Posts tagged ‘George W. Bush’

May 31, 2011

Barack Obama president’s re-election campaign might hinge on re-registration of voters that moved …

Obama prospects might hinge on voter registration
May 30, 2011, 8:23 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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WASHINGTON (AP) — In 2008, Barack Obama tapped into a record of nearly 15 million voters who cast ballots for the first time, a surge in registration that may be difficult to replicate next year.

Recent voter registration data show that Democrats have lost ground in key states that Obama carried in 2008, an early warning siren for the president’s re-election campaign. While Republican numbers have also dipped in some states, the drop in the Democrats’ ranks highlights the importance of the Obama campaign‘s volunteer base and the challenge they could have of registering new voters.

“When you look back at 2008 there has to be a recognition that it was a historic election, a historic candidate, a historic moment in time and potentially some type of a ceiling — I’m not sure there is ever a hard ceiling — in terms of voter registration,” said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane. He said the political map in 2012 will likely look more like it did going into the close contests of 2000 and 2004, which hinged on swing states like Florida and Ohio, respectively, than in 2008, when Obama won traditionally Republican states like Indiana and North Carolina.

Obama will have to re-ignite the passions of some Democrats who had high hopes going into his presidency and may be ambivalent about him now. Several states with Republican governors have tried to reduce the number of early voting days and required photo IDs, a move that Democrats say will disenfranchise poor and minority voters. Polls have shown some political independents drifting away from Obama since 2008, meaning Democrats need to register and turn out more Hispanic and black voters, college students and women.

While Democratic registrations ballooned prior to the 2008 election, the numbers have declined in several important states, including:

— Florida: Democrats added more than 600,000 registered voters between 2006 and 2008, giving Obama about 4.8 million registered Democrats to help his cause. Registered Democrats now number 4.6 million in the Sunshine State. Republican registrations have slipped from 4.1 million in 2008 to about 4.05 million in mid-March, the most recent data available. Nearly 2.6 million voters in Florida are unaffiliated.

— Pennsylvania: Democrats maintain a 1.5 million voter advantage in registrations over Republicans, but their numbers have dwindled since Obama’s election. There were 4.15 million registered Democrats through mid-May, compared with about 4.48 million in 2008. Democrats added about a half-million voters to their rolls in the two years prior to the 2008 election. Republicans currently have more than 3 million registered voters, compared with 3.2 million in 2008. About 500,000 Pennsylvania voters are unaffiliated.

— Iowa: Republicans have gained ground in the state that launched Obama’s presidential bid. GOP registrations increased from about 625,000 voters in 2008 to nearly 640,000 in early May. Democrats, meanwhile, have fallen from about 736,000 voters in 2008 to about 687,000 in May. Nonpartisan voters remain the largest bloc in the Hawkeye State, representing more than 762,000 voters.

Democrats’ numbers have also fallen in North Carolina, where Obama became the first Democratic nominee to carry the state since 1976, and Nevada, a high-growth state that has been battered by the recession.

Several Democratic-friendly cities have not been immune, either. Philadelphia had 880,000 registered Democrats in 2008; that number has fallen below 800,000. Denver, where Democrats held their 2008 convention, had about 200,000 registered Democrats in November 2008 — that’s now down to about 120,000. In Mecklenburg County, N.C., whose county seat, Charlotte, is the site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Democrats’ numbers have fallen after major gains leading up to the 2008 election.

Obama officials said voter registration will be a top priority. Obama adviser David Axelrod said the campaign would “mount a major effort and it’s not just about registering new voters but it’s also re-registering people who have moved because there is a high degree of transiency among young people and often among minority voters. We want to make sure that not only new voters but people who have moved are registered again.”

Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman, said the president “has demonstrated a consistent ability to reach new voters and voters who don’t identify as Democrats, so party affiliation isn’t the only factor to evaluate. The campaign’s efforts to expand the electorate to new voters and voters with less consistent voting histories was one reason why the president was elected in 2008, and as we continue our organizing efforts it’s certainly something we’ll take into consideration.”

Finding new voters has been a longstanding goal of Obama, who ran a successful voter registration drive in Chicago when Bill Clinton sought the White House in 1992. Sixteen years later, Obama’s campaign was fueled by a massive grassroots campaign and advocacy groups who registered millions of new voters and then turned them out in record numbers.

In a strategy video released in April, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina noted that Democrats registered about two-thirds of the new voters in 2007 and 2008 in states that allow for party registration. Obama, in turn, won nearly 70 percent of the nearly 15 million first-time voters in 2008.

“That made real differences in very close states across this country. We’ve got to do that again in 2012,” Messina said.

Both political parties maintain private voter databases that allow them to closely monitor registration changes, but public data is more difficult to ascertain. Nationally, more than half the states allow registered voters to indicate a party preference when registering while many states in the South and Midwest don’t provide for a party preference.

Voter registration and turnout were critical to the last president running for re-election — George W. Bush in 2004. Bush’s operation registered an estimated 3 million new voters, helping it drive up vote totals in the areas straddling key suburban regions in Florida and Ohio.

Blaise Hazelwood, who ran the Republican National Committee’s voter registration effort in 2004, said campaign officials pored over Excel charts tracking new registrations on a daily basis and used the mail, door knocking and supermarket stands to find voters in places more inclined to support Bush. She said it would be difficult for Obama’s operation to replicate 2008.

“There’s no way they can get all those voters back,” Hazelwood said.

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Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

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Ken Thomas can be reached at http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas

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May 22, 2011

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said early Sunday that he won’t run in 2013 U.S. presidental race because …

Ind. Gov. Daniels not running for president
May 22, 2011, 7:06 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said early Sunday that he won’t run for president because of family concerns, a development that narrowed the Republican nomination field though made the wide-open race even more uncertain.

“In the end, I was able to resolve every competing consideration but one,” the Republican said, disclosing his decision in a middle-of-the-night e-mail to supporters. “The interests and wishes of my family, is the most important consideration of all. If I have disappointed you, I will always be sorry.”

A two-term Midwestern governor, Daniels had been considering a bid for months and was pressured by many in the establishment wing of the party hungering for a conservative with a strong fiscal record to run. He expressed interest in getting in the race partly because it would give him a national platform to ensure the country’s fiscal health would remain part of the 2012 debate.

But he always said his family — his wife and four daughters — was a sticking point.

Had he run, Daniels would have shaken up the still evolving race that lacks a front-runner and has been unpredictable in its early stages.

If the governor would have decided to run, a crop of GOP donors and grass-roots supporters had been ready to pull the trigger on a national fundraising and political organization that some aides privately said would rival those of others already in the race. And outside Republican observers had long said that he would be a serious contender for the party nod as a candidate.

Instead, Daniels becomes the latest Republican to opt against a bid as the GOP searches for a Republican to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012.

The Indiana governor‘s close friend, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, surprised much of the GOP when he pulled the plug on a candidacy in April; he privately had encouraged Daniels to run instead. A week ago, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the 2008 Iowa caucus winner, bowed out, followed quickly by celebrity real estate developer Donald Trump.

They came after others who decided to sit this one out as well, even as polls show Republican primary voters wanting more options in a race that includes former Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, as well as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and a handful of others.

In the wake of the decisions by Barbour and Huckabee to skip the race, the clamoring among establishment Republicans for Daniels to run — including from the Bush family circle — had become ear-shattering.

“The counsel and encouragement I received from important citizens like you caused me to think very deeply about becoming a national candidate,” Daniels said in the e-mail message.

“If you feel that this was a non-courageous or unpatriotic decision, I understand and will not attempt to persuade you otherwise,” he added. “I only hope that you will accept my sincerity in the judgment I reached.”

Daniels, himself, had sounded more optimistic about a run in the past week than he had in months, though he never had sounded particularly enthused. And his advisers had been quietly reaching out to Republicans in Iowa and other early nominating states for private conversations.

But, as he talked about a candidacy, he always pointed back to his family as the primary issue that would hold him back.

And as he weighed a bid, the spotlight shown on his unusual marital history as well as his record as governor.

His wife, Cheri, filed for divorce in 1993 and moved to California to remarry, leaving him to raise their four daughters in Indiana. She later divorced, and she and Daniels reconciled and remarried in 1997.

Mrs. Daniels had never taken much of a public role in her husband’s political career.

So it raised eyebrows when she was chosen as the keynote speaker at a major Indiana fundraiser earlier in May.

Both husband and wife were said to be pleased with the reception they got, and advisers privately suggested that the outcome could encourage Daniels to run for president. Even so, Republicans in Washington and Indiana with ties to Daniels put the odds at 50/50.

A former budget director under George W. Bush, Daniels used his time considering a run to also shine a spotlight on rising budget deficits and national debt — even though his former boss grew the scope of government and federal spending during his tenure.

Daniels, a one-time senior executive at Eli Lilly & Co., caused a stir among cultural conservatives by saying the next president facing economic crisis “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues.”

He is looked with admiration in GOP circles for being the rare Republican who won office in a Democratic year — 2008 — in a state that Obama had won. And, since being re-elected, he has leveraged Republican majorities in the state Legislature to push through a conservative agenda.

Daniels made his intentions clear in a characteristically understated e-mail.

It was sent by the governor through Eric Holcomb, the Indiana Republican Party chairman and one of Daniels’ closest advisers, and confirmed by others close to the governor on the condition of anonymity to avoid publicly pre-empting his announcement.

It ended: “Many thanks for your help and input during this period of reflection. Please stay in touch if you see ways in which an obscure Midwestern governor might make a constructive contribution to the rebuilding of our economy and our Republic.”

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May 19, 2011

Republicans looking to unseat President Barack Obama charged Thursday that he …

Romney: Obama ‘threw Israel under the bus’
May 19, 2011, 9:35 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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HANOVER, N.H. (AP) — Republicans looking to unseat President Barack Obama charged Thursday that he undermined the sensitive and delicate negotiations for Middle East peace with his outline for resumed talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said Obama, whom he served as U.S. ambassador to China until last month, undercut an opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to build trust. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Obama “threw Israel under the bus” and handed the Palestinians a victory even before negotiations between the parties could resume. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called it “the most dangerous speech ever made by an American president for the survival of Israel.”

Foreign policy has hardly been the center of the debate among the still-forming GOP presidential field. Instead, the candidates and potential candidates have kept their focus — like the country’s — on domestic issues that are weighing on voters and their pocketbooks. Obama’s speech provided one of the first opportunities for Republicans to assert their foreign policy differences with Obama and his Democratic administration.

Obama endorsed Palestinians’ demands for the borders of its future state based on 1967 borders — before the Six Day War in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. That was a significant shift in U.S. foreign policy.

Campaigning here in the state that hosts the first presidential nominating primary, Huntsman also said the United States should respect Israel and work to foster trust between Israelis and Palestinians.

“If we respect and recognize Israel as the ally that it is, we probably ought to listen to what they think is best,” said Huntsman, who served in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush before surprising his party and serving Obama, a Democrat.

He acknowledged he didn’t watch Obama’s speech and was reacting to news coverage — or, as he called it, “the aftermath.”

“It is disrespectful of Israel for America to dictate negotiating terms to our ally,” Romney said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It is not appropriate for the president to dictate the terms.”

Instead, the United States should work with Israel to push for peace without acceding to the Palestinians, he said.

Gingrich said Israel simply cannot go back to the 1967 borders and expect to remain secure, given technological advancements that would allow its enemies to fire rockets deeper into the state.

“Get a map of the region and look at what Hamas does in firing missiles into Israel,” Gingrich told The Associated Press. “The president should have said that Hamas has to abandon its determination to destroy Israel.”

Obama urged Israel to accept that it can never have a truly peaceful nation based on “permanent occupation.” That follows what other Republicans have painted as hostility from this administration toward a stalwart ally in the Middle East.

“The current administration needs to come to terms with its confused and dangerous foreign policy soon, as clarity and security are the necessary conditions of any serious and coherent American set of policies,” Santorum said in a statement.

Obama’s speech at the State Department addressed the uprisings sweeping the Arab world. Speaking to audiences abroad and at home, he sought to leave no doubt that the U.S. stands behind the protesters who have swelled from nation to nation across the Middle East and North Africa.

“We know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security; history and faith,” the president said.

But the remarks only muddied things, especially on the dicey issue of Jerusalem, said former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

“The city of Jerusalem must never be re-divided,” Pawlenty said. “At this time of upheaval in the Middle East, it’s never been more important for America to stand strong for Israel and for a united Jerusalem.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a tea party favorite who is leaning toward a run, called the border suggestions “a shocking display of betrayal” to Israel.

“Today President Barack Obama has again indicated that his policy towards Israel is to blame Israel first,” she said in a statement.

On Twitter, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin didn’t directly address the speech but urged Obama to publicly welcome Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instead of ushering him into private meetings away from reporters, as has occurred on Netanyahu’s previous visits. The two leaders will talk Friday at the White House.

“Dear Mr. President, please allow our ally, PM Netanyahu, to respectfully arrive through the front door this time. Thanks, Concerned Americans,” she tweeted.

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May 9, 2011

Iowa GOP donors court NJ’s Gov. Chris Christie to run

Iowa GOP donors court NJ‘s Christie
May 8, 2011, 12:09 p.m. EDT

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Some of Iowa’s top Republican campaign contributors, unhappy with their choices in the developing presidential field, are venturing to New Jersey in hopes they can persuade first-term Gov. Chris Christie to run.

The entreaty is the latest sign of dissatisfaction within the GOP over the crop of candidates competing for the chance to run against President Barack Obama in 2012.

Bruce Rastetter, an Iowa energy company executive, and a half-dozen other prominent Iowa GOP donors sought the meeting with Christie, the governor’s chief political adviser, Mike DuHaime, told The Associated Press.

The get-together is set for the governor’s mansion in Princeton, N.J., on May 31.

The meeting speaks to what some Republicans nationally say is a lack of enthusiasm about the emerging roster of contenders. It’s also unusual because candidates typically court Iowans, who get the first say in presidential nominating contests, and not the other way around.

Christie, who was elected in 2009 and has drawn national attention for his tough talk and battles with Democrats, has explicitly and repeatedly rejected the idea of running for the White House. Yet that hasn’t deterred these Iowans.

“There isn’t anyone like Chris Christie on the national scene for Republicans,” Rastetter told the AP. “And so we believe that he, or someone like him, running for president is very important at this critical time in our country.”

It’s not the first instance this year of Iowa Republicans seeking to widen the 2012 field. A former state party chairman, Steve Grubbs, approached Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ top aide in Indianapolis last month. Daniels expects to say in a few weeks whether he will enter the race.

Nationally, Republican donors have encouraged ex-Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush, to reconsider his decision not to run. There’s also talk of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, as a possible entrant.

The mission by Rastetter is significant because it reflects the lengths to which some in Iowa will go to have more options as they choose a Republican to challenge Obama.

Rastetter represents a core GOP constituency in Iowa, business conservatives who favor nominees more identified with the philosophy of low taxes and limited government than with cultural issues. They’re similar to those activists who urged George W. Bush, then the Texas governor, to run in 2000.

The Iowa delegation to New Jersey includes developers and entrepreneurs essential to pro-business Republican Terry Branstad‘s winning comeback campaign for governor last year.

Rastetter citied Christie’s “blunt, direct leadership style. You always know where he stands, what he means. You don’t need an interpreter.”

Rastetter met the governor at a Branstad fundraiser in Iowa last fall. “He clearly understands smaller government, less government spending, job creation, and how to create a better education system – certainly, all the things I and those accompanying me care about,” Rastetter said.

As in Iowa, some influential Republican donors nationally have said the 2012 field taking shape faces a variety of problems. Some candidates are closely associated with social issues such as gay rights that might not connect with independent voters. Others have been tainted by past campaign disappointments or personal foibles. Some simply lack the firepower to beat a skilled incumbent.

“There is a feeling that more candidates of greater renown should be in the contest,” said veteran GOP consultant Mary Matalin. “We all want Reagan, but need to remember that the source of Reagan’s power and popularity was his ideas and philosophy.”

Al Hoffman, who has been Jeb Bush’s top campaign fundraiser, said the pressure for Bush to run has ebbed in recent months as he has insisted he will not be a candidate.

“I have had enough heart-to-hearts with him to the point where he very politely has said, please don’t raise the issue again,” said Hoffman.

Should Indiana’s Daniels decide not to run, the pressure could increase on Christie.

Christie, a former U.S. attorney elected governor only 15 months ago, has been adamant and at times colorful in insisting that 2012 is off the table.

By agreeing to meet with Rastetter’s group, Christie is not hinting at a change in plans, DuHaime said. But the contacts could help him as he seeks to expand his leadership in the party, whether it’s influencing the 2012 nomination or preserving valuable contacts for the future.

“To the extent he cares about the party and the nominating process, knowing more people, like Bruce, that are influential in that process is a good thing,” DuHaime said. “This is simply part of getting to know other people who are going to be key players in the process.”

Christie wowed an audience of 800 Iowa Republicans last October when he headlined a Branstad fundraiser in a suburb of Des Moines, the Iowa capital. The former prosecutor’s tough-talking “put up or shut up” advice for the party impressed Rastetter, who was Branstad’s top fundraiser.

Branstad, who hasn’t endorsed a presidential candidate, has sung Christie’s praises for his get-tough approach to spending, especially public employee pensions and benefits. He said after hearing Christie speak in October, “I don’t think I’ve been that inspired by a speech since Ronald Reagan.”

It’s inspiration that Florida’s Hoffman said is lacking most of all in the 2012 hopefuls, and something their opponent has in plenty.

“Obama is the most masterful campaigner I’ve ever observed,” Hoffman said. “Our problem is we have a number of candidates who would make great presidents, but very few that make great candidates.”

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May 5, 2011

A foreign policy void in GOP 2012 field

A foreign policy void in GOP 2012 field
May 5, 2011, 4:58 a.m. EDT

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The daring nighttime raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan draws a sharp contrast between President Barack Obama and a field of potential Republican challengers who have comparatively scant foreign policy experience.

That field includes at least six current or former governors, and three current or former House members. The Senate, an incubator for international affairs expertise, doesn’t have a single member running for president, although one former senator has taken steps toward a run.

The stunning news of bin Laden’s death has temporarily focused attention on foreign policy over domestic issues, and highlighted the lack of international experience in the prospective GOP field compared with the president, a Democrat who has spent more than two years overseeing two wars and, more recently, military action in Libya.

None of the Republicans weighing candidacies is a foreign policy heavyweight, and all are working to boost their credentials by traveling to distant lands and weighing in on overseas matters.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, seen within the GOP as a credible voice on fiscal issues, bluntly acknowledged earlier this week to reporters that he was “probably not” ready to debate Obama on foreign policy. He was saying publically about himself what other Republicans say privately about the entire field.

A handful of likely contenders planning to attend a GOP debate Thursday in South Carolina are likely to get at least one question dealing with national security, diplomatic affairs or bin Laden’s death. Continued criticism of Obama’s Libya policies is expected. And the dramatic killing of the al-Qaida leader may force the White House hopefuls to sharpen their international talking points and proposals sooner rather than later.

Bin Laden’s death is likely to “increase calls for us to leave Afghanistan and cut off aid to Pakistan,” Republican consultant John Feehery said.

Foreign policy plays a big role in every presidential election, even if domestic issues usually dominate.

Americans typically say they want a president with a solid international resume, but they don’t always vote that way.

With few exceptions, governors have little or no meaningful foreign policy experience. Yet since 1976, three governors (Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton) have defeated incumbent presidents. And Texas Gov. George W. Bush defeated a vice president. Obama himself had thin foreign policy credentials when he defeated Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam war hero who was heavily involved in national security matters for years.

Among this crop of Republicans weighing candidacies, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman may have the most immediate and concentrated foreign experience, having just finished his stint as U.S. ambassador to China. Huntsman was a young Mormon missionary to Taiwan, and he speaks Mandarin Chinese. He also has served as U.S. ambassador to Singapore and U.S. trade ambassador.

Conversely, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is in her third term, may have the most modest international experience of those weighing bids. She has traveled to Iraq and has been a member of the House Intelligence Committee since January.

A look at how others stack up:

Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist, traveled to more than 30 countries as a businessman, Olympics official and politician.

Recently, he has said that Obama “has been unable to construct a foreign policy” because of his “fundamental disbelief in American exceptionalism.” America is seen as weak, Romney said, because “we’re following the French into Libya” to support those rebelling against Moammar Gadhafi.

—Tim Pawlenty made trade missions and troop visits as Minnesota governor to Iraq, India, China, Brazil, Chile, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Germany, Israel, Kosovo, Kuwait, Poland, Spain and other places.

He was among the first to call for a no-fly zone to protect Libya’s rebels from Gadhafi’s forces. And he criticized Obama for taking almost two more weeks to take that step.

—Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker best known for his interest in domestic issues such as tax policy and health care, sits on the Council on Foreign Relations’ terrorism task force, and teaches at the National Defense University.

He calls for a muscular approach to combating terrorism. But he was widely mocked recently for an about-face on Libyan policy. First he said he would “exercise a no-fly zone” and get rid of Gadhafi. Two weeks later, he said: “I would not have intervened. … I would not have used American and European forces.”

—Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and 2008 Iowa caucus winner, has traveled extensively, including numerous trips to Israel.

He was criticized in 2007 for saying that, as president, he would strike at terrorists inside Pakistan with or without permission from that country’s leaders. It looks rather prescient in light of this week’s events; Obama didn’t notify Pakistan before authorizing the raid that killed bin Laden.

—Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, spent much of his Capitol Hill career serving on committees covering agriculture, banking, housing and urban affairs, and other domestic matters.

Lately, he has accused Obama of “dithering” in Libya and creating a “morass” because he let the international community take the lead in aiding Gadhafi’s opponents.

—Sarah Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor, was widely ridiculed for suggesting she had foreign policy credentials because “you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.”

She has worked to expand her foreign experience, including trips to Iraq, India and Israel.

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Associated Press writers Brian Bakst in St. Paul, Minn., Andrew Miga in Washington, Jay Root in Austin, Texas, and Shannon McCaffrey in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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April 26, 2011

GOP Gov. Haley Barbour bowed out of presidential contention Monday

Barbour out, GOP ponders as 2012 field takes shape

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Republican Gov. Haley Barbour bowed out of presidential contention Monday with a surprise announcement just as the 2012 campaign was getting under way in earnest, 18 months before Election Day. The Mississippi governor said he lacked the necessary “absolute fire in the belly” to run.

Barbour’s declaration, unexpected because he had been laying the groundwork for a campaign for months, thins a Republican cluster of no less than a dozen potential candidates to take on Democratic President Barack Obama.

With the GOP campaign’s first debate scheduled for next week, the muddy Republican field will become clearer very soon as more potential contenders announce whether they’ll run or sit out. Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who lost in 2008 and is a favorite of libertarians as well as tea partyers, is planning to take a step toward a second bid on Tuesday. The next facing a self-imposed deadline of this weekend, is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Barbour friend and a fiscal conservative who has shined a spotlight on rising budget deficits and national debt.

“All eyes will be on Daniels. … It’s a clear path for him if he wants to run,” said Doug Gross, an Iowa Republican who dined with Barbour last month and left questioning whether the governor had the hunger to get in the race.

It turns out he didn’t.

“I will not be a candidate for president next year,” the two-term governor said a statement, adding that he wasn’t ready for a “10-year commitment to an all-consuming effort.”

As the GOP race comes into sharper focus, Obama is working to both prevent an erosion of his support while under Republican attack and to raise enough money to overwhelm his eventual foe. He’s been packing his schedule with fundraisers and visits to battleground states as he gears up for what he says will be a tough campaign.

This week alone, he will raise money in New York and return to his hometown of Chicago — also the site of his campaign headquarters — to tape an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” He then will head to Florida, a pivotal swing state, to deliver a commencement address at Miami Dade College and attend the launch of Endeavour, NASA’s next-to-last space shuttle flight.

Potentially vulnerable, Obama has middling poll ratings and is seeking a second term in a country reeling over high unemployment, rising gas prices and the remnants of recession.

Yet, the GOP faces plenty of its own troubles.

Its field lacks a front-runner. Most of the candidates are largely unknown to Republicans. The most recent Associated Press-GfK poll indicated that only half of all Republicans were satisfied by their choices and a third were dissatisfied.

Unlike four years ago, GOP presidential hopefuls have been hesitant to rush into the race. Many have been mindful of the long slog and huge costs of a campaign. Several also have been waiting to see what the first half of the year would bring, when the focus would be on the new House GOP majority and its tangles with the Democratic administration.

But now, the clock is ticking, and candidates are under pressure to commit to participating in multi-candidate events.

Neither a forum in New Hampshire on Friday nor a debate in Greenville, S.C., next week — the first of the campaign — is expected to draw a full slate of candidates. No such slate exists yet.

So far, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who lost the nomination in 2008, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who was on John McCain’s vice presidential short list, have set up presidential exploratory committees allowing them raise money for full-fledged campaigns. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is expected to make his campaign official as early as next week.

A cluster of lesser-knowns also have inched toward the race, including former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Many Republicans had expected Barbour would be the next one in, given his recent activity.

He had visited several states with early presidential contests, including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He also had lined up a large network of political advisers. And he had tested an economy-focused campaign speech in Chicago last month. The governor had even lost some weight as advisers had suggested, and they had been plotting an “announcement tour” in which he would declare himself a candidate.

But several allies said Barbour, known as one of the smartest political operatives in the GOP, ultimately decided he didn’t have what it takes to win.

He could have been a formidable contender had he entered the race. He has a knack for raising money, a resume dating to Ronald Reagan’s White House and brand of folksy Southern charisma. His hurdles would have been high, too. He’s a former lobbyist and former Republican National Committee chairman who would have tried to woo a primary electorate underwhelmed by Washington insiders. Among his other vulnerabilities: what critics have called tone deafness about Mississippi’s divisive racial history.

Barbour delivered the news Monday in a phone call with some 50 people who were advising him, and then his office sent out a statement.

“A candidate for president today is embracing a 10-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else,” Barbour said in the statement. “His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate. I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required.”

Former Iowa Republican Party Chairman Richard Schwarm, who was with Barbour and Gross last month, said that Barbour mentioned during dinner that he had encouraged Daniels to run.

It’s unclear whether Daniels will heed that advice.

A onetime senior executive at Eli Lilly & Co. and a former budget director under George W. Bush, Daniels has said he would wait until his state legislature adjourns at the end of the week before considering his next plans. He says he’s done little to prepare for a campaign beyond think about it and discuss it with his family, including his wife who was cool to a White House run but has agreed to headline a major fundraiser for the state GOP next month.

At the same time, another likely candidate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, is to return to the United States early next week. His work for the Obama administration as the U.S. ambassador to China ends Sunday, and he will make his first appearance in an early primary state on May 7 in South Carolina, where he will deliver a commencement address.

He’s been barred from engaging in politics as an ambassador, but advisers have spent the past few months building a shadow campaign operation so that he will be ready to run if he chooses.

Two others weighing bids and drawing considerable attention, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and New York real estate mogul Donald Trump, have said they would decide whether to run before the summer.

It may be some time before two of the biggest question marks of the 2012 GOP nomination fight are answered: Will Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee get in the race?

Both are leaving the door wide open to candidacies, but neither seems in a rush to make any plans public. In recent months, they haven’t done much beyond give a handful of speeches and appear on Fox News, where they both have contracts.

Both will headline high-profile events over the next two weeks:

Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor, is addressing a “Heroes Among Us” fundraiser in Bethesda, Md., on Saturday and is headlining a tribute to the troops at Colorado Christian University in Denver early next week. Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses and a former Arkansas governor, will speak to the National Rifle Association in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Either one would further shake up an already unpredictable race.

___(equals)

Liz Sidoti reported from Washington; Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, Philip Elliott in Indianapolis and Ben Feller in Washington contributed to this report.

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April 19, 2011

GOP insiders embrace Trump’s presidential bid

GOP insiders embrace Trump’s presidential bid

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Out with Sarah. In with The Donald.

President Barack Obama has launched his re-election bid in a low-key manner, but the Republican Party’s search for a challenger seems stranger by the day.

GOP celebrities like Sarah Palin aren’t getting much buzz. Mainstream candidates like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty aren’t getting much traction. It’s people once considered highly unlikely to compete seriously for the party’s nomination who are creating big stirs in early voting states, a reflection of an unformed and uncertain GOP presidential field.

GOP activists in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina appear deeply intrigued by, and open to, a run by Donald Trump, the publicity-loving business tycoon and host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” even as he perpetuates falsehoods about Obama’s citizenship and questions the legitimacy of his presidency.

“I hear more and more people talking about Donald Trump,” said Glenn McCall, Republican Party chairman in South Carolina’s York County. “He’s got people fired up.”

These Republican officials and activists stopped short of saying they see Trump as the eventual nominee. But they said their party is hungry for forceful, colorful figures to attack Obama and other Democrats on health care, spending and other issues.

In Iowa at least, there’s also widespread talk about two social conservatives: Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who would be the first president elected directly from the House since James Garfield, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who lost his 2006 re-election bid by a landslide. Even Herman Cain, the little-known, wealthy former pizza chain executive, gets mentioned by Republican voters who will have the first crack at winnowing the GOP field.

While these people certainly have talents, the party’s establishment does not see them as the likeliest contenders to defeat Obama. Karl Rove, architect of George W. Bush’s two presidential wins, calls Trump “a joke candidate.”

Republicans traditionally pick party veterans who wait their turn and earn their nominations after years spent as governors, senators or vice presidents. But this field lacks a front-runner like Bob Dole in 1996 or George W. Bush in 2000. There’s a political vacuum in the GOP, insiders say, and it’s being filled by an unusually large and diverse number of White House hopefuls.

“It’s probably the most wide open field in 50 years,” said Stephen Scheffler, a Republican National Committee member and head of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. “I’m not sure anyone has caught fire yet.”

South Carolina Republican Party chairwoman Karen Floyd said, “It’s any candidate’s ballgame right now.” Kim Lehman, another RNC member from Iowa, said voters haven’t locked in on any one person. “Everyone is taking their time and seeing who’s who, and what’s what,” she said.

Palin’s apparent fade and Trump’s rise are arguably the most surprising events in recent weeks, as more establishment-oriented contenders, including former governors Romney of Massachusetts and Pawlenty of Minnesota, took formal steps toward full-fledged candidacies.

A CNN nationwide poll of adult Republicans showed Trump tied for the presidential lead with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, at 19 percent each. Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee, was third at 12 percent.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, conducted before Trump’s latest TV blitz, showed Huckabee and Trump tied for second, at 17 percent each. Romney led with 22 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had 11 percent, and Palin 10 percent.

This early in the race, polls measure name recognition more than anything else. That may help explain strong showings by Trump and Huckabee.

Huckabee won the 2008 Iowa caucus and hosts a TV show, but has done little to signal he will run again. Trump, meanwhile, is turning heads in early voting states.

“He is causing conversations,” said Trudy Caviness, the GOP chairwoman in Iowa’s Wapello County.

McCall said Trump “is saying on the national stage what other people won’t talk about.”

That includes holding forth on trade, China and oil dependency. But Trump’s biggest buzz stems from his embrace of the claim that Obama wasn’t born in the United States, and therefore is constitutionally barred from being president.

Documents, including Obama’s birth certificate, show he was born in Hawaii in 1961.

Several Republican activists said they don’t care much about Obama’s birthplace, but they’re tired of waiting for the more establishment-backed challengers to challenge the president often and fiercely. For some, Trump fills that void.

In New Hampshire, Republican activist Phyllis Woods of Dover said she was surprised by the commotion Trump is causing. “Whether Donald Trump is going to be taken as a serious candidate here is an open question,” she said. What is certain, she said, is that “we’re going to have a huge field.”

Woods said she detects “a growing undercurrent of support” for Bachmann, a comment echoed by several Iowa and South Carolina activists. “She is a fresh face and a fresh voice,” Woods said.

Bachmann seems to have eclipsed Palin as the most discussed, if sometimes gaffe-prone, provocateur among tea party conservatives.

Democratic strategists and Obama supporters watch these developments with bewilderment, and a vague sense that they won’t last. They say they can’t predict who will be the nominee, but more traditional candidates such as Romney, Pawlenty or Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour seem more plausible than, say, Trump. Political insiders would not be stunned if Bachmann won the caucus in her native Iowa, and Gingrich could do well in places, including South Carolina.

Not all GOP insiders embrace Trump.

“You’ve got Donald Trump on TV making a fool of himself,” said Leigh Macneil, the Republican chairman in New Hampshire’s Merrimack County. Macneil said Trump is filling a regretful vacuum because more mainstream candidates are holding back. “We’re looking for people who will step up,” he said. He wishes more outspoken, forceful candidates would jump in, especially New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence.

“My dream ticket would be Christie-Pence,” Macneil said.

Others seem happy with their choices.

“It’s a wide open field,” and that’s fine, said Kathy Pearson, a longtime party activist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She said Trump is “a TV celebrity and obviously a successful businessman” who is “saying what he thinks.”

“What’s going on right now is very good, very healthy for the process,” said Cindy Costa, South Carolina’s Republican National Committeewoman. Voters want “someone who is a good leader and understands business.” She has long admired Romney, she said, and “I’ve been pleasantly surprised” by Trump. “He’s actually more conservative than I had thought.”

Trump’s three marriages don’t seem to be a major issue among conservatives, for now at least.

“All his ex-wives are happy,” said Joni Scotter, a Republican activist from Marion, Iowa. Ordinarily, she said, GOP caucus voters “are hard on people who are divorced.”

She said she hopes the thrice-married Gingrich receives the same generosity.

President Barack Obama has launched his re-election bid in a low-key manner, but the Republican Party’s search for a challenger seems stranger by the day.

GOP celebrities like Sarah Palin aren’t getting much buzz. Mainstream candidates like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty aren’t getting much traction. It’s people once considered highly unlikely to compete seriously for the party’s nomination who are creating big stirs in early voting states, a reflection of an unformed and uncertain GOP presidential field.

GOP activists in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina appear deeply intrigued by, and open to, a run by Donald Trump, the publicity-loving business tycoon and host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” even as he perpetuates falsehoods about Obama’s citizenship and questions the legitimacy of his presidency.

“I hear more and more people talking about Donald Trump,” said Glenn McCall, Republican Party chairman in South Carolina’s York County. “He’s got people fired up.”

These Republican officials and activists stopped short of saying they see Trump as the eventual nominee. But they said their party is hungry for forceful, colorful figures to attack Obama and other Democrats on health care, spending and other issues.

In Iowa at least, there’s also widespread talk about two social conservatives: Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who would be the first president elected directly from the House since James Garfield, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who lost his 2006 re-election bid by a landslide. Even Herman Cain, the little-known, wealthy former pizza chain executive, gets mentioned by Republican voters who will have the first crack at winnowing the GOP field.

While these people certainly have talents, the party’s establishment does not see them as the likeliest contenders to defeat Obama. Karl Rove, architect of George W. Bush’s two presidential wins, calls Trump “a joke candidate.”

Republicans traditionally pick party veterans who wait their turn and earn their nominations after years spent as governors, senators or vice presidents. But this field lacks a front-runner like Bob Dole in 1996 or George W. Bush in 2000. There’s a political vacuum in the GOP, insiders say, and it’s being filled by an unusually large and diverse number of White House hopefuls.

“It’s probably the most wide open field in 50 years,” said Stephen Scheffler, a Republican National Committee member and head of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. “I’m not sure anyone has caught fire yet.”

South Carolina Republican Party chairwoman Karen Floyd said, “It’s any candidate’s ballgame right now.” Kim Lehman, another RNC member from Iowa, said voters haven’t locked in on any one person. “Everyone is taking their time and seeing who’s who, and what’s what,” she said.

Palin’s apparent fade and Trump’s rise are arguably the most surprising events in recent weeks, as more establishment-oriented contenders, including former governors Romney of Massachusetts and Pawlenty of Minnesota, took formal steps toward full-fledged candidacies.

A CNN nationwide poll of adult Republicans showed Trump tied for the presidential lead with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, at 19 percent each. Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee, was third at 12 percent.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, conducted before Trump’s latest TV blitz, showed Huckabee and Trump tied for second, at 17 percent each. Romney led with 22 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had 11 percent, and Palin 10 percent.

This early in the race, polls measure name recognition more than anything else. That may help explain strong showings by Trump and Huckabee.

Huckabee won the 2008 Iowa caucus and hosts a TV show, but has done little to signal he will run again. Trump, meanwhile, is turning heads in early voting states.

“He is causing conversations,” said Trudy Caviness, the GOP chairwoman in Iowa’s Wapello County.

McCall said Trump “is saying on the national stage what other people won’t talk about.”

That includes holding forth on trade, China and oil dependency. But Trump’s biggest buzz stems from his embrace of the claim that Obama wasn’t born in the United States, and therefore is constitutionally barred from being president.

Documents, including Obama’s birth certificate, show he was born in Hawaii in 1961.

Several Republican activists said they don’t care much about Obama’s birthplace, but they’re tired of waiting for the more establishment-backed challengers to challenge the president often and fiercely. For some, Trump fills that void.

In New Hampshire, Republican activist Phyllis Woods of Dover said she was surprised by the commotion Trump is causing. “Whether Donald Trump is going to be taken as a serious candidate here is an open question,” she said. What is certain, she said, is that “we’re going to have a huge field.”

Woods said she detects “a growing undercurrent of support” for Bachmann, a comment echoed by several Iowa and South Carolina activists. “She is a fresh face and a fresh voice,” Woods said.

Bachmann seems to have eclipsed Palin as the most discussed, if sometimes gaffe-prone, provocateur among tea party conservatives.

Democratic strategists and Obama supporters watch these developments with bewilderment, and a vague sense that they won’t last. They say they can’t predict who will be the nominee, but more traditional candidates such as Romney, Pawlenty or Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour seem more plausible than, say, Trump. Political insiders would not be stunned if Bachmann won the caucus in her native Iowa, and Gingrich could do well in places, including South Carolina.

Not all GOP insiders embrace Trump.

“You’ve got Donald Trump on TV making a fool of himself,” said Leigh Macneil, the Republican chairman in New Hampshire’s Merrimack County. Macneil said Trump is filling a regretful vacuum because more mainstream candidates are holding back. “We’re looking for people who will step up,” he said. He wishes more outspoken, forceful candidates would jump in, especially New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence.

“My dream ticket would be Christie-Pence,” Macneil said.

Others seem happy with their choices.

“It’s a wide open field,” and that’s fine, said Kathy Pearson, a longtime party activist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She said Trump is “a TV celebrity and obviously a successful businessman” who is “saying what he thinks.”

“What’s going on right now is very good, very healthy for the process,” said Cindy Costa, South Carolina’s Republican National Committeewoman. Voters want “someone who is a good leader and understands business.” She has long admired Romney, she said, and “I’ve been pleasantly surprised” by Trump. “He’s actually more conservative than I had thought.”

Trump’s three marriages don’t seem to be a major issue among conservatives, for now at least.

“All his ex-wives are happy,” said Joni Scotter, a Republican activist from Marion, Iowa. Ordinarily, she said, GOP caucus voters “are hard on people who are divorced.”

She said she hopes the thrice-married Gingrich receives the same generosity.

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April 14, 2011

Both Republicans and Democrats played major roles in run up US $14 trillion debt

Both parties helped run up US $14 trillion debt
Posted by Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,
Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com


WASHINGTON (AP) — Two centuries after America’s birth, the national debt was a bit under $1 trillion when Ronald Reagan took office in 1981. Just three decades later, it has soared above $14 trillion, and accusations of blame are flying. Both Republicans and Democrats played major roles in driving the figure sky high.

If the tab were divided up now, it would come to roughly $47,000 for each man, woman and child in the United States.

In what is shaping up as the next bruising economic battle, Congress is being asked by President Barack Obama to authorize fresh borrowing once the nation’s fast-growing debt slams into the current debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion — something the Treasury Department says will happen no later than May 16.

Leaders of both parties acknowledge that failing to raise the limit could force the government to begin defaulting on some of its obligations — for instance making interest payments on Treasury bills and bonds — with severe adverse consequences, including possibly pushing the economy back into recession.

Creative accounting may help forestall the crisis for a few additional months. But then the effects could be severe, or as the White House warns, “like Armageddon, in terms of the economy.”

Republicans like to blame Obama and congressional Democrats, citing heavy spending that they claim has done little to end the recession or create jobs. Democrats argue that the stage for fiscal ruin was set by Republican President George W. Bush, with large tax cuts that favored the wealthy, two wars and a vastly underfunded prescription drug program for the elderly. They accuse Bush of squandering a budget surplus handed him by President Bill Clinton.

“We lost our way” during the Bush years, Obama suggested on Wednesday as he laid out his own prescriptions for taming the nation’s long-term budget woes, a move the administration hoped would also smooth the way for a debt-ceiling vote.

In fact, spending far outpaced revenues in both the Bush and Obama years. And the main culprit in addition to war spending was the devastating 2007-2009 recession, which not only prompted hundreds of billions of dollars in downturn-fighting spending by both the Bush and Obama administrations, but also resulted in a sharp dip in tax revenues due to sagging individual and corporate incomes.

The main reasons for big increases in the national debt in the years ahead are fast-growing obligations for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs as tens of millions of baby boomers reach retirement age.

Congress has raised the debt limit ten times in the last decade alone, most recently in February 2010. But this year, the stakes are higher than usual, with Republicans and some Democrats warning Obama that they will not vote to raise it unless he agrees to mandatory restraints on future spending.

It was against this backdrop that Obama on Wednesday countered Republican budget plans with a series of his own proposals that he held out as better balanced. They included wide-ranging spending cuts, tax increases aimed at the wealthy and a “debt failsafe” trigger for additional across-the-board spending cuts and tax hikes if deficits are not headed down by 2014.

“That should be an incentive for us to act boldly now, instead of kicking our problems further down the road,” Obama said. Still, his plan faced difficulties ahead, with GOP opposition to new tax increases and complaints from some Democrats that his spending cuts are too drastic.

The U.S. has never defaulted on its debt. Its bonds are viewed as among the safest investments in the world. In addition to millions of Americans, many foreign governments and investors have vast holdings in Treasury securities, with China leading the pack.

The GOP now is in the majority in the House of Representatives after mid-term elections last November that many victors and tea-party activists viewed as a mandate for deep spending cuts.

“My members won’t vote to increase the debt limit unless we’re taking serious steps in the right direction,” says House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

After a White House meeting with Obama on Wednesday to preview the speech, Boehner said, “I think the president heard us loud and clear.” He agreed that passing a debt-limit extension is highly important. “Not meeting our debt obligations is a very bad idea,” he said. But Boehner also insisted that higher taxes not be part of any debt relief deal.

The national debt is the total accumulated indebtedness of the U.S. government. As of Wednesday, it stood at $14.27 trillion. Of this, $14.21 trillion is subject to the debt limit. For various mostly technical reasons, several small governmental programs are not counted.

The national debt should not be confused with the federal budget deficit, which is only a one-year slice. The deficit is the difference between what the government spends in a given year and what it takes in. In the budget year that ends Sept. 30, the deficit is expected to be a record $1.5 trillion. At that level, for every $1 the government spends, it must borrow about 42 cents.

Only a few times in the nation’s history has the government run a budget surplus. The most recent was in the early 2000s, when for several years the government took in more than it paid out. That helped take a nick out of the national debt, then hovering between $5 trillion and $6 trillion. Soon deficits returned and the national debt resumed its relentless climb.

“America’s finances were in great shape by the year 2000. We went from deficit to surplus. America was actually on track to becoming completely debt-free, and we were prepared for the retirement of the baby boomers,” Obama said. “But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed.”

The national debt began when President George Washington and Congress agreed to take on debts incurred by the states for fighting the Revolutionary War.

It broke through the $1 trillion mark (that’s a $1 followed by 12 zeroes) in 1981, the first year of the Reagan’s presidency. But despite Reagan’s vow to balance the budget, the debt tripled during his two terms, to just over $3 trillion under the weight of a recession, large tax cuts and increased spending.

When his successor, President George H.W. Bush, left office in early 1993, the debt was over $4 trillion. Clinton’s eight years in office took it to nearly $6 trillion, despite those fleeting budget surpluses. When George W. Bush finished his two terms the debt had pushed through the $10 trillion mark.

A celebrated national debt “clock” near Times Square had to be rebuilt to allow for the extra digit.

In just 2½ years under Obama, the debt has grown to where it stands today.

Of the $14.27 trillion national debt, some $4.62 trillion is money the government owes itself — mostly money borrowed from Social Security revenues. Without it, the “debt held by the public” is $9.65 trillion.

According to Obama administration figures, just over $3 trillion of the $14.27 trillion debt can be attributed to Bush-era tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Medicare prescription drug program. Stimulus spending by Obama and tax cuts he signed into law accounted for about $600 billion through last Sept. 30.

If there are no changes in government policies, the debt will soar to $18.76 trillion by 2014 and $20.8 trillion by 2016, according to administration projections.

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April 5, 2011

No longer the fresh voice of change, President Barack Obama embarked on a bid for re-election Monday

Obama opens bid for new term, no longer outsider
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Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.

WASHINGTON (AP) — No longer the fresh voice of change, President Barack Obama embarked on a bid for re-election Monday by asking a divided, anxious electorate to let him finish the job he won in 2008. He’s getting an early start against a Republican field that’s still undefined, but he’s saddled with an ailing economy that still isn’t working for millions of voters.

Obama began with an effort to recapture his outsider’s touch of 2008, bypassing a public statement from the White House in favor of an email sent to millions of supporters.

He offered a kickoff video in which official Washington is ignored and even Obama himself only makes a fleeting appearance. What the campaign wanted voters to see instead were people like them speaking of real-life concerns and their faith in Obama, against wholesome backdrops in every clip: a church, a farm, a family in a kitchen, an American flag.

He told supporters later in the day he needs their help again, perhaps more than he did four years ago, because “we may not have the exact same newness that we had in 2008.”

“But that core spirit … is still there and it’s still in you and so I hope that even though we’re a little older and a little wiser now than we were back in 2007 and 2008, I hope everybody is ready to run that race one more time,” Obama said in a conference call with backers.

This time around, Obama carries both the benefits and baggage of being the establishment candidate.

The president now owns an economy that is adding jobs but still leaving millions of people without help or work. As the incumbent, he can blow into town on Air Force One, draw unparalleled free media coverage and command all the other perks of the presidency. But he must also remobilize his coalition and reenergize it, too, including getting back the independent voters who swung Republican in last year’s midterm elections.

Obama ran once on hope. This time he will run on his record as well. That means voters will evaluate him on what he has gotten done, including laws to reshape health insurance and Wall Street behavior, and the promises he has not delivered upon, including immigration reform and closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A huge part of his challenge will be to spark the voter inspiration that often got lost in the slog of governing. His new campaign video gave a nod to the challenge. A woman named Alice from Michigan said: “We’re paying him to do a job. So we can’t say, ‘Hey, could you just take some time off and come and get us all energized?’ So we better figure it out.”

Obama filed his candidacy paperwork Monday, about 20 months from Election Day, so he can begin raising money in earnest for a potential campaign fund of $1 billion or more. More than a dozen Republicans are seriously considering trying to unseat him, but none has declared yet.

What comes next is a loud, undefined, unpredictable White House contest. The early party primary voting is not set to begin until next year.

Obama, as both president and candidate, is trying to keep those two roles separate. “Even though I’m focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today,” he said in the email to backers.

His campaign this time will not have the foil of George W. Bush, an unpopular incumbent who helped define the mood of 2008 without being on the ballot. The White House is eager to portray the election as a choice, but the look and feel of that contrast will not become evident until a competitor emerges from a wide-open Republican field.

Regardless, what the White House expects is that the economy will drive the election. The race could well pivot on whether voters buy into Obama’s arguments about progress on his watch — that an economy on the brink of disaster is steadily adding jobs again, and he has a vision for more. Or whether voters vent their displeasure that change hasn’t happened faster.

Here, as in many cases, incumbency can cut both ways.

The nation’s unemployment rate just dropped to 8.8 percent, its lowest level in two years. The private sector is starting to add sizable numbers of jobs again, and such trend lines always tend to attach themselves to how a president is viewed. The more the economic situation improves, the better Obama can argue he is the right steward of the recovery.

However, perceptions of the economy have not improved over the course of Obama’s presidency, and that lag can amount to a major vulnerability.

Overall, 35 percent of people in an Associated PressGfK poll say the nation is heading in the right direction. That’s the same share that said so in January 2009 before he took office.

“I think it starts with the economy. I don’t think anybody could tell you for sure how it’s going to end, especially with all the tumult around the world right now,” said Stephen Craig, a political science professor at the University of Florida.

Indeed, Obama is contending with an exploding world. The violent upheaval across the Middle East and Africa has consumed attention in 2011 and drawn the United States into a military conflict in Libya on top of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. On the domestic front, Obama is grappling with a budget fight and the potential for a government shutdown.

The president must be sensitive to how and when he campaigns or risk appearing to put his political gain above the country’s.

How he responds to domestic and foreign challenges, however, will give him chances to shape public thinking in ways no other candidates have.

Obama’s path to the required 270 electoral votes could well be tougher this time. In 2008, he reached it by aggressively turning out new and infrequent voters across the country, and making a play for states that aren’t usually contested by Democrats.

The effort paved the way for victories in GOP-leaning states such as Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. But Obama’s standing has suffered in those states since then, putting into question whether he can engineer repeat victories. He also dominated the Midwest in 2008, the home of electoral-rich states such as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. But the region took a beating during the recession, and Obama’s poll numbers did, too, complicating his path to re-election.

On the flip side: Obama may have new support in other states because of the explosive growth of Democratic-leaning Hispanics in the Southwest and the migration of blacks to the South.

___

AP National Political Writer Liz Sidoti, Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta and Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington and Holly Ramer in Portsmouth, N.H., contributed to this story.

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