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Friday, October 19, 2012

Most Battleground States See Drop in Unemployment Numbers

Several battlegrounds states, including Florida, Nevada and Ohio, saw large drops in unemployment over the last 12 months, the government reported Wednesday.

Change in Unemployment Rate By StateRankStateRateChange
T-11North Carolina9.6-1.1
T-48New Hampshire5.70.3

The latest state-by-state numbers, the last batch before the election, show that Nevada actually saw the largest drop of any state. The unempl oyment rate declined by 1.8 percentage points between September 2011 and September 2012, although the state still has the nation's highest unemployment rate, 11.8 percent.

Florida and Ohio also ranked among the 10 states with the largest drops in unemployment, down 1.7 percentage points and 1.6 points respectively.

Other battleground states lagged behind. New Hampshire was one of only six states that saw an increase in unemployment, although its situation is the mirror image of Nevada's - it still has one of the nation's lowest unemployment rates.

The table shows the September unemployment rate and 12-month change for each of the nine states that The New York Times regards as tossups. A letter T in a state's ranking denotes a tie.

Follow Binyamin Appelbaum on Twitter at @BCAppelbaum.

Knights of Columbus Donate Millions to Anti-Gay Marriage Effort, Report Says

The Knights of Columbus are best known as a Roman Catholic fraternal and service organization that sells insurance policies to finance its charitable activities. The group provides coats for underprivileged children, prosthetics for Haitian earthquake victims and scholarships to Catholic colleges for the children of its members.

But less well known is that the Knights are also donating significant amounts of money and volunteer time to fight the legalization of gay marriage.  Between 2005 and 2012, the Knights channeled $6.5 million to campaigns against same-sex marriage â€" most of it to political campaigns in 12 states to pass ballot measures that would ban marriage for gays and lesbians - according to a report released on Thursday by Equally Blessed, a coalition of groups of Catholics who support gay marriage.

The report, based on public Internal Revenue Service forms and campaign filings, said that the $6.5 million was probably an undercount because the Kn ights have not yet filed their I.R.S. forms for 2011 or 2012.

The report found that $1.9 million of the total went to the National Organization for Marriage, a group that has coordinated statewide campaigns to pass anti-gay marriage initiatives.  Gay marriage initiatives are on the ballot in four states in November: Washington, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota.

Patrick Korten, a spokesman for the Knights, said about financing the campaigns: “Of course, we get involved in all of them. We supply volunteers, we give money. We are one with the church on the subject of preserving traditional man-and-woman marriage. And that should come as a great surprise to no one.”

However, it has apparently come as a surprise to some Knights. Edmund Burg, who joined the Knights of Columbus 65 years ago when he returned from serving in the Pacific theater, said he was close to following the example of a friend and resigning his membership.

Mr. Burg lives in Minnesota, where the Knights and the Catholic bishops have backed an amendment to change the state Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.  Mr. Burg said he learned about the Knights' involvement only after reading news media reports revealing that the Knights had helped to pay to send a DVD opposing gay marriage to about 400,000 Catholic households, including his.

“It's really shameful that an organization like the Knights of Columbus that does a lot of good work, goes and smears their record by supporting something like anti-gay marriage,” said Mr. Burg, a Catholic who said he supports his local parish but is disillusioned with the bishops.

In a two-sentence statement released on Thursday, the Knights of Columbus said that they support “Catholic Social Teaching and the bishops of the Catholic Church, and some resources have long been dedicated to promoting that teaching on moral issues.”

The statemen t did not contest the $6.2 million figure, but pointed out that in the same time period the group had also donated more than $1 billion to charitable causes.

Obama\'s Election-Night Rally Will Be Indoors

After already losing one bet against the weather, President Obama is taking his election-night rally indoors.

The campaign will hold its Nov. 6 event at McCormick Place in Chicago, a large convention center on the shore of Lake Michigan, barring any last-minute changes, his campaign confirmed Thursday.

The inclusion of a roof might be a consequence of the Democratic National Convention, which had to scramble to shift Mr. Obama's acceptance speech from the 74,000-seat Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., to the 20,000-seat Time Warner Cable Arena when storms threatened to wash out the closing night.

According the the convention center's Web site, McCormick Place has assembly seating for 18,000 plus other theaters, making it a large indoor site but a far cry from the estimated 240,000 who packed Chicago's Grant Park in 2008. The center recently hosted the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit meeting in May.

Obama Addresses Libya Attack in Daily Show Interview

President Obama and Jon Stewart during a break in taping for Damon Winter/The New York Times President Obama and Jon Stewart during a break in taping for “The Daily Show” on Thursday in New York.

President Obama on Thursday acknowledged “screw-ups” in the government's handling of the deadly attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and vowed an investigation that would fix them.

Questioned on the attack and the conflicting accounts of it by “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, Mr. Obama said: “The government is a big operation and any given time, something screws up. And you make sure that you find out what's broken and you fix it.”

“When fo ur Americans get killed, it's not optimal,” Mr. Obama said, according to a White House pool report of the taping. “We're going to fix it. All of it.”

Mr. Obama's language was a notable departure from his second debate with Mitt Romney, in which he spoke emotionally of the four Americans killed in Benghazi as “my folks.” But he was replying to a question from Mr. Stewart, in which he said, “Even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page.”

Though the interview had some light moments, the host was characteristically tough in his questioning of the president, pushing him to explain the administration's shifting accounts of the Libya attack, the negative tone of his campaign, the trade-offs between American values and national security interests, and whether he would be able to break Washington gridlock in a second term.

Much of the fo cus was on Libya, with Mr. Stewart pressing the president on why the State Department and the American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, seemed to give different accounts of the attack in the immediate aftermath.

“Every piece of information that we get, as we got it, we laid it out to the American people,” Mr. Obama replied. “The picture eventually gets fully filled in.” But he rejected Mr. Stewart's suggestion that the administration was confused in its response.

“We weren't confused about the fact that four Americans had been killed,” Mr. Obama said. “I wasn't confused about the fact that we needed to ramp up diplomatic security around the world right after it happened. I wasn't confused about the fact that we had to investigate exactly what happened so it gets fixed. And I wasn't confused about the fact that we're going to hunt down whoever did it.”

Speaking more broadly about counterterrorism, the president said “remnant s” of Al Qaeda were still active in North Africa and the Middle East, but that the administration had “gone after Al Qaeda and its leadership.” He repeated his promise to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, saying he had not been able to get it through Congress.

Mr. Stewart poked fun at Mr. Obama's lackluster performance in the first debate, showing him two photos of Michelle Obama after the debates that he said he was putting into a campaign scrapbook. He said he was not sure which was which (Mrs. Obama was smiling broadly in one and looking at Mr. Obama with an angry expression in the other).

“Cute,” Mr. Obama said. “Cute, Jon.”

After a commercial break, Mr. Stewart quizzed the president on how many times a week Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. turned up at White House meetings in a bathing suit. “We had to stop that,” Mr. Obama replied, saying he had issued a presidential directive. “I gotta say, though, he looks pre tty good.”

Romney \'Super PAC\' Makes $12 Million Ad Buy

The “super PAC” supporting Mitt Romney is making its most aggressive and expensive push yet in the advertising wars with a $12 million ad buy in nine states.

The expenditure represents a significant expansion of the group's advertising campaign and will be a major boost for Mr. Romney with only two and a half weeks to go before Election Day.

The group, Restore Our Future, had been advertising only in a handful of states in recent weeks. But its latest ad buy will include almost all of the major battleground states - Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Nevada, Virginia and Wisconsin - plus Michigan, which has been relatively quiet because President Obama is believed to have a sizable advantage there.

The money is for just six days of ads starting on Tuesday and includes some huge sums, according to a firm that tracks political advertising. Restore Our Future has reserved around $1 million in airtime for Iowa and Wisconsin, an amount that ensures its message will be on television in heavy rotation there because of their smaller-sized media markets. It has also committed $2.5 million to Ohio and $2.3 million to Florida.

Restore Our Future's ads will help Mr. Romney remain competitive on the air. Until recently, the Obama campaign had been outspending the Romney campaign and its Republican allies in several battleground states. But Republicans believe that with polls showing the race tightening, and a small but potentially pivotal slice of voters still undecided, a messaging barrage in the final days before the election could make all the difference.

Carl Forti, a senior strategist for the group, said Thursday that the ads for the latest campaign are still being worked on. “Governor Romney continues to generate excitement among voters,” he said, “and we plan to play a pivotal role down the stretch as voters make their final decisions.”

The fact that the group was able to reserve $12 million worth of air time for just one week indicates that it has had some success capitalizing off Mr. Romney's recent rise in the polls. It ended August with just $6 million in the bank, according to its last financial disclosure.

Follow Jeremy W. Peters on Twitter at @ jwpetersNYT .

A version of this article appeared in print on 10/19/2012, on page A18 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Romney Group Making Major Advertising Push.

Obama Ahead in Polls of Wisconsin and Iowa

President Obama has significant leads over Mitt Romney in Iowa and Wisconsin, two critical battleground states that could serve as a firewall for the president against a late surge by his rival in other places, according to new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls released Thursday evening.

In Iowa, Mr. Obama leads by eight percentage points in a state he won four years ago by a slightly larger margin, according to the poll. In Wisconsin, the home of Representative Paul D. Ryan, Mr. Romney's running mate, the president has a six-point lead.

Both polls were taken on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, spanning the period just before and just after the second presidential debate, when Mr. Obama turned in an aggressive town-hall performance.

In both polls, Mr. Obama leads Mr. Romney by 19 percentage points among women, a key constituency that both campaigns are courting with a renewed intensity in the last 19 days of the presidential campaign.

The battleground surveys offer a contrasting view of the presidential race from some recent national surveys, which have shown Mr. Romney moving into the lead. A few surveys have also shown Mr. Obama's wide lead among women eroding in the last few weeks.

Iowa and Wisconsin are among eight or nine states that will help decide whether Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney can assemble the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the presidency. Mr. Obama rallied supporters in Iowa on Wednesday.

Mr. Obama had been leading in both states for months. But some recent polls have showed the race tightening in both places after the first presidential debate, when Mr. Obama's performance was seen by some as sleepy.

The polls released Thursday evening suggest that Mr. Obama's campaign retains some of the earlier strength in both states. They indicate that some of the president's support comes from voters who have already cast their ballots during earl y voting in both states.

In Iowa, about a third of the state's electorate has already voted, and the poll suggests that Mr. Obama has dominated that vote. In Wisconsin, about 15 percent of the voters have already cast their ballots.

The polls were conducted among 1,137 likely voters in Iowa and 1,013 likely voters in Wisconsin. Each poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

A version of this article appeared in print on 10/19/2012, on page A18 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Two Battlegrounds: Polls Show Leads for Obama.

Romney Receives Endorsement of Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. â€" Mitt Romney, who often grouses that he is simultaneously running against President Obama and the mainstream media, will be greeted upon his arrival in Florida on Friday by a headline with which he cannot quarrel: The Orlando Sentinel is endorsing him.

Four years after The Sentinel, central Florida's largest newspaper, endorsed Barack Obama's candidacy for president, the newspaper's editorial page said Mr. Romney is the better choice this time.

“We have little confidence that Obama would be more successful managing the economy and the budget in the next four years,” the editorial in Friday's edition said. “For that reason, though we endorsed him in 2008, we are recommending Romney in this race.”

A little more than two weeks before the election, newspaper endorsements are steadily trickling in across the country. Both campaigns have spent considerable time trying to win endorsements, particularly f rom newspapers in battleground states, like The Sentinel.

The Obama campaign has assigned top advisers to talk with editorial boards, trying to win endorsements from the newspapers that supported his candidacy in 2008. Mr. Romney has also been meeting with some editorial boards during campaign trips. The campaigns are bracing this weekend for several newspaper endorsements to be released in key states.

The recommendation of Mr. Romney by The Sentinel, whose readers live in a battleground area within a battleground state, stopped short of being a ringing endorsement. But the editorial page firmly declared that it was time for a change in the White House, arguing that Mr. Romney's business experience and record of leadership prepared him for the Oval Office.

“Romney is not our ideal candidate for president,” the editorial said. “We've been turned off by his appeals to social conservatives and immigration extremists. Like most presidential hopefuls, in cluding Obama four years ago, Romney faces a steep learning curve on foreign policy.”

He is expected to tout the endorsement on Friday when he arrives for a campaign visit in Daytona Beach. He will stay in Florida until Monday, when he meets Mr. Obama for the third presidential debate in Boca Raton.

Florida, with its 29 electoral votes, is the biggest battleground state in the nation. The editorial made clear that its endorsement was for one campaign cycle at a time.

“This is Romney's time to lead, again,” the editorial said. “If he doesn't produce results - even with a hostile Senate - we'll be ready in 2016 to get behind someone else who will.”

Follow Jeff Zeleny on Twitter at @jeffzeleny.

The Early Word: Limitless in Missouri

In Today's Times:

  • Since Missouri abolished campaign contribution limits in 2008, one man has donated more than $20 million to candidates and political action committees, making him perhaps the most influential private citizen in the state. And if the lawyers and activists mounting challenges to federal caps have their way, Missouri is offering the rest of the nation a glimpse of the future, Nicholas Confessore reports.
  • An obscure provision of the new health care law is fueling campaign ads attacking Republicans for voting to give themselves “taxpayer-funded health care for life,” a potentially damaging charge Republicans say is misleading, Robert Pear reports.
  • Three of the most hotly contested states - Colorado, Florida and Nevada - are getting some extra attention as the presidential campaigns vie for Latino voters there with a surge of ads and volunteers, Adam Nagourney and Fernanda Santos report.
  • A federa l court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on Thursday, saying it violated the equal protection rights of gay Americans and setting the stage for a potential Supreme Court review of the same-sex marriage issue, John Schwartz reports.
  • With just 19 days until Election Day, President Obama's stump speech can be boiled down to one basic message: Vote. Facing a decline in voter enthusiasm compared to 2008 in an election that will likely hinge on turnout, Mr. Obama is focused on getting people to the polls, Mark Landler reports.

Washington Happenings:

  • Mr. Obama will speak at a campaign rally at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., before heading to Camp David on Friday.
  • The National Association of Realtors will release its numbers on existing home sales for September.

Friday Reading: Career Re-Entry for the At-Home Parent

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.

  • U.S. court says marriage act unfair to gays. (National)
  • Devilishly good Halloween outings. (In Transit)
  • Delta expands service to Europe. (In Transit)
  • Chemotherapy on the rocks. (Well)
  • Career re-entry for the at-home parent. (Motherlode)
  • Baby boomers and insomnia. (Booming)
  • Can a back-up system have too many features? (Gadgetwise)
  • More advice on home data storage. (Pogue's Posts)
  • Newsweek will cease print publication. (Business)