Obama to Meet with CEOs to Discuss Economy

The White House/Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- After taking his jobs push on the road Thursday, the president will spend Friday at the White House focusing on the struggling economy and football.

Friday afternoon, President Obama will meet with business leaders and CEOs at the White House to talk about the nation's economy.  It is not yet known who will be attending the meeting, which is closed to the press.

Later in the day, the president will welcome the Green Bay Packers to the White House to honor their Super Bowl victory.  Obama will also continue his tradition of recognizing the team’s work off the field and their contributions to the community.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


David Axelrod: Rick Perry Has a ‘Record of Decimation’

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Although Texas Gov. Rick Perry has made it clear that his 2012 presidential campaign will focus on his state’s record of job growth -- Texas created more jobs than any other state since the recession -- the Obama campaign’s top political strategist says the record isn't all it's pictured to be.

“When you examine the entire record what’s happened to education in that state, what’s happened to health care in that state, it’s a record of decimation not of progress,” David Axelrod told ABC's chief political correspondent, George Stephanopoulos, Friday.

“I don’t think the picture of Texas is what people want for the country when you look at the whole array of things that happened there,” he said.

Texas’ record of job creation has more to do with profits from the oil industry, a growing military and receiving aid from the Recovery Act, according to Axelrod.

The Obama advisor spoke to Stephanopoulos from Ames, Iowa where he was keeping a close eye on the other debate amongst the other eight candidates.  He refused to bite when asked who won and instead painted the Republicans on stage as catering to the Tea Party.

“The most stunning thing was that moment when the moderators asked all the candidates would they accept an approach to the deficits, to the debt that would include 10 parts cuts and one part raising revenues and they all raised their hands and said ‘no,’” Axelrod said.  “And really what they were doing was pledging allegiance to the Tea Party.”

And as for the question Republicans and even some Democrats have been asking the Obama administration -- should the president cancel his upcoming vacation in order to deal with the troubled economy?

Axelrod doesn’t think so.

“The president is going to be working on this problem until we get some action from the Congress and, you know, he is going to be with his family but he is going to be working on these issues.  And I don’t think people begrudge him that,” he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ames Straw Poll: A Test of Strength or Much Ado About Nothing?

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(AMES, Iowa) -- A petting zoo, barbecue, pizza, Randy Travis and Dairy Queen blizzards.  It might sound like a party, but the festivities this Saturday in the college town of Ames in north-central Iowa are all about control of the party -- the Republican Party.

If the Masters golf tournament is a tradition unlike any other, then the Ames straw poll is an event unlike any other.  Thursday night brought the second major debate of the Republican presidential contest.  And on Saturday, presidential candidates will try to lure supporters from all over Iowa to come to Ames on a weekend in early August to cast a vote for them in an event that some see as a crucial test of political strength, but others dismiss as much ado about nothing.

Beauty, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder, and this year, with the fight for the GOP presidential nomination heating up -- especially after the debate in Ames -- three candidates appear to stand out.

Michele Bachmann, a congresswoman from Minnesota, comes to Ames as the Republican frontrunner.  She has surged up the polls in recent months, bolstered by a passionate group of supporters.  She has overcome controversy over her migraines and an unflattering -- and some say unfair -- cover on the latest issue of Newsweek.  Through it all, she has drawn massive crowds across the Hawkeye State, at times seeming more like a rock star than a politician.

Tim Pawlenty, another Minnesota native who served two terms as governor of that state, comes to Ames as the underdog.  Despite a finely tuned campaign organization, his poll numbers have been dismal.  Rather than trying to excite voters with Bachmann's fiery rallies and hyped-up style, Pawlenty has opted for a more subdued, measured approach, attempting to win their support by calmly emphasizing his experience and steady demeanor.

Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas, comes to Ames as the outsider.  While in the past the longtime lawmaker has been dismissed as a libertarian who has gained fervent supporters but little mainstream traction, he hopes to see a boost this weekend, thanks to his predictions on the economy.  In 2007, he finished fifth in Ames, but this time around, with the economy still reeling from recession, voters may be swayed by the fact that Paul predicted economic troubles four years ago.

The thing is, warn the pundits, victory in Ames is as much about the strength of one's organization -- transporting people to the event from all over the state on a weekend summer day so they will vote for you -- as it is about the strength of one's support.

"While I think poll numbers have been driven by media appearances and hype surrounding certain campaigns and candidates, this is an organizational test, so can you actually get the people who like you and respond to your message to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Ames and cast a vote for you?" said Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican.

That is why, Robinson believes, an upset could be brewing on Saturday.

"Bachmann has a lot of passionate supporters, but the one thing her campaign doesn't have is that strong grass-roots organization that can actually mobilize people to Ames," he said.  "So on the one hand you have Bachmann who has very passionate supporters and on the other hand you have a Pawlenty organization or even a Paul organization that's been working to turn out voters for this event for months now."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty Take Gloves Off at Iowa Debate

Comstock/Thinkstock(AMES, Iowa) -- The fierce battle between Republican presidential candidates Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann that has been waged at separate campaign stops across Iowa this week came to a head on Thursday when the two met for the first time on a debate stage here.

Though they joined six of their fellow rivals, including frontrunner Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, who made his debate debut, the sparring between the two Minnesotans was so intense that, at times, it seemed like the two-hour exchange was a one-on-one between them.

Bachmann and Pawlenty, who are both competing in Saturday’s Ames Straw Poll, a crucial test of organizational support, have the most at stake in this state. And they wasted little time in attacking each other in an effort to gain the upper hand heading into this weekend.

Pawlenty did not back off the frequent criticism of Bachmann he deploys in his campaign stump speeches, saying that she does not have enough executive experience to be president and no record of accomplishment in Congress.

For her part, Bachmann said that Pawlenty’s record as governor of Minnesota “sounds a lot more like Barack Obama, if you ask me.”

At one point, she turned toward Pawlenty, accusing him on implementing a cap-and-trade energy policy, a government-mandated health insurance plan and of falling short of his promise to shrink the size of government. Pawlenty shook his head as she spoke.

“I’m really surprised that Congresswoman Bachmann would say those things,” he fired back. “She has a record of misstating and making false statements.”

Turning Bachmann’s frequently-used line -- that she has a “titanium spine” -- against her, Pawlenty said, “It’s not her spine we’re worried about. It’s her record of results.”

In defending her vote for a Pawlenty-backed cigarette tax hike, Bachmann argued that the then-governor “cut a deal with special interest groups” that threatened pro-life policies.

When the candidates weren’t arguing with each other, President Obama remained public enemy number one for the contenders for the GOP nomination. They offered almost universal criticism for the debt ceiling deal he signed into law earlier this month.

"I'm not going to eat Barack Obama's dog food," Romney said, referring to the debt agreement, which raises the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. "What he served up is not what I would have as president of the United States."

The candidates gathered in Ames on the same day that advisers for soon-to-be presidential candidate Rick Perry confirmed that the Texas governor would officially enter the presidential race this weekend.

“I’m very pleased that he’s coming in because he represents the status quo,” a fellow Texan, Rep. Ron Paul, said. Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain dismissed Perry as “just one more politician.”  Huntsman said that Perry “broadens and expands this conversation about job creation.”

It wasn’t just Bachmann and Pawlenty who clashed. Rep. Ron Paul and former Senator Rick Santorum got into a lengthy back and forth regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions, with Paul arguing that Iran doesn’t pose a threat to America’s safety.

“Iran is not Iceland, Ron,” Santorum chided. “Anyone who suggests Iran is not a threat to the Middle East is not seeing the world very clearly.”

Left out of the back and forth -- and barely visible during the two-hour debate -- were the two candidates who aren’t competing in Saturday’s balloting: Romney and Huntsman. Despite Romney's standing as the national frontrunner, the other seven candidates on stage essentially avoided taking any shots at the former Massachusetts governor.  

Pawlenty tried to take an early shot at Romney’s wealth that fell flat. Given an opportunity for a do-over in his demur on “Romneycare” in June’s New Hampshire debate, Pawlenty was more pointed, but not particularly effective in his attacks on Romney’s health care record.

However, in the hours before the debate, Democrats attacked Romney for saying earlier in the day that “corporations are people.” Romney’s statement came in response to a hostile questioner who challenged his position on corporate tax rates during a speaking appearance at the Iowa State Fair.

"Corporations are people, my friend," Romney told the heckler. "Of course they are -- everything that corporations earn ultimately goes to people."

In fact, Democrats wanted to ensure that Romney didn’t get away with avoiding criticism. Of the seven “Rapid Response” emails sent out by the DNC during the debate, five specifically mentioned Romney.

Perhaps trying to limit the damage of his statement, in a response to a question about the economy, Romney noted that “capitalism is about people, not just capital.”

Even so, he repeated his call to bring corporate tax rates in line with other countries.

“If you spend your life in the private sector and you understand how jobs come and how they go,” Romney said, “you understand that what President Obama has done is the exact opposite of what needs to be done.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


As GOP Debates, Obama Raises $2.3 Million at Star-Studded NYC Fundraisers

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- With the spotlight on Iowa and Thursday night's Republican debate, President Obama traveled to New York City for two star-studded fundraisers that raised more than $2.3 million for his re-election campaign and the Democratic Party.

Obama mingled with 15 elite donors at a private reception at the Ritz Carlton in Manhattan, and later spoke at a gathering of 50 high-profile Democrats at the West Village home of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Tickets for both events were $35,800 per person, according to a Democratic official, the maximum legal contribution to both a candidate and political party combined.  All money benefits the Obama Victory Fund.

Spotted in the crowd at the Weinstein event were actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband, Coldplay singer Chris Martin; comedian Jimmy Fallon; fashion designer Vera Wang; singer Alicia Keys; and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The fundraiser was co-hosted by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, who is also one of Obama's top financiers, bundling more than $500,000 in contributions from friends and associates for his re-election effort this year.

The president, fresh off an afternoon trip to Michigan to talk about the economy, spoke about "frustrations" with Washington politics and alluded to a difficult week of economic news that included the first-ever downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and wild swings on Wall Street.

Obama invoked Martin Luther King, Jr., for whom a memorial will open on the National Mall later this month, as a poignant example of how he - and the country - can preserve through a difficult time.

"I think that we forget when he was alive there was nobody who was more vilified, nobody who was more controversial, nobody who was more despairing at times, there was a decade following the great successes of Birmingham and Selma which was just struggle," the president said.

"What he understood, what kept him going was that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. But it doesn't bend on its own... it takes time, and it is hard work and it has its frustrations."

Obama has come under increasing pressure, including from some supporters, to redouble his effort to invigorate the economy. Some critics have questioned whether the president should be fundraising at all, or headed off to Martha's Vineyard for a family vacation next week.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dismissed those criticisms Thursday, telling reporters, "I think that Americans understand that our political system functions the way it does, and that candidates have to raise money."

"I certainly expect that members of Congress are doing the same thing, as well as presidential candidates," he said.

As for the vacation, Carney has said the president believes Americans won't fault him for spending time with his family.

For his part, Weinstein told the president he'll provide some entertainment for the first family's week at the beach: a preview copy of Meryl Streep's new film Iron Lady, in which she plays Margaret Thatcher.

The Weinstein fundraiser was the 40th Obama has attended this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Goes on the Offensive: GOPs Playing Politics at Country's Expense

Pete Souza/The White House(HOLLAND, Mich.) -- In Michigan Thursday, an impassioned President Obama accused Republicans in Congress of trying to score political points “at the expense of our country” and said that the “constant bickering” in Washington was partly to blame for the nation’s slow economic recovery.

“There is nothing wrong with our country. There is something wrong with our politics,” Obama told workers at the Johnson Control Inc. advanced battery factory in Holland, Mich.

In the aftermath of the debt debate, the president told Americans that he shares their frustrations with the partisan gridlock in Washington.

“What we've seen in Washington the last few months has been the worst kind of partisanship, the worst kind of gridlock, and that gridlock has undermined public confidence and impeded our efforts to take the steps we need for our economy,” he said. “There are things we have to do to erase a legacy of debt that hangs over the economy. But time and again we've seen partisan brinksmanship get in the way, as if winning the next election is more important than fulfilling our responsibilities to you and to our country.”

Once again, Obama called on Congress to pass stalled measures that he said would help create jobs immediately, including investing in infrastructure, extending the payroll tax cuts and reforming the patent system.

But Obama admitted that “given the weakness of the economy, we need to do even more” and said that he is prepared to offer up additional proposals of his own to spur job growth and boost the economy.

“Over the coming weeks, I'm going to be putting out more proposals, week by week, that will help businesses hire and put people back to work.  And I'm going to keep at it until every single American who wants a job can find one,” he announced.

Again, the president called for a long-term plan to reduce the deficit and reiterated that both parties have to be willing to compromise. “Everybody's got to do their part.  Everybody's got to chip in. That's fair. You learn it in kindergarten,” he said. “The problem is not that we don't have answers. The problem is is that folks are playing political games.”

The president, who is set to go on vacation himself later this month, also addressed the criticism he’s received for not calling Congress back from its August recess to focus on the economy.

Instead of “spending more time arguing in D.C.,” the president, who is about to embark on a three-day Midwest bus tour, said -- not surprisingly -- that “they need to spend more time out here listening to you and hearing how fed up you are.  That's why I'm here.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Texas Gov. Rick Perry Jumps Into Presidential Race

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) -- After months of speculation and prodding by Republicans, Texas Governor Rick Perry has officially entered the 2012 race.  

Perry will deliver a speech at the gathering in Charleston, S.C., on Saturday.  The speech was originally billed as an address that would make clear his intentions regarding a run for the presidency, but now it has turned official.

The Texas governor will swing through three key early states -- South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa -- this weekend.  Following his speech in Charleston, he will meet with South Carolina Republican officials before heading to a house party in Greenland, N.H., where he will meet with Granite State voters.

Sunday, he will speak at the Black Hawk GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner Fundraiser in Waterloo, Iowa.  Earlier Thursday, Michele Bachmann, who was born in Waterloo, announced she will also speak at the dinner.

Perry, the longest-serving governor in the country, has never lost a race during his nearly three decades in public office.

The announcement from the Perry camp comes just hours before the Texas governor’s soon-to-be rivals are squaring off in a major debate in Iowa. Perry’s entrance into the race is sure to be a topic for discussion at the gathering Thursday night in Ames.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Politics of the Presidential Vacation

TOBY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- It may be August, but with Wall Street's wild mood swings and the economy stalled, should President Obama really be headed to Martha's Vineyard for vacation?

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the getaway, scheduled to begin Aug. 18.

"I don't think Americans out there would begrudge that notion that the president would spend some time with his family," Carney said.

But do we?

President George W. Bush was vacationing on his ranch in Crawford, Tex,. as Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. Bush cancelled his vacation two days later but did not see the disaster zone until four days later, flying over it on his way back to Washington. Critics say it was a tipping point for his presidency.

His father, George H.W. Bush, didn't do himself any favors in the vacation department, either. When the country was knee-deep in a recession, he was photographed cruising around on his pleasure boat off Kennebunkport, Maine, and his approval rating tumbled.

And then there was President Bill Clinton. A day after shocking the nation by admitting to an affair, he left for Martha's Vineyard, his daughter Chelsea famously walking between her parents as they were whisked away from Washington.

But the man who perfected the presidential vacation during tough times may just be President Ronald Reagan. He spent a month vacationing at his Santa Barbara ranch even though the country was in a recession. However, the White House made sure the press corps only saw him one time that entire month, and that was when he signed the Economic Recovery Act outside the ranch.

When it comes to presidential vacations, reality is often trumped by the politics of perception.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Romney Shouted Down at Fair: 'Corporations Are People Too, My Friends'

Bill Clark/Roll Call(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Mitt Romney faced down feisty fairgoers at the Iowa State Fair Thursday and he also issued an accidental one-liner destined for Democratic attack ads should he become the Republican nominee.

"Corporations are people too, my friends," he said to a man describing himself as a peacock farmer in answer to a question about corporations and tax rates.

It’s an example of what happens when a candidate decides to take questions at an unscripted campaign event -- in this case the infamous Des Moines Register Soapbox near the main gates of the fair. Hostile fairgoers planted themselves in the front row as Romney spoke and both sides got fired up.

"Hold on a second! Let me finish!" Romney said at one point.

One man demanded to know how Romney would protect Social Security and Medicare. Another asked Romney about tax rates. The candidate found himself at times yelling to interrupt the questioners.

"There was a time in this country when we didn't celebrate rich people by attacking their success," Romney fired back to a question about tax rates for the wealthy.

After disagreeing with another questioner about how to protect the solvency of Medicare and Social Security, he declared, "I will not raise taxes."

"You want to raise taxes? Great. That's your right." But Romney suggested that questioner "vote for someone else."

Before Romney took questions, he delivered a speech attacking President Obama.

"We're led by a man -- he's a fine fella -- but he's out of his depth."

"If you want to create jobs, it helps to have had a job," he said of the president.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pelosi Announces Picks for Deficit Reduction Super Committee

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has named her three choices for the select joint committee on deficit reduction.

Her choices are: Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (South Carolina), the third-ranking member of House Democratic Leadership; Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Xavier Becerra (Calif.); and Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (Maryland).

“The Joint Select Committee has a golden opportunity to take its discussions to the higher ground of America's greatness and its values.  It must meet the aspirations of the American people for success and keep America number one,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. “The work of the Congress must go beyond the deliberations of the committee. Without waiting for the committee to complete its work, we should pass legislation for sustainable job creation. Congress should send to the President the long-delayed highway and FAA bills, which generate hundreds of thousands of American jobs; and Congress should approve a national Infrastructure Bank to create jobs and improve our competitiveness.

“We must achieve a ‘grand bargain’ that reduces the deficit by addressing our entire budget, while strengthening Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  Our entire Caucus will work closely with these three appointees toward this goal, which is the goal of the American people,” she added.

Clyburn and Van Hollen served on the Vice President Biden-led talks on deficit reduction earlier this year, while Becerra previously served on the Simpson-Bowles Commission.  

The trio join fellow Democrats Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Patty Murray (co-chair, Wash.), and John Kerry (Mass.)

The Democratic picks join Republican selections Reps. Jeb Hensarling (co-chair, Texas), Dave Camp (Mich.), and Fred Upton (Mich.) and Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), and Rob Portman (Ohio).

The timing of the first meeting of the exclusive panel has not been revealed. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are scheduled to be on recess until after Labor Day, returning to legislative business on Sept. 7.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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