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Young People in the 2012 Elections

Jack Cahn   |   November 5, 2012   10:01 AM ET

Jack and David are members of the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-run political awareness organization for high school students.

If you're under 18 in America, you might be asking yourself: Why should I care about the 2012 elections? Although as a high school student myself I've heard a lot of cynicism from fellow students about the 2012 elections, young people will actually be the demographic most heavily affected by the outcome of the November elections. In the face of foreign relations crises posed by deteriorating situations in Iran and Syria, as well as high unemployment among college graduates, the effects of this election -- both at home and abroad -- will forever impact the lives of young adults across the country. This election will determine OUR future.

First and foremost, our rising national debt will directly impact young Americans, who will one day be forced to bear the burden of our reliance on foreign nations such as China. For four straight years, President Obama has run trillion-dollar deficits. Today, the federal debt held by the public has reached $11.3 trillion. Total federal debt has exceeded $16 trillion, and only increasing. It's up to the next president to reduce this debt now, before it increases exponentially.

President Obama's "trickle-down government" has cost the country greatly. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have already cost $833 billion. Add that to the additional $700 billion in stimulus spending, and Obama's stimulus spending alone has cost $1.5 trillion. Although President Obama has claimed he will help reduce unemployment, the current administration's unemployment policy is abysmal as well. When the administration took office in January of 2009, unemployment was at 7.8 percent and today it is still exactly 7.8 percent, according to data from the US Department of Labor. Obama and Biden have failed reducing our national debt.

Romney and Ryan, alternatively, both have solid records balancing budgets. We've all heard that about Romney's experience at Bain Capital and with the Olympics, balancing budgets and producing profits. In fact, according to a Forbes estimate, by leaving the private sector to serve the American people, "Romney left $1.77 billion on the table." That's a very high opportunity to cost to run for office and help the American people.

Paul Ryan is even more qualified to reduce nation debt -- he is respected on both sides of the aisle as a brilliant man. Obama's own deficit commission co-chair, Erskine Bowles, said of Paul Ryan, "I always thought I was okay at arithmetic, but this guy can run circles around me. And he is honest, he is straightforward, he is sincere. And the budget he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan -- it is sensible, straightforward, honest serious budget... And it cut the budget deficit by $4 trillion." Paul Ryan is a deficit-hawk, and he's a man I'd trust to clean up our debt crisis.

Unlike the Obama administration, which has failed to adequately reform social security, Medicare, and Medicaid, Ryan has plans to reform all three. If there is one honest man left in Washington who can save us from the deficit, it's Paul Ryan. Ryan's plans to reduce government spending and end an era of fiscal insanity are the most appealing reasons why young people should be supporting the Romney-Ryan ticket.

In terms of foreign policy, Iran's proliferation of nuclear weapons poses the biggest threat to young people today who will inherit a world threatened by an armed and potentially irrational Iran. While Obama and Biden have advocated the same old minimal "economic sanctions" which have failed to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons in the past, the Romney-Ryan team have advocated taking a stronger stance against Iran. In the vice-presidential debate, Ryan emphasized the need to cripple Iran, and if necessary, back military action.

The Iranian government has repeatedly admitted its hatred for Israel and the West. With their increasing nuclear capabilities, the US response to the Iranian effect will directly impact our lives. I don't support a president and vice-president who have failed to stop Iran for four years and in numerous situations undermined Prime Minister Netanyahu. I would not entrust my life to men who have failed to take significant action in Iran, or anywhere around the globe.

The Obama administration has been traditionally weak on foreign policy. In addition to advocating military budget cuts, the Obama administration's first foreign policy action in office was to remove missile defense from Europe. In the recent Arab Spring, Obama forestalled talking action in Libya for quite a while. In Syria, thousands have already died because of the president's inaction. As young people, we're looking for a president and vice-president who are going to protect US interests and expand US power -- and for that we need a bold team who isn't scared to act.

This election is important to young people for another reason: It's shaped our view of the democratic process. During the debate, we saw the vice-president of the United State laugh and deride his opponent, even when talking about a nuclear armed Iran. For many young people who saw the Biden-Ryan debate as their first or second vice-presidential debate, Biden's rudeness, unprofessional interrupting, and constant display of disrespect towards Ryan will play a crucial role in shaping their image of the democratic process. As young people, we're looking for a professional administration to deal wisely with our internal policy and diplomacy; Paul Ryan's professionalism, honesty and integrity meets our needs.

My message to young people across this country is that this election will directly impact your lives in so many ways -- get involved with election and participate in the democratic process.

The Romney-Ryan Budget: Reward the Rich, Punish the Rest

  |   November 3, 2012    3:33 PM ET

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Romney, Ryan Stoke Ohio Volunteers

Elise Foley   |   November 2, 2012   10:48 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan delivered remarks on Friday at something of a mini-Republican National Convention in West Chester, Ohio, where they fired up volunteers and prepared for an 11-state campaign climax.

"Ohio, you're the lynchpin, you're the battleground of battlegrounds," Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin, told the crowd.

"We're almost home," Romney said later, a line used at rallies earlier in the day. "One final push will get us there. We have known many long days and short nights and now we are so very, very close."

The rally was a kickoff for a massive get-out-the-vote effort from the campaign in Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The rally had 30,000 people in attendance, according to a fire chief, while a police officer told reporters there were 18,000 attendees. Either way, the crowd size at the rally was staggering. (Buzzfeed's Zeke Miller posted a panorama of the event here, and HuffPost's Sabrina Siddiqui posted a picture of crowd here.)

Romney and Ryan also brought backup: their families and more than 40 endorsers, at least 15 of whom spoke before Romney and Ryan took the stage. On a press release announcing the rally, the campaign listed five current or former governors, seven current or former senators, three current or former congressmen, two former cabinet members, a former mayor. Three athletes, including Olympian Scott Hamilton and professional golfer Jack Nicklaus, were in attendance as well.

The early speakers, most wearing matching red campaign fleece jackets, spent much of their time denigrating President Barack Obama rather than praising Romney. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) accused the president of mismanaging the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Obama cannot work across the aisle. And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, in one of the most scathing speeches of the night, accused the president of having no record to run on, trying to make the country more socialist, and harming the economy.

"No wonder he offers the most vacuous, meaningless slogan for his campaign. What's his slogan: Forward. Forward to what," Jindal said. "I've got to give credit to this president. You're going 80 miles per hour into a brick wall. Who would vote for 'Forward?'" he said later.

Former Rep. Artur Davis -- an Alabama Democrat-turned-Republican -- mocked Obama for saying in 2008 he would work to stop the rising of the oceans, a reference to climate change. Romney joked about the line at the Republican National Convention, in a clip that has begun to re-circulate this week after Hurricane Sandy's East Coast devastation.

"Remember 'the rise of the oceans would begin to slow, the planet would begin to heal?'" Davis asked, loosely quoting Obama's 2008 line. "Now, I don't know about the oceans, I'll ask [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg and Al Gore about that."

Ryan and Romney each took a moment to reference the storm, although in a more solemn way. Both urged their supporters, as they have at events before, to donate to the Red Cross and keep those affected in their thoughts.

They each largely stuck to stump speeches, mixing criticism of Obama and promises of change from their ticket. Neither mentioned the attacks in Benghazi, as many others did, or claims about the auto bailout that have embroiled the campaign over the last week.

Romney did touch on one current controversy: Obama's use of the word "revenge" in calling for voters to support him. "Don't boo. Vote," the president said during a Friday rally in Springfield, Ohio. "Voting is the best revenge."

Romney's response was perhaps his most crowd-pleasing of the night, causing a roar of "U-S-A."

"He asked his supporters to vote for revenge -- revenge," he said. "Instead I ask the American people to vote for love of country."

Sabrina Siddiqui contributed reporting from West Chester, Ohio.

Residents Apologize to Neighbors for 'Too Scary' Halloween Decorations

Remy M. Maisel   |   October 31, 2012    3:34 PM ET

Jacob and Anna Mueller, occupants of a house in a residential area of the town surrounding Penn State, apologized today for a Halloween display that their neighbors deemed "offensive, grotesque, and generally too scary for our kids to see when they walk home."

The Muellers took down the offensive decorations before this publication could obtain photographs, but the neighbors who filed the complaint and wish to remain anonymous gave a detailed description of the display which has been corroborated by several other residents of the lane and a CATA bus driver whose route takes him by the single-family home every day.

The display contained an arresting amount of cobwebs and spiders, and even a fake corpse appearing to rise from one of the many graves in the front yard. But what really upset the neighbors with two young daughters was not the gore-splattered zombie that turned its head whenever someone walked by, but the "Romney/Ryan 2012" sign at the forefront of the display. It was the sign that earned the house the description the bus driver provided: "It looked like a portal to hell."

"It's just... so chilling," said Mrs. Lesher, another resident of the quiet family neighborhood. "I mean, fake guts is one thing; it's Halloween and all. I get the impulse to go all out. But there has to be a limit. For Pete's sake, we all have children here! This is why we don't live downtown with all the students -- who knows what our kids would see on College Ave on Halloween?"

The Muellers offered a sincere apology to the Penn State student newspaper, the Daily Collegian:

We regret that our error in judgment has upset and offended our neighbors. It was not our intention to do so. We are deeply sorry for giving the impression that we are violent people, and worse, that we support the Romney/Ryan ticket. That is absolutely not the case. We only want our television zombies to shamble around haplessly, not our candidates. Again, we are deeply sorry, and we hope that the neighbors who were upset will accept our invitation to the Obama campaign GOTV ["get out the vote"] event we are hosting this Sunday afternoon.

Neighbors expressed gratitude for the apology and for their decision to take down the decorations immediately, and said that they would be happy to forgive their error.

"We all make mistakes," said Charles Schmidt, an adjunct professor at Penn State's College of Liberal Arts who lives across the street from the Muellers with his wife and three young sons. "It's how we choose to rectify them that matters. I think the Muellers realize now that it's scary enough to imagine that the dead are among us on Halloween -- let alone that Romney supporters live in our midst."

WATCH: Shocking Video Of Mitt Romney Spouting Bigoted Bile Against Gays

Michelangelo Signorile   |   October 29, 2012    9:41 AM ET

In my last blog post, which lit up the Internet and social media, I quoted Mitt Romney making shocking remarks that were highlighted in investigative reporter Murray Waas' Boston Globe story last week. Now, for the first time in this campaign, video has surfaced of Romney making those bigoted claims about gay parents while pushing his heartless policy against their children.

Waas' article revealed how Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, refused to allow birth certificate forms to be reprinted to accommodate the children of gay and lesbian couples, stigmatizing those kids and creating possible hardships for the rest of their lives. Documents Waas unearthed showed how Romney required hospitals to instead cross out "mother" or "father" on the birth certificates of children born to same-sex couples and write in, with a pen, "second parent," and only with the permission of Romney's office.

One of two video clips that Waas has now uploaded to YouTube shows Romney speaking to conservative voters in South Carolina in 2005, as he was testing the waters for a presidential bid, discussing his battle with the Registry of Vital Statistics and Records regarding the birth certificate forms. Romney distorted the Registry of Vital Statistics' plan, which was to change the labeling of boxes on the forms from "father" and "mother" to "father or second parent" and "mother or second parent." He claimed the plan was to change the form to have "Parent A" and Parent B" boxes, when, as the documents Waas obtained show, those terms were not in fact used:

Today, same-sex couples are marrying, under the law, in Massachusetts. Some gays are actually having children born to them. We've been asked to remove the phrase "mother" and "father" and replace it with "parent A" and "parent B." It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact. Every child has the right to have a mother and father.

The second clip, from C-SPAN, includes footage of Romney speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., a few months earlier (at the 6:11 mark). In that clip he speaks about child development:

The children of America have the right to have a mother and a father. Of course, even today circumstances can take a parent from the home, but the child still has a mother and a father. If the parents are unmarried or divorced, the child can still visit each of them. If a mother or a father of a child is deceased, the child can learn about the qualities of their departed parent. His or her psychological features can be developed by the contrasting features of both genders. Are we ready to usher in a society indifferent about having mothers and fathers? Will our children be indifferent about a having a mother and father?"

Romney outlined his battle with the Registry of Vital Statistics to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding changing the birth certificate forms. He defended his position to the Judiciary Committee (and again claimed it was about changing the form to include boxes labeled "parent A" and "parent B" when that was not the case) even as a Massachusetts Department of Health attorney warned that it didn't conform to legal statues and could disadvantage the children later in life, impeding their ability to apply for school and get passports, drivers licenses or other forms of identification, particularly in a post-9/11 world where they might be viewed as security risks with altered birth certificates.

In 2006 Romney went on to stop the publication of an anti-bullying guide for public school students, because the term "bisexual'' and "transgender'' were used in a passage discussing harassment against students. These and other actions were a stark turnaround from when Romney had, in his Senate run in 1994, told gay activists that he was better on gay issues than Ted Kennedy, claiming to support an array of rights for gays and saying that his voice would have more weight on the issue than Kennedy's.

What seems clear now, looking at Romney's record, in which he made a lot of promises to gays in those early years but never delivered, is that the pandering he did was to gay activists and the voters of Massachusetts, as the devout Mormon used that state as a stepping stone to the presidency. The real Romney is the guy who actually delivered to cultural conservatives and sought to harm the children of gay couples, and who is now running for president with the backing of those very same religious extremists.

Also on The Huffington Post:

Romney: 'Some Gays Are Actually Having Children. It's Not Right on Paper. It's Not Right in Fact.'

Michelangelo Signorile   |   October 26, 2012    8:53 AM ET

We've witnessed many Mitt Romneys, but the one unearthed by the Boston Globe's Murray Waas yesterday is perhaps the most vicious and cruel: a zealot who, as Massachusetts governor, became hellbent on stigmatizing the children of gay and lesbian parents, labeling these kids as outcasts and causing them to suffer hardship throughout their lives.

Waas reveals how, after gays and lesbians in Massachusetts won the right to marry in 2003, Governor Romney wouldn't allow the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics to revise birth certificate forms for babies born to same-sex couples. The plan was to have the box for "father," for example, relabeled "father or second parent." But according to documents obtained by Waas, Romney rejected the plan, demanding the agency continue using old forms. Romney then demanded hospitals get permission from his office each time a child was born to a same sex-couple in order to cross out, with a pen, the label "father" or "mother," and write-in, with a pen, "second parent." (Romney also required gay male parents to get a court order before any birth certificate was issued.)

Those children would then go through life with birth certificates that marked them as strange, abnormal, less than everyone else, punished because Romney didn't approve of their parents. As a Department of Health attorney warned Romney, the children would be disadvantaged and would have trouble applying to school or getting drivers licenses as adults, particularly in a post-9/11 world where they might be considered security risks, having birth certificates that appeared altered. It was a "violation of existing statutes," the attorney warned Romney. But Romney waved off the warnings, not caring about the the legal, psychological or personal ramifications.

Romney hadn't even previously fathomed that gay people had children. Boston Spirit magazine reported last month that when gay activists met with him in his office in 2004, as Romney was backing a failed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the state, Romney remarked, "I didn't know you had families." Julie Goodridge, lead plaintiff in the landmark case that won marriage rights for gays and lesbians before the Supreme Judicial Court, asked what she should tell her 8-year-old daughter about why the governor would block the marriage of her parents. According to Goodridge, Romney responded,"I don't really care what you tell your adopted daughter. Why don't you just tell her the same thing you've been telling her the last eight years."

Romney's retort enraged a speechless Goodridge; he didn't care, and by referring to her biological daughter as "adopted," it was clear he hadn't even been listening. By the time she was back in the hallway, she was reduced to tears. "I really kind of lost it," says Goodridge. "I've never stood before someone who had no capacity for empathy."

Months after his battle with the Registry of Vital Records began, as Waas reports in the Globe, Romney spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington:

He outlined his misgivings about the request from the Registry of Vital Records. "The children of America have the right to have a father and a mother,'' Romney said in his prepared remarks. "What should be the ideal for raising a child? Not a village, not 'parent A' and 'parent B,' but a mother and a father.'' Romney also warned about the societal impact of gay parents raising children. "Scientific studies of children raised by same-sex couples are almost nonexistent,'' he said. "It may affect the development of children and thereby future society as a whole.''

The following year, 2005, Romney spoke to conservative voters in South Carolina, as he trained his eye on the presidency. "Some gays are actually having children born to them,'' he said. "It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact. Every child has a right to a mother and father.''

Does it really matter whether his actions and statements were motivated by Romney's authoritarian Mormon faith or were a pander to evangelicals as he sought the presidency, or both? That he could be so zealous, cold-hearted and cruel should alarm everyone about the prospect of Mitt Romney becoming president.

Also on The Huffington Post:

Reading the Pictures: No, Everyone DOESN'T Do It: Why WaPo's Defense of Ryan's Soup Kitchen Photo Op Is Dead Wrong

Michael Shaw   |   October 19, 2012    9:20 AM ET

In the Washington Post "Reliable Source" blog yesterday morning, the authors make the point ("Political photo ops: From Reagan to Paul Ryan, the game every candidate plays") that Paul Ryan's photo at a soup kitchen last weekend was nothing more then par for the course. In their minds, the Ryan campaign manipulating its way into a charity's kitchen after the meal was over and washing already clean dishes was hardly different from images of Clinton jogging, or Bush clearing brush on his Texas ranch, or Obama shooting hoops or Reagan sitting on a horse.

Well, I can understand the media wanting to absolve itself of responsibility in enabling the Ryan photo op and distributing the pictures, as we detailed last week, but in this case (pardon the pun), these comparisons don't wash. (A ka-ching, however, for accompanying the article with a photo-op slideshow as click bait.)

"Reliable Source" asks:

Were you shocked to learn those photos of Paul Ryan washing dishes at a soup kitchen were basically staged? The VP candidate got blowback this week from the charity president, who claimed the campaign "ramrodded" its way into a dining hall that wasn't even serving at the time. But if it had been, would the photo op have been much less fakey-fake?

Well, for starters, that first line is a straw man since I doubt anything a politician does from a persuasive standpoint (including lying to the American people through his or her teeth for months on end) is going to "shock" the American people. The key term in the paragraph, though, even if the authors put quotes around it, is ramrodding.

That "ramrodding" is what's in the pudding that can't be scrubbed away, no matter how much Sno-ee you pour on it. Now, if Ron and Nancy had helped themselves to those horses and then trespassed on private land after talking their way past some lowly groundskeeper, then we'd be talking.

Horses and basketball aside, though, let's take an even stronger example. When Bush, the war hawk, landed on an aircraft carrier in a fighter plane to show off his (and America's) bulge, or later, hang up a banner on another carrier declaring "Mission Accomplished," those were photo ops too, ones that carried deadly implications for the future of the country. But you know what? It was clear, even in those instances, that Bush was spinning, that he was putting on a show.

The thing is, and here's where Ryan's judgement and Ryan's performance went so wrong: in a photo op, there is a clear understanding between the politician and the photographer, the photo editor, the publisher and, ultimately, the citizen that the image is theater -- and that, in the production of that theater or impressionistic bit of character fiction, basic reality wasn't tampered with and no animals were harmed.

Why the soup kitchen case is so egregious, on the other hand, is because Ryan fully and willfully expected the audience consuming the imagery to believe that a homeless dinner was going on or, at least, an official cleanup of that dinner was in progress, signifying that Ryan was -- in contrast to sitting on a horse or running laps around the White House -- actually participating in a public, humanitarian ritual. In contrast to Reagan and the rest, this was not theater, it was Ryan manipulating our trust in the underlying reality of the situation in a not just personal and private, but a "civic deception."

And in terms of "do no harm"?

Ryan not only fabricated the circumstances, but in doing so, he put in jeopardy the integrity, the credibility and the responsibility of not just the people associated with that charity, but (hello, Reliable Source!) every journalist, photojournalist and media organization aware of the deceit but expected to play along.

I'm so sorry it's Washington's premier news institution that forces me to have to spell this out in such frank terms, but the Ryan photo-op was much less theater than it was fraud.

BagNewsNotes: Today's media images analyzed. Topping's 2011 Best Photo Blogs, follow us at BAG Twitter and BAG Facebook.
(photo: Michael Evans / AP.  caption: Vigor: Exhibiting a vigorous lifestyle, Ronald and Nancy Reagan go for a ride on horseback at their ranch, Rancho del Cielo, near Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1969. At the time, Reagan was governor of California, but he also was a national presence among conservatives in the Republican Party. Reagan maintained his vibrant image and won the GOP's nomination and the presidency in 1980, at age 69. photo 2: Alex Moe/@alexNBCnews - Instagram)

CAPTION CONTEST: Paul Ryan Shows Off His iPhone

Ethan Klapper   |   October 5, 2012    9:56 AM ET

MItt Romney and Paul Ryan held a large rally on Thursday evening in Fishersville, Va. At the rally, the National Rifle Association endorsed the ticket. Ryan took the opportunity to show off his camouflage iPhone case, a case he's known to talk about:

paul ryan iphone
(Photo credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Send us your best caption for this photo, either by tweeting one using the #RyanPhotoCaptions hashtag or by leaving an idea in the comments section. Here are some of our favorites:

Why Does Paul Ryan Have a Debate Coach Who Promotes 'Anti-American' Values?

Michelangelo Signorile   |   October 1, 2012    9:55 AM ET

Former Bush solicitor general Ted Olson is viewed by social conservatives as a vile turncoat. And as early as this week, they may be pointing to him as the man who brought on what Todd Akin calls the end of civilization.

That's because in a matter of hours, days or weeks the Supreme Court may decide to let stand the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that California's Prop 8 is unconstitutional, and gay and lesbian weddings in the country's most-populated state will begin again. Or the Court will take the challenge, in which case Olson may argue it should throw out gay marriage bans across the country, something Justice Kennedy could help ensure the Court does.

Meanwhile, this destroyer of civilization is spending a lot of time with none other than Paul Ryan. Olson had been tapped by the Romney campaign to play Joe Biden in mock debates, helping Ryan to prep for his debate with the vice president, a fact that didn't sit well with social conservatives, judging from the comments on conservative sites. Apparently, Olson and Ryan have done three sessions and it looks like they're going to debate camp together.

Rather than being shunned as a pariah, as surely the National Organization for Marriage would hope, Olson is instead valued by the Republican presidential candidate. By tapping him, the Romney campaign, no matter its odious position on gay marriage or the GOP platform's, acknowledges that a person can be a trusted conservative in good standing and still not only be in favor of same-sex marriage, but actually be among the primary figures fighting to make it legal for all American citizens.

That's not to mention that Olson has Ryan's ear in their downtime and could poison him with his radical ideas on gay equality. And already Ryan has been far too inconsistent for social conservatives' tastes on these issues, as the Romney campaign continues to scramble amid falling poll numbers. Last week Ryan said that reversing the repeal of the ban on gay soldiers serving openly in the military was "a step in the wrong direction." Really? This is a man who twice voted against repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." If you truly believe allowing gay soldiers to serve openly will destroy the military, then, like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, you'd believe that just because it hasn't happened after one year doesn't mean it's not going to happen in 20 years -- the way, according to Perkins, no-fault divorce supposedly took 20 years to destroy families.

After social conservatives lit up with expressions of disappointment and condemnation, Ryan, the very next day, got in line with the Republican Party platform plank on gay marriage and the man who wrote it -- Tony Perkins -- and gratuitously told an audience in Ohio that "traditional marriage" and "the family" are "American values, these are universal human values." The implication, of course, is that gay marriage is anti-American, but his statement was pretty weak, with Ryan speaking in code rather than directly condemning gay marriage -- much like the references to marriage at the Republican convention.

It surely isn't happening in this election cycle and may not happen in the next one, but Republicans could be reaching the end of the line on gay marriage, and some conservative activists are even beginning to admit it.

Longtime conservative Catholic activist, Deal Hudson, in an article about Ralph Reed's attempt to galvanize the Christian right base for the election, told the New York Times that same-sex marriage "doesn't raise the temperature of the bulk of the Catholic Mass-going voters," and that "attitudes about homosexuals have changed so much over the last several years." Indeed, support for Obama is surging among Catholics, a majority of whom now support marriage equality. And polls show younger generations of evangelicals support marriage equality, as well.

That's, of course, not because of the GOP, but very much due to the efforts of gay activists and progressives who hounded Democrats and the president into not being afraid of the issue, and into taking the lead and helping to push public opinion further. If President Obama wins after he and the Democrats finally moved to support marriage equality, 2012 will have been a watershed.

Correction on Oct 1 at 8:31pm ET: An earlier version of this blog omitted the words "the repeal" from the phrase "Last week Ryan said that reversing the repeal of the ban on gay soldiers serving openly in the military was "a step in the wrong direction."

  |   September 29, 2012    1:00 PM ET

The conventional wisdom on Obama’s recent surge is that it’s due largely to Mitt Romney’s 47% disaster, and there’s clearly something to this. If nothing else, it’s given Team Obama grist for an absolutely devastating ad.

Romney In Conversation With His Speech Coach On Gay Issues

Allison Hope   |   September 25, 2012    4:52 PM ET

Speech coach: When you're finished with your cottage cheese, we can get started.

Romney: Can't rush the lumpy, creamy goodness. Cheese curd is a miracle of God.

Speech coach: I think it's a miracle that people don't get sick from sour milk products, but I'm not sure where God comes into play. We're close to needing divine intervention with this election, though.

Romney: Some people add strawberries or pineapple, but I like it plain. That's 'cause I'm a real man.

Speech coach: We have very little time before the first debate, and you've got a long way to go. You need to appeal to the gay vote if you're going to have a chance to win this thing, and we need to train you to sell that.

Romney: I'll bet Obama adds fruit to his cottage cheese. He probably likes mangoes or something Muslim.

Speech coach: Seriously, Mitt?

Romney: I'm the next leader of the free world!

Speech coach: Not if you don't put as much passion into practicing your debate answers as you do your sour-milk breakfast curd.

Romney: OK, I'm ready. Sock it to me.

Speech coach: OK. I'm the debate moderator. Remember, before we get started, facial expressions count. So do the words you say. Mr. Romney, what's your stance on gay marriage?

Romney: I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Speech coach: Do you remember that whole meeting we had yesterday? We all agreed that public opinion is now in favor of same-sex marriage, and you need to ease your position over a little to capture those moderate voters.

Romney: I thought that meeting was about the lunch menu. I only went because I'd really like to get Cornish hen included next week. With those little caramelized carrots. Damn, I love those little carrots. Can't stand the big ones, though. Strangest phenomenon.

Speech coach: Focus. Please.

Romney: Silly wabbit. Gays don't have kids.

Speech coach: Governor, please answer the question. What's your stance on gay marriage?

Romney: I believe that gays can get married if they're good-looking. Two men holding hands is already disgusting. Two ugly men holding hands is truly an abomination.

Speech coach: OK, that's better. Next question: Governor, you've been very clear on your thoughts around same-sex equality. Why the change?

Romney: Because I'm a goddamn flip-flopper!

Speech coach: Don't forget that everything is on the record.

Romney: Ha, ha, just kidding. I believe that good-looking gays can now tie the knot and join the rest of us in eternal monogamous hell, because of two very nice fellas that I recently came to know. Bruce and Larry moved in next door to us last month, and they hung a rainbow flag from their porch. Once I learned that they were not widowed brothers keeping one another company but were instead living in sin, I was ready to go introduce myself with my rifle and let them know that their kind is not welcome in our neighborhood. Just as I was leaving my house, there was a knock at the door. Who was it but ol' Bruce and Larry in their little cutoff shorts and tight tanks, holding a container covered with aluminum foil! Personally, I think real men should wear tighty whities and pants at least one size larger to let the boys breathe. Good for the sperm count. Anywho, I was intrigued enough to put the gun down and open the door. Bruce and Larry, or Lucy, as I now fondly call them, found out that I lived next door and that I loved cottage cheese. Wouldn't you know, they brought me a giant tub of cottage cheese! I grabbed the tub, fired off a warning bullet, and slammed the door in their faces, but as I sat there spooning the curd into my hungry mouth, a strange feeling crept into my heart. Gratitude, maybe? I decided that from that day on, I would let the gays marry.

Speech coach: Oh, Mitt. That's a moving story. Well done.

Romney: Want me to tell the story about how I changed my mind on abortion?

  |   September 25, 2012   10:48 AM ET

* Ryan has not swayed many independent voters

* Just over half of registered voters have heard of Ryan

* Obama has 6-point lead in nationwide poll

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate has done little to attract voters to the Republican ticket and more think he is not qualified to be president than believe he is ready for the White House, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said on Monday.

Fewer than a third of registered voters, 29 percent, said the selection of Ryan made them feel more favorable toward Romney. But with 27 percent in the online poll saying it made them feel less favorable, Ryan's place on the ticket may have little effect on the Nov. 6 election.

The results were largely split along party lines - with 46 percent of Democrats saying Ryan's choice made them less favorable, compared with 8 percent who said the opposite. And 56 percent of Republicans felt more favorable, versus 6 percent.

But Ryan has not swayed many political independents, the voters expected to play a decisive role in the election. Eighteen percent felt more favorable and 13 percent less so.

"Overall, he doesn't really appear to be impacting the top of the ticket much," Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said. "He's still a bit of an unknown entity."

The survey was conducted Sept. 20-24, a time when some Republican commentators have been pressing Romney's campaign to do more to promote Ryan, who is seen as a proponent of big fiscal ideas, like a plan to overhaul the government Medicare health insurance program for retirees.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that some conservatives think Romney's campaign has been too cautious by avoiding Ryan's big ideas and hoping that President Barack Obama will defeat himself.

Polls have given Obama a steady nationwide lead over Romney since the Democratic convention early this month. The Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll on Monday had Obama leading by 49 percent to 43 percent for Romney among likely voters.

"Obama's now been healthfully in the lead since the convention. If he can sustain this for another 45 days, it's done," Clark said.


Forty-four percent of registered voters think Ryan is not qualified to be president, compared with 29 percent who feel he would be ready to step into Romney's shoes if necessary, the survey found.

A larger percentage thought that Joe Biden, 69, the incumbent Democratic vice president, is ready for the Oval Office. Biden led 43 percent to 36 percent, thanks to huge support among Democrats.

But more Democrats had faith in Biden, a former Delaware senator who is well-known as the incumbent, than Republicans had in the 42-year-old Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman who is chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee.

Among Democrats, 74 percent said Biden was more qualified, versus 8 percent who chose Ryan and 18 percent who did not know. Seventy percent of Republicans favored Ryan, compared with 13 percent for Biden and 18 percent who did not know.

The numbers were even among independents, with 30 percent each for Biden and Ryan, and 40 percent who did not know.

More registered voters have heard of Ryan than before Romney selected him, but he still falls short in national name recognition. Only 56 percent of registered voters said they were familiar with Ryan, versus mid-August's 35 percent.

Their opinions of him are split evenly. Forty-nine percent view Ryan favorably, versus 51 percent who don't, divided largely along party lines. Among independents, 48 percent view him favorably and 52 percent don't, the poll showed.

The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of 3.1 percentage points for the 1,313 registered voters surveyed and 3.5 percentage points for the 1,095 likely voters.

(Editing by Fred Barbash and Eric Beech)

The Romney-Ryan Budget: Who Are the Real Moochers in Their Medicaid Scheme?

Terry O'Neill   |   September 25, 2012    8:28 AM ET

This is Part 4 in a series. Find previous parts here .

The more I read about the projected impact of the Romney-Ryan budget proposal, and the more the GOP candidates talk about their plans for the economic future of this country and its people, the more anxious -- and angry -- I grow.

The topic for this fourth part of my series on the Romney-Ryan budget is Medicaid; but first, I can't emphasize enough: We now have overwhelming evidence demonstrating just how out-of-touch Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is with the hard-working and struggling people of this country. In a frank moment shared with deep-pocketed donors, Romney dismissed nearly half -- 47 percent -- of U.S. voters as beholden to Barack Obama because the president is financing their "dependent" lifestyle.

Romney doesn't seem to care if the government takes taxes out of every paycheck you earn; when you sit down to do your income taxes each year, if your wages are sufficiently modest that the bottom of your 1040 doesn't have a number in the "amount you owe" box, then you must be some kind of freeloader. Never mind the payroll, state, property, sales and other taxes you pay. Never mind that the right-wing is always arguing that folks should keep more of the money they earn. Never mind that conservatives have long said that taxes are bad. Now it's the low- and moderate-income people who don't pay enough taxes that are bad.

In Romney's world, and the world of his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, a large group of people have supposedly decided they would rather be "victims" than "take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Romney's would-be spongers include teachers, child care workers, waitresses, home health care workers, grocery store cashiers, social workers, police officers, firefighters and many others who, as Nicholas Kristof said, "have contributed far more meaningfully to America than some who can shell out $50,000 to attend a fund-raiser like the one where Romney spoke in May."

In the estimation of the Romney-Ryan campaign and the radical fringe who have taken control of the Republican Party, this country is afflicted with millions of lazy people who want to sponge off the hard work of the righteous. They are not underpaid and underemployed people doing the best they can to care for themselves and their families, in need of a hand up before they sink down even further. Nope -- they are selfish moochers.

And in case you need to be reminded who the most selfish of all moochers are, well Romney is only too happy to tell you. One of his ads that ran in heavy rotation this summer stated: "Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you a welfare check. And welfare-to-work goes back to being plain old welfare." That's right -- low-income moms, disproportionately women of color, are the villains in this decades-old, deceitful and divisive ploy to win party allegiance and votes.

It's this kind of thinking that allows Romney and Ryan to initiate such a reckless attack on Medicaid. If the people you're hurting with your policies are blameworthy -- irresponsible loafers and swindlers who think they're entitled to health care, food, housing, you name it -- then it's ok to punish them, right?

But the world is not the simplistic, producers-and-moochers fantasy promoted by Ryan's hero, author Ayn Rand. (It's worth noting that most people outgrow their black-and-white worldview not long after middle school; Paul Ryan's continuing devotion to it tells us just how shallow his economic thinking is.) The real world is complex and gray, and the people who would suffer under the Romney-Ryan budget are living, breathing human beings, not caricatured cardboard cut-outs.

Before we assess what would happen to Medicaid under Romney-Ryan, let's look at how it works right now. Medicaid is a health care program for the most vulnerable among us, jointly funded by the federal government and the states, with no middle guy/insurance company to add an extra layer of costs. Each state administers its own program, so no two states have exactly the same plan. This means there is a fair amount of flexibility from state to state as to who is eligible for benefits. But federal law does determine a minimum level of coverage that must be met, constructing a floor under which the states must not drop.

And just who does Medicaid serve? It shouldn't surprise you to learn that it's mostly women and children. The National Women's Law Center recently reported that the poverty rate for women is now 14.6 percent, compared with 10.9 percent for men. In other words, more than one in seven women live in poverty in the U.S., and, shamefully, an astounding one in four women of color live in poverty. Today, some 50 million of these women and their children get health care through Medicaid. By 2014, thanks to Obamacare, as many as 10 million more will become eligible, too.

More than half of all poor children in this country live in households headed by women. Medicaid means that millions of low-income moms don't have to choose between a doctor's appointment for a child versus food for the family. And it provides essential prenatal and postpartum care for pregnant women. Astonishing as it might sound, Medicaid covers almost half of all childbirths in the U.S. -- resulting in healthier mothers and healthier babies.

In middle-class families, many children with acute illness or disabilities receive desperately needed health care through Medicaid. Our allies at MomsRising have collected countless stories from women who have been in this position.

Here's Jennifer's story:

When my daughter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at 15 months of age, I had to quit my job to take care of her while she received chemotherapy and IV meds literally around the clock as an inpatient. Due to the loss of my income our family could no longer afford to pay for insurance for all of us so we applied to Medicaid for my daughter. Medicaid saved us financially, and covered LIFE SAVING chemotherapy medication that our insurance would not have covered anyway. My daughter is now over 4 years old and thriving.

Sounds like a real deadbeat, huh?

Women with disabilities also rely on Medicaid to help pay for their own health care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, half of women under 65 with permanent mental or physical disabilities have Medicaid coverage.

In their retirement years, women's health care expenses go up more than men's, but after a lifetime of unequal pay, they have less savings, less Social Security and less retirement income to cover their needs. For them, Medicaid often picks up where Medicare leaves off. Remember our retired friend Linda and her daughter Emily? Linda relies on her state's Medicaid program to help pay the balance of her doctors' bills and prescriptions, and she is greatly relieved to know that Emily doesn't have to deplete her own savings to help with these costs.

One day, if Linda needs more care than her daughter can provide, Medicaid will help pay for her to stay in a nursing facility. A long-term care facility is not cheap -- most people in this country could not afford such care on their own, nor could their family members afford to foot the bill without quickly compromising their own financial stability. Because of this virtually inescapable reality, roughly half of all Medicaid dollars go toward nursing homes. But don't worry. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are going to put these layabouts in their place.

The Romney-Ryan budget plan "block grants" Medicaid, meaning the federal government would send a set amount to the states each year, after which they're on their own. There would be no more minimum requirements for coverage, no floor below which the states cannot descend. It wouldn't matter how sick eligible people become, or how much they need home health care or nursing home care. Because for Romney and Ryan, it's not about health, it's about the money. According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis "federal spending for Medicaid would be 35 percent lower in 2022 and 49 percent lower in 2030 than currently projected federal spending." That's how they measure success.

With less money coming from the federal government, states would either make up the difference themselves, which seems highly unlikely considering how hard-hit the states have been in this economic downturn, or drastically cut benefits, the most likely outcome. Under the block grant scheme, "between 14 million and 27 million fewer people would be covered in 2021 than under Medicaid as it currently exists," according to an analysis by the Urban Institute.

Additionally, Romney-Ryan would repeal Obamacare, including its expansion of Medicaid to cover people making less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level. As estimated by the CBO, this would push an additional 11 million people back into the ranks of those without access to health coverage.

What do Romney and Ryan think all these people are going to do? Do they really think that millions of people just need a swift kick to get them raking in the bucks? That denying health care to poor women will magically make them find better-paying jobs, build up hefty savings accounts after years of working at minimum wage, or prevent their children from developing disabilities? How many more people would have to fall into poverty and die too soon before this ridiculous experiment would be considered an utter failure?

I think that if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were to answer those questions honestly -- despite their reputations as Governor Etch-a-Sketch and Lyin' Paul Ryan -- they would admit that their agenda is pretty simple: reward their fat cat supporters with more advantages, riches and privilege; punish anyone who didn't get the opportunities or breaks in life that they did; and turn to Ayn Rand's shaming and blaming rhetoric as justification for it all. Sounds like the real moochers in this scenario are the ones looting Medicaid.

How much worse could the Romney-Ryan budget plan get? Stay tuned...

Opportunity Lost

Abby Huntsman   |   September 24, 2012    8:45 AM ET

Well America, here we are -- with early voting having already started and final debates and final arguments around the corner. We now sit with deep anticipation as to who will hold the reigns as our President and Leader of the Free World. It seems like it has been an eternity, filled with the ups and downs that are predictable in modern day elections. What started as a "clown show" to many is now down to a choice between two men -- one Republican, one Democrat.

Looking back at the primary season, fueled with so much hyperbole, negativity and empty rhetoric all aimed to appease a red-meat-loving base, our nation missed a generational opportunity to force a real discussion early on about the issues most salient for the next generation. A year later we are no smarter, no wiser.

We all hoped that once the Republican Party had a nominee, the conversation would pivot away from tit-for-tat entertainment and back toward a substantive debate so needed at this time in our country's history. With one war abroad (yes, I feel it's important enough to mention), a messy Middle East, a crushing mountain of debt and millions still unable to find work, we're in desperate need of an honest conversation. Perhaps at no other time since the 1860's and the 1940's has our nation been so ready for a generational conversation about what is being handed down to the next generation. How did we get here? What are we doing right now to solve these issues? And what's the actual plan going forward to make sure we come back stronger and more competitive than ever?

Unfortunately for all of us, the months since Romney locked up the nomination in May have been filled with political theatre. The news cycle was driven by the latest gaffe to roll off each candidate's tongue (remember Obama telling us "the private sector is doing just fine," and Romney insulting the British during his trip to the Olympics?). We were then left with the summer winding down, and all eyes focused on the "Veep Stakes" and the forthcoming conventions. Mr. Ryan was chosen with great hype and a hope that substance would be infused into the conversation, but as with all VP candidates, his luster only lasted for a few weeks. And while the DNC was generally viewed as having the stronger message, I'd say the conventions did more for Clint Eastwood's comedy career and Bill Clinton's popularity numbers than it did for the candidates themselves.

I've been waiting and waiting for that moment when we all "get serious." When the candidates let down their guards and square with all of us about how they're going to lead this nation. It's hard to imagine the same lack of focus under Lincoln in the '60s or under Roosevelt in the '30s and '40s. Romney can tell us the Obama administration is a train wreck and that he's going to create "millions of jobs," and conversely Obama can talk about Romney's plan to "destroy the middle class," but in the end these statements are meaningless. Neither one will talk specifics or speak to a long-term vision Americans can embrace. Today's politics is motivated by hatred and division and not by ideas and a vision. Speaking for my generation, the group most impacted by the outcome of this election (who's going to pay that debt after all?), we want to hear real ideas about the shape of things to come. We can't keep kicking the can down the road on debt and spending and expect the inherent structural issues in our economy to fix themselves. Hello! We're looking for leadership, which may require one going against the "orthodoxy" of ones political base.

So, even though this will be the most expensive election ever run, we will remain among the least informed voters. Many might blame the media's focus on the daily drama, but in the end, the candidates are required to drive the conversation. If they and their campaigns choose to focus on the nonsense of the day, there's no possible way that big picture issues will be able to break through. While there is some time left, including four (if you count the VP) heavily anticipated debates, I'm still hopeful that the transcendent issues of my generation will break though. Sadly however, if the status quo prevails, the eventual loser will be confined to the dustbin of history and our problems will remain unaddressed. And we'll all reflect back and realize this election was indeed historic, because of the generational opportunity lost.