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Oct 022012
 

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — Vice President Joe Biden, criticizing Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan for a plan he said will raise taxes on the middle class, instead stepped on his campaign’s message by saying the middle class has been “buried” over the last four years — the time President Obama has been in office.

“This is deadly earnest. How they can justify- – how they can justify raising taxes on the middle class that has been buried the last four years? How in the Lord’s name can they justify raising their taxes?  We’ve seen this movie before,” Biden said to a crowd of 1,000 at the Fillmore Charlotte.

The Republican National Committee and the Romney campaign quickly pounced on a statement. The RNC circulated the clip and the Romney campaign called Biden’s comments a “stunning admission.”

“Vice President Biden made a stunning admission today and we couldn’t agree more: the middle class has been ‘buried’ under the last four years of this President’s policies. Under President Obama, the middle class has suffered from crushing unemployment, rising prices and falling incomes. They can’t afford to be ‘buried’ for four more years. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will take our nation in a new direction and are offering exactly what hardworking families need — real reforms for a real recovery,” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement.

An Obama campaign official said Biden has said throughout his time on the campaign trail that the Bush administration was responsible for the burdens placed on the middle class.

“As the Vice President has been saying all year and again in his remarks today, the middle class was punished by the failed Bush policies that crashed our economy — and a vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan is a return to those failed policies.  With more than five million private-sector jobs created since 2010, the Vice President and President Obama will continue to help the middle class recover and move the nation forward,” the campaign official said.

Nearly one month after the Democratic National Convention, Biden returned to Charlotte for the first time and tried to draw a contrast between Obama and Romney’s positions on tax cuts for the middle class.  Biden swiped at the GOP ticket for not being on the same message when it comes to middle-class tax cuts, pointing to Romney’s statement at a rally in Ohio last week where he said, “I admit this, [President Obama] has one thing he did not do in his first four years — he’s said he’s going to do in the next four years, which is to raise taxes.”

“Then they come along and they say well we raised taxes on the middle class. How many times you hear Obama and Biden raise taxes on the middle class? Well even Romney had what we Catholics say is an epiphany. Romney come out and said the following. He said, ‘They have not raised taxes on the middle class.’ But apparently Paul Ryan has not gotten the memo,” Biden said to a crowd of over a thousand at the Fillmore Charlotte.  “I’m serious. They know it. The President didn’t raise taxes on the middle class. Yet, turn on the ads. We cut taxes for everyone in the middle class! Three thousand and six hundred dollars.”

Biden, who was working off a teleprompter, struggled with pinpointing a vote Ryan made, stumbling when he tried to explain how it played out.

“They still say we really urgently want to deal with it now.  Basic, I think my opponent said something like, you know, I don’t know, he said something about he has regrets or I don’t know, something he wished he hadn’t voted that way.  OK? I don’t want to, I don’t want to mis– I don’t want the press saying I misquoted him, but … he went back and said I did that but I kind of wish I didn’t, whatever,” Biden said.

Ryan has said before that he regrets certain votes on spending that he made when Republicans dominated Congress and President Bush was in office.

Biden is on his sixth trip to the battleground state of North Carolina and encouraged supporters to spread the word about voter registration, which ends Oct. 12.

“By the way, before I get started, I want to remind y’all of what you already know, but it’s worth saying again and again: the deadline to register in North Carolina is Oct. 12.  And if you’re already registered or folks that, if you’re not registered yet, there’s folks at the door literally with clipboards, our team out there, who are willing to help you get that process going,” Biden said.  “The reason we’re going to win North Carolina is we’re going to have the best ground game you’ve ever seen in this state.”

At the top of his speech, Biden apologized to the crowd for the hour delay in the event.  Air Force Two was forced to circle in the air for more than 30 minutes before landing due to bad weather.

“As the traveling press can tell you, there are some queasy stomachs on our plane,” Biden said at the start of the event. “We got off late because of weather and we got here and we had to make several passes before we landed.  That’s why we’re late, I promise you we take you seriously. Blame it on the weather.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sep 072012
 

ABC News(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — Inside the Democratic convention hall in Charlotte, N.C., this week, lobbyists and special interests took a rhetorical beating from the party that has tried to carry the mantle of Washington reform.

“If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are making it harder for you to vote,” President Obama said as he accepted his party’s nomination Thursday night.

But outside the hall, lobbyists and their friends in Congress were the toast of Charlotte, just as they had been in Tampa, Fla., during the Republican convention.

At the Mint Museum, a global art museum with a modern flair, top Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta received a steady stream of guests — senior Democratic senators, ranking members of the House, and the congressional staffers and insiders who play key roles in the legislative process.

“We’re happy to entertain our friends and guests,” said Podesta, whose clients include BP Oil, Wal-Mart and dozens of other corporations with major issues in Washington.

When Charlotte was named as the convention host city, the Democratic National Committee said they wanted a different kind of political event — one that would be in keeping with Obama’s vision for diminishing the role of special interests and corporate lobbyists.

When he announced his White House bid in 2007, Obama complained that lobbyists “think they own this government.  But we’re here today to take it back.  The time for that politics is over.  It’s time to turn the page.”

In the convention hall, lobbyists were enemy number one.

“American families didn’t have an army of lobbyists on our side,” said the Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, to lusty applause, as she described the fight to create a new consumer financial protection agency.  “And when the lobbyists were closing in for the kill, Barack Obama squared his shoulders, planted his feet, and stood firm.  And that’s how we won.”

But by the time the 2012 convention launched this week, the goal of a convention free from lobbyist money had been significantly watered down.  One of the major sponsors donating to an entity formed to help pay for the festivities was McGuireWoods LLP, a firm registered to lobby for Duke Energy, the NBA, and others.

Lobbyists were an even greater presence outside the official convention events — at restaurants and other party venues around town.  Lobbyists for electric utilities rented out the historic Duke Mansion in Charlotte’s oldest residential neighborhood, and entertained Democratic governors with a string quartet and open bar.  Casualty insurance lobbyists held court at a nightclub called Tilt, where drinks flowed and music pounded.

There is a reason the lobbyists have blanketed Charlotte, even in the face of the harsh rhetoric aimed in their direction, said Jack Abramoff, the one-time super-lobbyist who became an advocate for reform after he served a prison term for bribery.

“It gives a lobbyist an opportunity to be displayed in a setting of political importance for the members of Congress, and for the others who will be, perhaps, in the administration,” Abramoff told ABC News.  “And I think the more the lobbyists are seen in the context of important events and hobnobbing with people who are important, the more their stock goes up.”

While many of the events were closed to the media, Podesta was one of the few members of his trade who didn’t feel the need to hide his efforts in Charlotte.  ABC News spotted five U.S. senators at one of his daytime events, among them: Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy.

Podesta said he was happy not to be hit up for money to support the convention host committee.

“It enables us to be able to do wonderful parties like this instead of spending money on fencing and security so we thank the president for his direction of our activities more to events like this,” he said.

Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia said he did not feel compelled to defend his decision to attend Podesta’s event.

“It’s still a free country and people can network with people of their choosing,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sep 052012
 

Alex Wong/Getty Images(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — August in Denver saw one of the most iconic scenes of the summer of 2008: A young senator marching out into the roar of a jam-packed stadium, accepting his party’s nomination as almost 80,000 people looked on.

President Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention was historic — not only because he was the first black nominee for any major party, but also since he gave the only open-air stadium acceptance speech at a convention since John F. Kennedy in 1960.

This year, Democrats are again looking to make an impression, hosting the first convention that both opens and closes with free events for the public.

“We are empowering Americans to participate and including more people than ever before,” said Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Convention Committee.

Democrats’ convention festivities kicked off Labor Day with CarolinaFest 2012, a free, public street fair in downtown Charlotte, N.C.  In January, organizers announced they were cutting official convention business down — from four days to three — to make room for the festival.

And the convention’s climax comes on Thursday, when Obama accepts the party’s presidential nod.  His speech is slated for Bank of America Stadium, rain or shine, with tickets available to the public through a “community credential” process.

“There’s not a similar effort happening in the other city hosting the other convention,” said Suzi Emmerling, spokesperson for the Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee, which handles convention fundraising.  She said the street fair and speech will open the convention to “literally tens of thousands of people” who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get involved.

In Tampa, Fla., the only members of the public who attended the four-day Republican National Convention were the 10,000 GOP volunteers already in place, according to convention officials.

“A lot of that is based on security concerns,” said Ken Jones, president and CEO of the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee. “Given the nature and the security of the event, it’s very difficult to do truly wide-open events.”

Instead of inviting the public in, Republicans relied on their convention app and a social media push, “Convention Without Walls,” for people to follow along with GOP happenings.

Some political observers say the choice to include the public or not in convention activities is simply a matter of preference.

“I don’t think it says Republicans are closed to the public and the Democrats are more open to it,” said John Geer, chair of the political science department at Vanderbilt University.

Conventions are almost a “four-day political advertisement,” he said, and it’s important for each party to get its message out as effectively as possible.  

For Obama, a public event to replicate his iconic 2008 acceptance speech might be just the ticket to boost post-convention ratings and re-energize supporters.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sep 042012
 

ABC News(NEW YORK) — As of now, there are no surprise speakers scheduled to talk to an empty chair at the Democratic National Convention that kicks off Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C.

Rather, Democrats hope to stay on message as they prepare to renominate President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, the convention will hear from first lady Michelle Obama and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, actor Kal Penn and former President Jimmy Carter via video.

Wednesday’s highlights include former President Bill Clinton formally nominating Obama for reelection, U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and various Democratic governors and Cabinet officials.

Thursday’s speakers include Caroline Kennedy, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, actress Eva Longoria and, of course, acceptance speeches by Obama and Biden.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sep 042012
 

ABC News(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — Only days after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked for federal agents and U.S. Marshals to help combat the city’s wave of violence, about 50 Chicago police officers have arrived in Charlotte, N.C., to work perimeter security details for a week at the Democratic National Convention.

The Chicago officers, in their distinctive uniforms and checkerboard-brimmed hats, said they had been instructed not to talk with reporters about their out-of-town assignment.

“These are officers on their days off and were specially trained as mobile field force officers for the recent NATO summit in Chicago,” said Melissa Stratton, a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department.

A Charlotte Police Department spokesperson confirmed that “roughly 50 officers from Chicago” were on duty at the convention.

On Monday morning, some of the Chicago officers were stationed near security screening posts where delegates enter the Charlotte Convention Center.

“I would love to know the logic behind that decision to send them there given all that is happening here in Chicago,” the Rev. Ira Acree of the Greater St. John Bible Church in Chicago told ABC News on Monday.

“It’s a state of emergency here in Chicago,” Rev. Acree told the Wall Street Journal last week.

Chicago police union officials also questioned the use of officers in Charlotte.

“We had two homicides and dozens of shootings this weekend, and we’re sending offices out of the city?” said Pat Camden, a spokesperson for the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police.  “I think the average person would shake his head over that.”

Last Friday, Mayor Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy publicly asked for federal help in targeting neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by the city’s wave of violence.

“The help comes in the form of additional agents to target guns, gangs and drugs,” Superintendent McCarthy said at a news conference.

Chicago’s homicide rate is about 31 percent higher than last year, with 346 reported killings as of Aug. 19, according to figures provided by the Chicago police.

Officials said the Chicago officers were sent to Charlotte to reciprocate for police sent by Charlotte to help during the recent NATO summit held in Chicago.

“They are there on their days off and were not pulled off the street,” said Stratton.

She said the officers sent to Charlotte will be paid through a special federal grant of $50 million for convention security.

“No funds from the city of Chicago are involved,” Stratton said.

“We had a very successful outcome at the NATO convention in Chicago,” she said, praising the training of the officers to handle large gatherings.

There was no request for the Chicago officers to assist in security at the GOP convention last week in Tampa, Fla., Stratton added.

The police union has been critical of Mayor Emanuel, a prominent figure in the Democratic party and former White House chief of staff, for substantial reductions in the police budget.

“We’ve had about a thousand officers retire over the last two years and only about 200 have been hired to replace them,” said Camden.

“We’ve had a collective failure of all institutions to address the violence and I don’t give the president a pass either,” Rev. Acree said.

A spokesperson for Charlotte Police Chief Rodney Monroe said, “Chief Monroe is grateful to have the assistance of these officers for this monumental event.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio