- - Monday, November 7, 2011

IOWA

Romney touts fiscal plan, avoids fray

DUBUQUE — Trying to stay above his party’s fray, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney focused Monday on shoring up support in this early-voting state and presenting himself as the GOP’s most electable alternative to President Obama.

The former Massachusetts governor stressed his recent fiscal proposals and business credentials at stops in eastern Iowa’s Dubuque and Scott counties, where he won during his campaign for the Republican nomination four years ago.

Mr. Romney said nothing about the latest allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior against fellow national GOP polling leader Herman Cain. Instead, Mr. Romney stuck to the script during a 15-minute speech stressing his private-sector background and proposal to trim federal spending.

He tried to remind voters with his words and campaign schedule that he is running as much against the Democratic incumbent as he is trying to distinguish himself from his GOP rivals.

“I believe that one of the reasons we’ve had such a hard time getting our economy going again is because of the huge deficits being racked up by this president, and by politicians in Washington,” Mr. Romney told about 100 GOP activists at a Dubuque sheet-metal products manufacturer.

He said nothing about Mr. Cain or any of his other rivals for the nomination.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Holder: Never again on Fast and Furious

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. says a flawed investigation of arms traffickers called Operation Fast and Furious never should have occurred and must never happen again.

On the eve of an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he faces tough questioning by Republicans, the attorney general says the mistakes in Fast and Furious should not deter the government from disrupting the dangerous flow of firearms along the Southwest border.

The probe employed a now-controversial investigative tactic known as gun-walking. Several agents said they were ordered to let suspected straw buyers walk away from Phoenix-area gun shops with AK-47s and other weapons thought to be headed for Mexican drug cartels, rather than arrest and seize them there. The goal was to track the guns to trafficking-ring leaders, who had long escaped prosecution.

CAMPAIGN 2012

Bachmann: GOP rivals appear ‘frugal socialists’

GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann says too many Republicans aspire to be “frugal socialists” and that the party can’t afford a nominee who isn’t a rock-solid conservative.

Mrs. Bachmann said Monday that some of her GOP rivals were “confused” on such issues as abortion and gay rights. She refused to give names when asked which candidates she was criticizing as “frugal socialists.” She said it’s up to reporters to figure that out.

The Minnesota congresswoman was, however, direct in her criticism of President Obama. She says his foreign policy is misguided and run by “General Axelrod, who is located in Chicago.” That was a reference to Obama adviser David Axelrod.

Mrs. Bachmann is reaching out to social conservatives who have great influence in the process of choosing a nominee.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Formula could cut benefits, raise taxes

Just as millions of Social Security recipients are about to get their first benefit increase in three years, Congress is looking at reducing future raises by adopting a new measure of inflation that would also increase taxes for most families.

If the new measure is used across the government, a wide range of retirement and veterans’ benefits would increase by smaller amounts each year. Over time, fewer people would qualify for Medicaid, Head Start, food stamps, school lunch programs and home-heating assistance.

Despite fierce opposition from seniors groups, the proposal is gaining momentum in part because it would let policymakers gradually cut benefits and increase taxes in a way that might not be readily apparent to most Americans.

EDUCATION

Duncan says Penn State case angers him

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says allegations of sexual abuse at Penn State University are heartbreaking and make him “extraordinarily angry.”

Mr. Duncan told the Associated Press that if the allegations are proven true, it’s “mind-boggling” that it was allowed to go on for so long. He says educators have an “absolute moral, ethical and legal responsibility” to protect children. If a blind eye is turned, he said, it gives an abuser an opportunity to hurt more children.

Two high-ranking university administrators stepped down after facing charges that they lied to a grand jury investigating former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and failed to properly report suspected child abuse. Mr. Sandusky was arrested on charges that he preyed on boys he met through a charity. All three have maintained they are innocent.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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