- - Sunday, October 28, 2012

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday that issues such as the economy and the Libyan consulate attack are much more important to the nation’s voters than controversial comments made by Republican Senate candidates Rep. W. Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana.

“I don’t think any party has a monopoly on gaffes,” Mr. Priebus said in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Clearly … people running for office misspeak and they make mistakes,” Mr. Priebus said. “But the reality is overwhelmingly … the people out there are not talking about what Richard Mourdock said.”

Voters are much more concerned about the missteps of the Obama administration, Mr. Priebus said.

PENTAGON

Admiral replaced pending results of investigation

The Navy said Saturday it is replacing the admiral in command of an aircraft carrier strike group in the Middle East, pending the outcome of an internal investigation into undisclosed accusations of inappropriate judgment.

Rear Adm. Charles M. Gaouette is being sent back to the USS John C. Stennis’ home port at Bremerton, Wash., in what the Navy calls a temporary reassignment. Rear Adm. Troy M. Shoemaker will assume command of the Stennis strike group until the investigation is completed.

It is highly unusual for the Navy to replace a carrier strike group commander during its deployment.

The Navy did not reveal details of the allegations, citing only an accusation of “inappropriate leadership judgment” that arose during the strike group’s deployment to the Middle East. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Navy’s chief spokesman, declined to discuss the investigation.

The Stennis group deployed from Bremerton in late August and had entered the Navy 5th Fleet’s area of operations in the Middle East on Oct. 17 after sailing across the Pacific. The Stennis made port visits in Thailand and Malaysia on its way to the Middle East.

It deployed four months earlier than scheduled in response to a request by the commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. James Mattis, to maintain two aircraft carriers in the Middle East. The Stennis replaced the USS Enterprise carrier group.

CAMPAIGN

Ohio governor expects clear win for Romney

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, predicted Sunday that Mitt Romney will win the Midwestern electoral prize on Election Day — and by a larger margin than many expect.

Asked by NBC’s “Meet the Press” host David Gregory if the race in Ohio will be too close to call on Nov. 6, Mr. Kasich said he expects a winner because Mr. Romney is pulling ahead.

“I do think we will know before the end of the night,” said Mr. Kasich, who has been campaigning throughout his swing state for the Republican ticket.

“It’s going to be really close,” he said, but added, “I’m not sure the election is going to be as close as what everybody is talking about today.

“I honestly think Romney’s going to carry Ohio … I believe it’s going to happen.”

SENATE

Smith says coal-safety record a plus for his campaign

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Tom Smith, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania who made a small fortune in the coal mining business, ran mines that routinely performed poorly on a federal statistic that measured workers’ days lost because of on-the-job injuries, federal mining safety records show.

His mines, both surface and underground, regularly scored above the industry average of nonfatal days lost to accidents or injuries, a statistic that is used as an industry safety benchmark but is not without criticism.

In two particular years, one of his mines reported the number of days lost to be more than 10 times the industry average, according to an Associated Press review of Mining Safety and Health Administration records.

But Mr. Smith contends the high number of days his workers missed is easily explained. He said the number was above average because he sent injured workers home to pursue rehabilitation rather than bringing them back for light duty, as some companies do.

Indeed, inspectors flagged his mines far less than other mines for the most serious possible violation, whether on a per-mine basis or per-ton of coal produced. His mines also never received a warning letter that tells an operator it has a persistent pattern of violations that are considered a serious safety hazard.

“We tried very, very hard to run as safe a business as we could,” he said, noting that he also employed two full-time emergency medical technicians on site, twice the legal requirement, and employed two safety directors.

From wire dispatches and staff reports