Candidates vie for votes from miners, elderly and a billionaire


THE US presidential and vice- presidential candidates yesterday fanned out across five swing states that will be decisive in the November 6th election to vie for support from coal miners, farmers, the elderly and at least one Las Vegas billionaire.

US president Barack Obama continued his bus tour across Iowa, a state he won by 10 points in 2008, but where he is now tied with Republican candidate Mitt Romney in polls. In Oskaloosa, Obama emphasised the importance of wind energy, which accounts for 32 per cent of new electricity capacity and employs 75,000 people.

The president’s spokesmen said Republican opposition to extending tax credits for wind energy could destroy 37,000 jobs and claimed some Republicans are in “utter disbelief” that Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, oppose the tax credit extension.

Romney held three rallies in Ohio, the first at a coal field. Coal miners obeyed their union leaders’ recommendations in voting for Obama four years ago, but now see Obama’s emphasis on clean, renewable solar and wind energy as a threat to their livelihood.

US vice-president Joe Biden, at 69 the eldest of the four candidates, told supporters in Virginia that the Republicans and Wall Street want to put Americans “back in chains”.

Referring to the draft budget drawn up by Ryan, who is chairman of the House budget committee, Biden said: “Look what they’re proposing . . . [Romney] said in the first 100 days, he’s going to let the big banks write their own rules – unchain Wall Street. They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”

The Romney campaign said the vice-president’s remarks represented “a new low” and were “not acceptable in our political discourse and demonstrate yet again that the Obama campaign will say and do anything to win this election”.

In North Carolina the previous day, Biden derided those who have called the Ryan budget bold. “What’s gutsy about giving millionaires another tax break?” he asked. “What’s gutsy about gutting Medicare, Medicaid, education?”

In Ryan’s first solo appearance as Romney’s running mate, at the Iowa State Fair on Monday afternoon, two-dozen hecklers shouting “Are you going to cut Medicare?”, “Stop the war on the poor”, “Stop the war on the middle class”, and “Hands off social security” forced the vice-presidential candidate to cut short his speech. Supporters and opponents shouted each other down and police and the secret service swarmed the stage to remove protesters.

A few hours before Obama visited the same fair, Ryan told supporters: “As you see the president come through on his bus tour, you might ask him the same question that I’m getting asked from people all around America. And that is: ‘Where are the jobs, Mr President?’”

Ryan held a rally near Denver, Colorado, yesterday, then travelled to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was to appear at a fundraiser at the Sands Venetian casino. The casino’s owner, billionaire Sheldon Adelson, was expected to attend.

Motivated chiefly by concern for the security of Israel, Adelson has contributed at least $35 million (€28.4 million) to Republican candidates this year.

The Republican national committee yesterday released aggressive new television advertisements.

An advertisement titled Hope and Change begins with Obama at the 2008 Democratic convention.

“What if it had been your name they were chanting?” the narrator asks. “Would you have spent trillions overhauling healthcare while millions were without work? Would you have tried creating jobs by creating debt? Would you have raised taxes and broken promises?”

A second advertisement cites dismal statistics on joblessness and food stamps and concludes: “If President Obama’s plan worked, how come so many Americans aren’t working?”

Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing group inspired by the Tea Party and founded by petrol industry billionaires Charles and David Koch, announced the second phase of what it called “the largest ad buy in the group’s history” with a clip featuring disaffected Obama voters.

Ryan is one of the few politicians the Koch brothers invite to their twice-annual conferences, and the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity gave him its “Defender of the American Dream” award.

The most memorable television advertisement, posted by a liberal group, shows a Paul Ryan lookalike pushing a granny in a wheelchair off a cliff. “Is America beautiful without Medicare?” the ad says. “Ask Paul Ryan and his friends in Congress.”

By choosing Ryan as his running mate, Romney risks losing support among senior citizens, who comprise one of the most solidly conservative groups in the country.

The Romney-Ryan campaign stresses that Ryan’s plan to give subsidies to the elderly to purchase private insurance would be optional, and would not come into effect for a decade.

But the Obama campaign’s focus on Medicare could dent support for Romney, especially in Florida, a key swing state where 22 per cent of the population are 65 or older.

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