October 18, 2012
By JULIE PACE
President Barack Obama’s campaign moved swiftly Wednesday to try to capitalize on his spirited debate performance, making an aggressive push on women’s issues and Libya and pressing the notion that Mitt Romney’s economic proposals are “sketchy.”
Obama’s strategy aims to solidify his crucial lead among female voters and his standing as the candidate viewed more favorably on foreign policy, the topic of the third and final debate. Democrats had worried that both advantages could slip away after the president's lackluster performance in the opening face-off with Romney and the fallout from last month’s deadly attack on Americans in Libya.
Obama, visibly energized on the campaign trail, hammered Romney on a flurry of women’s issues, from fair pay to Planned Parenthood funding. And he poked fun at his Republican rival for saying during the debate he had relied on “binders full of women” to find more female employees while serving as Massachusetts governor.
“We don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women,” Obama said at a rally in Mount Vernon, Iowa.
The impact of the second debate on the tightly contested White House race won't be clear for several days. But Obama's rebound provided much-needed reassurance to anxious Democrats, some of whom feared the president lacked the passion to fight for his job. The campaign insists the debate halted Romney’s October momentum and keeps open their pathways to victory in all nine or so battleground states.
“In those states, if the election were held today, I’m as confident as anything I’ve been in my life, that we would win the election,” said David Plouffe, Obama’s senior adviser.
The president’s top aides were energized by his performance at the town-hall style debate on Long Island. Aides watching from backstage erupted in cheers at some of his pointed attacks. And there were outbursts of applause at the campaign’s Chicago headquarters, a sharp contrast to the sullen mood there during the first face-off.
Advisers said the debate exchanges on women and Libya gave them the biggest opportunity to appeal to the narrow swath of voters in key states who remain undecided less than three weeks from Election Day.
Obama’s campaign is expected to target Romney's positions on women’s health issues. In particular, they plan to contrast Romney’s assertion that “every woman in America should have access to contraceptives” with his support for legislation which sought to reverse the administration’s policy requiring religious-affiliated institutions to cover contraception costs.
Obama’s team has run television advertisements previously on Romney’s positions on women’s health issues and may do so again.
Explaining the focus on women, Plouffe said, “There are more undecided women than men in all the battlegrounds.”
Polls have long showed Obama holding an edge over Romney with female voters. But some surveys showed Romney making gains with women after the first debate, a shift strategists in both parties attributed to the softer, more moderate tone the Republican struck in that face-off.
The Democratic ticket was also buoyed in the latest debate by the candidates’ exchange on the September attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the attack, and the Obama administration has faced intense criticism about its security levels at the consulate and shifts in its explanation about the violence.
The president countered Romney’s criticism by saying that as president, he is “always responsible” for attacks on American interests overseas. And Romney got tripped up on his accusations that the president didn’t refer to the attacks as terrorism in the immediate aftermath.
Speaking in the Rose Garden the day after the violence, Obama had referred to “acts of terror.”
The candidates have less than a week to prepare for the final debate on October 22, when they expect a fuller discussion of Libya. The president has campaign trips scheduled through Friday and plans to spend the weekend practicing with his debate team at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.
Obama’s team said the debate helped sharpen their message on the economy, the top issue for voters. On both Tuesday and Wednesday, Obama called Romney’s economic proposals “a sketchy deal,” a phrase voters can expect to hear frequently in the campaign’s closing weeks.
The campaign also plans to use a debate exchange on immigration in its final push for Hispanic votes. Obama needs to run up big margins with Hispanics in swing states like Colorado, Nevada and Virginia. The president used the debate to promote his administration’s efforts to provide a path to legal status for many young illegal immigrants, while Romney said he wouldn't grant amnesty to people who come to the U.S. illegally.
Obama’s aggressive debate performance calmed the nerves of many Democrats, no small accomplishment given the deep anxiety that set in among many supporters following the president’s first debate.
“I think everybody takes their cue from the leader,” said David Axelrod, Obama’s senior campaign strategist.
October 11, 2012
By BEN FELLER Associated Press
The last campaign got the glory. This one is the grind.
For all the many ways that President Barack Obama's bid for a second term is different from his first, the one that stands out now is the feel at the finish.
The crowds are behind him, but this is not the 2008 "Fired Up, Ready To Go!"
Obama's admonition to supporters might as well be turned around — be ready to go, or I may get fired.
"There are times where you just have to grind it out, because it's hard," Obama told wealthy donors at a softly lit dinner in Los Angeles, speaking almost quietly even with a microphone in his hand. "It's hard work bringing about change."
On Obama's trail, the current narrative is about his strangely listless appearance in last week's debate. Yes, it left a major impression on the race, and given the enormous TV audience that saw it, Obama chose a bad day to have a bad day.
Yet Obama has also turned in upbeat appearances since then, revving up one late-night concert-hall crowd in San Francisco to the point of screams. He has found peace in the company of longtime friends traveling with him on Air Force One, energy from teenagers just waiting to shake his hand and glee in improvising ways to mock Republican rival Mitt Romney for targeting Big Bird.
There is no singular feel to Obama events as he fights for his job.
Despite his trademark steadiness, Obama tends to turn in campaign performances that mirror the crowd and the setting. He soaks up enthusiasm and shares it back when the audience is rocking, yet he can seem flat if his listeners are. He drew 15,000 students at Ohio State University on Tuesday but appeared in a hurry to finish.
The more representative feel of life around Obama is the determined, difficult lift of everything he wants to do.
It was telling that his convention speech was remarkably short on inspiration, emphasizing instead that he offered voters a hard path, but one that would lead the country to a better place.
His message in rallies and fundraisers is no different.
"I always said that change takes time," he said. "We always said that it would take more than one term. ... And by the way, no, it doesn't just take me. That's not the deal. The deal is it takes all of us."
At times Obama almost sounds like voters inked a contract with him, and they need to renew it. Not exactly the stuff of tingles for Obama supporters who show up looking for that.
But it does reflect a campaign that recognizes this is no 2008, when Obama was the fresh voice, and helped by the anti-incumbency mood of voters who saw Republican Sen. John McCain as a version of President George W. Bush.
It was this time back then, during October's chill, when Obama's campaign took on the anticipatory feel of victory. Obama recalls it as a period when "things just kind of converged" in his favor.
Yet even on that feel-good front, Obama offers tough lessons for voters.
"Back in 2008, everybody always remembers the victory. Things always look good in retrospect," he said. "But in the middle of it, we made all kinds of mistakes. We goofed up. I goofed up. But the American people carried us forward."
Such is the period Obama is in now.
It's been one of the hardest of the campaign. His aides are still dealing with questions about the last debate and eager to get to the next one, but insistent that Obama never loses perspective.
He spoke about it often during a reflective campaign swing that took him from the donor-rich events of California on Sunday and Monday to the student rally in Ohio.
When a classmate from his Hawaii school days, Pam Hamamoto, welcomed him to a fundraiser in San Francisco, Obama turned to her and said: "That was the sweetest introduction I've had since I've been president."
It didn't take, long, though for him to get down to business again.
Sure, some hope. But mostly hard work.
"I very much intend to win this election," he said, "but we're only going to do it if everybody is almost obsessive."
October 11, 2012
By Xavier Higgs
In what may be a sleeper campaign, Councilman Chris Holden, the veteran Democrat from Pasadena, started the race for the newly drawn California 41st Assembly district as the heavy favorite.
He has the trappings of broad Democratic support, from the endorsements of party icons California State Attorney General Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Karen Bass to the California Democratic Party. If elected, Holden would become the first African American state assemblyman from Pasadena.
According to Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, Dem. 44th district, “whenever you leave office you want to leave it in capable and strong hands. I think he is the right person. Chris understands local government and that’s a perspective Sacramento needs.”
Because of redistricting the winner of November’s election will inherit a portion of Portantino’s district.
The GOP nominee, Donna Lowe, isn’t getting such sterling reviews and the shape of this race has not changed in recent weeks. Lowe is an employee of SafeNet, Inc., a data and intellectual property protection company.
As a life-long Republican and a member of the Tea Party, Lowe is pro-business and anti-union. Michael Antonovich, and TeaPAC President Michael Alexander, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association are among area political leaders who have endorsed Lowe.
“My opponent and I are diametrically different on many issues,” says Holden. “That includes women’s issues, the environment, labor and jobs. I see the value in having a strong public sector that can support the safeguards necessary for business growth. I also think employees should have the opportunity to bargain for their benefits.”
Holden is not entirely alone. His campaign received nearly $187,405 in contributions between July and September of this year. Compared to Lowe’s $51,752. According to State reported fundraising records.
Holden, a veteran democrat, has served 23 years as a City of Pasadena councilmember and one term as mayor. Chris is the son of former Los Angeles City Councilman, Nate Holden who once represented Los Angeles' 10th District.
The elder Holden says, “Chris has had a heck of a career because he’s well trained. He is well prepared to tackle the issues and make some meaningful legislation. He really cares about serving people.”
Like his father Chris has been able to endure a scandal. His ex-wife Michelle was arrested July 2, 1998, and charged with unlawful sex acts with two minors. She copped a plea and was sentenced to three years' probation for having sex with her 15-year-old male baby-sitter.
Nevertheless, he has successfully served the citizens of Pasadena’s 3rd district, and was instrumental in expanding the Metro Gold Line connecting the region to Los Angeles. He is also a commissioner on the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority and an executive board member for the California Democratic Party. He owns CHMB Consulting, a real estate firm.
“Chris is a thoughtful person,” according Pasadena’s Mayor Bill Bogaard, who has known him for about 30 years. “He is measured in his approach to problems.”
The new 41st Assembly District was created by the 14-member California Citizens Redistricting Commission. It extends south to north including South Pasadena, Altadena, Sierra Madre, Monrovia, and extends east to Upland.
Democrats comprise of approximately 42 percent of the registered voters and republicans at 32 percent in the new 41st District.
Holden, at 6’8 is described as a very likable guy and a gentle giant. But his father adds, “Chris is very competitive. Like me when you push him against the wall he will fight back.”
Both are former athletes, Chris was a basketball player and his dad was a boxer.
Longtime friend Ishmael Trone says, Holden will be a “wonderful addition to the assembly.” “Chris always returns your calls. He’s attentive, He understands politics extremely well because he is the son of a legendary politician. Both are formable political opponents.”
Holden has been a fixture in Pasadena politics for decades, and Lowe must not only introduce herself to voters, but bring down Holden’s image in the process, an expensive task with little time before the elections.
October 11, 2012
The panel writing Egypt’s new constitution has released an unfinished draft of the document, calling for a public debate on the charter in the face of mounting criticism.
The parliament-selected panel is dominated by Islamists. It has come under criticism from liberals and secularists who accuse the panel of seeking to place limits in the new constitution on religious freedoms and women’s rights.
They have challenged the 100-member panel in courts, calling for its disbandment.
Leading Islamist panel member Mohammed el-Beltagi told reporters the assembly has not voted on the draft it released on October 10. He appealed for public feedback on the incomplete document.
A final version will eventually be put to a referendum.
Egyptians are writing the charter following longtime President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster last year in a popular uprising.
October 04, 2012
By KIMBERLY DOZIER Associated Press
A new book says President Barack Obama hoped to put Osama bin Laden on trial, showing the U.S. commitment to due process under law, if the al-Qaida leader had surrendered during a U.S. raid in Pakistan last year.
In “The Finish,” journalist Mark Bowden quotes the president as saying he thought he would be in a strong political position to argue in favor of giving bin Laden the full rights of a criminal defendant if bin Laden went on trial for masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks.
But Bowden says Obama expected bin Laden to go down fighting. A team of Navy SEALs raided bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011 and killed the terrorist leader.
The Associated Press purchased a copy of “The Finish,” which is due to come out Oct. 16, a few weeks before the presidential election. The revelation that Obama hoped to capture bin Laden may provide political fodder for Republicans who have criticized the Obama administration for trying to bring terrorists from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and overseas to trials in U.S. courts.
“Frankly, my belief was if we had captured him, that I would be in a pretty strong position, politically, here, to argue that displaying due process and rule of law would be our best weapon against al-Qaida, in preventing him from appearing as a martyr,” Obama is quoted saying in an interview with Bowden.
Obama believed that affording terrorists “the full rights of criminal defendants would showcase America’s commitment to justice for even the worst of the worst,” Bowden writes.
Obama had expressed similar views as a presidential candidate.
New York congressman Peter King said he would have been “totally opposed” to a trial.
“To give him a forum and all the constitutional protections that a U.S. citizen would receive when he was clearly a war criminal is part of the defensive and apologetic attitude” of the Obama administration, the Republican said.
U.S. officials have said the Navy team was ordered to capture bin Laden if he surrendered or kill him if he threatened them. Bowden asserts that the SEALs could have taken bin Laden alive but had no intention of doing so.
In a separate account of the raid that was published last month, one member of the Navy team, Matt Bissonnette, wrote that the SEALS climbed a stairway inside the compound and opened fire when bin Laden poked his head around a doorway. Bissonnette wrote that bin Laden’s hands were concealed and the SEALS presumed he was armed, so they shot him.
Bowden’s extensive access to top figures, including the president and high-ranking officials in the Pentagon and CIA, may revive criticism from Republicans that the White House allegedly leaks about the raid to burnish its foreign policy record during an election year.
Bowden, known for the book “Black Hawk Down” about a 1993 U.S. military operation in Somalia, details how the White House planned the mission and explains that the specific American team was chosen because it had “already successfully conducted about a dozen secret missions inside Pakistan.”
The recounting of the raid matches most previous versions. But Bowden also offers new insights in what sounds like the first-person perspective of the officer who commanded it on the ground, Adm. Bill McRaven. Scott Manning, a spokesman for the publisher, says “McRaven is not identified as a source in the book.”
McRaven was able to monitor all Pakistani communications during the raid from his command post at a base in Afghanistan, according to Bowden. The account shows that Pakistani authorities were unaware of the raid as it happened, giving the Americans breathing room to fly in a backup helicopter to replace the one that had crashed while depositing the first batch of SEALs in the compound.
After McRaven told then-CIA director Leon Panetta he had a “Geronimo” call — the radio code that meant the SEALs had found bin Laden — the admiral realized he had not asked whether bin Laden was dead or had been captured.
McRaven checked again with the SEALs on the ground before relaying that bin Laden had likely been killed. But McRaven cautioned Panetta to “manage his expectations” until they had more definitive proof, by comparing his photographs with the dead man.
Later, McRaven told the president that he felt sure that they killed bin Laden but said the military needed to complete DNA analysis to be certain, Bowden writes.
The book’s publication may complicate the Pentagon's attempts to punish Bissonnette for his book. Writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen, Bissonnette published “No Easy Day” without submitting it for a security review by the Pentagon. Bowden was under no such requirement to have the book vetted because he was not a government or military employee.