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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Fuller Explanation of Bain Stories Told at Democratic Convention


The three people who told their stories about their experiences with Mitt Romney's firm, Bain Capital, Wednesday night during the Democratic National Convention laid out the by-now-familiar Democratic critique that he prized profits over people during his 15-year career in private equity and that he was a job destroyer, rather than a job creator.

The basic outlines of their stories about layoffs and plant closings that occurred after Bain bought their companies - Ampad, Dade International and GST Steel - were accurate, but they lacked context and mitigating details, ones that often get lost in the shorthand of political combat.


The first speaker, Randy Johnson, worked at a paper plant in Marion, Ind., when it was bought in 1994 by Ampad, a company created by Bain through of a series of acquisitions. Ampad was a textbook example of a private equity “roll-up.” In 1992, Bain acquired American Pad & Paper from the Mead Corp. and then set out to buy up other companies in the same industry, seeking economies of scale and other efficiencies. Sales ballooned but so did the company's debt, which climbed to nearly $400 million. The company also found itself squeezed by the proliferation of “big box” office supply stores. Ampad wound up closing several plants across the country, including one in Marion, Ind., where Mr. Johnson worked.

The Marion closure, however, was preceded by a labor dispute. After the acquisition by Bain, the plant's employees were notified that they were being laid off but could reapply for their jobs at lower wages. The plant's workers decided to strike. At this point, Mr. Romney was deep in the throes of his ultimately unsuccessful 1994 Senate campaign against Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and the strike became a major issue, with workers appearing in television advertisements on behalf of Mr. Kennedy. In early 1995, with Mr. Romney back at the helm of the company, Bain decided to shutter the plant.

A critical open question is what role Mr. Romney played in Bain's decisions relating to the plant, given that he was busy running for Senate when Bain acquired the plant. In response to a personal letter from Mr. Johnson as the plant's closure neared, Mr. Romney said he had privately urged a settlement but that he had been advised by lawyers not to personally intervene.

In a 2007 Los Angeles Times article, Marc Wolpow, a former Bain managing director who was on Ampad's board, said Mr. Romney could have ordered him to settle with the union, since Mr. Romney was still, technically, in charge, but he had not. Mr. Wolpow described this as the “right business decision as C.E.O. of Bain Capital.”

Ampad wound up filing for bankruptcy in 2000, after Mr. Romney had departed to run the Salt Lake City Olympics and several years after Bain had relinquished majority-control of the compan y. In return for their original $5 million investment, Bain and its investors walked away with profits of more than $100 million. Bain itself also collected at least $17 million in fees.

Dade International

The second speaker, Cindy Hewitt, worked in human resources at Dade International, a medical diagnostics company purchased by Bain and other investors in 1994 for $450 million, largely paid for with debt, in order to limit Bain's risk.

Over the next few years, Bain and other investors collected nearly $100 million in fees from the company, with Bain gobbling up the lion's share. Bain guided Dade through a series of acquisitions, helping to more than double the company's annual sales. But just like with Ampad, Dade's debt ballooned. Cost-cutting became a premium at the company. Ultimately, the company laid off 1,700 workers in the United States, including 850 in Miami, where Ms. Hewitt worked, after Bain's shuttered Dade's facilities there in 1997.

By 1998, Dade's investors had begun looking for a way to cash out. They settled on a plan in which Dade borrowed $455 million to buy out about half of their shares, with Bain collecting $242 million in the transaction, which was completed in April 1999. Even with the lucrative payouts to investors and top executives, the job losses at the company continued.

A few months before the payout, Mr. Romney left to run the Olympics, though he still benefited from it, because of his continuing financial arrangements with the firm.

Ultimately, the debt load proved too much for Dade. Interest rates rose and the value of the euro slid, twin blows that severely impacted the company. A new distribution center also experienced unexpected delays. Dade filed for bankruptcy protection in 2002.

The company, however, would later emerge from the restructuring process and thrive. The company was eventually sold to Siemens, the German conglomerate, for $7 billion in 2007, leadin g some to argue Bain's strategies ultimately paid off.

GST Steel

The final anti-Bain speaker, David Foster, was a union negotiator for workers at GST Steel, a struggling Midwest steel manufacturer that Bain bought in 1993, investing $8.3 million and borrowing the rest.

Bain took steps to modernize the steelmaker, investing in new technology and upgrading its facilities. A year later, the company issued $125 million in debt, some of which was used to pay a $33.9 million dividend to Bain's investors. About half of that was plowed back into the company. But the debt load, again, proved crippling, particularly as the industry experienced a downturn in the late 1990s, eventually forcing the company into bankruptcy in 2001. Bain's investors still earned at least $9 million.

By the time the steelmaker filed for bankruptcy, Mr. Romney was no longer running day-to-day operations at Bain, though his name remained on S.E.C. filings and other documents as the f irm's owner.

It is also important to note that the collapsing steel market devastated many other companies in the industry as well.

A Day of Protests, Spared of Confrontations


CHARLOTTE, N.C. â€" Protesters returned to the streets of Charlotte for a fourth consecutive day on Wednesday, but this time without confrontation or arrests as the Democratic National Convention continued.

A flash mob that grew to 150 to 200 marched in the streets protesting corporate money in politics and the handling of detainees, just as delegates were arriving in the afternoon for the second day of the convention. The group was surrounded by police officers but allowed to march to within about a block of Time Warner Cable Arena, gathering in an intersection for several minutes.

The march eventually moved on without incident.

It was one of several protests during the day, including a gath ering of about two dozen in front of the Duke Energy Center. Protesters planned to give the company's chairman and chief executive, Jim Rogers, a U.S.B. flash drive that included 150,000 signatures asking the corporation to stop supporting the American Legislative Exchange Council, which promotes conservative causes with lawmakers around the nation.

“ALEC is responsible for a host of right-wing backwards bills all over the country that are totally written by corporations like Duke to benefit corporations like Duke,'' said Ben Carroll, part of the Coalition to March on Wall Street South. “There's been in recent months a lot of pressure on a lot of these corporations that are part of ALEC, and leading many of them to leave. So we've got to keep the pressure on.”

A group of undocumented Hispanic immigrants returned for another day of protest after 10 members were arrested on Tuesday when they sat in the middle of an intersection n ear the convention and refused to move.

“There are things that he can do right now that he's not doing,'' Unzueta Carrasco, an undocumented immigrant who was arrested on Tuesday, said of Mr. Obama. “If I'm going to continue believing in him as my president, I need him to take those actions and I need him to take those steps to really support every person in our community.”

If protesters were hoping to generate a following in Charlotte, which has an unemployment rate of 10 percent and saw thousands of layoffs by the banks based here after the 2008 economic collapse, they weren't successful. Charlotte has not historically been a protest town, and apparently that hasn't changed.

“It's not and it's bad manners in the South to protest,'' said Beth Henry, a retired corporate lawyer from Charlotte who was on the streets protesting Duke's contribution to global warning, “and I wouldn't be out here if there wasn't so much at stake.”

Reaction to Change of Venue for Obama\'s Speech


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - While a decision to move President Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention to a smaller venue might have left some volunteers and visitors here feeling left out in the cold - or the rain, as the weather forecast was predicting - many took it in stride, their support for the President undiminished.

“It happens. I'll vote for him anyway,” Roshunta Cochrane, a 24-year-old Charlotte resident, said.

People on the streets of uptown Charlotte this afternoon instead criticized the convention organizers, who, citing concerns about severe weather, announced this morning that President Obama's speech would be moved from the open-air Bank o f America Stadium to the enclosed Time Warner Cable Arena, where the convention's first two days have been held.

“With it being hurricane season I definitely feel like they could have prepared for it more,” Ms Cochrane added. “It's an open-air arena, so you kind of have to prepare for rain and things like that.”

Bob Barrows, a 62-year-old volunteer from Charlotte, was scheduled to work at the stadium on Thursday and would have stayed to watch the speech after his shift ended. “I think they may have pulled the trigger too soon,” he said, looking at his watch. “It's near 4 o'clock right now and it's getting better. It's usually bad between 3 and 4. But the weather can be very fickle.”

Kesha Lee, 30, a resident of Washington, D.C., sat in the sun with two friends on a bench in Charlotte on Wednesday afternoon. “Our game plan was to get up early and brave the crowds before they got there,” she said.

S he hoped that those who planned to arrive here tomorrow would get the message in time. “Rain and 50,000 people without a seat is not a really good thing for Charlotte,” she said.

Some still hoped for the best. James Jackson, 63, and Yolanda Jackson, 61, weren't sure if they would be able to see the President's speech tomorrow inside the Arena. But the retired couple from South Carolina still had their passes and planned to wait on line anyway.

Plan B? “I will go back to my son's house and watch,” Mrs. Jackson explained.

Others didn't seem the least bit disappointed. “I'm from a swing state,” Fayre Ruszczyk, a 64-year-old volunteer from Littleton, Colo. She has seen President Obama speak before.

“This isn't for us, anyway,” she said. “This is for the delegates.”

Andrew Beary, 59, a local resident and volunteer checking press credentials, still proudly wore his ticket for entry, now merely a souvenir. He feared that the move co uld hurt the enthusiasm of others who also would be left out.

“We hope that those volunteers stay fired up,” he explained. “'Cause we're going to need it. It's going to be a tough one to win in North Carolina.”

Live Updates from the Democratic National Convention


The Times will be providing updates and analysis from Charlotte on our live dashboard. You can also follow along on Twitter @thecaucus, or follow our list of Times journalists covering the convention.

Fact-Checking the Democratic Platform


The Democratic Party platform, released this week during the convention in Charlotte, N.C., contained a number of exaggerated or misleading claims in civil liberties and housing.


The Democratic platform includes a plank called “Staying True to Our Values at Home,” which pledges to make sure that the nation's antiterrorism efforts do not run afoul of the Constitution or people's civil liberties - a pledge critics say has not always been kept in the last four years.

“Advancing our interests may involve new actions and policies to confront threats like terrorism, but the president and the Democratic Party believe these practices must always be in line with our Constitution, preserve our people's privacy and civil liberties, and withstand the checks and balances that have served us so well,'' the platform states. “That is why the president banned torture without exception in his first week in office. That is why we are reforming military commissions to bring them in line with the rule of law. That is why we are substantially reducing the population at Guantánamo Bay without adding to it. And we remain committed to working with all branches of government to close the prison altogether because it is inconsistent with our national security interests and our values.”

Some civil libertarians, disappointed that many Bush counterterrorism programs continued without significant changes, would take issue with the claim that Mr. Obama's policies have been “in line with our Constitution” or have adequately protected privacy and civil liberties. Perhaps most contentious has been Mr . Obama's overseas use of drones. While there have been few complaints about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, some legal scholars and rights activists were especially critical of Mr. Obama's approval of using a drone to kill an American citizen, the cleric and Al Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, in Yemen last year.

While the administration has asserted that Mr. Awlaki was a dangerous threat and a legitimate target under domestic and international law, some people are uncomfortable with the idea that a president can designate an American citizen for execution without presenting evidence in court or allowing a defense. At least two other Americans have been killed in strikes in Yemen, but officials have said they were not the targets.

It is true that Mr. Obama outlawed brutal interrogations in his first week, requiring that detainees in American custody be treated “humanely.” Although torture was already illegal, the Central Intelligence Agency under th e Bush administration had been authorized by the Justice Department to use the suffocation technique called waterboarding and several other methods considered by most human rights experts to be torture.

Mr. Obama's executive order eliminated any uncertainty about whether coercive methods were permissible. But Mr. Obama disappointed many supporters by opposing any comprehensive review of Bush counterterrorism programs, and his Justice Department last week closed the last investigation of C.I.A. interrogations without charging anyone.

It is also true that, with the cooperation of Congress, military commissions have been significantly altered under Mr. Obama to bring their rules closer to those of civilian courts. But as the platform suggests, Mr. Obama's promise to close Guantánamo in his first year in office remains unfulfilled. Some critics believe the administration mishandled the issue, not moving quickly enough to empty and close the prison. But Congress pass ed restrictions on moving detainees out of Guantánamo, and instability in Yemen prompted officials to stop sending Yemeni detainees home, so the prison is likely to remain open for years.

The platform also says that the administration is committed to “the most open, efficient and accountable government in history” - a pledge some critics say Mr. Obama has failed to carry out so far. The Justice Department has continued to block lawsuits involving intelligence matters by invoking “state secrets,” and the administration has prosecuted six former government workers for leaking classified information to the press, more than all previous administrations combined.


The Democratic platform states that “President Obama took swift action to stabilize a housing market in crisis, helping five million families restructure their loans to help them stay in their homes, making it easier for families to refinance their mortgages and save hundreds of d ollars a month, and giving tax credits to first-time home buyers.”

He did take action to help stabilize the housing market, though with what many critics describe as lackluster results. Mr. Obama's signature initiative to help homeowners is HAMP, the Home Affordable Modification Program. It did help many Americans lower their monthly payments, though only about 1 million homeowners have completed permanent modifications. (The modifications have saved the average family $536 a month.) The other major housing program â€" HARP, or the Home Affordable Refinance Program â€" has aided an additional 1.3 million homeowners.

So where does that five million number come from? It seems to include the three million modifications completed through the HOPE Now Alliance â€" an umbrella group of mortgage servicers, housing counselors and mortgage finance players. But it's not a government function, so the Democrats should not be taking credit there.

As for the credit fo r first-time homebuyers, economists think it enticed few new buyers into the market, instead encouraging people with the means and desire to buy a house to do so sooner than they otherwise might have to gain the credit.

Moreover, home prices continued to fall after the credit expired â€" in many places, they have only just bottomed out recently â€" leaving thousands of homeowners who took advantage of the credit underwater on their mortgages.

More generally, the Obama administration has met with broad criticism for not doing enough to aid homeowners â€" by changing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's rules to allow principal reduction for homeowners who owe more than their houses are worth, or by allowing bankruptcy courts to alter mortgages, or by simply reaching more homeowners with HAMP and HARP, for instance.

The administration combats those criticisms by arguing that doing more to help homeowners might have destabilized banks, or by saying that Congress would not have agreed to go along with more ambitious housing plans.

One way or another, housing remains a major drag on the economy, and millions of Americans remain at risk of losing their homes.

Ryan Says Prayer in Schools in a State Issue


PROVO, Utah - Prayer in public schools was prohibited by the United States Supreme Court in 1962, but Representative Paul D. Ryan said on Wednesday he believed states should have the right to decide whether it should be allowed.

“That's a constitutional issue of the states,'' Mr. Ryan told a campaign volunteer during a visit to a Romney for President call center in Orem.

The volunteer, Jenny Free, 40, said she was a mother of nine children and asked Mr. Ryan if “we could give back to the states the right to decide if you want prayer or pledge in the schools.''

Mr. Ryan called the decision to say a prayer or recite the Pledge of Allegiance a “moral responsibility of parents.''

“Exactly,” Ms. Free responded, according to footage shot by a television reporter for NBC News, “so I am hoping to try and push that.”

“You know, in Utah, I would think you would have a pretty good chance,'' Mr. Ryan told her.

Although excluding prayer from public schools is unpopular with many conservatives, the Supreme Court ruled it a violation of the First Amendment separation of church and state.

Mr. Ryan's comments were made the same day that Mitt Romney criticized the platform adopted at the Democratic National Convention for omitting the word “God,” which had been in previous platforms.

The omission “suggests a party that is increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of the American people,'' Mr. Romney said in an interview with Fox News. “I think this party is veering further and further away into an extreme wing that Americans don't recognize.''

Robert Gibbs, an adviser to the Obama campa ign, asked by CNN on Tuesday night if the omission was intentional, did not respond directly. “There's talk throughout the platform about faith and religion and I think that's what's important,” Mr. Gibbs said.

The Caucus Click: Gabby Douglas at the D.N.C.


For Blue Dog PAC, Cash but Few Candidates


The “super PAC” supporting Blue Dog candidates has a problem that on the surface would seem enviable: tons of cash on hand! But the reason is one no one would wish for a group - it does not have enough viable candidates to support.

With the decimation in the ranks of centrist House Democrats in recent years, the Blue Dog Coalition, the Blue Dog political action committee, has turned to dishing out cash to candidates via another PAC that may not quite meet its mission and even to a nonprofit dedicated to centrist legislative solutions.

In August, the PAC, which began the month with $1.7 million in its coffers, gave $700,000 to the House Majority PAC, a super PAC that is laboring to win the 25 seats needed for Democrats to take back the House, and $700,000 more to Center Forward, a social welfare organization. The House Majority PAC supports a variety of candidates, including those decidedly left of center.

Earlier in the year, Center Forward spent $1.25 million on an advertising campaign meant to bolster five Blue Dog Democrats who have supported deficit reduction and budget reforms as well as three House Republicans who voted against Representative Paul D. Ryan's budget proposal.

These are sad times for the Blue Dog Democrats - who once made up almost 20 percent of the House Democratic caucus - especially in North Carolina, where one retired this year rather than face re-election, and two others, Representatives Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell - are facing long re-election odds.

Mr. Kissell has tried to insulate himself from President Obama by staying away from the Democratic National Convention in his home state this week, which Republican s immediately mocked, even sending a car to his campaign headquarters in Concord on Wednesday morning to highlight the fact that the convention was a mere 20 miles away. (Mr. Kissell did not appear for the ride.)

Of the 24 Blue Dogs left in the House, several have already lost in a primary bid or are now facing uphill fights in Congressional districts newly drawn that favor Republicans.

Bank of America Adopts Simpler Checking Account Disclosure


Bank of America recently became the last of the three biggest United States banks to adopt simplified checking account disclosures, as advocated by an arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Chase and Citibank have already adopted such disclosures, as have roughly a dozen smaller banks and credit unions. Pew's Safe Checking in the Electronic Age project originally proposed a one-page format, but most banks have had to use at least two pages.

With the addition of Bank of America, five of the 12 largest banks have adopted the simplified format, Susan Weinstock, director of the checking project, said in a statement. “We urge other financial institutions to follow suit,” she said.

The format uses plai n language and makes it easier for consumers to see what sort of fees an account charges and to compare various banks' offerings. Most banks still use lengthy disclosures filled with legal jargon that is difficult for customers to decipher. A Pew report found that disclosure documents among the nation's 12 largest banks had a median length of 69 pages.

Does your bank use a simplified disclosure?

Romney to Appear on \'Meet the Press\'


CHARLOTTE - Mitt Romney will make his first appearance this Sunday on NBC's “Meet the Press,'' the iconic talk show, a move clearly intended to inject himself instantly back onto the main stage of the presidential campaign stage after ceding it to President Obama.

Mr. Romney has so far mostly stuck to interviews on Fox News Channel and its broadcast program with Chris Wallace, “Fox News Sunday.” So far, the only one of the old-line, Big Three Sunday programs he has granted an interview to is CBS's “Face the Nation.''

The “Meet the Press” appearance would seem to signal a new phase for Mr. Romney, when chances for free exposure on network television â€" especially at the tail end of his opponents' big week â€" must outweigh the risks of a stumble or gaffe.

Throughout history, “Meet the Press” has been a proving ground of sorts for presidential candidates, having pioneered the tough interview style where they are confronted with their own words from the past, splashed across the screen.

The interview, by the host David Gregory, is to be taped in New Hampshire this weekend.

Mr. Romney's relative absence from the campaign trail in recent days has even surprised Mr. Obama's aides, who expected he would seek to inject himself into the campaign coverage out of Charlotte here and there. He has busy with debate preparation and, it appears, practice for “Meet the Press.'

Democrats and the Party Platform Trip Up, It Seems, on Questions of Israel


CHARLOTTE, N.C. â€" The Democrats have accused Republicans of making Israel a political football in this election by painting President Obama as an unreliable partner for America's staunchest ally in the Middle East. But it seems that it is the Democrats who have tripped up on Israel at their convention this week, stirring discontent among pro-Israeli groups over a deleted line in the party platform and a disputed statement about an Israeli diplomat.

The 2012 Democratic platform does not include the sentence, “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel” â€" an assertion that was in the 2008 platform and has been featured in past platforms, Democratic and Republican.

The decision not to i nclude it this time was motivated by a desire to showcase other elements of Mr. Obama's commitment to Israel, according to the Obama campaign, notably the nearly $10 billion in military assistance that the United States has provided Israel in the last three years. The platform also emphasizes Mr. Obama's determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, including his threat to use military force as a last resort.

“Nobody can read that platform and come away thinking the president has been anything less than a steadfast supporter of Israel - as his record of unprecedented support for our ally over the past three and a half years shows,” said Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the campaign.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the nation's most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, proposed including language about Jerusalem's status as the Israeli capital in written testimony to the platform drafting committee.

While AIPAC was re assured by the language about military aid and the declaration of American support on Iran, a person close to the group said, “It was troubling that the language on Jerusalem that was in previous platforms was not in this platform.” Officials from AIPAC did not review or sign off on the final text in the platform, this person said.

The political status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues in any potential peace settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians, with both the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority asserting that the holy city is their capital.

While the 2008 platform embraced the city as the Israeli capital, it went on to note, “The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations.” That caveat echoes official United States policy, which has been to defer the question to negotiations.

The lack of language on Jerusalem does not reflect a shift in President Obama's position, according to a Democ ratic Party official, but the difference between a platform for a candidate for president and one for a sitting president.

“We didn't take positions on any of the final-status issues because the decision was made to focus on the president's record and because we have an administration that deals with this on a daily basis,” the Democratic official said.

The drafting committee held two public hearings on the text, a Democratic official said, and none of the Jewish and Israel advocacy groups in attendance, including AIPAC, proposed inserting language on Jerusalem. People close to the advocacy groups say the committee shared only “flashes” of the language with them.

Democratic officials note that the Republicans have not hesitated to use the Jerusalem issue for political purposes in its platform. The 2004 platform contained a reference to Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, even after President George W. Bush resisted pressure from Congress to move the A merican Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

On Tuesday, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, got into a dispute with Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael B. Oren, when she told a Democratic training group that Mr. Oren accused Republicans of endangering Israel by criticizing Mr. Obama's record on it.

“We know, and I've heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said, according to the Washington Examiner.

Mr. Oren quickly issued a statement saying, “I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel. Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.”

Speaking at the convention on Tuesday evening, Robert Wexler, a former congressman from Florida, offered a robust defense of Mr. Oba ma's record on Israel.

“Mitt Romney claimed that the president has thrown Israel under the bus,” Mr. Wexler said, “Perhaps Mr. Romney should listen to those who know best, Israel's leaders.” He cited statements from Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak, who said that military cooperation with the United States was at unprecedented levels.

A Button for Every Delegate


Are you left-handed? A cat lover? If you're at the Democratic National Convention and you support Barack Obama, there is a button for you. No group is too obscure to profess support for the President's re-election. Pearl divers, rejoice.

Button-shopping is, of course, a big convention activity. Convention volunteers in sneakers race back and forth, hauling plastic bags full of buttons, restocking the quickly vanishing piles. Their customers wait patiently for a new supply of “Women for Obama” buttons. Also popular: “¡Obama!” and “Hipsters for Obama.”

A central merchandise shop in the convention center boasts more than 50 different buttons with partisan themes. An image of a man mixi ng a drink announces, “Bartenders for Obama.” A figure riding a wave reads, “Surfers for Obama.”

“That's because we're the inclusive party,” observed Bionca Gambill, 55, a community organizer and delegate from Indiana. She planned to buy an “Aliens for Obama” button, which depicts shadowy figures and a section of extraterrestrial green, because she liked the double meaning.

Customers rummaged through the bins of various buttons, picking them up and putting them back down again. Am I a Zumba lover for Obama? Or does a “Retirees for Obama” button better sum me up? This is the stuff of identity crises.

Alas, in politics you can't please everyone. A Louisiana state representative, Alfred Williams, 61, had his hands full of buttons that he planned to give as gifts. But he could not find one to suit his profession. He lamented:

“I didn't see ‘attorneys.'”

Emanuel to Raise Money for Democratic \'Super PAC\'


Faced with tens of millions of dollars in attack ads from Republican outside groups, the Obama campaign and Democratic leaders in Congress are using their party convention to sharply accelerate fund-raising for Democratic “super PACs” in the final two months of the campaign.

Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, said on Wednesday that he had stepped down from his honorary position as co-chairman of President Obama's re-election campaign to help raise money for Priorities USA Action, a super PAC founded by two former Obama aides.

The deployment of Mr. Emanuel - a former chief of staff to Mr. Obama and an aggressive fund-raiser with close ties to the Obama and Clinton donor networks - gives D emocratic groups for the first time a dedicated rainmaker of a stature similar to Karl Rove, the strategist who advises a network of Republican outside groups that are expected to spend as much as $500 million in this election cycle. Mr. Emanuel will also raise money for two super PACs supporting Democrats in Congress, beginning with a fund-raiser in Chicago on Monday for House Majority PAC.

Mr. Emanuel isn't alone: As the party's elite donors gathered this week in Charlotte, N.C., for the Democratic convention, Congressional leaders were fanning out to receptions and happy hours for the outside groups that the party once embraced only hesitantly, if at all.

On Wednesday morning, as The Washington Post reported the news of his switch, Mr. Emanuel joined the party's Congressional leaders in Charlotte at a briefing for donors and potential donors hosted by James Simons, a hedge fund billionaire who is among a handful of Democratic donors who have made a seven-f igure contribution to a super PAC this year.

Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York all appeared, according to people who attended, much as prominent Republicans appeared at events in Tampa, Fla., for the Rove-founded American Crossroads and for Restore Our Future, a super PAC founded by former aides to Mitt Romney.

Driving the burst of activity is deep concern among Democrats at the vast fund-raising gulf between Democratic and Republican outside groups and Mr. Romney's apparent ease in matching Mr. Obama's own campaign fund-raising, leaving the Democrats severely outgunned. Mr. Romney is expected to report raising $100 million in August, far more than Mr. Obama and the Democrats are likely to report.

As delegates eyed Obama T-shirts and thronged the bars and restaurants, strategists affiliated with the Democratic groups worked the busy sidewa lk between the Charlotte Convention Center and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, one of three hotels hosting the Obama campaign's top donors and “bundlers,” charged with raising money.

“At the Democratic convention, you can get a lot of work done just walking down the street,” Bill Burton, an official with Priorities USA, said on Tuesday as he bounced between television appearances and private coffees with potential donors. While some had opened their checkbooks in Charlotte, Mr. Burton said - including one unnamed donor who committed $500,000 during a meeting - the groups were more interested in harnessing the enthusiasm around the convention and exploiting the presence of so many elite givers in a few blocks' radius.

“The goal is to give people a clear sense of what our plans are for the fall and catch them up on what we've done so far,” Mr. Burton said.

Mr. Burton's group raised $10 million in August, by far its best month, and Mr. Burton and others ra ising money for the group - including the Clinton veterans Harold Ickes and Paul Begala and a growing number of Mr. Obama's top bundlers - have tried to convince donors that they need not match groups like Crossroads dollar for dollar to be effective.

Unlike Crossroads, whose advertising barrages helped Republicans take control of the House in 2010, and Restore Our Future, which claims credit for helping Mr. Romney win the Republican nomination, the Democratic groups have a less obvious record of success. None of them existed until last year, in part because of the initial reluctance of Mr. Obama, who has publicly criticized outside groups and the 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, that helped pave the way for super PACs.

In briefings, Democratic strategists working with the group have argued that Priorities USA's relatively modest advertising buys had helped weaken Mr. Romney and have put him on the defensive over his business record.

“Our mis sion for the first half of the race was to take Romney's greatest strength, his business record, and make it his weakness,” Mr. Begala said on Tuesday. “He can't talk about his business record anymore. And he's just left with his charm.”

Mr. Begala had just headlined a cocktail hour at a Charlotte restaurant, where a crowd of potential super PAC supporters enjoyed an open bar. They were young - younger than the millionaires and billionaires who have provided most of the money for Republican groups - and fashionably dressed, some of them rising fund-raisers for Mr. Obama and some gatekeepers to major donors. The gathering to some extent reflected the shape of Democratic super PAC fund-raising so far: a smattering of large contributions from wealthy donors here and there, but far more checks in the five-figure range more typical of traditional candidate money.

“As soon as Soros and Lewis said no, we knew we weren't playing the Republican super PAC game,” said one Obama donor who attended, referring to George Soros and Peter Lewis, the liberal philanthropists who gave millions to outside groups in 2004 but have been far less supportive this time around.

“We're going to get there fifty, one hundred thousand dollars at a time,” the donor said.

After standing on a table to address the audience, Mr. Begala chatted with Representative Joseph Crowley of New York, a senior Democrat in Congress. Outside the restaurant, Mr. Begala dismissed talk of a cash gap, though he admitted it wasn't necessarily his specialty.

“I've never done this before, so I don't really know” if Democratic groups are raising enough, Mr. Begala said. “I know strategy.”

TimesCast Politics and Democratic Convention Day 2 at a Glance


Democrats on Wednesday will try to continue to build on the energy from Tuesday night's speeches, highlighted by an emotional address from the first lady, Michelle Obama. The Times's political unit will be broadcasting live with the latest from the convention, beginning at 2 p.m. Here are a few of the highlights from the program:

- Jackie Calmes, a White House correspondent, discusses Tuesday night's speeches and what is next for the Democrats at the convention.
- Jodi Kantor, a political reporter who has written a book on the Obamas, looks at President Obama's competitive side.
- Jim Roberts, an assistant managing editor, and Adam Sharp of Twitter explore the reaction to Tuesday night's s peeches on social media.
- Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed, sits down for an interview with Stephanie Newell, a powerful voice for Democrats on Twitter.

Opinion: Google+ Hangouts

Live at 4 p.m. Eastern time.

The Economy: Seven voters join the Op-Ed columnist Frank Bruni and David Firestone of The Times's editorial board in a discussion about the economy.

On the Floor

The Democrats will officially nominate President Obama for re-election Wednesday night, with a roll-call vote after the speeches. Live coverage of the night's events will begin at 7 p.m. Eastern time on NYTimes.com.

Former President Bill Clinton will speak during the 10 o'clock hour, continuing his streak of consecutive speeches at Democratic National Conventions dating back to 1998.

Elizabeth Warren, a candidate for United States Senate in Massachusetts, will also speak during the 10 o'clock hour, with a focus on the middle class.

Sandra Fluke, the Geo rgetown law student who made national headlines for her testimony on birth control and the fallout comments by Rush Limbaugh, will speak during the 9 o'clock hour.

Ryan Cites Policy Kinship With Bill Clinton


ADEL, Iowa - From tying President Obama to the economic stagnation under one former president, Jimmy Carter, the Romney-Ryan campaign has moved on to offering rosy recollections of another Democrat in the White House, Bill Clinton. In both cases the aim is to paint an unflattering contrast with Mr. Obama.

Anticipating Mr. Clinton's speech Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention, Representative Paul D. Ryan predicted at a rally here that “we'll get a great rendition of how good things were in the 1990s, but we're not going to hear much about how things have been the last four years.''

Mr. Ryan, who has been the tip of the Republican ticket's spear as Mitt Romney quietly preps for next month's presidential debates, praised Mr. Clinton for working with Republicans to pass welfare reform and budgets that cut spending. Mr. Obama, he said, tried to undo work requirements for welfare and has offered budgets with “a gusher of new spending.''

The president has shown “only demagoguery for those who've offered solutions,'' he said, speaking to a modest crowd before a picturesque county courthouse about 25 miles west of Des Moines.

In response, the Obama campaign characterized Mr. Ryan's description of the administration's offer to adjust the welfare law as a distortion. “Even he should know that President Clinton has joined with every independent fact checker, news organization and a Republican architect of welfare reform in calling the welfare attack blatantly false,” said Danny Kanner, a campaign spokesman.

Starting with the 2012 nominating race, Republicans have sought a measure of credit for the prosperit y of the Clinton era, the last time federal budgets ran a surplus. Democrats, too, paint those years as a golden era but for a different reason â€" to draw a contrast with George W. Bush‘s ledger of large deficits because of tax cuts and two unfunded wars.

With federal debt reaching a symbolic milestone of $16 trillion on Tuesday, both parties are engaged in a furious debate over whose economic policies can reverse the trend of growing deficits. Mr. Ryan, the intellectual author of the Republican commitment to stem explosive federal health care spending by transforming Medicare, also sought to link Mr. Clinton to the plan and portray it as enjoying bipartisan support.

“The Medicare reform that Mitt Romney and I are proposing,'' Mr. Ryan said, “it's an idea that came out of the Clinton commission to save Medicare.''

That picture is incomplete. Ten members on a 17-person commission in 1999 recommended that the government give subsidies to seniors to buy insurance â€" Mr. Ryan's plan â€" but the idea was rejected by the four Democrats appointed by Mr. Clinton, who also denounced the draft report, and the commission disbanded.

Mr. Ryan spoke on his second day in Iowa, a battleground state with only a handful of electoral votes, but a state where the Obama campaign has been waging an especially fierce stand. Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. along with their wives plan to campaign in Iowa City on Friday, the morning after Mr. Obama's acceptance speech and when new jobs numbers are due to come out.

Mr. Ryan suggested that he also might come back to Iowa, not only this year but in the future. Like waves of caucus candidates seeking a visceral connection with Iowans, he noted that he was from “corn and soybean country” in Wisconsin.

“You drive five miles that way,'' he said in this rural county seat, “it looks like five miles from my house.''

In Clinton and Warren, Competing Messages for the Middle Class


If you're a candidate for president, the convention affords you a fleeting window of opportunity, about three hours total of network airtime, to present speakers who will get across your one central message to the wide section of America. In the case of this Democratic convention, though, Wednesday's lineup reveals the essential dilemma that has often made President Obama's re-election campaign, and much of his presidency, seem as muddled as a Clint Eastwood monologue.

The opening festivities on Tuesday, at least before Michelle Obama's emotional prime-time appearance, were about dispensing with all the speakers whom Democrats didn't really want the rest of the county to notice. Jimmy Carter did a video. Nan cy Pelosi and Harry Reid took the stage to remind Americans of how much they love Congress. There was a moving tribute to Ted Kennedy.

Wednesday, though, begins the hard sell of President Obama to the middle class. And for this task, the campaign has juxtaposed two prime-time speakers - Elizabeth Warren and Bill Clinton, one right after the other - who in their core philosophies represent contradictory, even irreconcilable strains of American liberalism.

Mr. Obama's strategists will tell themselves what they have said since the president first ran in 2008 - that there is no real inconsistency in these two wings of the party, that both Mr. Clinton and Ms. Warren speak to the same imperiled middle class, a category so broad and ill-defined that the vast majority of Americans would say they belong to it.

In truth, though, Mr. Clinton and Ms. Warren speak to different audiences and reflect inescapably divergent perspectives on how to confront the epic challenge s of globalization and inequality.

Mr. Clinton is the president who made the sustained case to Democrats that they had to be pro-growth and pro-Wall Street, not just to get elected, but also to build a more modern economy. He was the one, as spokesman for the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, who told Democrats again and again that they couldn't succeed as a party that “loved jobs and hated business.” Mr. Clinton transformed welfare, balanced the budget and declared an end to the liberal era of government, which is why a lot of conservative-leaning independent voters would re-elect him if they could.

As a Harvard law professor during the Bush years, Ms. Warren, who is now a candidate for Senate in Massachusetts, came to represent a rebuke of such Clintonian expedience. Her indictment against the excesses of Wall Street and the abdication of centrist Democrats became popular among a new generation of old-style economic popu lists (most notably John Edwards and then Mr. Obama), who often cited Ms. Warren's arguments in making the case that the party had to reverse course from the Clinton years and rein in a business community that was prospering at the expense of the middle class.

The contradiction here isn't perfectly stark, of course, and there are ways in which the two overlap, politically and culturally. Mr. Clinton, for instance, lambasted the rising pay of executives, in relation to their employees, as far back as 1992, long before anyone had heard of Ms. Warren. And Ms. Warren isn't the privileged, effete liberal her critics would make her out to be; like Mr. Clinton, she's a self-made product of Middle America.

But in their essential worldviews, Mr. Clinton and Ms. Warren nicely embody the enduring confusion over what it is Mr. Obama really believes about the direction of his party and the country. As a candidate in 2008, Mr. Obama took advantage of an extraordinary moment to run as all things to all people; beneath the airy notion of “hope and change” lay an implicit appeal to disaffected independents and fatigued liberals. And this noncommittal strategy worked spectacularly.

As Mr. Clinton himself once told me, however, there are consequences for not clarifying one's own beliefs as a candidate and then trying to make it up as you go along in office. He wasn't talking specifically about Mr. Obama, but he might as well have been. As president, Mr. Obama has often seemed to veer between “postpartisan” pragmatism and anticorporate populism, confounding his supporters and satisfying neither constituency.

This time out, as a candidate, it seems unlikely that Mr. Obama can count on winning a majority of independent votes and turning out the same historic numbers of younger and minority voters. In the weeks ahead, he may have to finally decide whether to speak principally to the fickle voters who gave him a chance in 2008 or whethe r to fire up the more ideological types who want a more Warren-like champion.

You can probably pursue both objectives behind the scenes, and this is the kind of multitasking at which modern campaigns excel. But at a convention or during debates, when everyone is tuned to the same message, the divide is harder to bridge. Is Mr. Obama, at bottom, the Clintonian candidate who tried to hammer out a “grand bargain” on the budget with Republicans, or is he the more traditional Democrat who skewers Wall Street bankers as “fat cats” and pretends he can fix inequality with gimmicks like “the Buffet rule?”

A coherent convention should answer that question. On this night, at least, it won't.

Polls: Little to No Bounce for Romney


Several new polls show that in the immediate days after the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, did not see much of a boost to his campaign, although slightly more Americans now see him as someone who can understand the needs of the middle class.

A Gallup daily tracking poll conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 3 showed that Mr. Romney's support after the convention stood at 46 percent of registered voters, no different than the 47 percent who supported him in the days before the speeches and festivities in Tampa, Fla.

According to Gallup's analysis of polling results after previous conventions, Mr. Romney is the third nominee in recent history - and the firs t Republican - to gain little or no improvement in the polls in the days after his party's convention. The other nominees who saw little movement were George McGovern in 1972 and Senator John Kerry in 2004.

A CNN/ORC poll conducted at the same time as Gallup's recent one showed Mr. Romney's support at 48 percent in the wake of the convention. He is tied with President Obama, but at virtually the same level of support among likely voters polled Aug. 22 to 23.

However, the CNN poll did show a small tightening of the gap that existed on which candidate was more in touch with the problems facing middle-class Americans. Before the Republican convention, Mr. Obama held a 14-point advantage among likely voters over Mr. Romney on the issue; afterward, Mr. Obama held a 6-point edge.

Perhaps most tellingly, nearly half of registered voters said what they saw or read of the Republican convention made them less likely to vote for Mr. Romney than said it made them more likely to vote for him, while just over a third said they were more likely, and 1 in 8 said it made no difference. And the 46 percent who said they were less likely to vote for Mr. Romney was the highest negative response for either party's candidate following conventions going back to 1984, according to CNN polls.

But the Democrats will also have their work cut out for them during their time in Charlotte, N.C. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll found Mr. Obama's favorability at 47 percent, his lowest rating since December among registered voters. In the poll, Mr. Romney had a slight 5-point boost in his favorability post-convention, but at 43 percent, he is experiencing the same doldrums as his opponent.

And the CNN poll also found that a majority of registered voters said the Republicans spent too much of their convention criticizing the Democrats and saying positive things about themselves, including 58 percent of independen ts. Just about a third said the Republicans maintained the right balance.

At the opening day of their convention, Democrats did their fair share of attacking the other party, and it remains to be seen if that approach will help or hurt their own candidate.

The Gallup tracking surveys interviewed 1,827 registered voters, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. The CNN/ORC poll interviewed 1,005 adults, including 877 registered voters and 735 likely voters, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points for the likely voters. All three surveys included cellphones and landlines. The ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted Aug. 29 to Sept. 2 among 1,002 adults and 842 registered voters, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four points for the registered voters.

Polls: Little to No Bounce for Romney


Several new polls show that in the immediate days after the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, did not see much of a boost to his campaign, although slightly more Americans now see him as someone who can understand the needs of the middle class.

A Gallup daily tracking poll conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 3 showed that Mr. Romney's support after the convention stood at 46 percent of registered voters, no different than the 47 percent who supported him in the days before the speeches and festivities in Tampa, Fla.

According to Gallup's analysis of polling results after previous conventions, Mr. Romney is the third nominee in recent history - and the firs t Republican - to gain little or no improvement in the polls in the days after his party's convention. The other nominees who saw little movement were George McGovern in 1972 and Senator John Kerry in 2004.

A CNN/ORC poll conducted at the same time as Gallup's recent one showed Mr. Romney's support at 48 percent in the wake of the convention. He is tied with President Obama, but at virtually the same level of support among likely voters polled Aug. 22 to 23.

However, the CNN poll did show a small tightening of the gap that existed on which candidate was more in touch with the problems facing middle-class Americans. Before the Republican convention, Mr. Obama held a 14-point advantage among likely voters over Mr. Romney on the issue; afterward, Mr. Obama held a 6-point edge.

Perhaps most tellingly, nearly half of registered voters said what they saw or read of the Republican convention made them less likely to vote for Mr. Romney than said it made them more likely to vote for him, while just over a third said they were more likely, and 1 in 8 said it made no difference. And the 46 percent who said they were less likely to vote for Mr. Romney was the highest negative response for either party's candidate following conventions going back to 1984, according to CNN polls.

But the Democrats will also have their work cut out for them during their time in Charlotte, N.C. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll found Mr. Obama's favorability at 47 percent, his lowest rating since December among registered voters. In the poll, Mr. Romney had a slight 5-point boost in his favorability post-convention, but at 43 percent, he is experiencing the same doldrums as his opponent.

And the CNN poll also found that a majority of registered voters said the Republicans spent too much of their convention criticizing the Democrats and saying positive things about themselves, including 58 percent of independen ts. Just about a third said the Republicans maintained the right balance.

At the opening day of their convention, Democrats did their fair share of attacking the other party, and it remains to be seen if that approach will help or hurt their own candidate.

The Gallup tracking surveys interviewed 1,827 registered voters, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. The CNN/ORC poll interviewed 1,005 adults, including 877 registered voters and 735 likely voters, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points for the likely voters. All three surveys included cellphones and landlines. The ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted Aug. 29 to Sept. 2 among 1,002 adults and 842 registered voters, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four points for the registered voters.

The Agenda: Shifting Views on Climate Change


President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, have spelled out their views on climate change in a bit more detail than they usually do on the campaign trail in response to questions from a group of scientific organizations.

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In written statements posted on Tuesday at the Web site of Sciencedebate.org, the candidates added some clarity to their views on global warming, but in a way that also raised some questions about their consistency.

Sciencedebate.org, which counts among its members the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Scientific American magazine and do zens of other professional and academic scientific societies, was created with the goal of raising the profile of scientific and technical questions in the presidential campaign.

In his response to the group's question on climate change, Mr. Obama called it “one of the biggest issues of this generation” but stopped short of calling for a cap and trade system or other broad national policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, something that he had favored during the 2008 campaign. He said his administration had set stricter limits on emissions from vehicles, invested billions in clean energy research and proposed the first limits on carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. He also said that the United States was leading international negotiations on climate change, although those talks have so far had little impact on greenhouse gas levels worldwide.

Mr. Romney, whose views â€" or at least, his language â€" on climate change have shifted marke dly over the years, gave one of his most forceful statements on the question yet. “I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences,” he wrote.

“However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue â€" on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution and the severity of the risk â€" and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.”

That is a distinct shift from last October, when Mr. Romney said: “We don't know what's causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

In his statement to the science group, he criticized the president's appro ach to global warming, saying that when Congress rejected his cap and trade proposal, Mr. Obama proposed federal regulations that would bankrupt the coal industry, raise manufacturing costs and drive jobs overseas. He was also critical of the president's international efforts, saying that the United States has done nothing to curb emissions in the developing world and that unilateral action by this country would simply shift manufacturing to nations with looser environmental laws.

Mr. Romney said he supported government financing for clean energy technology development and a reduction in regulation to allow faster deployment of new and existing energy sources, including nuclear power.

The 2012 Republican platform makes little mention of climate change except to criticize the Obama administration for raising it to the status of a national security threat. In his nomination acceptance speech last week, Mr. Romney ridiculed a statement that Mr. Obama made at the en d of the 2008 primaries that future generations would look back at his nomination as the moment when “the rise of the oceans began to slow and our plant began to heal.”

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet,” Mr. Romney said in his convention speech. My promise is to help you and your family.”

The 2012 Democratic platform is less muscular on the subject than its 2008 version. The 2008 version refers to climate change as an “epochal, man-made threat to the planet” and called for dramatic changes in energy production and consumption through an economy-wide cap and trade system.

In 2012, with the economy still reeling from the effects of the recession, the party moderated its tone, referring to climate change as “one of the biggest threats of this generation” and a “catastrophe in the making.” The platform calls for accelerated efforts to develop clean energy sources, but makes no mention o f cap and trade or a carbon tax to drive down greenhouse gas emissions.

We'll wait to see what President Obama will say on the subject when he accepts his party's nomination on Thursday night . . .

At the Democratic Convention, an Emphasis on Social Issues


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - On Monday night, Michelle Obama told the nation that her husband wants everyone to succeed no matter “who we love.”

If that was not clear enough, she returned to the point later in her address. “If proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love,” she said, “then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American dream.”

She was not the only one. At times it seemed as if almost every speaker on the first night of the Democratic National Convention was touting same-sex marriage.

“When it comes to letting people marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says no,” Mayor Julián Castro of San A ntonio said of the Republican nominee.

“Today in Massachusetts, you can also marry whomever you love,” said that state's governor, Deval Patrick.

Kal Penn, the actor and former White House aide, praised Mr. Obama for being “cool with all of us getting gay-married.”

The two back-to-back conventions are highlighting an interesting role reversal between the political parties. The Republicans, who in the past eagerly waged a culture war, tried to emphasize economic issues, while the Democrats, stuck with a bad economy, were no longer running away from social issues that once petrified their strategists.

Same-sex marriage was the most obvious example of that, although not the only one. Democrats were eager to talk about abortion rights and contraception, issues they hope will rev up their liberal base and paint Mr. Romney's Republican Party as out of the mainstream. A speaker scheduled for Wednesday night is Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law graduat e whose support for Mr. Obama's mandate for insurance coverage of contraceptives has made her a party favorite.

But if abortion has been a critical issue for Democrats for years, same-sex marriage has moved to the forefront in a striking way. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed legislation defining marriage as the union of a man and woman, and just eight years ago, President George W. Bush supported a Constitutional amendment codifying that, while nearly a dozen states held referendums to ban same-sex nuptials.

Mr. Obama had formally opposed same-sex marriage until switching positions this year. Now that he has declared his support for the practice, the party has put same-sex marriage in its platform for the first time.

“The center of gravity on gay marriage has moved at an amazingly quick pace toward support for marriage equality, and the majority of voters are comfortable with the position Obama has taken on it,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic poll ster. “The issue is a defining one for younger voters, who see it as a litmus test of whether someone is in sync with modern times and their generation.”

Even so, Democrats are trying to couch their support with careful language. With the exception of Mr. Penn, most did not use the word “gay” but instead framed it as allowing everyone to marry “who they love.”

Some strategists said the embrace of same-sex marriage carried risks, particularly with older voters who are not as comfortable with it. While polls show a shift in public attitudes, particularly among the young, advocates of same-sex marriage have lost every statewide referendum that has gone on the ballot.

Just days before Mr. Obama announced his change of position, voters here in North Carolina became the 31st state to approve an amendment to the State Constitution banning same-sex marriage. Others have banned it via state legislature.

Other states will vote this fall. Maryland, w here state lawmakers and Gov. Martin O'Malley approved same-sex marriage this year, will vote in November on whether to ratify the move, and some advocates believe that may be the first state where the public supports the practice.

Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary under Mr. Bush, said Democrats were taking a gamble in focusing on divisive social issues, just as Republicans have in the past, if from the opposite ideological pole.

“It tells you how far the Democratic Party has changed,” he said. “Issues where only the most liberal were comfortable talking about - now the entire party reverberates to that beat.”

He added: “Republicans define themselves for many swing voters as too interested and too focused on divisive social issues. The open question is, are Democrats at risk of alienating independent voters because of their overemphasis on social issues.”

A Tool for Those Who Fall Behind on Student Debt


Have you fallen behind on your student loan payments? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau this summer introduced an online tool to help you evaluate your options.

The “Student Loan Debt Collection Assistant” asks a series of questions to help you determine what steps to take if you've missed payments or think you may in the future. It starts by asking if you have federal loans - like a Perkins or Stafford loan - or private loans. (If you aren't sure, the site has a link to the National Student Loan Data System, where you can find the answer). Federal loans generally have more protections for borrowers who fall behind on payments.

If you've missed payments already, the tool advises you to con tact your loan servicer - the company that collects and keeps track of your payments - to see what can be done to avoid going into default.

If you have federal loans, for instance, you should ask your servicer about alternative payment arrangements, like income-based repayment plans, which may significantly lower your monthly payment.

Fewer protections are available on private loans. In some cases, you can be considered in default if you miss just two payments.

The site says that even if you are in default on a private loan, you have rights. For example, debt collectors attempting to obtain payment of a private student loan cannot garnish your wages without a court order, or seize your federal or state tax refund.

Take a look at the tool and let us know what you think. Have you fallen behind on your student loans? What steps did you take?

Obama Convention Speech Moved from Stadium


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - President Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention has been moved indoors, aides said, because of concerns over threatening storms here on Thursday.

The appearance at Bank of America Stadium was an effort to reprise Mr. Obama's speech four years ago when he accepted the party's nomination at Invesco Field in Denver. The campaign hailed it as an opportunity to organize tens of thousands of grass-roots supporters.

“We have been monitoring weather forecasts closely and several reports predict thunderstorms in the area, therefore we have decided to move Thursday's proceedings to Time Warner Cable Arena to ensure the safety and security of our delegates and co nvention guests,” said Steve Kerrigan, the convention's top official.

Wednesday Reading: When Restaurant Prices Vary by Reservation Time


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.

A Closer Look at Jobs Claims


One of the more frequently cited statistics at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday was the claim that the United States has added 4.5 million private-sector jobs since the beginning of 2010 - but the figure does not tell the whole story of the labor market under President Obama.

The number was cited, in various ways, in the Democratic Party platform, and in the convention speeches of Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio. In his keynote speech, Mr. Castro said: “Four years ago, America stood on the brink of a depression. Despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our president took action, and now we've seen 4.5 mi llion new jobs.”

The nation does have 4.5 million more private-sector jobs than it did in January 2010. But by then, Mr. Obama had already been in office for a year. Starting the jobs count in January 2009, the month Mr. Obama took office, shows that the nation now has only 332,000 more private-sector jobs now. Figuring out when to start the count is not easy. Mr. Obama did not take office until Jan. 20, 2009, and his policies did not have time to take effect for months. But when evaluating claims about jobs creation, it is worth looking at when the starting point is.

And note: the Democrats are only talking about private-sector jobs. States, cities and localities have cut hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs in recent years to balance their budgets. Counting all jobs - private and public sector - there are slightly fewer jobs now than there were in January 2009, or slightly more jobs now than there were in February 2009, Mr. Obama's first full month in office.

Can We Have Your Autograph, Mr. Gibbs?


CHARLOTTE, N.C. â€" If you are into celebrity-spotting â€" and who isn't? - trolling the halls of political conventions can be rewarding, as long as your standards are not too high. Think less George Clooney and more Andrea Mitchell or Chuck Schumer.

But Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary?

Perhaps it is a measure of the fact that not all the big names have landed here in Charlotte yet. Or that this is a crowd that watches a lot of Sunday morning television. Nonetheless, Mr. Gibbs, who is now an outside adviser to Mr. Obama, was mobbed â€" mobbed! â€" when he walked through the convention hall on Tuesday.

“Can I get a picture?” one man asked, as Mr. Gibbs, ever obliging, stopped to pose for one group after another for smiling grip-and-grin photographs. Mr. Gibbs clearly showed he had learned something from his years in politics (before Mr. Obama, Mr. Gibbs worked for the presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts), patiently accommodating each request.

“Oh you're from Alabama?” said Mr. Gibbs, who is from Alabama, engaging in a bit of small talk.

An aide frantically gestured at his wrist to indicate that the celebrity was late for something, a television reporter, microphone in hand, swooped in for an interview, and Mr. Gibbs was happy to oblige.

We will head back to the hall shortly to see if Mr. Gibbs is still there.

Republicans Ask \'Are You Better Off?\' and Many Reply \'Yes\'


Early on Tuesday, the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Republicans took to Twitter and moved to shape the conversation on the Internet about the state of the country since President Obama was elected in 2008. Using Twitter's sponsored hashtag feature, they promoted a question that was anything but rhetorical: #areyoubetteroff

According to data reported by Twitter, more than 31,000 tweets used the hashtag #areyoubetteroff since its first mention on Sept ember 2, representing a modest response to the Republican National Committee's query. Some of the replies they expected, but many that perhaps they did not.

For some Twitter users, the answer to the R.N.C.'s question was clear: no.

Others let photographs they had taken answer the question:

But for many who replied, their answer looked to America's future, not its present. Lynn Davis, a candidate for West Virginia's House of Delegates, shared an answer common to many of the respondents:

Many also shared replies that appeared to reflect their perception of the dire economic straits faced by others, without mentioning their own condition directly:

While the Republicans may have hoped to build the case that most Americans feel they are not better off, they appeared to receive replies they did not intend. Many users on Twitter responded affirmatively, often describin g in vivid detail how their lives had improved since Mr. Obama's election. And many of the positive messages appeared on the R.N.C.'s own Web site, too:

One Twitter user also wondered if Mitt Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, were better off since 2008:

The positive responses also raised the social and foreign policies that Mr. Obama is likely to highlight:

And one of Mr. Obama's actions on national security also provoked a variety of tongue-in-cheek responses like this one:

The Republican National Committee succeeded in touching off a wide-ranging discu ssion about whether Americans feel they are better off now than they were four years ago. But as often as the Twitter users who responded reinforced the Republican Party's message, those who are sympathetic to Mr. Obama were able to make the “#areyoubetteroff” hashtag assist the Democrats' cause, too.

Wasserman Schultz Comments Draw Denial from Israeli Ambassador


CHARLOTTE, N.C. â€" For the last two years, Democrats have worked hard to dispel the impression that their party is losing its traditional hold on Jewish voters because of the chilly relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the efforts of Republicans, including Mitt Romney, to cultivate Israeli leaders.

Now, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, has drawn a sharp denial from Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael B. Oren, after claiming that he had accused Republicans of endangering Israel by criticizing Mr. Obama's record. Ms. Wasserman Schultz made her comments at a training sess ion for Jewish Democrats at the Democratic National Convention.

According to The Washington Examiner, which first reported the comments, Ms. Wasserman Schultz said that Republicans were trying to drive a wedge between Jewish voters and Mr. Obama by distorting and mischaracterizing his record on Israel. “We know, and I've heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel,” she said.

In his statement, Mr. Oren said: “I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel. Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.”

Live Updates From the Democratic Convention

The Times will be providing updates and analysis from Charlotte on our live dashboard. You can also follow along on Twitter @thecaucus, or follow our list of Times journalists covering the convention.

But Wait, There\'s More. Excerpts From Conversations With President Clinton.


On a recent Clinton Foundation trip to Africa, former President Bill Clinton discussed a range of topics - from health care and the political climate in Washington to the shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's future plans. Here are edited excerpts of those conversations, which took place in mid-July in South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda and Cyprus.

NYT: Do you think the political climate is worse in Washington than it was when you were in office?

Mr. Clinton: I don't know, nobody has accused the president of murder yet. Nobody has tried to bankrupt him with bogus investigations, so it's not quite as bad. But the political impasse has gone on longer. … In tha t sense, my time was extremely painful for the people involved but not so bad for the American public. … Nothing has broken the logjam yet. The election will break it. If the president wins, then anyone who wants to stay in business and wants to hang onto their majority will work together. Or, the logjam will break with Mr. Romney's election and they'd just implement their agenda, which I believe will be very bad for the economy. But the election will break the logjam.

NYT: We've seen a lot of the work in Africa of the C.H.A.I. [Clinton Health Access Initiative] program. Speaking of access to health care, what did you think about the Supreme Court's recent health care decision?

Mr. Clinton: The Supreme Court decision on health care was legally curious. I personally thought it was an easy decision.

NYT: About that mandate, during the 2008 primary Barack Obama sparred with your wife about her insistence on a mandate. And now it's the centerpiece of his heal th care plan. Was that just good politics?

Mr. Clinton: Yes. First of all, Obama was right, it was good politics. I remember when I was governor being visited by this delegation of motorcyclists who were mad at me because I didn't support the repeal of the helmet mandate. These bikers kind of liked me and thought I was sort of this rednecky guy and they said: “How can you do this? This is crazy. We want to ride without a helmet so we can feel the breeze in our hair and hear things.” And I said: “I know you do. But you do not have a right to have an accident in which you do not die but you are seriously injured and then the rest of us have to pay for you.”

The debate between Obama and Hillary in the primary, first of all, he ran a very adroit primary and he was very smart politically and in fairness to him, he hadn't dealt with the dirty details and the complexities of health care. She knew from all the work we'd done bef ore that if you didn't have a mandate, it wouldn't work. And, in fairness, when we started out we didn't have an individual mandate because we had an employer mandate. … I thought the president deserved credit. Most people running for president try to do as close to what they say they're going to do as possible unless they were convinced they were wrong or circumstances had changed. We're glad Lincoln didn't keep his promise to not free the slaves. We're glad Roosevelt didn't keep his promise to balance the budget.

NYT: After the Columbine shooting in 1999, you spoke out in favor of stricter gun laws. Do you think Mr. Obama should do the same in light of the shooting in Colorado?

Mr. Clinton: He's from Chicago. I'm from Arkansas. I had a .22 and was shooting cans off fence posts when I was 10 or 11 years old. They tried hard to demonize me, but the reason I was able to prevail with the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban - but never did get the gun show loop hole passed once the Republicans got to Congress - is that I came from a culture where people could hear me talk about it and they couldn't imagine me shutting them out of deer season. … I had this brilliant great uncle. I bet his I.Q. was 185 with about a sixth-grade education. I said: “What in the hell is this? Nobody really thinks I'm going to take their guns away.” He said: “No, Bill, but you've got to remember guys like me. We never took a vacation in our lives. We don't have anything but hunting and fishing.” He was a very blunt guy. I said, “‘Do you actually think they believe I'd take their guns away from them?” He said, “Hell no, but they don't want to take a chance.” … It's very important if you want to take this on not to treat all these rural people like they're stupid or don't have legitimate concerns.

NYT: Your wife's approval rating is nearly 70 percent. What do you make of that?

Mr. Clinton: I know that in general, secretarie s of state and defense tend to become popular because they are by definition out of politics. … But I don't think it's very complicated. I think the country sees her the way those of us who know her see her. She just gets up every day, goes to work and pushes a rock up the hill. If it falls back down, she pushes it up the hill again.

You know, when we were going together in law school and I realized I loved her, I said, “You know, I want to marry you, but you shouldn't marry me.” I literally had this conversation with her. And she said, “Why?” I was 26 or 27 when I got out of law school. I'd worked on the McGovern campaign. I'd met all these guys who were against the Vietnam War. I'd seen people in our generation who are the most prominent and I said, “You're the most gifted of all of them.” And she just laughed at me and said, “What are you talking about?,” and I said: “You should be in public life. You should go home to Chicago or go to New York o r someplace and practice law and you should be in public office.” She said: “Look at how hard hitting I am. Nobody will ever vote for me for anything.” So she went to Arkansas with me.

NYT: Does she want to turn her current popularity into another run for the presidency?

Mr. Clinton: She believes she is leaving politics. She believes she's going to write a book or do her N.G.O. work and try to influence policy. But this whole rise of the Tea Party has made us both think we can't ignore politics. That's why I wrote that little book “Back to Work.” But that's what she believes. And she points out that we're not kids anymore and a lot of people want to be president. She doesn't think she'll ever run again. But I think we need to let her rest, and I'd be for whatever she wants to do.

NYT: Mr. Clinton discussed when he talks to his wife given their crazy travel schedules:

I just talked to her. She was pumped. She went to those 9 countries in 12 d ays. … Hillary started exercising like crazy. She does it at 6:30 in the morning. She has this trainer come by. I told Chelsea, I feel bad calling her so early, but I said, “O.K., I'm calling,” and she'd already been working out for 30 minutes in the swimming pool with this trainer.

NYT: What are you reading at the moment?

Mr. Clinton: I just finished “The Social Conquest of Earth,” a fabulous book, and I read a few weeks ago E. J. Dionne's book and I've been gorging on mysteries on this trip so I can read myself to sleep. … I have a Kindle and I have an iPad, but I don't have it hooked up for books. I've started to use the Kindle because I've outbuilt my house with all the books. I've been trying to give a lot of my books to my school to build out their library. I suppose I'll get into it [e-reading]. I like holding a book, but it's a pain in the rear when you're traveling all over Africa.

Amy Chozick is The Times's corpor ate media reporter. Follow @amychozick on Twitter.

A Tribute to Kennedy and a Tweak for Romney


The Democrats honored one of their liberal lions, the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and used him to tweak Mitt Romney, who challenged him unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1994. In a video tribute, Mr. Kennedy was shown debating Mr. Romney over abortion rights during that campaign. Mr. Romney insisted he supported Roe vs. Wade, a position he later disavowed.

“I'm pro-choice,” Mr. Kennedy declared, with a gibe that has been thrown at Mr. Romney many times in his political career. “My opponent is multiple choice.”

The video portrayed President Obama as the steward of Mr. Kennedy's legislative legacy, with his passage of longtime Kennedy causes like the health care overhaul and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mr. Kennedy's endorsement of Mr. Obama in 2008 was a crucial imprimatur for the young senator in his battle with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mr. Kennedy's grand-nephew, Joe Kennedy III, a candidate for the 4th Congressional district in Massachusetts, appeared before the crowd to say, “This is the first convention since 1956 that we meet without Senator Ted Kennedy. But make no mistake: he is here with us tonight.”

“As we pause to remember Senator Kennedy,” the tousled-haired Mr. Kennedy said, “we recommit ourselves to the leader he trusted to carry on his causes.”

Caroline Kennedy will speak at the convention on Wednesday night.

Republicans criticized the video as inappropriate. “Classless Dems use tribute video of deceased Ted Kennedy to attack Mitt Romney,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, in a Twitter message.