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Inside Politics: Bullets for 300 agents spawn Internet rumors

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It didn't take long for the Internet to start buzzing with conspiracy theories after the Social Security Administration posted a notice it was purchasing 174,000 hollow-point bullets.

Why is an agency that provides benefits to 56 million retirees, disabled workers, widows and children stockpiling ammunition? Whom are they going to use it on?

One website suggested the agency was preparing for civil unrest. And comedian Jay Leno wondered just which senior citizens the agency thinks are about to storm its offices.

The explanation, it turns out, isn't as tantalizing as an arms buildup to defend against unruly old people. The bullets are for nearly 300 agents who investigate Social Security fraud and made almost 600 arrests last year. Most of the ammunition will be expended on the firing range.

NORTH CAROLINA

Booze, bingo offered as options for conservatives

CHARLOTTE — Conservatives aren't exactly welcome (and probably couldn't find a room if they were) at the Democratic National Convention here, but that hasn't stopped them from finding ways to enjoy themselves as they prepare for President Obama's acceptance speech Thursday night.

The influential political website Redstate.com has prepared a "DNC Buzzword Bingo" card, with the "O" employing the red, white and blue circular logo of the Obama campaign. Players can fill in their cards every time a Democratic speaker mentions specific names and terms, including Bush, Akin, middle class, fair share, bin Laden, choice, 1 percent, Bain and inherited.

The free center square is a star labeled "Me."

And the website www.debatedrinking.com has compiled its own Democratic Convention Drinking Game, with contestants urged to imbibe after every mention of Medicare, billionaires, Bush, voucher, the middle class, the Mayan Apocalypse and "magic underwear."

VERMONT

Even presidential candidates foiled by slow-moving tractors

Even the contender for the highest office in the land sometimes has to wait.

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's motorcade, en route to the home of former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey in West Windsor, Vt., on Tuesday morning, got briefly waylaid — by a tractor.

Mr. Romney's motorcade was winding its way through the mountains, driving past red barns and horse farms and leaving the highways behind in favor of gravel roads that often carried the cars far out of range of any cellphone signal. At one point, the motorcade came upon the tractor, slowing it to a stop before the tractor got out of the way.

Mrs. Healey's home is outside of any actual town. Woodstock, Vt., where reporters traveling with Mr. Romney will be staying, is about eight miles away. Mrs. Healey was lieutenant governor from 2003 to 2007, while Mr. Romney was governor.

NORTH CAROLINA

Democrats: 'Better off' query in need of more context

CHARLOTTE — Democrats say answering the question of whether Americans are better off now than they were four years ago requires some context.

Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren told NBC's "Today" show Tuesday that people should remember how far the economy fell and how hard it is to get back from a time when the stock market was crashing and the auto industry was a mess. She says the real issue is who has the best plan to move forward.

Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, meanwhile, says to ask the millions of people out of work if they are better off. He noted on ABC's "Good Morning America" that unemployment remains above 8 percent, despite President Obama's economic-stimulus plan.

The question was a major talking point for both sides as the Democratic National Convention kicked off Tuesday.

NEBRASKA

Kerrey: Democrats don't want my dose of reality

Nebraska Senate hopeful Bob Kerrey, once considered a potential Democratic presidential contender during his previous Senate stint, is skipping the party's convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week because, he says, fellow Democrats don't want to hear the dose of reality he'd bring.

"I am not there because what I have to say to my party is not very welcome," Mr. Kerrey, who trails in the polls by double digits to Republican state Sen. Deb Fischer in his political-comeback bid, said at an Omaha, Neb., news conference on Tuesday.

"If I were there, I would say that our biggest budget problem — the growing cost of federal retirement programs — was not caused by the Republicans. It wasn't caused by the Democrats, either, for that matter. It was caused by politicians of both parties promising more and more generous benefits to voters over the age of 65 in an effort to win their support at election time," he said.

CAMPAIGN

Poll: Obama's numbers up in automaker state

Voters in Michigan — where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was born and raised — prefer President Obama in the upcoming presidential election, a new poll by a Democratic-leaning pollster finds.

Results of a Public Policy Polling survey of likely Michigan voters released Tuesday show the president ahead 51 percent to 44 percent. Only 45 percent of respondents said they have a favorable opinion of Mr. Romney, while 49 percent hold an unfavorable one.

Michigan's electorate also doesn't accept Mr. Romney — a former Massachusetts governor who has lived in the Bay State for decades — as one of their own, as only 34 percent consider him to be a Michigander to 57 percent who don't.

Michigan is a Democratic-leaning state but one Mr. Romney hopes to win in November.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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