Tales from the Trail

Obama and Romney wrangle over welfare policy

The Obama administration’s July change to a 1996 bipartisan welfare-to-work law has devolved into a mudslinging contest on the campaign trail.

In a 30-second television advertisement released on Monday, Mitt Romney’s campaign asserted that President Obama “has a long history of opposing work for welfare.” Romney initially launched the welfare attack in Obama’s home state of Illinois last week in a coordinated stump speech and television ad accusing the president of loosening work requirements built into the law, which proponents say moved millions off of welfare.

The plan, put forth by the Health and Human Services Department, allows states to seek waivers from the work requirements baked into the law. The states need to prove the success of their models by moving at least 20 percent more people off of welfare to work or they lose their waivers.

The Obama campaign responded last week with a 30-second television spot – “Blatant” – denying Romney’s claim that the waivers end the welfare law’s work requirements. That ad was set to air in seven hotly contested states, the campaign said, including Iowa, where Obama kicked-off a three-day bus tour on Monday, and was timed to run in states where Romney and Ryan are campaigning — Florida and Iowa, respectively.

Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, in a conference call with reporters, harshly condemned the Romney campaign’s attack, the latest in a campaign season marked by out-of-context attack lines.

Non-retired Baby Boomers anxious about more than jobs

The Baby Boomers have come a long way from Flower Power. Retirement savings, Social Security and Medicare are weighing heavily on their minds this election season, even if they are still in the workforce.

The AARP surveyed Americans aged 50-64 who are still working, and found that they share younger voters’ worries about the economy ahead of the Nov. 6 election, but their economic concerns extend well beyond jobs. These members of the “Baby Boom” generation worry about rising prices, healthcare costs, financial security when they retire and taxes.

“We know the issue of jobs is very important to voters age 50-plus, but any meaningful discussion of the economy and this year’s election has to include the future of Social Security and Medicare,” Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of the 37 million-member AARP, said in a statement. “For these voters, ‘retirement security’ and ‘economic security’ are largely the same thing,” she said.

Air Obama: President’s re-election campaign goes Dream Team

President Barack Obama’s campaign fundraising “Win a date with a celebrity” lottery has gone Dream Team.

The campaign is offering donors who give at least $3 the chance to enter a lottery to attend the “Obama Classic,” a night of basketball with some of the sport’s greats — Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, Sheryl Swoopes, Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irvin — and the player many consider its greatest, Michael Jordan.

“Imagine shooting hoops with Carmelo Anthony, Patrick Ewing, Sheryl Swoopes, Kyrie Irving, and Alonzo Mourning. Oh, and you’ll get to meet President Obama and Michael Jordan over dinner, too,” Obama campaign staffer Marlon Marshall said in an email to supporters.

A battleground is a battleground is a battleground – or is it?

It isn’t really surprising that there are widely varying theories for the best way to win the battleground states – those considered neither firmly Democratic nor Republican – in the Nov. 6 election. After all, if they were easy to win, they wouldn’t be battlegrounds.

But what is surprising is the extent of the disagreement over which should be defined as battlegrounds – or swing states, toss-ups or “purple” (as in something between Republican red and Democratic blue).

A new study by the University of Minnesota found that news outlets that publish election maps vary widely in their assessments of which states are up for grabs in 2012.

Obama ad on Romney’s tax plan: he pays less, you pay more

President Barack Obama’s campaign on Thursday released a new television advertisement hitting Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney for paying what it considers to be a low tax rate in 2010 and for pushing a tax plan that could most benefit Americans earning more than $1 million per year.

The 30-second spot features a montage of ostensibly “average” Americans — one comparing prices at the grocery store, another scrutinizing a work report, another sifting through bills at the kitchen table — and then flashes to a grinning Romney.

“You work hard, stretch every penny, but chances are you pay a higher tax rate than him,” the narrator says, referring to Romney’s 2010 tax rate of 13.9 percent and 2011 estimated tax rate of 15.4 percent.

What does Obama want for his birthday? Florida would be nice

President Barack Obama, whose birthday is Saturday, has at least one big idea for a birthday present – and it comes with 29 electoral votes.

A crowd of more than 2,000 people sang “Happy Birthday” to Obama during a campaign stop in Orlando, prompting Obama to joke that he ought to have brought a cake so that he could blow out the candles and make an electoral wish. “Winning Florida wouldn’t be a bad birthday present,” Obama said.

The Democrat, who regularly jokes about his graying hair, had another wry comment as he faces his 51st birthday, noting that first lady Michelle Obama thinks he looks 50.

If middle class prospers, we all prosper: Obama in Olympics ad

A new national television advertisement released by President Obama’s campaign and slated to air during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games features the Democratic incumbent delivering an impassioned stump speech in which he ties national prosperity to the success of the middle class.

“I believe in fighting for the middle class because if they’re prospering, all of us will prosper,” Obama says in the 30-second advertisement, part of a $6 million Olympics ad buy, NBC confirmed. “That’s the idea of America and that’s why America is the greatest nation on earth.”

As Obama speaks, a montage shows “workers and doers and dreamers,” including a farmer loading hay into a pick-up truck, a woman punching in for her shift, and a suit-wearing father coming home to his family. The advertisement, which does not mention Mitt Romney, is a departure from a series of negative ads that criticized the former private equity executive’s business record and resistance to opening up his personal finances to increased scrutiny.

Business comments taken out of context, Obama says in new ad

President Barack Obama’s campaign released a new television advertisement on Tuesday pushing back against a wave of attacks that followed remarks the Democratic incumbent made that Republicans deemed anti-business.

The 30-second advertisement — “Always” — will air in six battleground states and is the second in as many days featuring a regal Obama speaking directly into a camera — a far cry from the campaign’s hard-hitting ads, marked by ominous narrators and elaborate graphic design, portraying Mitt Romney as a ruthless former private equity executive whose personal finances are shrouded in secrecy.

In the ad, the president is seen fighting back — calmly, authoritatively — against a barrage of attacks by Romney, his campaign, and wider Republicans who seized on a fragment of Obama’s speech in Virginia on July 13 when he said, “If you own a business, you didn’t build that.”

Romney speaks at the VFW convention

Mitt Romney will deliver remarks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention at 2pm ET today from Reno, Nevada.

Watch live:

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Scott Brown’s latest channels poet Langston Hughes

Scott Brown, locked in a tight race to hold onto his Senate seat from Massachusetts, has become the second Republican in the current election cycle to channel Langston Hughes, the African American social activist poet with Communist sympathies who is also regarded as a literary hero by many in the gay community.

A new video from Brown, soliciting donations for his neck-and-neck campaign against Democrat Elizabeth Warren, is headlined “Let America Be America Again” – the title of Hughes’ well-known 1935 poem, first published in Esquire magazine, that suggests the American dream never really existed for many Americans, including the lower classes, blacks, Native Americans, and other minority groups.

“There’s never been equality for me/Nor freedom in this ‘homeland of the free,’” Hughes writes in an aside between verses. “America never was America to me.”