Portland, Maine (CNN) - President Barack Obama sought to reassure jittery small-business owners Thursday that they stand to benefit from the recently enacted health care law - an assertion not universally shared by a traditionally Republican-leaning constituency.
The president took his pro-reform message to Maine, a politically friendly state he carried by nearly 20 points in the 2008 general election. While in New England, he also planned to make a quick stop in Massachusetts for a couple of Democratic National Committee fundraisers.
Democrats are celebrating the enactment of the landmark $940 billion measure, but the country as a whole remains sharply divided over its merits. Conservatives insist it will do little to slow spiraling costs and say
businesses will be burdened by a slew of new regulations and taxes.
The president sought to rebut that argument Thursday, in part by highlighting a tax credit designed to help small businesses provide coverage for their employees.
Atlanta (CNN) - Already under fire for picking up the tab at a Los Angeles nightclub where topless dancers mimic sex acts, the Republican National Committee is now facing questions as to why a number on a fundraising mail piece led people to a telephone sex hotline.
It clearly was a mistake, but it couldn't come at a worse time for the RNC, which has faced a barrage of criticism from social conservatives for the nightclub expense.
“We love nasty talk as much as you do," a woman is heard on the other end of the sex hotline. The woman, whose voice is on a recorded message, also welcomes callers as “sexy guy” and says this is an opportunity for them to talk to "students, housewives and working girls from all over the country."
Washington (CNN) - Former Sen. Rick Santorum publicly questioned Michael Steele's leadership of the Republican National Committee earlier this week after financial records revealed that the party paid for a night out at a racy Los Angeles nightclub.
But Santorum, who is contemplating a presidential bid in 2012, is not backing out of an appearance at a fundraiser for the committee in Louisiana next week. The RNC is hosting a series of fundraisers in New Orleans timed to coincide with the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, according to an invitation obtained by Politico on Wednesday.
Santorum is slated to appear at a Saturday breakfast along with Texas Gov. Rick Perry. A spokesman for Perry has not yet confirmed whether the governor will still attend.
Washington (CNNMoney.com) - House Financial Services chief Barney Frank publicly denounced a House Financial Services Committee staffer for leaving to become a lobbyist.
Peter Roberson played a key role in writing House financial overhaul legislation and will now lobby on behalf of a company that the legislation
directly impacts. His new employer, Intercontinental Exchange, owns the largest clearinghouse of complex financial products, otherwise known as credit default swaps.
"When Mr. Roberson was hired, it never occurred to me that he would jump so quickly from the committee staff to an industry that was being affected by the committee's legislation," Frank said in a statement.
Washington (CNN) – After the health care bill passed last month, political organizations have flooded Google with advertisements attempting to capitalize on the surge of searches related to the legislation. From Sunday, March 21 to Wednesday March 24 Google saw higher search interest on the subject than at any other point since the health care debate started a year ago.
"If searches on Google were a guide, the key moment to frame the bill in public perception was in fact after the bill passed," Google spokesman Galen Panger told CNN in an e-mail. "Search traffic around the bill was ten times higher the day after the bill passed the House than at any other point in the year-long debate. Advertisers anticipated this, of course, and responded with messages ranging from 'Thank You Congress' to 'Fire Nancy Pelosi.' And Obama asked searchers to 'Co-Sign Historic Reform.'"
In the three days after the historic vote, someone on Google searching any phrase or key word associated with health care would see an advertisement sponsored by national parties (BarackObama.com and GOP.com) to think tanks (AskHeritage.org) to local candidates (HarryReid.com and JohnDennis2010.com). During that time period the amount of searches on health care beat out those related to March Madness by a margin two to one.
(CNN) - Mitt Romney is in South Carolina Thursday signing copies of his new book and campaigning for state Rep. Nikki Haley, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. Haley backed the former Massachusetts governor during his 2008 bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
But Romney's endorsement of Haley in the South Carolina governor's race, which he announced last month, puts him at odds with a number of party leaders in the crucial primary state who supported him during the 2008 presidential race. Many of them, including the operatives who ran his presidential campaign in the state, are backing one of Haley's rivals in the crowded GOP primary, Rep. Gresham Barrett.
Two of Romney's three campaign chairmen - former Gov. Jim Edwards and former Rep. Tommy Hartnett - are supporting Barrett. So are two co-chairs of his 2008 "Women for Mitt" team, Republican National Committeewoman Cindy Costa and former First Lady Ann Edwards, as are the chairs of Romney's grassroots campaign. Warren Tompkins, a senior adviser to Romney in 2008, is on Barrett's side as well, as is Romney's old finance director.
A number of top Romney donors from 2008 are also raising money for Barrett's campaign. Multiple GOP sources told CNN that Romney, who is mulling another presidential bid in 2012, did not reach out to his 2008 financial backers before heading to the Palmetto State on Thursday.
(CNN) - The Senate left town for its spring recess without taking up a bill that would patch funding for unemployment benefits and other programs.
Lawmakers plan to take up the Continuing Extension Act of 2010 when they return later this month, but until then, several programs will be left in the dark.
Here are some of the programs affected:
Unemployment benefits and COBRA
Extended unemployment benefits will expire for more than 200,000 people on Monday because the Senate failed to pass the House version of the extension of deadlines to apply for federal unemployment benefits and the COBRA health insurance subsidy.
Washington (CNN) - The number of Americans who blame President Obama for the recession has nearly doubled, according to a new national poll. But the USA/Today Gallup survey also indicates that more people still blame former President George W. Bush for the nation's economic problems.
Twenty-six percent of people questioned in the poll say Obama deserves a great deal of blame for the tough economic times, nearly double the number of people who felt that way last July. The survey also indicates that half of the public says the president deserves at least a moderate amount of blame over the economy.
According to the poll, 42 percent blame Bush, which is basically unchanged from the amount of people who last summer said Obama's predecessor in the White House deserved a great deal of blame for the nation's economic problems.
New York (CNNMoney.com) - Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said he expects the unemployment rate to remain "unacceptably high" for a long time, even as the economy recovers and job growth slowly resumes.
"I think the key thing that's going to happen is the economy's going to start creating jobs again," Geithner said in an interview aired Thursday on NBC's "Today." "But the unemployment rate is still terribly high, and it is going to stay unacceptably high for a long period of time."
The comments came ahead of the government's monthly jobs report, which is due Friday. That report is expected to show that U.S. employers added 190,000 jobs in March, but the unemployment rate remaining at a persistently high 9.7%.
"It is going to take a long time to bring it down because of the damage of the recession," Geithner said of the jobless rate.
(CNN) - LL Cool J wasn't the only one surprised to see that he was part of Sarah Palin's upcoming Fox News program, "Real American Stories."
A representative for country star Toby Keith told CNN that she too was unaware that Fox News was using an old interview of Keith's, conducted sometime in early 2009.
"I had no idea Toby's interview was going to air on Sarah Palin's special. I found out after the press release went out and was contacted by a reporter asking about the show," Keith’s publicist said. "It is an old interview….I was never contacted by Fox requesting permission. I still have not heard from Fox."
Calls to Fox News for comment have not been returned.
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