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Thursday, October 18, 2012

App Snapshot: How Democrats in Red States Are Coping With Obama

The Election 2012 App

Counterintuitive partisan relations are the theme of the day in some of the most competitive Senate races. In the Election 2012 app, we're keeping up with all the developments in the presidential race, but we're also checking in on the other contests:

Democrats in the toughest races grow increasingly vocal in criticizing President Obama. Also, Maine's weird dynamic, and signs of continuing Republican enmity in Indiana.

  • Democratic Senate Hopefuls in Red States Wrestle With Threat From Obama
    Some are bashing the president, or, in the case of Senator Jon Tester of Montana, even tying their Republican opponent to the Democrat in the White House. (The Hill)
  • Negative Ads Reign in Maine Senate Race
    With Angus King, the independent former governor, beating both parties' candidates, Republicans are running attacks against him while pumping up the Democrat. (NPR)
  • Lugar Distancing Himself From Mailer That Says He Backs Mourdock as Replacement
    After losing a bitter primary, Senator Richard G. Lugar objected to a mailer's imagery of a torch passing from him to Richard E. Mourdock - though he has said he hopes Mr. Mourdock wins, so the Republicans can take the Senate. (The Indianapolis Star)
  • Election Guide: Senate Race Ratings (The New York Times)

Mapping the Path to Your Credit Report

Credit Sesame

Wonder how your credit report is created? Sometimes it's best not to know how the sausage is made, but in this case some extra knowledge may be enlightening.

John Ulzheimer, a credit expert, worked with the Web site Credit Sesame to create a graphic map showing how various types of information make their way - or not - into your credit report.

In most cases, Mr. Ulzheimer said,  the credit bureaus - like Equifax, Experian and Transunion - receive information from institutions where you have accounts, like credit card issuers or home loans or student loan lenders. In industry lingo, these are known as “trade” or “tradeline” accounts, he said.

Those accounts make up the bulk of the information in your credit report. Institutions provide the data under agreement with the bureaus, in exchange for access to credit files so they can evaluate the creditworthiness of applicants. Institutions aren't legally required to report credit information - but if they don't, they lose the benefit of having access to credit reports.

When credit bureaus get customer data, he said, they generally audit it before posting it to your credit file, to help avoid errors and disputes. A batch of data with an unusually high proportion of delinquencies, for instance, might be sent back for double-checking.

When lenders seek your credit report in response to an application for a credit card or a loan, it shows up as a “hard” inquiry. Too many such inquiries may cause your credit score, which is based on information in your credit report, to dip.

Some inquiries don't affect your score, however. They include requests made as a result of applying for insurance or for service from a utility company, Mr. Ulzheimer said, and requests you make yourself for a copy of your credit report.

Some public records, like bankruptcy filings or federal tax liens, usually appear on your credit reports because the credit bureaus have electronic access to federal courts through the Pacer document system. But civil judgments filed with state and county courts may or may not show up on your report, since not all of those courts make such information available electronically. Credit bureaus may be able to find the information through database services, but its appearance in credit files is generally less consistent than legal information generated by federal courts. (In other words,  you may get lucky.)

Have you ever had a legal judgment appear on your credit report? What impact did it have?

TimesCast Politics: A More Intent Focus on Women

Getty Images
  • 0:45  Women and the Campaign

    Jim Rutenberg reports on messaging efforts from the Romney campaign to appeal to undecided female voters.

  • 5:04  The Youth Vote

    Susan Saulny talks with John Della Volpe from the Harvard Institute of Politics about the expected impact of the youth vote in November.

  • 9:17  Latino Voters

    Fernanda Santos looks at the potential impact of Hispanic voters in swing states.

  • 13:26  The Money Race

    Nicholas Confessore previews this weekend's campaign finance filing deadlines.

  • 19:25  The Boss Returns to the Trail

    Bruce Springsteen released a letter to fans explaining his choice to campaign in support of President Barack Obama.

Tagg Romney Calibrates \'Swing\' at Obama Remark

The second presidential debate on Tuesday was a clash of finger-pointing, interruptions and bitter disagreements. Mitt Romney's eldest son had an especially visceral reaction. Tagg Romney said his instinct was to “jump out of your seat” and “rush down to the debate stage and take a swing'' at President Obama.

He was answering a North Carolina radio host, who asked how it felt to hear the president “call your dad a liar.''

Tagg Romney quickly indicated he wasn't speaking literally about striking the president.

“You know you can't do that,'' he continued, “because, well, first because there's a lot of Secret Service between you and him, but also because this is the nature of the process. You know, they're going to do everything they can do to try to make my dad into someone he's not. We signed up for it. We've got to, kind of sit there and take our punches and then send them right back the other way.''

The younger Romney's remarks were ind icative of how fiercely the campaign is being fought in its closing weeks. Although Tagg Romney, 42, the eldest of the five Romney sons, was reported to have assumed a prominent role in the campaign, even taking part in a family “intervention,” the picture he painted was of a far less significant player.

A spokeswoman for the campaign, Andrea Saul, said, “He was joking about how frustrating this process can be for family,” and in a television appearance on “The View” on Thursday, another Romney son, Josh, also said he didn't mean it.

“The brothers have all made a pact not to give him advice,'' Tagg Romney said of his father, speaking to Bill LuMaye on the North Carolina radio station WPTF-AM. “He's getting advice from so many different angles. Our role is to go out and speak on his behalf and when we're with him just to relax him and talk about anything other than politics to take his mind off it for a little while.' '

In the debate, the president did not outright call Mr. Romney a liar, though Mr. Obama did inject phrases on occasion like “what Governor Romney said just isn't true” and “not true, Governor Romney.” Mr. Obama also said that Mr. Romney's tax math “doesn't add up,'' accused him of having a “one-point plan” favoring the rich and, in a particularly heated moment, said to “get the transcript” after Mr. Romney denied the president called the Benghazi attack an act of terror.

As the final debate approaches, on Monday in Boca Raton, Fla., Tagg Romney mentioned how his father does get nervous before taking the stage. “He's terrified before he gets out there!'' he said, before quickly rephrasing his thought. “Terrified's too strong a word. But you know, he's like anybody - he gets butterflies a little bit,” he said. “And then once he's in it, two or three minutes, he's forgotten about the nervousness.''

Obama Hits Back With New Abortion Ad

A day after Mitt Romney released a television commercial that seeks to soften his position on abortion rights and contraception, President Obama is out with a response that all but accuses the Republican nominee of lying.

The new advertisement uses a clip from a CNN debate in 2007, when Mr. Romney was running for the Republican nomination for the first time and answered a question about whether he would sign a bill to ban all abortions.

“Let me say it: I'd be delighted to sign that bill,” Mr. Romney is shown saying with a grin. For dramatic effect, the ad uses subtitles and repeats Mr. Romney's sound bite.

But the commercial notably leaves out the rest of Mr. Romney's response, in which he said that he did not believe that the country was ready for a ban on abortion.

His full response is more nuanced than the Obama ad suggests. “Let me say it: I'd be delighted to sign that bill. But that's not where we are. That's not where America is today. Where America is is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the Congress got there, we had that kind of consensus in the country, terrific.”

The ad also extrapolates something from Mr. Romney's answer that he never said and was never asked: that he would ban abortion in cases of rape, incest and even to save a mother's life. In fact, Mr. Romney has long said that he believes abortion should be legal in those circumstances.

The Obama campaign said the ad would be running in Virginia, where the Romney campaign started running its ad on Wednesday.

Follow Jeremy W. Peters on Twitter at @ jwpetersNYT .

Obama and Romney Share Stage Again Tonight, but This Time for Laughs

There hasn't been much smiling by President Obama and Mitt Romney since their tension-filled debate earlier this week.

That's about to change, at least briefly.

With less than three weeks left before the election and tensions rising in a razor-close contest, both men will try to set aside whatever disdain they have for each other at the Al Smith dinner Thursday night in New York City.

A gathering of elites to benefit charity, the dinner has become the one light moment between presidential candidates every four years as the men seeking the White House deliver comedic roasts designed to make fun of their rival - and of themselves.

Aides to both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama declined to provide any preview of the jokes they might offer tonight.

But it's not hard to imagine the well from which they will each draw for inspiration:

* Ther e's Mr. Romney's observation that Michigan's trees are “the right height” and that Pennsylvania's home-baked cookies taste like they're from 7-11.

* The candidates can mock Mr. Obama's sleepwalking first debate performance and his fateful “you didn't build that” comment at a rally this year.

* Can there be any doubt that jokes will be made about Vice President Biden's weird grins, his “chains” comment, his “big deal” comment, or really - just about anything that comes out of Mr. Biden's mouth?

* If a joke isn't made about Mitt Romney and the Cayman Islands, it's probably an oversight. Ditto for corporations and people.

* The president's open-mike moment with Vladimir Putin is worthy of humor, as is his much maligned assessment that the “private sector is doing fine.”

* Mr. Romney's “47 percent” comment is a sure bet for some mocking. Both men may mention the Republican's stated enjoyment of “firing people.”

* D onald Trump jokes usually write themselves, as do lines about his suspicions regarding Mr. Obama's birth certificate.

* It's a good bet that someone will mention the $10,000 wager Mr. Romney offered to Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, during the Republican primaries.

* And someone - maybe Mr. Romney himself - might bring up his unintended slight of London, as the host city of the Olympics.

The dinner has been going on for decades, and every four years the presidential candidates seem to set aside their differences at the height of the campaign season.

That might seem tough for the current combatants. But consider four years ago, when Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain of Arizona were locked in a battle for the White House.

Both men had said intensely negative things about the other. But that night, they cracked each other up repeatedly.

“I can't shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me,” Mr. McCain said at the d inner. Looking to his right, he added: “I'm delighted to see you here tonight, Hillary.”

Mr. Obama burst out laughing, a wide grin on his face. (Ms. Clinton laughed heartily, too.)

When it was his turn, Mr. Obama made fun of himself, saying that “it's often been said that I share the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Newman.”

After the dinner for years ago, both men returned to the campaign trail, hitting each other as hard as they could. At a rally in Woodbridge, Va., two days later, Mr. McCain assailed Mr. Obama as a tax-raiser.

“Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on some in order to give checks to others isn't a tax cut, it's just another government giveaway,” Mr. McCain said.

So much for humor.

Nobel Laureates Endorse Obama

Among Nobel laureates, President Obama appears to have won by a landslide.

Sixty-eight Nobel Prize winners in the science fields, including the two Americans who won this year's chemistry prize, have signed a letter endorsing Mr. Obama over his Republican rival, Mitt Romney.

“President Obama understands the key role science has played in building a prosperous America,” the laureates wrote in a letter that was released on Wednesday. Mr. Obama “has championed investment in science and technology research that is the engine of our economy.”

The signers said that Mr. Romney, by contrast, “supports a budget that, if implemented, would devastate a long tradition of support for public research and investment in science at a time when this country's future depends, as never before, on innovation.”

In September, 2008, 61 American winners of a science Nobel - in medicine, physics or chemistry - signed a similar lette r endorsing Mr. Obama over Senator John McCain, a number that rose to 76 by the end of October.

That October, Martin Chalfie, a professor of biological sciences at Columbia, was awakened by a phone call from Stockholm that he was one of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He had heard of the letter endorsing Mr. Obama and called a friend to make sure that he was added to the list of signatories.

“That was actually the very first thing that I did as a Nobel laureate,” Dr. Chalfie said. “Scientists should stand up and talk about what they feel is important for the country in terms of the long-term support research.”

Dr. Chalfie was one of the organizers of this year's letter and he e-mailed this year's chemistry Nobel winners, Robert J. Lefkowitz of Duke University and Brian K. Kobilka of Stanford to sign. Both signed.

“I feel the Obama administration has been doing a good job of supporting basic research given the constraints of the economy,” Dr. Kobilka said.

He said he did not know much about what Mitt Romney would do as president, but judging from the budget that Mr. Romney's running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, had proposed as chairman of the House Budget Committee, it seemed likely that there would be substantial cuts in spending including at the National Institutes of Health.

“I think it's important for the country for us to keep funding basic research, and that's why I signed on,” Dr. Kobilka said.

Two people who signed the 2008 letter but not this year's are Steven Chu, a 1997 Nobelist in physics, and Dr. Harold E. Varmus, a 1989 Nobelist in medicine. That is because Mr. Obama is now their boss. Dr. Chu is the current Energy secretary and Dr. Varmus is director of the National Cancer Institute.

Thursday Reading: Thoughts on $150-a-night N.Y.C. Hotels

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.

  • Lapses at big drug factories add to shortages, and danger. (National)
  • University of Phoenix closes 115 locations. (National)
  • Student loan borrowers average $26,500 in debt. (National)
  • Multivitamin use linked to lower cancer risk. (National)
  • Buy Yelp reviews, get a black mark. (Business)
  • An easy, but pricey, way to back up data. (Business)
  • A Rachel Ray food truck for the dogs. (Business)
  • Sifting through the app morass, with a little help. (Business)
  • Knowing when it's time to upgrade your gadgets. (Business)
  • Updating a tiny kitchen. (Home)
  • Finding a ‘breakup bed.' (Home)
  • Housing prices and income inequality. (Economix)
  • AOL's got mail, now with Alto. (Bi ts)
  • Writers advise on avoiding Internet distractions. (Bits)
  • Brother's small, but all-in-one, printer and fax. (Gadgetwise)
  • Set your own password reminder. (Gadgetwise)
  • Get up. Get out. Don't sit. (Well)
  • Making sleep a childhood priority (or not). (Motherlode)
  • Ask experts about ACT and SAT tests. (The Choice)
  • Readers' views on sub-$150 hotels in Manhattan. (In Transit)

Proposed Credit Card Rules Aid Spouses and Partners

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is proposing to make it easier for stay-at-home wives and husbands - as well as unmarried partners - to get credit cards.

The proposed rule change, announced by the bureau on Wednesday, would let spouses and partners, age 21 or older who don't work outside the home, apply for credit based on shared income.

“When stay-at-home spouses or partners have the ability to make payments on a credit card, they should be able to obtain a card in their own name,” Richard Cordray, the agency's director, said in a prepared statement that also described the changes as “common sense.”

The move is an effort to fix an unintended consequence of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, known as the CARD Act, which became law in 2009. The law requires credit card issuers to evaluate an applicant's ability to make payments before opening a new credit card account. Under current regulations, issued by the Federal Reserve, a credit card issuer, in most cases, may only consider the individual applicant's income, even though the applicant has access to money the spouse or partner earns. (Previously, applicants could apply using total “household” income.)

The requirement was meant, in part, to protect students from getting into trouble with credit card debt, but it also ended up making it difficult for others to get credit cards. The agency's proposed fix would allow applicants who are 21 or older to rely on income “to which they have a reasonable expectation of access” when applying for a credit card.

Mr. Cordray, had indicated last month that the agency would soon make a proposal, but it was unclear how any change might affect same-sex couples. Since same-sex marriage is only recognized in a handful of states, the inclusion of “partners” in the proposed change is significant for gay couples, since the proposal doesn't rely o n marital status.

The proposal applies to credit card applicants “regardless of marital status,” the bureau said, but it expects that the change will especially benefit nonworking spouses or partners “who have access to a working spouse or partner's income.”

The agency is seeking public and industry comments on the proposal over the next two months. (One potential issue to be considered, according to the agency's proposal, is its impact on stay-at-home spouses who are under age 21.)

Do you think the change makes sense? Tell us how this could affect you.

The Early Word: Women

In Today's Times

  • The heightened rivalry between President Obama and Mitt Romney on display at Tuesday's debate suggests that the presidential campaign has come down to a tooth-and-nail fight for undecided women. Jim Rutenberg and Jeremy W. Peters explain that Mr. Romney's goal is to chip into the president's lead among women by reframing Mr. Romney's positions on reproductive rights and health care issues, while Democrats are seeking to give the president a greater edge by highlighting his policies and portraying Mr. Romney's views as extremist.
  • The sparring in the three debates so far has done little to clarify for voters what the next four years would look like under an Obama or Romney administration. Peter Baker writes that the retrospective bent of the debates has left voters to extrapolate what each candidate's agenda is.
  • On Wednesday, the candidates returned to the campaign trail ahead of their next and final debate on Mon day. Mark Landler and Richard A. Oppel Jr. write that while Mr. Obama tried to woo early voters in Iowa and Mr. Romney talked to voters in Virginia, the pair exchanged jabs mocking each other's performance at Tuesday's debate.
  • The rising cost of college and education financing is blunting President Obama's efforts to make education more affordable and feeding a debate over the government's role in college financing. Richard Pérez-Peña writes that while the factors contributing to rising costs are myriad and complex, conservatives say that Mr. Obama's investments hurt where they are intended to help, with Mr. Romney arguing that the president's policies are unsustainable.
  • A poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics suggests that Mr. Romney has missed an opportunity to draw young voters disenchanted with Mr. Obama. Susan Saulny explains that the poll, taken before the first presidential debate, did not reflect Mr. Romney's lift from that per formance. It also suggests that Mr. Obama has missed a chance to connect with young Hispanics.

Happening in Washington

  • Economic reports expected today include weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m., followed by September's leading economic indicators and weekly mortgage rates at 10.
  • At 10:18, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will conduct the Great Shakeout, the agency's annual earthquake drill.
  • At 11, officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will discuss their winter weather outlook.

\'Binders Full of Women\' Now Has a Binder Full of Jokes

Mitt Romney's comment about having received “binders full of women” while searching for members of the Massachusetts cabinet has become an instant punch line - and a fresh line of attack for President Obama's campaign.

Mr. Romney used the phrase in the debate on Tuesday night as he tried to explain his recruitment efforts after becoming governor of Massachusetts. But the awkward phrasing - conjuring up the image of a three-ring binder stuffed with female job seekers - drew immediate attention.

On Twitter, the phrase took off quickly, with many people mocking Mr. Romney. One said, “Thank you Romney for putting the LOL back into politics.

Another said, “LOL, Check out who else has a #binderfullofwomen.” It linked to a picture of Playboy's founder, Hugh Hefner.

The phrase immediately became a “meme” on the Internet, inspiring jokes that mar ry Mr. Romney's words with all sorts of funny pictures. One showed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reading her BlackBerry with the added words “Romney still uses binders? LOL.” Another wrote that “binders are so like 1990s.”

The Facebook page “bindersfullofwomen” had nearly 300,000 “likes” by noon.

Even the Republicans got into the act - in a way. A Web page put up by the Republican National Committee on Wednesday afternoon was headlined “Obama's Second-Term Agenda.” Under it was an empty binder.

Joking aside, Democrats seized on the phrase and Mr. Romney's answers during the debate as evidence that his policies would be worse for women than the president's.

In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, the Democratic National Committee criticized Mr. Romney's “binders” comment as proof that he does not understand the economic issues that women face.

Lilly Ledbetter , who fought for a law, which bears her name, that made it easier for women to sue in equal pay cases, said she was offended by the binder comment, charging that Mr. Romney did not say anything that would have helped her.

“That binder didn't help me at Goodyear, and it's not helping the woman across this country making 77 cents for every dollar that a man gets,” Ms. Ledbetter said.

Jesse Mermell, who ran MassGAP, the nonprofit women's advocacy group that compiled résumés of potential female employees for Mr. Romney in Massachusetts, said he should not have needed the group's research.

“Why did Mitt Romney need binders full of résumés?” Ms. Mermell said. “Were there no women in his 25 years of experience that he had worked with who he thought might be qualified?”

Ms. Mermell said that Mr. Romney appointed women to 42 percent of his cabinet posts in his first year in office, but that later appointments of women dropped to 25 percent.

Mr. Romney's campaign called that kind of criticism nonsense. They said Mr. Romney's comments demonstrated his interest - and his success - in expanding the number of women in high positions in state government. And they said his use of the “binders” was not different from efforts by Mr. Obama's administration to encourage gender diversity in hiring.

“Absent a vision or plan for the next four years, President Obama's campaign has little to talk about beyond senseless political attacks, such as criticizing Gov. Mitt Romney for increasing the number of women in Massachusetts state government,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. “Women across the country are supporting Governor Romney because he will turn our economy around, strengthen the middle class and create 12 million new jobs.”

Republicans also noted that officials at MassGAP praised Mr. Romney in 2006, at the end of his term. They pointed to the followi ng quote from the group:

“I think he put more terrific women into high-level jobs because of our project,” the group's chairwoman, Liz Levin, said in 2006, according to an article in The Boston Herald.

During Heated Debate, Twitter Slows Down

President Obama and Mitt Romney may have stepped up the intensity of their arguments on Tuesday night in the second of their three debates. But on Twitter at least, no records were broken, and the measured response was more mellow.

The first debate on Oct. 4 in Denver set a record for activity on Twitter for a political event, with users of the social network site generating more than 10.3 million messages. But according to data released by Twitter's @gov team, users spent more of the debate on Tuesday sitting on their thumbs. More than 7.2 million messages were written last night in reference to the presidential debate, candidates and related terms, a 30 percent decline from the first debate.

Twitter also released its tally of the moments in the debate that generated the greatest number of messages per minute. More than 109,000 per minute were published about the moment when an undecided voter asked Mr. Romney a question about ill egal immigration.

As with the candidates' first meeting, the most Twitter activity did not match the issue that appeared to drive the most postdebate discussion. Although the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya, was the subject of some the debate's strongest exchanges, it produced only the fifth most active moment on Twitter, with more than 105,000 per minute.

What was possibly the debate's most popular subject on social media also registered lower on Twitter's measurement of the most activity. Mr. Romney's explanation that he had sought qualified women for cabinet positions when he was governor of Massachusetts inspired Tumblr and Facebook pages devoted to “Binders Full of Women” even before the debate was over. But the discussion of equal pay for women only produced 104,000 Twitter messages per minute, a pattern similar to Mr. Romney's “Big Bird” statement in the first debate, which produced fewer postings per minute than many of the debate's less lighthearted moments.

While Mr. Romney's “binders full of women” quip produced less activity in real time on Twitter, it was one of the most popular searches during the debate, according to Google. The search engine released raw data showing that “binders full of women” was the No. 3 rising search between 8:45 and 10:45 p.m. in the Eastern time zone. But it was topped by the question, “Who is winning the debate?”, which was also a top rising search on Google during the first debate.

If you are feeling lucky and find the right answer to that question on the search engine, please let us know.

Obama and Romney Back on Trail After Caustic Debate

President Obama jogged to the stage at the beginning of his campaign event at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. The president was on a one-day campaign trip through Iowa and Ohio on Wednesday.Damon Winter/The New York Times President Obama jogged to the stage at the beginning of his campaign event at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. The president was on a one-day campaign trip through Iowa and Ohio on Wednesday.

MOUNT VERNON, Iowa â€" President Obama and Mitt Romney took to the road on Wednesday to capitalize on their fiery second debate, with Mr. Obama's muscular performance recharging supporters in the state that propelled him to the presidency in 2008.

Speaking to a raucous crowd of 2,000 at Cornell College here, an ener gized Mr. Obama claimed that Mr. Romney's tax proposals did not add up, that his job plan would not create jobs, and that his deficit-reduction proposals would only add to the deficit.

“Everybody here's heard of the New Deal, you've heard of the fair deal, you've heard of the square deal,” Mr. Obama said, reprising a jab he used against Mr. Romney in the debate. “Mitt Romney is trying to sell you a sketchy deal.”

Sharpening his pitch to female voters, the president said Mr. Romney had not advocated equal pay or unrestricted health care services for women. And he lampooned Mr. Romney's line in the debate about collecting “binders full of women” when he was searching for qualified women to serve in his cabinet in Massachusetts.

“We don't have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women, ready to work and teach in these fields right now,” Mr. Obama said, referring to the need for more women in engineering, scie nce and technology.

Mr. Obama campaigned energetically after his listless performance in the first debate, as well, drawing 30,000 people to a rally in Madison, Wis. But that rally had the feeling of a support group, with the party faithful bucking up a favored son in a time of need. On Wednesday, the last thing Mr. Obama needed was a pick-me-up.

“I'm still trying to figure out how to get the hang of this thing â€" debating,” Mr. Obama said with a chuckle. “We'll keep on improving as time goes on. I've got one left.”

The president's visit to Iowa was part of the campaign's aggressive early-voting effort. Mr. Obama implored students to cast early ballots as part of the campaign's College Takeover this week at schools across the state. A satellite voting site was set up at a library across the campus, where students could vote on Wednesday.

An Iowa law, which election observers say is the only one of its kind in the country, allows a campaign to gather 100 signatures and petition election officials to create a temporary voting location to serve a particular constituency. The Obama campaign has taken full advantage of this law and weeks ago requested a voting site here in Mount Vernon. Early voting has been under way in the state since Sept. 27.

The president's fiery performance on Tuesday lifted the spirits of his supporters in Iowa, some of whom had grown worried after his first encounter with Mr. Romney. “He had so much energy and was just so much better,” said Wendy Willits, 47, a supporter from Lisbon, Iowa. “It was what I expected to see at the first debate.”

For Mr. Obama, Iowa is rich in symbolism: his underdog victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses gave his presidential candidacy legitimacy. But it is also an important piece of the electoral puzzle of battleground states this time around.

Karen and Stuart Hartlep, retired teachers from Cedar Rapids, have be en volunteering for the president's campaign for most of the year. They said the mood among Obama supporters fell after the Oct. 3 debate in Denver.

“There was disappointment, but not despair,” Mr. Hartlep, 62, said as he waited to see Mr. Obama. He said that he had assured supporters that the president would deliver a stronger performance in his second debate. “He was great, wasn't he?”

For Mr. Obama's aides, there was more relief than exuberance. They believe that the second debate essentially reset the race to where they long expected it to be: the president holding a narrow lead in enough battleground states to let him eke out a victory over Mr. Romney.

David Plouffe, one of Mr. Obama's chief strategists, told reporters after the debate that “our position has not really changed.” The president, he said, was drawing the same share of the vote in battlegrounds like Ohio, Nevada and Iowa that he had before the first debate, which Mr. Romney was perceived to have dominated.

Mr. Romney had closed the polling gap in several of these states, Mr. Plouffe said, but he insisted that these involved Republican-leaning independent voters whom the Republican candidate would have corralled anyway, though perhaps not as quickly.

Bloomberg Jumps Into \'12 Races With New \'Super PAC\'

Bloomberg Starts ‘Super PAC,' Seeking National Influence

Michael Appleton for The New York Times

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at a news conference Wednesday. He expects to spend up to $15 million in highly competitive races.

Seeking to reshape a national political debate he finds frustratingly superficial, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York is plunging into the 2012 campaign in its final weeks, creating his own “super PAC” to direct millions of dollars in donations to elect candidates from both parties who he believes will focus on problem solving.

Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire and a registered independent, expects to spend from $10 million to $15 million of his money in highly competitive state, local and Congressional races. The money would be used to pay for a flurry of advertising on behalf of Republican, Democratic and independent candidates who support three of his biggest policy initiatives: legalizing same-sex marriage, enacting tougher gun laws and overhauling schools.

Among those whom Mr. Bloomberg will support are former Gov. Angus King, an independent running for the United States Senate in Maine; State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, who is challenging a fellow Democrat, Representative Joe Baca of California, who the mayor believes has been weak on gun-control; and Representative Bob Dold, a Republican from Illinois who has backed gun-control measures.

The move reflects an eagerness from Mr. Bloomberg, who is entering the twilight of his tenure as mayor, to help elect candidates he regards as centrist and who are willing to compromise, and grapple with what he sees as grave problems confronting the country.

Up until now, Mr. Bloomberg has played a relatively modest role in politics outside New York, occasionally donating to causes or candidates he favors or holding fund-raisers in his Manhattan town house to support them. But two years ago, he signaled a desire to play a bigger role in combating more extreme forces in American politics. The organization he is now establishing - and the money he will channel into races around the country - represents his most ambitious effort yet, one that will continue after he steps down in January 2014.

“This spending sends a clear message that the mayor intends to keep his wallet open after he leaves office to influence national policy around issues like guns, education and marriage equality,” said one top Bloomberg adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the mayor's future. “If anything, leaving office will free him to do even more.”

Mr. Bloomberg has built a brand of politics that eschews partisanship for blunt-spoken pragmatism, often taking unpopular positions, like restricting guns and soda sizes and supporting the construction of a mosque near ground zero.

He has seemed increasingly irritated by the rhetoric of the current presidential campaign; on Wednesday he described as “gibberish” answers by President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney to a question about an assault weapons ban that was posed during their debate this week.

Mr. Bloomberg has tapped Howard Wolfson, a deputy mayor and a veteran of Congressional and presidential campaigns, to oversee the organization's activities, like determining where to spend money and tailoring the themes of television advertisements. Mr. Wolfson will take a leave from City Hall to run the committee between now and Election Day.

By entering the campaign season at this stage, when less-partisan voters are beginning to pay attention, Mr. Bloomberg and his aides are betting that his financial support can make a major difference in especially close contests.

In all, Mr. Bloomberg intends to invest in as many as a dozen House and Senate races, though exactly which ones has not yet been decided because the mayor and his advisers are assessing how the contests are unfolding and where he can have the most impact. He is prepared to invest as much as $1 million in a given race, which is a significant sum, given that some Congressional candidates spend less than $2 million on their campaigns.

Mr. Bloomberg's move comes in the wake of the 2010 Supreme Court decision that paved the way for a flood of independent expenditures through super PACs, which are playing an outsize role in elections this fall. Though his spending is on a much smaller scale, he is joining other wealthy Americans by bankrolling outside groups to influence elections. These include the Koch brothers, industrialists who have backed conservative causes, and George Soros, the billionaire investor who has championed liberal ones.

Like the other super PACs, Mr. Bloomberg's group - called Independence USA PAC - can spend unlimited amounts of money in support of a candidate or issue, but is prohibited by federal law from coordinating its activities with candidates.

In addition to the state and federal candidates, Mr. Bloomberg's organization will support state legislative and local school board candidates who support his education goals, including more rigorous evaluation for teachers and stricter standards for tenure.

Mr. Bloomberg's political advisers have already identified local candidates he will most likely support in California, Colorado and Louisiana. He is also likely to back ballot initiatives in Maine and Washington that seek to legalize same-sex marriage.

The mayor's super PAC will be registered with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday, according to his aides. The overwhelming bulk of his money will be given through that PAC, though he may also use an existing entity of his, a so-called 527, to make some donations. Mr. Bloomberg will disclose all of his spending at the end of the election cycle.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 17, 2012

An earlier version of this article incorrectly included Minnesota among the states with a ballot initiative this fall seeking to legalize same-sex marriage.

A version of this article appeared in print on October 18, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: For Bloomberg, A ‘Super PAC' Of His Making.

Romney Says Obama \'Has Failed America\'s Women\'

Mitt Romney criticized President Obama's jobs record during his speech at a campaign rally on Wednesday in Chesapeake, Va.Richard Perry/The New York TimesMitt Romney criticized President Obama's jobs record during his speech at a campaign rally on Wednesday in Chesapeake, Va.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - At his first public event since Tuesday night's debate, Mitt Romney made no mention of the Obama administration's handling of the deadly attack last month in Libya - an issue on which he had hoped to score some points during the face-off at Hofstra University on Long Island - and instead refocused his attention on President Obama's record on jobs and economic issues.

“I think it's interesting that the president still doesn't have an agenda f or a second term,” Mr. Romney told supporters at an outdoor rally here Wednesday. “Don't you think that it's time for him to finally put together a vision of what he'd do in the next four years if he were elected? I mean, he's got to come up with that over this weekend, because there is only one debate left, on Monday.”

Mr. Romney continued: “I just think the American people had expected that the president of the United States would be able to describe what he's going to do in the next four years. But he can't. He can't even explain what he's done in the last four years. I mean, he spends most of his time trying to talk about how my plan won't work. Well, what about his plan? We know his plan has not worked.”

Signaling the importance that both campaigns place on the women's vote, Mr. Romney also hit hard on the notion that women have fared particularly poorly under the Obama administration. “This president has failed America's women,” he said. “T hey've suffered in terms of getting jobs. They've suffered in terms of falling into poverty. This is a presidency that has not helped America's women.”

But economists have questioned important aspects of Mr. Romney's argument that the Obama administration has been particularly hard for women. Mr. Romney has suggested Mr. Obama is to blame because most jobs lost the past four years had been held by women. However, that argument has been called misleading by economists who say the reason women lost proportionally more jobs in recent years was because male-dominated industries more sensitive to the business cycle like manufacturing and construction were hit heavily, and first, in the recession, before Mr. Obama's inauguration. Later on, state and local governments clobbered by the recession's impact on tax revenue passed budgets that cut education and other government work forces that are more disproportionately composed of women.

Som e economists also say that Republican policies that call for greater shrinkage of governments â€" where women are more highly represented in jobs like teachers and administrators â€" may well be worse for female employment than Democratic policies that do not advocate the same government austerity.

Mr. Romney also made light of Mr. Obama's explanation during Tuesday night's debate why gasoline prices had risen sharply the past four years. (Gas prices plunged during the 2008 collapse as the economy sputtered to a halt.)

“The president's answer - you remember this - he said, ‘Well, the economy has gotten stronger,' ” Mr. Romney said. “Now, on that basis, when we have a real recovery he would suggest that gasoline prices are going to go up to six or eight dollars - is that what he is saying? I mean, this was the most classic of the nonanswers of the night.”

He added, “I think it's pretty clear that when it comes to his policies and his answers and his agenda, he's pretty much running on fumes.”

Mr. Romney also hit on some of his stock campaign-trail themes. But he did not make mention of what his campaign has sought to capitalize on as its first significant opening on foreign policy in recent months: what Obama administration critics have characterized as the White House's slow, grudging willingness to admit that the attack in Benghazi last month that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans was an act of terrorism and not a spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video offensive to Muslims.

At the debate, Mr. Romney had sought to use the administration's shifting accounts of the attack against Mr. Obama, but the president called “offensive” the suggestion that the White House misled anyone. Mr. Romney's aides were left arguing after the debate that Mr. Obama had not really described the attack early on as an act of terror, after the moderator, Candy Crowley, during the debate had backed up Mr. Obama when he said he had done so.

App Snapshot: Still Fighting Over Libya and Women

The Election 2012 App

Tuesday night's debate hasn't ended, at least when it comes to Libya and the candidates' appeal to women. Here's the latest on how those arguments are playing out, and how they measure up to reality, from the Election 2012 app, where we're continuously curating the latest political news - from The Times and from other top sources around the Web.

Attack on U.S. Mission in Benghazi Becomes Subject of Strongest Words
Mitt Romney tried to use the White House's handling of the attack on the American mission in Libya as a broad indictment of President Obama as commander in chief, while Mr. Obama accused Mr. Romney of politicizing a tragedy. (The New York Times)

  • Clearing the Record About Benghazi
    As questions mount over what happened in the attack o n the American diplomatic compound last month, here are some of the facts as they are now known. (The New York Times)
  • Biden and Ryan Continue Clash on Benghazi
    The running mates continued the dispute over the Obama administration's handling of the attacks in Benghazi during Wednesday morning TV appearances. (ABC News)
  • Fact-Check: Terrorism and Security in Libya
    The Obama administration has come under fire for shifting assessments of what really happened in Benghazi and for questions of security at the embassy. (The New York Times)
  • Fact-Check: Libya Attack Called Act of Terror
    As was pointed out by the moderator, Mr. Obama called the attack in Libya an act of terror during remarks in the Rose Garden the day after it occurred. (The New York Times)
  • Candy Crowley Fact-Checks Romney
    Ms. Crowley will almost certainly be remembered for the highly controversial moment in which she challenged Mr. Romney's statement about Mr. Oba ma's response to Benghazi.
  • Election-Year Stakes Overshadow Nuances of Libya Investigation
    After a month of conflicting statements and partisan criticism, the circumstances surrounding the deadly attack in Benghazi have become clouded in ambiguities and questions. (The New York Times)

Debate Moves Women to Fore in Race for the White House
President Obama asserted that Mitt Romney would oppose equal pay for women and block access to contraceptives, but Mr. Romney said he would do better by struggling families - especially women. (The New York Times)

  • Romney Says Obama ‘Has Failed America's Women'
    Mitt Romney returned to the campaign trail and made an economic argument for female support. (The New York Times)
  • ‘Binders Full of Women' Now Has a Binder Full of Jokes
    Mitt Romney used the phrase to explain his recruitment efforts of women after becoming governor of Massachu setts. But the awkward phrasing - conjuring up the image of a three-ring binder stuffed with female job seekers - exploded quickly. (The New York Times)
  • In New Ad, Romney Stresses Moderate Positions on Reproductive Issues
    Mitt Romney's campaign, in an effort to appeal to women who hold more moderate views on reproductive issues, is releasing a new commercial that highlights his support for contraception and abortion in limited circumstances. (The New York Times)
  • Video: Romney Ad on Abortion
    This strategy is not without risk, as many socially conservative Republicans have long been wary of Mr. Romney. (YouTube)
  • Mind the Binder
    Mitt Romney's remark about considering “whole binders full of women” for Massachusetts cabinet jobs has become an Internet sensation because of the phrasing, but David S. Bernstein, a staff writer for The Phoenix in Boston, says the story itself is misleading. (The Phoenix)
  • Fact-Check: Fewer Women Ha ve Jobs?
    Mr. Romney said that fewer women have jobs than four years ago. But that is not correct, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (The New York Times)
  • Fact-Check: Employing Women in Massachusetts
    Mr. Romney said that as governor, he employed more women in senior state government positions than did any other state administration, but there have been conflicting reports as to whether that is the case. (The New York Times)
  • Fact-Check: Contraceptive Coverage
    Mr. Romney has said he would abolish the requirement that employers offer contraception coverage, which he has described as an attack on religious liberty. (The New York Times)

Dennis Miller Campaigns for Romney

Dennis Miller spoke before Mitt Romney at a campaign event on Wednesday in Chesapeake, Va.Charles Dharapak/Associated Press Dennis Miller spoke before Mitt Romney at a campaign event on Wednesday in Chesapeake, Va.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - The talk-show host and comedian Dennis Miller brought his stand-up routine to the campaign trail on Wednesday, warming up a large outdoor crowd here for the Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

He started by taking a page from The Onion, the satirical newspaper and Web site that has made a small franchise out of having fun at the expense of the vice president.

“I was just backstage in the holding room and had the worst cup of coffee I've ever had in my life,” Mr. Miller said. “I said to the lady: ‘What's with this coffee? It's so old and bitter.' ”

“She said, ‘That's just Joe being Joe,' ” Mr. Miller said.

He added: “Biden never shuts up. It's just occasionally, you have to hood him like a falcon - so you can get some sleep.”

Mr. Miller, a Romney supporter, also used a line to suggest that moderates who voted for President Obama four years ago shouldn't feel that ashamed to go the other way and vote Republican this time. It can happen to anyone, he suggested.

“I have friends who talk about voting for Obama in much the same way they tell me the story about how they took an Ambien and woke up naked outside,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Romney liked the warm-up. “Gosh, this guy, he's got talent, he's got humor,” he told the crowd.

2nd Debate Also a Ratings Hit, Drawing 65.6 Million At-Home Viewers

The second debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney reached nearly as many people as the first debate, according to Nielsen, reflecting robust and sustained interest in the presidential election three weeks before Election Day.

Nielsen said 65.6 million viewers watched the Tuesday night town hall format event on television at home, down just 2.4 percent from the debate on Oct. 3. Untold millions more watched the two debates on TV sets in public places and watched on computers, phones and tablets, but those viewers are not counted in Nielsen's totals.

Fox News, with 11.1 million viewers during the debate, enjoyed the biggest audience in its 16-year history on Tuesday. The cable channel has hit 11.1 million viewers just once before: during the vice presidential debate between Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Sarah Palin in 2008.

Two broadcast networks, NBC and ABC, drew more total viewers than Fox News, NBC with 13.8 million and ABC with 12.4 million. CBS had about 8.9 million viewers, CNN had 5.77 million and MSNBC had 4.87 million.

Though the total TV viewership was lower on Tuesday than it was two weeks ago for the first debate, some online sources said they saw an increase in traffic. NBCNews.com served up about 320,000 live video streams on Tuesday night, 30 percent more than it did during the first debate.

There tends to be one debate each presidential election cycle with a town hall format, where voters ask questions of the candidates. The town hall debate between Mr. Obama and John McCain in 2008, similarly held on a Tuesday night, drew 63.2 million viewers on TV at home, according to Nielsen. The town hall in 2004, held on a Friday night, drew 46.7 million.

As Governor, Romney\'s Eagerness to Hire Women Faded

On Tuesday night, Mitt Romney moved to build his support among female voters by boasting during the presidential debate that he named more women to senior positions as Massachusetts governor than did the governors of any other state.

It was perhaps not his best moment. By Wednesday morning, skeptics pounced on his claim, citing a 2007 academic study that concluded that when Mr. Romney left office in December 2006, the share of women in top policy-making jobs was actually smaller than it was under his Republican predecessor.

Moreover, women's-rights advocates said that Mr. Romney had falsely claimed to be the inspiration for promoting women to high positions when in fact a women's political organization had conceived and largely executed it.

After badly trailing President Obama among women, Mr. Romney has recently racked up impressive gains in their support in some polls, and the battle for the female vote has emerged as a crucial factor in next month's election.

In Tuesday's debate, Mr. Romney seized on an audience question about equal pay for women to cite his record in Massachusetts, where he was governor from January 2003 to December 2006.

“I had the - the chance to pull together a cabinet, and all the applicants seemed to be men. And I - and I went to my staff, and I said, how come all the people for these jobs are - are all men?” he said. “I went to a number of women's groups and said, can you help us find folks? And they brought us whole binders full of - of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Romney's assertion that he approached women's groups and accumulated “whole binders full of women” drew much of the heat, as well as guffaws over Mr. Romney's strained syntax.

Asked to comment on Mr. Romney's claim that he initiated the effort to promote women in government, and to list some of the women's groups that he said he had approached, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign said that as a new governor, Mr. Romney “worked with MassGAP to find the best qualified women for top positions in Massachusetts government. The efforts resulted in Massachusetts having the most women in top positions in the entire country.”

The actual sequence of events was different, according to Liz Levin, the chairwoman of the Massachusetts Government Appointments Project, a women's lobbying group known as MassGAP.

The group, an offshoot of the state Women's Political Caucus, lobbied both candidates in the 2002 governor's race to make a best effort to raise the share of women in senior government posts, and to work with the group after the election to discuss new hires.

Both Mr Romney an d his opponent agreed, Ms. Levin said, and after Mr, Romney's November victory he appointed his lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, to work with MassGAP.

“He did not come to us first,” Ms. Levin said. But “when we made the outreach, he certainly was very accommodating, and Kerry Healey worked with us extremely well.”

The so-called binders of women - big, black three-ring binders, stuffed to bursting with résumés of potential female appointees - were prepared by committees of MassGAP volunteers and delivered to the statehouse, said Carol Hardy-Fanta, a senior researcher at the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

And by July 2004, 18 months into Mr. Romney's term, women had been named to 42 percent of all policy-making posts, according to a 2007 study by the University of Massachusetts-Boston center. A similar University of Albany study - the one cited by Mr. Romney in the debate - used differe nt methodology and pegged the share at 50 percent - 10 of Mr. Romney's first 20 appointments.

“His record, as we measured it, looks darned good,” said Judith Saidel, a professor of public policy at the University of Albany's Rockefeller College who directed the February 2004 study.

Measured over the long run, however, that record is considerably less impressive. When Mr. Romney's Republican predecessor, Jane Swift, left office in December 2003, 30 percent of Massachusetts policy posts were held by women, according to the 2007 University of Massachusetts-Boston study. While Mr. Romney pushed the share to 42 percent in his first 18 months, it steadily declined thereafter. And a month before he left office in November 2006, it stood at 27.6 percent - below his predecessor's level.

Ms. Saidel of the University of Albany called that “discouraging.” Ms. Hardy-Fanta, who worked on the 2007 University of Massachusetts-Boston study, said she gave Mr. Romney credit for good intentions, but not for following up on his pledge.

“I don't doubt he wanted to do the right thing,” she said. “But when the candidates and elected officials are in the spotlight and there is accountability and they know they're being looked at, there is more of an effort. And once that accountability and those reminders that this is important aren't there, the old boys network falls back into place. And they only know men.”

Though Mr. Romney clearly misspoke, it is interesting to note that he claimed to have appointed more women to top jobs than any other governor, when the two studies measured percentages, not raw numbers.

Were you to use raw numbers, you'd find that 21 governors named more women to top posts than did Mr. Romney, Ms. Saidel said, largely because many states give governors sweeping power to appoint heads of agencies and committees, rather than delegate that power to legislatures or independent boards. Those governor s often chose more women than did Mr. Romney, but they chose even more men, putting them behind him in the overall share of female appointees.

Kitty Bennett contributed reporting.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 18, 2012

An earlier version of this post incorrectly rendered a quote from Mitt Romney in Tuesday night's debate. Mr. Romney said that women's groups provided "binders full" of candidates, not that he provided them.

Romney\'s Proposal to Cap Deductions Would Not Pay for His Tax Cuts, Analysis Says

Mitt Romney said at the second presidential debate on Tuesday that he might try to cap itemized tax deductions in order to make up the revenue that would be lost by his proposal to cut marginal income tax rates across the board by 20 percent.

Mr. Romney has pledged that his tax plan will not add to the deficit, so he would have to find ways to make up the lost revenues. But an analysis released Wednesday by the Tax Policy Center found that capping deductions would not yield enough revenue to make up the roughly $5 trillion that Mr. Romney's various tax proposals are projected to cost over a decade.

The center calculated that eliminating all deductions, which would go much further than Mr. Romney's proposal, would yield only $2 trillion over 10 years if tax laws were changed along the lines Mr. Romney has proposed.

“Even if you zero out itemized deductions, you're still not going to get there,” Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Cente r, said in an interview. “The dollars just aren't big enough.”

When Mr. Romney was asked at the debate on Tuesday which tax breaks he might reduce to pay for his proposed rate cuts, he raised the idea of capping deductions, which he has been talking about for several weeks.

“In terms of bringing down deductions, one way of doing that would be to say everybody gets - I'll pick a number - $25,000 of deductions and credits,” he said. “And you can decide which ones to use, your home mortgage interest deduction, charity, child tax credit and so forth. You can use those as part of filling that bucket, if you will, of deductions.”

The Tax Policy Center estimated that capping deductions at $25,000 would yield $1.3 trillion.

“Without more specifics, we can't say how much revenue such limits would actually raise,” Mr. Williams wrote in a blog post. “But these new estimates suggest that Romney will need to d o much more than capping itemized deductions to pay for the roughly $5 trillion in rate cuts and other tax benefits he has proposed.”

Another of Mr. Romney's goals - making sure the wealthy continue to pay the same amount of taxes - could be difficult to achieve, the analysis suggests. A previous analysis by the center suggested that taxpayers in the top 0.1 percent would see an average tax reduction of $725,716 under Mr. Romney's proposal. The analysis released Wednesday suggested that capping deductions at $25,000 would raise their taxes by an average of $229,601. So they would still be getting a tax cut of nearly half a million dollars.

The Romney campaign has disputed the center's findings in the past, arguing that they fail to account for the economic growth it says the tax changes would spur.

The Romney campaign strongly disputed the center's findings. The campaign noted that Mr. Romney has only suggested capping deductions as a possible approach t o offsetting the cuts, hinted that other options would be explored to raise revenues and said that working against a target of $5 trillion over 10 years was wrong because some aspects of their tax plan, including lowering the corporate tax rate, would be handled separately.

“While Governor Romney has proposed cutting marginal rates across the board by 20 percent and eliminating the A.M.T., he has only suggested that capping itemized deductions is one option that could be explored, and there are others,'' Pierce Scranton, the campaign's economic policy director, said in a statement on the campaign's Web site.

Follow Michael Cooper on Twitter at @coopnytimes.

Springsteen Makes It Official: He\'s for Obama

Until now, Bruce Springsteen had chosen to stay silent on national politics, even though his latest album, “Wrecking Ball,” can seem like a soundtrack for the Obama campaign, with its lyrics about corporate raiders negatively impacting the working-class people he sings about.

It became clear in the last week that he was going to support President Obama again, after he announced he would perform at Obama rallies in Ohio and Iowa.
But on Thursday night he made it formal in a letter he made public on his Web site. The letter included an explanation as to why Mr. Obama's term had not gone precisely as promised, with a nod to the economy he inherited and Republican opposition.

The letter states: “This presidential election is different than the last one because President Obama has a four year record to run on. Last time around, he carried with him a tremendous amount of hope and expectations. Unfortunately, due to the economic chaos the previous administ ration left him with, and the extraordinary intensity of the opposition, it turned into a really rough ride. But through grit, determination, and focus, the President has been able to do a great many things that many of us deeply support.”

He credits Mr. Obama for “passing guaranteed health care for most of our citizens,” and “rescuing the auto industry and so many of the American jobs that go with it,” “protecting and enhancing the rights of women, and bringing us closer to full acceptance of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

He cites “the killing of Osama Bin Laden,'' and “following through on the removal of troops from the misguided and deceptive war in Iraq.”

He expresses anger at what he called “the opposition's resort to voter suppression,” through “anti-voter, anti-citizen efforts.”

And, he concludes: “Right now, there is a choice going on in America, and I'm happy that we live in a country where we all participate in that process. For me, President Obama is our best choice because he has a vision of the United States as a place where we are all in this together. We're still living through very hard times but justice, equality and real freedom are not always a tide rushing in. They are more often a slow march, inch by inch, day after long day. I believe President Obama feels these days in his bones and has the strength to live them with us and to lead us to a country ‘…where no one crowds you and no one goes it alone.' That's why I plan to be in Ohio and Iowa supporting the re-election of President Obama to lead our country for the next four years.”

Navigating Medicare\'s Open Enrollment Period

Many of the elderly with Medicare do not realize it, but their health coverage has an annual open enrollment period, just as employer-based health insurance plans do. During this period, they can change their coverage options if they choose. This year's window opened this week, and remains open until Dec. 7.

Consumer Reports has helpful tips from its resident health insurance expert, Nancy Metcalf, to navigate the open enrollment period.

Medicare beneficiaries who are happy with their plans do not need to do anything, if they don't want to change. But it is still a good idea to check options, Ms. Metcalf advises, to make sure a version of Medicare is the best one in terms of cost and coverage. If, for instance, you have the original version of Medicare and pay extra for prescription drug coverage (so-called Part D coverage), you may want to make sure important medications you need are still covered under your plan, to avoid having to pay more for them.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan - with private H.M.O.'s or P.P.O.'s that you may choose, instead of original Medicare - you should also check to see if your plan is still the best available option. The plans may include drug benefits or coverage for other health needs, like dental care, but benefits can change from year to year. You will want to make sure you can still afford the premium, and that your doctor is still included in the plan.

The Medicare.gov Web site has a tool that can help in comparing options for both Part D drug coverage plans and Medicare Advantage plans, based on where a person lives. To get the most out of it, you will need to know what type of plan you currently have. If you do not know, the tool lets you enter information, including your Medicare number, to find out. Or, you can call 800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) toll free and ask. You will also need a list of your medications, along with details of dosage and frequency of use.

I tried out the tool for a family member who has Medicare Part D coverage and found it time-consuming to enter all the necessary information. (Other writers for The Times have written about this in greater detail.) But the tool does let you store the information when you are done, so you can refer to it or update it in the future.

Are you or a loved one switching Medicare plans this year? Did you have any luck with the online tools?