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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Stewart and O\'Reilly Share Stage in Political Joust


It was a battle for hearts and minds, a chance to appeal to those who see the world differently and try to move those realities just a little closer together.

And so Jon Stewart pleaded with Bill O'Reilly, a man he dubbed the mayor of a place where the citizens think President Obama is Kenyan; a place where Christmas is under siege; a place Mr. O'Reilly more politely referred to as “Excrement Mountain.”

“Talk to your people,” Mr. Stewart begged Mr. O'Reilly.

Two years after Mr. Stewart, the anchor of Comedy Central's “The Daily Show,” co-hosted the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, he returned to the capital Saturday with Mr. O'Reilly, the host of “The O'Reilly Factor” on Fox. Sharing a stage to entertain and - dare they say it? - even educate, the pair squared off just a few days after the first presidential debate on some of the most serious policy issues facing the nation, from health care to foreign policy to entitlements.

Appearing before a sold-out crowd of 1,500 at George Washington University and thousands of fans streaming the debate online for $4.95, the TV personalities offered an evening of political jousting that was in turns thoughtful, sardonic and hilarious, dubbed “The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium.”

As is often the case when these longtime frenemies meet, the exchange occasionally got heated, particularly when it came to entitlements. Arguing that Mr. Obama had made it easier for people to take advantage of the system, Mr. O'Reilly said he did not begrudge those who needed help. But when Mr. Stewart posited that Mr. O'Reilly himself had been the beneficiary of government help as the child of a World War II veteran, Mr. O'Reilly protested, touching a nerve with his opponent.

“Why is it that if you take advantage of a tax break and you're a corporation, you're a smar t businessman, but if you take advantage of something that you need to not be hungry, you're a loser?” Mr. Stewart said.

But there were also moments of agreement that stood out in the context of a debate between political rivals in Washington. In addition to their mutual admiration for Robert Kennedy, Mr. O'Reilly said they shared a concern for veterans.

“We should not have gone to Iraq,” he added. “Afghanistan, we had to.”

With that, Mr. Stewart climbed on his podium, projecting his voice to the audience.

“Somebody better live-tweet that!” he cried, punctuating his request with an expletive.

Many of the viewers who hoped to stream the event online were disappointed when technical difficulties prevented them from watching the debate live. An apologetic message sent from the event's Twitter account explained that the servers had crashed under heavy demand.

Event officials did not immediately know how many people had been unabl e to stream the debate. Mr. O'Reilly emphasized to reporters that the debate would be available online for those who had missed it.

Preparation is key for political debates, and that means choosing the right sparring partner. Stephen Colbert, satirist and host of Comedy Central's “The Colbert Report,” acted as Mr. O'Reilly's stand-in for a little debate prep on Mr. Stewart's show Wednesday. Doling out admonishments like “never admit your opponent is right,” Mr. Colbert channeled some of film's great coaches, instructing Mr. Stewart to warm up by chasing a chicken around the studio a la “Rocky II.”

Mr. O'Reilly told Mr. Stewart on Thursday that his coach was Professor Irwin Corey, the 98-year-old comedian known as “The World's Foremost Authority.”

While a young crowd at a college in a reliably blue town wouldn't seem to be Mr. O'Reilly's target demographic - as Mr. Stewart said, “Right now Bill O'Reilly's audience is calling my audience on the phone to try to figure out how to download this thing” - the audience applauded many of the Fox host's points. But he also expressed arguably the least popular opinion of the debate.

“I think the whole health care system has to be reorganized in this country. It has to be, basically, run by insurance companies, not the government,” Mr. O'Reilly said, eliciting boos and groans from the otherwise friendly audience.

Mr. O'Reilly and Mr. Stewart have been guests on each other's programs since 2001. Arguing about politics and the media - Mr. Stewart is a vocal critic of Fox News - the pair rarely agree on anything except their mutual respect for each other.

“The thing I like about you is you do take cheap shots all the time, but you defend those cheap shots, and you do it well,” Mr. O'Reilly said when Mr. Stewart appeared on his program last year.

“The man coordinates a mean outfit,” Mr. Stewart said Saturday.

After being presented with champion belts like those given to boxers, the pair declined to say which of them had won, granting that designation to the moderator, CNN's E. D. Hill. But at the end of a night of frequently substantive debate, did the men learn anything from each other?

“Now I know I'm right,” Mr. O'Reilly said.

Half of the profits from the debate will be donated to charity.

Sunday Breakfast Menu, Oct. 7


With the first presidential debate under the candidates' belts, both campaigns are working to spin the outcome to their advantage as they look ahead to the vice presidential debate on Thursday. Representatives from both the Obama and Romney camps will join the Sunday shows to talk about what happened last Wednesday - and what will happen next.

Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod, senior advisers to the Obama campaign, will appear on three programs to discuss President Obama's listless performance in the debate and September's jobs numbers. Mr. Gibbs is scheduled to be on ABC's “This Week” and NBC's “Meet the Press,” while Mr. Axelrod will visit CBS's “Face the Nation.”

Mitt Romney's surrogates will also be out in full force. Ed Gillespie, one of Mr. Romney's senior advisers, joins Mr. Gibbs on ABC, while one of Mr. Romney's primary challengers, Newt Gingrich, will be part of an extended roundtable discussion with Mr. Gibbs on NBC.

Speaking of debates - Bill O'Reilly, host of “The O'Reilly Factor” on Fox and author of the new book “Killing Kennedy,” will join ABC to debrief following his political debate Saturday with Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's “The Daily Show.”

Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman and ally of Mr. Romney's running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, will be on CNN's “State of the Union” to preview the vice presidential debate on Thursday. Joining him will be Mayor Michael A. Nutter of Philadelphia, who is a friend of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Then, Mike DeWine, attorney general of Ohio, and Ted Strickland, the former Ohio governor, will talk about the fight to win Ohio, and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, joins the panel discussion.

Mr. Priebus also appears on Bloomberg's “Political Capital” with his Democratic counterpart, Representative De bbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Democratic National Committee chairwoman.

Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who is a Romney supporter, will be with Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland, an Obama supporter, on “Fox News Sunday,” talking about how their candidates fared in the debate. Also on the show is Brett O'Donnell, a political debate coach.

C-Span's “Newsmakers” welcomes Representative Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Kerry Washington, actress on the ABC program “Scandal,” will appear on TV One's “Washington Watch.”

Univision's “Al Punto” features coverage of the presidential election in Venezuela.

Obama and Democrats Raise $181 Million in September


President Obama and the Democrats shattered the election cycle's fund-raising record with a $181 million haul for September, the campaign announced on Saturday morning.

The amount - a mix of funds raised directly by the campaign and large checks taken in by the Democratic National Committee - was even more than some earlier reports had suggested. And while it did not quite match the roughly $191 million Mr. Obama and the Democrats raised during the same month four years ago, the announcement offered a jolt of good news for Mr. Obama's supporters in the wake of a lackluster debate performance on Wednesday that left many of them worried.

Mr. Obama's campaign announced the figure on Twitter, and followed it up with an e-mail from his campaign manager, Jim Messina, and testimonials grass-roots donors who had contributed.

“The people and the stories behind these numbers are what make this grass-roots organization so powerful,” Mr. Messina wrote.

Mitt Romney has not yet announced his fund-raising totals for the month.

September is often a strong month for presidential campaign fund-raising, as voters began to focus on the race and candidates' hard-core supporters begin ramping up for the general election. Mr. Obama's September fund-raising included money contributed during the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., when the president, his wife, Michelle, and former president Bill Clinton all delivered major speeches.

The president and his party had received donations from close to four million people since Mr. Obama announced his re-election bid last year, the campaign said. September's totals included contri butions from 1,825,813 people, 567,000 of them new donors, the campaign said.

The September totals mark a second strong fund-raising month in a row for Mr. Obama, at a time when his campaign his bracing for an onslaught of late advertising from Republican-aligned “super PAC's” and other outside groups. In August, Mr. Obama and the Democratic committee raised $114 million, more than the $111.6 million raised by Mr. Romney and the Republicans.

Mr. Obama did not announce how much cash his campaign had on hand going into October, and his campaign does not have to file detailed disclosures with the Federal Election Commission until later this month. But he is likely to show strong donations from small donors relative to Mr. Romney, a difference that gave Mr. Obama a critical advantage in cash flow over Mr. Romney in August, when the Republican candidate borrowed $20 million to get through the summer.

While Mr. Obama has raised more than half of his total cas h on donations of under $200, Mr. Romney has relied far more on large donors giving the maximum check to the candidate and his party. Without a large stream of grass-roots money, Mr. Romney has had to spend more time fund-raising in recent months than his campaign would like, leaving less time to meet voters in swing states.

The Weekend Word: On the Job


Today's Times

  • The jobless rate dropped to its lowest level since President Obama took office, lending support to his case that the economy is recovering and threatening the central argument of Mitt Romney's campaign, Shaila Dewan and Mark Landler report.
  • Though Mr. Romney boasted in Wednesday's debate of his stellar record in working with both political parties as Massachusetts governor, a closer examination of his tenure looks considerably less burnished, Michael Wines writes.
  • President Obama's campaign snagged another victory against Republicans in its legal battles over voting issues, with a court restoring early voting for residents in Ohio, Michael D. Shear writes.
  • Democratic lawmakers are starting a counterweight to Republican efforts to require photo identification on Election Day by passing legislation that would make it easier for people to register to vote, Ian Lovett reports.
  • Weekly Address

    • President Obama listed a few of his administration's accomplishments â€" including Friday's jobs report â€" arguing that too much progress was being made to change course now. Though many are still unemployed, he said, “we owe it to them to keep moving forward.” He added: “Republicans in Congress need to stop trying to refight the battles of the past few years, and finally start doing something to actually help the middle class get ahead. Ask them to get back to work and get these things done.”