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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sununu Suggests Powell\'s Endorsement of Obama Was Based on Race

Former Gov. John H. Sununu of New Hampshire, a co-chairman of Mitt Romney's campaign, injected race into the presidential election in overt fashion on Thursday night, providing a potential hiccup for Mr. Romney in the closing days of the race.

Speaking with the CNN host Piers Morgan about the endorsement of President Obama by the former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin L. Powell, a Republican, Mr. Sununu suggested it was because of their shared heritage as African-Americans.

“When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that's an endorsement based on issues or whether he's got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama,” Mr. Sununu said.

Mr. Morgan asked flatly, “What reason would that be?”

Mr. Sununu responded, “Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin f or standing with him.”

The remark drew immediate criticism on Twitter, shortly after midnight, Mr. Sununu released a statement backtracking, posted on the Web site of the conservative National Review magazine.

“Colin Powell is a friend and I respect the endorsement decision he made and I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the president's policies,” he said.

Rocking the Vote, Meat Loaf Endorses Romney

DEFIANCE, Ohio - It was, perhaps inevitably, called the Mittloaf endorsement.

Meat Loaf, the onetime king of the quivering power ballad, backed Mitt Romney's bid for the White House on Thursday night in meandering and meteorological-themed remarks here in northeastern Ohio.

Standing on stage at a high school football stadium were Mr. Romney appeared, dressed in a black silk shirt with sparkling buttons and sequin-studded sleeves, Meat Loaf said that, at age 65, he was new to national politics, something that quickly became evident. “I want you to know at 65 that Paul Ryan has not pushed me off the cliff in a wheelchair,” he said to nervous laughter.

In a globe-trotting survey, he assessed what awaits the next president. “There has stormclouds come over the United States.” (Yes, he said it just like that.)

“There is thunderstorms over Europe,” Meat Loaf said. “There are hailstorms, and I mean major h ailstorms, in the Middle East. There are storms brewing through China, through Asia, through everywhere, and there's only one man that on the other night when President Barack Obama, God bless him, said to Mitt Romney, ‘The cold war is over.' I have never heard such a thing in my life. The man needs to understand Putin and Russia, so I want you to know that there is one man who will stand tall in this country and fight the storm and bring the United States back to what it should be … Gov. Mitt Romney!

Meat Loaf said that he began to privately support Mr. Romney a year ago and had decided to take it public during a rally on a high school football field, where he performed “Stand in the Storm.”

“I know there's one thing that you've been taught your whole life is that you never argue politics or religion with your friends, but 2012 is completely different,” Meat Loaf said, calling the race “the most important election in the history of the United State s.”

He said he had called three Democratic friends in California on Thursday to make the case for Mr. Romney. “I got two of them to switch to Romney, so two out of three ain't bad,” he said.

Mr. Romney, whose musical tastes tend toward soft rock (the Beatles and Roy Orbison), nevertheless seemed charmed by the appearance when he took the stage.

“I mean, Meat Loaf was here,” he said. “Can you believe it?”

Big Last-Minute Donations Fuel Pro-Romney Super PAC

$10 million in contributions from the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife helped a “super PAC” supporting Mitt Romney raise $20 million during the first seventeen days of October, a faster pace than the group has set in any previous period, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday.

The super PAC, Restore Our Future, has now raised about $150 million during the 2012 cycle, including money it spent to help Mr. Romney win the Republican presidential nomination. As of Oct. 17, the group had about $24.2 million in cash for the final three weeks of the election.

The money helped Restore last week make the largest ad buy in its history, a $12 million campaign that is covering nine battleground states.

The main super PAC backing President Obama, Priorities USA Action, raised about $13 million during the same period and began the final phase of the campaign with about $10 million in cash, less than half that o f Restore.

Restore Our Future's other big donors in October included Kenneth Griffin, a Chicago hedge fund billionaire, who gave $500,000; Jerry Perenchio, the former chairman of Univision, the financier Julian Robertson, and the real estate developer Edward St. John, who each gave $1 million.

Large donors to Priorities USA Action included a new group of Silicon Valley donors, including the Zygna founder Mark Pincus, Linked In's founder Reid Garrett Hoffman, and the venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who each gave $1 million.

Judge Releases Romney Testimony in Surrogate\'s Divorce

A probate court in Massachusetts unsealed 430 pages of testimony by Mitt Romney from 1991, when he was questioned during the protracted divorce proceedings of one of his campaign's top surrogates.

The Boston Globe sought access to transcripts of Mr. Romney's part in the case of Thomas Stemberg, the founder of Staples, and Maureen Sullivan Stemberg. When Ms. Stemberg sued to overturn the couple's 1988 settlement â€" arguing that Mr. Stemberg had understated the value of Staples stock â€" Mr. Romney was called to discuss the company's value and addressed its different classes of stock as head of Bain Capital, which had invested early in the office supply chain. Mr. Romney frequently points to Staples' success as evidence of his economic prowess, and Mr. Stemberg spoke at the Republican National Convention in August.

Although records from divorce proceedings from more than a decade had been impounded and the parties are not allowed to talk about them, the judge re leased transcripts of Mr. Romney's three court appearances when no one, including Mr. Romney's lawyer, objected on Thursday.

Even Gloria Allred, the high-profile lawyer representing Ms. Stemberg, acknowledged that the transcripts “don't mean much.”

That is, she added, “unless my client can speak about them.”

Ms. Allred was frustrated when The Globe dropped the second part of its request, which would have allowed both Stembergs to speak publicly about Mr. Romney and his role in their affairs.

“The Globe's only interest all along, as should have been clear to all parties, was to obtain the transcript of a presidential candidate's testimony,” said the paper's editor, Martin Baron, in a statement. It concluded, “The gag order is a matter for others to litigate, if they wish to do so.”

Ms. Allred has pledged to do so, hinting at a more dramatic conclusion if Ms. Stemberg is allowed to speak.

Romney and Republicans Outraise Obama and Democrats in First Weeks of October

Mitt Romney and the Republicans raised about $21 million more than President Obama and the Democrats during the first 17 days of October, according to numbers released by the two campaigns on Thursday, a period that saw Mr. Romney rising in the polls and holding his own in debates against Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama announced on his Twitter account that his campaign and the Democratic National Committee had taken in $90.5 million after surpassing Mr. Romney in August and September. Mr. Romney and the Republicans announced this morning that they had raised $111.8 million during the same period, the final days for which the campaigns are required to report their fundraising before the Nov. 6 election.

The new fundraising puts the candidates on pace to raise as much as a billion dollars each with their respective parties by Election Day, breaking the record Mr. Obama and the Democrats set four years ago and marking 2012 as the most expensive election in history. Through Oct. 17, Mr. Obama and the Democrats had raised about $1.06 billion, according to past filings with the Federal Election Commission and tallies from the campaigns. Mr. Romney and the Republicans had raised about $952.2 million, including some money for the party's Congressional efforts.

While Mr. Obama spent heavily early in the campaign to invest in efforts to identify and turn out voters, those efforts have left Mr. Romney and the Republicans with more cash to play with in the final weeks of the election, money that could finance a late surge of advertising. Mr. Romney and the Republicans ended September with a cash advantage of about $34 million.

Neither candidate has yet filed detailed reports with the F.E.C. for the October period, making it difficult to assess which side had more cash on hand going into the final three weeks of the election. Mr. Romney's campaign said the combined cash on hand for Republican efforts was about $169 million. Mr. Obama did not release a cash on hand total.

The Caucus Click: Obama Votes

President Obama cast an early ballot on Thursday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Chicago. Mr. Obama became the first sitting president to cast his vote early.Damon Winter/The New York Times President Obama cast an early ballot on Thursday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Chicago. Mr. Obama became the first sitting president to cast his vote early.

Outside Spending Pours Into House Races

Late spending on Congressional races from outside groups is nothing new, but the combination of redistricting and the proliferation of “super PACs” has helped to drive a recent explosion of money into competitive House districts around the nation.

In some cases, races that had seen little activity now find themselves flooded with advertisements, while others have had by a steady increase. In New Hampshire's First District, for example, Representative Frank Guinta, a Republican, is trying to hold off a challenge from the woman he ousted in 2010, the Democrat Carol Shea-Porter. After a few relatively quiet weeks in early September, interest groups and national party committees spent nearly $2 million through Oct. 21 trying to influence voters. Most of the money was spent in the past two weeks.

Contrast that with California's Seventh District, another rematch of a 2010 race won by the Republican incumbent, Representative Daniel E. Lungren, in which a super PAC played a prominent role. The Democrat Ami Bera has benefited from more than $3.8 million in steady outside spending since Labor Day, making this contest one of the most expensive in the nation.

Using a selection of races rated either as “Tossup” or “Leaning Republican” by The Times, we've illustrated the flow of outside money since September with an interactive graphic.

- View the Graphic

Making Sure Beneficiaries Get Life Insurance Money

This week, the American International Group became the latest insurance company to settle an inquiry by a group of state insurance regulators into the handling of death benefits, the payments to a beneficiary when the holder of a life insurance policy dies.

A.I.G agreed to pay $11 million to resolve the multistate investigation, joining several other insurers that had already settled, including Nationwide Financial Services, MetLife and Prudential Financial.

The companies have agreed to check their lists of policyholders regularly against the Social Security Administration's “death master file” database and to make “more robust” efforts to locate beneficiaries, according to insurance officials in Pennsylvania, one of the lead states in negotiating the agreement with A.I.G.

Traditionally, insurance companies have required beneficiaries to file claims to receive benefits from life insurance policies. That has meant that claims sometimes are never fi led - perhaps because policy documents were lost, or because beneficiaries did not know a policy existed. But state insurance regulators, for the past two years, have been looking into the practices of large insurers and urging them to proactively identify policies that may be due for a payout.

State regulators have charged that insurers used the Social Security Administration's list of recently deceased people to stop making annuity payments to dead customers, but, at the same time, did not use the list to check whether any life insurance policyholders had died.

In a statement, Pennsylvania authorities said A.I.G. had agreed to use the death master file “on a uniform basis” to find dead policyholders and pay beneficiaries.

The A.I.G. settlement and several others were negotiated with a multistate task force created by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

A.I.G. denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to pay the $11 million to resolve disputes with the regulators. In a statement, A.I.G. said it was “taking enhanced measures to, among other things, routinely match policyholder records” with the death master file.

Rosanne Placey, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania insurance commissioner, said that the agreement was an important step, but that the best way to avoid problems with life insurance claims is for policyholders to discuss policies with their beneficiaries. Often, the department gets calls seeking help from people who say they think a deceased parent had a life insurance policy, but they are not sure - and don't know how to find it.

“We always tell consumers to inform their beneficiaries of the policies,” she said. A policyholder should keep copies of a policy at an off-site location - such as in a safe deposit box, or with a lawyer or financial adviser - and make sure the beneficiaries know where the documents are kept and how to get access to them.

The American Council of Life Insurers also has tips for finding missing policies.

Have you had to track down a missing life insurance policy after a parent or other relative died? How did you do it?

The President Could Use a Good Lozenge

RICHMOND, Va. â€" Working himself into a passion in front of thousands of supporters on a warm, sunny day here, President Obama declared that “everybody has a voice in America.”

But at the rate things are going, he may soon be an exception.

Now in his sixth state in two days, Mr. Obama seems to be losing the battle of the throat as his voice grows coarser with each passing rally. He is operating on just a few hours of sleep caught during a red-eye flight from the West and clearly seems in need of a good lozenge.

“You may notice my voice sounds just a little hoarse,” the president told a rally of 15,000 people in the shadow of the Carillon monument to World War I soldiers. “We are right in the middle of our 48-hour, fly-around campaign extravaganza. We pulled an all-nighter last night. We just came from Florida. We were in Iowa and Nevada and Colorado before that. We're heading up to Ohio later today.”

To be precise, it's more like a 39- hour fly-around (he left the White House about 8 a.m. on Wednesday and is scheduled to land back on the South Lawn about 11 p.m. on Thursday night). But either way, it's a wearying jaunt intended to show resilience and determination to win. The president's staff does not mind all that much if he sounds hoarse since it suggests he is working overtime for the country's support. Republicans argue it's a sign of desperation to begin so early the round-the-clock trips usually reserved for the final days of a campaign.

Despite the grueling schedule, aides said Mr. Obama has been pumped up by rallies over the last two days even as his opponent, Mitt Romney, has closed the gap in most national polls. “He knows this is his last campaign but he's having a good time out here,” said Jen Psaki, a campaign spokeswoman traveling with him on Air Force One.

Losing a voice in the marathon days of a campaign is not unusual for presidents or their challengers. Bill Clinton kept coming down with laryngitis in 1992 and even brought a speech therapist onto his plane to help him protect his throat. Gerald R. Ford had so exhausted his voice that when he called Jimmy Carter the morning after the 1976 election, he had to hand the phone to his chief of staff, Dick Cheney, to actually concede the race.

Follow Peter Baker on Twitter at @peterbakernyt.

Clinton to Remain as Secretary of State? \'Unlikely\'

WASHINGTON â€" Those who play the perennial Washington parlor game about Hillary Rodham Clinton's future got a fresh tingle on Thursday after the Wall Street Journal published an interview in which Mrs. Clinton suggested she might stay on longer as secretary of state, even if she termed that “unlikely.”

Mrs. Clinton's longtime spokesman, Philippe Reines, sent along the following response when asked what her remarks mean:



1) not likely to be or occur; improbable; marked by doubt.

2) holding little prospect of success; unpromising; likely to fail.

“She's been honored to serve as President Obama's secretary of state, and has loved every minute of leading this department and being part of the State family,” Mr. Reines said. “But she's also been clear about her intention to leave after the first term. She merely meant that at such an important time she wants to ensure continuity, and realizes the confirmation of her successor might not exactly line up with Jan. 22, 2013.”

“Until her final day,” he added, “she's full speed ahead.”

Mr. Reines, who has spent the last four years parrying questions about whether Mrs. Clinton plans to run for president again or was going to replace Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on the Democratic ticket, declined to comment further.

But one possible explanation for Mrs. Clinton's hedge is that one of the leading candidates to succeed her, the American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, may face a more difficult confirmation hearing after the dispute over her characterization of the attacks on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya.

On “The Tonight Show” on Wednesday, the president told Jay Leno that Mrs. Clinton had done a “wonderful job” and “I would love for her to stay.” Despite his “begging,” he said, Mrs. Clinton seemed determined to return to private life.

On Thursday, the press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters on Air Force One that Mr. Obama was still under the impression that Mrs. Clinton planned to leave, though he said, “He would certainly welcome having her stay.”

Mrs. Clinton, who turns 65 on Friday and has logged 907,661 miles and visited 110 countries in her tenure, seems genuinely eager to get some rest. Recent secretaries of state have typically served four-year terms. The last one who served longer was George P. Shultz, who took over from Alexander M. Haig during the Reagan administration. And the last to serve two full terms was Dean Rusk, who served John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Caucus Click: Ryan Family in Virginia

Paul Ryan arrived at a campaign event with his family on Thursday in Bristol, Va.Eric Thayer for The New York Times Paul Ryan arrived at a campaign event with his family on Thursday in Bristol, Va.

Has Romney\'s Rise in Polls Stopped?

Is there Ro-mentum, or is it faux-mentum?

A debate has been raging among polling analysts and commentators about whether Mitt Romney is still gaining ground, as he did after the first debate, or if his bounce has slowed or stalled. But while some Republicans say that they still have the wind at their backs, several polling analysts weighed in recently to argue that the data suggests there is no longer a Romney surge.

Mark Blumenthal, the senior polling editor of the Huffington Post and the founding editor of Pollster.com, wrote a piece this morning with the headline: “Presidential Polls Counter Romney Surge Myth.”

“While Romney gained significantly in the wake of the first presidential debate in early October,'' he wrote, “the lack of a continuing trend over the past two weeks helps counter a theme in some campaign coverage that Romney's support continues to ‘surge' nationwide.”

Sam Wang, who analyzes state polls at the Princeton Electio n Consortium, wrote this week that the Mr. Obama's plunge after the first debate had stopped with him still ahead, and delivered the following verdict: “Indeed the race is close, but it seems stable. For the last week, there is no evidence that conditions have been moving toward Romney. There is always the chance that I may have to eat my words - but that will require movement that is not yet apparent in polls.”

Nate Silver, who writes the FiveThirtyEight blog in The New York Times, wrote Thursday: “Mr. Romney clearly gained ground in the polls in the week or two after the Denver debate, putting himself in a much stronger overall position in the race. However, it seems that he is no longer doing so.”

With the race so close in so many places, it can be difficult to assess the true state of play.  

Most major national polls, with the exception of a few tracking polls, have shown the race to be essentially tied for mon ths. Some polls in crucial swing states where Mr. Obama has been leading have tightened between the two candidates since the first debate, including Ohio, which is closer than it was a month ago. And now is the point where many voters pay more attention to the election, which can move the polls. But even with the proliferation of polls and the increased reliance on aggregated polls - lumping or averaging many polls together - it can be difficult to get a realistic picture on any given day in the closing weeks, given that some polls do not reach voters who use only cellphones, and many polls have struggled in an environment where fewer people want to respond to questions.

There is no question that Mr. Romney tightened the race considerably after the first debate, when his aggressive performance was received much better than President Obama's low-energy one. But is he still gaining ground, or has that bounce peaked? Politico reported Monday that “Obama is currently on the ugly end of Big Mo.”

Jonathan Chait countered in New York magazine that “Romney is carefully attempting to project an atmosphere of momentum, in the hopes of winning positive media coverage and, thus, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

But many Republicans still say that the Romney campaign is picking up steam. Karl Rove wrote of Mr. Romney's “growing momentum,” and William J. Bennett, the conservative commentator, wrote on CNN's website that “Mitt Romney now carries the momentum into the home stretch.”

Over at The Washington Post, The Fix asked the question “Is Mitt Romney's momentum real or fake?”

“What we do know is that Romney and Obama are in a dead heat nationally and the once-clear edge the incumbent held in a series of swing states has narrowed considerably,” Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake wrote this morning. “What we don't is whether Romney has peaked or not. But it's tough to argue that there hasn't been re al movement toward him in the past three weeks.” 

Romney Adopts Obama\'s Slogan of 2008 and Promises \'Big Change\'

Mitt Romney held a campaign rally on Thursday in Cincinnati. It was the first of three events the Romney campaign planned in the swing state.Stephen Crowley/The New York Times Mitt Romney held a campaign rally on Thursday in Cincinnati. It was the first of three events the Romney campaign planned in the swing state.

CINCINNATI - With 12 days left until the election, Mitt Romney began offering the outlines of a closing argument here that co-opts President Obama's message from four years ago, repeatedly promising to deliver “big change” at a moment of “big challenges” and calling his opponent a guardian of the status quo.

Mr. Romney, who has narrowed Mr. Obama's lead in state and national polls, started a bus tour across Ohi o by casting himself and his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, as reformers prepared to correct America's course, by reigning in debts, salvaging Medicare and reducing taxes.

“These challenges are big challenges,” Mr. Romney said. “This election is therefore a big choice. And America wants to see big changes, and we're gonna bring big changes to get America stronger again.”

The speech highlighted how significantly the Romney campaign's pitch to voters has evolved since he entered the race in 2011. Back then, he devoted much of his time berating the president, and mocked the idea of big change: a standard line back then Mr. Obama for trying to “transform America.”

On Thursday, it was Mr. Romney who called for “big change,” of the small-government variety, a dozen times, saying that Mr. Obama stood for “the status quo path.”

“The path we're on - the status quo path - is a path that doesn't have an answer about how to get t he economy going,” he said. “The president has the same old answers as in the past - he wants another stimulus, he wants more government workers, and he wants to raise taxes.”

Mr. Romney appeared to be testing new language as he prepared for a major speech about the economy, which he is to deliver in Iowa on Friday, as he seeks to build on the energy he generated from a series of animated debate performances.

In a dig at the president, Mr. Romney said the debates “had diminished the Obama campaign,” which he said had resorted to invoking “Sesame Street” characters, like Big Bird, and playing “word games.”

Mr. Romney is traveling on Thursday to three cities in Ohio, whose 18 electoral votes could swing the outcome of a close presidential campaign. After Cincinnati, he heads to rallies in Worthington and Defiance.

Follow Michael Barbaro on Twitter at @mikiebarb.

The Washington Post Endorses Obama

President Obama held a morning rally at Ybor City Museum State Park on Thursday in Tampa, Fla.Damon Winter/The New York Times President Obama held a morning rally at Ybor City Museum State Park on Thursday in Tampa, Fla.

President Obama picked up the endorsement of The Washington Post, which said the president would be better at helping put the country on a sound, economic footing.

“President Barack Obama is better positioned to be that navigator than is his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney,” The Post writes.

The newspaper, which endorsed Mr. Obama four years ago, writes that its eyes “are open to the disappointments of Mr. Obama's first term,” which it said included his failure to push for a bipartisan budget deal. The Post said he runs a White House that is “arrogant and thin-skinned.”

But the paper says that Mr. Romney has embraced “his party's reality-defying ideology that taxes can always go down but may never go up.” While calling his business record “impressive,” the paper calls his political resume “thin” and concludes that “there is no way to know what Mr. Romney really believes.”

The editorial, which was posted online Thursday afternoon, praises the president for his early efforts to stabilize the economy and for passage of the Affordable Care Act. It lauds him for the battle against terrorism, but says he was “hesitant and inconstant” in dealing with the upheaval in Arab countries.

On balance, though, the paper says that Mr. Obama deserves a second term.

“The president understands the urgency of the problems as well as anyone in the country and is committed to solving them in a balanced way,” th e paper writes. “In a second term, working with an opposition that we hope would be chastened by the failure of its scorched-earth campaign against him, he is far more likely than his opponent to succeed. That makes Mr. Obama by far the superior choice.”

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

The Caucus Click: A Morning Show

Mitt Romney and Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, picked up breakfast and greeted employees and patrons at the First Watch cafe in Cincinnati.Stephen Crowley/The New York Times Mitt Romney and Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, picked up breakfast and greeted employees and patrons at the First Watch cafe in Cincinnati.

Romney and R.N.C. Raise $111.8 Million in First Part of October

Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee raised $111.8 million during the first 17 days of October, Mr. Romney's campaign announced on Thursday.

Mr. Romney, the committee, and several state parties with whom Mr. Romney is raising money had about $169 million in cash going into the final three weeks of the election.

Both campaigns are required to file their last disclosures before Election Day before midnight on Thursday.

“There are less than two weeks left, but we still have much hard work to do to ensure that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan win in November and bring real change to Washington,” said Spencer Zwick, Mr. Romney's finance chairman, in a statement.https://thecaucus-admin.em.nytimes.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=235542&action=edit&message=6#

About a third of the total cash came in contributions of under $250, the campaign said, suggesting an uptick in small checks from grass-roots Republicans as the elect ion draws to a close.

Mr. Obama has not yet released his fund-raising numbers for the same period. During September, The Obama campaign outraised Mr. Romney but also spent heavily, leaving Mr. Romney and the Republican committee with a cash advantage going into October of about $34 million.

Follow Nicholas Confessore on Twitter at @nickconfessore.

Zillow to List Foreclosure Properties Not Yet Put on Sale

A potential buyer inspects a foreclosed home in Atlanta.T. Lynne Pixley for The New York TimesA potential buyer inspects a foreclosed home in Atlanta.

Zillow.com is adding a new sort of property to its real estate Web site: homes that are bank-owned or are in the foreclosure process but aren't officially listed for sale.

Having access to an inventory of “presale” properties - those that are pending foreclosure or that have already been foreclosed on - may make it easier to get a jump on properties potential buyers are interested in, said Amy Bohutinsky, Zillow's chief marketing officer.

Even as the housing market has rebounded, many buyers remain reluctant to put their homes on the market, creating inventory shortages in so me housing markets. But millions of homes are about to come on the market for various reasons, Ms. Bohutinsky said, either because the owner has fallen behind on mortgage payments and has been served with a foreclosure notice  or the bank has foreclosed but hasn't put the property on the market yet.

Zillow has gleaned such information on about 1.8 million properties from public records, and is making it available free - unlike sites for investors, which have traditionally charged a fee. The inventory includes more than 1.5 million properties where the lender has started foreclosure proceedings or an auction has been scheduled, and 250,000 foreclosed properties that aren't yet listed for sale.

“The opportunity this represents for buyers is, they could make an offer to the owners or to the bank to buy the home,” she said. “Or they could set up alerts to see when it does come on the market.”

Even if you're not interested i n making an offer on a foreclosed property, Ms. Bohutinsky said, it can help to decide on an offer for a home that is listed for sale. If you know that several homes nearby are in foreclosure, you can adjust your offer price accordingly.

Buying homes in foreclosure has traditionally been the realm of investors who are prepared to handle a potentially daunting, complex process. Banks don't necessarily want to sell to buyers who need a mortgage, but prefer investors who can pay cash. Ron Lieber, the paper's Your Money columnist, has written in detail about the challenges of buying a bank-owned home. Proceedings can sometimes be adversarial, since the previous owner usually didn't want to part with the home.

To address that problem, Zillow can also put consumers in touch with local agents who specialize in foreclosures. (The agents pay Zillow a fee to be listed on the site.) The site has also added a foreclosure primer.

“It's important for the buyer to work with an agent who knows what they're doing,”she said.

Would you consider making an offer on a foreclosed property? Why or why not?

Obama Arrives in Florida, Heads to Krispy Kreme, Before First Rally of the Day

President Barack Obama got a hug from one firefighter in Tampa as he delivered doughnuts to the station early in the morning before a campaign event.Damon Winter/The New York TimesPresident Obama got a hug from one firefighter in Tampa, Fla., as he delivered doughnuts to the station early Thursday morning before a campaign event.

TAMPA, Fla. - A hoarse and sleep-deprived President Obama arrived here on Thursday morning after an all-night, cross-country flight as he blitzed swing states in a round-the-clock effort to reverse his opponent's momentum with time dwindling before the Nov. 6 election.

Mr. Obama opened the second day of his two-day trip with a rally in the warm Florida morning, signaling his determination to contest the large st prize among the tossup states despite Mitt Romney's confidence that Florida is moving into the Republican column. The president hits the other two large swing states, Virginia and Ohio, later in the day and will also stop in Chicago to cast his own ballot early.

This was Mr. Obama's 14th trip to Florida this year and the second this week alone following his debate with Mr. Romney in Boca Raton on Monday night. He plans to return to the state again next Monday, this time with former President Bill Clinton in tow as they visit Orlando. Mr. Romney, who was spending the day in Ohio, has also devoted considerable time and resources to Florida, where polls show he has a slight advantage.

In shirtsleeves, Mr. Obama looked more rested than many of his staff members as he took the stage here - the president has a bed on Air Force One - but his voice was husky after a hectic 24 hours of campaign events. He stopped in Iowa, Colorado, Nevada and California on Wednesday be fore a red-eye flight back east.

Shortly after landing here, he stopped at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop for a little sustenance and then gave his usual “fired up, ready to go” stump speech to a rally of 8,500 at Centennial Park in the Ybor City neighborhood. “Thanks for waking up early,” he told supporters.

With some polls showing his advantage among women slipping, Mr. Obama made sure to emphasize his support for abortion rights in an implicit reference to a Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, who said in an Indiana debate that a pregnancy resulting even from rape was “something that God intended to happen.”

“I don't think any politician in Washington, most of whom are male, should be making health care decisions for women,” Mr. Obama said to applause. “Women can make those decisions themselves.”

Just hours earlier, he had been more explicit in an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on NBC. “Rape is rape,” Mr. Obama said. “It's a crime.” He added, “These various distinctions about rape don't make too much sense to me.”

Mr. Obama planned to fly next to Richmond, Va., trying to hold onto a Southern state he had pulled away from the Republicans for the first time in four decades in 2008, and then he intended to head to his hometown,Chicago, to vote. Aides made much of the fact that he would be the first president ever to cast a ballot early as they tried to encourage supporters to take advantage of early-voting opportunities. Florida opens early voting on Saturday.

He will finish the day with a nighttime rally in Cleveland, making sure to hit Ohio, the state most coveted by both sides as key to an Electoral College victory, before flying home to sleep in the White House.

Follow Peter Baker on Twitter at @peterbakernyt.

Mourdock\'s Comments Pose Dilemma for Romney

The charged anti-abortion comments made this week by Richard Mourdock, a Republican Senate candidate in Indiana, pose something of a dilemma for Mitt Romney. If Mr. Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, does not distance himself enough from Mr. Mourdock, he could find it harder to narrow his deficit with women - but if he distances himself too much, he could turn off some of the evangelical voters whose turnout will be crucial is he is to carry swing states like Iowa and Ohio.

Mr. Mourdock's abortion comments came just as there were signs in some polls that Mr. Romney was beginning to narrow his gap with women, who have been an important source of support for President Obama. But if he denounces Mr. Mourdock too strongly Mr. Romney could alienate some of the evangelical voters who have viewed him warily in the past.

White evangelical Christian voters made up 26 percent of the vote in 2008, but they were an even bigger slice of the electorate in some cr ucial swing states: Exit polls suggested that evangelicals made up 30 percent of the vote in Ohio, 31 percent in Iowa, 44 percent in North Carolina and 28 percent in Virginia. And those states voted for President Obama in 2008.

Mr. Romney won the support of many evangelical leaders this year after a long primary season in which many had preferred other Republican candidates, including former Senator Rick Santorum. Now, motivated by an antipathy to President Obama and the desire to have a Republican president select the next Supreme Court justices, many evangelical leaders have rallied to Mr. Romney. The question is how motivated the rank and file will be, and what kinds of numbers they will turn out in.

In recent years the evangelical movement has evolved as the old guard, who helped lead conservative Christians into the Republican Party, has given way to a new generation of leaders who have often taken a less openly partisan approach.

This is where Mr. Mou rdock's comments may prove complicated for Mr. Romney.

A growing number of Republicans - including Representative Mike Pence, a Republican favored to be elected Indiana's governor, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the party's 2008 presidential nominee - have called on Mr. Mourdock to apologize for the comments he made. In a debate Monday, Mr. Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer, explained why he does not believe abortion should be legal even in the case of rape. Mr. Mourdock said that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

The comments put Mr. Romney in a complicated position. The Mourdock campaign had released an advertisement on Monday that featured Mr. Romney endorsing Mr. Mourdock. While the Romney campaign said that Mr. Romney disagreed with Mr. Mourdock, the campaign did not ask him to remove the television ad. Taking a harder line could turn off already wary evangelical voters.

And there is another complication for Mr. Romney: he would no doubt like to see Republicans control the Senate, especially if he wins the presidency and needs their support to enact legislation. Taking a harder line against Mr. Mourdock could complicate that goal.

The Dangers of the All-Out Sprint to Election Day

Mitt Romney crossed four time zones in the United States on Wednesday, even as President Obama pulled an all-nighter, calling supporters from Air Force One as he flew from rally to rally to rally in a 48-hour blitz.

That kind of all-out effort might be necessary in these final weeks of the race, and it's probably good public relations for the candidates as they seek to prove they can handle whatever the White House throws at them.

But there's a danger, too, and the aides to Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama know it.

Wall-to-wall campaigning eventually leads to an exhausted candidate, and that can lead to sloppiness, mistakes and gaffes.

The ramifications of a last-minute slip-of-the-tongue was already high decades ago, when candidates were first adjusting to campaigning in a television age.

But now, in the hyper-speed politics of the Internet era, the stakes are even higher if a candidate flubs a fact or seems off his game heading down the stretch toward Election Day.

Even worse for the bone-tired candidates, Election Day has become election month. There used to be time for campaign fixers to try to repair the damage from an unfortunate comment before voters entered the booth. Now, millions are already voting across the most important battleground states.

And the expectations are, if anything, even higher for candidates not to let their exhaustion show.

It's not enough to look good for the networks at 6 p.m. anymore. There are cellphone cameras everywhere, and 24-hour cable channels are broadcasting super-sharp, high-definition images that will show dark bags under the eyes if they are there.

Each of the current candidates has had his share of gaffes on the campaign trail over the years. Some have proved politically difficult.

But none would be as consequential as a mistake in the last two weeks of a presidential campaign that looks like it might be as close as a ny in recent history. Even a minor slipup could cost Mr. Romney or Mr. Obama the presidency.

The candidates - and their advisers - probably don't need a reminder of exhaustion-related gaffes that they and their predecessors have made.

But here it is, anyway:

* Senator John Kerry must have been tired the day in August of 2004 that he mistakenly called Lambeau Field (the home of the Green Bay Packers) Lambert Field, an airport in St. Louis. He was in Wisconsin at the time, campaigning hard against President George W. Bush.

* In May 2008, at the height of his battle with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama said he was proud to have campaigned in 57 states. There are only 50, of course.

* George Romney, Mr. Romney's father, was at the end of a hectic day of campaigning for the Republican nomination in 1967 when he told an interviewer he had been “brainwashed” on a foreign trip. He did not win the nomination.

* Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont was tired - but wired - when he screamed a wild “yee haw” after losing the Iowa caucuses in 2004. His campaign never really recovered from the moment.

* The grueling 1976 election was just winding down when Jimmy Carter sat down for an interview with Playboy Magazine. (Playboy!) In the interview, he allows that “I've looked on a lot of women with lust,” but he won the presidency anyway.

* And of course, Mr. Romney has made a few gaffes, probably induced in part by being tired. Jet lag and exhaustion may have had something to do with his managing to insult the city of London on the eve of the Olympics.

How damaging are such mistakes, really?

It varies, of course. Some mistakes or gaffes could end a candidacy or even a political career. Others might have a more limited effect. But all of them steal the one thing that no campaign can afford to lose in the final days of a closely-contested election: time.

Will the current candidates manage to a void similar moments as they close out the final dozen days of the 2012 presidential campaign.

Their aides have their fingers crossed.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

Thursday Reading: Tracking the Family with GPS Devices

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.

  • Seeking the “waitress mom” swing vote. (National)
  • New laws add debate to breast cancer screenings. (National)
  • Gender gap in pay starts early, study finds. (National)
  • Whooping cough vaccine urged for pregnant women. (National)
  • Tips for smarter, more efficient Web searches. (Business)
  • Unveiling the bag of tricks inside your smart phone. (Business)
  • Under a Picasso, another Picasso. (Arts)
  • Tracking the family with GPS devices. (Home)
  • Record number of booster seats get highest rating. (Wheels)
  • Consumers increase use of smartphones in car shopping. (Wheels)
  • Make a costume sound as scary as it looks. (Gadgetwise)
  • Recent spinal shots may pose greatest meningitis ri sk. (Well)
  • An unspoken risk of vaginal birth. (Motherlode)
  • Hard decisions in the intensive care unit. (The New Old Age)
  • Ask about applying to college early. (The Choice)
  • Ask about pension plans. (Booming)
  • A cruise with tee times in Ireland and Scotland. (In Transit)

Powell Gives Obama His Endorsement for a Second Time

Colin L. Powell, the former Republican secretary of state and retired four-star general, said on Thursday that he had decided to endorse President Obama's bid for re-election and was concerned that Mitt Romney was “a moving target” on foreign policy.

In an interview on “CBS This Morning,” Mr. Powell said that he was “more comfortable” with the president's views on immigration, education and foreign policy.

“I do not want to see the new Obamacare plan thrown off the table,” Mr. Powell said. “It has issues - you have to fix some things in that plan - but what I see is that 30 million fellow citizens will now be covered.”

It is an open question whether his endorsement will carry as much weight as it seemed to four years ago when he threw his support behind Mr. Obama in the final weeks of hi s campaign with Senator John McCain. But the president's advisers had been waiting with anticipation of an endorsement, which Mr. Powell did not reveal until his television interview Thursday morning.

In the interview, Mr. Powell said that the nation's unemployment rate was still too high, but he added: “I think generally we've come out of the dive and we're starting to gain altitude.” He praised the president for his handling of national security.

“I also saw the president get us out of one war, start to get us out of a second war and did not get us into any new wars,” Mr. Powell said. “I think the actions he's taken with respect to protecting us from terrorism have been very, very solid. And so I think we ought to keep on the track that we are on.”

On Afghanistan and other foreign policy concerns, Mr. Powell said that he did not believe Mr. Romney “has thought through these issues as thoroughly as he should have.” He added, “There are so me very, very strong neo-conservative views that are presented by the governor that I have some trouble with.”

He said that he still considered himself a Republican, but in “of a more moderate mold.” He added, “That's something of a dying breed, I'm sorry to say.”

Mr. Powell, a retired Army general who was a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, criticized the Republican Party as failing to recognize a need for compromise. He also had sharp words for Congress, which he said had fallen down on the job in dealing with the nation's fiscal burdens.

Four years ago, Mr. Powell announced his endorsement of Mr. Obama in an appearance on “Meet the Press” on NBC. He did not say during his interview Thursday on “CBS This Morning” whether he would campaign on Mr. Obama's behalf.

“I voted for him in 2008,” Mr. Powell said, “and I plan to stick with him in 2012.”

The Early Word: Courtship

In Today's Times:

The campaigns are talking about women, specifically, blue-collar women without college degrees who have slipped a rung or two on the economic ladder. Katharine Q. Seelye writes that both campaigns see this subset of swing voters, which made up 9 percent of voters in 2008, as critical to winning the election, tailoring their statements about health care and the economy to what they think those women want to hear.

The presidential campaigns have said little about national security. Scott Shane writes that the next administration must decide whether and how to scale back spending on domestic security programs in the face of guaranteed opposition from the public, Congress and lobbyists.

Nevada's struggling economy is putting Senator Harry Reid's political machine to the test, as he tries to deliver the state to Democrats next month. Adam Nagourney writes that despite infighting among Republicans and an edge among registered voters, victory is far from assured. Mr. Reid's well-oiled operation has to contend with voters' anxieties about the state's high unemployment and foreclosure rates.

Mitt Romney is showing a fresh burst of enthusiasm on the campaign trail, emphasizing his debate performances as his campaign struggles to chart a way for him to get the 270 electoral votes he needs to win the election, Jeff Zeleny and Ashley Parker write. Winning Ohio would be the easiest route, but Mr. Romney's campaign aides say that there are other viable options.

Trying to edge out of a dead heat with Mr. Romney on the campaign trail, Mr. Obama is on a two-day tour of eight swing states. Helene Cooper writes that the Obama campaign is focusing exclusively on eight swing states up until Election Day, and is particularly working to win traditional Democratic constituents like young people, women, blacks and Latinos.

Candidates in House races in Florida are setting a new low bar for dirty politics. Lizette Alvarez writes that the Sunshine State is home to some of the grimiest House contests, as the candidates compete doggedly for individual votes in very tight races.

Happening in Washington:
Economic reports scheduled to be released today include September durable goods orders and weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m., followed at 10 by last month's pending home sales and weekly mortgage rates.