President Barack Obama talks to kids during a stop at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland on Broadway Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio, June 14, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive in New York
Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio
At the Girls Club of Cleveland, Ohio
… at the 9/11 Memorial while touring the One World Trade Center building
Words from President Obama are seen on a construction beam after he signed it while touring the One World Trade Center building, which is under construction in New York. The words read “We remember, We Rebuild, We come back Stronger.”
President Obama chats with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
9:55: PBO and Michelle Obama deliver remarks at a campaign event (The Plaza Hotel – live coverage)
Charles Pierce: …. That was about as bad a speech as you ever will see from a candidate who probably just wrapped up the nomination. …. At its heart, though, Romney’s speech featured some sub-Santorumish sarcasm directed at the president for having been a law professor while Willard was fighting his way up every inch of the hard road that leads from opulent wealth to incalculable wealth.
…. There was also the requisite sneering at community organizing. Let us consider, then, the community in which the president once organized. This is what I found out about it when I went and looked at it in 2008:
Obama also worked in the Altgeld Gardens, a housing development built in 1945 atop an ecological hellspout where two thousand families lived on an old landfill and hard by fifty-three different sites that had been designated as “toxic” by one study of the area.
Altgeld Gardens was built on the bones of old steel mills and factories, and atop the waste dumps and landfills that serviced them. And, when they built the projects there, they filled them full of asbestos. That poisoned neighborhood was a perfect product of the “freedom” that Romney talks about when he talks about an unregulated economy. Barack Obama went there to organize the people who were living on that deadly ground because The Market couldn’t have cared less about them, and the various governments allowed The Market not to care and, so, did not care either. The kids with the asthma, they weren’t free. The kids who developed the renal disease, they weren’t free. The people in all the cancer clusters, they weren’t free ….. in the 1980’s, when the president was working for peanuts trying to get some sort of justice for the people that The Market had chosen to poison, Willard Romney was making millions with Bain Capital…..
Michael Tomasky: Illinois was a breeze for Mitt Romney, and yes, numerically, maybe it’s getting close to done. But state by state, this still isn’t over. Rick Santorum remains likely to win Louisiana, which is next. Then comes Wisconsin on April 3. Santorum is still about 15 points ahead there right now. And it looks like Santorum has taken Missouri – again. So while Illinois probably means that Romney is on his way to the nomination, and maybe on his way to 1,144 delegates, it’s also a fact that Santorum isn’t going anywhere….
Distriction.com: Stephon stood just a few feet away from Barack Obama. The president, busy shaking hands, looked right at him. “It was like he was waiting for me to say something,” he said later.
So the 26-year-old Prince George’s Community College student took his cue and spoke to President Obama in his first language: American Sign Language. “I am proud of you,” Stephon signed. The president, almost involuntary, instinctively, immediately signed back.
“Thank you,” Obama replied.
This is one of those moments that humanize the office of the presidency…..
Stephon: “The moment I will never forget was when he looked at me. He gave me a chance to talk to him. It was like he was waiting for me to say something. I took the moment and signed “I am proud of you,” and his response was “Thank u” in sign language back! Oh my gosh! I was like wow! He understood me after I said I was proud of him. It was so amazing…I was just speechless. Right after he thanked me, he smiled at another deaf lady who signed “I love you.” When I shook his hand it did not feel like he was superior to me. He was just a humble man. I am just impressed by him and know that he will have my vote and he will win second term without a doubt. Yeah, I feel safe to have him for another term.”
President Obama shakes hands with a supporter after speaking about energy and energy independence at Nashua Community College in New Hampshire
Charles Pierce: NASHUA, N.H. …. After several months of watching the Republican primary process, I can’t tell you what a cool breeze it was to watch a politician who looks at a crowd and doesn’t see a group of potential marks (Romney), a collection of your fellow Elect marching with you through the dystopic Sinai that is America (Santorum), a gaggle of goldbugs (Paul), or the class of half-bright sophomores that N. Leroy Gingrich sees every time he looks anywhere but into the mirror.
Barack Obama is not stiff. He is not bristling with unbridled id. He grins. He kids people, even the people who faint at the beginning of his speeches …. He is relaxed about the job of politics. He is the only president of the United States – real or prospective – that I’ve seen in months.
…. He talks about the challenges Americans face, but he doesn’t do it in the gloom-ridden, stalactite-festooned, minor-key funeral mass context that the Republicans talk about them. He talks in terms of “boundless ingenuity” and “unbridled optimism.”….
Bloomberg: The number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits fell to a level matching a four-year low, more evidence the labor market is healing.
Applications for unemployment insurance decreased 2,000 in the week ended Feb. 25 to 351,000, Labor Department figures showed today…..
Firing is on a downward trend as employers gain confidence in the outlook for economic growth. A smaller number of job reductions also puts those companies in place to hire additional employees as demand picks up.
Steve Benen: …. here’s the chart, showing weekly, initial unemployment claims going back to the beginning of 2007:
PPP: There might not be any state that better represents Barack Obama’s improved fortunes in the opening months of 2012 than Wisconsin. When we polled there in late October Obama’s approval was a 44/51 spread and he led Mitt Romney by only 3 points at 46-43, representing a much closer race than the state had in 2008. Now those numbers have shifted significantly, with Obama’s approval basically flipping to 52/44. And he now leads Romney 53-39, a 14 point margin that matches what he won against John McCain there.
Obama’s 14 point lead in Wisconsin matches a trend we’re seeing in both our national and state polling across the country right now: Obama/Romney is starting to look more and more like Obama/McCain, or even something more friendly to the President.
Jerusalem Post: Poll finds vast majority of Israelis against unilateral military strike on Iran, Israeli Jews prefer Obama over all republican rivals …. The survey also polled Jewish Israelis’ feelings on the US presidential race, with respondents preferring President Barack Obama to all his Republican rivals.
Ruy Teixeira (TNR): Judging from recent headlines, things are looking up for President Obama. The Republican presidential nominees have been serially embarrassing themselves; the White House communications department has successfully focused its messaging on jobs and economic fairness; and consumers are feeling ever more confident about the economy.
But it’s not just anecdotal evidence that suggests Obama’s re-election chances have improved – most of the polling data suggests the same. Obama has been running consistently ahead of his most likely challenger, Mitt Romney, in national polls – by an average of 4 points according to the Pollster.com website. Indeed, the closer you look at the numbers, the more reassuring the news: Obama, it seems, is well on his way to reconstructing the very coalition that elected him in 2008.
National Memo: In this Citizens United era of unregulated campaign cash, gay activists and donors are finding innovative ways to reward Barack Obama, who despite his equivocation on marriage equality is often lauded as the greatest friend to the LGBT community of any president in American history.
The reemergence of social issues on the presidential campaign trail, coupled with the reversal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that prevented gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, has helped Obama improve his standing with this key segment of the liberal base, a vital source of campaign funds for any Democrat running a presidential campaign.
“This kind of Republican campaign has mobilized the community like I haven’t seen since 1992,” said David Mixner, a veteran progressive strategist Newsweek once called the most powerful gay man in America. “There’s a lot at stake. I have no doubt people will be involved in some way in Super PACs. You can count on the major donors of this community doing whatever they have to do to assist in the re-election of this president.”
First lady Michelle Obama is joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the future site of a Northgate Market in Inglewood, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. Michelle Obama says the proposed new supermarket in the middle of a blue-collar Hispanic neighborhood in Southern California is an example of how the effort to bring healthy foods to low-income communities is paying off.
AP: First lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday said the campaign to bring healthy food to all Americans is happening neighborhood by neighborhood.
Standing in a vacant Southern California store set to be refurbished and reopened this summer, Obama lauded efforts to bring large grocery retailers to inner-city areas that traditional supermarket chains spurn.
…. Obama, who is on the second day of her two-day visit to the Los Angeles area, made the stop in the blue-collar, largely Hispanic neighborhood as part of her “Let’s Move!” campaign to boost healthy food and fitness.
Part of the campaign includes promoting initiatives such as the $264 million California FreshWorks Fund, which finances grocery businesses willing to open in urban areas.
…. After the Inglewood event, Obama was scheduled to appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and to deliver a luncheon speech at the Democratic National Committee.
Washington Post: U.S. factories grew in January at the fastest pace in seven months, boosted by a rise in new orders. And builders ended a poor year for construction by spending more on homes and projects for the fifth straight month.
The reports bolster other data showing the U.S. economy started the year strong.
The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Wednesday that its manufacturing index rose last month to 54.1 from 53.1 in December. Readings above 50 indicate expansion.
Consumers are buying more cars and trucks, while businesses ordered more machinery and other equipment. That has driven manufacturing, which expanded for the 30th straight month.
Both new orders and order backlogs rose to nine-month highs. Increasing order backlogs suggest manufacturers are lacking the capacity to meet demand. That could mean more growth in production and employment in the near future, economists said.
Export orders also rose, a sign that U.S. manufacturers haven’t yet been affected by Europe’s slowing economy.
“This is a very encouraging report on manufacturing activity that shows particular strength in leading indicators,” said John Ryding, an economist at RDQ Economics.
Steve Benen: For campaign watchers, Florida’s Republican presidential primary was the big draw yesterday, but there was another noteworthy race on the other side of the country: a U.S. House special election in Oregon’s 1st congressional district.
Just two weeks ago, the National Republican Congressional Committee took an interest in the race, airing attack ads against Democratic candidate Suzanne Bonamici. The GOP candidate, Rob Cornilles, even released an internal poll showing him trailing by only four points.
Yesterday, however, it became clear Republicans were chasing a mirage.
Democrat Suzanne Bonamici swept to victory Tuesday in Oregon’s 1st Congressional District, continuing her party’s nearly four-decade-long hold on the seat covering the northwestern corner of the state. With the bulk of ballots counted, Bonamici was defeating Republican Rob Cornilles by about 15 percentage points…..
TPM: The Obama administration announced Wednesday that the Medicare Advantage program, which allows seniors to receive health coverage through a private insurer, is enjoying lower costs and more customers as a result of the health care reform law.
Yahoo: If you watched President Obama’s Google+ hangout Monday night, you saw two interesting exchanges between the president and Jennifer Wedel, a 29-year-old Texas mother of two.
It turns out that Wedel’s digital meeting convinced her to vote for Obama in this year’s presidential election – despite her support for the GOP.
…. Afterwards, Wedel, who described herself as a “good Republican,” is now planning to vote for Obama in this year’s presidential election.
“I didn’t vote for him four years ago. But I have been so disappointed with the presidential race. I haven’t seen anybody who would have been a good replacement. I know how Obama is now. I know how he rolls. So I’d probably vote him back in,” said Wedel in an interview with The Atlantic. “I (feel) like I know him a little more,” Wedel said. “There was a connection. He should definitely do this with more people…..”
….. for those who watched the event, a slightly odd moment near the end might have jumped out. During that personal question round, Wedel asked Obama if he would do a little jig. Obama demurred. What was that about? It’s a YouTube meme thing, explained Wedel. An extremely popular video on the site is a minute-and-a-half clip of then-candidate Obama shaking it on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” back in 2007; one version has 12 million hits and counting.
“It’s so funny,” said Wedel. “You’ve got to watch it.”