Candidates will try to avoid mistakes, win swing voters

Published: Tuesday, October 02, 2012 @ 6:45 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 03, 2012 @ 7:24 AM

GET INVOLVED

Join the conversation online during the debate. Tag your tweets with #ohiopolitics, or just follow along online at www.daytondailynews.com.

LOOK FOR OUR IN-DEPTH COVERAGE

We will have coverage of the debate in Thursday’s newspaper. On Friday, we’ll examine the accuracy of what the candidates said. On Sunday, we’ll have a roundtable discussion with local voters about the debate.

We all remember those moments: President George H.W. Bush glancing at his watch in 1992; Vice President Richard Nixon’s sweaty face and loose shirt collar in 1960, Vice President Al Gore’s long sighs in 2000 and Texas Gov. Rick Perry in November 2011 trying in vain to remember what cabinet department he wanted to eliminate.

Those are just a few of the debate blunders etched in the public’s memory that both President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will try to avoid tonight in the first of three presidential debates that could decide one of the most contentious elections in American history.

“It only takes one mistake or one extraordinary comment before some important people re-evaluate the race,’’ said Nathan L. Gonzales, deputy editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington. “A majority of Americans don’t have to change their minds based on the debates. We’re talking a few swing voters in a few swing states.’’

Both candidates enter tonight’s debate with competing objectives. Obama will try to poke holes in Romney’s plans to overhaul Medicare and the tax code, while Romney has an opportunity to persuade undecided voters that he has a plan to ignite the nation’s sluggish economy.

“No matter how the campaign downplays it, it is a very important night for Mitt Romney and his campaign,’’ said Curt Steiner, a Republican consultant in Columbus. “There is a potential for a brand new ballgame at this stage and while the Romney campaign is down by a touchdown, there is still plenty of time left.’’

Dan Birdsong, a lecturer of political science at the University of Dayton, said that Obama’s “challenge is not to remind people, but solidify with people that what he’s been trying to do is the right course and that things are turning around, albeit slowly.’’

Unlike the Democratic and Republican conventions this year — which failed to generate massive TV audiences — the presidential debates tend to attract millions of viewers.

More than 63 million people watched the second debate in 2008 between Obama and Republican presidential nominee John McCain while 62.5 million watched the first debate in 2004 between President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

Yet even with huge audiences and the networks endlessly replaying in the following days any mistakes committed by the candidates, some are convinced that presidential debates are simply not that decisive in deciding the outcome of an election.

They point to Nixon’s dreadful appearance in the first of four debates with Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960. Three physicians at the time told reporters Nixon looked as if he had suffered a coronary. Yet polls showed the race tight before the debates and Kennedy eventually prevailed by less than 120,000 votes in one of the closest elections in history.

In the 1980 debate in Cleveland, Republican Ronald Reagan’s dismissal of President Jimmy Carter – “There you go again’’ – was regarded as a moment of high drama. But even before that debate, polls showed that Reagan had crawled into a lead which he never relinquished.

In an interview last week in Ohio, Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, said that “in the final analysis when we get past the impact of some extraordinarily inaccurate attack ads on (Obama’s) part and when we get a chance to actually talk about the real issues in the debates, then people will make an informed decision.”

Romney said he hopes to get the audience to focus on Obama’s record, saying that “these have been very difficult years for the people of this country and I think I can make peoples’ lives a good deal better. People understand that the president’s policies have not worked.’’

By contrast, Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said that “we’ve heard Governor Romney has prepared some zingers. We will leave that to David Letterman. We don’t think that’s what the American people want.’’

Instead, LaBolt said that Obama’s “goal is to lay out the economic choice between building the economy from the inside out and not from the top down.’’ He said that viewers will be “looking for specifics from Governor Romney and he should explain how he will be paying for a $5 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest without raising taxes on the middle class.’’

But even as Romney and Obama say they will focus on issues, Birdsong of Dayton said that viewers “learn from the debates and it’s not just necessarily issue-based learning … What people learn in the course of debate is candidate characteristics or in some sense, character.’’

Joe Hallett of the Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.

Report: Supreme Court Justice Kennedy ‘contemplating’ retirement

Published: Saturday, June 24, 2017 @ 7:54 PM

President Donald Trump, left, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, center, and Justice Neil Gorsuch participate in a public swearing-in ceremony for Gorsuch in the Rose Garden of the White House White House in Washington, Monday, April 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Carolyn Kaster/AP

Multiple reports from CNN and the Associated Press say Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is considering retirement.

Latest: Big cases, retirement talk make news at end of SCOTUS session

Kennedy, who has sat on the court for 30 years and will soon turn 81, has been mulling retirement according to some of his former clerks. His clerks gathered this weekend for a reunion with the Kennedy, a year ahead of schedule, spurring rumors Kennedy may step down as soon as Monday when the Court’s current session ends.

The Sacremento, Calif., native has been the Court’s most moderate voice for years and is often the deciding vote.

Kennedy’s most famous decision was Obergefell v. Hodges, which swung the Court vote in legalizing gay marriage. Kennedy’s decision was praised by gay marriage advocates for its sweeping opinion and eloquence, while others criticized the decisions for the many loopholes it left open, including how gay marriage fits within the legal realm with religious institutions. 

Decisions expected by the court this week, one involving a Missouri church and it being denied state funds to build safe soft sources for a playground and possibly a decision on 

 

Teens selling water on National Mall handcuffed by police

Published: Saturday, June 24, 2017 @ 2:43 PM

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 24:  U.S. Park rangers walk on the National Mall near the Washington Monument August 24, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U.S. Park Police are facing criticism for handcuffing three teenagers who were selling water Thursday on the National Mall.

Officials said police were just doing their job, as the teenagers were vending in a prohibited area, WUSA9 reported.

>> Read more trending news

Bystander Tim Krepp took a photo of the incident, and told WUSA9 that he thought the officers went too far in handcuffing the teenagers. The image quickly went viral on social media.

The teens were given a verbal warning and released to their guardians, WUSA9 reported. 

U.S. House moves to bolster lawmaker security in wake of baseball shooting

Published: Saturday, June 24, 2017 @ 8:00 AM
Updated: Saturday, June 24, 2017 @ 8:14 AM

Responding to concerns about personal security for lawmakers after last week’s gun attack at a Congressional baseball practice, U.S. House leaders are moving to provide extra money to members for protection back home, as well as new funding to bolster the work of police and security officials on Capitol Hill.

Under a plan approved by a House spending subcommittee on Friday, the Congress would provide an extra $7.5 million next year to the Capitol Police for an “increased security posture” around the Capitol, along with $5 million to the House Sergeant at Arms to help with security for lawmakers back in their districts.

“We are taking a new fresh look at security,” said Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), the Chairman of subcommittee that deals with funding for the Legislative Branch.

“The tragic events of June 14 weigh heavily on these deliberations,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which could vote on the extra money as early as this next week.

Also being put into motion is a separate plan to funnel an extra $25,000 to each member of the House – about $11 million in all – to help them increase security back in their districts.

“The scariest part for us is there used to be this impression by the public that we all had security everywhere we went,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH).

“Now, everyone knows that isn’t the case,” Ryan added, as he lent his support to the extra funding for security as well.

The money in this budget bill would not take effect until the new fiscal year – which starts October 1 – so, House leaders are ready to okay extra money immediately for members worried about security back in their districts.

Roll Call newspaper reported that could be approved in coming days by the House Administration Committee.

Yoder said Congressional leaders are also waiting to see if money raised in campaign contributions for House elections could be put to use for security as well.

“Pending an FEC (Federal Election Commission) decision, we’re also looking at whether campaign funds could be used to continue to support security upgrades at personal residences,” Yoder added.

Trump signs new law to allow VA to more quickly fire workers for poor performance

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 12:33 PM
Updated: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 12:33 PM

With strong bipartisan support from both houses of Congress, President Donald Trump on Friday signed into law a plan to make it easier for the Veterans Affairs Department to get rid of employees for poor performance or misconduct, all in an effort to improve veterans health care and other services.

“We’re taking care of our veterans and we’re taking care of them properly,” said the President, as he signed the bill at a White House ceremony.

“Those entrusted with the sacred duty of serving our veterans will be held accountable for the care they provide,” Mr. Trump said.

New legislation was needed from Congress mainly because previous efforts to make it easier to fire employees at the VA had become bogged down in the courts, even preventing the VA from getting rid of people like the former head of the Phoenix VA health care director, where a health care scandal broke out in 2014.

“We won’t be able to accomplish any of the reforms we need to in the VA if we don’t get the right people in place,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin, who with the support of the President, has pressed ahead with internal changes.

Shulkin said this new law would “make it easier and quicker to hold our employees accountable.”

Among the changes in the bill:

+ A streamlined VA process to fire, suspend or demote workers for misconduct or poor performance

+ The Secretary would have the power to reduce the pension of a VA worker if that person is convicted of a felony crime that influenced their job performance

+ The VA would be allowed to claw back bonuses given to employees who are later found to have engaged in misconduct

The new law also includes provisions to protect whistleblowers from retaliation inside the VA, and gives greater authority to the VA Secretary to fill top positions more quickly inside the VA health care system.

“As you all know – all too well – for many years, the government failed to keep its promises to our veterans,” Mr. Trump said, saying “we are just getting started” on major changes to the VA, one of his central campaign promises in 2016.