What’s Up: October 26, 2012?

To read the entire article click on the title or Story Continued. Enjoy as the world turns.

· Emails detail unfolding Benghazi attack on Sept. 11 – It was six weeks ago on Tuesday that terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Now, CBS News has obtained email alerts that were put out by the State Department as the attack unfolded. Four Americans were killed in the attack, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

These emails contain the earliest description so far of what happened at Benghazi the night of the attack.

At 4:05 p.m. Eastern time, on September 11, an alert from the State Department Operations Center was issued to a number government and intelligence agencies. Included were the White House Situation Room, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI.

“US Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack” — “approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well. Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM (Chief of Mission/embassy) personnel are in the compound safe haven.”

Clinton on email: “Not in and of itself evidence”

At 4:54 p.m., less than an hour later, another alert: “the firing… in Benghazi…has stopped…A response team is on site attempting to locate COM (embassy) personnel.”

Then, at 6:07 p.m., State sent out another alert saying the embassy in Tripoli reported the Islamic military group “Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibilty for Benghazi Attack”… “on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”

The emails are just a few in what are likely a large number traded throughout the night. They are likely to become part of the ongoing political debate over whether the administration attempted to mislead in saying the assault was an outgrowth of a protest, rather than a planned attack by terrorists.

Fourteen hours after the attack, President Obama sat down with Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” for a previously scheduled interview and said he did not believe it was simply due to mob violence.

“You’re right that this is not a situation that was — exactly the same as what happened in Egypt and my suspicion is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start,” Mr. Obama said.

The White House and State Department declined comment on the email alerts. The House Oversight Committee told CBS News the information in the emails will be part of their ongoing investigation into the Benghazi attack. Story Continued and to read the emails via pdf file:

· New Undercover Video: Did Congressman’s Son Commit Voter Fraud? -James O’Keefe has struck again. O’Keefe is the guy who broke the big ACORN scandal with his undercover video reporting.

Now, he’s out with a video that may land a Congressman’s son in trouble for voter fraud. Watch below as Patrick Moran, the son of Virginia Rep. Jim Moran (and the Field Director for his father’s campaign), is caught on tape talking to an undercover reporter about how to allegedly cast ballots deceitfully for registered voters.

Stay in the know. Get The Brody File Weekly

Folks, this is the new wave of reporting in this viral, social media world.

O’Keefe may be controversial in some circles and his tactics have been criticized by some, but you can’t argue with the fact that he gets people’s attention.

With the liberal mainstream media lacking when it comes to true investigative journalism, these type of videos will become the norm sooner rather than later.

Here’s part of the transcript below:

Undercover Reporter: There are 100 people who don’t vote. He’s looking for two guys to help him with. …

Patrick Moran: Crank it out?

Undercover Reporter: Yes. He’s got a van and he and me were going to go around. …

Patrick Moran: Rally these people up and get them to the polls.

Undercover Reporter: Well, he was actually going to get in a van and vote for them.

Patrick Moran: Ohhhh

Undercover Reporter: I know, but –

Undercover Reporter: It’s scary, but I’m not. … I don’t want to lose, and I’m frightened.

Patrick Moran: Yeah.

Then later in the video there’s talk about creating fake utility bills to serve as voter identification.

Patrick Moran: So, if they just have the utility bill or bank statement – bank statement would obviously be tough … but faking a utility bill would be easy enough.

Undercover Reporter: How would you do that?

Patrick Moran: I mean, I would just find, I don’t know, I guess. …

Undercover Reporter: Microsoft Word and type it up.

Patrick Moran: Yeah, something like that. Story Continued and to watch the video:

· Guilford Co. voters say ballot cast for Romney came up Obama on machine – GREENSBORO, N.C. –The presidential election is just around the corner and voting issues have already become a problem in Guilford County.

On Monday, several voters complained that their electronic ballot machine cast the wrong vote. All the complaints were made by people who voted at the Bur-Mil Park polling location.

One of the voters, Sher Coromalis, says she cast her ballot for Governor Mitt Romney, but every time she entered her vote the machine defaulted to President Obama.

“I was so upset that this could happen,” said Coromalis.

Guilford County Board of Elections Director George Gilbert says the problem arises every election. It can be resolved after the machine is re-calibrated by poll workers.

“It’s not a conspiracy it’s just a machine that needs to be corrected,” Gilbert said.

After the third try, Coromalis says she was able to get her vote counted for Gov. Romney but was still annoyed.

“I should have just mailed it in,” Coromalis said.

Marie Haydock, who also voted at the Bur-Mil Park polling location, had the same problem.

“The frustration is… every vote counts,” said Haydock.

Elections officials say the machines have been fixed as of Tuesday, and no problems have been reported since.

Early voting ends November 3. Story Continued and to watch the video:

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· Obama: Romney’s a ‘Bulls—–‘ – President Barack Obama told Rolling Stone that Mitt Romney is a “bullshitter.” Mike Allen reports:

FIRST LOOK – Rolling Stone cover, “Obama and the Road Ahead: The Rolling Stone Interview,” by Douglas Brinkley: “We arrived at the Oval Office for our 45-minute interview … on the morning of October 11th. … As we left the Oval Office, executive editor Eric Bates told Obama that he had asked his six-year-old if there was anything she wanted him to say to the president. … [S]he said, ‘Tell him: You can do it.’ Obama grinned. … ‘You know, kids have good instincts,’ Obama offered. ‘They look at the other guy and say, “Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.”’” Story Continued:

· AP poll: Romney erases Obama advantage among women – WASHINGTON (AP) — What gender gap?

Less than two weeks out from Election Day, Republican Mitt Romney has erased President Barack Obama’s 16-point advantage among women, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. And the president, in turn, has largely eliminated Romney’s edge among men.

Those churning gender dynamics leave the presidential race still a virtual dead heat, with Romney favored by 47 percent of likely voters and Obama by 45 percent, a result within the poll’s margin of sampling error, the survey shows.

After a commanding first debate performance and a generally good month, Romney has gained ground with Americans on a number of important fronts, including their confidence in how he would handle the economy and their impressions of his ability to understand their problems.

At the same time, expectations that Obama will be re-elected have slipped: Half of voters now expect the president to win a second term, down from 55 percent a month earlier.

For all of the good news for Republicans, however, what matters most in the election endgame is Romney’s standing in the handful of states whose electoral votes still are up for grabs. And polls in a number of those battleground states still appear to favor Obama.

As the election nears, Romney has been playing down social issues and trying to project a more moderate stance on matters such as abortion in an effort to court female voters. The AP-GfK poll, taken Friday through Tuesday, shows Romney pulling even with Obama among women at 47-47 after lagging by 16 points a month earlier.

But now his campaign is grappling with the fallout from a comment by a Romney-endorsed Senate candidate in Indiana, who said that when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape “that’s something God intended.”

Romney quickly distanced himself from the remark by Republican Richard Mourdock. But Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the incident was “a reminder that a Republican Congress working with a Republican President Mitt Romney would feel that women should not be able to make choices about their own health care.”

A renewed focus on social issues would be an unwelcome development for Romney: Among female likely voters, 55 percent say Obama would make the right decisions on women’s issues, compared with 41 percent who think Romney would.

Romney’s pitch to women has been focused squarely on the economy, making the case that what women want most is to ensure their families and their country are on a solid financial footing. The poll shows that message appears to be taking root.

A month ago, women favored Obama over Romney on the economy 56 percent to 40 percent. Now, the split has shifted to 49 percent for Romney and 45 percent for Obama.

Similarly, Obama’s lead among women as the candidate who better understands the people’s problems has narrowed considerably, from a 58-36 Obama advantage last month to a 50-43 Obama edge now.

Monica Jensen, a 55-year-old independent from Mobile, Ala., says she voted for Obama in 2008 but will shift her vote to Romney this time, largely because of the economy.

“I’m ready for a change,” she said. “I want to see the economy go in a different direction.”

Ginny Lewis, a Democrat and 72-year-old retired district attorney from Princeton, Ky., says she’ll vote for Romney because “I’m tired of the Republicans blaming all the debt on Democrats, so let them take over and see what they do.” Story Continued:

· Romney raises $111.8 million in October – Mitt Romney’s campaign announced this morning that the GOP ticket and the Republican National Committee raised $111.8 million between Oct. 1 and Oct. 17.

It’s an impressive number, especially given how many months they’ve now broken the $100 million number. This period includes all three presidential debates and the VP debate, when Romney’s strong performance in the first debate especially helped bring in a flurry of donations.

The campaign still has just more than $169 million on hand as of Oct. 17, which is a big war chest for the final few weeks of the campaign and enough to really flood the airwaves with ads now through Nov. 6. Story Continued:

· Awesome pic: Des Moines Register dings Obama with dramatic front page contrast

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· Oops! Obama Says He Wants Wind Turbines ‘Manufactured Here in China’ – President Barack Obama spoke in Colorado today as part of a nearly around-the-clock campaigning tour.

The President goofed up when talking about the desire for wind turbines being manufactured in America, saying he wanted them manufactured “here in China.”

He quickly corrected himself by saying, “I don’t want them manufactured in China.”

“I want to build on the progress we’ve made, doubling clean energy. I want fuel efficient cars and long-lasting batteries and wind turbines manufactured here in China! I don’t want them manufactured in China, I want them manufactured here in the United States!” Story Continued:

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· Poll: An Obama comeback, but a Romney edge on debates – Despite Obama’s damage control, when Americans were asked to think more broadly about the three debates as a whole, Romney scored a narrow advantage, 46%-44%.

USA TODAY poll shows Obama easily winning the third presidential debate

But Romney edges him when voters assess the impact of the three debates overall

More Americans report watching or listening to the debates than in 2008

1:32PM EDT October 25. 2012 – WASHINGTON — President Obama was the runaway winner of the presidential debate on foreign policy this week, a nationwide USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. But rival Mitt Romney edges him when voters assess which candidate did a better job in their three debates overall.

The survey shows Obama staging a dramatic comeback in the debates after a disastrous start. He trailed Romney by 52 percentage points when Americans were asked who did a better job at the first debate in Denver, but then was seen as besting his opponent by 13 points in the town hall-style debate on Long Island that followed. In the third debate, held Monday in Florida, Obama was seen as the winner by 23 points, 56%-33%.

But when Americans were asked to think more broadly about the three debates as a whole, Romney scored a narrow advantage, 46%-44%, as having done a better job.

“What we find in our research is that debates don’t work in a cumulative fashion in a sense of adding up the pluses and minuses per candidate per debate,” says Mitchell McKinney of the University of Missouri. “On several levels, the first debate really has the greatest effect; it’s the first impression. That’s the first time we see them together, and we size them up in terms of comparison shopping.”

While Obama managed to do damage control by replacing a disengaged manner in the first debate for a much more confrontational one, McKinney says, the initial encounter had a lasting impact.

More Americans tuned into the debates than four years ago.

Nearly seven in 10, 69%, say they watched or listened to the third debate. Even more, 76%, saw or heard the second debate; 67% tuned in to the first one.

Those results are higher than in 2008, when Obama debated Republican John McCain. Then, 63% to 66% said they watched or listened.

The new survey of just over 1,000 adults was taken in the two days following each of the three debates. The margin of error is +/- 4 points. Story Continued:

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· Why Voters Should Turn From the Pseudoconservative Party of the Great Recession PART II – Louis M. Guenin, Lecturer on Ethics in Science, Harvard University

To repair its economy, the U.S. urgently needs finely-tuned macroeconomic policies and institutional changes. For this challenge, a rational voter would not rely on a political stance that, after helping to bring about the Great Recession, has foundered in self-contradiction. Such is the fate, as recounted in Part I, of Republican pseudoconservatism.

Whereupon attention turns to the alternative. It happens that the opposing Democratic view draws on conservatism in manifesting esteem for government and its history, a forgiving attitude toward government’s failings, and a cautious disposition toward incremental change. But conservatism is brought up short by a standard criticism: it does not generate substantive policies for all the challenges presented in a modern economy. As conservatism bids us esteem an established order, and to change gradually, it does not decide whether one established order is better than others, or what we should change.

The Need for Expertise in Economics

For macroeconomic problems, one needs economists’ rigorous analysis and policy prescriptions. Such a contribution lies beyond the capabilities of politicians, M.B.A.’s, and pundits (including those who imagine themselves economists but are unable to read the journals in this highly mathematical field). Because economic conditions change rapidly, expertise must be continuously relied upon to monitor performance and finely tune responses.

We observe an asymmetry in willingness to listen to economists. Since at least the work of Keynes, the leading lights of the economics profession have advised Democratic administrations. The affinity between this profession and that party arose from mutual commitment to economic growth and full employment of resources. Republicans have assigned greater importance to minimizing inflation. For long, a Republican economist was as rare as a camera-shy politician. Now there are some. But they are decidedly a minority. Meanwhile pseudoconservative anti-intellectualism and the “Republican War on Science” (recounted in Chris Mooney’s book by that name) scorn economics. Among familiar modes of attack on the natural sciences have been revisions by political operatives of government scientists’ reports, and claims that global warming is a “fraud.” Pseudoconservatives have declared that because economists’ predictions do not always come true, and because economists do not always agree with one another, we should ignore them.

Like the earth’s atmosphere, a national economy is a complex chaotic system. We should no more regard failures of macroeconomic predictions as impugning the singular knowledge of economists than we should regard failures of weather predictions as impugning the singular knowledge of meteorologists. A purported science whose investigators did not routinely disagree about hypotheses and theories would not be a science.

We should care greatly whether an administration or party heeds economic advice, and, if so, whether the advice is mainstream or of some other ilk.

History Illuminating the Predicament

Fiscal policy guided by mainstream economic advice succeeded splendidly during the Clinton administration (1993–2001) as the U. S. achieved a record-setting combination of strong growth in GDP, low unemployment, budget surpluses, and low inflation. Then the succeeding Republican administration (2001–2009) insisted on improvidently reducing taxes and on commencing war against Iraq. By dint of the resulting lower revenues and increased expenditures, the national debt jumped from $5.7 to $10.6 trillion. On top of this fiscal profligacy, the effects of a pseudoconservative favorite, deregulation, contributed to a financial catastrophe that began the Great Recession in 2007. In 2008 IV, GDP fell by an annualized rate of 8.9%, the largest such rate of decline since 1958.

For a needed boost in aggregate demand, the present administration’s immediate response was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. But in order to gain pseudoconservative votes in Congress, the amount of stimulus was set too low. The Act did boost national income and employment sufficiently that the Great Recession officially ended in 2009. But it has been observed that when financial crises initiate recessions, the lingering effects lengthen recovery. When Recovery Act funds were exhausted, state and local governments reduced their budgets and workforces, and there has not been any subsequent stimulus.

The legacy of the prior administration includes tax rates so low, and incomes so diminished by the Great Recession, that federal tax revenues have since been depressed at historical lows. Even though expenditures have been sharply reduced, the result of the depressed revenue stream has been to increase the debt to $16.2 trillion.

Ever since the midterm elections of 2010, fiscal policy has not been controlled by the administration, but instead dictated by the pseudoconservative-controlled House of Representatives (which, under Article I, § 7 of the Constitution, originates revenue bills). There rests responsibility for the recent effects of fiscal policy, including the refusal to reduce debt by a tax increase on taxpayers who, by virtue of wealth, would not in that event reduce their spending.

Prudent Fiscal Policy

Because members of Congress consistently vote in party blocks on major issues of economic policy, the coming election presents voters with two alternatives. The following compares them. It reveals the present administration following economic advice to strike a balance between expansionary fiscal policy and deficit reduction, and the Republicans following an anti-government strategy not reliably grounded in economic reasoning.

Expenditures. When growth is slow, unemployment high, the conventional macroeconomic reasoning says that government should increase expenditures so as to boost aggregate demand for goods and services, and thereby induce growth in GDP. Presently when the rate of inflation and interest rates are low, this could be done with little inflationary or interest rate risk.

But the recent history has left us in a dilemma. On the one hand, increasing expenditures to boost GDP is rendered worrisome by the magnitude of the national debt. On the other hand, reducing expenditures so as to reduce debt will reduce GDP, and by a multiplier that may exceed 1.

Observing how these circumstances “make deficit reduction a crucial but delicate endeavor,” the current administration’s proposed fiscal policy (Report of the Council of Economic Advisers 2012, which bears reading to illustrate subtle and practical macroeconomic reasoning) provides for deficit reduction by (1) additional revenue from higher taxes on the wealthy without dampening demand (of which more below), (2) expenditure reductions (but not gutting of social programs as pseudoconservatives propose), and (3) budgeting for programs enhancing productivity and international competitiveness, including education, training for fields in which the U. S. holds a comparative advantage, research and development, clean domestic energy, and infrastructure (“roads, rails, and runways”).

Inasmuch as increases in the national debt will not affect Main Street in the short run—interest rates are low—it may cogently be argued that we ought not panic by reducing expenditures too drastically in the short run. The administration’s policy wisely provides that reductions will be “phased in gradually to avoid disrupting the economic recovery.” Reliable projections also show the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act reducing Medicare costs, and hence the deficit.

The pseudoconservatives’ fiscal policy, radical and unwavering, is to “starve the beast” (as described in Part I). Having deprived the government of nutrition (tax revenue), they will not pass up any opportunity to slash expenditures. “We want to shrink it down,” says one of their advocates, “to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” They persist no matter how much anyone warns that reducing expenditures reduces GDP, no matter what the disruption or hardships.

For the psychological gratification that largely motivates this, the scheme seems futile. The federal government will always be enormous. The Department of Defense alone guarantees that. What, one may ask, would be satisfying about lesser enormity?

To defend their radical attack, pseudoconservatives suggest that shrinking the government will help the economy. This is a canard. It ignores that by definition, GDP = C + I + G + E, where C is consumption, I is investment, G is government consumption expenditures and gross investment, and E is net exports. Any reduction in G is an immediate reduction in GDP. Because the reduction will diminish demand for goods and services, the eventual multiplied effect may exceed the amount of the reduction. Any dismissed government employees are consumers sent into unemployment. As for secondary effects, declaring that a smaller government is better for the economy does not make it so. It seem unlikely that businesses will order new equipment, or that consumers will buy more groceries, if they hear that the enormous government is smaller than it once was.

When pseudoconservatives train their sights on regulation even after a near meltdown, they romanticize markets and free enterprise in offering an exaggerated version of liberalism before the industrial age. Deregulation recently implemented that version, and we have the Great Recession and near collapse of the financial system to show for it. Of course regulatory improvements can improve productivity. The current administration pursues “smart regulations,” regulations tested by whether incremental benefit is greater than or equal to incremental cost. But regulatory improvement is a far cry from contriving to “hack” the government “in pieces,” to use Burke’s words for the starvationists’ program.

The pseudoconservatives also claim that the federal government should balance its budget just as profit-maximizing firms and state governments do. Here they fail to apprehend the role of fiscal policy as a tool of economic regulation. Sometimes the federal government should (or should not) spend money not merely for programmatic reasons, but because the economy needs higher (or lower) federal expenditures to boost (or dampen) demand. Balancing the budget now could plunge the country into a depression. One does not learn macroeconomics by running a firm.

Government, they add, does not create jobs. On the contrary, government employs millions of people. Government expenditures contribute greatly to aggregate demand for goods and services, and their cascading effects through the economy induce employment in many industries.

Taxation. Wealthy taxpayers do not much increase or decrease their purchases of consumer goods because their April 15 check to the IRS is lower or higher. Their marginal propensity to consume is low. Should they realize any tax savings, most of it will be left in their investment accounts. Hence reducing their taxes will not result in much of an increase in consumer spending; it will increase the deficit by the amount of the revenue loss. Raising taxes on the wealthy will not much diminish consumer spending; it will decrease the deficit by the amount of the revenue gain. On the other hand, most working people exhibit a high marginal propensity to consume. Reducing their taxes will significantly boost consumer spending, and promote fairness in easing their burden.

For the foregoing reasons, the administration’s proposed fiscal policy provides for both tax increases and tax reductions tailored according to marginal propensities. Rates for wealthy taxpayers (presently at historic lows) would rise so as to reduce the deficit and moderate expenditure reductions. Because “the nation needs to raise demand for its goods and services in the short run to strengthen and sustain the economic recovery and put more people back to work” (Report of the Council of Economic Advisers 2012), taxes would be reduced as effected by the Recovery Act, taxes would be reduced on incomes below $250,000, and the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits would be extended.

The pseudoconservatives stick consistently to the panacea “Always reduce taxes.” They do not tailor reductions and increases for effectiveness according to marginal propensities. They profess to be supporting a uniform rate of reduction across brackets. Almost all Republican members of Congress have executed a written pledge, composed by a lobbyist leader of the “starve the beast” scheme, that they will never vote for any tax increase.

The pseudoconservatives are apt to mention the “supply side” prediction that lowering taxes will so greatly stimulate the economy that tax revenues will increase. When economists doubt whether such effect will occur, that suits the starvationists just fine. They do not want tax revenues to rise anyway. Story Continued:

– This is from Huffington Post and is included to allow both sides inclusive perspective. It will be interesting to see what is done about the economy after the election. PdC

· Glass Half Full, America – Imogen Lloyd Webber, Author and Broadcaster. A native Brit, I have lived my whole life in admiration and awe of the way Americans view the glass as half full. Your can-do attitude helped make your nation the leader of the free world.

Since the financial crisis, Americans have seen some incredibly tough times. However, to the rest of the world, America is still exceptional. From your military might to your Silicon Valley visionaries, many of us foreigners would love to have your level of decline right now.

In 1969 the United States’ share of world GDP was around 25 percent. It still is. America has a total GDP of more than $15 trillion. China’s is around $7 trillion. The United States is very much still world number one.

Since 2008, of the G7 countries, only Canada has debatably done better. This is in no small part down to Canada being the only G7 country to survive the financial crisis without a state bailout for its financial sector. Something to do with regulations.

We live in a globalized, interlinked, economy — and compared to everywhere else at the moment, America is a good place to be.

At present, Europeans feel like passengers on the Titanic. Those not in the Eurozone are ensconced in first-class. In the middle there are Eurozone countries such as Germany and France (the latter encountering some pesky “pigeons” on deck), while those PIIGS are stuck in steerage.

What of the once much vaunted BRICs? Brazil has manufacturing issues, growth is not what it was and in August it launched a $66 billion stimulus plan. Putin has a glowering demeanor for a good reason. Unless oil is around $117 a barrel Russia can’t break even, meanwhile the shale gas revolution is causing the country all sorts of potential problems since it is lowering the global price of gas. Added to which, the Russian middle class is rumbling. India’s politicians make America’s look functional and the power cut crisis this summer was a timely reminder of the structural problems it faces. Chinese growth has just slowed for a seventh consecutive quarter, as seven of the nine men who rule China prepare to hand over power.

America has a bad unemployment rate? Yes. But in a recent report, of the 34 main industrialized countries, only Estonia and Iceland’s unemployment rates are expected to fall faster, with rates increasing in most countries.

America’s jobless claims have hit a four-year low. The U.S. is industrially competitive — unit production costs are down 11 percent over the past decade, while costs have risen in almost every other advanced nation. The U.S. still invests more than anywhere else on innovation. A survey released in May by Accenture found that 40 percent of companies moving manufacturing operations in the past two years had moved them to the U.S., compared with 28 percent that moved facilities to China.

Home foreclosure rates in the U.S. are at a five-year low and housing starts are at a four-year high. American families have cut their debts to pre-recession levels, making faster economic growth a realistic possibility as long as America’s politicians don’t completely mess up the “fiscal cliff.”

Owing in large part to issues with global demand, the stock market may have been wobbling over the past few days — but since Obama took office, the Dow Jones has gained around 67 percent. Only four American Presidents since 1900 have had better results in a similar timeframe.

Small wonder that the latest Brookings Institution-Financial Times tracking index labeled the U.S. as “the brightest spot in the world economy.” Surely some credit has to go to the man currently occupying the Oval Office for that?

Obama is under fire for not being specific enough for what he’d do in a second term. But Romney’s plans are arguably vaguer and his figures full of holes. The president is at least running with a commitment to deal with the deficit fairly and a track record that currently compares favorably to every other world leader’s.

America’s glass is still half full. However November 6th will come down to whether Americans believe that it is. Story Continued:

· Donald Trump, Gloria Allred: 2012 Presidential Race Turns Into Clown Campaign – by Howard Kurtz Oct 25, 2012 4:45 AM EDT

Ann Coulter calls Obama a ‘retard.’ Then there’s Gloria Allred, TMZ, and a divorce. They and others are turning the race into a circus. Howard Kurtz on the nuttiness factor.

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It’s the last two weeks of a presidential campaign: a time for suspense, for intrigue, for plot twists and…well, a whole lot of silliness.

We’re not just talking horses and bayonets here.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Donald Trump is back. Surely you missed the days when he was demanding Barack Obama’s birth certificate and threatening to run for president—that is, before re-upping on Celebrity Apprentice.

With a vaguely menacing expression topped by unusually orange hair, The Donald declared Wednesday in a YouTube video that if Obama releases his college and passport records, “I will give immediately a check for five million dollars” to a charity of the president’s choice.

Why does he want these records? Trump doesn’t say. A secret plan to expose that Obama was a lousy student secretly wiring money to his Kenyan masters? Trump proclaims that such a document dump “will end the question and indeed the anger of many Americans.” Um, angry about what? That they don’t know whether the president aced freshman English? According to Trump, they will be overjoyed that “their president will become transparent.”

But it’s Trump, the shrewd businessman, who seems transparent, pulling this stunt knowing full well he’ll never have to get out the checkbook. I will say this for the MSM crowd: they have largely shrugged off the Romney supporter’s bit of theater, with folks like CNBC’s John Harwood tweeting that Trump is “a very big clown.”

What, then, should we call Ann Coulter, who tweeted after the third debate that the president of the United States is a “retard”? An attention-obsessed bomb-thrower, perhaps? Enough said.

For a few brief moments it seemed the flap of the day would revolve around Mitt Romney, a divorce, Gloria Allred and TMZ. (I know, the very thought is enough to make you dizzy.) The gossip site says that Romney testified years ago in a divorce case and “screwed the friend’s wife out of a lot of money.” Notice the delicate wording.

In the case, involving Staples founder Tom Stemberg—Staples was one of Bain Capital’s success stories—Romney is said to have testified that the company’s stock was overvalued, which would mean a smaller settlement for the ex. You will not be stunned to hear that Allred, the celebrity lawyer, represents the ex-wife. Stemberg spoke on Romney’s behalf at the Republican convention, though you might have blinked and missed it.

That story, in turn, led to this breathless headline: “EXCLUSIVE: Gloria Allred Met with Obama Before ‘October Surprise.’” This appeared on Fox Nation, which is kind of like Fox on steroids.

Turns out Allred, a Democratic convention delegate, went to a fundraiser in L.A. and told a Fox producer that she “had a few words with the president” backstage. Leading Fox Nation to this conspiratorial whisper: “Many are wondering if there is any coordination between the Obama campaign and Gloria Allred, considering the relationship involved…” No proof, just a sneaky formulation, many are wondering. Many at Fox, I suppose.

But that’s a mere sideshow compared to this BuzzFeed report that threatens to blow the lid off the Romney campaign:

“The Republican nominee has made a habit of spray tanning before major speeches, debates, interviews, and other events that have a chance of getting wide TV coverage.”

Wow. If a man can’t be honest about his skin tone, how can America trust him? On the other hand, he did tell us he liked Snooki.

Every time the campaign debate threatens to focus on something like Libya or Afghanistan, bizarre events have a way of intervening. That’s what happened when Richard Mourdock, the GOP Senate candidate in Indiana, said during a debate: “I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” (What is it, after the Todd Akin uproar, about Republicans and rape this year?) Romney put out a statement saying he disagreed with the comments but has not withdrawn his support for Mourdock, kicking the Democratic outrage machine into high gear. Story Continued:

· Romney’s Surge – by Douglas E. Schoen , Jessica Tarlov Oct 25, 2012 4:45 AM EDT. The election is a dead heat, but Mitt has the momentum, say Douglas E. Schoen and Jessica Tarlov.

With just two weeks to go until Election Day, the popular vote is, as everyone knows, effectively a dead heat. The Real Clear Politics average has Romney enjoying a 0.9-point advantage. And while the latest Rasmussen numbers give Romney a 4-point edge and he is ahead 5 in Gallup, there are other polls that have Obama leading. In the latest IBD/TIPP poll, for instance, the president is up by 2.

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Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney greets supporters at an election campaign rally at the Reno Event Center in Reno, Nev., Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. (Charles Dharapak / AP Photo)

But there are two other crucial indicators that show momentum for Mitt. The first is the trend in the Electoral College—and one state in particular.

At this point, many of the states in the Real Clear Politics “toss ups” category appear likely to go one way or the other. Florida and Virginia will probably go for Romney, while Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan will most likely be won by the president.

And so, as we’ve argued before, that leaves Ohio as the state that will likely decide the election. The polls from Ohio currently show a dead heat, but they also show momentum for Romney. Just two weeks ago, Obama was up 10 points in the state. Today, that margin has closed to 3 in the latest SurveyUSA poll. Meanwhile, the latest Suffolk (PDF) poll has Ohio tied (at 47) and Rasmussen also has a tie (at 48). All of this is clearly good news for Mitt.

What’s more, there were other pieces of good news for Romney hidden in the aftermath of the third debate. In the CNN/ORC snap poll, which asked voters whether Romney could handle being commander-in-chief, 60 percent answered in the affirmative as compared to 38 percent against. Further, the two candidates were tied on likability—a big change from the 20-point lead the president held in this area a couple of months ago. While Obama won the debate on substance, it may not have mattered because Romney was still competent, for the most part presidential, and apparently far more likable than he once was.

Taken together, Romney’s improving image and the changing polls in Ohio do not paint a good picture for Obama. Time is running out for the president to counter Mitt’s surge. It’s still a tie, but things seem to be trending Romney’s way. Story Continued:

· Ground Game: Romney Campaign Targets Low-Propensity Early Voters, Banks on Strong Election Day Turnout – by Rich Galen Oct 25, 2012 4:45 AM EDT. Romney’s political director says his team is more focused on getting people less inclined to vote to send in absentee ballots or go to the polls—and is successfully cutting the president’s lead among early voters.

Rich Beeson, political director of the Romney campaign, is not moved by reports of a huge “ground game” advantage on the part of the Obama campaign.

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Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrives at Reno-Tahoe International airport in Reno, Nevada, Oct. 24, 2012. (Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty Images)

“The only metric anyone has seen is the number of offices and the number of staff on the ground,” Beeson said. “In Virginia, Obama has 80 offices, we have 26,” he said by way of example. “In Florida the Obama campaign has 100 offices; we have 41.”

As the old saying goes, generals and political operatives are always fighting the last war. Beeson said if the Romney team wanted more offices—or thought they would provide a measurable difference in the vote, they would have opened more offices.

Beeson is a seasoned political hand, having been the political director at the Republican National Committee, among other high-profile posts.

“This isn’t 2008 when we were restricted by funds,” he said. “We didn’t have the money four years ago, but that doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten how to organize and turn out our voters.”

Speaking from the Romney campaign offices in Boston, Beeson was asked about reports of large leads for Obama among early voters.

“We have a completely different strategy. They are voting their high-propensity voters first,” he said, adding that the Obama campaign want their base vote in the bank as soon as possible. “We know our high-propensity voters will vote; we’re focusing our early voting operation on the lower-propensity voters. We want them to get to the polls or to send in their absentee ballots before Election Day.”

He said he was confident about Election Day voters. “Our turnout will be far stronger.”

Beeson said that on the first day of early voting in Iowa, the Obama campaign “had a 29 percent partisan advantage. Now that’s down to 14 percent. We’ve cut it in half and our early-voting operation is functioning at full steam.”

He added that he is more than satisfied at the campaign’s canvassing operation: “We are at parity or ahead of the Obama campaign in every target state in the number of people contacted.”

The Washington Times recently reported that in Virginia the Republican National Committee and the Romney campaign have “surpassed 4 million voter contacts, which includes seven times the number of phone calls and 11 times as many door knocks as at this point in 2008.”

Early voting began as a little-used tactic by states to drive up the number of people participating in the electoral process. In 2008, nearly a third of the ballots cast for president were early votes. In fact, two states—Washington and Oregon—don’t have any polling places. Citizens can only vote by mail.

Early voting changes the nature of the final push as we used to know it. A late attack ad is not as effective if large percentages of voters have already cast their ballots than it would be if everyone had to wait for Election Day.

Early-voting operations can have a significant impact on the outcome of an election. Add to that modern campaigns being largely carried out on Twitter and other social media, as well as in on-line political news sites that are updated constantly, and the effects of “bragging rights” to early-voting success can help turn perceived momentum into real votes as those low-propensity voters want to jump on a winner’s bandwagon.

In the end, though, the size of the field staff, the number of offices, and the number of early voters might be illusory. A ground game is important, just as good advertisements and a well-organized finance operation are important.

But none of these trumps a good candidate, a person who can make the case for why he or she should be the next president of the United States, or the next city council member from Ward 3.

The press has very few data points to point to: money, polling, and a quantifiable ground game. But in the end, it is the candidate who will, or won’t, close the sale. Story Continued:

· Former Joe Biden aide writes angry tell-all – By JONATHAN MARTIN | 10/25/12 4:55 PM EDT

Adding another wild-card to the 2012 campaign’s final days, a former aide to Vice President Joe Biden has written a tell-all Washington memoir in which he lacerates the former Delaware senator as an “egomaniacal autocrat” who was “determined to manage his staff through fear.”

The book is hardly an objective study of the vice president, however. Author Jeff Connaughton, a Biden Senate staffer turned lobbyist, is by his own admission deeply disillusioned with the capital and embittered about his experience with the man who inspired him to enter politics.

Connaughton wrote “The Payoff,” which came out last month, in the fashion of guilt-racked whistle-blower: he was a party to a corrupt system and now wants to blow the lid off the game.

“I came to D.C. a Democrat and left a plutocrat,” he confesses.

As chief of staff to former Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Biden’s successor, Connaughton was radicalized by his unsuccessful experience trying to get an amendment to the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill that would have broken up the country’s largest banks. So he left Washington politics and wrote what he believes is the unvarnished truth about the country’s political system. The big reveal: Big banks control both parties.

“It’s time people understand why – and how – Wall Street always wins,” Connaughton writes at the outset of his book.

He is harshly critical of his own party and the Obama administration, arguing that the president is no different than most other Washington Democrats in his willingness to kowtow to Wall Street.

President Obama and Biden, he writes, are “both financially illiterate.”

“The Payoff” is every bit the cri de coeur of a man who, as he writes, is “willing to burn every bridge” in order to indict the transactional Washington lobbying and political culture. (After Kaufman’s term ended, Connaughton fled D.C. and moved to Savannah, Ga.)

But the book is also a reprise of the familiar cautionary tale about an idealistic young politico who came to Washington to make a difference but went native – and was let down by the powerful man he looked up to.

Time and again, over the course of decades, Connaughton tells of being disappointed in Biden or not receiving the treatment he felt he was due. He doesn’t hide his sour grapes – he’s up front about his unhappiness and that he never gained the full trust of the former Delaware senator.

“Only a handful of people ever made it into his inner circle,” he writes, adding: “I simply wasn’t one of the chosen.”

What’s remarkable about the book is the lengths that Connaughton goes to portray his former boss and political idol in a bad light, piling up embarrassing anecdotes and examples of when Biden couldn’t be bothered to help one of his own aides. Story Continued:

· Wisconsin company announces layoffs ahead of Biden arrival – Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall. Bad news will greet Vice President Joe Biden when he arrives in Wisconsin Thursday night. Hours earlier, Oshkosh’s largest employer announced that it will lay off 450 employees in January.

Oshkosh Corp., a truck manufacturer with Pentagon contracts, blamed the “difficult decisions” on looming cuts to the nation’s defense budget.

“As Oshkosh and others in the defense industry have discussed on numerous occasions, domestic military vehicle production volumes will decline significantly in 2013 due to the reduction in U.S. defense budgets and the fact that military spending is returning to peacetime levels,” the company said in a statement. “Unfortunately, these economic factors require Oshkosh to rebalance its defense production workforce starting in January 2013.”

The company said the layoffs were not tied to the looming budget cuts set to take effect in January. And it will still have about 3,500 employees in its Oshkosh-based defense division after the job cuts.

The news came hours ahead of Biden’s campaign appearance in the city on Friday morning. President Obama carried Winnebago County in 2008, but area Republicans said they believe Mitt Romney will be competitive here on Election Day.

Statewide tracking polls show that while Obama’s lead has slipped, he maintains a slight advantage over Romney in Wisconsin. Story Continued:

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