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CoreLogic Inc/United States
President Barack Obama resumed campaigning as his administration grappled with the aftermath of attacks on U.S. diplomatic outposts in Egypt and Libya.
Obama visited the swing state of Nevada last night on the first leg of a two-day trip. Later today, he will hold a rally in Golden, Colorado. Before leaving Washington, Obama condemned the assaults and mourned the loss of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans in Benghazi. In Las Vegas, he vowed to avenge their deaths.
“We will bring their killers to justice,” Obama told a crowd of cheering supporters. “No act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America.”
The incidents, sparked at least in part by a film about the Prophet Muhammad that is viewed as blasphemous by Muslims, overtook the economy as the main issue in the campaign as Mitt Romney attacked Obama and Democrats accused the Republican candidate of politicizing a potential foreign policy crisis.
In an interview for the CBS program “60 Minutes,” recorded earlier yesterday, Obama said Romney “didn’t have his facts right” in claiming the administration apologized to protesters. Romney has “a tendency to shoot first and aim later,” Obama said.
Romney said at a news conference in Jacksonville, Florida, that Obama’s administration set a “terrible course” when the U.S. embassy in Cairo issued a statement the Republican nominee called “akin to apology” to Egyptian protesters.
The embassy statement was posted on its website before the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo were breached and hours before the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, as the protests over the film were building.
In Las Vegas, Obama returned to his main campaign themes about the economy and taxes, laying out a contrast with Romney and asking voters for patience for the economy to fully heal.
“I don’t think the best answers for today’s new challenges are old sales pitches,” Obama said. Republicans, he said, prescribe tax cuts for all ills. “Tax cuts in good times, tax cuts in bad times. Tax cuts when we’re at peace, tax cuts when we’re at war. Tax cuts to lose those few extra pounds. Tax cuts to give your love life that extra kick.”
Nevada was one of the states hardest hit by the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009. About 61 percent of Nevada homeowners with mortgages owe more than their properties are worth, according to the real-estate data firm CoreLogic Inc. (CLGX) The unemployment rate, 12 percent in July, is the highest in the nation.
While Obama won the state with 55 percent of the vote in 2008, the battle is closer this year. Obama leads Romney by about three percentage points, according to the average of the three most recent state polls compiled by the website Real Clear Politics.
Obama’s campaign still sees openings to pull further ahead in Nevada. Housing may be one issue that the president may exploit because Romney hasn’t laid out refinancing options for homeowners and last year advocated letting the housing market “run its course and hit the bottom” in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
An Obama campaign radio ad released this week in Nevada uses that line to hit Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, on housing as well as veterans issues, saying “They’d let the housing market hit the bottom -- and Nevada’s heroes lose their homes.”
The White House has been urging the U.S. Senate to vote as soon as this week on an expansion of a government mortgage- refinancing program, which could boost Obama’s efforts to help the 11.3 million borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth.
“The central argument in this campaign is who will be a better fighter for the middle class in the White House,” said campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “While different states may have different dominant industries that we highlight such as wind energy in Iowa and Colorado and manufacturing in Ohio and Wisconsin -- the larger umbrella message is about what the President will do versus what Mitt Romney won’t do to protect the economic security of the middle class.”
Eric Herzik, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, said Obama has an advantage because Romney hasn’t been delivering specifics on his approach.
“It’s not like the Republicans have an alternative that Obama has to either tear down or find an answer for,” he said.
Herzik, who identifies himself as a Republican, said Obama also has a solid organization in the state. Obama volunteers knocked on Herzik’s door last weekend to talk about the progress the president has made over the last few years.
“The state Republican Party is in disarray,” he said.
Obama will win Nevada again this year, predicts Xu Cheng a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics, who has developed a model based solely on state-by-state economic data and past voting behavior that forecast the outcome in 2008.
Cheng, who also predicts Obama will win 303 Electoral College votes, said Nevada will break in the president’s favor because of demographics -- younger and Latino voters as well as an influx of tourism over the past two years as other states around the country have made economic gains. Pent-up demand for leisure activities has meant more tourists in Las Vegas.
“If you haven’t been going out for some time, wouldn’t you feel a bit bored,” Cheng said. “You’ll go to Las Vegas and do some gambling.”
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