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Monday, October 22, 2012

Share Your Reactions to the Third Presidential Debate

President Obama and Mitt Romney meet Monday night in the final presidential debate of 2012. Bob Schieffer of CBS News is moderating a discussion of foreign policy issues, including the Middle East, terrorism and the rise of China.

Do you believe the candidates have substantive differences when it comes to foreign policy? Will either candidate convince voters that his policies will bolster national security?

Follow along with our coverage, which includes blog posts, video and fact-checks, and share your reactions in the comments here.

FInal Presidential Debate Fact-Checks and Updates

President Obama and Mitt Romney square off on Monday night in Boca Raton, Fla. for the final presidential debate before the election. Live coverage begins at 8 p.m. Eastern. The Times will be providing updates and analysis on our live dashboard. You can also follow along on Twitter @thecaucus, or follow our list of Times journalists covering the debate.

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The Caucus Click: McCain in the Spin Room

Senator John McCain sat for a television interview in the spin room before the start of the third presidential debate on Monday in Boca Raton, Fla.Richard Perry/The New York Times Senator John McCain sat for a television interview in the spin room before the start of the third presidential debate on Monday in Boca Raton, Fla.

Debates Put Focus on Romney\'s \'Day 1\' Pledges

“On Day 1,” Mitt Romney said at last Tuesday's presidential debate, “I will label China a currency manipulator.” Viewers of Monday night's debate could expect China's alleged currency manipulation to come up once more, as it is a stalwart of Mr. Romney's stump speech.

“Let me tell you, on Day 1 of my administration, I will label China a currency manipulator,” Mr. Romney said at a rally in Ohio, three days before the last debate.

“When their prices are low and then they compete with our manufacturers, our guys go out of business and people lose jobs,” he told wire-makers in Ohio in late September. “And that's why one thing I will do from Day 1 is label China a currency manipulator.”

Whether or not China truly is manipulating its currency, Mr. Romney would still have a busy first day in office. In remarks throughout this election season, Mr. Romney's has often said that he will tackle issues “on Day 1.”

“I can execute a - an executive order on Day 1 that grants a waiver to all 50 states from ‘Obamacare,' ” Mr. Romney told a group of small-business owners in June, referring to President Obama's health care legislation. Under the law, some states and insurers have been granted waivers when they have shown that the law's requirements would significantly increase premiums or decrease benefits.

“Day 1 I can also file legislation that repeals ‘Obamacare,' ” Mr. Romney said at the same event, but acknowledged that he would need majorities in both houses of Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In last week's debate, Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama also sparred over domestic energy production and the administration's indefinite rejection of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, another issue that Mr. Romney likes to bring up on the campaign trail.

“I can guarantee you, if I'm president on Day 1 we're going to get the approval for that pipeline from Canada. And if I have to build it myself to get it here, I'll get that oil into America,” Mr. Romney said at a June campaign event in Ohio.

And in an October event in Ohio, Mr. Romney said that on Day 1 he would order the Department of Commerce to “start providing permits and licenses to people who've already been approved to drill on federal lands and in federal waters and in Alaska.”

Addressing Hispanic business leaders in Los Angeles last month, Mr. Romney promised to get the ball rolling on spending cuts. “I'll pursue a 5 percent cut in nonsecurity discretionary spending on my first day in office,” he said.

In August, at another event in Ohio, Mr. Romney leveled a charge that Mr. Obama, in granting the states more authority in how they distribute federal assistance, removed a requirement for recipients of welfare to be working.

“And taking work out of welfare is something I'll change, I'll tell you that, Day 1,” Mr. Romney said.

At the June event where he spoke about health care, Mr. Romney also brought up the broad topic of regulation. “An immediate step on Day 1 is, I would execute an executive order which directed that all regulations that have not yet been implemented be put on hold,” he said.

“As a first act, one of the executive orders I will carry out in the first day is one saying that on federal projects, union or nonunion can work, not just union,” Mr. Romney told workers in Charlotte, N.C., in May.

But some things, like outreach to leaders in Congress, would not wait for Day 1.

“I will sit down on Day 1 - actually the day after I get elected, I'll sit down with leaders - the Democratic leaders as well as Republican leaders,” Mr. Romney said at the presidential debate in Denver earlier this month.

Mr. Romney, of course, wouldn't be the first president to make big plans for his first days and weeks in office.

On his third full day in office, Mr. Obama lifted a restriction on feder al money for international organizations that provide abortions overseas. Known as the Mexico City Policy, the ban originated in 1984 under President Ronald Reagan, and it has come and gone as the party that controls the White House changes hands.

President Bill Clinton removed the ban shortly after taking office in 1993. President George W. Bush reinstated it on a similar timeline.

So in February, Mr. Romney told the Conservative Political Action Conference to expect the same. “On Day 1, I will reinstate the Mexico City Policy,” he said.

Foreign Policy Debate Puts Focus on Leadership

President Obama arrived in Boca Raton, Fla., on Monday before the third presidential debate.Damon Winter/The New York Times President Obama arrived in Boca Raton, Fla., on Monday before the third presidential debate.

For 90 minutes tonight, President Obama and Mitt Romney will clash over specific foreign policy issues, their differences heightened by a debate intended to draw out sharp contrasts ahead of Election Day in two weeks.

But for viewers, the specifics may be mostly background noise as they search for the answer to a gauzy question: Who would be the best leader?

In polls this year, voters have practically screamed at the top of their lungs how little they care about foreign policy. In recent polls of three battleground states, Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin, fewer than 10 percent of voters in each state said national security was the most important issue to them, ranking below the economy, deficit and health care.

And yet, both campaigns have spent plenty of time and money in an effort to claim the mantle of who is best able to lead. Top strategists for both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama seem to believe that foreign policy will help shape those perceptions.

In a strategy memorandum released by the Democratic campaign on Monday, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, argues that Mr. Obama has proved to be a “steady and strong leader” around the world. He accuses Mr. Romney of “endless bluster and a record of dangerous blunders” in foreign affairs.

“He is an extreme and expedient candidate who lacks the judgment and vision so vital for the Oval Office,” Mr. Kerry wrote of Mr. Romney. “And he's at the top of the most inexperienced fo reign policy ticket to run for president and vice president in decades.”

Mr. Romney's campaign countered with a memo of its own, arguing that at the end of Mr. Obama's four years in office, “America stands weakened around the world, with our safety threatened, our allies increasingly isolated, and hostile nations emboldened.” The campaign added, “As president, Mitt Romney will deliver where President Obama has failed.”

In recent weeks, Mr. Romney and his top surrogates have seized on the killing of the American ambassador in Libya and other developments in the Middle East as evidence of a broader leadership failure on the president's part. Mr. Romney fumbled his efforts to make that broader case in his second debate with Mr. Obama last week.

In that exchange, Mr. Romney's argument about leadership became caught up in his specific assertion about whether the president had called the attacks “terrorism.” Now, the Republican candidate will get a nother chance to make the larger case.

Mr. Obama's advisers have long believed that the president's success in making good on some crucial promises - leaving Iraq, winding down in Afghanistan and killing Osama bin Laden - has earned him broad support when it comes to foreign policy leadership.

“Presidential elections are about character and the character of your convictions, and my guy, he never tells you anything he doesn't mean and he doesn't do,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said at a rally over the weekend in Florida.

Surveys suggest that Mr. Obama remains strong on foreign policy - to a point. Even as Mr. Romney has been hammering the president on Libya policy, for example, voters in many polls still give Mr. Obama the edge on handling foreign policy matters.

A Quinnipiac University / CBS News poll of voters in Ohio released Monday gives Mr. Obama a seven-point edge over Mr. Romney on that question.

But Mr. Romney does better on t he broader question of leadership. In the same survey, Ohio voters gave Mr. Romney the edge when asked whether they view the candidates as strong leaders. Tonight's debate could be an opportunity for Mr. Romney to further widen that gap.

To do that, Mr. Romney will have to find a way to connect his specific criticism of what he calls Mr. Obama's “feckless” foreign policy to a bigger critique of the president's ability to lead on the world stage.

On some crucial foreign policy issues, Mr. Romney's own positions are different more in tone than substance from Mr. Obama's. But Mr. Romney is likely to focus on the continuing standoff with Iran over its nuclear program, the continuing stalemate over peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and the growing security and economic tensions with Russia and China.

The president's challenge is to defend his own record while broadly questioning Mr. Romney's capacity to lead in a complex world. In his Monday memo, M r. Kerry wrote that a failure by Mr. Romney to answer those concerns would convince people that he has “fallen short of the Commander-in-Chief threshold.”

In the past, Mr. Obama has sought to undercut perceptions of his rival's leadership qualities by tying him to the policies of President George W. Bush, and by suggesting that Mr. Romney will undo any progress made during the last four years.

The president's campaign previewed that theme in a new television commercial it released Monday. The commercial claims that Mr. Romney would have left American troops in Iraq and opposes a responsible drawdown of the conflict in Afghanistan.

“President Obama ended the Iraq war. Mitt Romney would have left 30,000 troops there and called bringing them home ‘tragic,'” the ad says. “It's time to stop fighting over there and start rebuilding over here.”

From the Lens Blog: Looking Presidential

Greta Pratt

Over on the Lens blog: the photographer Greta Pratt did portraits of 19 presenters of our 16th president - a whole lot of Lincolns.

Home Affordability Still Elusive in Some Major Markets

A home for sale earlier this year near Atlanta.T. Lynne Pixley for The New York TimesA home for sale earlier this year near Atlanta.

Despite a drop in prices since the housing market crash and historically low mortgage rates, many families still can't afford to buy a home in many major cities, a new analysis finds.

Despite lower prices, a median-income household can afford a median-priced home in just 14 of the country's 25 largest metropolitan areas due to rising expenses and stagnant wages, research from Interest.com finds.

The home affordability study finds that Detroit, Atlanta and Minneapolis are the most affordable markets, and San Diego, New York and San Francisco are the least affordable.< /p>

“Even after years of declining home prices and record-low mortgage rates, median-income households are unable to afford a median-priced home in nearly half of the metropolitan areas that we looked at,” explained Mike Sante, the site's managing editor, in a statement.

To determine their rankings, Interest.com gathered the median home prices in the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the United States and calculated how much financing would be required for a buyer with a 20 percent down payment. The site crunched data from the National Association of Realtors, the Census Bureau and other sources, including data on insurance costs and taxes, to arrive at its findings.

Interest.com gave each market a letter-grade for overall affordability, as well as a “paycheck power” rating, which indicates the percentage by which the median income exceeds, or falls short of, the income necessary to buy a median-priced home.

Atlanta scored an “A” on affordabili ty and a paycheck power rating of 40 percent, which means that the median income in the city exceeds that needed to buy a median-priced home there by 40 percent. The city has relatively low home prices - the median sale price of $103,200 is well below the average of nearly $230,000 for the 25 largest cities - and slightly higher income. (Detroit's rating was even higher, but the city represents a special situation, Interest.com notes, because the low home prices reflect a large number of abandoned properties).

The least affordable city was San Francisco, where the median income falls 33 percent short of the income needed to buy a median-priced home.

The most-affordable and least-affordable markets and their paycheck power ratings are:

1. Detroit (+45.32 percent)
2. Atlanta (+40 percent)
3. Minneapolis (+32.2 percent)
4. Phoenix (+23.67 percent)
5. St. Louis (+23.49 percent)

Least Affordable Metropolitan Areas

21. Los Ange les (-12.52 percent)
22. Miami (-12.59 percent)
23. San Diego (-25.9 percent)
24. New York (-29.71 percent)
25. San Francisco (-32.76 percent)

Do you live in one of the more expensive markets? Do you think you will be able to buy a home there?

Springsteen to Give Free Concert in Virginia to Support Obama

Bruce Springsteen announced on Sunday that he is taking his support of President Obama to a new level: he and the E Street Band will give a free concert on Tuesday in the swing state of Virginia as part of a get-out-the-vote campaign.

The announcement comes after Mr. Springsteen made appearances at Obama rallies in two other swing states last week. He joined former President Bill Clinton at a Obama campaign event in Parma, Ohio, last week, then performed at a second rally in Ames, Iowa.

Mr. Springsteen also posted a letter on his Web site on Wednesday outlining his reasons for supporting Mr. Obama's bid against the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney. The increasing disparity between rich and poor was high on his list. “Right now, there is a fight going on to help make this a fairer and more equitable nation,” he wrote. “For me, President Obama is our best choice to get us and keep us moving in the right direction.”

Mr. Springsteen, whose music oft en focuses on the working-class experience, has always been a supporter of Democrats, but he started playing a direct role in campaigns during John Kerry's failed bid for the presidency in 2004, singing at rallies. He also endorsed Mr. Obama in 2008.

The get-out-the-vote concert in Virginia will take place at 2 p.m. at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion in Charlottesville.

Monday Reading: Some Clinics Raffle Off Chances for Fertility Treatment

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.

  • Raffling off a chance for in vitro fertilization. (National)
  • When the Web's chaos takes an ugly turn. (Sunday Business)
  • The end is nigh for certain tax exemptions. (Real Estate)
  • A cab tailored to wheelchair users. (Automobiles)
  • Silicon Valley perks come home. (National)
  • Boys now enter puberty younger, study suggests. (National)
  • Despite fans' fears, Disney's Country Bears remain corny. (Arts)
  • Microsoft shifts privacy rules, but uproar is absent. (Business)
  • You don't work as hard as you say you do. (Economix)
  • How are 7-inch tablets doing? (Bits)
  • An app to help find apps. (Gadgetwise)
  • From radiation to smog, numbers for the public. (Green)
  • Some schools try to ban “Flamin' Hot Cheetos.” (Well)
  • Elections, politics and a house divided. (Motherlode)
  • Depending on the favored child. (The New Old Age)
  • Meningitis risk haunts 14,000. (National)
  • Microsoft Windows gets a major makeover. (Business)
  • A tiny camera for the stratosphere. (Bits)
  • Eating Well magazine has new lease on life. (Business)
  • Your fees, their bank. (Economix)
  • More on maps. (Gadgetwise)
  • In fight against obesity, drink sizes matter. (Well)
  • Answers to questions about SAT and ACT, part one. (The Choice)

Call It an Uncertainty Fund, Not an Emergency Fund

napkinThe Behavior Gap,” was published this year. His sketches are archived on the Bucks blog. A few weeks ago I wrote about the challenges of managing a lumpy income-one that varies a lot from month to month or year to year.

With this shift to lumpy incomes comes the increasing need to pay attention to what my friend Manisha Thakor, a financial adviser and author, calls an “uncertainty fund.”

We used to call this thing an emergency fund or a rainy day fund, but the basic idea is this: You set aside a bunch of cash to see you through emergencies like a job loss or huge medical bills.

There are a lot of old rules floating around about emergency funds. The most common one says you need to save between three and six months of your income to really be safe. But there are few problems with that rule.

  • It's arbitrary. Why is three months or six months right for everyone?
  • Who has that kind of money anyway?
  • Where should collecting that pile of money land on the priority list?

Do you stop building your retirement account for a year or two or three to build up your uncertainty fund? Should you pay off your credit card debt first? What about saving for your kids' college tuition?

So the old rules of thumb are inadequate for most of us, yet the need for an uncertainty fund is rising. Now what should you do?

In this case, I'm not going to try to replace an old, arbitrary rule with a new one. I suggest you ask yourself two crucial questions to decide how to solve your own uncertainty fund problem.

1. What is the level of uncertainty in my life?

To decide how much risk you can afford to take with your finances, consider the risk you're taking with your human capital. If you're on a risky career path, you might need your uncertainty fund to be a lot bigger.

We used to think of risky careers as those that crazy entrepreneurs pursue. But now, for the first time, you're at risk even if you have the kind of steady job we used to think was secure for life.

I have a lot of friends in Las Vegas who are dentists. I don't know of any of them who went into dentistry out of a spirit of entrepreneurial risk-taking. They went into it because it was stable.

But then they woke up one day and found that the economy had crashed. The real estate market imploded, people were moving away and my friends worried about losing their practices. These guys are dentists - they didn't sign up for all of this. They signed up for doing the same thing for 30 years. They didn't really do anything wrong. It's just that the landscape shifted. So examine whether that same shifting landscape has put your own career in greater uncertainty, or whet her it might before too long.

Consider other potential financial uncertainties too. What do you worry about? Maybe you fear that your elderly parents might become dependent on you or your children might have to move back in with you after college.

2. How can I deal with it?

Now think about the resources available to you if you lost your job, had to support an aging parent or needed to pay off a huge hospital bill.

Some of us may decide the best approach is to save as much as we can in an old-fashioned rainy day fund. But if money is so tight that saving isn't a realistic option, you have to get creative.

  • Do you have home equity you can tap? Consider getting a line of credit now to serve as your safety net in case of emergencies.
  • Can you borrow against the money in your 401(k) plan? Would you want to do that?
  • If your spouse doesn't work, could he or she get a job?
  • Do you have decent disability insurance?
  • Do yo u have a fallback plan if you lost your job? Maybe you used to wait tables or paint houses and might be able to pick up some work on the side while you look for something better.

The point is that an uncertainty fund doesn't have to be $100,000 parked in a money market fund. But it's important to have some kind of plan in place that will offer at least some cushion against financial blows.

What creative ways have you discovered to add to your uncertainty fund?


Ohio Race Tightens in New Poll

The contest in Ohio between President Obama and Mitt Romney has tightened, according to a Quinnipiac University/CBS News poll.

Mr. Obama has a 5-point advantage over his opponent among likely voters, with 50 percent to 45 percent for Mr. Romney. Last month, in the Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll of Ohio, Mr. Obama led by 10 points.

In the current survey, only 3 percent remain undecided and 95 percent of those with a preference said their mind was made up.
Of those who already voted, 54 percent said they cast their ballot for Mr. Obama and 39 percent said they voted for Mr. Romney.
The poll was conducted Wednesday through Saturday night, after the second presidential debate held last Tuesday at Hofstra University in Hempstead. Almost half (48 percent) said Mr. Obama won last week's debate, 27 percent said Mr. Romney was better and 12 percent considered it a tie.

Democrats overwhelmingly see their candidate as the victor in the town hall- style debate, and nearly 6 in 10 Republicans said Mr. Romney was better. Independents were more closely divided, but said Mr. Obama was better: 43 percent said Mr. Obama was victorious and 29 percent said Mr. Romney won. Two-thirds of independents, though, said the debate would have no effect on their vote. Those who said the debate would influence them are evenly divided on which candidate benefitted.

Regarding their expectations for tonight's debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., independents are evenly divided: a third expects Mr. Obama to win, a third envisions success for Mr. Romney and a third couldn't answer.

Voters are evenly divided on which candidate they expect would do a better job dealing with the economy, but Mr. Obama has a slight edge when it comes to foreign policy, the subject of the third debate. Half of the voters surveyed consider Mr. Obama the better candidate for foreign policy; 43 percent said Mr. Romney woul d do a better job in that area.

However, more voters regard Mr. Romney as a strong leader than do Mr. Obama. Mr. Romney is described as having strong leadership qualities by 64 percent; 52 percent say the same about Mr. Obama.

Quinnipiac University and CBS News surveyed 1,548 likely voters throughout Ohio Oct. 17 to 20 using landlines and cell phones. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The survey in Ohio is in addition to a series of swing-state polls conducted jointly by Quinnipiac, CBS News and The New York Times.

The Early Word: Final Round

In Today's Times

  • Republicans have sharply criticized the Obama administration's shifting public position on the cause of the attack in Libya, and that criticism will almost certainly be reprised in the final presidential debate on Monday night, which is to focus on foreign policy, Eric Schmitt writes.
  • For either President Obama or Mitt Romney, finding a satisfactory end to the war in Afghanistan and maintaining American influence in Pakistan will be a challenge requiring difficult choices. Some of them may finally surface on Monday night at the presidential debate, when Afghanistan will be one of the five subjects the candidates discuss, David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker report.
  • Get-out-the-vote efforts have moved front and center for both campaigns, especially in Florida, Trip Gabriel reports. Voter turnout in battleground states may rest in part on the stamina of campaign volunteers.
  • Representative Todd Akin, t he Republican Senate candidate from Missouri, compared his rival's behavior to that of a dog, recharging one of the most contentious and closely watched races in the country, John Eligon reports.

Happening in Washington

  • The State Department will hold a ceremony at the National Arboretum to send 100 dogwood trees to be planted in Tokyo.