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Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Caucus Click: The Week in Pictures, Oct. 21-27

President Obama and Mitt RomneyDamon Winter/The New York TimesPresident Obama and Mitt Romney shook hands at the end of the final presidential debate, held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., on Monday.

A look back at the week in politics.

Des Moines Register Endorses Romney

Mitt Romney won the endorsement of The Des Moines Register on Saturday evening, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to capture the newspaper's recommendation to Iowa voters since Richard Nixon in 1972.

Four years ago, the newspaper's editorial pages supported Barack Obama. But Mr. Romney secured the endorsement this year, with the editorial saying that he offered a “fresh economic vision.”

“Voters should give Mitt Romney a chance to correct the nation's fiscal course and to implode the partisan gridlock that has shackled Washington and the rest of America - with the understanding that he would face the same assessment in four years if he does not succeed,” the editorial said.

Follow Jeff Zeleny on Twitter at @jeffzeleny.

Rubio\'s Daughter Hurt in Accident

LAKEWOOD CREST, Fla. - Senator Marco Rubio's 12-year-old daughter was involved in a car accident in Miami on Saturday, prompting the lawmaker to abruptly leave Mitt Romney's motorcade along a highway here.

Mr. Rubio's daughter, Amanda, was airlifted to a local hospital, where she was listed in stable condition, according to a statement from his office. The severity of the accident and her injuries are unclear.

Mr. Rubio, who was campaigning with Mr. Romney across Florida, could be seen standing outside of Mr. Romney's bus, which stopped on Interstate 4 a little before 7 p.m. The senator was picked up by a state trooper, presumably to be driven to a local airport, so he could return to Miami.

According to the statement, Mr. Rubio learned of the accident after leaving the stage at a rally for Mr. Romney near Orlando. It appeared that he remained inside Mr. Romney's motorcade so he could be driven as close as possible to an airport.

Sunday Breakfast Menu, Oct. 28

Sunday's Breakfast MenuStephen Crowley/The New York Times

Time is running out for President Obama and Mitt Romney to make their case and encourage their supporters to turn out to vote. With the polls showing a tight race, all eyes are on the swing states that could make or break the candidates.

NBC's “Meet the Press” features Gov. John Kasich, Republican of Ohio; Gov. John Hickenlooper, Democrat of Colorado; and Gov. Scott Walker, Republican of Wisconsin, discussing the ground game to win their critical states on Election Day.

On “Fox News Sunday,” it's the senators who weigh in: Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia; Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado; Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio; and Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin.

CNN's â €œState of the Union” has David Axelrod, senior adviser to the Obama campaign, and Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, making the case for each of the nominees. And Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and Ted Strickland, former Ohio governor, will also share their thoughts on the race.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, former Republican presidential nominee, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Mr. Obama's former chief of staff, join CBS's “Face the Nation” to weigh in the final days of the race. Mr. McCain will also discuss the latest on the attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Plus, Haley Barbour, former Mississippi governor, and Jennifer Granholm, former Michigan governor, join the program to offer analysis of the contest.

Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Mr. Obama's re-election campaign, and Newt Gingrich, former House speaker and Republican presidential candidate, will appear o n ABC's “This Week.”

Bloomberg's “Political Capital” has David Plouffe, senior adviser to the Obama campaign.

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, joins C-Span's “Newsmakers.”

Univision's “Al Punto” offers a full line-up of political guests, featuring discussions with Carlos M. Gutierrez, former commerce secretary and trade policy adviser for the Romney campaign; Henry G. Cisneros, former secretary of housing and urban development; and Gabriela Domenzain, director of Hispanic press for the Obama campaign.

And the election and its impact on defense spending is one of the hot topics on TV One's “Washington Watch,” offering interviews with Retired Maj. Gen. John R. Hawkins III and Tom Tarantino, an Iraq War veteran and chief policy officer with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America.

Missouri Senate Poll Shows McCaskill\'s Lead Narrowing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. â€" The Missouri Senate race has narrowed to a dead heat, according to a new poll released on Saturday, a drastic turnaround since Representative Todd Akin, the Republican challenging incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill, upended the race with controversial comments about rape two months ago.

Ms. McCaskill, a first-term Democrat, holds a 45 percent to 43 percent edge, which is within the 4 percent margin of sampling error of the Mason-Dixon Poll, which was commissioned by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, News 4 and the Kansas City Star. The same poll showed Ms. McCaskill with a nine-point edge (50-41) in the immediate aftermath of Mr. Akin's remark in August that in cases of “legitimate rape,” women's bodies had a natural way of fighting off pregnancy.

Mr. Akin's campaign touted the poll in a press release sent out on Saturday morning.

“We were very excited to see the poll,” said Rick Tyler, a spokesman for the Akin campaign, noting Ms. McCaskill's large fundraising advantage in the race. “It just tells me that no amount of advertising and distraction is going to convince the voters to send Claire McCaskill back to Washington.”

The new poll also appeared to grab the attention of the McCaskill campaign, which quickly released the results of its own internal poll on Saturday morning, showing the incumbent senator with a much wider lead.

“While polls in this race have varied, the clear pattern to emerge over the last few weeks is that Claire is consistently leading Akin by a much wider margin,” Caitlin Legacki, a spokeswoman for Ms. McCaskill, said in a statement. “Keep in mind that Mason-Dixon badly missed the mark 10 days before the Senate primary.”

In that poll, Mr. Akin was third among the Republican primary candidates, with just 17 percent of the vote, 16 points behind the frontrunner, John Brunner. Mr. Mr. Akin ended up winning by 6 points with 36 percent of the vote.

Still, the tightened poll presents a dilemma for the national Republican establishment, which quickly abandoned Mr. Akin after his rape comments and urged him to drop out of the race. When he refused to give up his candidacy in favor of another candidate, several deep-pocketed Republican groups said they still would not support him with the millions of dollars they had previously promised because they did not believe he could win the race.

But this race, like all of the other close Senate battles around the country, is seen as critical in Republican efforts to win control of the chamber. The Akin campaign has said it believed the party would have to return to its corner because of the importance of the race. The challenge for Mr. Akin has been to show that he presented a realistic chance of winning. Polling data over the past couple of months has been all over the map, which may cause Republican donors to continue to balk on spending in M issouri as they invest in several other competitive races in other states.

The nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report on Friday moved the Missouri Senate race more comfortably in Ms. McCaskill's direction to favored Democrat.

“We hope that Congressman Akin wins next month and we continue to closely monitor the race,” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which withdrew a pledge to spend $3 million on the race after Mr. Akin's rape remark.

Spokesmen for American Crossroads, a ”super PAC” founded by Karl Rove that had planned to spend $2.3 million, did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday morning.
Ms. McCaskill raised more than three and a half times as much money ($5.8 million to $1.6 million) as Mr. Akin during the third quarter and spent more than four and a half times as much.

The new poll of 625 likely voters, interviewed on Tuesday through Thursday, showed that Mr. Akin cut his de ficit among female voters in half, to 9 points from 18. It shows Mr. Akin with comfortable leads in all parts of the state except the two major metropolitan hubs, Kansas City and St. Louis.

Ms. McCaskill's favorability rating continued to be a nagging concern, with 47 percent of those polled viewing her unfavorably, compared with 42 percent for Mr. Akin. Ms. McCaskill does, however have a wide lead over Mr. Akin on the favorable side, 40 percent to 28 percent.

The economy, jobs, healthcare and Medicare were the most important issues for 63 percent of voters who had made up their minds, according to the poll. Mr. Akin's rape remarks were either somewhat important or very important to 53 percent of decided voters, the poll said.

The poll also showed Mitt Romney increasing his lead over President Obama in the state to 13 percentage points, 54 percent to 41 percent.

Storm Forces Romney to Cancel Sunday Events in Virginia

PENSACOLA, Fla. - The Romney campaign has abruptly canceled three rallies in Virginia scheduled for Sunday as a major storm approaching the East Coast began to significantly disrupt the final days of a closely contested presidential race.

Mr. Romney was scheduled to appear at rallies in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Virginia Beach, as he seeks to build support in the swing state, where polls show the candidates are running neck and neck.

The campaign said that Mr. Romney would instead divert to Ohio, to attend three events originally set to feature his running mate, Paul Ryan.

The storm is wreaking havoc on the candidates' travel plans at a crucial time, when every minute is carefully calculated in swing states that could determine the outcome of the race.

An aide to Mr. Romney said that he did not want to divert security resources away from the storm. Visits from a presidential candidate require hundreds of police officers, and the image of them traveling with Mr. Romney, rather than preparing for the storm, is something Mr. Romney is eager to avoid.

Follow Michael Barbaro on Twitter at @mikiebarb.

Florida Congressman Fires Up Crowd at Romney Rally in Pensacola

PENSACOLA, Fla. - At a rally for Mitt Romney on Saturday, Representative Jeff Miller, a Republican from Florida, suggested that President Obama had abandoned the American ambassador to Libya and the employees killed in an attack on a consulate there last month.

In a fiery introductory remarks to warm up a crowd here for Mr. Romney, Mr. Miller said that “America deserves a president that will not leave a U.S. ambassador and three others.”

He was immediately drowned out by loud applause.

In a play on the traditional test of a president, the so-called 3 a.m. emergency phone call, Mr. Miller said: “Mr. President, the phone rang and you didn't answer it.”

Mr. Miller began by mocking a now-famous Obama comment from a fund-raiser. “Here we are, clinging to our guns and our religion,” he said, triggering loud applause.

Mr. Romney is visiting Pensacola on the first day of early voting in Florida.

Follow Michael B arbaro on Twitter at @mikiebarb.

Florida\'s Voter Registration Statistics

As Florida's highly coveted voters began going to the polls on Saturday for the first day of in-person early voting at sites across the state, the state released new voter registration statistics that provided reasons for optimism and pessimism for both the Romney and Obama campaigns.

Democrats still hold an edge over Republicans in registered voters, but it is smaller than it was four years ago, when President Obama won the state. The Democratic advantage is now 535,897, down from 657,775 in 2008. There are 11.9 million registered voters in the state.

The biggest question mark this year will be the voters unaffiliated with either party: there are now nearly 2.6 million of them, a jump of 469,782 from four years ago.

The state now has 304,804 more Hispanic voters than it did four years ago, 166,024 more white voters, and 151,387 more black voters, according to the registration statistics.

There are two ways to vote earl y in Florida: by absentee ballot, and in person. Absentee ballots are usually mailed in, and tend to benefit Republicans. Through Friday the state had received 1,129,161 returned absentee ballots, according to the secretary of state's office.

Republican voters sent in 503,625, Democrats sent in 442,860 and other voters sent in 182,676. Democrats hope to mobilize a big in-person turnout.

Follow Michael Cooper on Twitter at @coopnytimes.

The Caucus Click: Biden Goes Cheese Shopping

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stopped at the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wis., before a campaign rally on Friday at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Mr. Biden purchased some 13-year old sharp cheddar cheese.Josh Haner/The New York Times Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stopped at the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wis., before a campaign rally on Friday at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Mr. Biden purchased some 13-year old sharp cheddar cheese.

Groups in Florida Look to Highlight Changes as Early Voting Begins

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Before the supervisor of elections opened the main polling site here in Duval County at 7 a.m., a line of almost 100 people had already formed, snaking its way along the sidewalk of a strip-mall parking lot.

All but three voters in line were black. As they waited, they held hands and prayed.

“Our father, our God,” began the Rev. R.L. Gundy of Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. “Our ancestors paid a dear price to have a right to vote, and we don't take it for granted. Yet the enemy does all it can to disenfranchise us. God, go with us into these polls and every poll around the country.”

He continued, “We are not fearful. We are not afraid. We will not be turned away.”

And the crowd said a somber “Amen.”

Then, in a more jubilant mood, someone screamed, “Fired up?” And a chant began: “Ready to vote!”

“Fired up” … “Ready to vote” …”Fired up” … â €œReady to vote” …

Many of the black voters who gathered here Saturday morning, the first day of early voting in Florida, had spent the night sleeping in tents and recreational vehicles near the elections office. Their plan was to “Occupy the Polls” in an effort to raise awareness about changes to early voting this year that shorten the number of days for casting ballots.

Mr. Gundy, the Florida president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, helped organize the camping and “blessing of the polls” out of a sense of outrage that the state took away the Sunday before Election Day as an option for early voting. Early voting will end next Saturday.

The Sunday before Election Day had been the main day for churches in Florida to get their “souls to the polls,” a tradition for many black congregations. In 2008, when Barack Obama won the presidency, black turnout was particularly strong across Florida on the Sunday before Election Day.

“They're trying to turn back the hands of time,” Mr. Gundy said. “They knew that was an important day for us. They knew minorities tended to vote on the Sunday before Election Day. But we're not going to let that foolishness stop us.”

First in line when the doors to the polls swung open was the track team from Edward Waters College - four women - and their coach, Archie Gallon. They had come in a van in the pre-dawn darkness.

“I wanted to sleep late, but I also thought it was important to be here,” said Amber Durrett, 19. “Very exciting. We're voting for the first time.”

Others in the crowd had been organized by Florida New Majority, a get-out-the-vote organization that helped bring churches, black fraternal groups and others together to “Occupy the Polls.”

With Hurricane Sandy churning up the Atlantic Ocean off the coast, the winds were gusty and cool. People kept warm with McDonald's coffee, doughnuts and breakfast sandwich es.

As the line grew and grew, a woman took a megaphone and announced, “You are not waiting in vain!”

Three Romney supporters showed up with signs. One said he hoped to “convert” the crowd. The group held their Romney-Ryan signs during the blessing, but also held hands in prayer.

“It's a Southern thing,” said Hank Lengfellner, a retired land surveyor who was one of the Romney supporters. “I want to see everybody vote, I do. But I want to see informed voters vote.”

Asked why he had come to this particular poll, in a predominantly black area, Mr. Lengfellner and his friend Rick Hartley, who are white, said it was about convenience. “We're early people,” Mr. Lengfellner said.

But Mr. Hartley seemed keen to ruffle a few feathers. He asked one of the Occupy organizers, Representative Corrine Brown, a Democrat of Jacksonville, if he could take a picture with her holding his Romney sign. She refused. He asked again, then asked other s.

There were mumbles about why this man had come here to have his picture taken.

Eventually, someone snapped a shot of Mr. Hartley and Ms. Brown, but without the political sign.

By 7:30 a.m., the crowd had grown to about 200 people, almost all of them black. There were whole families, college students, and groups of the elderly who had come together from retirement villages. In the parking lot outside the polls, they sang, “When the Saints Go Marching In,” but with a few lyrics changed to express support for President Obama.

“Oh, I want to be in his number.”

Now the sun was up, trying to break through a thick layer of clouds threatening rain.

“Good morning!” a poll worker, Shaela Manning, greeted those standing in line. “Everybody make sure you have a picture I.D. available. Our polls are officially open.”

The Weekend Word: Tactics

Today's Times

  • Executives at several major companies have sent letters or information packets to employees suggesting how they should vote, some saying that if President Obama gets re-elected, the company's future would be harmed and employees' jobs could be in jeopardy, Steven Greenhouse reports.
  • Mitt Romney's campaign is aggressively tapping into the anger of Virginia's coal miners, who are upset by President Obama's environmental policies, Michael D. Shear reports. Similar strategies have been echoed all across battleground states, hoping to offset Mr. Obama's equally tough campaign to win over women.
  • Jonathan Weisman takes a look at some of the bizarre twists and turns in House races that have have generally flown under the radar. A continued Republican majority is all but certain, but what the races lack in suspense, they make up for in color.
  • Though he has raised money and worked as a campaign surrogate for his father, Tagg Romney says he has no interest in working in a Romney administration and no intention of carrying on the political tradition that began with his grandfather George Romney, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Ashley Parker write.

 Weekly Address

  • President Obama used his weekly address to talk about new consumer protection initiatives set in place by his administration. “That means making sure you've got all the information you need to make important financial decisions like buying a home or paying for college,” he said. “And it means going after anyone who tries to take advantage of you, or rip you off. Starting this month, that includes the folks who come up with your credit score.” Consumerfinance.gov/complaint is now available for anyone who feels that a credit score complaint has not been properly addressed.  “The same procedure will apply for bank accounts, student loans and mortgages,” he said. “Their only mission is to fight for you,” Mr. Obama said. “And when needed, they'll take action.”

 Happenings in Washington

  • The Marine Corps Marathon will host a one-mile fun Run for 4,000 children on Saturday, hoping to set the Guinness World Record for the most people to ever run 100 meters in 24 hours.
  • The 37th Marine Corps Marathon will kick off on Sunday.