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Inside Politics

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WHITE HOUSE

Obama to visit devastated city

President Obama said he will visit Missouri on Sunday to tour the devastation wrought by a tornado that killed more than 116 people in Joplin over the weekend.

Mr. Obama, speaking to reporters in London as he continues a weeklong European trip, said he wants to make sure those affected know that "the entire country is going to be behind them."

"So far, we know that over 100 people lost their lives. Others remain missing, and hundreds more remain injured. And obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with the families who are suffering at this moment," Mr. Obama said. "All we can do is let them know that all of America cares deeply about them and that we are going to do absolutely everything we can to make sure that they recover."

The tornado that ripped through Joplin on Sunday was one of the deadliest to strike the nation in more than 60 years. Emergency responders have been working around the clock to rescue survivors from the rubble.

ALASKA

NTSB: No definitive cause in crash that killed Stevens

JUNEAU — No definitive cause can be determined for the plane crash that killed former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and four others last summer in Alaska, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.

The board agreed at a hearing in Washington that "temporary unresponsiveness" of the pilot could be to blame, but the reasons can't be determined.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said it's rare for so many people to work so long on an investigation without an agreed-upon conclusion.

Pilot Theron "Terry" Smith was among those killed in the Aug. 9 crash in southwest Alaska of the single-engine de Havilland Otter floatplane. Four people, including former NASA chief Sean O'Keefe and his son, also were injured when the plane slammed into a mountain an estimated 15 minutes into a flight bound for a fishing camp.

Last month, NTSB released hundreds of pages of documents stemming from its investigation, ranging from the pilot's medical history to a review of weather conditions, analysis of the plane and interviews with the survivors.

FLORIDA

Pawlenty calls for entitlement reform

CORAL GABLES — Deep in senior-rich Florida, Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty called Tuesday for fundamental changes in Social Security and other entitlement programs he said are not sustainable in their current form

Mr. Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor positioning himself as the GOP race's blunt talker, said in a Facebook town hall meeting and a session with reporters that if elected he would gradually raise the Social Security retirement age and phase out cost-of-living increases for wealthier recipients. Current retirees and those close to retirement would be unaffected, he said.

"We're here to look them in the eye, and look young people in the eye, and tell them what needs to be done," he said. "These are reasonable things that can be done, but we need to tell the truth about it."

Mr. Pawlenty officially entered the race Monday and assured supporters in Des Moines, Iowa, that he would tell hard truths that President Obama would not. One is his opposition to ethanol subsidies, not a popular stand in corn-dependent Iowa. His proposals for overhauling entitlement programs likely will not be popular in a retiree-heavy state such as Florida.

GOP

Daniels will campaign from the sidelines in 2012

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels says he will continue promoting fiscal conservatism and can influence the 2012 presidential debate from the sidelines now that he's decided not to run himself.

Mr. Daniels, in his first public appearance since announcing last weekend that he wouldn't seek the Republican nomination, said he'll try to keep the campaign's focus on fiscal conservatism through speaking engagements and promoting the book he is writing. He urged voters to focus on the spending issues that prompted him to consider a run and not on his decision.

"What I decided means very little. What happens to me means nothing," Mr. Daniels said. "What America decides and what happens to the nation in the next few years means everything."

Mr. Daniels said speculation that he could be a candidate for vice president is "far-fetched." He says he hasn't given any thought to a cabinet job if Republicans win back the White House or what he'll do after his term as governor ends in January 2013.

WHITE HOUSE

President signs wrong year at Westminster Abbey

Well, it was a good year for him.

President Obama mistakenly signed the year "2008" instead of "2011" in the Westminster Abbey guest book Tuesday.

"It is a great privilege to commemorate our common heritage, and common sacrifice," Mr. Obama wrote, signing his name and listing the date as "24 May 2008," an AP photo shows.

The gaffe comes on the second day of Mr. Obama's weeklong European trip, one filled with pomp and circumstance as he also met with the Britain's royal family at Buckingham Palace and toured Queen Elizabeth's private gallery.

Visiting Ireland on Monday, Mr. Obama signed the guest book for his hosts in Dublin. That time he got it right, signing "23-05-2011."

The flap caused a minor stir on the Internet on Tuesday afternoon. The London Telegraph confirmed with an Abbey spokeswoman that it was indeed the president who wrote the wrong year - after having asked a dean nearby what the date was.

NEW MEXICO

Lieutenant governor to run for U.S. Senate

SANTA FE — Lt. Gov. John Sanchez is running for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Jeff Bingaman. Mr. Sanchez announced his candidacy Tuesday in a video to supporters.

His entrance into the race sets up a potentially bruising primary in 2012. Former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson announced her bid in March. Las Cruces businessman Greg Sowards and Bill English of Alamogordo also are running.

Mr. Sanchez was elected lieutenant governor in November, running on a ticket with Susana Martinez. He was the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2002, losing to Democrat Bill Richardson. He served one term in the state House of Representatives.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich, State Auditor Hector Balderas and Albuquerque political activist Andres Valdez are running.

From wire dispatches and wire reports

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