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Romney pitches new message to Ohio voters

Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 @ 3:02 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 @ 7:50 PM

Before a crowd of 9,000 at the Shelby County Fairgrounds Wednesday, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney continued his string of Ohio appearances with a message that seems designed to pull in voters beyond his Republican base.

Riding a rising wave in the polls and pushing to make up ground in swing state Ohio, Romney — in his third Ohio stop of the day — painted a grim view of the present and an even more dire picture of the future if President Barack Obama is reelected.

Romney attacked the Democratic president’s economic policies and said that if Obama is re-elected taxes and gas prices would go up.

“There’s a high cost to re-electing President Obama,” Romney said.

He said Americans continue to struggle to find jobs and with low incomes and a high poverty rate.

Political scientists said Romney appears to be targeting moderate independent voters in the first debate and in recent speechs. Those voters are a critical voting bloc for any Republican hoping to win Ohio.

“What he is trying to accomplish is a move to the center,” said Nancy Martorano Miller, associate professor of political science at the University of Dayton. “He seems to be moving toward the middle because he needs to attract that small percentage of independent voters.”

“It is the difference between running in primary season and running in the General Election season,” she said. “You have to balance getting the base fired up as well as attract that group in the middle that’s more moderate.”

During his short speech in Sidney, Romney said his economic proposals would create jobs and boost trade with foreign countries. He said Obama had failed to sign any “new” trade agreements in four years.

However, media fact checkers have noted that Obama did negotiate three agreements and in 2011 signed those trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, which had been stalled under President George W. Bush.

Romney said he wants to cut taxes for small businesses and to cut regulations.

He said, “the role of government is to protect our freedom, to make it easier for enterprisers to get out and begin their businesses and put people to work.”

“I want regulators to sees their job as creating regulations that make markets work, that don’t crush entrepreneurs,” Romney said.

Obama’s campaign was quick to criticize Romney’s speech.

“In Sidney tonight, Mitt Romney told a series of falsehoods about the President’s plan for rural America. Unsurprisingly, he failed to detail specific plans of his own,” said Jessica Kershaw, press secretary, Obama for America – Ohio. “He said he’d cut taxes, but to pay for his $250,000 tax cuts for multi-millionaires, he’d have to raise taxes on middle class families with kids by $2,000.”

Romney aiming for maximum turnout among Republicans

Mark Caleb Smith, director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville University, said Romney still needs to maximize turnout among Republicans, get them excited about voting for him and offset the advantage President Barack Obama has in large urban areas like Cleveland.

In an effort to energize Republicans - especially in Ohio - Romney has been campaigning heavily in the state. He had three events in the state on Wednesday, one on Tuesday and will return Saturday for an event in Lebanon outside of the Golden Lamb at 5:45 p.m. and another event in Portsmouth.

“According to the polls there are plenty of people who have reservations about President Obama, but Romney must provide a positive case for himself and his agenda,” Smith said. “If he does this in the moderate, optimistic tone of his last debate, he will increase his chances to carry Ohio in November.”

Polls show Romney gaining on Obama in the wake of the Oct. 3 first of three debates, a matchup most analysts thought Romney won.

According to the website, which aggregates poll results from a wide variety of agencies, Obama led Romney in 28 of the 30 national polls taken in September. But in the five polls taken so far in October, all of which were conducted either wholly or in part after the debate, Romney led in two, Obama led in one, and the other two were tied.

The same dynamic has taken place in Ohio. Until the debate, Obama led Romney in poll after poll. But the three polls public published since the debate show Ohio in a dead heat.

Sidney crowd estimated at 9,000

The crowd cheered and began shouting “USA! USA!” when Romney said, Obama “seems to be changing America in ways that many of us don’t recognize, making us more and more like Europe. I don’t want to become like Europe. Europe doesn’t work there. I want America to become more like America.”

People interviewed after the speech liked what they heard.

John and Marian Benson of Russia, the owners of a tree trimming company, said they were impressed with Romney’s economic plan.

“He supports the farmers and small businessman,” Marian Benson said.

In addition, John Benson said he likes that Romney is a churchgoer and anti-abortion.

“I thought it was very good,” he said of Romney’s speech. “I think it made a lot of sense.”

Nick and DeAnna Baughman of Sidney were equally impressed with what they heard.

Nick Baughman, the owner of a landscaping company, said the speech, particular Romney’s comments on energy, were inspiring.

“The most important thing is getting the cost of energy down because our business revolves around energy,” he said.

DeAnna Baughman, a mother of five children ranging from age 4 to age 19, said reducing the deficient is high on her priority list. She said the burden of the deficit should not be passed on to future generations.

Julie Tobias of Wapakoneta and her mother Rose Swiger of Sidney shook Romney’s hand.

They said people should pay more attention to the candidates’ plans than political spin.

“The people I work with listen to the ads and not what the president and Romney say,” said Tobias, a textile worker. “They need to listen to what they are going to do for the middle class.”

Staff writer Jeremy P. Kelley contributed to this report.

Trump move to end health insurer payments may cost feds billions more

Published: Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 8:41 PM

Even as President Donald Trump urged Senators on Monday to find a bipartisan deal on short-term fixes to the Obama health law, the consensus among health insurance experts is that Mr. Trump’s decision last week to no longer make payments to insurance companies to cover the health-related costs of some Americans might actually cost the federal government billions more in the years ahead.

At issue is the “Cost Sharing Reduction” payments that had been made by the Obama and Trump Administrations – that money helps subsidize insurance costs of some consumers in the Obamacare exchanges.

Those payments were never expressly approved by the Congress, leading many Republicans to charge that the spending had been illegal, and spurring the President to block the payments.

And that’s where the subject gets a bit complicated.

“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that not funding CSR would lead to a net increase of $194 billion in more spending over the next decade,” said health care researcher David Anderson of Duke University.

But wait – how would halting an expected $10 billion in payments in 2018, a move that would save Uncle Sam money – how would that lead to such a big cost for the feds over the next decade?

“While the federal government would save money by not making CSR payments, it would face increased costs for tax credits that subsidize premiums for marketplace enrollees with incomes 100-400% of the poverty level,” wrote officials of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which focuses on health care policy matters.

In other words, different subsidies doled out under the Obama health law would go up as insurance companies raise premiums to deal with the loss of the CSR federal payments – those are known as “Advance Premium Tax Credits,” which can go to families of four with a yearly income of up to $97,000.

“The biggest effect from the termination of cost-sharing subsidy payments is that premiums are going up to offset the loss,” said Larry Levitt of Kaiser, who labeled the impact of the Trump CSR decision, “confusing and complicated.”

One example of that started to appear on Monday in in Pennsylvania, as state officials said health coverage “rates will increase by an average 30.6 percent in the individual market ,” instead of by 7.6 percent.

One recent story from the Miami Herald found that the Trump move on CSR payments would mean a big increase for Florida in the amount of federal dollars spent to subsidize those who get their health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges in that state.

Some experts argue that Mr. Trump’s decision will have the biggest negative impact on insurance rates in states that are normally in the Republican column – especially if those states did not move to expand the Medicaid program during the Obama Administration.

In recent months, a bipartisan group of Senators had been working to figure out a way to tinker with the Obama health law, and make sure the CSR payments were made by Congress, led by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who told reporters on Monday evening that he had already spoken with the President about his CSR decision.

Some GOP Senators have grumbled in recent weeks about the talks between Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), worried that it will contain little in the way of concessions by Democrats on the operations of the Obama health law.

That’s a concern for Republicans in the House as well, and could lead to a stalemate in Congress on any short-term effort to deal with the Obama health law.

“At this time, in my opinion, doing nothing is an acceptable outcome for liberal policy preferences while doing nothing moves policy further away from stated conservative policy preferences,” said Anderson of Duke University.

“I want to get healthcare that’s much more affordable and much better healthcare, and that’s what we’re doing,” the President said on Monday when asked about the CSR payments decision.

What that exactly means for the President is still not clear.

VIDEO: Trump and McConnell take questions after White House meeting

Published: Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 3:05 PM

With a lot of work still needed in Congress on key items of President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda, Mr. Trump met for lunch on Monday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, giving off no signs of any ill will despite some sparring in the past, as both men vowed to push ahead on plans for major tax cuts and reform, emphasizing the need to get that done by the end of 2017.

“We’re fighting for the same thing – we’re fight for lower taxes, big tax cuts – the biggest tax cuts in the history of our nation,” the President said at a hastily assembled meeting with reporters in the White House Rose Garden.

“I want to underscore what the President said – we have the same agenda,” McConnell said, standing next to the President the entire time, as reporters verbally jostled to get his attention during a somewhat raucous Q&A that had not been on the original schedule for Mr. Trump.

“My relationship with this gentleman is outstanding,” Mr. Trump said of McConnell, not mentioning some of his tough statements and tough tweets about the Senate GOP leader in the past.

Here is the full Trump news conference, with McConnell:


Anger mounts over Trump’s response to opioid deaths

Published: Sunday, October 15, 2017 @ 8:00 AM
Updated: Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 1:44 PM

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic narcotic that is estimated to be 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to state officials.

On the mid-August day when President Donald Trump first called the nation’s opioid epidemic a “national emergency,” plaudits from the state’s congressional delegation were quick to follow.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the designation was overdue. A slew of GOP lawmakers, among them Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also praised the decision.

But two months later, Trump has yet to sign the paperwork to make the crisis a national emergency, which could open up more money for states like Ohio.

RELATED: Turner, Plummer call for regional drug czar

In the intervening months, the White House has conducted a national listening tour with Kellyanne Conway, visiting 10 states. It’s met with key stakeholders. Last week, First Lady Melania Trump visited an opioid treatment center in West Virginia.

But it has not signed the paperwork to make the crisis a national emergency. Asked about the delay, a White House spokesman said last week, “The President’s policy advisers are working through the details with all of the relevant components and agencies. Right now these actions are undergoing a legal review.”

Added Trump in a statement on Friday: “We are studying national emergency right now. Believe it or not, doing national emergency, as you understand, is a very big statement.”

The wait, for some, is maddening.

“We asked them repeatedly to declare an emergency,” said Brown, who last month joined 11 other Senate Democrats in a letter urging Trump to speed up the process and treat it “with the urgency it demands.”

“It’s frustrating,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, chief policy officer of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “How many more people have to die before we take this problem seriously?”

RELATED: Recovery housing seen as key to OD deaths

Even Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — who chaired Trump’s commission on opioid abuse — expressed frustration, telling the Associated Press that it’s “not good” that no paperwork had been filed.

There are multiple ways an administration can declare a national emergency, including through the Stafford Act, a 1998 law that is used for most federal disaster response activities, particularly those requiring the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Just since Aug. 25, Trump has declared major disasters through the Stafford Act covering Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, Nate and Irma as well as for wildfires in California.

RELATED: 6 newborns a day hospitalized in Ohio for exposure to drugs in the womb

But although Trump said on Aug. 10 that he has instructed his administration “to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic,” the designation of the opioid crisis as a true national emergency hasn’t happened.

“It’s a much more involved process, and that’s something that they’re working through on the legal side, the administrative side, and making sure that it’s done correctly,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in explaining the delay last month.

Brown said the emergency designation would spur better coordination between federal and local officials and open up streams of federal dollars. “This is the biggest public health crisis since polio,” he said in describing the need. “Maybe it’s worse than polio.”

RELATED: 360-degree strategy to fight opioid epidemic

By contrast, a spokeswoman for Portman said he believes the Trump administration is acting in good faith to make the crisis a national emergency.

Still, “Rob continues to push the Trump administration to do more,” Portman spokeswoman Emily Benavides said.

Taylor, of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, said an emergency designation would provide instant tools for the fight against the epidemic.

The federal government could waive some Medicaid regulations that could allow greater access to treatment, she said. It could loosen rules on the prescribing of drugs to treat overdoses and addiction. And it would tie together all the loose threads of the federal response and “really bring resources to bear” on an issue that is only increasing in urgency,” according to Taylor.

“We need to make sure that this crisis is treated as the public health emergency that it is,” she said.

RELATED: Opioid crisis persists despite funding boost

Since Trump made his remarks in August, more than 8,000 people nationally have died of an accidental overdose, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. By comparison, officials there say, H1N1, or swine flu, a national emergency in 2009, killed 1,000 people during the whole year.

Cuyler Costanzo, a clinical coordinator at Family and Community Services in Kent, said the federal government needs a full-bore effort to fight the epidemic, including an education campaign comparable to the 1980s outreach campaign that included the memorable “This is your brain on drugs” advertising campaign involving a frying egg.

To him, there’s no doubt that the epidemic warrants national designation.

“On 9/11 we lost 3,000 people in one day,” he said. “We’re losing 3,000 people every three weeks to this addiction. That’s 17 or 18 9/11’s a year.”

Martin Schladen of the Columbus Dispatch and Michael Dulman of the Washington Bureau contributed to this report.

By the numbers

328: Percentage rise in deaths from heroin between 2010 and 2015.

72: Percentage rise in deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids (not including methadone) from 2014 to 2015.

64,000: Number of accidental overdose deaths recorded nationally in 2016.

20,000: Number of accidental overdose deaths attributed to opioids.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

Trump turns up pressure on GOP Congress to act on health care, tax reform

Published: Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 1:00 PM

President Donald Trump on Monday declared Obamacare dead, as he urged Republicans in Congress to lead the way on solutions to overhaul the Obama health law, and to find a way to deliver a major tax reform package as well, making clear that he should not be blamed for any of the legislative miscues by GOP leaders in the House and Senate.

“I’m not going to blame myself – I’ll be honest,” the President told reporters, as he pointed the finger of blame directly at the Congress. “They are not getting the job done.”

“I’m not happy about it,” Mr. Trump said, reminding Republicans of what hasn’t been done in the Congress this year.

“We need tax cuts, we need health care,” the President said.

At the start of a Cabinet meeting at the White House, Mr. Trump said he thought his moves last week on health care would force Democrats to the bargaining table to come up with some kind of short-term deal on health care.

“I think the Democrats will be blamed for the mess,” the President said. “This is an Obamacare mess.”

Mr. Trump also optimistcally said he thought there would be an agreement early next year on a GOP bill to overhaul the Obama health law, something that has so far eluded Republicans in the Congress.

“Obamacare is finished, it’s dead, it’s gone,” the President declared. “There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore.