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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Obama Ad Tries to Answer: Are You Better Off Than Four Years Ago?


A new ad from President Obama confronts head on one of the most potentially damaging questions lingering over his re-election hopes: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

Recent polls have shown that more Americans feel that they are not better off. But Mr. Obama is telling them that they are.

“Here's where we were in 2008,” an announcer says in the ad, which is running in seven battleground states, including some of the hardest hit by the recession, like Nevada and Florida.

“The worst financial collapse since the Great Depression,” a newscaster says. On the screen flashes “4.4 million jobs lost.”

The ad then pivots to 2012 to make the argument that has been a t the heart of Mr. Obama's case for re-election: that the country is moving in the right direction, albeit slowly. “We're not there yet, but the real question is, ‘Whose plan is better for you?'”

Mr. Obama has been arguing not just that his plan to economic prosperity is moving in the right direction â€" forward, as his campaign slogan says â€" but that Mitt Romney's policies would take the country back.

This ad doubles down on that argument, pointing to Mr. Obama's plans to ask the wealthy to pay higher taxes and Mr. Romney's support for less business regulation. The ad also raises again a claim made in a study that Mr. Romney's campaign has disputed, saying that his tax plan would actually raise taxes on middle class families by $2,000.

At Rally, Elizabeth Warren Takes More Aggressive Stance


BOSTON - During a rally on Saturday, Elizabeth Warren questioned the record and credibility of Senator Scott P. Brown, energizing a crowd of more than 700 people as the Senate race in Massachusetts turned more aggressive and pointed.

“Scott Brown isn't a bad guy, he takes some good votes,” said Ms. Warren, speaking to a crowd at Boston University that appeared to be more than half college students and young voters, joined by middle-aged and older voters from the area. “But when it gets tough, when it comes down to the big votes that matter to working people across the commonwealth of Massachusetts, too often, Scott P. Brown has been on the side of the millionaires and the billionaires.”

The rally comes the same week as both Ms. Warren and Mr. Brown introduced their first attack ads of the campaign. Ms. Warren's campaign points to Mr. Brown's record, trying to paint him as inconsistent while conceding that he is as personable as his own campaign has made him out to be.

In her speech, which lasted about 15 minutes, Ms. Warren went through a list of voting groups - including students, the elderly, women and the unemployed - contrasting parts of Mr. Brown's voting record with her own policy aims.

“Women,” said Ms. Warren, addressing one of those groups, to cheers. “Scott Brown voted against equal pay for equal work and voted to block women's access to insurance coverage on birth control,” referring to Mr. Brown's vote against the Paycheck Fairness Act and his support for the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed employers to keep birth control out of employees' health insurance plans.

“Me, I want t o go to Washington to fight for women,” she continued, bringing women and men around the room to their feet.

While the Brown campaign did not issue a direct response to the speech, an early-morning statement criticized the attack ad put out earlier this week by Ms. Warren's campaign.

“We had hoped for better in this campaign,” said Jim Barnett, the manager of the Brown campaign. “Scott Brown is beholden to no one. We need more independent voices like Scott Brown who will always do what is right for Massachusetts, and not cave to the whims of party bosses in Washington.”

Ms. Warren ended her speech with an endorsement of the role of government in strengthening the country, a campaign theme that first gained notoriety in a video that became popular last fall.

“The vision of my Republican opponent and the Republican Party can be boiled down to this: I've got mine, and the rest of you are on your own,” Ms. Warren said. “We are a better peo ple than that.”

“We came out of the Great Depression and what did we do as a people? We invested. We invested in ourselves, we invested in our kids, we invested in our future,” Ms. Warren said. “We didn't know what the next great business would be, we didn't know who would start it, but we were pretty sure you were going to need to plug in when you did,” she said, to some laughter.

At the rally, Peter Alvarez, a second-year law student at Boston University, echoed the criticisms of Mr. Brown.

“I think she did a good job juxtaposing herself and his votes,” Mr. Alvarez said. “I think she needed to harp on, for the people of Massachusetts, what Scott Brown has done. He's only on our side when it's an easy vote.”

Sunday Breakfast Menu, Sept. 16


Rising unrest in the Arab world will dominate this week's Sunday shows, with each broadcast focusing almost exclusively on diplomacy and the fallout from the attack that killed four Americans at the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Interim President Mohammed Magarief of Libya will appear on CBS's “Face the Nation” to look at the unfolding situation in the Middle East, where anti-American protests have spread to more than 20 countries. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, will discuss the policy ramifications as well, along with Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Martin S. Indyk, former American Ambassador to Israel and Susan E. Rice, American ambassador t o the United Nations.

Ms. Rice will also appear on NBC's “Meet the Press”, CNN's “State of the Nation,” ABC's “This Week” and FOX's “Fox News Sunday.” She will delve into the impact the continuing protests will have on American relations in the Middle East.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel will discuss the mounting tension between his country and Iran on “Meet the Press,” and he will talk about the strength of Israel's relationship with the United States on CNN. “State of the Union” also nabbed an exclusive with Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, to assess her chances of taking back the speakership this fall.

Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, will appear on “Fox News Sunday” to evaluate what American involvement should be in the Arab region.

Univision's Al Puto will keep the dialogue going with Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtin en, Republican of Florida and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Representative Silvestre Reyes, Democrat of Texas and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, will appear on the program as well.

C-SPAN's “Newsmakers” will host a conversation with Representative Harold Rogers, Republican of Kentucky, about the appropriations process and the continuing resolution passed this week to fund the government through 2013.

Bloomberg's “Political Capital” has an interview with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

The Early Word: Toss-Up


Today's Times

  • A New York Times/CBS News poll showed that the presidential race is still narrowly divided and highly susceptible to unexpected events, Jeff Zeleny and Megan Thee-Brenan report. While President Obama has taken a lead where Mitt Romney once had an advantage â€" the economy â€" the outcome could turn on how the candidates are perceived after their three debates in October.
  • Mitt Romney is hardly short on campaign promises or policy proposals, but on several key items, there are big blanks that he has yet to fill, Michael Cooper writes.
  • After a Kansas man withdrew his petition arguing that President Obama should not be on the ballot because he did not mee t citizenship requirements, state officials said they would try to obtain a birth certificate anyway, John Eligon reports.
  • Mitt Romney and Representative Paul D. Ryan delivered unusually varied messages on Friday, with Mr. Romney talking pop culture on morning television and his running mate pounding President Obama in caustic terms at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, Ashley Parker and Trip Gabriel report.
  • The White House budget office delivered a line by line report to Congress on Friday, detailing exactly what would happen next year if Washington refused to act on the $100 billion spending cuts scheduled to begin Jan. 2, 2013, Jonathan Weisman reports. But nothing will happen before the November elections, whose outcome will have some effect on what any future agreement would look like.
  • Though Mr. Romney has claimed to have a critical distinction from President Obama on Iran's nuclear program, he has had difficulty e xpressing their differences over where to draw the line, David E. Sanger and Ashley Parker report.

Weekly Addresses

  • President Obama reflected on the legacy of the four Americans killed in an attack on a diplomatic post in Libya this week. “They died as they lived their lives â€" defending their fellow Americans, and advancing the values that all of us hold dear,” he said, adding that “we must also send a clear and resolute message to the world: those who attack our people will find no escape from justice.”  He underscored the country's respect for all faiths, while also rejecting any excuse for attacks on embassies and consulates. Calling on the nation to remember “that our spirit cannot be broken,” he said that his administration is working with foreign governments to help protect Americans abroad, and he asked that the memory of those who died guide the country going forward.
  • Representative Allen B. West of Florida deliv ered the Republican Party's weekly address, using the recent violence in Libya to condemn Congressional inaction on sequestration.  “I cannot underestimate the amount of damage these cuts would do to our military,” he said. “Remember how critical it is that the United States projects strength, that we remain vigilant and resolute in the defense of our liberties and way of life.” He applauded his colleagues in the House for producing a “responsible plan to replace these ‘devastating' cuts,” while accusing President Obama of failing to lead Washington to a solution by opposing that plan.

Around the Web

  • Officials in Ohio believe that their “battleground” status should get them both party conventions in 2016, Politico reports.
  • Rest assured, everyone. Congressional salaries will not be affected by the sweeping sequester cuts, Politico says.
  • World Wrestling Entertainment will be deleting clips from its Web site, because “some of this footage is being misused in political environments without any context or explanation as to when it was produced,” The CT Mirror reports. Linda E. McMahon, a Republican Senate candidate and co-founder of the company, was recently targeted in ads featuring edgy footage from the days when W.W.E.'s programming was rated TV-14.

Happenings in Washington

A Rally for Warren, as Massachusetts Senate Race Intensifies


Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate who has seemed on the ropes in the hard-fought Massachusetts Senate race, has planned a major rally for Saturday in Boston with Gov. Deval Patrick.

The rally, at Boston University, comes as the race against Senator Scott P. Brown, a Republican, has intensified, with both candidates broadcasting their first attack ads of the campaign.

The two are preparing to face off on Thursday in the first of four debates in what many consider the premiere Senate race of this election cycle. It is the most expensive Congressional race in the country and the most expensive in Massachusetts history and could help determine which party controls the Senate next year.

Ms. Warren, who has been under pressure from supporters to rejigger her ad campaign and connect more on a personal level with voters, was the first to mention her opponent in a new ad that was broadcast Thursday. It features Art Ramalho, the trainer for the boxer Micky Ward, saying that Mr. Brown has been “siding with the big-money guys” and that Ms. Warren is a gutsy fighter.

Mr. Brown came back Friday with two ads. In the first, he says Ms. Warren is “being dishonest about who I am and what I stand for.” The ad does not explain what she is being dishonest about, but it does trot out what appears to be a new tag line, in which Mr. Brown says, “I'm nobody's senator but yours.”

In a separate written statement, the campaign said Ms. Warren was being dishonest about Mr. Brown's stance on taxes when she says he “supports tax cuts for millionaires.” The Brown camp says that distorts his view because he voted to keep in place the same tax cuts for everyone, not just those earning more than $250,000.

His second ad is aimed at the all-important women's vote. It features women saying that Mr. Brown “is pro-choice and he supports a woman's right to choose” and that he will fight for women to have “good jobs with equal pay.”

In an unusually blunt response to this ad, Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily's List, says Mr. Brown “is straight-up lying to Massachusetts voters.” While Mr. Brown has supported some “pro-choice” measures, he has also been endorsed by the state's leading group against abortion rights and co-sponsored the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed employers to deny health care coverage like contraception if they have religious or moral objections. And he voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The Warren campaign on Friday pounced on comments Mr. Brown made on a radio talk show, in which he said he would vote against extending the Bu sh-era tax cuts to middle-class families unless it included the wealthiest taxpayers, saying they were the ones who create jobs.

In an interview on WTKK, he was pressed about whether he would support extending the tax cuts if they only covered people who make less than $250,000.

“Crystal clear, no,” Mr. Brown said. “You're talking about raising taxes on our job creators, our small-business owners,” he said. “It's not just about millionaires and billionaires.”

Politico reported Saturday that Ms. Warren took a more aggressive turn in her ad campaign at the behest of Washington Democrats, including Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, because they were worried she was losing the race to Mr. Brown.

The Brown campaign pounced on this, with Jim Barnett, Mr. Brown's campaign manager, issuing a statement saying that Ms. Warren was “caving to party bosses” by running a negative ad. “We had hoped for better in this campaign,” Mr . Barnett's statement said. “Scott Brown is beholden to no one.”

House Honors Americans Killed in Attack on Consulate in Libya


A bipartisan resolution is expected to pass through the House next week, recognizing the four Americans killed in the attack this week on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the Republican leader, drafted the resolution late Friday evening, along with Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, and Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic whip, to honor those killed in the attack and to condemn the anti-American violence that rippled throughout Egypt and Yemen.

“The House of Representatives recognizes the selfless commitment to United States national security and to Libya's hard-won, transitional d emocracy by the brave United States citizens who lost their lives in the unjustified attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya,” they wrote.

The Congressional leaders also expressed “profound concern” for the security situation in the region, echoing President Obama's call in his weekly address for foreign governments to strengthen cooperation with the United States in protecting diplomatic facilities.

While the White House is struggling to persuade Muslims that the inflammatory video that prompted the violence was not endorsed by the American government, the resolution issued support for Libya's “transitional democracy,” but expressed dismay because “many diplomatic facilities remain threatened by terrorist attacks or violent protests.”

Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was the first American ambassador killed by an attack in more than 30 years. The resolution honoring him and the four others who were killed will be submitted t o committee early next week.