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Friday, October 26, 2012

App Snapshot: Swing State Overview

The Election 2012 App

What's happening in the key areas of the swing states that will decide the election. Even The Times can't be everywhere, so we're collecting the best political coverage from around the Web in the Election 2012 app. Here is our collection of battleground updates:


  • Romney Plays Offense on Autos in Ohio
    Mitt Romney warned that Jeep, a major employer in Ohio, was considering shipping automobile jobs overseas, but the Obama campaign quickly responded. (Politico)
  • Ohio Sees Enough Campaign Ads to Air Nonstop for 80 Days
    Some 17 outside groups have added their voices to the presidential race in Ohio, often with offbeat ads like an anti-Obama jingle and a homespun warning about socialism delivered by a Hungarian-born billionaire. (Bloomberg)

  • Can Ohio's Better Days Help Obama?
    The economy is bouncing back in what may be ground zero of the presidential campaign, but not everyone credits the president. (USA Today)
  • On One Ohio Street, Voters Weary of Election Promises
    Conversations on a middle-class block suggest voters have made up their minds. But many fear neither candidate can end their worries over growing health care costs, stagnating incomes and the feeble job market. (Journal subscription required.) (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Battlegrounds: ‘It's All About Northern Virginia'
    In 2008, President Obama ended a streak of 10 consecutive Republican presidential wins in Virginia, and he did it by winning big in the Northern Virginia suburbs, within an hour or so drive from the nation's capital. (CNN)
  • Even Unfriendly Turf Vital to Obama in Colorado
    Despite big Republican advantages, Obama supporters fight for votes in Southern Colorado among evangelicals and tens of thousands of active military personnel and retired veterans. (The Boston Globe)
  • Reid's Machine Powers Obama in Nevada Test
    Senator Harry Reid's political machine could hold the key to a victory for Mr. Obama in the economically ravaged state, as both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney seek coveted electoral votes. (The New York Times)
  • Early Voting 2012: A Snapshot of the Swing States
    In 2008, about 30 percent of the national vote was cast via early or absentee ballots. This year, the expectation is that about 40 percent of Americans will cast a vote early, observers said. (ABC News)
  • Romney Places TV Ads in Minnesota
    The Romney investment in Minnesota is described as a small buy that Democrats say is intended to draw media coverage and force the Obama campaign to spend there. (The Associated Press)

Navigating the Medicare Claims Process

In this weekend's Your Money column, I write about the settlement of a class-action lawsuit over the question of whether and when Medicare should cover treatments for people with chronic or degenerative conditions for which there are no cure.

If you or a relative has multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease or if you're paralyzed or recovering from a stroke, among other things, you too may have been unable to get Medicare to cover physical therapy or certain skilled nursing treatment because your health wasn't improving or you weren't likely to improve any more. The settlement clarifies what was supposed to be the law of the land, which is that Medicare ought to cover any reasonable treatment prescribed by a doctor even if it only aims to slow a person's deterioration or maintain the current level of health.

Have you run into a situation where Medicare turned you, a relative or a patient down for treatment because there was no likelihood of improv ement? If so, did you appeal the decision?

Reid Involved in Minor Car Accident

Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader in the chamber, was involved in a minor car accident in his home state on Friday and was taken to a hospital as a precaution, aides said.

Mr. Reid, 72, walked into the hospital himself after the accident, which local reports said took place on Interstate 15 in Las Vegas and involved several cars, including one in which Mr. Reid was traveling.

The senator was taken to University Medical Center on Friday afternoon, according to a local news report. The accident reportedly happened around 1 p.m. local time.

Two people close to Mr. Reid said the Senator did not appear to be injured in the crash. It was not immediately clear from local news reports whether anyone else was injured in the crash.

Mr. Reid's wife, Landra, and his daughter, Lana, were involved in a serious car accident in 20010, leaving Mrs. Reid with a broken back and neck. Mr. Reid talked about the accident to reporters shortly after it happened.

“They were driving down 95 and slowed down a little bit and they were struck from behind by such a powerful vehicle - a great big semi truck and trailer,” Mr. Reid told Politico in March 2010. “It hit them so hard, crushed three rows of seats in a regular-sized van, crushed the first two seats, thew my wife forward, broke her seat belt, she doesn't remember the accident, my daughter does.”

Romney Tries to Take Up the Mantle of \'Change\'

AMES, Iowa â€" Mitt Romney intensified a new â€" and, aides said, final â€" line of attack against President Obama on Friday, arguing that the incumbent who once stood for historic change has run a re-election campaign built around small ideas and trivial attacks.

Mr. Romney, speaking from a teleprompter to a crowd of 2,200 at a factory here, offered himself up as a 2008-like alternative to Mr. Obama.

“Four years ago, candidate Obama spoke to the scale of the times,” Mr. Romney said. “Today, he shrinks from it, trying instead to distract our attention from the biggest issues to the smallest - from characters on Sesame Street and silly word games to misdirected personal attacks he knows are false.”

“The president's campaign falls far short of the magnitude of these times,” he said.

It was the second day that Mr. Romney sought to take up the mantle of change, seeming to delight in borrowing a slogan that Mr. Obama rode to the White House b ut now finds challenging to embrace.

“We recognize this is a year with a big choice, and the American people want to see big changes,” he said. “Together we can bring real change to this country.”

Aides had said the speech would be a significant one, though Mr. Romney offered no new policy proposals. Mr. Obama's campaign seized on that omission.

“True to form, Mitt Romney's most recent ‘major policy speech' included dishonest attacks and empty promises of change, but no new policy,” said Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the president.

“That's because all Mitt Romney has is a one-point economic plan that he's been running on for two years: the very wealthy get to play by a very different set of rules than everyone else.”

In a bit of wordplay, Mr. Romney mocked Mr. Obama's current campaign slogan, “Forward,” as misleading.

“To the 23 million Americans struggling to find a good job, these last four years feel a lot more li ke ‘backward,' ” he said.

Follow Michael Barbaro on Twitter at @mikiebarb.

Carmona Ad Draws Rebuke from Arizona Senators

A new advertisement by the Democratic Senate candidate Richard Carmona elicited a sharp response on Friday from the two men who star in it: Arizona's Republican senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl.

The advertisement seemed almost designed to enrage the Republicans, by using their own words and images to bolster Mr. Carmona's candidacy. It uses footage of Mr. Carmona's 2002 confirmation hearing to become President George W. Bush‘s surgeon general. Mr. McCain testifies, “Dr. Carmona's inspiring story is the living embodiment of the American dream.”

Mr. Kyl, who is retiring and whose seat Mr. Carmona hopes to fill, adds: “One might call him a man for all seasons. His unique background will serve him well and serve us well.”

Mr. McCain's voice chimes in, “Dr. Carmona is extraordinarily q ualified, perhaps uniquely qualified, to address the needs of our nation.”

Mr. Kyl joins his colleague “in strongly recommending him.”

On the screen, the words make clear that the recommendation is for surgeon general, but a listener not actually watching could easily believe that the Republicans are endorsing Mr. Carmona for the Senate.

“Your nation will gain an invaluable leader,” Mr. Kyl tells viewers.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee presented the advertisement as a stroke of genius. The starring senators portrayed it as the height of duplicity. Speaking up for the Republican nominee, Representative Jeff Flake, Senators Kyl and McCain issued a joint statement calling the ad “shameful:

“In a deeply dishonest new T.V. ad, Richard Carmona implies that we support his campaign for Senate,” they wrote. “We do not. Mr. Carmona is committed to raising taxes and government spending, increasing our nation's already o ut-of-control debt, and he supports President Obama's health care law, Obamacare. Let's be clear: Richard Carmona's first vote in the Senate would be for Harry Reid and the Obama agenda. As his new ad makes clear, Mr. Carmona is also willing to say or do just about anything to promote the interests of Richard Carmona, not the interests of the people of Arizona.”

Follow Jonathan Weisman on Twitter at @jonathanweisman.

The Sweet Spot: Political Coverage

In this week's episode, David Carr and A. O. Scott are tallying how much is too much, or not enough, in covering American politics and the presidential race.

Claims on a Fortune

Paul Sullivan's Wealth Matters column this week looks at the issue of whether Lance Armstrong should be concerned about keeping his wealth in the wake of the report from the United States Anti-Doping Agency detailing his use of performance-enhancing drugs to win cycling races. And the independent advisers and lawyers Paul spoke to answered that Mr. Armstrong will probably remain a rich man. Yes, he'll probably have to forfeit his Tour de France prize money and his sponsors have dropped him, but much of his wealth is probably protected, these experts said.

Mr. Armstrong is not the first high-profile athlete to fall from grace. But while he may be legally able to protect the millions he earned from his sponsorships, is that the right outcome? Perhaps it's too late to affect Mr. Armstrong's case, but should the rules be changed so that when questions come up in the future about the on-field accomplishments of other athletes, they would not be allowed to hold onto their fortunes?

What do you think is the right thing to do?

Interactive Graphic: Endorsement Tracker

The presidential endorsements of the nation's largest papers are starting to trickle in. Not surprisingly, most editorial boards supported the same party in 2012 as they had in 2008. But there were some notable exceptions. This interactive graphic will be tracking newspaper endorsements leading up to Election Day.

Obama\'s Slogan Moves from \"Forward.\" to \"Forward!\"

For months, it sat there sort of lonely on the campaign signs and the campaign Web site. The period at the end of President Obama's official slogan “Forward.” drew curious questions: Why a period? If there had to be punctuation, why not an exclamation point?

Then suddenly, there it was this week, the exclamation point. No longer was it “Forward.” It was “Forward!” on placards and banners at Mr. Obama's stops during a two-day, round-the-clock swing through eight states, the newly punctuated slogan made its debut. The campaign called no special attention to the change, made no announcement, and yet there it was.

“It reflects the energy out there, as well as what's important in this election - going forward or back,” Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager, said when asked.

Perhaps, but that then begs the question of why it hadn't been there in the first place. Were the choices any different months ago when “Forward.” made its debut ? There is certainly more energy in the last days of an election, but wouldn't a campaign want to convey energy even in the early stages?

This of course is already devoting more time to a punctuation mark than it probably deserves. And yet obviously the campaign devoted some time to it because otherwise it wouldn't have used the period in the first place. The issue was a subject of a “spirited debate” among Obama advisers when they originally developed a slogan, according to The Wall Street Journal. Asked if the campaign had used polls or focus groups before making the switch this week, another Obama adviser, replied, “Are you serious?”

Exclamation points are not unusual in campaign signs. Lamar Alexander, the former Tennessee governor and education secretary, famously had “Lamar!” signs when he ran for president, even if the bookish candidate did not necessarily exude excitement. But it is fairly unusual to use a period. The United Church of Christ once adopted an advertising campaign with the slogan, “Don't put a period where God has put a comma” (a quote taken from that noted theologian Gracie Allen).

Back in July, David Axelrod, the president's senior adviser, gave a sort of Goldilocks explanation in an interview. “It's just a point of emphasis,” he said then. “It made a statement. An exclamation point would be overstated. Not having anything would be understated. The period is just right.”

Until it wasn't. But then again, the exclamation point may be short-lived. With Mr. Obama's trip over, the Web site and campaign ads are using “Forward.”

If the election ends results in a recount, maybe it will become “Forward?”

Follow Peter Baker on Twitter at @peterbakernyt.

\'Big\' Talk From Mitt Romney

AMES, Iowa - Mitt Romney is going big.

Over the past 24 hours, Mr. Romney has called for “big change,” described a “big choice,” warned of “big challenges,” foreseen “big opportunities” and hailed “big moments.”

The strategy, in a word, is big.

Closing arguments in presidential campaign tend toward the grandiose, but Mr. Romney's reliance on the word is mostly a way to construct a stark contrast. To argue, as he now does, that President Obama's campaign is becoming “smaller and smaller” in its ambitions and focus, his vision and rhetoric needs to become bigger and bigger. Thus, the big motif. His aides do not appear to have reached for a thesaurus. He used the word a dozen times on Thursday alone.

On Friday, Mr. Romney will attach the adjective to problems, challenges, opportunities and change, according to excerpts from a speech on the economy that he will deliver here at 1 p.m. Eastern. Aides said the speech will be â€" wai t for it â€" big.

Follow Michael Barbaro on Twitter at @mikiebarb.

Coming to a Battleground State Near You: MittZine

It's called a MittZine. A magazine about, you guessed it, Mitt Romney. And all 12 glossy pages of it will start appearing soon as an insert in newspapers in battleground states.

A 12-page magazine about Mitt Romney will appear as in insert in newspapers.

There are heartwarming tales from Mr. Romney's past. In one article titled “How Romney's Leadership Rescued a Missing Girl,” he is praised as a “hero” for helping track down the daughter of one of his colleagues at Bain Capital.

Another article, headlined “Romney to the Rescue,” chronicles the effort to save a family whose boat was sinking on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Also rescued, as the article notes: the family's Scottish terrier, McKenzie. There is even a picture of the little dog.

The magazine is the work of the Ending Spending Action Fund, a “super PAC” that spent a little more than $1 million printing and distributing the publication on high-stock paper. It is slightly larger than the average newsstand magazine.

The group, which is financed by Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade, has primarily focused its efforts on running television commercials. But it opted for something less conventional now because its strategists believe that the airwaves are so cluttered that any television advertising would be wasted.

“You have high-quality content that lasts for much longer than 30 seconds,” said Brian Baker, the president and general counsel of the super PAC. “We think there's great effect on the voter who receives it.”

If readers are so inclined, they may also fill out the Romney-Ryan themed crossword puzzle. A sampling of the clues: “Mitt Ro mney can _____ the country out of the economic mess” and “The burger company where Paul Ryan worked as a kid.”

Mr. Baker said that major newspapers would include it as a paid insert, including The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Des Moines Register.

Follow Jeremy W. Peters on Twitter at @ jwpetersNYT .

Campaigns Brace for \'Frankenstorm\'

There is no escaping the 2012 presidential campaign, which is entering its final, all-consuming 10 days.

But what if something came along and diverted everyone's attention? What if the candidate rallies and speeches were but a sideshow? What if all the cable TV chatter was about something else?

That something else is churning through the Atlantic right now.

Hurricane Sandy is expected to slam into the East Coast sometime early next week as a strong - perhaps historic - tropical storm that could cause severe coastal flooding, generate intense wind damage and knock out power to millions of people for days.

In other words - perfect television.

Meteorologists are still not certain of the storm's track. It could end up shifting eastward, heading harmlessly out into the Atlantic. Or it could make landfall as a much weaker storm that fizzles as a real news story.

But if it becomes the “Frankenstorm” that some weather watchers are calling it, the storm has the potential to have a serious effect on the presidential campaign in its final days.

Travel of the candidates could be disrupted as campaign planes are forced to divert around the storm. President Obama is scheduled to return to the White House each day after campaigning next week, but the storm could create havoc with those plans.

And Mitt Romney and the president could find it harder for their last-minute messages to break through if they are competing with the visuals of a large, threatening storm.

That could have a particularly outsized impact in Virginia if the storm hits that far south. The state is one of the most important battlegrounds for the campaigns, and polls have shown the race there exceedingly tight.

Of course, there are other battleground states, some of which are nowhere near the path of the storm. The candidates will be spending plenty of time in places like Iowa, Colorado and Nevada.

If the storm hits, they may have to.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

Friday Reading: How Extended Doctor Office Hours Save Money

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.

  • Death of boy prompts new medical efforts nationwide. (N.Y./Region)
  • In crash safety campaign, a collision of humanity. (Wheel)
  • Getting more out of your smart phone. (Bits)
  • A Windows 8 cheat sheet. (Pogue's Posts)
  • How extended doctor office hours save money. (Well)
  • Why women can't do pull ups. (Well)
  • Time to make the Halloween costumes (or not).
  • A revolving door to avoid at the end of life. (The New Old Age)
  • Answers to questions about the SAT and ACT, part five. (The Choice)
  • Why am I still on crutches? (Booming)
  • Re-living the Shackleton expedition, for $20,000. (In Transit)

The Early Word: The Climb Gets Steeper

In Today's Times:

  • Republican efforts to win a Senate majority have become harder after missteps like Richard E. Mourdock's recent comments in Indiana about rape and abortion. Control of the Senate will have major implications for the next president's goals, no matter which candidate takes the White House, Jonathan Weisman reports.
  • In the final stretch of the race, Jim Rutenberg reports, President Obama's campaign staff is crunching the numbers, working on a get-out-the-vote strategy and putting their faith in the multimillion-dollar political machine they built for just such a close race.
  • Mitt Romney and President Obama may agree that the world is warming and that humans are at least partly to blame, but both candidates have avoided talking about climate change while they compete over who loves coal, oil and natural gas more, John M. Broder reports.
  • The presidential candidates are on track to raise more than $1 billion dollars each by Election Day. The sources of that money highlight the sharp divisions between the candidates on issues like abortion rights, government regulation and the economy, Nicholas Confessore and Jo Craven McGinty report.

Washington Happenings:

  • Mr. Obama will tape interviews at the White House and visit the Democratic National Committee's headquarters.
  • The Commerce Department will announce the gross domestic product for the third quarter.