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After an investigation that lasted two years, the House Ethics Committee has cleared Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of charges that she tried to influence regulators when a bank that her husband owns stock in went looking for a federal bailout in 2008.

Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, acting chairman of the ethics panel, announced the decision this morning.

If you didn't get your fill of the debate about the best ways to evaluate and compensate teachers from the strike in Chicago, you can now tune in to hear similar arguments in Idaho.

Voters there are going to decide the fate of three different state laws that would phase out tenure, offer financial incentives to top-performing teachers and strip teachers of collective bargaining rights.

All of these laws are being challenged by what are known as popular referendums: when citizens challenge laws that have already been passed by the legislature and signed by the governor.

Fundraising reports filed last night by the presidential campaigns show President Obama with a slight advantage in fundraising last month, while Republican Mitt Romney has the edge by some other measures.

Each candidate is raising money for his own campaign committee, plus his national party committee and a joint fundraising committee or two.

So what you see depends on what you look at.

In cash on hand, the overall Romney organization finished August with more than $168 million — that's $43 million more than the overall Obama organization.

President Obama says he hasn't given up on overhauling immigration law despite opposition from Republicans in Congress. Obama faced some tough questions during a forum on Univision including what would be different if he won four more years in the White House.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been busy after a tape emerged of him telling wealthy donors that nearly half of Americans see themselves as victims dependent on the federal government. Now he's trying to make those remarks part of a broader argument: What is the proper role of government and who should pay for it?

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renée Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. Fundraising reports filed last night by the presidential campaigns look like recent public opinion polls - they show President Obama with a narrow advantage in monthly fundraising last month, although Republican Mitt Romney has the edge by some other measures.

For those of you who feel you've had quite enough of the political ads airing every night on your TV screens, well, get ready for another sort of deluge.

In the coming weeks, candidates will bombard your mailboxes with ads. It may seem old-fashioned, but the consultants who devise direct-mail campaigns have become sophisticated about knowing whom to reach and what to say.

"It's almost because of the changing media landscape that direct mail remains relevant," says Anil Mammen, who runs a small direct-mail shop in Washington, D.C.

Republicans hoping to gain control of the U.S. Senate in November's elections are banking on Wisconsin where they want to flip the seat held by Democrat Herb Kohl, who's retiring.

President Obama may have the overwhelming support of Latino voters in his race against Republican Mitt Romney, but that didn't get him a free pass during his appearance Thursday at Univision's presidential candidate forum.

Obama faced repeated tough questions from the hosts of the forum on the Spanish-language channel, and from some in the audience, for his failure to deliver on his promise as a candidate in 2008 to push comprehensive immigration reform during his first year in the White House.

Cuban-Americans know a thing or two about what can happen when a government seizes wealth and redistributes it, as Fidel Castro's regime did five decades ago in Cuba.

So Mitt Romney had an especially receptive audience Wednesday night at a rally of Cuban-Americans in Miami, when he launched his campaign's latest line of attack on President Obama.

"He said some years ago something which we're hearing about today on the Internet," Romney told the crowd. "He said that he believes in redistribution."

Republicans continue to press the Obama administration for more details on how they would cut billions from the defense budget if sequestration is put into place in January. The Department of Defense will now have to explain why it has not planned for an event that is becoming increasingly likely.

Obama Answers Questions From Latino Voters

Sep 20, 2012

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. This week, President Obama and Mitt Romney are trying to burnish their credentials with Latino voters. Yesterday, Romney appeared on a special Univision broadcast fielding questions from hosts and the audience. Today, the president did the same at a studio in Miami. NPR's Scott Horsley was there and joins us now.

With less than seven weeks to go before the presidential election, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is leaving his job as co-chairman of the Mitt Romney campaign to take a top Washington lobbying job.

Pawlenty, 51, will become the next CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, whose 100 members include many of the nation's largest banks and insurance and securities companies.

There appears to be no question that President Obama will win the lion's share of Hispanic support. But there are still very big questions to be answered about how many votes such support will translate into.

"What we know is that we don't know," says Ruy Teixeira, a political analyst at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

"If you're the Obama campaign, there's cause for concern, because at least so far, [Hispanic support] is not translating into encouraging data on the turnout front," he says.

There's a growing bipartisan consensus that criminal justice policy needs to change, because of the costs and social consequences of keeping more than 2 million Americans behind bars. Host Michel Martin discusses the parties' platforms on criminal justice with the Sentencing Project's Marc Mauer and Marc Levin of the group Right On Crime.

For more, see this story from NPR's Marilyn Geewax on how Congress might pass some stopgap measures to blunt the effect of the fiscal cliff.

A bunch of federal tax increases and spending cuts are scheduled to kick in around Jan. 1, 2013. This is what people are talking about when they talk about the "fiscal cliff."

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney promised to pursue a permanent fix for the country's "broken" immigration system during a Univision forum. Despite pointed questioning, Romney offered few details about how he would deal with millions of immigrants who are already in this country illegally.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And in one of the closest Senate races in the country, it looks like two politicians may be reversing their positions. Massachusetts Republican incumbent Scott Brown had maintained a slim lead in the polls for months, now suddenly he's trailing his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren in four of the five most recent voter surveys. From member station WBUR in Boston, Curt Nickisch reports it may be the result of an unusual convention bounce.

Both presidential campaigns are focusing on just a few swing states, and the relatively few remaining undecided voters. One of those states is Virginia, where a key swing constituency is military veterans.

Troops and veterans have long been considered a natural part of the Republican base. But President Obama is pushing hard for the veterans' vote to help him in a state he captured in 2008.

Noncitizens aren't allowed to vote in federal and state elections, but efforts to remove them from the nation's voter registration rolls have produced more angst than results.

Opponents say the scope of the problem has been overblown; those behind the efforts say they've just begun to look at the problem.

'Early Stages'

Political Consulting And The 'Lie Factory'

Sep 19, 2012

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Here are some other guidelines for connecting with voters: Never explain anything. Subtlety is your enemy. Every campaign needs a theme. Keep it simple. Rhyming is good. And, pretend you are the voice of the people. These maxims may sound like fundamentals of today's political campaigns but they were the ideas of the country's first political consultants, Leone Baxter and Clem Whitaker. They got their start in California in the 1930s.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From the race for president, now to Congress. It's caught in a serious time crunch, not to finish its legislative business, though it hasn't done much of that this year. No, the real squeeze is in the campaign fundraising. As NPR's Peter Overby reports, lawmakers are trying to fill up lobbyists' schedules with events hoping to extract a few more dollars for their re-election bids.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. In the presidential campaign, it was relatively quiet on the stump today, but it was anything but on the cable channels. Pundits and spinmasters continued to chew over that Florida fundraiser and Mitt Romney's controversial line about America's 47 percent.

It can be lonely being a Democrat in the Deep South. Just ask Steve Wilson.

The young lawyer was a first-time delegate at the Democratic National Convention, but it's not something he brags about back home in Meridian, Miss.

"I don't talk about it," he says. "It's the elephant in the room, so to speak. Most of my friends are Republican, I think, but I just don't bring it up."

That climate can make it hard to recruit viable Democratic candidates in the Deep South — once a solidly Democratic region that is now reliably Republican.

Texas state Rep. Wayne Christian was born two blocks from where he now lives in what is called Deep East Texas.

"We were not wealthy people, [we were] common laborers, but that was typical in rural East Texas at that time," he says.

When he was growing up, Christian says, by first or second grade, an East Texas boy would accompany his father or grandfather on a hunting trip. But before a boy got a gun, he had to learn how to act — how to address the other men respectfully, to watch how it worked.

President Obama leads Republican Mitt Romney by 8 points nationally — 51 to 43 percent among likely voters — as the race heads into the final stretch, according to a new Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday.

Obama's advantage, particularly among women, blacks and voters younger than 30, puts him "in a strong position compared with past victorious presidential candidates," Pew reported.

The Inner Workings Of The Romney Campaign

Sep 19, 2012

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Forty-seven percent, the Palestinians have no interest in peace, and it would be easier to get elected president as a Latino. It's Wednesday and time for a...

MITT ROMNEY: Not elegantly stated...

CONAN: Edition of the political junkie.

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?

SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

Republicans scrambling to turn Mitt Romney's videotaped aspersions cast on 47 percent of Americans into a campaign opportunity are hoping for a "Chick-fil-A moment."

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