Total Pageviews

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Romney Aide Says Campaign Lost Florida

Despite the never-ending counting of ballots in Florida, Mitt Romney‘s campaign on Thursday recognized that President Obama is on his way to victory there. With only ballots from Democratic-leaning counties left to be counted, the final tally was not expected to change the outcome, Republican acknowledged.

“We thought based on our polling and range of organization that we had done what we needed to win,” Brett Doster, a Florida adviser for Mitt Romney, told The Miami Herald in a statement. “Obviously we didn't, and for that I and every other operative in Florida has a sick feeling that we left something on the table. I can assure you this won't happen again.”

By Thursday afternoon, the state Division of Elections Web site said Mr. Obama led Mr. Romney 49.9 percent to 49.2 percent, with a difference of about 55,000 votes out of more than eight  million votes cast. Several counties continued to count absentee ballots throughout the day. An official dec laration is expected on Friday, and an Obama victory would give him 332 electoral votes to Mr. Romney's 206.

President Obama is not the only Democrat waiting to be certified the winner in Florida. Patrick Murphy, who ran a tough, bitter race against Representative Allen B. West, appears to have won the vote count in a district that slices through Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie Counties. If Mr. Murphy prevails, it would be a significant victory for the Democratic Party, which targeted Mr. West for defeat.

But Mr. West, the bombastic Republican who won in 2010 with Tea Party support and is a prolific fund-raiser, is demanding a recount in Palm Beach County. His campaign was scheduled to go to court Friday.

Mr. Murphy was ahead by 2,456 votes, not enough to trigger an automatic recount in the county. Military and provisional ballots were still being counted.

“I've been in combat so this is not a stressful situation for me,” Mr. West, a former Army officer, told Fox News Radio. “We want to make sure that there's a fair and open electoral process. There are some violations of Florida state law and I think it's important that be brought to the attention of the constituents.”

Expecting a drawn-out legal battle, Mr. Murphy's campaign sent an e-mail Thursday asking for donations. “We would not be asking for more funds if it was not so urgent,” it said.


Obama Team Says Candidate, Not Campaign, Deserves Credit

Their technologically advanced vote-getting operation has wowed members of both parties and the cable news set, winning credit for getting President Obama over the hump in his race against Mitt Romney.

But less than 48 hours after Mr. Obama clinched re-election, his aides were becoming wary that the first draft of history on the campaign was turning into a story about how smart campaign tactics had delivered victory to an embattled president rather than one about how it was all due to the president himself and his policies.

So, for the last time, his campaign team held a conference call with reporters on Thursday afternoon to push back.

“We have a remarkable staff and campaign,'' said David Plouffe, a senior adviser to the president. But, crediting the volunteer army that went to work on his behalf, Mr. Plouffe added, “the reason that those people got involved is because they believed in Barack Obama - it was a relationship between them and our candid ate.”

Jim Messina, the campaign manager who oversaw the creation of the system that surprised Republicans by getting more Obama supporters to the polls than Republicans had expected, argued that the results should be viewed as vindication for the president's call for higher taxes on the rich as part of any deal to reduce the deficit. And Mr. Obama's aides noted that exit polls showed that only a minority want to see the president's health care plan entirely repealed.

Get the picture? (Republicans will surely disagree.)

But Mr. Messina had some kind parting words for his rival campaign manager, Matt Rhoades. Congratulating him and his team on running a tough race, he said, “We wish them sleep and some time with family.”

TimesCast Politics: Driving Toward the Fiscal Cliff

Damon Winter/The New York Times
  • 0:25  Interview With Rep. Chris Van Hollen

    Megan Lieberman interviews Representative Chris Van Hollen on the looming fiscal cliff negotiations.

  • 5:09  Campaign Finance Fallout

    Nicholas Confessore reports on the mood and future of campaign finance after many large donors who supported Mitt Romney are left empty handed.

  • 10:19  Legalizing Marijuana

    Jack Healy looks at the specifics behind C olorado's legalization of recreational marijuana.

  • 14:30  Key Moments in the Election

    Jim Rutenberg looks back at some of the key moments in the election.

Goodbye to Rachel From Cardholder Services

So long, Rachel. I certainly won't miss you or your annoying phone calls from “Cardholder Services.”

The Federal Trade Commission recently acted to shut down five “robocalling” firms in Arizona and Florida that it says are responsible for millions of illegal telemarketing calls, including the familiar pre-recorded messages from “Rachel.”

“At the F.T.C., Rachel from Cardholder Services is public enemy No. 1,” Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the F.T.C., said in a statement.

(Actually, Rachel is a voice recorded years ago and recycled by various firms, according to a New York Times story from June.)

Federal courts granted the agency's request to temporarily halt the operations of the five firms. The agency asserted that they tricked consumers into paying hundreds of thousands of dollars by making phony claims that they could reduce credit card interest rates in return for a fee - sometimes as high as $3,000 - paid up front.

I admit I wasn't aware of what exactly Rachel was pitching, since if I immediately hung up when I heard her greeting. But many other consumers apparently listened, and even pressed a number to hear more from a live person.

After the telemarketer “approved” the consumers for a “program” to get rates as low as 0 percent, according to the F.T.C., the telemarketer informed them that there was an upfront fee, ranging from several hundred dollars to nearly $3,000. To persuade consumers to pay the fee, the F.T.C. said, telemarketers would often say that it would be more than offset by the money the consumer would save through the program.

In some cases, the F.T.C. asserted, consumers' credit cards were charged, even if they didn't agree to pay for the service. In other cases, the F.T.C. contended, the telemarketers did not disclose a fee at all, or claimed there would be no fee.

After consumers paid the fee, the F.T.C. alleged, they typic ally found - surprise, surprise! - that the companies did little or nothing to lower their credit card interest rates. And they often reneged on promises to refund the fees.

The F.T.C. is trying to crack down on robocalling, and is even offering cash prizes for proposals for innovative technology  to curtail the practice. (Some robocalls, like those from political candidates or charities seeking donations, are allowed, the F.T.C. says. But if the recording is a sales pitch, and you haven't given written permission to get the calls, it's illegal - and most likely a scheme.)

The agency also provided tips on what to do if you get unwanted automated telemarketing calls. Hanging up is at the top of the list.

Did you ever hear from Rachel? Did you end up getting charged a fee?

At a Breakfast With Aides, Romney Reflects on the Campaign

BOSTON â€" Nobody expected Mitt Romney to show up.

Just a few hours after he lost the election by a stinging margin, Mr. Romney's top donors and aides assembled at the Intercontinental Hotel here in Boston for a long-planned breakfast.

But at the last minute Mr. Romney sent word that he would make it. He had something to say.

Standing in front of the small crowd in a hotel conference room, he was unexpectedly expansive and reflective, as if trying to make sense of a defeat that seemed to genuinely startle him, according to people who attended.

He marveled at the president's ability to turn out voters, at times by using strategies that had maligned him. He faulted the Obama campaign for characterizing him as an enemy of women, singling out advertisements that claimed he opposed abortion in all cases and opposed contraception. That, Mr. Romney said, was simply untrue, according to attendees.

He took a gentle swipe at the news media. He mocked st ories that claimed his son Tagg had staged an intervention to fix a faltering campaign and was playing a heavy hand in shaping political strategy. The news media, he said, kept searching for conflict inside a campaign that Mr. Romney told the crowd had been remarkably harmonious.

As he wrapped up his remark, Mr. Romney became uncharacteristically emotional, according to attendees. He choked up as he talked about the friendships he made on the campaign trail and thanked his campaign staff members by name. A few of them wiped back tears of their own.

When he was finished, Mr. Romney lingered for a long time, shaking hand and delivering hugs.

He waxed nostalgic, telling some staff members what positions he had envisioned for them in a Romney administration.

It seemed, those in the room said, like he did not want to leave. “He stayed until the last person left,” said an attendee.

Goodbye Orange Ball, Hello Capital One 360

Capital One

The distinctive ING Direct orange ball is bouncing into oblivion.

Customers of the online bank, which was officially acquired in February by Capital One, were notified yesterday that as of this coming February, the bank will become Capital One 360.

Instead of the orange ball, the bank's identity will be represented by Capital One's red-and-blue logo, with the addition of a red ball enclosing the number “360” with a sideways chevron.

“ING DIRECT's new name come February will be Capital One 360,” the bank announced on its Facebook page. “New name, new logo, new colors and the same focus as always â€" You.”

As has been the case since the acquisition was first announced in 2011, many customers reacted with dismay on ING Direct 's Facebook page.

“Unlike!” said a woman identified on Facebook as Tammy Russell. She added a frowning emoticon with this comment: “I love that ING is orange â€" not boring conservative other bank colors!”

Also on Facebook, Maria Elena Villegas had this to say: “So, Capital One bought the rights to the orange ball only to destroy any brand recognition and customer loyalty amongst ING customers? If anything, they should have rolled everything over to look and feel and work as ING Direct works. This is an absolute waste of branding, customer loyalty, and potential goodwill or at least neutrality from current ING customers by Capital One. I feel sorry for the current ING employees, as this was, of course, totally Capital One's call. Does not bode well.”

Chad Burton pronounced the new name “lame.”

David Mejias went so far as to start a “save the orange ball” petition on Change.org.

An ING Direct spoke swoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. But in a response to the posts, ING Direct responded on Facebook that the name change was a necessity: “Legally, we had to change our name, Saver. As for our colors, we have to be all color coordinated with our new family. We love Orange too, but we think red will look good on you.”

Since the acquisition closed, the bank has added new features, like tools to track savings in different accounts.

But the reaction is more evidence that customers remain skeptical about Capital One's insistence that the acquisition wasn't going to change ING Direct, known for higher-than-average interest rates and helpful customer service.

To help allay such concerns, the bank posted a “company pledge” on its new Web site and sent e-mails to customers that included e-mail contact information for Jim Kelly, head of direct banking for ING Direct, and John Witter, president of retail and direct banking at Capital O ne.

What do you think of the bank's new name and logo? Do they matter if the bank maintains its level of service?

Thursday Reading: Jeans Tight? Blame the \'Sandy Five\' Weight Gain

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.

  • A school cut off from technology faces its intrusion. (National)
  • Devising passwords that drive hackers away. (Business)
  • Losing power but finding a way to connect. (Business)
  • The pay-as-you-go remodel. (Home)
  • Plus-size bloggers blaze new fashion path. (Thursday Styles)
  • Jeans tight? Blame the “Sandy Five” weight gain. (Thursday Styles)
  • Hyundai overstatement of fuel economy no surprise to owners. (Wheels)
  • Walk in a mall, get mobile coupon. (Bits)
  • What is a 4G network? (Pogue's Posts)
  • Trading recyclables for rosemary. (Green)
  • When breast isn't best. (Motherlode)
  • Wondering about Alzheimer's risk?Ask here. (The New Old Age)
  • Nailing down your Thanksgiving turkey plan. (Diner's Journal)

The Early Word: Moving Along

In Today's Times:

  • President Obama is back to work at the White House after winning his re-election campaign. Jackie Calmes and Peter Baker write that Mr. Obama has begun trying to wrap up the unfinished business of his first term, phoning party leaders on Wednesday to nudge them toward a budget deal to avoid roughly $700 billion in automatic tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts that could damage the economic recovery. With his second term approaching, he will also be looking at ways to reshuffle his cabinet, as several high-profile members are set to depart.
  • Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin is returning to the House, where his elevated profile and position as chairman of the Budget Committee give him a central role in Republicans' negotiations with President Obama and Democrats. But Trip Gabriel writes that Mr. Ryan will face grumbling from some Republicans who believe his efforts to steer the party rightward cost them moder ate voters and the presidential election. As a potential presidential contender in 2016, Mr. Ryan's viability might hinge on whether the party wants to continue rightward or follow the more moderate direction of the country and its demographics.
  • After the Supreme Court relaxed campaign finance rules in 2010, some wealthy donors poured millions of dollars into the most expensive election in history through outside spending groups known as “super PACs.” But Nicholas Confessore and Jess Bidgood tell how some megadonors, like Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate, invested heavily in the election and emerged with few prizes.
  • If the electorate of Prince William County, Va., looks like the electorate of the future, then Democrats hold a sizable advantage over Republicans. Michael D. Shear writes that Republicans' strategy of appealing mostly to white voters has run into a wall of demographics that include minorities, women and vote rs under age 40. Those groups helped Mr. Obama win Virginia, Colorado, Nevada and perhaps Florida.
  • Republicans must also contend with a gender gap that was underscored by their Senate losses on election night in states like Missouri, Wisconsin and Connecticut. Jennifer Steinhauer explains how Republicans' stance on social issues affecting women, the poor and immigrants turned off female voters and cost the party some House seats as well.

Happening in Washington:

  • Economic data expected today include international trade for September and weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m., followed at 10 by third-quarter mass layoffs and weekly mortgage rates.
  • President Obama is taking it easy with one item on his schedule: the daily briefing.