somewhat different reasons. Both campaigns view Ohio as a must-win state, while Mr. Romney views Nevada, which Mr. Obama won by nearly 12 points in 2008, as a target of opportunity because of its wounded housing market and growing Mormon population.

It is Mr. Obama's eighth visit to Ohio this year. In May, he and his wife, Michelle, unofficially started his general election campaign with a large rally at Ohio State University. The president has traveled to Nevada five times in 2012, though this is his first purely campaign swing through the state.

In Nevada, which has some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, Mr. Obama is likely to hammer Mr. Romney again on his statement during the Republican primaries that the housing crisis should be allowed to run its course without a government bailout. But Mr. Obama's own cautious response to the housing crisis will also come under scrutiny.

On education, t he Obama campaign will seek to draw a contrast with the policies of Mr. Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. It said in a statement that Mr. Romney's “advice for students trying to pay for college is to either ‘borrow money from their parents' or ‘shop around.' ” The Romney-Ryan budget, the campaign said, would slash investment in education.

The Romney campaign countered that the Obama administration's policies had resulted in a “lost generation” of young people whose access to college was hindered by spiraling tuition that left them with a crushing debt burn, and whose job prospects after school were dim because of the president's poor stewardship of the economy.

The campaign pointed to a question Mr. Obama was asked during an interview with a New Hampshire television station, WMUR, over the weekend, about why financially straitened college graduates should support his bid for re-election.

“Well, they can lo ok at my track record,” he said.

Akin Asks for \'Forgiveness\' in New Ad


As part of his effort to keep his place on the November ballot, Representative Todd Akin, Republican of Missouri, released an ad Tuesday in which he asks for viewers' forgiveness for his comments Sunday about rape.

“Rape is an evil act,” Mr. Akin says in the ad as he looks directly into the camera.

Mr. Akin, who is in a high-profile race against Senator Claire McCaskill, had said victims of “legitimate” rape, rarely got pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

The comment touched off howls of protest, including from Mr. Akin's fellow Republicans, many of whom urged him to quit his race for the Senate. The strong response indicated the centrality that Ms. McCaskill's seat has assumed in the Republican game plan to retake the Senate in November.

Mr. Akin said he would not quit, and the new ad appears to be the first step in a campaign to rally support to keep his place on the ballot.

His mistake, Mr, Akin says in the ad was in his word choice, “not in the heart I hold.” Mr Akin also says in the spot that he understands that a woman can get pregnant from a rape and he prays for the victims. He concludes by saying, “I ask for your forgiveness.”

The ad was paid for by his Senate campaign committee.

Obama and Romney Discuss Role of Faith in Their Lives


Religion is enough of a political minefield that President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have declined interviews with reporters about their faith. But they agreed to write answers to nine questions about their personal faith and the role of faith in public life posed to them by “Cathedral Age,” the magazine of the Washington National Cathedral.

Neither reveals much that he hasn't said before, but the responses are still telling. President Obama says his Christian faith gives him security and comfort he would not have otherwise: “That I am loved. That, at the end of the day, God is in control.”

Mr. Romney writes that his faith is about service, both as a lay pastor in his church, and as a human being to his fellow Americans and “to every child of God.” But, as he has done in other settings, he never mentions the name of the church he has served, and that has shaped his life, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Both men have been subjected to derision and deep misunderstanding about their religion: Mr. Romney's church has been called a non-Christian cult; Mr. Obama has been called a closet Muslim. Both men are asked how they respond to those who “question the sincerity of your faith and your Christianity.”

Mr. Obama says, “You know, there's not much I can do about it. I have a job to do as president, and that does not involve convincing folks that my faith in Jesus is legitimate and real.”

Mr. Romney emphasizes the commonalities between Mormonism and mainstream Christianity, saying he believes that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of humanity. Then in a nod to his church's distinctiveness, he wrote: “Every religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These should not be bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance.”

Mr. Obama gives kudos to former president George W. Bu sh for putting his faith over his politics on certain policy issues: “I don't know how he would have approached the issue of immigration reform or AIDS in Africa if he were not a man of faith.”

The Rev. Francis H. Wade, interim dean of the Cathedral, said the only thing that surprised him “was that they responded when they haven't responded to others.

“We think the faith positions of the candidates are a significant part of the conversation that goes on,” he said. “It's also kind of obvious that our culture is afraid of that.”

To read the whole interview go to www.nationalcathedral.org

Tuesday Reading: Baby Boomers Urged to Get Hepatitis C Test


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.

Focus of Presidential Campaign Shifts Away From Economy


Actually, it's not the economy. At least not this week.

A presidential campaign that Republicans wanted to be focused relentlessly on President Obama's job-creation record seems to be about almost everything else at the moment.

In part that's the result of a monthslong effort by the Obama campaign to shift attention to Mitt Romney's wealth and business record.

In part it's the result of what now appears to be a strategic shift by Mr. Romney, who had spent much of this year hammering home his credentials as Mr. Economic Fix-It. His choice of Paul D. Ryan as his running mate has elevated conservative approaches to Medicare and budget cutting to the forefront of the election debate, crowding out a more direct focus on jobs and economic growth. It suggests that Mr. Romney is more interested in motivating his base than winning an economic argument for the allegiance of a dwindling number of undecided and ind ependent voters.

His current advertising appeal to frustrated middle-class voters is primarily the charge, much debunked by fact-checkers, that Mr. Obama is trying to make it easier for the poor to get welfare checks and escape work requirements. He has chosen to engage in a debate with the White House about campaign tactics, another diversion from what had been his core message.

And in part the shift away from the economy is the result of self-inflicted problems by Republicans.

Representative Todd Akin's statements about rape and pregnancy injected social issues more deeply into the campaign on terms advantageous to Democrats and put the Republican Party's hopes of holding down the substantial advantage held by Democrats among women voters that much further out of reach. And disclosure this week of skinny-dipping and other antics by House members during a trip to Israel last year undercuts the idea that the latest crop of Rep ublicans came to Washington to change business as usual.

Liberals can hardly believe their good luck. Conservatives are starting to express concern.

“There's no question that some events outside the Obama campaign's control and some within it have allowed them to change the subject,” said Chris Chocola, the president of the Club for Growth, the conservative economic policy advocacy group. “They're adept at seizing every opportunity not to talk about jobs and the economy.”

The Romney campaign, Mr. Chocola said, should intensify its focus on core economic issues, in part by tying them directly to entitlement reform and reining in government spending.

“The Romney campaign has to be very focused at linking everything to the economy, and I'm not sure they are doing that all day, every day,” he said.

August is often a silly season in politics, when the campaign equivalent of Shark Week can get outsize attention. Presidential campaigns almo st always air a full range of topics at various stages before reverting back to the big issues facing the nation as Election Day approaches. And for all the attention that the latest tactics and gaffes get in Washington and among partisan obsessives, there's no evidence that voters are any less concerned about the economy than they have been for the last five years.

Still, the dissipation of focus on what Republicans believed â€" and Democrats feared â€" would be a lethal issue for Mr. Obama's hopes of a second term has been striking. Mr. Obama got only a single question about it at his news conference on Tuesday - after talking about Medicare, Mr. Akin's comments and Mr. Romney's tax returns - and he deflected it by suggesting that it was up to Republicans in Congress to act on his proposals to help homeowners and address the budget standoff.

“In terms of the economy, I would love to say that when Congress comes back â€" they've got a week or 10 days before th ey go out and start campaigning again â€" that we're going to see a flurry of action,” Mr. Obama said. “I can't guarantee that.”

Even if his economic message is no longer front and center, Mr. Romney continues to press his case on the campaign trail that his business experience qualifies him to get the economy creating jobs again and that Mr. Obama does not understand private enterprise.

“I've had the experience of working in the real world, if you will, the private sector, and seeing how enterprises get started and how they change the lives of people when they're successful â€" and how, by the way, they're not successful and how we lose jobs,” Mr. Romney told a town-hall meeting in New Hampshire recently.

The Republican convention next week will give Mr. Romney a chance to bring the spotlight back to the economy, even as he presses a broader case against Mr. Obama. Monthly unemployment reports coming out the first weeks of September, October and November will amount to impartial scorecards of progress on job creation, or lack thereof, before Election Day. And the presidential debates in October will no doubt provide ample opportunity for both candidates to make their economic stewardship arguments.

But heading into the formal start of the general election, Mr. Obama and his allies have shown that with a little luck they are capable of redefining the terms of the campaign even in the face of a lackluster economy.

Romney Condemns Akin Remarks on Rape


GOFFSTOWN, N.H. - Mitt Romney condemned the comments about rape and abortion by Representative Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, calling them “insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.”

Mr. Akin said over the weekend that it was rare for women who were the victims of what he called a “legitimate rape” to become pregnant.

The Romney campaign issued a statement Sunday night saying that Mr. Romney disagreed with the comments, but in a telephone interview with National Review Online on Monday, Mr. Romney went further, saying Mr. Akin should not have made the comments.

“Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive,” Mr. Romney told the onl ine magazine.

Mr. Akin believes that abortion should be illegal, even in rape cases. He said in an interview Sunday that women's bodies had ways to block unwanted pregnancies from happening.

“If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down,” Mr. Akin told KTVI-TV.

“I have an entirely different view,” Mr. Romney told National Review. “What he said is entirely without merit and he should correct it.”

Brown Calls on Akin to Quit Missouri Senate Race


BOSTON - Senator Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts on Monday called on Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, a fellow Republican, to quit his Senate race, saying that his comments on rape were too far out of bounds.

“As a husband and father of two young women, I found Todd Akin's comments about women and rape outrageous, inappropriate and wrong,” Mr. Brown said in a statement on Monday morning.

“There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking,” he added. “Not only should he apologize, but I believe Representative Akin's statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for U.S. Senate in Missouri.”

Mr. Akin prompted anger across the political spectrum on Sunday with a comment regarding pregnancies resulting from rape. He said they were rare, adding, “If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Mr. Brown appears to be the first Republican senator to call for Mr. Akin's resignation from the race. As a Republican in deep blue Massachusetts, Mr. Brown supports legalized abortion, but not the procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion. He has also supported abortion in cases of incest and rape and when the life of the woman is endangered.

Follow Katharine Q. Seelye on Twitter at @kseelye.

Romney Campaign Steps Up Its Stagecraft in New Hampshire


GOFFSTOWN, N.H. - A convention preview, maybe?

The stagecraft for the town hall-style event featuring Mitt Romney and Paul D. Ryan at Saint Anselm College Monday morning has been stepped up significantly, according to reporters who follow the campaign regularly.

There's a giant video screen that has been playing a biographical video of Mr. Romney and the campaign. A huge banner proclaiming “America's Comeback Team” is hung on the ivy-covered walls of one of the school buildings. The bleachers are strung with red, white and blue.

Seats are set up around two stools in the middle of the crowd in the grassy quad. Four big speakers are blasting the campaign soundtrack.

This will seem l ike small potatoes in a week, when the Republican faithful gather in Tampa, Fla., for their national convention. But for now, this is as slick as it gets.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

A Romney Event Designed for the Convention Screen


GOFFSTOWN, N.H. - Why the Madison Avenue production values at the town hall-style event here Monday?

Here's a clue: Huge lights and an industrial lift carrying camera operators are towering over the event. They are undoubtedly filming the event for campaign commercials, and maybe for videos that will play at the Republican National Convention next week.

Campaigns have cameras at every event, just in case. But they don't often go to the trouble that Mitt Romney's campaign has for this event.

So unless something goes very wrong, expect to see footage from Goffstown on a small screen near you soon.

And the ticket just arrived, in a motorcade with the sirens of the police cars blaring, wh ile the soundtrack to “Rudy” played over huge speakers.

It was a convention video moment, for sure.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

Senator\'s Pickup Hits the Road Again


BOSTON - The pickup truck is back, in a big way.

When Scott P. Brown ran for the Senate as a Republican in a special election in 2010, he promoted himself as a “regular guy” by driving around Massachusetts in a green 2005 GMC Canyon truck. He had bought it to haul a horse trailer for one of his daughters, but it nonetheless served as a handy symbol of the candidate as a common man.

With Senator Brown back on the campaign trail this year defending his seat against a strong challenge from Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic nominee and a Harvard Law professor, his truck is also back front and center.

In a new series of television commercials that began Monday, Mr. Brown speaks from behind the wheel as he drives across Massachusetts.

In the first ad, he discusses his difficult youth.

“Like many of you, I didn't have it easy growing up,” Mr. Brown says in the 30-second spot. “Moved around a lot as a kid. My mom had to work more than one job just to get by. Life certainly wasn't a picnic.”

The series of commercials is called “From the Road” and coincides with a cross-state trip that Mr. Brown is taking in the week leading up to the Republican National Convention, although Mr. Brown does not mention the convention or that he is a Republican.

His campaign notes in a news release that each ad in the series “will open with Brown inside the cab of his truck, made famous in the 2010 special election as a symbol of his ‘regular guy' image.”

Can the $600 barn coat - also made famous in the special election - be far behind?

Boehner Says Cantor Reprimanded Members Over Galilee Swim


Speaker John A. Boehner said on Monday that Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, had done the right thing by scolding Republican House members who jumped into the Sea Of Galilee â€" one of them without any clothes on â€" during a trip to Israel.

On a trip billed as a foreign policy fact-finding mission last year, a large group of Republican members of Congress, and some of their staff and family members, decided to take a dip in the sea after a long day of tromping around the country. While most of the members remained clothed - or largely so - Representative Kevin Yoder of Kansas decided to disrobe entirely, according to a report by Politico.

More than 80 members of the House went on the trip, which was arranged by Mr. Cantor, as guests of the American Israel Education Foundation, a charity affiliated with the lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It was believed to be the largest number of members of Congress to make the trip during a single recess, according to the organizers.

The swimming incident appears to have attracted a passing interest from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which Democrats leaped on Monday. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a statement saying the episode “looks more like a scene out of Animal House than a delegation of Members of Congress representing America in Israel.”

A spokesman for Mr. Cantor, Douglas Heye, said that “Twelve months ago, the congressman dealt with this immediately and effectively to ensure such activities would not take place in the future.” Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, said: “The majority leader handled the s ituation swiftly and appropriately.”

Mormon Democrats to Gather at Charlotte Convention


Mormons who are Democrats are always a lonely bunch, but never more so than in this election year when one of their fellow church members is about to make history and be crowned the Republican nominee for president.

So an increasingly assertive caucus of Mormon Democrats is planning a coming-out party during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. The group, which calls itself “LDS Dems” - LDS for Latter-day Saints â€" expects to draw about 200 motivated Mormons from around the country at the event, planned for Sept. 4 at a hotel next to the convention arena. Their keynote speaker will be Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader and a Mormon who recently accused his co-religi onist and the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, of having paid no taxes for years, without providing any evidence to back up the claim.

Greg Prince, a Mormon businessman and pathology researcher in Washington who is helping to organize the event, said: “It's not just that Mormon Democrats, particularly in Utah, have been playing defense. They haven't been playing. Within the State of Utah, they basically conceded the entire active Mormon population to the Republicans.”

Mr. Prince said he donated the maximum to Mr. Romney's campaign during his last run for president, in 2008, because of his relatively moderate record as the governor of Massachusetts. But Mr. Prince said he became disillusioned as Mr. Romney moved to the right to win the nomination this time. Mr. Prince said he supported a public safety net for the poor and immigration policies that keep families intact â€" Democratic positions that he said should be a natural fit f or Mormons.

A poll by the Pew Research Center released in January found that 74 percent of American Mormons identify as Republican, 17 percent as Democrat, and 9 percent say they are independent or don't know their preference.

It was Ezra Taft Benson who cemented the Republican Party's hold on Mormons, church historians say. Mr. Benson was agriculture secretary for eight years under President Dwight D. Eisenhower; a staunch anticommunist and supporter of the right-wing John Birch Society, Mr. Benson later served as president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1985 to 1994.

The church says it does not endorse any political party. But its position against gay marriage has kept it in the Republican orbit.

LDS Dems was formed last October in Utah, and has grown to more than 2,000 members, said Matt Lyon, the executive director of the Utah Democratic Party. Only 7 percent of registered voters in Utah are Democrats, Mr. Lyo n said, and the goal of LDS Dems is to get to 17 percent. They also plan to open chapters in Mormon-heavy states like Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico.

They are using an approach not unlike missionary work: convincing Mormons one on one that the Democratic Party better represents their moral and religious ideals, Mr. Lyon said.

But the stigma of being a Democrat in Utah is so strong that the state Democratic chairman, Jim Dabakis, said he recently had this telling encounter: He was in rural Iron County meeting with a small group of Democrats, when a man came up to him after the meeting and mentioned that he was gay. Mr. Dabakis, who is gay himself, said, “That must be tough down here.”

The man said that it was, but not for the obvious reason. “I don't tell anyone I'm gay,” the man told Mr. Dabakis, “because if I do, they'll know I'm a Democrat.”

Augusta National to Add Condoleezza Rice

Augusta National Golf Club, the private club that hosts the Masters and has come under attack over the past decade for its all-male membership, added two female members Monday: , the former secretary of state, and Darla Moore, a South Carolina businesswoman.

For years, the 80-year-old club's restrictive membership policies, which excluded blacks until 1990, cast it as a remnant of the antediluvian South. Whenever its exclusion of women was held up for public scrutiny, in 2002 and again this year, the club held steadfast to its practices with little concern about repercussions from golf's top players; its network broadcast partner, CBS; the tournament's sponsors; or the PGA Tour, which prevents courses with discriminatory membership policies from hosting its tournaments.

Augusta National conducts business on its own terms, long responding to questions about its policies by saying that it is a private club and that membership issues are a private matter. It remained consistent Monday, releasing a terse statement, which offered no further explanation, at a somewhat surprising time. 

“This is a joyous occasion,” said Billy Payne, the Augusta National chairman, in the club's statement.

For the Hall of Fame golfer Nancy Lopez, it was a momentous occasion.

“It's a big steppingstone for women in golf and for women in general because of what Augusta stands for,” Ms. Lopez said.

For Martha Burk, who began a campaign in 2002 urging Augusta National to admit women, it was an overdue occasion.

“It's about 10 years too late for the boys to come into the 20th century, never mind the 21st century,” Burk said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But it's a milestone for women in business.”

Augusta National's membership policies became a major talking point again this spring because I.B.M., one of three principal sponsors of the Masters, had elevated Virginia Rometty to chief executive. The four previous chief executives of the company had been given club membership.

The lack of an invitation for Ms. Rometty sparked a national discussion during the week of the tournament, with even President Obama and Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, voicing the opinion that the club should open its doors to women. The debate had been fermenting since 2002, when William Johnson, the club chairman at the time, responded to Burk by saying that Augusta National might one day have a female member, “but that timetable will be ours, and not at the point of a bayonet.”

The timing of the announcement seems to be another example of the club's moving at its own pace. This year's Masters, won by Bubba Watson in a playoff, ended April 8, and the club's season does not open until October.

“People have been waiting for this,” said the Hall of Fame golfer Amy Alcott, who has played at Augusta National as a guest. “Nobody functions well with an ultimatum. I said it would happen when people least expect it.”

Even the issuing of a news release to announce the invitations to Ms. Rice and Ms. Moore was something of a surprise.

“I'm not sure they've changed their mind - that they had one position a few months ago and a different one today,” said Neal Pilson, a former president of CBS Sports. “Augusta, historically, has operated on its own timetable and most likely felt that the appropriate time to announce it would not be on anybody's time schedule but their own. The fact that the media might be asking in April was one thing, but my guess is that the admission was separate from the tournament so that it would not appear that they were being pressured by the media to make an announcement.”

Women had been allowed to play at the club as guests of its 300-plus members. One does not apply to belong to Augusta National, whose members have included presidents (Dwight Eisenhower), leading businessmen and golf greats like Arnold Palmer. The club's secretive selection process calls to mind the College of Cardinals meeting in conclave to choose a pope. Prospective members are identified by a small committee, and the vetting process can take several years, with those under scrutiny probably unaware they are being sized up for membership.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 20, 2012

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the year Martha Burk began her campaign urging Augusta National to admit female members. It was 2002, not 2003. An earlier version of this article also misstated the month Tim Finchem said the Masters was “too important” to the PGA Tour's interests. It was in May, not April.

Ryan Dips Into Foreign Policy


GOFFSTOWN, N.H. - Since Representative Paul D. Ryan was named the vice-presidential nominee, his schedule has included briefings on foreign policy with a top aide to Mitt Romney, with the Republican Party sensitive to the charge that neither man on the ticket has extensive national security experience.

Mr. Ryan made his foreign policy debut as a national candidate on Monday, answering questions about Israel, the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon and the Afghanistan war.

At a town-hall-style event here, when a man asked the candidates what they would do “about this damn mess in Afghanistan'' Mr. Romney gave his views, then pointedly turned to his running mate. “Paul, please,'' he said.

Mr. Ryan's first words seemed to respond to doubts about his experience. “Sir, when you vote to send men and women to war, like Kelly and I did after 9/11, that's a vote you take very seriously, very solemnly,'' he said, ref erring to Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who was also present.

“I was in Helmand Province with the Marines in December,'' he said, offering praise for the American military. He echoed longstanding Republican criticism of President Obama's pledge to end America's combat mission in Afghanistan by 2014, zeroing in on a troop reduction this summer.

“A drawdown occurring in the middle of a fighting season when we're still giving our military that same mission, we don't want to do something that would put them in jeopardy, we want them to fulfill the missions the safest way possible,'' Mr. Ryan said.

Earlier, Mr. Romney criticized Mr. Obama for not speaking to Americans often enough about the war's progress.

“When our men and women are in harm's way, I expect the president of the United States to address the nation on a regular basis and explain what's happening and why they're there and what the mission is, what its progress is, how we'll know when it's completed,'' he said. “Other presidents have done this. We haven't heard this president do this.''

Mr. Obama, who has been criticized for not holding a formal news conference in more than two months, last made a major address about the war in May during a surprise visit to Afghanistan. On Monday, at a White House news briefing, he answered a question about recent killings of NATO forces by Afghan soldiers. He expressed “deep concern” and said he would talk to President Hamid Karzai.

The Obama campaign responded that Mr. Romney had refused to detail plans for winding down the war. “If he does have some secret plan, he owes it to our men and women in uniform to tell them,” Lis Smith, a campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The president has repeatedly outlined a specific plan for how we are going to bring our troops home responsibly and end the war by the end of 2014, including during a trip he made t o Afghanistan in May.”

On the subject of Iran, Mr. Ryan said, “We have to recognize that perhaps the greatest threat in the world today is an Iran with nuclear capability, nuclear weapons capability.'' He called it “an existential threat to Israel'' as well as “our own national security.''

The vice-presidential nominee also echoed positions on Israel that Mr. Romney had earlier staked out. Repeating a line he has used in the past, Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama had “thrown Bibi Netanyahu under the bus” in negotiating with the Palestinians.

Mr. Ryan elaborated. “When President Obama made the 1967 borders the precondition for the beginning of negotiations, it undercut our ally,'' he said. “It made it harder for the peace process to move forward, and as a result we have no peace process.''

“We've both been there, we've traveled in this region, we've met with the leadership of Israel,'' Mr. Ryan emphasized.

In 2011, Mr. Obama called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict using the 1967 borders as a baseline “with mutually agreed land swaps.'' It chilled relations between the president and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, though both leaders have sought since then to mend fences.

In Briefing, Obama Touches on Medicare and Romney\'s Taxes

Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

President Obama used an impromptu news conference on Monday to wade into domestic and campaign issues, defending his demand that his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, release more of his tax returns and returning fire in the debate over Medicare.

The president disputed suggestions that he was lowering the tone of the election with his drumbeat of demands that Mr. Romney release more of his income tax returns.

“The American people have assumed that if you want to be president of the United States that your life's an open book when it comes to things like finances,” Mr. Obama said. “I'm not asking him to disclose every detail of his medical records, although we normally do that as well.”

“This isn't sort of overly pe rsonal, guys, this is standard stuff,” the president said, with a thin smile. “I don't think we're mean by asking you to do what every other presidential candidate's done, right? It's what the American people expect.”

Mr. Obama opened with remarks on Medicare, apparently in an attempt to push back on the Romney campaign's assertions that the health care law he championed was responsible for cuts in the health care program for older Americans.

“Today, H.H.S. announced that thanks to the health care law that we passed, nearly 5.4 million seniors with Medicare have saved over $4.1 billion on prescription drugs,” Mr. Obama said before taking questions, referring to the Department of Health and Human Services. “That's an average savings of more than $700 per person. This year alone, 18 million seniors with Medicare have taken advantage of new preventive care benefits like a mammogram or other cancer screening at no extra cost . These are big deals for a lot of Americans, and it represents two important ways that the improvements we made as part of the Affordable Care Act has strengthened Medicare and helped seniors everywhere get better care at less cost.”

Mr. Obama's surprise appearance before the White House press corps came after a long hiatus that prompted some grumbling that the president was bypassing them and saving his interviews for local newspapers and television stations.

“Jay tells me that you guys have been missing me,” Mr. Obama said, after striding into the briefing room and interrupting his press secretary, Jay Carney, midsentence.

After his appearance, during which he took a handful of questions from network news correspondents and The Associated Press, Mr. Obama excused himself to grant interviews with local television stations in Virginia, Florida and California. The White House said that was part of a longstanding communications strategy aimed at tailor ing his message to local audiences. During this election, the Obama campaign has also given presidential interviews to national outlets that specialize in softer news or sports, like “Entertainment Tonight,” People magazine and ESPN.

White House officials said the strategy recognized how the media landscape has fractured in recent years. “In an increasingly diffuse media world, relying simply on traditional political media would be like fighting with one arm and two legs behind our back,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director.

For N.B.A. Owners, the Money\'s on Romney


President Obama may have a better jump shot than his Republican rival for president, but N.B.A. owners seem more eager to offer Mitt Romney the bigger contract.

Eight of the 10 N.B.A. owners who have made contributions to the candidates' campaigns so far have donated to Mr. Romney's campaign, for a total $49,000, according to a list published by the basketball website hoopshype.com. (The list includes only contributions to candidate's campaigns and not “super PACs” or other committees.)

The two owners who donated to Mr. Obama's campaign, Ted Leonsis of the Washington Wizards and Johnny Bush of the Los Angeles Lakers, gave a total of only $6,100.

While the shift towards Mr. Romney seems surprising given Mr. Obama's love of the game, it falls in line with owners of professional sports teams in other leagues. In a study last year, the Center for Responsive Politics found that two-thirds of political donations from N.F.L. owners went to the Republican party, candidates and committees. And a recent article by WNYC found that owners of teams in the four major sports donated $1.25 million to Republicans and $750,000 to Democrats.

N.B.A. players and coaches, meanwhile, continue to support Mr. Obama, as many did in 2008. Three players (Baron Davis, Vince Carter and Grant Hill) and six coaches donated to Mr. Obama's re-election campaign, while none opted to support Mr. Romney's campaign.

Former and current basketball stars are also supporting the president's campaign by hosting fundraisers and other events. The Obama campaign recently announced the “Obama Classic,” which will feature former stars such as Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning and current N.B.A. players Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving.

In February, Mr. Carter hosted a $30,000-a-plate dinner for Mr. Obama at his home in Florida.

For Bags Like These, Even a Campaign Plane Must Wait


GOFFSTOWN, N.H. - There are not a lot of things that could persuade a presidential candidate's plane to delay its takeoff and return to the airport.

Leaving the Secret Service's luggage on the tarmac might be one of them.

Mitt Romney‘s plane was about to take off from Manchester, N.H., bound for New Orleans and filled with reporters, staff members, agents and Mr. Romney himself. The plane started taxiing toward the runway.

But within moments, there was a ruckus up front as members of Mr. Romney's protective detail huddled with the plane's crew and some of Mr. Romney's campaign staff. A few minutes later, the plane pulled off to an area away from the runways and powered down.

More huddling was followed by an aide's notification to reporters that some luggage had been left behind and needed to be put back on the plane. No more detail was given.

But out the windows of the plane, black S.U.V.'s sudd enly appeared, and soon the big black bags favored by the Secret Service were being loaded onto the back of the plane. Some eagle-eyed reporters noticed Secret Service tags on the bags.

A few minutes more and the plane was once again on its way - a few bags heavier. What was in them? And where, exactly, were they?

Nobody is saying.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

CNN Host Makes Most of Akin\'s No-Show


When Representative Todd Akin abruptly cancelled an interview with Piers Morgan on Monday night, Mr. Morgan trotted out an empty chair instead.

The scene, irresistible to political insiders, played out in prime time on CNN on Monday night, one day after Mr. Akin told a local television station in Missouri that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely become pregnant. His comments - contradicted by medical experts and confounding to many of his fellow Republicans - have sparked calls for him to drop out of the Senate race in Missouri.

“You're looking live at the empty chair that Todd Akin was supposed to be sitting in for a live, prime-time exclusive interview,” Mr. Morgan said at the beginning of his program, “Piers Morgan Tonight.”

The visual, of course, was a stunt, designed to draw attention both to Mr. Akin's absence and to the interview show that Mr. Morgan started hosting on CNN last year. Attention is arguably something that CNN could use more of, having suffered through a period of low ratings performance and bad press.

But what a stunt it was. The empty chair lit up Twitter and made the best of a bad situation for Mr. Morgan's hourlong program. Jonathan Wald, the executive producer, wrote on Twitter shortly after the program started, “Lemonade,” as in, “When life gives you lemons…”

In place of Mr. Akin, political analysts discussed the day's campaign news. But not before Mr. Morgan explained what had transpired earlier in the day. Senator Claire McCaskill, Mr. Akin's Democratic opponent, was booked on the program early in the morning. The program sought to book Mr. Akin, too, with little suc cess at first.

In the early afternoon, according to Twitter messages by Mr. Wald, Ms. McCaskill cancelled her appearance, citing a “scheduling conflict.” The cancellation gave Mr. Morgan's producers plenty of time to rethink their plans. Then, shortly after 7 p.m., Mr. Wald announced what he thought was a coup: Mr. Akin would be coming on live at 9 p.m.

Mr. Wald declined an interview request to discuss what happened next, but according to a CNN staff member who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal matters, Mr. Akin came under immediate pressure from Republican campaign officials to back out of the interview booking. Some of the same officials mounted a coordinated effort to push Mr. Akin out of the Senate race earlier Monday.

Around 8:30 p.m., Mr. Wald decided that he would put the empty chair on screen if Mr. Akin was a no-show. There was still a possibility, he thought, that the candidate would call in by phone - but no.

According to Mr. Mo rgan's statement on his program, it was Rex Elsass, a political consultant to Mr. Akin, who “pulled the interview at the last possible moment.”

Mr. Morgan added, tantalizingly, “Why would he say yes, then no? We can only speculate. But we can tell you this - Todd Akin has until tomorrow at 6 p.m. Eastern to say whether he's staying in the race or bowing out and letting the G.O.P. replace him on the ballot.”

Like any attention-seeking TV host, Mr. Morgan then offered Mr. Akin an “open invitation to join us - in that chair, whenever you're ready.”


Paul Supporters to Rally in Tampa


While political conventions these days have a reputation for being overly scripted, next week's Republican gathering in Tampa, Fla., could have one unpredictable element: a legion of Ron Paul supporters turning out, some of whom will be on the convention floor.

On Monday, the Paul forces signaled one part of their strategy: they will hold what they called a major rally at the University of South Florida's Sun Dome in Tampa on Sunday, the day before the convention is to start.

Mr. Paul's supporters say he is going into the convention with roughly 200 delegates, but independent estimates say that number is lower. He still technically remains a candidate for the nomination, and while he is not lis ted as a speaker at the convention, his son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who endorsed Mitt Romney, is scheduled to speak on the first night of the gathering.

The Early Word: Uproar


In Today's Times

  • Amid an uproar over provocative comments on rape and abortion made by Representative Todd Akin, Republican of Missouri, the National Republican Senatorial Committee declared that it would withdraw financial and organizational support from his Senate campaign, Jonathan Weisman and John Eligon report.
  • Representative Paul D. Ryan's record of opposing abortion â€" even in cases of rape and incest â€" offered the Romney campaign a reminder of the political dangers that a running mate can bring to the ticket, Michael D. Shear and Trip Gabriel write. Democrats highlighted Mr. Ryan's history on the issue after controversial comments from Mr. Akin were broadcast on Sunday.
  • During a trip to Israel last summer, Representative Kevin Yoder of Kansas, a first-term Republican, jumped into the Sea of Galilee completely disrobed, turning a foreign policy fact-finding mission into anothe r challenge for House leaders struggling to keep an upstart freshman clash in line, Jennifer Steinhauer reports.
  • Intense Republican fund-raising and heavy spending by President Obama make it virtually certain that Mr. Obama will not leave the Democratic convention next month with the cash advantage he had four years ago, Nicholas Confessore and Derek Willis report. Conservative PACs have stepped into the breach as Mitt Romney has continued to husband his resources, while the Democratic National Committee spent significantly more last month than it raised.
  • President Obama issued his first direct threat of force against Syria on Monday, saying the country would face American military intervention if there were signs that its arsenal of unconventional weapons was being moved or prepared for use, Mark Landler and Damien Cave report.

Around the Web

  • The Democratic National Committee announced a new slate of convention speake rs on Monday, including a few officials who represent the new crop of potential party leaders. Kamala D. Harris, California's attorney general, will speak alongside familiar faces like Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff, and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.
  • Weeks after the Democratic Party moved to include same-sex marriage as part of its official platform, the Republican Party has drafted documents to include a strong defense of the “traditional concept of marriage” in its official platform, Buzzfeed reports.

Monday Reading: A Battle Plan for Jet Lag


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.

To Get Out of Debt, It May Help to Think Small


Score one for Dave Ramsey, it seems.

Mr. Ramsey, the sometimes controversial personal-finance guru, is known for, among other things, advocating that consumers tackle small credit-card balances first - regardless of the interest rate on the debt - in order to pay down debt in what he calls the “snowball” effect.

Now, researchers at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University have crunched data from a big debt-settlement firm and found evidence that this “intuition has a basis in reality.”

People with large amounts of debt, they found, are more likely to succeed in paying down their entire debt if they first attack the accounts with the smallest balances - even though that approach might end up costing them extra  money in interest over the long haul. That's because, they say, “maintaining motivation to eliminate debts over a long time horizon might necessitate small wins along the way.”

In other words, it feels good to close an account, and that helps you persevere until you can finish the job.

“It's not just how much progress you've made towards the goal in the ‘real' dollars and cents way, but the idea that you're crossing off the list,” said Blakeley McShane, an assistant professor of marketing at the Kellogg School and co-author of the research with David Gal, also an assistant professor of marketing.

Psychology comes into play as much as math, in other words. “Even if we know what the rational thing to do is, we're not cold, calculating machines - we're human beings,” he added.

The findings appear in the August edition of the Journal of Marketing Research.

The rese archers tested whether closing individual accounts affects a consumer's likelihood of eliminating their overall debt, regardless of the absolute amount of debt in the closed accounts. To do so, they examined nearly 6,000 consumers in a debt-settlement program, which is a program designed for borrowers who can't meet the minimum monthly payments on their debt accounts. Participants are required to make a single payment each month to a designated savings account. The debt settlement firm negotiates with the consumer's creditors to reduce the balance due on the consumer's debts and the money saved in the accounts goes to pay off the reduced balances. It typically takes several years to pay down the balances.

The analysis found that “the fraction of debt accounts paid off appears to be a better predictor of whether the consumer eliminates his debts than the fraction of the total dollar debt paid off,” even though the latter criteria is a “relatively more objective” measure of progress toward the goal of erasing debt.

In other words, if there were two hypothetical borrowers with identical amounts of debts and accounts - say, $10,000 total, comprising one $6,000 debt, one $2,000 debt, and two $1,000 debts - the one who, at any given point, closed more accounts (two accounts of $1,000 each, say, rather than one single account with $2,000 in it) would be more likely to eventually eliminate the total debt, even if the closed accounts contained the same amount of money in total.

Prof. Gal said the findings have relevance for pursuing other goals, even if they aren't as weighty as getting out of debt. “If I had a checklist of tasks, I might want to tackle the easiest one first because that would get me motivated to get to the difficult task,” he said.

The researchers say they aren't necessarily recommending such an approach to debt reduction. But it would seem to make sense to inform consumers of both the “rationally optimal” approach, which would involve paying off high-interest balances first, as well as of the potential psychological benefits of closing account balances. Then, they can make an informed decision.

Have you successfully retired debts? What approach did you take?