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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

National Security to Star for a Night at Democratic National Convention


WASHINGTON-The Obama camp, eager to showcase what officials view as the president's sterling record on foreign policy (and Mitt Romney's lack of experience on global issues), is designating a special night at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next week as national security night.

And it's Thursday no less-the night of President Obama's big acceptance speech.

“Thursday night will feature a specific national security segment, including a speech by Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a decorated combat veteran, and a tribute to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces,” an Obama campaign official said on Tuesday. “Senator Kerry will speak to how the President has restored America's leadership in the world, has taken the fight to our enemies, and has a plan to bring our troops home from Afghanistan just like he did from Iraq.”

Mr. Kerry is on the short list for the Secretary of State job, once Hillary Rodham Clinton steps down at the end of this term.

Of course, before that can happen, Mr. Obama must win re-election.

In Speech, Ann Romney Plays to the Heart


Ann Romney introduced her husband Tuesday night to the nation and to the Republican Party that had nominated him as president with a rousing speech that exhorted Americans, “You can trust Mitt.”

“This man will not fail. This man will not let us down. This man will lift up America,” she told the Republican National Convention to a series of sustained ovations, capped by the emergence of Mitt Romney from behind the stage for a quick, chaste kiss and the nominee's first acknowledgment of the convention.

Mrs. Romney used her prime-time speech to try to take some of the sheen off her husband's glossy image and to humanize Mr. Romney with the very real struggles he has faced with determination and inevitable success.

“I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a ‘storybook marriage,'” she said. “Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters on M.S. or breast cancer.”

“A storybook marriage? Nope, not at all,” she said. “What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.”

But despite her pledge to avoid politics and speak to the nation about love, Mrs. Romney hit most of the themes that her husband and his party have used to best President Obama: a flailing economy; struggling Americans, especially women; and a choice voters must make between failure and something new.

“We're too smart to know there aren't easy answers, but we're not dumb enough to accept that there aren't better answers,” she said.

Mrs. Romney entered the hall with a difficult but critical tas k: Transfer some of her innate likability to her husband, who even Republicans readily concede lacks a natural bonhomie.

“The warmth just doesn't come out” on television, said Representative Brett Guthrie, Republican of Kentucky, who spent time with Mr. Romney for the first time two weeks ago and professed surprised at how nice he was.

Many delegates gathered in the convention hall said they didn't care if their nominee was “warm and fuzzy,” as Donna Hamilton, 64, a Washington State delegate put it. But more professional politicians in the audience, like Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa, said the entire Romney family has this week to soften the nominee's edges and make him more accessible to independent and undecided voters.

Many of the struggles Mrs. Romney detailed were not so much his, but hers and his father's. She has multiple sclerosis and battled through breast cancer. The bootstrap section of the address belonged to George Romney, Mitt's father w ho, she reminded viewers, “never graduated from college,” and instead “became a carpenter” and slogged his way to head a car company, then governor of Michigan.

But she did extol the determination of her husband.

“At every turn in his life, this man I met at a high school dance, has helped lift up others,” she said. “He did it with the Olympics, when many wanted to give up. This is the man who will wake up every day with the determination to solve the problems that others say can't be solved, to fix what others say is beyond repair. This is the man who will work harder than anyone so that we can work a little less hard.”

In a striking red dress, she walked out to a thunderous standing ovation. Pictures of a young Mr. Romney and his family were projected behind her. And the images of family ran throughout a speech overtly geared to women. For the moment, Mr. Romney's deficit with women has kept him tied or marginally behind Mr. Obama in most national polls. Tightening the gender gap is the key to a Romney victory in November.

“I love you, women,” she shouted.

And she tried to set up a firewall against Democratic attacks on her husband's time at Bain Capital and the wealth he has amassed.

“Let's be honest, if the last four years had been successful, do we really think we'd be seeing these attacks on Mitt's success?” she asked.

In Keynote Speech, Christie Asks Country to Face Hard Truths


TAMPA, Fla. - Chris Christie, the sharp-tongued governor of New Jersey, on Tuesday extolled Mitt Romney as an exceptional leader willing to speak hard truths to a nation weary of President Obama‘s policies and ready to make a much-needed change.

“It's time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders to the White House,” Mr. Christie said, according to prepared remarks. “America needs Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and we need them right now.”

In delivering the keynote address at the Republican National Convention, Mr. Christie demonstrated his trademark bluntness - crediting his mother for teaching him how to speak “without much varnish” - but he did not lash out in personal ways at Mr. Obama, hardly mentioning the president by name.

Instead, Mr. Christie reserved his sharp words for a tough contrast between the Republican approach to solving problems and a Democratic approach that he said would continue to fail to turn around the American economy and the country's broken political system.

He accused Democrats of ignoring the truth about the country's economic difficulties and of wanting people to be coddled by “big government.”

“Their plan: Whistle a happy tune while driving us off the fiscal cliff, as long as they are behind the wheel of power,” Mr. Christie said.

Mr. Christie had been considered a top prospect to be Mr. Romney's running mate. He also briefly considered running for president himself this year, but ruled it out, concluding that he was not yet ready to assume the office.

The Romney campaign picked Mr. Christie to deliver the keynote add ress for his reputation as a straight-talking governor who has little patience for those who question his resolve.

But his aggressive style, which has led critics to brand him as a bully - he has called people “stupid” and “idiots” - was not on display in the hall. Nor was his anti-union fervor, which has emerged through his battles with the labor movement in his state.

Mr. Christie did offer some sharp jabs at Mr. Obama that whipped up the partisan crowd in the hall.

“It takes leadership that you don't get from reading a poll,” Mr. Christie said, directing his remarks at Mr. Obama. “You see, Mr. President â€" real leaders don't follow polls. Real leaders change polls.”

But primarily, the speech offered a challenge to the country to change course from an administration that he said was letting the nation's economy drift. He said the status quo must change, and he praised Mr. Romney as the right man to take the country in a different di rection.

In describing the current crisis with the political system, Mr. Christie did not mince words or spare many, even those in his own party who he said had contributed to growing debt, a slowing economy and an inability to get anything done.

“Our leaders today have decided it is more important to be popular, to do what is easy and say ‘yes,' rather than to say ‘no' when ‘no' is what's required,” Mr. Christie said. “It's been easy for our leaders to say not us, and not now, in taking on the tough issues. And we've stood silently by, and let them get away with it.”

Drawing on his two years as New Jersey's governor, Mr. Christie said the nation could do better. He said he had learned to work across the aisle with Democrats - a claim that many in the other party would dispute.

He said that national politicians like Mr. Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, must be willing to tell the hard truths to the A merican people about the future of popular entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. Voters will reward them for it, he said.

“If you're willing to hear the truth about the hard road ahead, and the rewards for America that truth will bear, I'm here to begin with you this new era of truth-telling,” he said.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

Delegates Show State Pride in Fashion Choices


The tradition of wacky individualistic outfits at party conventions is a long one, so consider the effort it must take to enforce a delegation dress code.

Nonetheless, a number of state delegations are making their collective fashion statements. New Mexico's delegates are in turquoise polo shirts with the state's Zia sun logo. Many Michigan delegates have slipped on football jerseys emblazoned with “Ford” and “48,” a tribute to former President Gerald R. Ford, who played center and linebacker for the University of Michigan before representing the state in Congress.

Oklahomans wore tasteful blue blazers for men and women, with a patch bearing the state seal. Mike Sanders, a delegate, said they had been voted best-dressed delegation by NPR twice, in 2012 and 2008.

Greg Treat, a delegate from Oklahoma City, said there was a debate this year about switching the color of the blazers to advance the state's claim to be the most Republican in the nation. “Several states claim to be the reddest state in the union,” he said, “but because we had all 77 counties go red, we talked of having red blazers.” Tasteful navy prevailed.

West Virginians are making a political statement in black coal miner's hats. “We have a war on coal in this country,” said Brian Long, a delegate, blaming President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency for regulations making it harder to mine coal and run coal-fired power plants. “We're proud of our coal mines and coal miners,” he said.

No surprise, the delegation making the loudest statement with its outfits is Texas. Almost all 155 members are in white straw cowboy hats and loose shirts patterned like the state flag, with a large lone star stamped over the right breast.

“Texans are proud, and we always wear our colors with pride,” said Janis Holt, a delegate from Silsbee, Tex.

And because the unofficial Texas motto might be “too much ain't enough,” the delegation will retire Tuesday's uniform and pull out a second uniform for Wednesday night's activities.

Over Loud Boos, Romney Supporters Pass New Rules


TAMPA, Fla. - Mitt Romney's supporters passed new rules governing future primaries over the loud boos of Ron Paul supporters and other conservative activists who had objected to what they said was a power grab by the party's establishment leaders.

The House speaker, John A. Boehner, called for a vote on the rules on Tuesday afternoon after Mr. Romney's advisers said they had reached a compromise with activists on Monday night.

When Mr. Boehner called for the “ayes,” the crowd roared in the affirmative. But when he called for the “nays,” an even louder “no” echoed through the convention hall, led by supporters of Mr. Paul.

Mr. Boehner ignored them, pressing ahead by saying the rules would be adopted “without objection,” even as the crowd continued to roar its disapproval. Mr. Boehner announced that the rules were approved and quickly moved on to the adoption of the party's platform.

The lo udest protests on the floor came from the back of the Texas delegation, from delegates in Lone Star shirts and white cowboy hats, and from a group adjacent to them at the far end of the hall to the right of the podium.

Advisers to Mr. Romney had proposed rules that would make it harder for a candidate like Mr. Paul to amass delegates to mount a challenge to a more established candidate. The anger over that move had lingered for the last several days.

Opponents of Mr. Romney's efforts to change the rules had threatened to disrupt the proceedings and embarrass the party's soon-to-be nominee. But Mr. Boehner moved quickly, leaving the protesters little opportunity to catch airtime.

Live Updates from the Republican National Convention

The Times will be providing updates and analysis from the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

At Democratic Convention, a Cardinal and an Outspoken Nun


The Democrats are giving a convention speaking slot to Sister Simone Campbell, an outspoken advocate for the poor and elderly, according to an aide with President Obama's campaign who would speak only on background.

In doing so, the Democratic Party has balanced its own Catholic ticket by showcasing both Sister Campbell, who pushed for the passage of the Obama administration's health care overhaul, and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is suing the White House over a provision in the health care overhaul that requires employers to cover birth control in their employee insurance plans.

Cardinal Dolan, who says he is a personal friend of Representative Paul D. Ryan, Mitt Romney's running mate. has been perceived by many Catholic commentators as being too cozy with Republicans, while Sister Campbell has been seen as being too supportive of Democratic causes. In June, she led the “Nuns on the Bus” tour to c all attention to cuts affecting the poor and elderly in the budget proposed by Mr. Ryan.

Cardinal Dolan will give the closing prayer at the convention, and Sister Campbell will speak but not offer a prayer. Cardinal Dolan had first accepted an offer to give the closing prayer at the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., this week, and said then that he would accept an invitation from the Democratic Party to establish that it was not a partisan gesture.

Sister Campbell is the executive director of Network, a liberal Catholic lobbying group in Washington.

After the Vatican accused the country's largest umbrella group of nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, of straying from church doctrine, many of its members were reluctant to speak publicly.

But Sister Simone, already a public figure, gave scores of interviews defending the group.

She said that she organized the “Nuns on the Bus” tour with the dual purpose of raising awareness about the Ryan budget and calling attention to the work that American nuns perform every day providing social services to poor and vulnerable people.

The nuns gave her a standing ovation when she was introduced earlier this month at a meeting of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Sister Campbell said in an interview at the conference that she and Mr. Ryan had a private meeting after the bus tour back in Washington.

She said that they did not see eye to eye on what Catholic teaching says about the government providing a social safety net for the poor: “We agreed that we would agree to disagree.”

Five Questions for S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley


TAMPA, Fla. â€" Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina is not only attending her first Republican National Convention here this week, but she also was asked to deliver one of the event's marquee speeches. Here are five questions from an interview on Tuesday.

What is one thing that you know about Mitt Romney that voters may not realize?

I love the fact that in 2008, Governor Romney was a candidate that wanted to win. What are you seeing now is not a candidate that wants to win, but a leader who has spent the last four years saying, ‘How would I have handled that situation?

A candidate who wanted to win, what do you mean?

So many times candidates go in and they go through the talking points and they say what they think people want to hear. It's very different when you watch a candidate become a leader, when they've actually watched and say ok, ‘If I was in that position, how w ould I have handled that?

Now we are seeing a better candidate because he's not thinking about being a candidate, he's thinking about being a leader. He's thinking about being a president and he's showing all the signs of being a great one.

Does Mr. Romney need to become more likeable or improve his appeal to voters?

We don't elect people because they look good in a picture or hold a baby well. We elect people because they have proven results. He has proven results. It's not about liking him. People don't care about liking who they elect. They care about electing someone who is going to work for them, that's going to fight for them, that's going to prove that they deserve to be there. That's what he needs to do this week.

Have some Republicans â€" like Representative Todd Akin of Missouri â€" contributed to the Democratic argument that Republicans are waging a ‘war on women?'

It's not serious, it's silly. Akin's comments were just insultin g â€" it's embarrassing for him, but when you look at the party in general, for Democrats to imply that women are one-issue voters is insulting to me. It's demeaning to women. Women consider everything. They care about jobs and the economy. They are about health care and how it's going to affect families. They care about the debt that's been passed on to their children and they care if their debt is going to mean anything. I know pro-life women in the Democratic Party. I know pro-choice women in the Republican Party.

Can you share a highlight of your Tuesday night speech?

“I'm going to talk about how the hardest part of my job as governor of South Carolina has been this administration.”

Negotiating Home Delivery of Your New Car


It might not be quite as easy as having a pizza delivered, but automotive site Edmunds.com advises that you can have your new car brought right to your home, instead of going to pick it up at the dealership.

Why would you want to do that? Buyers can spend hours on location at dealerships finalizing the purchase and delivery of a new car, Edmunds says. By having the car come to you, you can “eliminate waiting times and also the inevitable hard sell for additional products and services that takes place in the finance and insurance office,” the site advises.

Negotiating for a home delivery works best when you're shopping and bargaining for a car remotely-either online, or on the phone, says Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com. But it could also be done if you're at the dealership, and it's particularly crowded and you don't want to wait around while the paperwork is finalized and the car is cleaned and otherwise readied for you.

The catch here is that you have to request delivery while you're in final stages of negotiations, Mr. Reed advises. You could negotiate the deal and then, before finally agreeing to it, say something like, “Well, I'd be happy to buy it today if you're willing to deliver it to my office or home. I just don't have time to get to the dealership.”

Why would a salesperson agree to this? He or she is eager to make a deal. “The dealership is looking to make you very happy,” he said.

Edmunds offers the following tips for getting home delivery:

1) There should be no additional cost for delivery within 50 miles of the dealership. If a car has to travel beyond that radius, consumers can expect a delivery fee of around $75.

2) When the car arrives, verify that the vehicle is the year, make and model you chose and that it has all the agreed-upon equipment. There should be no dings or scratch es and the odometer should read less than 100 miles.

3) Internet managers are increasingly more open to evaluating trade-ins sight unseen, so home delivery can be an option even if you're using a trade-in. A price range is often given to the buyer for the trade-in over the phone, and the final price is locked after an onsite inspection - at your home. (The dealership will send two people-usually, a salesperson and a porter, who runs errands for the dealership).

If you're skeptical that the trade-in portion of the delivery will go smoothly, Mr. Reed notes that online salespeople are getting quite savvy about pricing cars remotely, based on information like mileage (they can also get CarFax reports, showing the vehicle's history). You may be given a range for the trade in, rather than a hard price, subject to inspection, in case there are dings or scrapes you didn't mention.

Have you ever had a new car delivered to your home? How did it go?

Joe Wilson Says Republicans Ready to Unite Behind Romney


Representative Joe Wilson, the South Carolina conservative who chaired Tim Pawlenty's presidential campaign in South Carolina, says the Republican Party is more than ready to coalesce behind Mitt Romney despite earlier divisions and reservations.

“I was looking for a Midwestern governor with a proven record or a governor with a proven record,” said Mr. Wilson as he arrived at Tampa Bay Times Forum on Tuesday for the first full day of convention proceedings. “I believe Governor Romney can come through.”

Mr. Wilson, who is probably best known nationally for shouting “You lie!” at President Obama during his health care speech before a joint session of Congress in 2009, said his push for Mr. Romney wasn't strictly driven by his opposition to the president or his policies.

“I actually respect the current president,” Mr. Wilson said, noting that the family of Michelle Obama and his own family share som e community roots in Georgetown, S.C. “My support is truly for a mainstream conservative.”

As for the convention providing an opportunity for Republicans to humanize Mr. Romney, it seemed to be working on Mr. Wilson, who picked up an important biographical detail from the ubiquitous convention literature.

“I didn't know he had five sons,” Mr. Wilson noted.

Rubio Energizes South Carolina Republicans


PALM HARBOR, Fla. â€" Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, strode into a room here filled with bleary-eyed, brightly dressed delegates from South Carolina, and almost immediately asked for coffee.

He did not get it until the end of his speech, but his presence almost instantly energized the breakfast gathering at Innisbrook, a golf resort here. People rushed over to take cellphone pictures, and Mr. Rubio joked about the “breezy” weather the past few days, cracking that he'd met some Northerners who were afraid of 20-mile-per-hour winds.

South Carolinians are familiar with hurricanes, like Hugo in 1989, and Mr. Rubio, a freshman from Florida. He spoke at the South Carolina Republican Party's Silver Elephant Dinner in May, and the tour to promote his autobiography, “An American Son,” swung through there in July. Both trips to the early primary state prompted speculation about his political ambitions, with the latter occurring as he was being vetted by the Romney campaign.

In fact, some delegates said, they know Mr. Rubio better than the man Mitt Romney ultimately chose as his running mate.

“I don't know much about Paul Ryan,” said Phillip Bowers, a delegate from Pickens. But Mr. Rubio is “a little more high profile in the South.”

But by the next competitive Republican presidential primary, whether in 2016 or 2020, South Carolinians will almost certainly know both rising stars well. As Mr. Rubio acknowledged, they're likely to find many similarities.

“We have a lot in common,” Mr. Rubio said. “We're about a year apart. Same generation, similar background in many ways.”

Mr. Rubio, 41, and Mr. Ryan, 42, both had modest upbringings, but their political profiles offer the more striking similarity. Both became mainstream standard-bearers for the Republican Party while maintaining support from the Tea Party movement, and both emphasize the need for the party to offer an alternative, rather than simply attacking the other side. As Mr. Rubio noted, Mr. Ryan was one of the first people in Washington to endorse his Senate bid.

Mr. Rubio, for example, declined a chance to please the crowd on Tuesday morning by fully endorsing a “no budget, no pay” bill that would deny lawmakers' salaries until they pass a budget.

“I wouldn't vote against that bill,” he said, “but I think the better solution is to elect people that are serious” about dealing with the deficit.

He later said that the purpose of nominating Mr. Ryan was to “elevate this debate to be about issues instead of just personalities.”

Mr. Rubio and Mr. Ryan have at least until 2016, if not 2020, to draw distinctions on both issues and personalities. And South Carolina will be watching.

The party has denied it, but many believe the South Carolina delegation was assigned to stay at the golf and spa resort 30 miles away from the convention site as punishment for holding primary earlier than party rules dictate. (The Florida delegation has the same upscale but remote lodging.) But it is precisely its early primary status that drew attention to Mr. Rubio's appearance before the group.

“The importance of your state to our party is almost impossible to overstate,” Mr. Rubio said. “What's your state motto? ‘We make presidents?' Well, you certainly make nominees, I can tell you that.”

(As Chad Connelly, the South Carolina Republican Party chairman later noted, there's now an “asterisk” on that record after South Carolina's Republicans chose Newt Gingrich earlier this year.)

After speaking and answering delegates' questions for about half an hour, Mr. Rubio promised to do some more handshaking and picture taking. But first things first: an aide finally handed him some coffee.

Shouts of \'Let Him Speak\' Greet Paul at Convention


TAMPA, Fla. - Representative Ron Paul was on the convention floor here Tuesday afternoon when chants broke out calling on organizers to “let him speak.”

Mr. Paul, the Texas libertarian and leader of some of the most disgruntled delegates, walked onto the floor at 2 p.m., just
ahead of the color guard. A smattering of supporters applauded. A group in the rafters also shouted “Liberty” in addition to “Let him speak.” But the former rival to Mr. Romney did nothing to egg them on.

The demands by Mr. Paul's supporters came after he had decided not to speak at the Republican National Convention after the Romney campaign insisted on approving his remarks beforehand. They also required that he endorse Mr. Romney.

The chants also came as the Romney campaign was still trying to put down a grass-roots rebellion against its effort to change arcane party rules that, activists say, would protect “establish ment'' presidential candidates from insurgent challengers.

But some of the activists are still raising concerns about a deal struck to resolve the issue, saying that the compromise leaves room for Mr. Romney's team to try to change the rules again after the convention.

The action on the convention floor came after Tea Party activists and others called for action at the event. A blog post on the Web site of FreedomWorks, an organization closely aligned with the Tea Party, warns: “If this rule stands it will operate as a contingency plan for the R.N.C., should grass-roots organizations gain more influence than R.N.C. leadership is comfortable with. This must be stopped.”

TimesCast Politics Schedule and Convention Day at a Glance


After Hurricane Isaac forced the cancellation of the first day of the Republican National Convention, events are getting under way on Tuesday, and The Times's political unit will be broadcasting live with the latest from Tampa, Fla., beginning at 2 p.m. Here are a few of the highlights from the program:

TimesCast Politics

  • Jim Rutenberg, a chief political correspondent, reports on the latest from the floor of the convention as Mitt Romney arrives in Tampa.
  • Jeff Zeleny, a chief political correspondent, sits down for an interview with Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina in which she talks about broadening the party's appeal.
  • Jim Roberts, an assistant managing editor, and Ben Smith, BuzzFeed's editor in chief, preview Chris Christie's keynote address.
  • Ashley Parker, a political correspondent, reports on John H. Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire who will introduce Mr. Romney's name for the nomination.
  • And, in the Opinion section of the broadcast, the Op-Ed columnists Charles M. Blow and Bill Keller discuss humanizing Mr. Romney.

On the Floor
The convention schedule is packed Tuesday, as Mr. Romney and Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, his running mate, arrived in Tampa.

In addition to the rules that will be taken up by delegates, there is a full schedule of speakers. Live coverage of the night's event's will begin at 5 p.m., with live video broadcasts joining the report at 7 p.m.

Ann Romney, who will speak during the 10 o'clock hour, will try to draw a human portrait of her husband as the convention seeks to reintroduce Mr. Romney to voters. The Romney campaign considers her speech one of the centerpieces of the convention.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who will deliver the keynote address, also in the 10 o'clock hour, likely will use his appeal with Tea Party voters to help unify and energ ize the Republican base.

And Rick Santorum will deliver a speech in his first major address appearance since bowing out of the primary elections in April.

Is a Penny Rounded a Penny Lost? Ask Chipotle


My children are fans of the food at Chipotle Mexican Grill. Soft, fresh tacos; black beans; melted cheese - what's not to like? So I was intrigued when I read about a payment policy that the restaurant chain uses in some locations. It's called “rounding” (which, by coincidence, my daughter is learning about at elementary school).

The Consumerist recently riffed on a column in The Star-Ledger, which reported on Chipotle's practice of rounding the change in receipt totals for cash transactions at some restaurants. These locations do this so that cashiers don't have to handle lots of coins, which tends to slow the lines down. If you've ever been to Chipotle, you know that the food is dished out in assembly-line style, where you place your order and then walk along the counter, telling the staff that, yes, you'd like some guacamole, please, but hold the rice. You pay at the end of the line.

As The Consumerist pointed out, rounding to the nearest nickel isn't really a big deal, as long as the restaurant is rounding down. But if it rounds up, you pay extra - even if it's just a penny or two.

In one sense, this seems like a smart idea. Who wants excess change clogging up their pockets, anyway, especially if it means you'll get your food faster? But at least one customer objected to this “Chipotle-style math,” the New Jersey newspaper reported, and sent in his receipts for review:

“On the first, dated July 13, the nine items added up to $32.93. There was $2.31 in tax. The total should have been $35.24, but next to the ‘total' line on the receipt, it said $35.25. The next receipt, with the same sale date, showed a subtotal of $8.64. The tax was $0.60, so the grand total should have been $9.24. But no. With Chipotle-style math, the total was $9.25.”

I called a Chipotle spokesman, Chris Arnold, who said the chain uses rounding in a few “high vo lume” markets,  including New York, New Jersey and some locations in Boston. The idea is to reduce the time cashiers spend doling out pennies, to keep the lines moving quickly. (In some locations, he said, “there are lines out the door as soon as we open.”) The total, he said, was previously rounded either up or down, to the “nearest nickel.” The result generally was a wash for the restaurant, he said. And for most customers, he said, “I think generally it's been a nonissue.”

But a few penny-pinchers (my description, not Mr. Arnold's) did object. So as of August, he said, the chain is only rounding down. (Also, receipts should now have a line showing the impact of the rounding math.) He said he didn't know of other outlets that round receipts.

Do you think rounding of meal receipts - up or down - to eliminate pennies is a reasonable policy for a busy restaurant?

Scott Brown Hits the Road Again in New Campaign Ad


BOSTON â€" With his trademark pickup truck, a pair of jeans and a familiar local issue â€" fishing - a new television ad by Senator Scott P. Brown evokes the down-home narrative that has become a routine component of his campaign against Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic consumer advocate.

The advertisement bears a contrast to Ms. Warren's most recent ad, a more nationally focused spot that criticizes Republican actions on women's issues as that party presents its platform at this week's convention.

Mr. Brown's ad, titled “Fisherman,” opens with a shot of the senator driving in the truck that became a hallmark of his 2010 special-election campaign in Massachusetts (although he wears jeans and a Bruins T-shirt in the ad, he appears to have left the barn jacket from that period at home).

“This is Scott Brown from the road,” says Mr. Brown from behind the wheel, before footage of him talking with fishermen on the docks in Gloucester, Mass.

“Like a lot of people, our fishermen are hurting, and Washington is part of the problem,” Mr. Brown says. “The fishing industry has been hit with overregulation, unfair enforcement and crushing fines.”

Mr. Brown, a former state senator here, has pushed to change federal regulation of the region's fisheries â€" a fractious issue stoked by federal and regional efforts to protect shrinking fish populations - introducing two pieces of legislation intended to allay the impact of federal regulations last year.

It is a perennial local issue that sparks bipartisan cooperation; Representative Barney Frank, the Democratic representative from Massachusetts' Fourth Congressional District, has long been an outspoken advocate of the state's fishermen.

The ad is the third in a series of “from the road” advertisements; one, called “Growing Up,” describes Mr. Brown's “tough” childhood in Massachusetts.

Mr. Brown is keeping a low profile at the Republican National Convention this week, planning to attend only on Thursday. He will serve National Guard Duty in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Dolan to Offer Prayer at Democratic Convention, Too


Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York has accepted an invitation to deliver the closing prayer at next week's Democratic National Convention, following through on a promise that he made when accepting the same role at the Republican convention.

His appearance before the Democrats in Charlotte, N.C., which was announced Tuesday by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, may lead to one of the most intriguing tableaus of this convention season. Cardinal Dolan, an opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage who is among the Catholic bishops suing the Obama administration over its contraception health care mandates, will bless a gathering of thousands of delegates who passionately disagree with him.

Cardinal Dolan is scheduled to deliver the closing prayer at the Republican convention on Thursday night, after Mitt Romney accepts the nomination as the party's presidential candidate. He had said that his appearance should not be seen as partisan and that he would accept an invitation to pray with the Democrats as well.

“It was made clear to the Democratic convention organizers, as it was to the Republicans, that the cardinal was coming solely as a pastor, only to pray, not to endorse any party, platform or candidate,” Joseph Zwilling, the spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, wrote in a statement released on Tuesday.

In recent years, Catholics have emerged as an important swing vote. Long predominantly Democratic, Catholics have increasingly shifted to the Republican Party, drawn by conservative positions on social issues.

Though a pointed critic of the Obama administration, Cardinal Dolan frequently speaks about the importance of engaging with those one disagrees with. On Monday, he even issued a challenge to the Democratic and Republican candidates for president and vice president, asking them to sign a pledge to behave “with civility” this election season.

That pledge, written by the Knights of Columbus, asks the candidates, as well as the media, special-interest advocates and other commentators, “to employ a more civil tone in public discourse on political and social issues, focusing on policies rather than on individual personalities.”

Cardinal Dolan raised conservative eyebrows several weeks ago when he announced that he had decided to invite both President Obama and Mr. Romney to the annual Al Smith Dinner, a charity event in New York in October.

He was inundated with stacks of angry mail after issuing that invitation, he said, many letters from opponents to abortion who believed he was offering a stage to someone they think is complicit in the deaths o f unborn children. In 2004, Cardinal Edward M. Egan, then archbishop of New York, declined to invite the presidential candidates to the dinner because of his concern about the positions held by the Democratic nominee for president, Senator John Kerry, a Catholic.

But two weeks ago, Cardinal Dolan wrote on his blog in response to those critics: “It's better to invite than to ignore, more effective to talk together than to yell from a distance, more productive to open a door than to shut one.”

From the Magazine: Live Illustrating the Tweets of the R.N.C.


Christoph Niemann is in Tampa this week, where he is “live illustrating” posts on Twitter relating to the Republican National Convention.

The Caucus Click: Ann Romney Sound Check


Romney Campaign Still Fighting Activists Over Party Rules


TAMPA, Fla. - With the convention set to come to order for its first real day of activity in just a couple of hours, the Romney campaign is still trying to put down a grass-roots rebellion against its effort to change arcane party rules that, activists say, would protect “establishment'' presidential candidates from insurgent challengers.

A compromise that had come together late Monday night â€" in which Mitt Romney's team seemed to back off many of its proposed changes - was still awaiting wider approval from activists.

But some of the activists involved are still raising concerns, saying that the compromise leaves room for Mr. Romney's team to try again after the convention.

“It's not se lling,'' said Drew McKissick, a South Carolina delegate and activist involved in the fight.

A blog post on the Web site of FreedomWorks, an organization closely aligned with the Tea Party, warns: “If this rule stands it will operate as a contingency plan for the RNC, should grassroots organizations gain more influence than RNC leadership is comfortable with. This must be stopped.”

The post then urges readers to voice their opposition with their party representatives here at the convention. Barring a last-minute breakthrough, the activists could force a floor fight.

Strip Club Workers Can Tell, \'You\'re From the Convention, Aren\'t You?\'


TAMPA, Fla. - “You're from the convention, aren't you?” asks Rico, the security guard stationed outside of one of Tampa's hottest strip clubs, Guilty.

We wonder how he knows. Our bright orange lanyards from the Republican National Convention are back in the car.

“We can always tell,” he says.

The Tampa Bay area has many virtues: the Buccaneers, handmade cigars, the headquarters of the Home Shopping Network.

Oh, and it's the strip club capital of America (there are 50). The most renowned of these, Mons Venus, is said to be the birthplace of the lap dance.

How could Republicans stay away? They could not, even in the midst of a tropical storm a nd with a $20 cover fee.

Just before midnight, Stormy, a dancer gyrating underneath a mirrored spaceship dome, knelt down, asked us whether we wanted to stuff a dollar bill into her cleavage and explained that so far, she had mostly seen Ron Paul supporters.

“Paul is awesome,” she said. “I'm not going to vote,” she said, adjusting her straps and her bills, “There's no hope. But if I was, I'd write him in.”

Hayden, her co-worker, seemed more engaged in the political process. She bent down, sought her tip, and inquired about our flag pin, specially designed for the Republican convention.

“I've been looking for an American flag pin,” she said. We wondered why.

“Because of my Sarah Palin look.”

It was true: she looked just like Ms. Palin. The hair. The narrow glasses. The blazer, the only garment she was wearing. It needed a flag. We offered ours. She insisted we affix it to the fitted gray bla zer, which barely reached her midriff. She urged us to “come by when I'm off.”

We politely declined. But not before asking what, in the opinion of the faux former governor of Alaska, was a telltale sign of a Republican client.

“They get dances because they're novel,” she said. “And they tip well.”

Ann Romney Gets Ready for Her Big Night


TAMPA, Fla. â€" As he made his way to the convention that will nominate him for president of the United States, Mitt Romney sat in a window seat on his campaign plane, occasionally talking with his wife or aides but spending much of the flight alone, calm and quiet, reading or resting.

While he remained planted in the front row, never turning around, it was Ann Romney who got up repeatedly, making her way up and down the aisle, joking and chatting with advisers and delivering home-baked cookies to the journalists in the back of the plane. It may be Mitt Romney's convention, but Tuesday was to be Ann Romney's night.

Never before has she been on such a stage with so many millions watching, and she has b een preparing for her prime-time introduction for days. She is not used to speaking from a prepared text and went over it with advisers line by line. She practiced with a Teleprompter and discovered she did not much care for it. And to her surprise she found campaign strategists and even her husband weighing in on her clothing options with counsel she considered, well, questionable.

“The funniest thing of all is that Stuart Stevens, who wears his shirts inside out, is advising me on what dress I should wear tonight,” she told reporters on the plane, referring to the campaign's senior adviser. She had thought “it was going to be like my wedding dress” where her husband would not see it until the event itself, only to learn that is not how modern conventions work.

Still, she had not completely surrendered to the exigencies of the polls-and-focus-group crowd. Was she going to take Mr. Stevens's advice? “The verdict is still ou t,” she said.

Mrs. Romney has long been called a political asset for her husband, likeable and self-assured, capable of drawing a human portrait of Mr. Romney that he himself sometimes finds difficult.

The campaign considers her speech one of the centerpieces of the convention, so much so that when strategists learned the major broadcast networks would not show it on Monday night, they moved it to Tuesday night to make sure it had the largest audience possible. Then they arranged at the last minute for Mr. Romney to travel toTampa to be with her, doubling down on the importance of the moment.

The candidate's advisers are counting on her to lay out a biography of a devoted family man and successful business leader who can be trusted to run the country, a counter-narrative in effect for the picture drawn by President Obama's campaign of a rapacious capitalist with foreign bank accounts oblivious to the toll wrought by factory closings during his days in pri vate equity.

The depth of the challenge awaiting Mrs. Romney was brought home Tuesday morning even before she and her husband left their home in Belmont, Mass., to fly here. A poll released by CBS News underscored what the network called an “empathy gap,” with just 41 percent of Americans saying that Mr. Romney understands their needs compared with 54 percent who said the same of Mr. Obama.

Mrs. Romney clearly understands the campaign's needs for her speech. On the flight to Tampa, she seemed comfortable and ready for her turn in the spotlight. Playing to traditional notions of family embraced by the party's base, she said took time out from speech practice to bake hundreds of Welsh cakes from her grandmother's recipe. She brought them in a red Christmas cookie container to share on the plane.

She said several times that she was “excited” about the speech but gave little preview of it. “The speech is being reduced to a tweet,” she joked. The mos t she would reveal is that “you will see that my speech is heartfelt” and that she hopes to demonstrate “how important this election's going to be.”

She acknowledged it has been challenging to use a prepared text. “No one has ever written a speech for me,” she said, adding that she “had a lot of input.” Asked about the Teleprompter practice, she said it was “interesting. I've never spoken with a Teleprompter before. I don't like it. It's hard. We'll see how I do.”

She joked with the female reporters that she should consult with them, instead of Mr. Stevens about her dress for the evening.

Mr. Stevens, the notoriously fashion challenged strategist, later joked that he enjoyed the clothing consultations.

“I really think I've got a future in this,” he said.

“The question,” he added, “is whether she will take the advice.”

A More Lighthearted Protest Overnight


TAMPA, Fla. - The protesters began assembling just before 11 p.m. on Monday night, with people arriving in twos and threes at Centennial Park, in Ybor City, until there were about 100 of them gathered in the darkness a block away from one of the city's main night life areas.

Earlier in the day there had been two marches meant to protest the Republican presence in Tampa that had focused on issues like poverty, wars and abortion. But this gathering, which was intended to criticize capitalism and included some people who said they were anarchists, had a more lighthearted feeling; it was even billed as a roving radical dance party, and participants brought with them a boombox, noise makers and a few cardboar d masks meant to resemble a spider, a jaguar and praying mantis.

“We are all predators,” said Nathan Pim, who wore a mask in the shape of a hammerhead shark. “Which means we are all capitalists.”

A group of people walked across East Eighth Avenue carrying a papier-mâché replica of an elephant that was painted gold. They set the sculpture on the sidewalk, and soon a crowd was dancing around it.

“It's just like the golden calf,” said the object's creator, Dave Gonzalez. “It symbolizes the Republican Party's worship of money above all else.”

At around 11:30 p.m. the crowd took to the streets, with a woman near the front of the group brandishing a black flag emblazoned with a red heart. They danced over trolley tracks, first heading west, then doubling back several times.

One of the marchers, Joshua Kaupilla, said that the march was meant to reawaken a sense of exuberance that for many was deadened by daily routines.

“There's that human, animal sense in each of us that we've forgotten in our cubicles and commutes,” he said, as he danced over a cobblestone roadway. “It's full of joy and full of sorrow.”

Police officers on bikes and in cars followed and at times set up roadblocks to prevent the group from turning up certain streets, including one that led to a spot where protesters said that Republican delegates were holding an event.

Instead the group surged down the middle of East Seventh Avenue, a stretch packed with bars and restaurants, chanting “Off the sidewalks and into the streets” and “We are the source of all your wealth,” before pausing to dance to a rock band that was performing inside an open window at a bar called Gaspar's Grotto.

The group marched and danced past 1 a.m. Tuesday and then dispersed, announcing that they would reconvene later on Tuesday.

Obama Warns Gulf Coast Residents Ahead of Storm


TAMPA, Fla. - President Obama urged Gulf Coast residents to pay attention to Tropical Storm Isaac and make preparations for a “dangerous” storm that is likely to hit late Tuesday.

In a brief statement before leaving the White House for a two-day campaign swing, Mr. Obama said his administration had moved resources into the area to help affected residents.

“We are dealing with a big storm, and there could be significant flooding and other damage across a large area,” Mr. Obama said. “Now is not the time to tempt fate.”

Mr. Obama is scheduled to visit Iowa and Colorado on Tuesday before heading on to Virginia on Wednesday. The visits coincide with th e Republican National Convention here in Tampa, where Mitt Romney will be officially nominated on Tuesday.

But Mr. Obama promised to keep his focus on the welfare of the people in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast communities.

“As president, I'll continue to make sure that the federal government is doing everything possible to prepare for and recover from this dangerous storm,” he said.

With the memory of the battering that his predecessor took following the Bush administration's widely disparaged response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Mr. Obama seemed to be taking pains to show that his administration is on top of things this time around. Several times during his remarks he specified that he has personally directed various federal agencies to do all they can.

“I just got an update from Secretary Napolitano,” he said, referring to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. And “yesterday I approved a disaster declaration for the State of Louisiana.”

Mr. Obama said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been working on preparing for the storm for a week. He warned Gulf Coast residents to “listen” if officials tell them to evacuate.

Tuesday Reading: Treating Illness When The Mango Bites Back


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.

Romney Heads to Republican Convention


BEDFORD, Mass. - Former Gov. Mitt Romney took off on Tuesday morning en route to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., to capitalize on the national spotlight even as his team kept a wary eye on storm clouds both metaphoric and literal.

Breaking camp after two days of speech preparations, the soon-to-be-minted Republican nominee boarded a chartered plane at a small airport outside Boston for the trip south, heading to the convention two days earlier than expected. His wife, Ann, will address the convention on Tuesday evening, and an appearance with her would reinforce the campaign's narrative about the candidate's strong family ties.

The campaign released no schedule for what Mr. Romney would be doing during the day leading up to the evening speeches, but with some of his party's most important financial backers in town, it would be an obvious opportunity to cultivate his donor base. He also will be reunited with many advisers who have been in Tampa for days, a chance to fine tune his own speech and to be in place in case more drastic changes have to be made to the convention schedule because of Tropical Storm Isaac.

As things stand, barring further schedule changes, Mr. Romney does not plan to stay. He is scheduled to leave Tampa again on Wednesday to fly to Indianapolis, where he is to address an American Legion gathering. He is set to return to Tampa on Thursday to formally accept the Republican presidential nomination.

With the wild-card distractions of the storm and intraparty tension, the convention has not exactly opened according to script. Mr. Romney's team, worried about the split-screen images of the convention juxtaposed with the storm, has labored to keep ahead of events and refashion a four-day show into three days.

The early arrival of the candidate in Tampa, his advisers hope, may energize the convention and ref ocus attention on his case for the presidency. By showing up on the night of his wife's speech, it also could humanize him as the campaign seeks to reintroduce him to voters who may be turned off by a summer of perpetual attacks and counterattacks.

A new CBS News poll released Tuesday morning highlighted what the network called an “empathy gap,” with 41 percent of Americans saying Mr. Romney understands their needs and problems compared with 54 percent who thought President Obama did. Mr. Romney said in interviews over the weekend that Mr. Obama's “dishonest” attacks have hurt his reputation but expressed confidence that the convention and the fall campaign would allow him to overcome that.

Palin Assails Effort to Change Delegate Rules


Sarah Palin is not at the Republican National Convention, but she is nonetheless weighing in on the proceedings there, and perhaps helping to sow discontent.

In a Facebook message posted late Monday night, Ms. Palin objected to a proposed rule changes that would give the Republican nominee more control over choosing delegates to the 2016 convention. In the post, Ms. Palin called the proposal “a direct attack on grass-roots activists by the G.O.P. establishment, and it must be rejected,” and linked to an article by the conservative blogger Michelle Malkin.

The former vice-presidential nominee's missive came just as Mitt Romney's camp and activists were reaching a compromise on the issue.

The fight over delegate selection is one of several contentious issues that have emerged between grass-roots elements and party leaders, with Republican officials on the defensive over their handling of Ron Paul and his suppor ters and the treatment of Representative Todd Akin, the Missouri Senate candidate who has been spurned by the party over his “forcible rape” remarks.

CBS News Poll Finds Presidential Candidates Essentially Tied


As the Republicans began to gather in Tampa, Fla., for their convention this week, the latest CBS News poll shows the race between President Obama and Mitt Romney essentially tied.

Mr. Obama is backed by 46 percent of registered voters, and Mr. Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, is preferred by 45 percent. Ninety percent of Republicans support Mr. Romney; just about as many Democrats want to see Mr. Obama re-elected. Independents are evenly divided - 40 percent for Mr. Obama and 41 percent for Mr. Romney.

As is often the case, women are more inclined to support the Democratic candidate, preferring Mr. Obama by 10 percentage points. Men are 9 points more likely to back Mr. Romney.

Voters are closely divided in their overall attitudes about the candidates. Mr. Obama is viewed favorably by 41 percent and unfavorably by 44 percent. Twelve percent are undecided.

Simila rly, 31 percent regard Mr. Romney in a positive light, and 36 percent have a negative opinion. But more voters are unable to give an opinion about Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts: 17 percent said they were undecided, and 15 percent said they were too unfamiliar with Mr. Romney to offer any judgment.

Mr. Obama is seen as understanding the voters' needs and problems, but only about a third thinks he has a clear plan for creating jobs. Fewer voters see Mr. Romney as a candidate that empathizes with their troubles, but they are evenly divided on whether he has a strategy for dealing with unemployment.

The nationwide poll was conducted Aug. 22 to 26 using landlines and cellphones with 1,218 adults of whom 1,051 said they are registered to vote. The margin of sampling error for voters is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Storm\'s Potential Complicates Democratic Response to G.O.P. Convention


TAMPA, Fla. - With Republicans cautiously proceeding to open their convention on Tuesday, Democrats have decided to move ahead with their no-holds-barred counterprogramming, including a campaign swing by President Obama as Mitt Romney prepares to accept the nomination.

But the president faces the same political challenge that has caused such difficulty for the Republican convention organizers - how to strike an aggressive campaign posture against his rival as a potential hurricane barrels toward the Gulf Coast and New Orleans.

Mr. Obama will travel to Iowa, Colorado and Virginia for more full-throated rallies in the next two days as Democrats plan to unleash a stream of criticism aimed at Mr. Romney in the hopes of disrupting the Republican convention message.

The Democratic National Committee is preparing to run a full-page ad in the Tampa Tribune linking Mr. Romney to Representa tive Todd Akin's comments on rape. A plane will fly over the Republican convention with a banner that says “Romney-Ryan-Akin: Too Extreme for Women.” And a “Super PAC” backing Mr. Obama will release a new television ad attacking the impact of Mr. Romney's policies on the middle class. It will be the group's largest purchase of commercial time.

All of this will come as Republicans attempt to seize the spotlight with speeches by Mr. Romney, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the vice presidential nominee, and a series of other high-profile Republicans.

The timing is fraught with political danger for Mr. Obama. President George W. Bush suffered a legacy-tarnishing moment when he appeared uncaring in the face of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

But Mr. Bush, who won re-election in 2004, was not forced to juggle an emergency response with the sensitive demands of an intense presidential campaign. Wednesday is the seventh anniversary o f the day in 2005 that Hurricane Katrina made landfall.

Tropical Storm Isaac is not a storm of that magnitude, though the impact of any hurricane on property and lives is hard to assess in advance. It is scheduled to make landfall sometime in the next two days.

Difficult questions loom for Mr. Obama and his political advisers as they plot their attacks. If the storm wreaks havoc on the Gulf Coast, should Democrats ease up? Does Mr. Obama cut short his campaign swing, or continue to rally his supporters against Mr. Romney amid images of mass evacuations and property damage?

And perhaps most vital: When - if at all - should Mr. Obama make a visit to the site of any serious damage by the storm?

Mr. Obama could, in theory, go to the Gulf as early as Thursday or Friday, moving quickly to prove his administration's commitment to the region in the hopes of avoiding the mistakes that Mr. Bush made.

But doing so just as Mr. Romney is accepting the nomina tion of his party on Thursday would be seen as a political punch in the nose. Whatever political benefits Mr. Obama might receive from moving quickly might backfire in this highly-charged political environment.

On the other hand, Mr. Obama could choose to wait before traveling to the Gulf, in deference to the political activities in Tampa. But doing so might open him to charges that he's letting politics get in the way of his presidential duties.

The Democratic offensive will include a new ad by Priorities USA Action that features a small business owner in Massachusetts who says she voted for Mr. Romney and donated to his campaigns. But she says she plans to vote for Mr. Obama in the fall.

“Governor Romney promised that he would bring jobs to this state. By the time Governor Romney left office, we had fallen to 47th in the nation in terms of job growth,” says Olive Chase in the ad. “I feel like I was duped by Mitt Romney.”

The group says the a d will run online and on television in Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio and Virginia as part of a $30 million campaign. The group was criticized over the summer for an ad that featured a worker accusing Mr. Romney's actions of contributing to his wife's death from cancer.

In addition to the newspaper ad and the plane's banner, the Democratic National Committee is also releasing a new web video accusing Mr. Romney of being a “job destroyer.”

Meanwhile, Republicans will show a video on Tuesday at the convention that features voters who supported Mr. Obama in 2008 but say they have decided to vote for Mr. Romney this year.

“I caucused for him and went to the rallies and even donated to his campaign,” one woman says in the video. “I'm not supporting Barack Obama this time because I just don't see things getting better.”