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Friday, August 24, 2012

Biden Postpones Campaign Visit to Tampa


Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has postponed an in-your-face visit to Tampa scheduled for Monday, his office said Friday night.

Mr. Biden planned a campaign stop in the city even as Mitt Romney's nominating convention got underway. But his office said the visit might drain law enforcement resources needed to deal with Tropical Storm Isaac. The storm unleashed heavy rain over Haiti on Friday and as it moved northwest, National Hurricane Center predictions had it passing over Cuba this weekend and re-emerging in the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, sliding past the west coast of Florida on Monday.

“This change in schedule is being taken out of an abundance of caution to ensure that all local law enf orcement and emergency management resources can stay focused on ensuring the safety of people who might be impacted by the storm, as well as those attending the activities in Tampa,” said a release from President Obama's campaign.

Mr. Biden has eagerly become aggressive in attacking Mr. Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan. At a fund-raiser in the Hamptons on Friday afternoon, Mr. Biden accused Republicans of wanting to “basically totally obstruct anything that would help the country.”

He said the budget proposed by Mr. Ryan and embraced by Mr. Romney was “the previous eight years on steroids.”

Those were the messages that Mr. Biden was preparing to take to Tampa, part of an effort by the Obama campaign to keep the pressure on their rivals, even during the height of Mr. Romney's nominating convention. Mr. Obama is planning several campaign stops next week as well.

But the arrival of the vice president in any town is disru ptive, even in the best circumstances. Roads must be closed for the motorcade, using plenty of local police officers. That would be even more complicated during a hurricane or tropical storm.

The campaign did not say whether Mr. Biden might reschedule the visit to Tampa for later in the week. The vice president was also scheduled to visit Orlando and St. Augustine, Florida later in the week.

The Caucus Click: Ready for Their Entrance


2:00 p.m. | Updated COMMERCE, Mich. - Mitt Romney, who has decried the nasty personal tone of the presidential campaign, seemed to make a joke about President Obama's birth certificate while speaking to voters here Friday, re-injecting the issue of the president's birthplace into the campaign.

“Now I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born,” Mr. Romney said, standing alongside his wife, Ann, and his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan. “Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born in Harper Hospital. No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”

Mr. Obama, who was born in Hawaii and shared his birth certificate with the national media, has long been dogged with “birther” rumors, from those who falsely question whether he was actually born in the United States.

Mr. Romney is a Michigan native - his father, George Romney, was the state's governor - and seemed to be speaking off the cuff. But his campaign quickly scrambled to walk back his comments, saying he was simply sharing his Michigan pride.

“The governor has always said, and has repeatedly said, he believes the president was born here in the United States,” said Kevin Madden, an adviser to Mr. Romney, who served as governor of Massachusetts. “He was only referencing that Michigan, where he is campaigning today, is the state where he himself was born and raised.”

Mr. Romney's comments, however, seemed a world away from his sentiment last week in Chillicothe, Ohio, when he criticized Mr. Obama, accusing him of running a negative campaign. He was responding, in part, to comments from Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who warned an audience in Virginia that the Romney/Ryan ticket would “put y'all back in chains.”

“His campaign and his surrogates have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency,” Mr. Romney said then of Mr. Obama. “Another outrageous charge came a few hours ago in Virginia. And the White House sinks a little a bit lower.”

In his introduction Thursday, Mr. Ryan, too, seemed to emphasize cultural differences with Mr. Obama, taking pains to include his exurban, nearly all-white audience at an orchard and farm here within a circle excluding the president.

“Remember about four years ago when he was talking to a bunch of donors in San Francisco and he said people in states like ours, we cling to our guns and our religion?” Mr. Ryan said, emphasizing the word “ours.” It was a reference to Mr. Romney's native Michigan and Mr. Ryan's Wisconsin, but also, it seemed, to differences based on religion and class.

“I just have one thing to say,” Mr. Ryan added. “This Catholic deer hunter is guilty as charged, and proud of it.”

Mr. Obama's campaign snapped to action, blasting out a critical statement just minutes after Mr. Romney made his comment, while voters were still streaming out of the event.

“Throughout this campaign, Governor Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them,” said Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Mr. Obama's campaign, in an e-mail statement. “It's one thing to give the stage in Tampa to Donald Trump, Sheriff Arpaio, and Kris Kobach. But Governor Romney's decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America.”

Though several aides to Mr. Romney emphasized that he has previously stated his belief that the president was born in the United States, and was simply talking about his own local roots, Mr. Romney has long made a point of painting Mr. Obama as somebody who “takes his cues from the S ocial Democrats of Europe” and who just doesn't understand what makes this country great.

Some of Mr. Romney's team have previously gotten in trouble for seeming to question the president's roots. During the primaries, one of Mr. Romney's sons, Matt, was first to apologize after making a birther joke at a campaign stop. And on a conference call with reporters last month, John Sununu, a Romney surrogate and the former governor of New Hampshire, said, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.”

Few voters in the crowd believed that Mr. Romney was simply talking about his Michigan roots.

“It was probably a contrast with Obama's birth certificate issue, and second, that he was born in Michigan,” said Daryl Pender, 56, who owns a small business in town. “We know the hospital where he was born. There's no doubt about where he was born.”

She added: “I can't say what's fair. But it wasn't relevant to what I wanted to know. I wan t to hear about his vision for the future.”

Sylvia Kaponi, 65, a retired Ford Motor employee from Livonia, Mich., said there was no doubt in her mind as to what Mr. Romney was referring to - and she thought it was “great.”

“He was talking about a contrast with the president, and being a hometown guy,” she said. “What I liked was that it was a mild way to touch on a touchy subject with no animosity.”

As Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan campaign through the Rust Belt, they are especially focused on increasing Republicans' advantage with white working class voters.

Once a solid element of the Democratic base, the white working class voted for Republican presidential candidates in the past three elections. Republicans captured a House majority in 2010 with a 30-point landslide among this group, according to exit polls.

But one reason that might explain the Romney-Ryan emphasis on Mr. Obama's cultural differences, as well as ads that accuse the Obama administration for weakening welfare work rules, is that Mr. Romney so far appears not as strong among this group.

According to an NBC/The Wall Street Journal poll this week, Mr. Romney leads white working class voters by 13 points, similar to Senator John McCain's 12-point advantage in 2008. Because the white working class share of the electorate is declining as other demographic groups, including Hispanics, increase, Mr. Romney needs to improve on Mr. McCain's results.

Ann Romney\'s Convention Speech Is Moved to Tuesday


Republicans are moving Ann Romney's convention speech to Tuesday night after failing to convince any of the broadcast networks to televise any of the convention speeches on Monday.

Russ Schriefer, a top aide to Mitt Romney, had said Friday morning that convention officials were still optimistic that the networks would change their minds. But by the end of the day, Mr. Romney's camp gave in and agreed to move his wife's speech back a day so that she would receive some prime-time coverage.

Rumors had spread earlier on Friday that Mrs. Romney's speech might be moved to Thursday, bumping Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who is slated to introduce Mr. Romney just before he formally accepts the nomination.

That rumor caused a furor among Hispanic Republicans in Florida, where Mr. Rubio is seen as a symbol of the community's future success. Mr. Rubio, a first-term senator who won with Tea Party backing, is of Cuban d escent.

But Mr. Schriefer confirmed Friday evening that Mrs. Romney will speak on Tuesday and Mr. Rubio will introduce the Republican nominee.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

What Not to Take to Tampa


Leave your tomatoes at home, if you plan on going to the Republican National Convention. The current list of items banned around the convention zone in Tampa varies from weapons to vegetation to puppet-making materials.

Perhaps most notable, given Tropical Storm Isaac's growing strength, is the ban on umbrellas, “unless provided by the Committee on Arrangements or the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee.” Banning umbrellas is not unheard of at political conventions (the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver also had a ban), but it may prove inconvenient with a forecast of a 90 percent chance of rain during the first three days of the convention.

While those seeking to remain dry will have to bring in their rain ponchos, attendees hoping for a healthy snack may have to rely on concession stands. In addition to a ban on coolers, “whole fruit” is listed on the “do not enter” list.

And anyone looking for a Romney to sign a memento of our national pastime will have to opt for a photo instead, as “baseballs” were singled out as sports memorabilia non grata.

Weapons, and all weapon lookalikes, will be banned within the security limits, although Gov. Rick Scott of Florida rejected a request from Tampa city officials that would have banned carrying concealed weapons outside of the convention site.

While the list does not specifically mention puppets, don't expect to see many of those staples of political protest around the convention site. As The Tampa Bay Times reports, “no sticks, strings or masks allowed, so, no puppets.”

Auto Insurance, Scaredy-Cats and the Rollers of the Dice


In this weekend's Your Money column, I try to lay out the facts and odds that lay behind the question of whether any of us have enough auto insurance. Some people look at the long odds of a bad wreck and buy the minimum amount that their state requires. Others buy as much as they can, figuring that it's better to be safe than to be sorry.

So to the rollers of the dice, who have bought little insurance over the decades and have bet that they wouldn't ever be facing down a large claim, I ask this: Have you ever regretted that choice? Do you still feel comfortable with it?

As for the risk-averse, will you be upset decades from now if you've shelled out all of that extra money for premiums and never once made a claim or been subject to one?

In other words, what's the right way to think about these questions - and how do (and should) our feelings affect our efforts to reckon with the odds?

Your Experience With Small-Time Private Equity Investments


In this weekend's Wealth Matters column, Paul Sullivan chronicles the experience of private equity investors with less money and expertise than the Mitt Romneys of the world. An increasing number are getting in the game, frustrated with low returns in other investment arenas.

But making direct investments in companies can be a long slog and require a lot of work. Will the former bankers in the column find success in the beauty industry? What sort of luck have you had with smaller private equity investments? Or would you never go near this type of investing?

Romney Makes a Birth Certificate Joke While Campaigning


COMMERCE, Mich. - Speaking to a sea of voters here Friday at a rally with his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, Mitt Romney seemed to question the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate.

“Now I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born,” Mr. Romney said. “Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born in Harper Hospital. No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”

Mr. Obama, who was born in Hawaii and shared his birth certificate with the national media, has long been dogged with “birther” rumors, from those who falsely question where he was actually born in the United States.

Mr. Romney is a Michigan native - his father, George Romney, was the state's governor - and his campaign quickly scrambled to walk back his comments, saying he was simply sharing his Michigan p ride.

“The governor has always said, and has repeatedly said, he believes the president was born here in the United States,” said Kevin Madden, a Romney adviser. “He was only referencing that Michigan, where he is campaigning today, is the state where he himself was born and raised.”

But few in the crowd interpreted the comment that way, and as voters were still streaming out, Mr. Obama's campaign blasted out a critical statement.

“Throughout this campaign, Governor Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them,” said Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the president's campaign, in an e-mail statement. “It's one thing to give the stage in Tampa to Donald Trump, Sheriff Arpaio, and Kris Kobach. But Governor Romney's decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America.”

Conservative Forecasts, Meteorological and Political


TAMPA, Fla. - Along with fretting about the political fortunes of Representative Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate from Missouri whose comments about rape set off their own storm, the weather was a dominant topic of conversation at a pre-convention gathering of conservatives on Thursday evening.

The Council for National Policy, a secretive group of conservative activists and donors, is holding its conference over several days this week near the site of the Republican National Convention, which begins, storm permitting, on Monday. Members heard from Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota on Thursday, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was scheduled to speak on Friday.

But the names on the minds of many attendees were Akin and Isaac, the name of the storm swirling toward the Gulf of Mexico, as they speculated about what each would do over the next several days.

“The C.N.P. group is mostly enthusiastic about him continuing to run,” a man who often attends council meetings said of Mr. Akin. The man agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because the council orders its members not to speak with the media.

But Mr. Akin does not have unequivocal backing from the group's leadership, the man added. “I was told by a member of the executive board that they were not enthusiastic and hoped he would drop out,” he said, because they are concerned about the implications on the national election.

The storm provided an easy entree to small talk around the Tampa Bay Grand Hyatt after the C.N.P.'s reception late Thursday evening, which also included consultants pitching advocac y leaders by the elevator, informal strategy powwows at the bar, a rushed phone call to confirm the next day's press conference.

But as one attendee noted, Florida is not exactly pleasant in late August under the best conditions.

“If it's bad, I'm staying inside,” one woman could be overheard telling another as they walked to the elevators late Thursday evening. “And if it's good, I'm still staying inside.”

Ron Paul Tribute Video on the G.O.P. Convention Schedule


Republicans will show a Ron Paul tribute video on the second night of Mitt Romney's convention next week, part of an effort to soothe the small army of delegates that Mr. Paul collected during his long primary battle with Mr. Romney this year.

A top aide to Mr. Romney said the video on Tuesday night was proposed by supporters of Mr. Paul and approved by convention planners as an olive branch to Mr. Paul's activists, many of whom disagree with Mr. Romney in many policy areas.

“We feel that we're in a good place. We know that not everybody is going to agree with us at all times,” said Russ Schriefer, a top media strategist for Mr. Romney and a central planner for the convention. In the film, he said, “Several of his colleagues will give testimony to his principles and his dedication to America.”

Mr. Schriefer said that while Mr. Romney and Mr. Paul “certainly disagree on many issues,” the onetime rivals had “a lot of mutual respect” for each other. In addition to the video, Mr. Paul's son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, will be addressing the convention hall on Monday.

Republican officials on Friday morning also described the themes they hoped to offer during the four-day nominating convention.

Speakers on Monday will hammer President Obama as a “failure” as they try to drive home the theme that “we can do better.” Mr. Shriefer said the speeches would not be overly negative, but promised a to draw a sharp contrast between Mr. Romney and the president.

“You need to lay down the predicate and make the case of why President Obama has failed and why this administration has failed on many level s,” Mr. Schriefer said. He said the speakers on Monday would “talk about the areas where President Obama hasn't lived up to his many promises.”

The second night of the convention will be built around Mr. Romney's criticism of the president's comments at a summertime rally that “if you've got a business - you didn't build that.” Mr. Romney has seized on that comment in speeches and television commercials, suggesting that the president was dismissing the work of small-business owners.

Mr. Obama's campaign has accused Mr. Romney of twisting the president's words. Independent fact-checkers have said the full context of the remarks make clear that the president was talking about government's role in helping to build infrastructure like roads and bridges.

Mr. Schriefer said the convention speakers on Tuesday would make the case that the remark by Mr. Obama “showed that he more believed that government has a bigger role in job creation.”

The ef fort to tell Mr. Romney's personal story will be left for Thursday, when the candidate will arrive to formally accept his party's nomination to be president.

Republicans said the speakers on the last day would feature people who know and have worked with Mr. Romney during his life, including people who worked with him in his church and at the 2002 Olympics. Among the speakers will be three former Olympians: Kim Rhode, Mike Eruzione and Derek Parra.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

Romney\'s Tithing Behind Reluctance to Release Returns


Mitt and Ann Romney sat for a relatively substantial interview with PARADE magazine in which he is confronted on differences with his surrogates and the G.O.P., his offshore accounts, and his taxes and tithing. Mr. Romney suggests that the private nature of tithing is among the reasons he is reluctant to release more of his tax returns and that “conservatives are more generous philanthropically than people who are not conservatives.”

Friday Reading: Is Private School Not Expensive Enough?


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

The Caucus Click: Waiting for Akin

Rebecca Kiessling, an anti-abortion speaker, and the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, waited for an address by Representative Todd Akin in Tampa, Fla.

With Ryan, Romney Loses Claim to Outsider Status


WASHINGTON - Mitt Romney could hardly have been more scornful of Washington politicians during a visit with conservative activists earlier this year.

“I served in government,” Mr. Romney told those gathered for the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. “But I didn't inhale. I'm still a business guy.”

The speech was no anomaly. Mr. Romney has spent years campaigning as an Washington outsider, often citing his lack of a long Congressional voting record as a way of avoiding the sometimes defensive explanations that are usually required of former lawmakers who run for president.

But by choosing Representative Paul D. Ryan to be his running mate, Mr. Romney has taken a long, deep breath of the hot air that flows through the halls of Congress.

In an instant, Mr. Romney embraced a 14-year legislative record that includes hundred of votes on hundreds of pieces of legislation, some of them controversial. Mr. Ryan's Washington record is now Mr. Romney's, effectively ending his claim to an outsider status.

In explaining why he picked Mr. Ryan, Mr. Romney has suggested that the Washington experience will be an asset, not a liability. Kevin Madden, a senior adviser to Mr. Romney, said Mr. Ryan's background in Congress provided skills that are “complementary” to Mr. Romney's.

“Not only does he know how Washington works, but he also knows how Washington doesn't work,” Mr. Madden said on NBC's “Today” show shortly after Mr. Ryan's new role was announced. “Congressman Ryan has an experience knowing what needs to be done to fix the way Washington works.”

Mr. Romney is not entirely devoid of a record in government, of course. His health care overhaul as governor of Massachusetts has been a constant source of political difficulty since he began running for president six years ago.

But in choosing Mr. Ryan to be his running mate, Mr. Romney tapped an congressman who arrived in the nation's capital as a young man and never left. That is just the kind of politician that Mr. Romney derided in the speech this year.

“Let me tell you, any politician who tries to convince you that they hated Washington so much that they just couldn't leave, well, that's the same politician who will try and sell you a bridge to nowhere,” Mr. Romney said.

The impact of Mr. Ryan's Congressional record on the presidential contest is not theoretical. In the two weeks since Mr. Ryan joined the Republican ticket, his work in the House has already generated the kind of political targets of opportunity that Mr. Romney has long hoped to avoid.

Mr. Ryan's legislative proposals to change Medicare have reframed the political conversation and given Democrats what they believe is new ammunition to raise questions about Republicans.

The congressman's votes in favor of the bank and au to bailouts have generated concern among some conservative Tea Party activists who consider those votes among the worst policy decisions in recent memory.

And now, Mr. Ryan's record of opposing abortion even in cases of rape or incest is complicating Mr. Romney's response to the rape and pregnancy comments of Representative Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for Senate from Missouri.

Mr. Romney and his Republican allies are trying to turn that record into something positive.

They are assailing President Obama on Medicare, hoping to convince seniors that the president is the one they should be worried about because of his cuts to the insurance program.

And Republicans note that recent Gallup polling suggests that the country has tilted slightly against abortion rights in the last couple of years, an indication that Mr. Ryan's position could be more of a help than a hindrance during the fall.

Still, Mr. Romney's decision to pick Mr. Ryan over som eone like Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, has toned down the candidate's criticism of Washington's power brokers.

At the time Mr. Romney gave his speech to the conservative activists in February, he was locked in a primary battle with a former senator and a former House speaker.

“I happen to be the only candidate in this race, Republican or Democrat, who has never worked a day in Washington,” Mr. Romney said at the time. “I don't have old scores to settle or decades of cloakroom deals that I have to defend. As conservatives, you've learned to be skeptical of this city and its politicians and I think you are right.”

Six months later, standing in front of a retired battleship to introduce his running mate, Mr. Romney lauded Mr. Ryan's “leadership in Washington.”

But he also noted that while Mr. Ryan worked in Washington, “his beliefs remain firmly rooted in Janesville, Wisc.”

Still Running, Akin Meets With Conservatives


TAMPA, Fla. - Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, who set off a furor with comments on rape and pregnancy, appeared before a group of conservatives here Thursday, just as Republicans were starting to gather for their party's convention next week.

Mr. Akin's appearance before the group, the Council for National Policy, was an apparent attempt to drum up support among rightward-leaning elements of the party as he faces calls to pull out of the Missouri Senate race.

People who were at the meeting said there were concerns among the group's leadership about the viability of Mr. Akin's candidacy going forward, but noted that there was grass-roots support for his staying in the race.

In an interview Thursday on Mike Huckabee's radio program, Mr. Akin said he was “in this thing to the end.”

The Early Word: Iran


In Today's Times:

  • Inspectors will soon report that there are signs Iran is hastening work on its nuclear program, David E. Sanger reports. While their report says the country has focused on enriching uranium to a level of purity Iran says is needed for medical purposes - which experts say is also most of the way to the level needed to produce a workable bomb - it does not remark on whether Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon.
  • In an effort to win over voters in crucial Western states who are wary of Washington, Mitt Romney's energy plan proposes to end federal management of oil and gas drilling, as well as coal mining on government lands, and hand that control over to the states, Eric Lipton and Clifford Krauss write.
  • A former lobbyist from a prominent Democratic family, Janna Ryan is now tied to the Republican presidential ticket, married to the vice-presidential pick whose c onservative values have revved up the party's base and looking a little uncomfortable with the attention, Susan Saulny and Christine Haughney report.
  • New details about Mr. Romney's investments and strategies used by Bain Capital to minimize tax liabilities emerged Thursday in hundreds of pages of the equity firm's internal documents published on Gawker.com, Nicholas Confessore, Floyd Norris and Julie Creswell report.
  • Having rejected four scanning devices as inadequate after millions of dollars of testing, the Transportation Security Administration has decided travelers have to continue taking off their shoes when passing through airport security checkpoints for now, Ron Nixon reports.

Washington Happenings:

  • President Obama will travel on Friday to Camp David, where he will stay overnight.
  • Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife will attend campaign events Friday in Bridgehampton, N.Y.