Total Pageviews

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Aurora Victim Pushes Gun Issue With New Ad


Stephen Barton was supposed to spend the fall teaching English in Russia on a Fulbright fellowship. But shortly after midnight on July 20, a gunman in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., derailed those plans.

Still recovering from the wounds he sustained when the gunman opened fire that night, killing 12 and injuring dozens more, Mr. Barton has decided to devote his energies this fall to something entirely different: Trying to get the presidential candidates to address the touchy issue of guns and gun violence.

In a television advertisement to begin airing on Monday, Mr. Barton, seated in an empty movie theater, tells viewers that despite the injuries from 25 shotgun pellets that embedded themselve s in his face and neck, he was lucky.

“In the next four years, 48,000 Americans won't be so lucky, because they'll be murdered with guns in the next president's term, enough to fill over 200 theaters,” Mr. Barton, 22, says in the advertisement. “So when you watch the presidential debates, ask yourself, ‘Who has a plan to stop gun violence?'”

The advertisement will appear in Colorado and on cable stations in Washington and other cities across the country, said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of more than 725 mayors that is sponsoring the ad as part of its “Demand a Plan” campaign.

After the shooting spree in Aurora, both presidential candidates offered their condolences to the victims and their families. President Obama traveled to Aurora to visit the injured. Mitt Romney said, “Our hearts break with the sadness of this unspeakable tragedy.”

But any discussion of how to prevent gun violence has been noticeably absent in presidential campaigns that have focused on the economy and foreign policy issues.

Both candidates have backed gun control measures in the past, Mr. Obama as a legislator and Mr. Romney as governor of Massachusetts, where he raised the fee for gun licenses and signed a ban on assault weapons.

But at a time when national surveys show waning support among Americans for tougher gun laws and when politicians who broach the issue face swift attack by the National Rifle Association and other gun groups, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have instead stressed their support for Second Amendment rights.

Mr. Barton, who graduated from Syracuse University in May and had stopped in Aurora for a few days while on a cross-country bicycle trip, said that before the shooting, he had followed the presidential campaign from a distance.

But what happened that night at the theater made it much more personal.

“I couldn't sit back and be just frustrated at the direction of the discourse or the lack of discourse,” he said. “I guess I just felt some responsibility.”

He deferred his Fulbright fellowship and, through contacts in Washington, signed up with the mayors' coalition, where he will spend the year working on gun control issues.

“We have this giant shooting and it's really sad that we can't even have a discussion about it,” he said. “Really, more than anything, we just want to candidates to start talking about it in a way that's beyond just condolences.”

And if the advertisement fails to convince the candidates, he added, “At least it might convince regular American citizens to think about it.”

Now Entering the Month of Surprise



October has arrived, and with it, the specter of an “October Surprise” that might alter the political trajectory of the presidential campaign at the last minute.

In 1972, Henry Kissinger, the secretary of state under President Nixon, announced that “peace is at hand” in the Vietnam War just days before the election. In 1992, Caspar Weinberger, the defense secretary during the Reagan administration when George H. W. Bush was vice president, was implicated in the Iran-contra arms scandal four days before Mr. Bush lost the election to Bill Clinton. In 2004, Osama bin Laden released a video statement on Oct. 29.

Will such a surprise happen again? In 1980, the nation held its collective breath waiting for an October release of the Iranian hostages; it did not happen until hours after Ronald Reagan's inauguration. It is possible that October comes and goes this year without a pivotal moment.

But if it does come, here are five possibilities:

A DEBATE MOMENT President Obama and Mitt Romney will stand next to each other on a stage three times during October. Each one of those debates will provide an opportunity for an October Surprise that might change the trajectory of the 2012 campaign.

That surprise might come in the form of a gaffe that raises new questions about one of the men. Or it could be a surprise policy proposal offered as a Hail Mary pass to alter the political discussion. Or it could be a striking stylistic observation that changes the way voters assess the two candidates.

FOREIGN POLICY The events in Benghazi, Libya, in September were a vivid reminder of how quickly an event overseas can hijack the political ne ws cycle in America - and often rightly so. The Libyan situation is important in its own right, but so are the reactions to it by Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney.

What else could pop up on the world stage in October? More re-evaluations of the terrorist attack that killed the ambassador to Libya? Developments in the Iranian nuclear drama? Dramatic economic collapses in European nations already weakened and teetering? Something totally unexpected?

ECONOMIC STATISTICS Here at home, there will be one more opportunity in October for the government to report the jobless rate and other economic data. That will come at the end of this week, on Friday, Oct. 5. Will the unemployment rate go up again, hold steady, or tick down a bit? A slight change in either direction might not matter much, but a dramatic shift would definitely qualify as a potentially critical October Surprise.

There will be one more jobs report, on Nov. 2. But throughout October, the economy will be the single most important subject on the minds of voters. That means that a big gain or loss in the stock market could affect the election. So could big financial news affecting some of the country's largest institutions.

INVESTIGATIVE NEWS Journalists have already spent years delving into the backgrounds of Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama. But the digging continues, and there is still plenty of room for new revelations that could affect the outcome of the election.

In 2000, just days before the election, George W. Bush was forced to acknowledge that he had a drunken driving conviction in his past. That kind of personal information could yet emerge about one of the two current candidates. If it does, it could affect the small number of truly undecided voters.

For the two campaigns, both of which have elaborate opposition research departments, October is the last hope to peddle damaging information about the opponent.

UNRELATED INCIDENT Finally, there is always t he possibility that something happens in October that has no particular relevance to the election, but steals the spotlight, an event on par with July's shooting in Aurora, Colo., or a natural disaster like the Japanese earthquake.

Both campaigns expect to have the month of October to make their final appeals to voters. If an unrelated event consumes the attention of the news media and the American public, the campaigns will find it harder to break through with their closing messages.

Poll Shows Obama and Romney Close in Iowa


Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are essentially tied in Iowa, according to the latest poll conducted for the The Des Moines Register.

Among likely voters surveyed, 49 percent support Mr. Obama and 45 percent back Mr. Romney. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Only 2 percent of respondents were undecided, but 10 percent said they could still change their minds. However, voters have already begun to cast their ballots as early voting in Iowa started last Thursday.

Mr. Obama won Iowa four years ago, but it swung Republican in the previous two presidential elections, backing George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisco nsin is considered an asset to Mr. Romney's campaign by 56 percent of voters surveyed, while 47 percent regard Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. a liability. But the favorability rating for the two running mates is fairly even: 46 percent have a favorable opinion of Mr. Ryan and 41 percent are unfavorable while 45 percent have a favorable view of Mr. Biden and 45 percent are negative.

On the other hand, Mr. Obama's favorability rating is higher than Mr. Romney's. A majority of voters, 54 percent, have a positive impression of Mr. Obama and 43 percent have an unfavorable opinion. In contrast, 44 percent have a favorable opinion of Mr. Romney and more, 51 percent, hold a negative view.

The telephone poll was conducted Sept. 23-26 with 650 likely voters by Selzer and Company.

Ryan Sees \'Media Bias\' in Campaign Coverage


At a time when the Republican presidential ticket has received some scolding from fellow conservatives for being insufficiently bold, the vice presidential nominee, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, suggested on Sunday that part of the problem might be in getting the message past the mainstream news media.

“It goes without saying that there is definitely media bias,” Mr. Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday.” He said he believed that most people in the news media were left of center and pro-Obama; that meant that he and his running mate, Mitt Romney, needed to take their message directly to the people.

Mr. Ryan declined to say exactly where he saw such bias.

At the same time, he acknowledged that the Republican campaign has had its flaws, including what he described as Mr. Romney's “inarticulate” comments about people who pay no taxes and receive government help.

“We've had some missteps,” he said, “but at the end of the day the choice is really clear.”

Some conservative commentators contend that Mr. Romney is keeping Mr. Ryan too tightly collared, preventing him from making the full-throated arguments that many on the right are waiting to hear.

“I hear the hand-wringing in Washington,” Mr. Ryan said. He insisted, however, that “Mitt Romney has never once asked me to temper anything down.”

But one fellow Republican said on Sunday that complaining of media bias was not, perhaps, the most effective response.

“I'm not going to sit here and complain about coverage of the campaign,” said Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. “As a candidate, if you do that, you're losing.â €

Mr. Christie defended Mr. Romney but also said he did not “buy” the assertion by some critics that voter surveys showing Mr. Obama leading nationally and in key states were skewed.

What was needed, Mr. Christie said on ABC's “This Week,” was a “big and bold” showing by Mr. Romney in his debate against the president on Wednesday â€" “and that's what he's going to give us.”

David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser, playing the time-honored game of expectations-setting, said that Mr. Romney might have spent more time preparing for the series of debates starting Wednesday than anyone ever, and that “challengers tend to do really well in debates.” Still, he said on ABC, Americans would be drawn to Mr. Obama's defense of the middle class.

Mr. Ryan said that his own opponent in an Oct. 11 debate, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., was no pushover, despite a reputation for shooting from the hip.

“He's fast on the cuff, he's a witty guy, he knows who he is, and he's been doing this for 40 years, so you're not going to rattle Joe Biden,” Mr. Ryan said. “Joe is very good on the attack.”

In his own preparations, Mr. Ryan said that he was not focusing on zingers or sharp one-liners. “I'm not really a line guy, I'm more of a gut guy,” he said.

“In the end of the day,” he said, “I'm just going to go in there and be me.”