You can watch Willard’s speech in the PACKED stadium here (12:0 ET)
Watch how those 65,000 people can barely control their excitement in anticipation of Willard’s arrival:
And watch how they erupt when he appears – Mitt Mania!
Freep.com: It won’t be hard to fit 1,200 members of the Detroit Economic Club into 65,000-seat Ford Field for today’s speech by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
What will be hard is making it look like Romney isn’t speaking to a nearly empty stadium.
The Romney campaign and the Economic Club think they’ve solved the problem. The guests will be seated at one end of the playing surface, roughly between the end zone and the 30-yard line, while Romney will speak from a stage in front of them.
People reach out to grasp hands with President Obama after he spoke at the University of Miami, February 23
Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla
First Lady Michelle Obama views The Slave Pen exhibit while touring the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, Feb. 23. Pictured, from left, are: Dina Bailey, Associate Curator of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center; Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory; Verna Williams; and Allison Singleton. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)
11:15 AM: PBO attends the Democratic Governors’ Association meeting.
3:00 PM: PBO holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark.
Greg Sargent: It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the auto bailout will be central to Campaign 2012’s argument over government and the economy, and Pew Research releases some striking numbers….
The latest national survey …finds that 56% say the loans the government made to GM and Chrysler were mostly good for the economy, while 38% say the loans to the automakers were mostly bad for the economy.
Opinion about the auto loans has reversed since October 2009. At that time, just 37% said the loans were mostly good for the economy while 54% expressed negative views…..
…. independents think the auto bailout was good for the economy by a wide margin, 54-40. Even moderate/liberal Republicans agree, 57-39. And Pew tells me that non-college-degree whites – a key swing constituency that will be pivotal in the Rust Belt states – also agree, 51-40.
ThinkProgress: Earlier this month, the nation was barraged with media coverage of the Catholic Bishops’ opposition to regulations promulgated under the Affordable Care Act protecting working women’s access to contraception. The loudness of the bishops’ complaints …. easily could have conveyed the misimpression that churches and other religious groups are at odds with the Affordable Care Act.
On Friday, however, a broad coalition of religious organizations filed an amicus brief supporting the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion that should give the lie to any claim that the faith community opposes the ACA …. the brief’s signatories include a wide range of Catholic groups….
ThinkProgress: As further proof that conservative efforts to paint President Obama as the enemy of religion are a red herring, nearly two dozen leading Catholic nuns filed a brief in the Supreme Court last week supporting the president’s signature legislative accomplishment. The Catholic sisters who joined the brief include the leaders of many prominent religious orders providing health care and other services to the needy…
Steve Benen: The general trend on initial unemployment claims over the last few months has been largely encouraging, despite occasional setbacks, and most analysts expected this morning’s report to show a modest uptick in filings.
The good news is, that didn’t happen. In fact, initial jobless claims reached a four-year low last week, and the new totals were unchanged this week.
Greg Sargent: At yesterday’s debate, Mitt Romney and the other candidates went all in on birth control – sorry, “religious liberty” – in blasting President Obama over the contraception controversy…. But some new polling out this morning from Quinnipiac illustrates the risk Republicans are taking with this latest reprise of the culture wars:
President Obama recently announced an adjustment to the administration’s health-care rule regarding religiously affiliated employers providing birth control coverage to female employees. Women will still be guaranteed coverage for birth control without any out-of-pocket cost, but will have to seek the coverage directly from their insurance companies if their employers object to birth control on religious grounds. Do you approve or disapprove of President Obama’s decision?
Steve Benen: …… Romney added that Obama is “requiring the Catholic Church to provide for its employees and its various enterprises health care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the morning-after pill. Unbelievable.”
It is, in fact, literally “unbelievable,” since that’s not at all what the administration is doing.
It was painful enough to have so much of the debate focus on opposition to birth control, but Romney’s dishonesty managed to make a mind-numbing discussion even worse.
Ronald Brownstein (National Journal): ….. Some of Romney’s answers could come back to haunt him, not in the primary but in a general election, if he gets that far.
At a time when some Republicans are already concerned that he has narrowed his potential support among Latinos with an unflinching embrace of conservative positions on immigration (like “self-deportation”), Romney doubled down by insisting that on “day one” as president he would drop the federal legal challenge to Arizona’s tough state statute against illegal immigration.
And on the same day that an NBC/Marist poll already showed Romney trailing President Obama by 18 percentage points in Michigan, a state Republicans once hoped to contest this fall, Romney likewise doubled down on his criticism of the auto rescue engineered by Bush and Obama – and sprinkled in some especially sharp rhetoric against the United Auto Workers union for good measure.
E.J. Dionne: They say that President Obama is a Muslim, but if he isn’t, he’s a secularist who is waging war on religion. On some days he’s a Nazi, but on most others he’s merely a socialist….
Whatever our president is, he is never allowed to be a garden-variety American who plays basketball and golf, has a remarkably old-fashioned family life and, in the manner we regularly recommend to our kids, got ahead by getting a good education.
Please forgive this outburst. It’s simply astonishing that a man in his fourth year as our president continues to be the object of the most extraordinary paranoid fantasies … And now that the economy is improving, short-circuiting easy criticisms, Obama’s adversaries are reheating all the old tropes and cliches and slanders.
….. As for Obama as a socialist, ponder two numbers: 13,005, which the Dow Jones average hit this week, up from a low point of 6,547 in March 2009. Some socialist.
We are blessed with the freedom to say whatever we want about our president. But those who cast Obama as something other than one of us don’t understand him and don’t understand what it means to be American.
1:05: PBO delivers remarks at a campaign event in Corona Del Mar, Calif.
2:45: Departs Los Angeles, California en route San Francisco
3:30: Arrives San Francisco
5:00: Attends a campaign event
10:10: Delivers remarks at a campaign event
AP: The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell to the lowest point in almost four years last week, the latest signal that the job market is steadily improving.
The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000. It was the fourth drop in five weeks and the fewest number of claims since March 2008.
ABC (Devin Dwyer): Fact Check – Obama and the Resurgence of American Manufacturing
President Obama is this week heralding the resurgence of American manufacturing as a leap toward an “economy built to last,” and a sign that he deserves a second term. …. Obama’s claim is corroborated by government statistics, which show an undeniable rebound for manufacturers during his term, both in terms of productivity and employment of American workers.
When Obama took office in January 2009, unemployment in the manufacturing sector stood at 10.9 percent and spiked to 13 percent a year later, according to the Labor Department. But in the two years since, unemployment has fallen precipitously, now holding at 8.4 percent in January 2012.
In terms of raw manufacturing jobs, the trajectory is similarly positive …. U.S. manufacturers have also increased production by 15 percent since the recession officially ended in late 2009….
New York Times (Editorial): There’s nothing like a deadline – and the prospect of acute political embarrassment – to concentrate the mind. With Congress about to go on recess, and with Republicans fearing a voter backlash, negotiators on Wednesday were putting the finishing touches on a deal to extend the payroll tax cut and federal jobless benefits through 2012.
The agreement is imperfect but sound. It will help struggling Americans and the struggling economy. It is also a political win for Democrats and President Obama, who had made extending the payroll tax cut and the jobless benefits a centerpiece of his jobs agenda. We hope that it gives them the courage to stick to that agenda if they face another round of Republican obstructionism…..
LA Times: ….. President Obama was expected to raise a total of more than $3 million during two events at the expansive Holmby Hills estate of “The Bold and the Beautiful” producer Bradley Bell and his wife, Colleen. The outdoor event, with tickets priced at $250 and $500, featured a performance by the Foo Fighters and appearances by comedian Jack Black and actress Rashida Jones.
Obama spoke later to a more intimate gathering inside the Bells’ Spanish-style home, which about 80 supporters each paid $35,800 to attend. Among those present were George Clooney, Jim Belushi and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who on Wednesday was named chairman of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Washington Post: …. If Obama is suffering any lingering Hollywood blowback after his administration failed to get behind a pair of high-profile Internet piracy bills championed by the entertainment industry, it wasn’t apparent …. The two Tinseltown events were expected to reap more than $3 million….
“Anything we can do to help,” said Andy Spahn, a political consultant to DreamWorks chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of Obama’s top campaign bundlers and staunchest Hollywood supporters. “The events are sold out,” Spahn said of Wednesday’s concert and dinner at the home of Bradley and Colleen Bell, producers of “The Bold and the Beautiful.” “I expect the president to continue to enjoy strong support.”
SF Gate: …. this week, The Chronicle has learned that the Obama campaign has, for the first time, opened a new type of campaign office in San Francisco: A Technology Field Office. It is believed to be the first such type of campaign office for a presidential campaign.
“We learned from 2008 that using the talents and skills of our supporters was a key to building the most effective organization,” said Obama campaign deputy press secretary Katie Hogan. “We’re taking the next step by providing tools and space for supporters in the technology community to help the campaign extend our current tools like BarackObama.com and our mobile applications.”
…. instead of cold-calling independents, a techie who wants to help Team O can come in and help develop something new for the website, etc…..
If you want to get involved, contact email@example.com.
The Guardian: …. Obama has critics and doubters. Maya Angelou, the sage of black America, now 83, has no time for them. “I think he has done a remarkable job, knowing how much he has been opposed,” she says. “Every suggestion he makes, the Republicans en masse fight against him or don’t vote at all.”
…. “I was hoping for the best. And I think I have gotten the best from him.” What of his detractors? “Those are people who didn’t see the morass into which he stepped.”
….. “His physical self, just being there, his photograph in the newspapers as president of the United States; that has done so much good for the spirit of the African American. We see more and more children wanting to be like President Obama, wanting to go to school.”
…. More recently, her presidential link has been via the first lady, Michelle Obama. “She’s the grand dame,” says Angelou. “I wrote her a note a few months ago because I was in a gathering. The president and his party were there, but I had to leave early. I know that’s a gaffe because no one leaves the building before the president so I wrote and apologised. I got a letter from her in her own handwriting. She said: ‘I have only one regret – that I didn’t come over and hug your neck.'”
AP: Volkswagen opened a plant in Tennessee last month with 2,000 workers. Honda is hiring 1,000 in Indiana to meet demand for its best-selling Civic. General Motors is looking for 2,500 in Detroit to build the Chevy Volt.
Two years after the end of the Great Recession, the auto industry is hiring again – and much faster than the rest of the economy … The hiring spree is even more remarkable because memories of the U.S. auto industry’s near-death experience are fresh. In 2009, General Motors and Chrysler both got government bailouts and entered bankruptcy, and auto sales hit a 30-year low.
In June of that year, about 623,000 people were employed by the auto industry in the United States, the fewest since the early 1980s. Now the figure is almost 700,000, a 12 percent increase.
Sales are back up, too, and automakers are hiring by the thousands to meet increased demand.
…Besides hiring 2,000 people itself, Volkswagen figures the plant, where it will make its new Passat, will create 9,000 spin-off jobs in the region, including 500 at auto-supplier plants that are springing up nearby.
…. The auto gains have been widespread, with the Midwest the biggest beneficiary. In Ohio alone, auto manufacturing jobs have risen 31 percent the past two years, while parts makers in Michigan have added nearly 20,000 jobs …. Parts jobs are also up 15 percent in Alabama and in Kentucky…
… GM, Ford and Chrysler are all making money for the first time since the mid-2000s and adding workers to build popular models like the revamped Ford Explorer….
…Auto companies are racing to hire white-collar workers, too. Monster.com has more than 100 postings for auto engineers, including a handful for Hyundai and Subaru. Electric batteries, touch-screen dashboards and other technology are becoming more common, so automakers need engineers with expertise.
…”I really do believe that we are seeing a renaissance in the American automobile industry,” says James Brock, a professor of economics at Miami University.
Steve Benen: In 2009, with the American automotive industry on the verge of collapse, and with at least a million American jobs on the line, President Obama unveiled a rescue strategy. John Boehner, like the rest of his party, predicted the policy would fail miserably. Two years later, we now know Obama was right and Boehner and the GOP were wrong. It takes a mature and responsible adult to admit when he’s wrong. It takes a Republican leader to screw up the same fight twice:
…Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) would rather have seen those jobs disappear … “The administration’s auto bailout is nothing to celebrate,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican. “The model the White House should be touting is Ford, which, instead of relying on a taxpayer-funded bailout, saw trouble coming and made the tough decisions necessary to preserve jobs and weather the storm.”
….President Obama: “Today, each of the Big Three automakers – Chrysler, GM, and Ford – is turning a profit for the first time since 2004. Chrysler has repaid every dime and more of what it owes American taxpayers for their support during my presidency – and it repaid that money six years ahead of schedule…. all three American automakers are now adding shifts and creating jobs at the strongest rate since the 1990s…. That’s remarkable when you think about where we were just a couple of years ago.”
If you have America’s best interests at heart, and you consider these developments “nothing to celebrate,” then maybe your celebratory standards are in need of revision….
The Boston Globe: The head of Fiat-Chrysler said today that Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney must have been “smoking illegal material” when he argued in 2008 that the US auto industry could be resurrected without federal financial assistance.
During an interview with CNN, Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat and Chrysler, said government support was pivotal.
The comment contrasted with a 2008 op-ed column in which Romney urged the federal government not to provide an industry bailout but instead force automakers into a “managed bankruptcy.”
Marchionne told CNN: “Whoever told you that is smoking illegal material. That market had become absolutely dysfunctional in 2008 and 2009. There were attempts made by a variety of people to find strategic alliances with other car makers on a global scale and the government stepped in, as the actor of last resort. It had to do it because the consequences would have been just too large to deal with.”
Steve Benen: Time for another victory lap – “Chrysler said Tuesday that it had paid back $7.6 billion in loans from the American and Canadian governments, marking another significant step in the revival of the company, the smallest of the Detroit automakers”. The Obama administration is hailing the repayment as proof that its policy worked – an argument that has the benefit of being true. Indeed, Obama’s policy has proven so effective, Chrysler is paying back American taxpayers six years early.
ABC: Chrysler Group LLC could repay most of its government loans as early as next week after raising $7.5 billion from bank loans and bond sales.
The company said last month that it intended repay the U.S. and Canadian governments during the second quarter. It announced the financial details on Thursday. Chrysler could repay the government as early as Tuesday if the deals close as expected.
…Chrysler took $10.5 billion from the U.S. government to survive two years ago, and it has repaid some of the money. The refinancing will allow it to retire a $5.9 billion balance on the U.S. loans and $1.6 billion to the governments of Canada and Ontario.
…Chrysler’s action is the latest in the long comeback of the Detroit auto industry after the recession put its future in doubt … Earlier this month Chrysler announced first-quarter net income of $116 million, its first profitable quarter since 2006. Its sales are up nearly 23 percent this year….
Jonathan Cohn (TNR): President Obama plans to make the auto industry rescue a major part of his reelection campaign … I think he has a strong argument on the merits. The news from General Motors in particular has been extremely positive for the last year. The company is reporting big profits, it is winning design awards, and, most important of all, it is selling lots of cars.
…the auto industry rescue was, first and foremost, a reaction to economic triage. Without government financing and administration, bankruptcy would likely have meant the liquidation, not the restructuring, of both car companies. As they collapsed, they could have taken Ford and most of the parts industry with them, because of the domestic supply chain the companies shared.
Projections from the Center for Automotive Research suggested job losses would be in the millions, with potentially catastrophic effects on the rest of the economy…
By intervening as he did, Obama may have saved the country, or a significant chunk of it, from depression-like conditions. Even if the government ends up losing some money once it is finished divesting itself of GM stock, it can justify the investment as the equivalent of adding an extra $10 or $20 billion in stimulus money – a pittance, in the context of the budget and the economy.
….Automobile jobs presumably represent just a fraction of new jobs gained and/or old jobs recovered. On the other hand, when you consider the ripple effects and what that picture might look like if the auto industry had completely collapsed, the bailout’s role seems significant…