- - Wednesday, October 31, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich says Missouri voters can send a powerful signal to “the moneyed Republican establishment” by electing Rep. W. Todd Akin over Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Mr. Gingrich joined Mr. Akin for a rally Wednesday with about 100 supporters in Kansas City. He said an Akin victory not only could help Republicans gain a Senate majority, but could teach a lesson to national GOP leaders — including presidential hopeful Mitt Romney — who abandoned Mr. Akin after he remarked that women’s bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy in what Mr. Akin called “legitimate rape.”

Mr. Akin apologized but rejected calls to quit.

Dozens of McCaskill supporters protested Wednesday’s rally with signs referencing Mr. Akin’s rape remark. Ms. McCaskill was to campaign later Wednesday in St. Louis — her first event since her mother’s death Monday.

WHITE HOUSE

Sandy cancels Halloween at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

There’s no trick-or-treating at the White House this Halloween.

After three straight years of passing out goodies to area students and military children in the White House driveway, President Obama and his wife, Michelle, broke their Halloween tradition this year because of superstorm Sandy that walloped the East Coast.

Hundreds of treat bags containing White House M&Ms, an orange-frosted, pumpkin-shaped sugar cookie, jelly beans and some dried fruit were be delivered to the White House Military Office and to school districts in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia that would have participated in the celebration.

Pumpkins used to decorate the White House will be donated to area shelters.

LABOR

Rates show job gains appear widespread

Unemployment rates fell in nearly all large U.S. cities in September from August, a sign that recent jobs gains have been widespread.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that rates declined in 355 of the 372 metro areas, the most since April. The report also shows that nearly half of cities now have unemployment rates below 7 percent.

And the number of areas with unemployment rates above 10 percent dropped to 35. That’s down from 84 a year ago.

Rates rose in September in only 11 cities and were unchanged in six.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September. It was the first time the rate has fallen below 8 percent since January 2009 — President Obama’s first month in office.

Unlike the national numbers, the metro rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal patterns. Much of the decline likely reflects school-related employees, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers, who returned to work.

The report on local unemployment rates comes a week before the presidential election. Many hard-hit cities in key swing states have seen their rates drop in the past year, although some still have rates well above the national level.

For example, the unemployment rate in Las Vegas was 11.5 percent last month. That’s down from 14 percent a year ago.

In the Miami metro area, the rate fell to 8.4 percent last month, from 10.4 percent a year earlier.

Still, other cities that could help decide the election have much lower unemployment.

IRS

Sandy delivers taxpayers extra time for payments

The IRS is giving taxpayers and tax preparers hit by Hurricane Sandy an extra week to file returns and make payments.

The tax agency says the relief will apply mainly to businesses in the storm-impacted Northeast and mid-Atlantic states whose payroll- and excise-tax returns and payments are normally due on Wednesday. The deadline will be extended until Nov. 7. No action is required by the taxpayer to obtain the extension.

The IRS says additional filing and payment relief will be granted as the Federal Emergency Management Agency makes further disaster declarations. Details can be found on the Tax Relief in Disaster Situations page of IRS.gov.

INDIANA

Democratic hopeful cautious over using abortion as issue

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Democratic Senate hopeful Rep. Joe Donnelly is walking a careful line on his Republican rival’s remark about abortion after rape, wary of alienating conservative voters in the Republican-leaning state.

His ads slam Republican rival Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer, for saying that pregnancies resulting from rape are something “God intended.” But what they don’t mention — and what Mr. Donnelly doesn’t bring up on the campaign trail — is that last year, the Democrat twice supported a bill that would have denied federal abortion funding even in cases of rape and incest.

In fact, both Mr. Donnelly and Mr. Mourdock oppose abortion. Mr. Donnelly would support it in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is endangered by the pregnancy, which conflicts with the bill he supported. Mr. Mourdock only supports an exception for the life of the mother.

Mr. Donnelly explains that while he opposes abortion he didn’t initially realize the bill would have gone that far, yet the issue has made it difficult for him to capitalize on Mr. Mourdock’s comment, even as it reverberated in the national battle for control of the Senate. Republicans must gain four seats to win control if President Obama is re-elected; three if Republican Mitt Romney prevails. Indiana is one of a series of states in which the Senate race remains stubbornly tied.

TREASURY

Debt ceiling to be hit by the end of the year

U.S. Treasury officials say they still expect the government will hit the current debt borrowing limit at the end of this year. But they say they can employ “extraordinary” measures that they have used in the past to keep the government functioning until sometime early next year.

In a statement, Treasury Assistant Secretary Matthew Rutherford said that Treasury would employ the same types of procedures it has used in the past to keep borrowing under the current debt limit of $16.39 trillion. The nation’s debt currently stands $16.16 trillion.

The United States has never failed to meet its debt obligations, although the last battle over raising the debt limit in August 2011 went right to the last minute before a compromise was reached between the Obama administration and Congress.

From wire dispatches and staff reports